Sunday, December 25, 2022


Ever notice that all the advance technology anyone seems to come up with in Marvel and DC geared solely for destroying things and not building them? Things like affordable housing, updating infrastructure, providing solutions to the causes of environmental change? Even protecting American citizen rights to vote in local and federal elections. For all the protecting the heroes and their technology promises, their use of it in the stories only creates more carnage once implemented. Think of how many decades we've seen Marvel heroes fight among themselves in New York City, smashing through and destroying buildings, whole city blocks, without a thought of innocent lives are in those structures. Consider the famous DC animation where Superman shows Darkseid "how powerful I really am" and proceeds to knock him through skyscrapers, in one side and out the other like the jets that crashed into the World Trade Center, without a hint of whether the structures were occupied or not. It's pretty a sign that comic writers and the corporations that employ them are cynical as to the value of heroes and view their exploits. The problems of the comic book world just keep multiplying, and it would seem, logically, that the efforts of the meta-humans to save the world only hasten its demise.


One of the long-standing praises sung in behalf of The Modern Age was the speed with which the affairs of the world were suddenly conducted, with the advent of air travel, the telegraph, radio, and eventually television. It was believed, as McLuhan did in his Musings in Understanding Media and, inevitably, The Medium is the Message, that this acceleration of seeming real time, and the attendant shrinking of the world into spheres that collided and overlapped, would produce comprehension and clarity of a reality that formerly with held its secrets.

That is finally a large hope for what's considered to be one of Modernism's great aims--to produce art, literature, and technologies that transforms the way the world is experienced. Your experience with this obscure composer fulfills that promise, somewhat: you, and the thousands you speak of, shared the experience, did their research with the technology at their disposal, and finally wrote about it in the same few hours. A little more of the world's culture was known and shared at the same time, little different from the first live television broadcast, coast to coast, where thousands of Americans viewed the same scene at the same time. 


Richard Brautigan stylistically and conceptually went to the well too many times as his writing career as a professional writer lasted longer than his inspiration, but he did write poems that retain their charm and uniqueness until now. "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace" has an alluring sparseness of line to it as the narrator attempts to reconcile a reality transformed by technology with an idea that a natural world, already perfect, can survive the transformations.

I like to think (and

the sooner the better!)

of a cybernetic meadow

where mammals and computers

live together in mutually

programming harmony

like pure water

touching clear sky.

I like to think

(right now, please!)

of a cybernetic forest

filled with pines and electronics

where deer stroll peacefully

past computers

as if they were flowers

with spinning blossoms.

I like to think

(it has to be!)

of a cybernetic ecology

where we are free of our labors

and joined back to nature,

returned to our mammal

brothers and sisters,

and all watched over

by machines of loving grace.

Influenced by Chinese and Japanese poetry and not a little by WC Williams, the quizzical lines and images describe a world, not explain it, and that is what keeps the poem fresh, more than a time piece. It keeps you guessing. It is of its time, an age of hippie whimsy, but this, along with other verses, are not bound by its time. 


 A "go to" album we slap on when we need to be invigorated or otherwise risen from the depths of imagined or real despair? The issue is that I have at least a couple of hundreds set aside on a dedicated shelf, discs, let us say, that I can count on to raise my spirits and inspire may another blathering appreciation on my music blog. But I chose this one, Second Winter by Johnny Winter, released in as a quaintly three sided double discs, three sided because, explains Winter in a brief note, that they recorded everything it had at the time, all the songs that were ready for the public, and that they didn't want to dilute the quality with half-hearted filler material. I paraphrase Winter's words, but that's what he meant exactly. His first release "Johnny Winter" released earlier in 1969 on Columbia after much hype that the label had signed a rumored blues guitar genius, unheard, for 600, 000 dollars advance got so-so reviews from critics when the guitarist gave the world a traditional and fine blues record rather than the flashy Hendrixian pyrotechnics most were expecting. Second Winter is Winter and the Band digging into the material with rather amazing variety of roots rock and blues styles. Not a wasted track, not a wasted second, no filler, I think this is one of the great blues-rock virtuoso showcases for the era and for all time. "Fast Life Rider", "Highway 61 Revisited", "Hustled Down In Texas", "Miss Anne"… The back-up of bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer John Turner give the lead a firm, persistent, uncomplicated support, allowing Winter the framework to display his malleable blues virtuosity in a variety of context. A bonus is brother Edgar Winter's occasional keyboard and sax work. 


One of the rock and roll architects has left the stage. Chuck Berry and Little Richard in their prime always meant more to me, but Lewis was a close third in my personal rock and roll canon. No one could pound a piano with more verve or energy, and it seemed to me watching old clips of him live over that he was not so much playing piano as he was committing assault upon it. His singing, as well, was unique, his own and impossible to cogently emulate. His southern accent became a tight, coiled sound that was as much about barely constrained energy as it was about tone, timbre, or range. It was a primitive glee to raise havoc that battered the limits of the chord progressions. God help the audience if whatever possessed this artist escaped the musical bars that constrained it. That Jerry Lee Lewis found a second career as a fully realized country artist only makes sense; one always had the feeling that he thought the Devil and God were wrestling for his soul. If rock and roll were the indulgence of the baser, untamed qualities of the human spirit, country was the area where home, hearth, heartbreak, and healing of a sort could balance the emotional scales. He was an original architect of rock and roll, a phenomenon that will not reoccur in any future unfolding of human history.


Bob Seger will be remembered mostly for all the glorious melodramatic self-examination that began with "Night Moves", a tune that initiated a string of hit singles and platinum albums. Like some others here, my listening history with him goes back further, back to the wonder of rhythm and blues and psychedelic hybrid primitivism that was half inspiration, half thrash. "Black Eyed Girl" has it all, a sleepy, trudging blues holler. Seger sounds like he's just woken up from a night of hard drinking and equally hard loving, and finds himself alone in a dark and dirty hotel room. Drums and bass are very effectively basic, and the guitar work by Seger is minimalist that the flimsy wall between "minimal" and "amateurish" could collapse at any moment. And Seger hollers his brains out, pushing his upper register in what seems to be a melding of James Brown and Robert Plant. It's what Blue Cheer would sound like if you got rid of the atonal guitar solos and had your thumb on the turntable.

Friday, October 28, 2022


After a long absence from fiction, Cormac McCarthy returns with a double dose of his bleak imaginings with this month's release of this novel The Passenger, to be followed up in December with a second novel, Stella Maris. The second book, I understand, is a continuation of the hard-scrabble tale begun in The Passenger. Fittingly, the two novels will be sold eventually as a boxed set. At 89 years old, these are likely to be McCarthy's last additions to his fatalistic oeuvre, assuming that no posthumous "lost" books find publication after his eventual passing. 

I haven't read The Passenger as yet, but being one of those who think McCarthy ought to be given a Nobel Prize for Literature, odds are that I'll find the strange pleasure one experiences reading some of the finger work from this brutal and often brilliant poet of the brutal forecast. Laura Miller, book critic for Slate, apparently has little sympathy for a masculine world view in literary fiction and finds McCarthy's reputation both inflated and needlessly, pointlessly violent, taking time to serve some implied shade against Hemingway, Faulkner, Don DeLillo and James Ellroy. She awarded The Passenger a well-honed negative review. This was a surprising take. Miller is usually a first-rate book critic, but her arguments here against the Cult of Cormac that sound thin, however well worded they are. The review reads more like a string of sentences she's been saving up for a while to say against the author the first chance she had. She might be gone off on an anti-McCarthy screed before, but no matter. 

Whether consulting his Inner Hemingway or hailing the Faulkner Within to make his prose compelling and effective in conveying the tragic atmospheres that are his literary domain, McCarthy has displayed mastery over his influences and forged an original and forceful voice of his own. Great writers have their deep and obsessive roots in persistent perceptions of how the universe of their respective understandings unfold, churn, create and destroys the nature of its existence despite heroic efforts to change and somehow improve the course of human events, and McCarthy has held to his doomed visage. This author as a committed Hobbesian who sees himself as the effective witness to what existence is after the collapse of the Leviathan; nasty, brutish and short. 

Though not meeting the stamp of approval from 21st century tastemakers, the struggles, and experiences of masculinity has been a rich vein for masterpieces for quite a good while, from Conrad, Mailer, London, Lawrence, McGuane and too many others to name-drop, and the relevance of their collective bodies of work cannot be wholly discarded or ignored only because it's inconvenient for what passes as the present conversation about what a writer's responsibility to a reader is. I prefer to keep that task simple and straightforward, which is a writer of fiction give an honest accounting of the problems that confront a set of characters. At 89, McCarthy has remained committed to the dictates of his imagination. That's all he's been required to do over a long career.

All this said, I have the Passenger on my desk, and I'll have it read soon enough, and from there a substantial view of the novel might arise. But there's been usually a state of shock after I've finished the other McCarthy novels--Blood Meridian, The Road, No Country for Old Men, and I've put off writing about this writer if for no reason apart from not wanting to think too long or too deeply about the horror that McCarthy dares to look straight in the eye and describe without flinching. 

Friday, October 21, 2022


 Fearless is a fine word, but a bit melodramatic. Blues musicians and musicians in general, I suppose, can be expected to engage in a bit of high-rent hyperbole when discussing matters musical. It's a trait I engage in. In any case, I look less for "fearlessness" and all its Saturday matinée associations and seek instead musicians who have confidence in what they're doing. There is that threshold we must all cross, built of self-doubt, stage fright, anxiety, when we're about to step onto the stage, but the one who will be the professional, the one who is going to turn in stellar performances more often than not, is the one with the instinct, the knack, the desire to entertain, delight and amaze others to convert fear, bad nerves, doubt, the shakes into energy that fires the brain and the limbs and makes all the synapses fire; the training, the practice, the wood shedding stops being experimental and preparation and transforms itself into confident, self-assured professionalism. It's a quality of being that allows the musician to mostly do anything he or she has their mind on doing. 

Those descriptions of resulting personal liberation resulting from as series of actions one does without. Concepts do not exist of themselves, self-contained. The idea of courage is meaningless until one grasps fears, embraces it and walks through that wall of uncertainty that would otherwise prevent the person, musician or not, from doing great and original things. It's walking through your fears and getting to the other side, stronger, tempered, with greater confidence in one's abilities. Fear I believe is a great motivator toward acts of personal courage. It should be turned around, I think. One cannot be "fearless", but one can live with less fear by taking risks, advancing toward goals one might not otherwise have attempted. Less fear. That seems closer to the real human condition, something that is achievable. Doing away fear is a nice goal in an abstract world, but eliminating this element from the range of human emotion threatens to turn musicians into automatons, machines. If one does not know fear by experience, consequentially one cannot know courage, that is, one cannot be brave. These are polarities that depend on one another to be useful in any discussion using either of the terms. Neither fear nor courage make sense without the presence of the other. Sans fear, an element I believe is always present in every human being (unless one is a sociopath), courage is not possible. 

That's a dualism and not likely appropriate to a discussion with a pretense of thoughtfulness regarding the range of emotion motivation, but there are those moments when one needs to strip a wondering discourse on watery conceptualizations down to a stark truism, with it in mind that the cliché contained within the truism is the banal assertion from which a new discussion can commence. That is why I was thinking reversing the term to that of having "less fearing" is more useful and presents a more coherent picture of what you're trying to get at, as it describes how fear, always present, can be mastered to an extent and turned to one's advantage as the hero, a musician in this case, advances toward that quality called courage. Like it or not, fear cannot be gotten rid of. It can, though, be eliminated, and people can be taught/trained to perform wonderfully despite the fears they have.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Remarks on Wynton Marsalis

The shame of it all is that Wynton Marsalis has come to represent everything a public considers to be the 'art' of jazz, and as he continues to proffer tame music, the adventurous stuff, the "out" playing that keeps the music alive remains unheard and alien to the curious listener. That there is a Jazz Canon that needs to be preserved is not disputed, it's just that Marsalis acts as if all the innovation is now past tense. He believes it is. His style is conservative and chiseled after his heroes, Miles, Clark Terry, Clifford Brown. Their music, though, came as a result of extending their technique into areas that were unknown in the culture. Marsalis has done none of that. He is cheating himself and boring the rest of us to death. The distinction between an ongoing spotlight between jazz musicians defining musical sensibilities among themselves, at work, and that of Marsalis discussing such things is that Marsalis has the spotlight, the media, and the audience goes to him, and it is there where the debate, this debate begins. We disagree as to the role of critics, but I think the ghettoization of jazz is too laid precisely at the feet of white writers and intellectuals. 

Amiri Baraka is a great man and an important critic, and presented jazz as a continuous aesthetic of liberation, and correctly defined African American music as music about freedom and struggle, and the search for new knowledge, the extension of the voice, the exploration of the soul into new knowledge. As Baraka socialist, a brave and lonely vantage in a culture that thinks a free-market can resolve permanent problems in the human condition, I don't think it accidental that his views are ignored, and frankly unknown to most. Marsalis William Bennett-ish view, that jazz should embody virtues conduce to conduct in a democratic society, is a valid one, and we may understand it's broader appeal, but really, bebop purism is needed in an art like jazz, as art, any art, cannot remain a living thing, generation-to-generation, if the past is not known. Simply, Marsalis is part of a generation of artists and intellectuals in the African American community who are no part of the mainstream dialogue in America. Stanley Crouch, Albert Murray, Cornell West, bell hooks, Gerald Early--these are actually first-rate thinkers, agree or not with their conclusions, but the fact of the matter is that we require more high-profile cats like Marsalis, from every facet and corner of the black community, to debate, to clamor, and to insist on jazz being a great American art form they created, and thus claim their rights Americans. Again, Marsalis is not my favorite player, and I think his dalliance in two camps, classical and jazz, dilutes his performances in both, but he did get us arguing something that really matters. I will say it again, for that much, he deserves our thanks. The issue for is that though jazz is a quintessential American creation it is the creation of Black-Americans, who forged the music, who have been its prime movers, and who continue to be the innovators who define what the music will be. 

Someone with the high visibility of Wynton Marsalis who takes it upon himself to speak for jazz is a resentment waiting to happen, but doubtlessly Marsalis knew this, and went ahead and ran his mouth anyway. But his project is a noble one. He recognizes that jazz is the premier American contribution to world culture, and that it is a black art form as well, but also that the black community, it's young people, were forgetting about the culture that is their right to claim. Leaving specific utterances aside, specific feuds unmentioned, let's just say that his insistence on the black accomplishments in jazz, technical, social, moral, spiritual, have made numerous white people nervous, as we white people tend to become whenever educated black men and women take back the discourse about black culture.Marsalis is something of a cultural conservative, a William Bennett sort who has his own 'Book of Virtues' agenda in his educational projects and with his directorship of the jazz program in Lincoln Center, and that I view his music as less than the fiery blaze of Freddie Hubbard (a better trumpeter than Wynton, really) and a less composed texture than Ellington. But who says there has to be a consensus in the debate. To the degree that Marsalis has opened up the discussion to the larger culture, he has rendered a service to the state of jazz. To the extent that he has gotten many people's dander up, well, I think that is a good thing too because in the hands of dusty musicologist moon lighting as critics, jazz has seemed a gasping, brittle artifact, like old furniture in a museum display, that one appreciated for its former glory, for all it's accumulated history. Whatever stripe you happen to be, Marsalis implies, jazz is not past tense, it is not a thing of history, it is a living thing that has history. 

Like anything else in this world of manufactured concerns, jazz has many streams, rills, eddies and currents, all of which keep the pulse alive and relevant, breathing right along with us as we hear it, and in turn become inspired to create it anew. No one that I've read here has come close to saying anything like that, and to think anyone is paranoid, I am afraid. But we're not here to re-write the history books, nor even to indulge in the fetishism revolving the arguments of well-fed men, white and black. Rather, the original topic seen at the top of the page, the final question, really, was about our take on Wynton's promotion of the music, and the word promotion is the key. Because really, before his being on the scene and making a racket over jazz, bop or otherwise, the topic had been as dead as shoe leather. But now as to what jazz is or is not having become something for a wider debate, and into this debate, it draws whites and blacks into conversations with one another more so than they have been in years. And it is, by rights, one that blacks are at last debating in the larger arena. It is no longer a white man's game to define anymore. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2022



It was always more fun to talk about Godard's movies than to actually watch them. The discussions seemed to be very intelligent exchanges on what the director was attempting to do rather than what he accomplished as a filmmaker. Often times it seems theory was the alibi that attempted to make the makeshift quality of his products permissible. It was wishful thinking in large part, I think, but I did take particular enjoyment being part of the various campus beer bar bull sessions where each recent author we've read came to play in trying to get a collective grasp on this filmmaker's work. He talked a great movie.

Monday, September 5, 2022


Taschen has published an expensive"art edition" re-issue the long out of print controversial Norman Mailer biography of Marylin Monroe, 1973's Marylin. It will, I think, make available what is one of the most underrated of Mailer's books. The book was controversial indeed when first published in 1973; charges of plagiarism and an attendant lawsuit from the authors of biographies used in his research put a pall over Mailer's interpretative accomplishment, and feminists and progressives were particularly at arms by the fact that Norman Mailer, of all people, had written anything at length about Monroe. Mailer had, shall we say, a problematic relationship with women, personally and philosophically, during his public life, and it was easy enough to accuse the late author of indulging in a kind of literary onanism, projecting his ego on the public perception of Monroe, the actress and superstar, and inflicting those results on to us? I think it took courage on Mailer's part who, fully aware of his infamy regarding women's rights, birth control and his insistence on a cult of masculinity, to take on the subject of Monroe anyway (even, as Mailer has admitted, for the money) and to investigate his own conflicted perceptions of Monroe. Mailer is an arch romantic, and allows his prose to soar and swerve and swoop from great heights in an attempt to capture something about Monroe the cultural force that film criticism, fashion commentary and sociological analysis couldn't get near. This book contains Mailer's Private Marylin Monroe, and at the time it was published it was a florid, beautifully written, occasionally interpretation of the dry facts about Monroe's life and career. Monroe is one of the central icons of 20th century American culture, no less than Elvis or JFK, and one ought not be surprised that dozens of smart writers like Mailer have taken their turns re-imagining, recasting, reinterpreting the life of historic figures. Mailer's interpretative biography, I think, is a well written, occasionally brilliant piece of speculation about the source of Monroe's persona and the effect she had on a generation of male psyches. He does the splendid trick of bold speaking of her as a sexual creature who honed her limited craft into an Art that could not be ignored, the notion that Presence itself sometimes suffices as a legitimate aesthetic gesture, and then qualifying his pronouncements that what he proposes, based on other people's facts, is his conjecture. Monroe's' career as an actress was entirely fascinating. Mailer's public musings on what she meant beyond the films she made is not less intriguing, even now.

A later book Mailer wrote on Monroe was published in 1980, Of Women and their Elegance, which combined Mailer's latest interpretations of the actresses' life along with the photographs of Milton H. Greene. This time eschewed doing further interpretative biographical work and instead composed a fictional portrayal, an imagined first-person narrative Monroe that can be taken by the reader either as readings from a secret journal or a long conversation with an unnamed confidant. It's a short novel, generally unheralded when discussions of Mailer's fiction arise. I think it's a bit of a minor masterpiece. An underappreciated Mailer work, one which, to my mind, debunks the general charge that Mailer couldn't write complex or compelling women characters. The controversies involving Mailer and his feminist critics is likely to remain current for the foreseeable future, but his fictionalized account of Monroe presents the troubled actress--part naif, part fighter, smarter than likely men and women film goers and critics preferred to think--as someone caught between different personalities that constitute the Hollywood snake pit. Mailer allows her a first person narration and creates a voice and personality that attempts to be a serious artist and to do good work and also, please bosses, boyfriends, husbands, friends real and doubtful. The accusation might be put forth that this merely more male fantasy stuff that Mailer was given to composing when he sought to discuss the dynamics or difficulties of men and women relating to each other in a consumer culture --his previous "Marilyn biography, a marvelous and occasionally beautiful tribute to the actress did, at times, veer off into the most purple of prose stretches this side of Cornell Woolrich--but I think here the author allows the actress to address her narrative, in a clearly plain-spoken and sympathetic tone. It's a product of Mailer's imagination, I admit, but it is an intriguing read, a fine short novel. 

To that point, let me add that I wish Mailer had written larger number of shorter fictional works. Why Are We in Vietnam?, Tough Guys Don't Dance, An American Dream --these novels are controversial and have been subject to great praise and red-hot scorn, but it's been my feeling that he functioned as a fabulist engaged in outrageous notions when he was pressed for time and wrote feverishly, his language loose, nearly chaotic, brilliantly conveying the fevered spirit of Mailer's best and worst thinking. Of Women is one of those novels that introduces its ideas quickly and explores them vividly, daring to tweak the conventional thinking , willing to be assumed the fool for doing so, and willing as well to have his best writing and his worst ideas exist in in concise firepit of linguistic experimentation and ersatz mysticism. 

Thursday, September 1, 2022


New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg fretted the other day that our nation is in the gross depths of cultural stagnation, which is another way of saying that no one is getting excited by much new music, new authors, new movies, new visual artists. It's gotten to the point where we could say that "boredom" is the new cultural condition of things, the unintended consequence of the consumerist boom of the post-war period that never ended, despite what varied social scientists would have us think. Increased consumer demand intensified the research into more brutally efficient means of technological expertise and application to manufacture, distribute and deliver goods to consumers. The internet accelerated all this, to be sure, availing us of goods, nearly anything we desired, in quantum leap time. Now, in a pandemic that is still not over and with a population that had to spend unnatural amounts of time at home, the millions of us sought to distract ourselves with impulse shopping, insane amounts of streaming, the whole shot. Materials that used to amuse us and stand as symbols of how up to the millisecond we were now becomes evidence of the psychic entropy each and all of us became embroiled in. More than mere muscles had gone flabby, and our toys began to depress us.  Boredom settles in surely when everything is available to you at the instance you want it. There is no adventure in seeking new music anymore, there is no sense of actually discovering something obscure that's very cool, dangerous, going against the grain and mores of the time. We are in a situation of Marcuse's famous idea of "repressive tolerance", that by allowing the marginal voices, the dissenting notions, the philosophically malcontent full rights of expression and indeed making it easier for the nonconformist's works are easily available under the guise of a free press, they are revolutionary potential of these cranky, experimental, iconoclastic to inspire an audience to effect change in the System is neutralized. Punk rock, polka, country western, rap and The Last Poets become genres, matters of taste, not as vehicles to inspire and enliven the imagination. All the digital access to every book, movie, TV show, record album every created, instantly, creates the ennui of availability. Too often when getting the full of run of albums by Gunther Schiller, say, interest dissipates and the attention span requires something else to distract it for a moment. It seems to be the case that what we're talking about is commodity fetishism, which is the mere acquisition of things for having them and no more.


Saturday, August 20, 2022

'BUGSY" starring Warren Beatty and Annette Bening


Had a fine time watching Bugsy recently, a near gem of a modern gangster film. A 1991 effort starring Warren Beatty as Ben "Bugsy" Siegel and a then-unknown Annette Bening as a fast talking , smart woman Siegel takes up with when he comes to 1940s Los Angeles to muscle on the local organized crime boss.  Beatty is effective here as a man of  great charm and sudden violence, a man desiring to be a hard boss, enforcer , gentleman, and lady's man; the sudden swings in his moods and the turmoil that ensues are convincingly conveyed--little tell-tale signs in facial expression, a tilt of the head, a growing escalation in volume and intensity of questions being asked a character Siegel suspects of having stolen from him--are well-played signals that Bugsy is about to go off. This was a break through role for Bening , and she brings a sharp tongue and a quick wit to her portrayal of a lone woman alone in a town full of predator men who are liars, cheats, thieves, and killers all who falls for the charming if erratic Siegel. The recreation of Los Angeles of the period is very well done, and I rather enjoyed the dark tones used to suggest a noir quality--this has an aura of quality black and white photograph that was hand-colored especially well. The film does drag in the middle, but it picks up well, and the casting of Ben Kingsley, Harvey Keitel, Joe Mantegna  and Bebe Neuwirth is very fine. We must mention a small role for Elliot Gould as a lumbering, likeable , dumb oaf of a thug who is doomed .Directed by Barry Levinson, screenplay by James Toback, cinematographer Allen Daviau.

Friday, August 19, 2022


 The more cynical among us might dismiss this effort by bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker as a blatant money-grab to secure filthy lucre from nostalgic fans of Cream, replacing founding member Eric Clapton with stalwart blues—rock specialist Gary Moore. Two parts Cream is better than no Cream at all? But hold on a second, Moore's guitar work matches and very often exceeds the admittedly early brilliance of Clapton from those studio and live discs; Moore is technically far more advanced as a musician than Clapton, but what saves the Irish fret lord from being merely another wind-up virtuoso is his retention of the raw aggression, emotion, power of the blues.

 In this video, you'll note that he pretty well recreates Clapton's tone from the period and reveals great evidence of having spent hours, hundreds of hours playing EC with guitar in hand learning his phrasing, his timing, his dynamic sense. This is likely to be the best Clapton tribute that will ever come to be.Moore presents the particulars of EC's style that make me think that this was his (Clapton's) the best era as a guitarist. The timing, the tone, the frantic unpredictability of his blues intonations as the self-taught guitarist battled with the jazz-trained Bruce and Baker in those extended improvisations that were Cream's stock-in-trade.

 Moore brings all that to this performance, and effortlessly incorporates this fiery and swift riffing as well to remind you who's controlling the wah-wah pedal. Bruce and Baker, of course, are in fine shape as aging rock musicians, each improving and goading each other to different rhythmic emphasis, all of which Moore elaborates upon with inspiring blues improvisational escapades. It's refreshing that Moore seems to refuse to treat Cream's canonical songbook with any over reverence. He makes the material his own, and though Clapton's shadow looms over all of his flights, the Irish guitarist takes full possession of the solo spaces allotted and fills with a superbly honed manner, a gregarious aggression you might say.

A question posed to me on Quora


Bukowski is one of the best known modern poets, but not as a “great” poet. Charles Bukowski spent several decades writing about three or four things, which were drinking, staying drunk, screwing drunk women, playing the horses, and drinking. His was not a large world, and after reading a raft of short stories,three novels and five of his plenitude of poetry collections, it's safe to say that he'd run out of things to say about the redundant activities of his life. Hence,his redundant themes and the waning energy of his work as his life wore on, with he waiting for it all to be over with. Young people love him because Bukowski is as close to an actual nihilist any of them are likely to encounter in American fiction and poetry. His principle failing is his unwillingness to think harder or differently about the world of drink, cigarettes, whores,race tracks and flop houses and bad sex. This poem, as it goes, goes through the typical moves and ends on some winsome sigh about lost opportunity, faded youth, mauling over of some psychic pain that is somehow aimed at making us understand why he is such a luckless asshole. Ironically, few writers have been as lucky as this guy, lucky in that the game he ran on us held up all these years, and that it still has enough allure to sucker yet another acolyte who just entering their drunken -

Thursday, August 18, 2022



I had enough trouble maintaining an even keel when the film Woodstock was released in 1970. Even as a 17-year-old poet wannabe who loved the idea that Youth Culture, The Counter Culture, the new poetry found in the New Music would be of great transforming value for the world to yet to come, something about the famous account of the 1969 rock festival in upstate New York—something about the documentary concerning the famed rock festival had an off-putting hubris. All those hippies gathered for no good purpose, catching a ride on the swells of a collective ego, seemed a massive wallow in self-congratulations for being groovy beyond redemption. I remember mostly maintain my cool about the hype around the mythos of the event and the overpraise for the film, only to lose it finally in the matter when in 1981 NBC opted to broadcast the film on the concert’s tenth anniversary. Typical of a ratings grab, the network overkilled the entire enterprise. Rather than showing the film as it was (already noteworthy for its sense of self-congratulation), the powers that be at the network instead whittled it down into something safe and defused, entitled Woodstock Relived. In their production, NBC managed to change Woodstock from an historical footnote where pleasant memories can be derived and gave it the substance of a daydream. Woodstock Relived became, literally, naught but the magic land of Oz. and the audience, a gaggle of Dorothies stranded in a metaphysical Kansas of the soul, became suddenly transported to a land where dreams come true, and all endings are happy. NBC's purpose, I suppose, was to make the surfeit of long-hair, strange costumes, loud music, hints of nudity and free-love in the original motion picture somehow acceptable to the mainstream TV public by contriving a method that would "explain" the phenomena to an audience who might still be bewildered by the fête ten years hence. 

The primary proof of this is their choice of hiring Beau Bridges to provide a running commentary. Seated on a set equipped with a TV monitor, Bridges exuded the authoritarian calm of Walter Cronkite, seeming to adjudicate over a political convention. Where the first version of Wood51ock trusted the editing and the sequence of scenes to form their narrative—perhaps they had a better sense of who their potential audience was—the NBC editors would often flash the beginning of a musical act as Bridges would fit the film into a strained metaphorical context, as evidenced by two principal scenes in which the wishful thinking interpretation of the event belies its banality. In the first. Joe Cocker's head appears on the screen as the first strains of "A Little Help from My Friends" are played while off to the side, looking mellowly certain of his line. Bridges waxes poetic ~t: 'II on the spirit of cooperation that distinguished the event, citing the music as proof positive of his thesis with the words "When Joe Cocker began to sing. He told the world what Woodstock was all about." My response and others as well, was a loud "oh come on now." not because Bridge's analogy sounded stupid but because even a cursory examination of historical fact brings the whole notion of\ what the counter-culture actually was into question .ln fact, "what Woodstock was all about" was a matter of too many people showing up for an event whose producers expected less dense crowds, an alarming strain on existing food, toilet, sleeping and medical capabilities. And the remarkably benign response of surrounding townspeople. The National Guard and the Army to alleviate the hazards of overcrowding. 

And Cocker himself, being less than the spokesman for anyone, was a scheduled performer with only one US hit who had to play under the most unusual of circumstances. Wood - stock, in other words, was an accident of circumstances, and the fact that the crowd was more or less peaceful was little else but a fortuitous fluke. The NBC folks, though, wanted a structure in which to place the fair, a coherent "theme" with which to make the film an item one could stand, so they exercised their kind of historical revisionism, a revisionism intended to give the illusion that Woodstock can be understood in the most banal set of generalizations. More insidious than forcing the image of Cocker into a cheap, glittering cliché was the way they represented Country Joe McDonald. If memory serves me correctly. McDonald and his group The Fish were the mo t straightforwardly political of all the Bay Area rock and roll bands, going beyond the then trendy politics of the anti was movement and involving themselves with many new-left causes, including various benefit concerts for the Black Panthers, SDS, and other militant groups whose rhetoric frequently called for a "revolution" of a usually unspecified sort. 

The sensibilities at NBC, though, were either afraid of the depth of McDonald's obvious activism or were just plain ignorant of it, and chose instead to reduce him, like Cocker, to little more than evidence for a foregone conclusion. Completely sniping out McDonald's "Fish Cheer" ("Give me an F," and so on, until everyone is deliriously yelling FUCK). McDonald is first shown half-way through his son~ "Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die' on the set's TV monitor while Bridges, his eyes puppy-wide his voice dripping a honey toned sincerity, generalized about the turmoil of the period, mentioning the dissent over the Vietnam War as a demonstration of "thousands and thousands of young people who deeply loved America who had something to say about the quality of life in this country, not just for them, but for generations to come." Then almost as an afterthought. The rest of McDonald's tune is played uninterrupted. Other examples abound endlessly throughout the run of Woodstock Relived of the way the producers of the show sought to make the original film presentable: the excising of all nudity, the elimination of all strong language that formerly peppered the soundtrack, only a cursory depiction of the drug use and most galling, Bridges' insistence that Woodstock was nothing more than "kids letting off steam." During a sequence of shots that show kids mud-sliding after a heavy rain. 

Bridges literally said something to the effect that they were engaging in "not good clean fun , but what's the difference?" The festival sounds positively wholesome, all-American, like going on a weekend retreat or sending one's son off to Boy Scout Camp. By implication, the 60s are made to sound wholesome and good clean fun, just a period of rowdy behavior no more deadly than a fraternity panty-raid. The implication, though, goes deeper, hinting that the Woodstock festival itself can be held up in the light of history as being the quintessence of what the 60s were "about." All the Prepare for variegated strands that marked the cultural and political atmosphere of the decade had merged to a head at the festival, and that each had found its fullest expression. This revisionist arrogance galls me to not end - the assumption being that Woodstock can be called representative of the 60s - but the fault in this case must fall to the TV producers and not the original filmmakers. The original Woodstock was, to its credit, a documentary of a specific event that did not attempt to generalize a world view. Even with the paucity of good music, the cretinous photography of the acts and the inane good vibe banter of the concert goers, the original Woodstock is nonetheless an accurate, if obviously biased representation of the festival, treating the event as something in and of itself, within context, without any pretense of imposing an overall "meaning." Though, the film has dated badly. 

One can still see it and retain a perspective that keeps one's sense of propriety in order: something similar to people recognizing the follies of unrepentant youth. Woodstock Relived, however, denies the original film's generic integrity and transform into an effective additive to the cultural epidemic of nostalgia, a condition that has us believing in false Edens. Like an evangelical preacher citing Bible passages over the airwaves to legitimate their political stance in terms that transcend the machinations of human being, the how's producer composed for themselves a bill of good as to what the 60 meant and used the festival the Irrefutable Truth. Woodstock thus become romanticized to the point that excludes perspective for analysis. The 60s become trivialized with no attempt to take the longer more comprehensive view of the decade, and ultimately, all of our experiences of the period become cheapened, having fallen victim to a corporate reductionism whose ideology demands a narrative style that deliver us to a horde of dollar-eyed advertiser. The larger pity of this is that anything anyone was struggling for - a better world, peace, a society free of exploitation—become part of the mainstream, the birthday ribboned package of lies we tell ourselves to have the nerve to trudge ahead into a future with something like hope. Under the shoulder-to-the-wheel bravado we drape our waking lives in, our dreams tell us what we won't speak of over breakfast, at work, or even sitting alone minding our own business, that the future is not a destination legitimated with greater and finer purpose, but merely a station of merely passing through the days with what we've learned from being alive so far. The idea is that life in -the -moment exists in what we bring to it, our experience and the eventual gathering of personal knowledge sometimes called wisdom. The real terror of this life is we wonder if we've learned anything at all up to this point.