Saturday, January 16, 2016

The dean

Robert Christgau 02.jpgRobertChristagu, rock and pop music critic for the Village Voice for  37 years before new owners fired him, is  my favorite critic next to Lester Bangs. Bangs was about an emotional connection to the music, and the appeal (and its occasional downfall) became was that how he wrote about it became confessional. This livened up his style but also made it drip with self-pity that was too much to plough through.Bangs in his best moments at the keyboard were the best writer that rock music's odd history of critical discussion has ever had; no one came closer to the giving a language to the emotions a good song can force to the surface, bursting through our hard defenses to keep the insecurities away from public observation. Good writers did that. Christgau is a good writer, but he is not one who moves me to weep so slightly when the subject is Madam George from Van Morrison's Astral Weeks album, something Bangs accomplished with his essay from the Greil Marcus edited anthology of essays Stranded.  Robert Christgau could write, but his interest, his passion was the brainstorm , the making of connections after realizing who influenced who in the long chain of musicians who took from one another and made adopted sounds their own. His was the excitement of trying to determine what was the hood of the music that made him think harder as a citizen and made him want to ease into something more sensuous than work. Christgau is the more traditional critic in that he was interested not in how pop music created from the sources it draws from, but how it creates something new and how that new thing contains new ways of talking about human vanities and virtues and outright vices.  He wasn't , I don't think, a critic interested in the Marxist critical notion that art needs to form a critique of a system and have us imagine a more perfect state, his main concern was in if the music , under its own rules, was relatable, memorable, honest in its fashion, if it gave a compelling account of a moment of experience, sensation, a mood. If there was a critique  mounted in a band's method, fine, the thought, so long as it worked as an element making up the sound that bands are trying to sell us. A political position did not get artists a passing grade. He didn't follow the conventional wisdom of the critical establishment, such as it was: he was too busy looking for an unaffected expression. What he makes him refreshing is that he wears his taste openly, has always refused to see artists as philosophers or priests, and he 's always had a healthy skepticism about those bands and artists who otherwise receive loud and automatic accolades.

Monday, January 11, 2016


 The biggest problem with David Bowie's music was that his songs sounded nothing alike album to album. Those of us inclined to classify musicians into categories with definitions that sharply defined (and limited) a discussion of an artist's range had a hard time with Bowie, who didn't play their game. Bowie was his own man, listened, read, and viewed what it was he liked in the broad spectrum of the arts and literature and, surely, skillfully, often brilliantly, brought the elements to bear on the music created, which was mesmerizing, challenging, subtly , artfully layered with a crosscurrents of musical influence. His genius, above all the other talents he possessed, was as a synthesizer. Apart from the majority of other rock musicians who took from a variety of sources but seldom rose above the feeling of being merely clever and, Bowie, in fact, produced something new. Rock, rhythm and blues, folk, Kurt Weil, science fiction, William Burroughs, Hubert Selby, Philip Glass, Philly soul,musical theatre, Blue Note-style jazz, the proto-punk of the Velvet Underground and the Stooges--these were sources that caught Bowie's ear and which he brought together in relationships that, in their best expression, gave us a stirring, unsettling, daunting form of pop music that was of itself, a stand-alone body of work that influenced artists to come. There seemed to be nothing he wouldn't try, and the results were not always his most captivating work. I wasn't a hardcore fan either, and was, in fact, annoyed by what I regarded as his pretentious manner. He seemed, in some sense, an eclectic master-of-none. But although not an instrumental virtuoso nor a composer/lyricist of dazzling harmonic and poetic gifts, he radiated the aura of the divinely inspired amateur, the savant who could be figured out how matters worked musically and theatrically. He applied what he knew, bits and pieces and whole swaths of information about varying aesthetic principles and the styles that fall within the standards, and composed something unique. New sounds emerged, new ways of applying the eternally persistent rhythm of popular music took hold. I remember a caffeine-fueled bull session in the Mesa College Cafeteria in the early to mid-Seventies when I offered to the late Reader music critic Steve Esmedina, a Bowie partisan, that the future Thin White Duke hadn't had an original musical idea so far in his career. Blubbo, his preferred endearment, didn't argue the point, stating smartly that what's fascinating , exciting , worth talking about in hipster circles and beyond was his particular genius as a synthesizer of genres and emerging trends and taking command of the materials like any true artist would, deconstructing, reshaping, fusing styles and sensibilities together into new kinds of sounds, the influences intact and vital-- Broadway musicals, hard rock, funk and disco grooves, experimental electronics, William Burroughs and Bertolt Brecht--while having Bowie's characteristic imprint on it all. My smart ass assertion was false from the start, since what David Bowie was creating fusion music in the truest sense of what "fusion" is, taking different elements together and coming up with something new, previously unseen or unheard. I could go for the obvious Miles Davis comparison that's lurking in the wings of this career praise, but instead I'll stay with the deservedly much-discussed element of style and fashion in the late artist's work and say that he was one of those creatures radiating the personality that could try on any outlandish article of fashion from any designer's rack and wind up owning the style, making it his; something of great value was added when he liked a style and wanted to work with it. 
The famous quote attributed to Ritchie Blackmore about accusations that he stole guitar riffs from black American blues artists that "the amateur borrows, the professional steals" is instructive. The amateur treats what they've borrowed with too much gentleness and respect, as though they might drop the expensive China they've dared lay a finger on. The results are a species of gutless pretentiousness that glutted an awful lot of art rock in the post -Sgt. Pepper years, music by those who hadn't an idea what they were doing nor the imagination (or nerve)  to pretends they did. The thief likes something and just takes it without permission, absorbs into his or her being until it becomes part of their nervous system , adding their own licks, reshuffling the influx of music styles heard , assimilated, until there is a sound where constituent parts of rock drums, jazz keyboards, atonal guitar skronk, horn funk and Euro serial music emerges, a sound that hadn't roamed over the airwaves or blasted the clubs and concert halls of until the moment when the Thief, the absconder of musical forms, decides that he or she is finished in the creation and releases into the world, fresh, loud, moving as no music before it.This is what Bowie had done, loving art enough to abuse the formalisms that defined the length and limitations of a genre and make them do more than most had assumed possible. We are living in a world of music that has been formed in large measure by Bowie's decades-long search for new music he wanted to work with. But living long enough to know better has its benefits, certainly, in that I found myself liking quite a bit of what Bowie was putting out. If the whole Spiders From Mars period seemed and arch, overwrought and lumpy collection of influences associated by force of will rather than inspiration, inspiration came soon afterward; the songs became looser, his choice of collaborators was unexpected and gave us music that was unlike that we'd heard before, his sense of what styles were emerging was always ahead of the curve. Best of all, he was one of those who could not just bring unlike elements together; rather he fused them in the true meaning of the word "fuse", he made something new, unique, unlike anything else. Bowie was pretentious to a degree, but his, after all, was a career of making the what he imagined become real through music. He was an artist, a master of artifice, a man who , though revealing little in the way of self-revelation or even an arguable view of the world listeners could construe as a philosophy, Bowie's tales of skewed characters relating the consequences of their life in a world malformed by each one of the seven deadly sins had a lasting, lingering effect all the same. He wrote for effect, and the effect was profound. Even so, his music had many more hits than misses and even the lesser efforts, the slightest of his concepts, demanded attention and truly did not bore, the cardinal sin any popular artist can commit. It is Bowie's greatest work we will be playing for the years to come, the decades yet to pass; his influence will be felt in much of the pop music yet to be written, sung, recorded and sung again by young men and women looking for a hero. His influence, I think, is nearly as extensive as that of Elvis, of the Beatles, of Dylan. He prepared popular music for the 21st century in more ways than I can count at the moment. His loss is a major one. RIP.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Gore Vidal, Anyone? | The Weekly Standard

Gore Vidal, Anyone? | The Weekly Standard'via Blog this'

  1. Esteemed literary biographer Jay Parini has  published his anticipated work on the late novelist/playwright/essayist and gadfly Gore Vidal , Empire of Self  . The book, we are correct to assume , is a nuanced and well researched story of a brilliant and complex writer who, while viewed sympathetically by Parani, is given, all the same, a warts and all treatment. A man of prodigious verbal gifts and frightful intellect and attendant wit,he was a mass of bad habits, bad faith, duplicity, opportunism and ,not surprisingly, a writer supremely engrossed in the pursuit of his own needs, desires, feuds. The title more or less gives away that bit of what is actually an engrossing story of a remarkable, if problematic artist,, but that seems to be the case as biographies of our greatest artists, poets, philosophers and politicians continue to come out; everyone great person's closet of skeletons gets air out sooner or later.

Not surprising,the he conservative The Weekly Standard  takes the  opportunity in their review of Jay Parini's biography of the late author Gore Vidal to ask a question they've been dying to put out there for decades: will the reliable acerbic scourge of the American Right Wing be remembered, if at all , more as a minor league celebrity irrelevant beyond his time than he would as a writer? Now is a convenient time for them to put it out there and attempt to influence the collective thinking about Vidal-as-author. Not surprisingly, Parini's biography highlights a problematic figure in Vidal, someone who , though gifted with fierce intellect, quick wit and an imagination that often times approached genius, was a self-obsessed , vindictive, cold and generally nasty personality who was likewise beset with foul combinations of alcoholism, paranoia and a penchant for conspiracy theories that were absurd on the face of it. 

His is the case with many great artists who die after a long life of deeds and misdeeds and, certainly , a good amount of work. Vidal on his best days never rose above the station of being a human being cursed and/or blessed with conflicting impulses he indulged with equal fervor. But DH Lawrence said it best when he advised that in the art of fiction, at least, one should "trust the tale, not the teller." To that end, Vidal's novels are uneven, as are the bodies of work of most writers I've followed who are/were prolific in their imaginative out put, but Vidal's is the the case where there is enough solid narratives , invention and courage that his standing as a good,smart,challenging read are is rather firmly cemented ."Burr","Creation", "1876". "The Pillar and the City", ,"Lincoln" turns into a respectable list, very respectable. Although generally well  reviewed as a novelist for most of his career and someone who was able to land a good number of his books on the New York Times Best Seller Lists, he has, I believe, been given the short shrift in critical estimation for his fictional work. Like his friend/nemesis Norman Mailer , who had been cursed with the left handed compliment that his journalism was more brilliant than his novels, Vidal was subjected to the dismissive summary that while he was a literary essayist of very real genius (a view I won't argue with),his novels, from his boldest and most daunting pieces to his less worthy pot boilers, lacked the poetic grace that marks novelists of established  greatness. There's a habit among too many of our critics to mistake grandiloquence with eloquence, prolixity with sophistication. 

Vidal's genius in his strongest fictions was to take an impossible amount of historical information,subject it to imaginative reinterpretation or filtered through a handily devised set of "what if" devices, and to present a counter mythology , full of greed, ambition, malice, power seeking in a tragic battle among different parties  who believed they were struggling to achieve the Greater Good. Vidal's prose ,while not overtly ornate--it was refreshing that there was a serious novelist during the period who didn't feel the need to try and out-box either Hemingway or Nabokov in the art of the sentence--was vivid all the same, with with quick character sketches, rapidly but carefully exposition, subtly advanced conflicts and unexpected turns of fortune. He belongs , perhaps , to another tradition altogether, a European tilt toward the Novelist of Ideas. His kin are Voltaire (Candide), Sartre (Nausea), Aldous Huxely (Brave New World), Thomas Carlyle (Sartor Resartus). Too late for the Old School, the nineteenth century writers he doubtlessly would have felt comfortable being included with, too early for the mix and max aesthetic and strategies of the post-modrernists of Pynchon, DeLillo and David Foster Wallace would come after him. My guess is that there is a generation of younger critics who will make the case for the best of Vidal's art.

He had his failed experiments, his mean and grating satires, his half baked efforts that seemed no more than outlines messily assembled in the vaguest resemblance; those will be forgotten, of course, and the best work will remain. He is simply too good , too fascinating, too much a part of his era to not be read, taught, debated for decades to come. Much the same is true of his favorite feuding partner, Norman mailer,for whom there is yet a new groundswell of interest in the actual writing he did. The same will happen for Vidal who, though sadly and seriously flawed and perhaps not the man you'd want to have over for dinner , deserves respect for the genuine seriousness he did bring to his work both as novelist and essayist. I will read Parini's bio and will again ask myself the question if one needs to be a self involved monster of a sort in order to be a writer on the level of greatness Vidal often times achieved in his life.

Friday, January 8, 2016


Ted Burke
David Foster Wallace is an interesting writer who is in dire need of a vicious but fair editor. He notices everything that is odd and potentially wonderful of ponder in his world, but he's able to organize his perceptions; he lacks the ability to discriminate what's actually interesting to a reader from that which is worth only a smirk and a snort for himself. A Supposedly Fun Thing works, I suppose, because its nonfiction and the pieces are short, but even here he doesn't take advantage of the compression. He goes rather long too often, and what's wonderful about his writing and his intelligence is lost. It is really too much work to sift through the giddy semiotics to unearth the verbal gems. Barthes himself had the good sense too- be brief in the columns he wrote for the French popular press.  

Ted Burke
Infinite Jest is perhaps the most exasperating novel I've ever read, along with being the most chronically overrated in contemporary fiction. It may be argued that he novel is about the digressions he favors, and that such digressions place him in line as being the latest "systems novelist", taking up where Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo and Barth (John) have led the way, to which I'd say fine, and what of it? The AA and recovery material is potential good fun, and the aspect of powerlessness over a movie ought to be enough for a writer to mold a sure satire, but Wallace seems far too eager to surpass Gravity's Rainbow and The Recognitions in his long, sentences, most of which in retrospect gave you the sense of what Allen Ginsberg's referred to as the Box Car effect, the cars of a train rushing by at great speed and, for  a period, seem to be without beginning or end There is so much contained within, so many things mentioned, so many things half described and given half contexts for qualities that resonate only a little, it becomes intoxicating for a bit, dizzying for many, impressive in the author’s ability to fit so much detail of tangible things into so many long, sequential sentences and still, stay within the ever-expanding idea of what good grammar and construction happens to be.

Ted Burke
 There are those this shows genius and perhaps it does, but it is the sort of genius I respect and admiring for the sheer will to took to connect everything inside one’s complete set of pockets with everything fleeting thought and arcane that makes an appearance in casual chatter or the slight movement of a body part, the turn of the head, for example, or the flick of a cigarette ash from a nearly dead smoke. The closest I could go is that it resembles Henry James at best, with heavy seasoning provided by Thomas Pynchon and his own going themes of Systems of Meaning and Organization and how that turns the study of history (or even discussion of what one had for lunch) into a unfathomable inquiry that blurs the subject just by asking the questions. The element of not being able to decide the underlying meaning of a storyline on the molecular level , the level of the sentence coming into being as the writer attempts to put the ideas, one following the other , into an appreciable order is DFW’s biggest break through. He links everything in grammatically readable sentences, but there is deluge rather than word flow and, if you’re someone committed to finishing every book you started to read as I used to be, you are eventually weighed upon too much by information that turns out to be a distended set up for a joke and no longer mistake the linking of things for coherence. The aforementioned editor I proposed would have handed the manuscript back with the observation that this set of multi-channeled satires has already been done by the previously mentioned authors whose works are not likely to be matched. Said editor would then advise that over-writing isn't the sure means to break with your influences, but that developing one's own style is.

In Brief: THE DYING ANIMAL by Philip Roth

Roth announced his retirement from being a novel writer a couple of years ago , and it's in the slight variations of his late career novel, 2001 's The Dying Animal, that we can understand why he stopped: had played the last note he could stand on that instrument of style he possessed. Bearing in mind that Roth's genius has been for writing about angry men who are perpetually ill at ease, raging against their imperfections in a world they don't fit in. Roth's works are equals self-loathing, arrogance, misogyny , mother issues, sexual dysfunctional, bitter agnosticism, deeply felt emotional upheaval and revelation, cruel wit and puckish humor, an endless series of ironies that, through out a brilliantly realized career , had Roth as the outstanding straight, white , male Jewish male the rapidly shifting terms of existence seemingly used a punching bag. "The Dying Animal", coming late in his career, deals with a typical Roth protagonist, a male, late in his life, who finds that he no longer love and leave the ladies as he had always done; age, infirmity, impotence, the stuff of raging speeches given in rain storms while the vestments of position and power are stripped from you, reduce him to a supplicant. More irony follows, the poor man gets his just deserts, and anger and bitterness and the sense that nothing stops the torment except death; anyone familiar with Roth's works can more or less forecast how this tale with end, or rather, fade out. Nicely done, we can see, but it lacks the snap, the verbal snarl, the grating detail that highlights the increasingly sour moods and downcast fatalism of the author. It lacks, alas, the energy to get angry again. 

My suggestion would to pick up a book published only slightly earlier, "The Plot Against America"; irony, punch, a sense of playfulness, a story of innocence of youth become threatened by  elements that cloud the sense of the future of American democracy. Not to give to much away in the even that you decide to pick up TPAA , I'll just say that Roth is at his ingenious best, using  a fictionalized version  of himself as a young boy and his family  against the  what if  backdrop of  Aviator, American Hero and widely believed Nazi sympathizer  Charles Lindbergh  had  defeated FDR for President in 1940. Full of narrative invention , the author creates a disturbing sense of how American history would have seen substantially different from the particular vantage of a young Jewish boy and his family . That is the Philip Roth worth seeking out, inventive, dangerous, angry, funny, very human, very much raging to live and feel the emotions that both blessing and curse.


photography by Ted Burke

 Singer Shirley Ellis wanted us all to get down to the nitty-gritty in her 1963 hit tune of the same name,”Nitty Gritty” . It was a bold dare to cast on the radio listeners of the time, but the song was all groove, rhythm and genuinely seductive soul music. “Get right down to the real nitty gritty” was the refrain she kept singing, her graceful ground level vocal reinforced by a chorus that repeated her dictum, gets down to the real nitty-gritty. The band was typical of so many of the music ensembles that graced hit 45’s at the time, percolating and expanding the groove artfully. Get rid of what’s troubling was the message if any at all. Don’t just forget your troubles, as Petula Clark urged in her tune “Downtown”, Ellis extolled the need to expel them altogether. Dance them out of your system and leave on the dance floor.I loved the tune, the groove, the sensuous honesty of Ellis’s voice, but I was twelve at the time, just becoming aware of music, politics, the importance of love; my consciousness was an alloy made up of assertions culled from weekly infusions of Time Magazine. I had precious little experience, and not much nitty gritty to get down to.  We did age, of course, the pace of history gave us war, riots, battles for civil rights, first jobs, first-time sex, giddy successes, and humiliating defeats. I might say that many of us took our initial  real-world excursions, personally and constructed layered and well-reasoned arguments for a worldview that both explained why the world was the way it was and which gave us additional excuse to fail. In my case, it was so I could write more poems about being depressed about my state of the world.  We created our own feedback chamber.  Something had to be done. Time to clean house.

We can say that Chuck Perrin, a San Diego based singer/songwriter, poet, and music entrepreneur, has had enough of keeping his demons entertained as he embarks with his new album, The Yearn.  As with what John Lennon did with his  1971 “primal scream” album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band,  an incendiary disc where Lennon named the people, places and things that he felt contributed greatly to his worst, self-destructing traits. The disc was hard to listen too, as Lennon’s expression was convincingly emotional and condemnation of the calcified BS that filled his head is lacerating, but it was a breakthrough. Perrin’s The Yearn follows in that tradition, a genre of self-revelation that remains uncommon in our current pop music climate.  Perrin, in the previous nine albums he’s recorded, is a songwriter and vocalist who has pursued and mastered the delicate art of entwining the gracefully melodic, the crooning and swooning aspect of lyric romanticism and the blunt, more ecstatic, raging element of the rant that cannot be contained by chords or harmony.  His previous albums like Beat.itude (1995) and Down 2 Bone (2009) reveals a man in touch with his responses who finds melody and the graceful sway of words a way to make sense  of contradictions that life presents, and allows him to study the contradictions in his own responses to the results and consequences of his adventures. The Yearn takes a more severe tact, one that, like Lennon’s, is to get to the nitty-gritty of things, the core of what is truly important and what it is we remain alive for.  The songs on The Yearn are starker than what I remember from Perrin’s previous work, basic structures that are superbly contextualized by a crackerjack group of musicians.  Perrin has had enough of the universe of personalities and media that have distracted him .  He has in his lyrics the presence of another person, a lover, a friend, someone significant, an intimate and a confidant who he addresses directly, person to person. There’s no hint of showboating or playing to what an audience expects. The songs structures are moody, impressionistic, fundamental constructs that are highlighted and given many-hued texture r by high caliber musicians. When matters threaten to become sing-songy, there is a sweetly blistering guitar solo from Larry Mitchell, ; when Perrin drops moves away from the microphone, the redouble Arthur Fishers and provides a series of fleet,  crystalline flute improvisations. Song to song, the gathered musicians (including such stalwarts as Burt Turetzky, Bob Magnusson among the esteemed crew) make the simple structures into lively bits of jazz improvisation, beautifully honed impressionism, seductively rich tone poems. This is the remarkable aspect of what Chuck Perrin has accomplished, which is to create a disc that combines brutal self-assessment and the wild plunge to seek what is real and genuine regarding love at the purest level with a musical tableau that is open-ended, an improvisatory groove and tonal preferences that more than suggest that this is a life that is still evolving, progressing toward truth. The musicians create a sound that reflect the hard turns of Perrin’s journey, but there remains the sense that all this inventory is something we can walk through, free and hopeful for a fuller life ahead.

A miscellaney, a ramble, a love for books, a love for thinking

No protest against the greatness of Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne or Edgar Allen Poe, but their time is past, and the writers that influenced the pulse, wit, and thrill in my wrting are of the 20th century. But then again, they are of the past to, of the  last century, my period of getting influenced and then wallowing in my own mythology of genius It is now the 21st century , younger authors assume the responsibility of keeping the written word more than a means of formalizing an excuse from work or instructions for the hired help. We will go on rummaging  through our memories, bringing up our favoirte writers , discussing them at length or in brief, trying to relive the excitement of when a paragraph knocked you  out , flat on your bck with the revelation the word combination contained, and , when you came to , so to speak, you returned to the page to see who that writer was and , to be sure, find other books by the him or her who made  you aware that language was the means to both imagine a more interesting world but also to change the conditions the actual sphere of things contains. Yes, the world can be made a better place. Vonnegut easily matches Twain , I think, Updike, at his best, surpasses Hawthorne on the same range of issues, and for Poe, virtually everyone has been influenced by him, but the best of his students have found more graceful, lyrical ways to deliver their work.  Simply, one may yearn for the richness of a glorious past as a kind of Heaven to be aspired to, which is fine, if that is the way one learns to cope with the uncompromising pace of the current time, but our writers, truth told, tell a fine tale or two.

Literature is also about where we're going, not just where we've been.  DeLillo,Toni  Morrison, William Gaddis, William Gass, Updike, David Foster Wallace, Mark Helprin, Joyce Carol Oates, Sontag, and dozens of others whose work, in varied respects, struggles to be about something larger than memoirs put forth under the name of fiction. Not that I like all the above: rather, just to say that not every novelist these days is hung by their own confessional rope.

Hindsight is everything, and I wish I could see , who of our scribes will be discussed at the end of the next century. The second half of this century produced a lot of major talent who have produced or are producing respective bodies of work that require the passionate reading and argument our already named personal bests have received. Harold Bloom notwithstanding, our canon is expanding with new and achingly good writers, and one would think that the male majority so far discussed will have relinquish room on their uppermost tier.  On the point, Fitzgerald will make the cut because so few writers, then or to the current time, have managed the breathless lyricism contained in the "The Great Gatsby" or "Tender Is The Night". Some have come close, and I'm thinking of the resonating sentences from Scott Spencer's "Endless Love" or some keenly rendered pages in Updikes "Rabbit" quartet, but Fitzgerald at best gave us small masterpieces that gave an sharp view of the time.   

Hemingway merits a permanent place on any greatest list because his style, at best, was lean, and his sentences , constructed the way they are, convey pages of buried turmoil, lost hope, small idealism, bravery to pursue another day , to shoulder one's burden honorably. "In Our Time" and "The Sun Also Rises" accomplish this. At his worse, though, Hemingway was a boozing sentimentalist whose writing lapsed into repetitious self-parody, as we have in "Island In The Stream" or "A Movable Feast". But I am grateful for the good work he did.  Jack London, I'm afraid, pales for me personally. He was a lot of fun for me when I was growing up, yearning for adventure in Catholic School. But later, in college, closer and more seasoned readings had him sounding rushed, awkward. The admixture of Marx and Darwin that seasoned his writings seem showed a straining idealism that was not redeemed by a modifying style.I've just re-read "John Barleycorn" , and the book is ridiculous. It seemed like so much bluster and blarney toward the end , after vividly recalls his disastrous drinking career, that armed with this new self awareness, he would drink responsibly, that he was in fact only temporarily an alcoholic