Sunday, September 27, 2020

YOU IS ANOTHER (walking through the old neighborhoods)

 

It's all anyone can do, walking the street, balancing yourself on the sidewalk, resisting the urge to fall over because not so suddenly gravity has made you more ungainly and the earth feels as though it had shifted, just ever so little. Not much by the degrees we apply to objects we can hold in our hands and study and move and bounce off a curb or a bedroom wall, but with the earth , so massive, smothered in atmosphere and the burdening force of personal weight, the effect sends the city into a vibrant panic, tall buildings do a shimmer, power lines dance and spark.

 On a fine day where you start out not giving a high fiving fuck about personal health and the state of the arts in the writerly communities that only invited you to a sequence of heartaches, heartbreaks and drinking into and past stages of ill health, on a day when your desire is grasp the intangible and abuse in terms of the intractable, your knees quake , you knees ache, a pain shoots from the knee cap upward to the spine  and to the jaw, the mouth closes and the teeth clench as if clamping down on a leather strap during an awkward shave, molars sinking into a tart, chewy leather, and it is then when the best arrogant notions and arrangements for making to midnight as a perfect asshole and king of the city dump go awry.

The meals come off the wagon, you realize there is nothing in the cupboard  for spare wit and ingenuity, you,    brilliant one and all that , are another victim of circumstances in a life you didn’t vote to be in. But the good news in all this worry is that you did not fall to the sidewalk, bust your jaw, and crack your teeth. Through sheer force of will you shift your weight , project a Kirby hand, arm stretched out, fingers splayed like the tines of bamboo rake, somehow all these halts your descent, matters of mathematics and their freaky equations formulated at the split second of stretch and the theory rushed up the spine to a brain otherwise asleep with its camouflaged ego for an effective counter force to be indicated and enforced by powers too awful to dwell on beyond a teasing mention.

You regain your center of being, the property rights to a kingdom to shake anything off and reduce the conflicts of personality clashes and enemy gravities to a compact pile of pressed tin, and as you rise from stumble, as your vision takes in front porches made of baked red brick and mail boxes marked with the graffiti of traveling men, there he stands, your sweetie pie, the one in a  million, your very own kryptonite, a blonde beauty with eyes that could flood the darkest theatre with light enough for lectures , readings and concerts on the uptake. She stands there, head tilted to the side. You feel like a specimen swimming about on a smooth glass slide. You cannot, you will not win.

It's all anyone can do, walking the street, balancing yourself on the sidewalk, resisting the urge to fall over because not so suddenly gravity has made you more ungainly and the earth feels as though it had shifted, just ever so little. Not much by the degrees we apply to objects we can hold in our hands and study and move and bounce off a curb or a bedroom wall, but with the earth , so massive, smothered in atmosphere and the burdening force of personal weight, the effect sends the city into a vibrant panic, tall buildings do a shimmer, power lines dance and spark.

 On a fine day where you start out not giving a high fiving fuck about personal health and the state of the arts in the writerly communities that only invited you to a sequence of heartaches, heartbreaks and drinking into and past stages of ill health, on a day when your desire is grasp the intangible and abuse in terms of the intractable, your knees quake , you knees ache, a pain shoots from the knee cap upward to the spine  and to the jaw, the mouth closes and the teeth clench as if clamping down on a leather strap during an awkward shave, molars sinking into a tart, chewy leather, and it is then when the best arrogant notions and arrangements for making to midnight as a perfect asshole and king of the city dump go awry.

The meals come off the wagon, you realize there is nothing in the cupboard  for spare wit and ingenuity, you,    brilliant one and all that , are another victim of circumstances in a life you didn’t vote to be in. But the good news in all this worry is that you did not fall to the sidewalk, bust your jaw, and crack your teeth. Through sheer force of will you shift your weight , project a Kirby hand, arm stretched out, fingers splayed like the tines of bamboo rake, somehow all these halts your descent, matters of mathematics and their freaky equations formulated at the split second of stretch and the theory rushed up the spine to a brain otherwise asleep with its camouflaged ego for an effective counter force to be indicated and enforced by powers too awful to dwell on beyond a teasing mention.

You regain your center of being, the property rights to a kingdom to shake anything off and reduce the conflicts of personality clashes and enemy gravities to a compact pile of pressed tin, and as you rise from stumble, as your vision takes in front porches made of baked red brick and mail boxes marked with the graffiti of traveling men, there he stands, your sweetie pie, the one in a  million, your very own kryptonite, a blonde beauty with eyes that could flood the darkest theatre with light enough for lectures , readings and concerts on the uptake. She stands there, head tilted to the side. You feel like a specimen swimming about on a smooth glass slide. You cannot, you will not win.

Monday, September 7, 2020

STERLING MAGEE OF SATAN AND ADAM, RIP

Mister-Satan-039-s-Apprentice-A-Blues-Memoir-Hardcover-Adam-Gussow
Sterling Magee, half of the stellar blues duo Satan and Adam, has passed away.It was just announced on Mr. Magee's Facebook page that he "...passed away peacefully last night." No other details. This is tremendously sad news. As a musician, I think he was without peer, and I cannot think of anyone I've heard who has done the one-man-band street musician project as brilliantly or resourcefully as he had done. As part of Satan and Adam, his guitar work was rhythmic and forceful, and the time he kept on his customized drum set up (with cymbals!) unfailingly created grooves and moods and such that complimented his gruff, splintery, exclamatory singing. 
I came across Satan and Adam from a track played on the Sunday blues show on KSDT FM in San Diego, from their first album Harlem Blues in 1991, and followed them ever since that time. I read Adam Gussow's book on his musical partner Mr. Satan's Apprentice sometime later and was taken with the camaraderie , and how they managed such a brilliant partnership. Of course, it was my introduction to Adam's harmonica work as well. Sterling Magee was unique, beautifully so, a transcendent man who spoke the language of the heart and soul, joy, pain, grief, exaltation. My deepest condolences to Mr.Magee's family and especially to Adam.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

AYN RAND WAS A TERRIBLE WRITER AND A HORRIBLE HUMAN BEING

Interesting piece from TLS where the writer , while admitting that Ayn Rand was controversial for repugnant ideas , was actually a good prose stylist on occasion. The best aspect of this article is why Rand's philosophy is again gaining traction, but other wise the defense of her as a writer is a weak sell. She was competent as a writer, as a communicator, but the idea that she was "good" as in having a genuinely poetic and unforced capacity with language to express the world in clear yet suggestive cadences, is ludicrous. Whether arguing that selfishness is a moral virtue, government programs for the poor are theft and unethical, that genuine creators have the right to their work above and beyond anyone else in the mass culture and that said geniuses have an absolute, final and irrevocable rights that override democratic traditions and the general welfare, and that having such rights as geniuses they are allowed to rape as the mood comes to them in order to further fulfill and confirm their transcendence over the rest of the rotten, greedy, consumerist population,

Rand over rights to the degree that it always seems that every encounter in her fiction are power-plays among straw men and women in a world made of very little happiness, joy, or genuine sorrow. It's a tone deaf argument to make. Even in the examples of her writing he presents as proof of her occasional precision and elegance with the English word, she descriptions of character actions are overstated and awkward. It's the kind of writing that is the printed equal of someone talking too loud, just under the level of shouting, and too quickly, in a manic effort to out pace the sheer absurdity of her world view and the bulldozing logic she uses to insist this narcissistic fantasy is a model for how the "real" world should function. I invite the reader to insert their three favorite writers, of any genre, in between these dashes as their own examples of scribes who are able to write about life in this existence in a way where imagination has made one think harder and clearer of their limited tenure on this planet.

The complaints of the literary elite, the taste-makers, the culture mongers in universities and the media on Rand's qualities as a writer are absolutely on point: she is a mediocre thinker, a a mean spirit as a philosopher, and a braying, uncorked didact as a writer. The argument is a nice try to defend something about Rand's status as a writer, but no sale. A reader of authors who have the skill and craft to speak of unaddressable matters in terms of the unforgettable would note in Rand's paragraphs a constant veering toward the cliche, the fast summation, the received idea culled from the back water of stale ideas, and experience again the kind of over writing that is little else than a manic attempt to get away from the cliched expression and the lifeless whims it contains and replacing it with hammering rhetoric and unending clauses that comes off as nothing less than someone intensely practicing a rant in a steamy bathroom mirror.

I might to a casual reader of this post that you remind yourself that you're in an adult in an existence infinitely more complex , subtle, unpredictable and maddeningly disobedient for not behaving the way any self-declared genius wants it to and find out for oneself how wretched a writer Rand truly was. Her prose was as awful as her her philosophy, a delusional habit of mind that supplied the tinny , thin and brittle intellectual justification that greed, avarice, and unconditional assholism are good things to be. Rand was a creep, a very horrible person.

LONG WINDED AND GLIB ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ASKED OF ME ON QUORA

Someone on Quora asked if Jim Morrison is considered a genius. This is how I answered:
"The Doors were a mixed bag for me; the first two albums are among the most important rock albums of all time, with the remainder alternating between the proverbial poles of brilliance and balderdash. As a band, they were simply sublime and unique, with the odd combination of blues, flamenco, classical, jazz, Artaud and epic theater being crafted in their hands to create a sound and feel that was singular and instantly identifiable. As a vocalist, Jim Morrison was often as evocative as the greatest fans proclaim, and it fit the half-awake twilight that seemed to be his constant state of consciousness. As a poet, though, I thought he was simply awful, fragmented, crypto-mystic surrealism that, save for some striking and memorable lines, collapsed from its flimsy elisions and obtuse vagaries. In his posthumous collections,, the pieces read too often like the notebook jottings of an introspective 17-year-old. I say that as one who was an introspective 17 year and is now an introspective 65-year-old. Morrison might have become the poet he wanted to be had he been able to write, edit, and finesse his work as he desired when he left for Paris. What I will say, though, is that being the vocalist in the Doors gave him the opportunity to go through his writings, his poems, and select many of the stronger passages for the band's more theatrical songs. The Doors, ironically seemed to be an institutional editor for Morrison's words, forcing the bard to decide which of his jottings was actually the most powerful, concise, emphatic."
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A question posed to me on the Quora website asked "Why isn't literature considered art?". I had a few minutes to kill and offered this response. The benefit of writing a response was that it gave me something to think about besides the apocalyptic geist that makes staying awake such a burden. Here it is:
....Who ever said that literature was not art is either very dumb or is someone who is looking for attention . There is the assumption , sadly held by many, that art is only visual, as in paintings, drawings, sculpture. This is incorrect, an alarmingly false attitude. Art is a broader expressive activity involving all manner of mediums. But rather than go into a long piece of writing defining art as something that transcends a narrow conceptualization, I’ll just quote the definition of the word provided by Google Search:

“ (1)…the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
“(2)…the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.”
This concise definition of the word “art” correctly broadens the horizons of the things can be considered “art” in the fullest sense: novels, poems, plays, operas, classical music, pop songs, dance and choreography , design, architecture, jazz improvisation, acting, film making…it goes on and is nearly unlimited. The far more interesting discussion , instead of whether non visual mediums can be art in the fullest sense, is exactly how productions like novels, films, dance, poetry, and so on, are “artful”. It’s an actual kind of discussion and discipline that distinguishes the great, the good, the mediocre and the awful, and it considers how history, changing social conditions , influences and attitudes, and new technologies, factor into the quality or the failure of particular works of art in all mediums. None of those matters are ever settled, of course, but it’s an intriguing dialogue where art lovers can share with one another their interpretations of art objects they consider worth making note of.
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Asked on Quora: Was Norman Mailer a mysoginist?
Mailer was obsessed with a notion of heterosexual masculinity, culled from his idealization of Hemingway and especially D. H. Lawrence. His writings on the subject are fascinating , and his assertions and literary criticism in his polemic “The Prisoner of Sex” are often brilliant and on point as he takes on feminist theories, but with all the force and grace the prose provides, Mailer insisted women take a secondary position in society and in all social relations, secondary to men. He would recount that his nay saying and the insults and violent fantasies were expressions of respect rather than contempt, and perhaps that is what he honestly thought, consciously, he was doing. All said, though, Mailer seemed rather to be trying to work some matters out in both his social and philosophical ideas, and in his fiction. His attitude regarding the role women play in is a conception of a reality where every player is on an existential path of self-definition constantly prefers the experience and success of the male over the female, with accompanying rationalizations that the advance of women toward an equal social and political status upsets the spiritual ecology . The only thing I can take away from that attitude, expressed and refined for decades, is an active contempt for women, misogyny when all is said.Joyce Carol Oates has some wonderful essays on Mailer that are worth seeking out on this man and his relationship to womankind. Mailer was a writer of large gifts and frequent genius who had issues that make appreciating his best work forever problematic.
_________________________________________________________________________________________Some one Quora asked whether Chet Baker , a fine trumpeter, was a good poet. I answered this way:

Metaphorically, perhaps. He was a melodic improvisor, embellishing the melody with short, pleasing phrases, building his solos to a well modulated crescendo where there would some subtle and stately expression of his technical facility, and then he would bring the mood down again, easing back into the ensemble . At his best, Baker’s best solos, with their hushed tone, use of space between phrases, and his superb note choices from the many available to him, made his solos memorable. That could be said to be “poetic” and that he , as the creator, was the author of that expression, more specifically, a “poet”. All that, though, stretches the term too much, I think, and does no justice to either Baker or to actual writer poets. Baker was a musician, a jazz improviser, and he created in a great art form. Comparing him to another art form, poetry, degrades his impressive accomplishment.