Monday, December 25, 2017

Too busy live-blogging the football games, but never too busy to post my favorite holiday song on Christmas day!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Dreaming Of The Masters


Still been busy live blogging the CFB bowl games over on another site, but that doesn't mean we can't keep posting these Old School Friday posts here.  Here's more John Coltrane (I said it couldn't all be done in one post) performing Africa from the 1961 LP Africa Brass, the first Coltrane album I ever bought and still one of my favorites, with a sound as big and as heartfelt as the entire African continent.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

No time to post today.  I'm live-blogging today's college football Bowl Games over at another site, and I'm all posted out tonight.

Normal posts will resume shortly.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Old School Friday

I can see now how these Old School Friday posts are going to progress - each week's selection makes me think of the next week's, and just as Don Cherry suggested Pharoah Sanders and Pharoah Sanders suggested Alice Coltrane,  Alice Coltrane almost demands that I post John Coltrane.

Of course, Coltrane is such a pivotal, essential figure in jazz music that it would have been hard to keep this series going for long without posting something by him.  I've actually been striving to put off a Coltrane post for as long as I could just to give some other voices a chance before turning to the master (note to self: rename the Old School Friday series to Dreaming of the Masters after the Art Ensemble of Chicago song). But as I said before, after posting something by Alice Coltrane, it's almost impossible not to post something by John.

The question is where to start.  What one song should I select to properly capture the creativity of arguably the greatest musician in the 20th Century?  Actually, in all likelihood, I'll probably be posting Coltrane for a few weeks because just one is hardly enough, but still, where to start?

Coltrane's music has long been important to me - the very first paper I wrote in college for my Freshman Composition course, in response to the instruction, "Write about anything you care deeply about" was a short piece on the music of John Coltrane.  His tenor provided much of the soundtrack of my life since around 1974, but I would be dishonest with myself if I didn't choose Wise One to begin, as it's the song that has seared itself most deeply into my subconscious.

The reason for my selection is so personal and so intimate and so sensual that I can't even tell you about it - not out of modesty or some sense of propriety, but because I don't have the necessary skill with words to properly paint the picture.  I'll say this much - in 1979, when Mary Ellen put this record on the turntable the morning after what was probably the sexiest, most romantic, most enchanting evening of my young life, I knew as we continued our long and meaningful conversation and the intro to Wise One came over the speakers that I had found the right one and that I was in love.    

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ausar Temple

For those of you thinking that the Old School Friday posts of music fusing exotic Middle to Far Eastern sounds with spiritual themes was just a 70s trend among certain jazz musicians,  I offer Ausar Temple by Angel Deradoorian (Deradoorian, Dirty Projectors, Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks) from her 2017 album Eternal Recurrence.

This is what a Zen temple might sound like at 4:00 a.m.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


See Alabama?  America knew you could do it and make the right choice in a year when it seemed that most of the rest of the country kept making atrocious choices.  You did the right thing, even if something like 49% of your voters went the wrong way.  But for every one of them, there was one of you and in the end, you had one left over to elect Democrat Doug Jones over Republican pedophile, anti-constitutionalist, gun-fetishist, and Shiite Baptist Roy Moore.

Thank you, Alabama. Now I can pick the Crimson Tide in the college football pool with a clear conscience and not have to cheer for the infernal Clemson Tigers just to spite your electoral decision.

In the end, we knew dignity and decency would win out over fundamentalism and hate.  Alabama, on at least this night of nights, you're awesome!    

Sunday, December 10, 2017

"I have every excuse to just stay shut in and play video games on my computer all day, at least while I'm not out raking snow."
It turns out I used my snow-bound shut-in time exactly as I had intended, and managed to complete The Wild Hunt storyline in Witcher 3.  No spoilers here, but we defeated the foes that needed defeating, resolved the mysteries surrounding key characters, mastered a new card game, and even had energy left over for a few romantic side adventures.  

I have to admit The Witcher lived up to its reputation as one of all-time best video games. The plot was as sophisticated and nuanced as a novel, the characters were satisfyingly complex, the gameplay was exciting, and the whole thing ran flawlessly on my HP Envy laptop.  Really can't find anything to complain about, and recommend the game without reservation to any and all.

What with side quests, exploration, and time spent just wandering around like a dumb-ass, it took me 130 hours of gameplay to complete the storyline.  I purchased the two DLC Expansion Packs for the game, so I still have plenty of gameplay left before I play the whole thing through again from the start.

Meanwhile, snow's still on the ground outside but my strategy of raking the snow-covered wet leaves away from the car succeeded and I finally got my automobile to the top of the hill and the end of my driveway.  Frankly, I wasn't sure that plan would work, but it did.  I even quit playing Witcher long enough to venture out and do some grocery shopping today.  The ordeal even made me grateful and appreciative once again of having a car (belated Thanksgiving, anyone?).   

An unusual weekend by any account, and I'll actually be glad to get back to my usual routine on Monday.  Can't say that at the end of too many weekends.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Winter In Georgia

Forget the Los Angeles wildfires and the Iranian earthquake.  Puerto Rico's recovering just fine, at least according to our so-called President.  But in a real catastrophe of near Biblical proportions, it snowed yesterday in Georgia.

Many parts of Atlanta received at least 6 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.  Some parts of Atlanta’s western and northern suburbs had up to a foot of snow Friday and Saturday.

Atlanta famously shuts down when even a half-inch of snow falls.  Six inches of snow nearly equals the total accumulation of the last decade.

I left work at noon yesterday in the middle of the storm.  The commute, which should take only about 20 minutes, actually takes 30 to 45 minutes with Atlanta's rush-hour traffic, and as many as 60 minutes on a really bad day.  Yesterday, the drive took me about 75 minutes, so I was actually relieved that I didn't wind up in one of those infamous six- to eight-hour debacles of snowstorms past.

I couldn't make it any further up my driveway than shown in the picture above.  The storm hit right at the peak of the autumn leaf fall (it occurs late in the year here in Georgia), and my driveway was due to get leaf blown that day.  The crew didn't make it due to the inclement weather, so I had about an inch of wet leaves on my driveway beneath the six inches of wet, slushy snow.  Traction was impossible.

The car's still there.  I can't drive it further up the hill, and I'm too close to the side retaining wall to let it slide back down and park on the street.  Today, I raked the wet leaves and loose show away from the car (have you ever raked snow before?  first time for me), so that tomorrow's sun will warm the blacktop drive and melt away the remaining ice and snow.  Perhaps that will be enough to gain the traction needed to free up the car and move it out of the driveway, one way or the other.  

 Thousands are still without power, some poor guy got electrocuted by a fallen power line, and I'm sure there were many, many accidents on Atlanta's streets and highways, so I don't have it too bad.  I have power, food, a meditation pillow, internet access, and alcohol, so I have every excuse to just stay shut in and play video games on my computer all day, at least while I'm not out raking snow.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Old School Friday

After posting Pharoah Sanders last week, the obvious direction to go from there is to play something from Alice Coltrane's collaboration with Pharoah, and I can't think of a better thing to post (or music to listen to on this cold, wintery night in Georgia) than the incredibly beautiful Journey in Satchinananda.

After John Coltrane's untimely death, his wife Alice continued the spiritual journey she had started with her late husband.  Indian spirituality and mysticism played a very important role in the couple's life and on the musical side, it manifested in a new type of music where ragas, harp and chants blended seamlessly with avant-garde jazz notions. Alice's spiritual path eventually led her to lead an ashram in California.  Alice passed in 2007, but next March we'll be hearing members of her ashram perform some of her devotional music in Knoxville, Tennessee.

We have infinite respect for any musician, much less a woman, who manages to find her own unique voice and style while surrounded by the legendary jazz figures of her time.  John Coltrane was obviously a towering figure in the world of jazz, and it must have taken a lot of courage and self assurance for his wife not to be just a curator of John's music, preserving the tradition and protecting his reputation, but instead to be so true to her own  muse or muses and boldly go where no one had gone before. 

We don't normally post entire albums in this Old School Friday series, but it would be almost criminal to leave any portion of this magnificent recording out of the mix.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Writing in today's New York Times, at least in the on-line version, novelist Ben Dolnick notes:
"At the core of Buddhism is the concept of non-self. The idea, basically, is that the thing you think of as you — the entity whose well-being occupies your every waking thought — is an illusion. This doesn’t mean that your body is a hologram . . . What non-self refers to, rather, is the thing that you think of as your true self — the little captain who lives somewhere behind your forehead and looks out through your eyes. The thing that says, 'I hope people like me' or 'I can’t stand another minute on this train' — that, Buddhists believe, is what needs to be seen through and rooted out.
This teaching, Buddhists insist, has the potential to eliminate your suffering entirely. But it is destined to remain so much inert philosophy, no more life-changing than the quadratic equation, until you’re able to actually glimpse your little impostor, to fix him in your mental cross hairs." 
Amusingly, Dolnick notes that Donald Trump seems to be doing exactly that, as his constant references to himself in the third person suggests a sort of detachment from the ego-self.  When Paul Manafort was indicted, Trump remarked, "There’s not a mention of Trump in there.” When discussing potential Russian interference during the election, he asked, “Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?” Back in 2009, he tweeted, “Be sure to tune in and watch Donald Trump on Late Night with David Letterman ….”

Referring to oneself in the third person is usually seen as abnormal, almost pathological. When the writers of a drama wish to signal that someone suffers from a terminal case of self-regard, they have him refer to himself in the third person.  But when we refer to ourselves in the third person, Dolnick says, the very thing that we're used to thinking of as ourselves appears separate from the one doing the speaking. Which means that shifting into the speech patterns of a narcissistic lunatic can be a means of realizing a life-altering truth - you are not your thoughts; you are not your feelings. 

No one thinks, even for a minute, that Donald Trump is an enlightened bodhisattva, or that when he refers to himself in the third person, he is expressing not a personality disorder but an intuitive grasp of the subtlest of Buddhist teachings. But thinking along Dolnick's lines makes Trump's bombastic, braggadocios speech seem somehow humorous, which in turn relieves some of our suffering.  And since the end of suffering was the goal of  the Buddha, Dolnick is doing the work of a bodhisattva by teaching us how to laugh at the oppressor.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Cordoba's Paco Acedo, who's best known for his diving expeditions in the Arctic and beneath frozen Russian lakes, has apparently decided to warm it up a bit and recently trekked through remote parts of Papua New Guinea, taking time to dive among some World War II-era wrecks at Guadalcanal in the Soloman Islands. 

His video summary of the trip is fascinating and simultaneously informative and hypnotically mesmerizing. The world, apparently, is a most interesting place.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

The beleaguered Trump Administration and Senate Republicans finally got something done, and in keeping with the general theme of the past year, it's about the worst thing they could have done. Late last night, the Senate passed the most sweeping tax legislation in 30 years. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is projected to add more than $1 trillion in deficit spending over 10 years, despite the fact that the Republican spent the Obama years obsessed over the national debt. The final vote was 51 in favor, 49 against, with all the Democrats and Rep. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee voting no.

The core of the bill is a permanent tax cut for corporations combined with much smaller, and temporary, benefits for everyone else (i.e., you and I). Over the next decade, the $1.4 trillion tax cut would disproportionately reward the wealthiest Americans while piling on the national debt—which in turn will likely be used by Republicans as a justification for cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

If you have any questions about this, here is Prof. Reich to break it down for you:

Friday, December 01, 2017

Old School Friday

The obvious next step after revisiting old favorites Abdullah Ibraham and Don Cherry, really the only logical thing to post after that, is to continue this Old School Friday remembrance of music past by listening to some Pharoah Sanders.

The only problem, what with Pharoah's prodigious body of work (and the man's still living and playing to this day), is where to start and what to play.  I could easily go an entire month of posting nothing but favorite selections of Pharoah's and still have enough left over to burn an entire CD with, but after some due consideration and meditation, we'll go with Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah because, well, listen and you'll know why.

Beyond the Coltrane quotes and the incredible bliss interrupted by passages of intense chaos, the song functions as a spiritual journey deep into the soul of both the composer and his sidemen.  It's incredible stuff and the sheer beauty of it all still brings tears to my eyes these 40 years later (it was recorded in 1969 but I didn't discover it until around 1976 or '77).  The vocals are by the criminally underrecognized Leon Thomas.

If this music moves you as much as it still moves me, you'd be well advised to check out other Sanders compositions like The Creator Has A Master Plan or Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, or, really, just go and listen to anything by the man - you literally can't go wrong.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Who Played It Better?

Laurie Anderson (1982) vs. OCS (2017)

Okay, so it's not the same song, but the first time I heard this song by OCS (formerly Thee Oh Sees), I wondered how outtakes from some lost Laurie Anderson album wound up on my iPod.  The last thing I would have guessed was this was from the new Oh Sees CD, whatever they're calling themselves these days. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

From The Sports Desk

Last we heard from the Sports Desk, the No. 1 ranked Georgia Bulldogs had just suffered a defeat at the hands of the Auburn Tigers and fell from No. 1 all the way down to No. 7.  Alabama returned to their customary No. 1 spot, and Miami, who had been creeping up the rankings all season like a pair of cheap underwear on a summer day, reached No. 2.

Since then, Georgia soundly defeated arch-rival Georgia Tech, 38-7.  Better yet, Auburn, not content to just ruin the Bulldogs' season, beat their arch-rival Alabama, 26-14, and knocked the Tide out of First Place, and on top of that, Miami did everyone a favor and lost to Pittsburgh of all teams (WTF?) and lost their No. 2 spot.  

The latest CFB Selection Committee rankings came out last night, and Clemson is the new No. 1 for the first time this season and Auburn is No. 2.  Alabama dropped to No. 5 and out of the SEC Championship game, and it's hard to picture a scenario in which they make the National Championship playoffs, as their regular season is now officially over.  Georgia moved up one spot, from 7 to 6, and play new SEC West leader Auburn in the SEC Championship game this Saturday.

The rematch is on!  It's not often in college football that a team gets to avenge a loss in the same season.

The Championship game is in Atlanta's new Mercedes Benz Stadium, and even though I'm sure a lot of Auburn fans will make the trip to Atlanta, it's got to feel at least a little like home field advantage for the Bulldogs.  Add to that the revenge motive and the possibility that Auburn, coming off from two monumental wins against top-ranked teams, might experience a let-down and you've got to like Georgia's chances.  

If  Georgia wins and beats the No. 2 Tigers, it's hard to conceive of them not reaching the Top 4 in the rankings and qualifying for the National Championship playoffs. Assuming that Clemson, Oklahoma and Wisconsin all win their Conference Championships, Georgia would likely leap past Alabama and be ranked No. 4, just squeaking under the wire into the playoffs.  

But if any one of Clemson, Oklahoma, or Wisconsin lose their game in a Conference upset, there would be two open spots in the Top 4 and both Georgia and Auburn both could qualify, potentially setting up the best-two-out-of-three second rematch game between the two teams.  If Clemson loses against Miami in the ACC Championship, the Top 4 would probably be some combination of Miami, Georgia, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, potentially setting up a Georgia-Miami game ("RichtBowl").

Of course, if Georgia loses as the odds makers predict, it's all over for the Dogs, National Championship-wise, although they'll probably get a prestigious Bowl invitation.  RichtBowl could still happen if both Georgia and Miami lose their Conference championship games and the two teams wind up playing in the Sugar Bowl.

Confused?  Let the Sports Desk break it all down for you.  The Top 4 teams of Clemson, Auburn, Oklahoma and Wisconsin all have Conference championships this weekend, and:

If Clemson loses - Miami makes it to the Natties, potentially setting up a RichtBowl game against Georgia.

If Auburn loses - Georgia makes it to the Natties.

If Oklahoma loses - Not going to happen, as they play TCU and teams from Texas always choke in clutch games.

If Wisconsin loses - Auburn can still squeak into the Natties, even if they lose to Georgia.

If two of the above lose - Depends on which two, of course, but that could open the door for some combination of Georgia, Miami and Auburn qualifying for the Natties.

If three of the above lose - Chaos and confusion.  Football will cease to exist as we know it, and we'll all have to watch soccer and cricket from now on.

If all four lose - Armageddon.  Grown men will weep and children will renounce their birthright. Cats and dogs will play together, the sun will rise at night and the moon by day. Beelzebub will be the National Champion and frogs will rain from the sky for all of 2018.

Enjoy the games this Saturday!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


Last we talked about gaming, I had completed the Wolfenstein story line and was just mopping up some loose ends, which in Wolfenstein mean killing random Nazis. It was diverting but not addictive, and I only played for a few additional hours. 

Then on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I finally downloaded The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.  It took a while to complete the download, but when it was finally complete, up, and running, I started playing.  I've hardly done anything else since then.

Over Thanksgiving Day and the three-day weekend following the holiday, I managed to log a total of 58 hours of play time.  You do the math - over four days, that's an average of over 14 hours a day.  As a result, I didn't get any of the chores done that I had assigned for myself (other than watch some football, which we'll get to on another day) and had only minimal time left for those other things like eating, sleeping, using the toilet, etc.  It looks like my addiction back.

But that's not a bad thing - the game is quite a lot of fun.  So much so, in fact, that I'm deliberately taking my time through each level and not just stampeding ahead through the story line, but fully exploring every locale I find and taking every little side quest offered.  Like good sex, I'm trying to make this last for as long as I can.

I hate rating games against each other and declare that any one is better than the other - each one has it's own strengths and weaknesses - but I can objectively state that The Witcher has got to be a No. 1 contender in at least several categories - character, narrative, gameplay, and more.  I estimate I'm about halfway through - unlike books or movies, you can't judge your progress through a game by page numbers or time - but since I don't have four consecutive days off any time soon, the remaining half may take me much longer to complete.

I sincerely hope so. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

"Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams." - William S. Burroughs

My complaint with the Thanksgiving tradition is not that it isn't helpful to every one in a while check our human reflex of always complaining about the perceived hardships we suffer ("every man 'tinks that his burden is the heaviest" - Bob Marley).  It's not even the conspicuous consumption, as that pervades so much of Western culture, anyway.  

My complaint is that while Thanksgiving focuses on the more positive aspects of our lives, that focus and gratitude are often self-centered.  We give thanks for the good fortune that we and our family have received, or even our extended family, our community, or our nation, without considering that the very bounty that we are celebrating often came at the expense of others.  

We give thanks, say, that our family business has prospered, without considering that our prosperity put five other families out of business.  That new job we we just got meant that x number of other applicants didn't get the job.  Our improving social status just means that there are that many more down below us.  Good for us, but really kind of sucks for them.  

We give thanks for the number of our offspring, without considering the consequences, both good and bad, of all the future actions of those children and of our children's children.  At the very least, we give thanks for the meal in front of us, without thinking that the dinner really, really, sucked for the turkey, or of the hardships and razor-thin profits endured by the farmers, the vendors, the truck drivers, and the many other laborers involved in manifesting that feast on our table.

I guess what I'm proposing is a tradition where we give thanks for the blessings that others receive, even those whom we don't know, even those we can't even imagine.  A mediation on the goodness of the universe, not specific to ourselves but not excluding ourselves either. A tradition of contemplating all that is good and kind and helpful and honest, without quibbling over what should or shouldn't be included in our gratitude.

There's a Buddhist gatha recited before meals that, while short of the all-encompassing practice I'm advocating, at least opens our eyes a little:  
Innumerable efforts have brought us this food. We should consider how it comes to us.
As we receive this offering, we should consider whether our virtue and practice deserve it.
For the mind to be free from clinging, we must be free from greed.
To support all life, we receive this food.
To realize the way, we accept this food.
Also, why does it have to be one specific day and not every day of our life?

Sunday, November 26, 2017


Musician Amanda Palmer has released a cover of the 1979 song Mother from Pink Floyd's The Wall, which includes seemingly prophetic lines like “Mother, should I build the wall? Mother, should I run for president?” 

The accompanying video depicts children building a wall and government officials (including one presumably modeled after Trump) watching over them. Eventually, Amanda and a group of musicians rescue the children, and hypnotize the adult government officials and putting them to sleep as if they too were children. 

In case you somehow miss the point, Palmer said, “This song and music video are dedicated to the current administration. You will not build walls in our children’s hearts.”

Saturday, November 25, 2017

God Is Rhythm

Don Cherry passed away in 1995 at the age of 58 in Málaga, Spain.  He was survived by several children, including step-daughter Neneh Cherry, who was briefly in the post-punk band The Slits with Ari Up, and then later recorded under her own name.  

Neneh is probably most famous for her song Buffalo Stance, but here's The Slits reinventing Motown (I Heard It Through The Grapevine) and deconstructing hip-hop (In The Beginning).  These are non-sequitur to the jazz theme of the Old School Friday posts, but there's no reason we can't post them here on a Saturday.  The music of The Slits, and late 70s/early 80s New Wave in general, was part of my transition away from jazz and back to so-called popular music.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Old School Friday

Just like I asked you last week to go back and listen to Julius Hemphill's Dogon A.D. and The Hard Blues in order to understand my late-70s fascination with Abdullah Ibraham's Ishmael (you did go back and listen then, right?), this week I encourage you to first listen to Ishmael before listening to Don Cherry's Chenrezig.  In a perfect world, all these songs, plus the Art Ensemble of Chicago's Dreaming of the Masters and Odwalla, would all fit together into an ideal Old School Fridays mix tape.

Chenrezig is off Cherry's outstanding 1975 LP Brown Rice.  I had a really hard time picking out one single song off that album to post here, and will recommend that if you like this selection to go hear the entire recording.  It's amazing stuff, even these 40 years later.

For the record, unlike the earlier songs posted in this series and included in my imaginary mix tape, I didn't hear Brown Rice late at night on WBUR radio, but instead I had to go out and buy the album myself.  I first heard Cherry in the mid 70s when his odd little record, Mu First Part, somehow came into my possession.  It was a strange and hard-to-classify album, consisting solely of duets between Ed Blackwell on drums and Cherry on trumpet, flute and various other instruments. It didn't sound anything like the prog rock and jazz fusion popular at that time, but I liked it anyway. A few years later, I came across a used copy of Mu Second Part in a street vendor's stall on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, and I had to buy it (it was priced, after all, at only about $2).

It should be acknowledged at this point that Mu Second Part has two medleys each with sections titled Dollar Brand, Abdullah Ibraham's pre-Muslim name.  Cherry was apparently influenced by Ibraham just as I was, too.

At around that same time I was discovering the Mu recordings, Brown Rice got a major label release by Horizon Records and I bought the LP in an actual record store this time, and the sound, as you can hear, was light years beyond the improvised music of the two Mu records.  It was at that moment I became a Cherry fan for life.

Don Cherry passed away in 1995 at the age of 58 in Málaga, Spain.  He was survived by several children, including step-daughter Neneh Cherry, who was briefly in the post-punk band The Slits with Ari Up, and then later recorded under her own name.  

Thursday, November 23, 2017

My Thanksgiving Tradition

Thanksgiving, in the Age of Trump: "Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams."

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Who Played It Better?

Oh Sees (2017) vs. Cream (1966). Same song (basically), different generations.

Monday, November 20, 2017

At his very core, Donald Trump is a white supremacist, banning Muslims, demonizing Latino immigrants, and attacking black athletes who don't ask "how high" when he says jump. He demands gratitude from UCLA basketball players like some paternalistic slave master, and then lashes out at LaVar Ball for insufficient gratitude. This morning, he went after Oakland Raider Marshawn Lynch with this tweet:
"Marshawn Lynch of the NFL's Oakland Raiders stands for the Mexican anthem and sits down to boos for our national anthem. Great disrespect! Next time NFL should suspend him for remainder of season. Attendance and ratings way down."
To be clear, Mexico is not the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world, disproportionately jailing citizens of color. Mexico is not the country whose police are gunning down black people with impunity!

I'll do the math for you: white supremacy + mandatory patriotism + the suppression of dissent = fascism. 

This nightmare must end: the Trump/Pence regime must go!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Stupid Behavior

I've been trying to avoid talking about this year's simultaneously alarming and depressing stories about celebrity sexual predators.  Not that I think it's not an important issue - it is. It's just that so much is already being said about it elsewhere and there are voices that are more important to be heard in this conversation than mine - namely, those of women, those of the victims, those of the accused, and those of the enablers.

The Zen community went through this a few years ago, with distressing story after distressing story about prominent Buddhist teachers being accused of abusing their authority and the trust placed in them by having affairs with  their students - affairs that destroyed marriages, tarnished the reputations of the exploited women, and interfered with the actual teaching.

Now the entertainment and political worlds are going through the same painful experience.  From what I've read of the stories and my own observations of life, my take-away and general conclusion is that all men, with very few exceptions, have been jerks at one time or another to a woman or to women in general, including myself.  #metoo.

All men have been jerks at one time or another to a woman or to women in general, and as a general rule, the more powerful the man, the more deplorable the behavior.

While no level of harassment is acceptable, there is a difference in degree between unwanted teasing and chauvinistic actions, although unacceptable, and criminal coercion, bullying harassment, and outright rape.

To return to the previous theme, all men have been jerks at one time or another to a woman or to women in general, but all men are not necessarily dangerous predators.  

Can you see a difference between a 30-something man who gets himself barred from a shopping mall for trying to pick up teenage girls and who's been accused of molesting at least one of those teenage girls in his car, and a former comedian who, in front of several other performers, the press, and possibly even soldiers, pretends to fondle a sleeping entertainer strictly for laughs and not for his own prurient pleasure?

Can you see a difference between a man who, when accused, denies all wrongdoing and threatens to sue anyone who challenges his denials, including the victims, and a man who admits what he did, acknowledges it was wrong, and invites an ethics investigation into his past actions?

What I'm trying to say is that it's perfectly obvious that Al Franken, while he did engage in chauvinistic, frat-boy antics in a failed attempt at "humor," is clearly not a predator or a danger to women, and that Roy Moore, a fundamentalist judge who has twice been forced from office for ignoring the Constitution and has been accused by multiple women of lewd behavior bordering on pedophilia, clearly is.

If we say it's all the "same thing," and that both parties are equally guilty, we're grossly trivializing Moore's alleged actions by equating them with the lewd horseplay of others (although that is still unacceptable in and of itself), and unduly branding Franken's actions with the far more heinous deeds of others.   

I've heard it said that 2016 was the year all our loved celebrities died, and 2017 was the year our love of celebrity died.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Old School Friday

Going further down the rabbit hole of the music we used to listen to back in the mid- to late 70s. . . 

Here's the incomparable Abdullah Ibraham performing one of the many versions of the composition Ishmael he recorded over the years.  If you compare this to the Julius Hemphill - Abdul Wadud compositions we also listened to back at that time, you'll get a good sense of the mystical, minimalist atmospheres we enjoyed late at night circa 1979.  

For the record (no pun intended), that's Cecil McBee on bass and Roy Brooks on drums in addition to Ibraham on piano and saxophone. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

This Nightmare Must End

The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go. In the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America. The Nightmare must end!
  • The Nightmare: Immigrants living in terror—their next step could mean detention, deportation, being torn from children and loved ones.

  • The Nightmare: Muslims and refugees demonized, banned, and cast out.

  • The Nightmare: Millions—children, the elderly, the sick, the poor—denied health care, food assistance, the very right to live.

  • The Nightmare: Women objectified, degraded, and denied the basic right to control their own reproduction, with fundamentalist Christian fascism increasingly being made law.

  • The Nightmare: LGBTQ people stigmatized, ostracized, and denied civil rights recently won.

  • The Nightmare: Black and Latino people openly threatened by the President, with maximum sentencing, stop-and-frisk going national, intensified police brutality, and murder of our youth with no holds barred.

  • The Nightmare: People all over the world facing bombings, occupations, war and the threat of nuclear war with Donald Trump’s America First finger on the nuclear trigger.

  • The Nightmare: The truth bludgeoned—lies and more lies—critical thinking being destroyed in education and public discourse.

  • The Nightmare: The whole planet in peril from a regime that denies global warming and shreds all environmental protections.

  • The Nightmare: A regime step by step discarding basic democratic rights, targeting group after group, and suppressing dissent and resistance. A regime unleashing the violence of fascist thugs. This is fascism—a qualitative change in how society is governed. History has shown that fascism must be stopped before it becomes too late.
The Nightmare must end. Millions feel this and ache with the question of how to stop this unrelenting horror. The stakes are nothing less than the future of humanity and the planet itself. Who will end this nightmare? 

We will. Only the determined struggle of millions of people acting together with courage and conviction can drive this regime from power.

We will gather in the streets and public squares of cities and towns across this country, at first many thousands declaring that this whole regime is illegitimate and that we will not stop until our single demand is met, that the Nightmare must end and the Trump/Pence regime must go!

Our protest must grow day after day and night after night—thousands becoming hundreds of thousands, and then millions—determined to act to put a stop to the grave danger that the Trump/Pence Regime poses to the world by demanding that this whole regime be removed from power.

Our actions will reflect the values of respect for all of humanity and the world we want—in stark contrast to the hate and bigotry of the Trump/Pence fascist regime.

Our determination to persist and not back down will compel the whole world to take note. Every force and faction in the power structure would be forced to respond to our demand. The cracks and divisions among the powers already evident today will sharpen and widen. As we draw more and more people forward to stand up, all of this could lead to a situation where this illegitimate regime is removed from power.

Spread the word and organize now. Be a part of making history. Don’t let it be said that you stood aside when there was still a chance to stop a regime that imperils humanity and the Earth itself. Join in taking to the streets and the public squares day after day and night after night demonstrating that in the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America!

(This has been a cut-and-paste public-service announcement from the National Affairs desk)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

From The Sports Desk

It's taken me a couple of days to write about this game.  I needed the time to process the emotional pain and also to learn where the Georgia Bulldogs would land in the latest College Football Bowl rankings, released only last night.

Last weekend, the Dogs, entering the game as the Number One ranked team in the nation for the second straight week, got beat by 10th-ranked Auburn.  It wasn't pretty.  It felt like Georgia's team didn't even showed up for the game, except to make a lot of stupid and costly penalties.  It was obvious by the half they were going to lose and by the end of the game, it was a blowout.   

Athens is about an hour east of Atlanta and Auburn is only about two hours southwest of here, so Monday, we Georgia fans had to face all those Auburn fans gloating about their victory, and tolerate their fantasies that they were going to be the National Champions this year.  As if . . . .

The loss knocked Georgia out of the top spot and down to No. 7, one game behind Auburn who leapt up from 10th place to No. 6.  For what it's worth, Miami did their part and destroyed Notre Dame, knocking NFD down to No. 8, one game behind Georgia, and most likely out of contention for the playoffs. With the victory, Miami jumped up to the No. 3 spot, behind Alabama (1) and Clemson (2).  Oklahoma (9-1) and Wisconsin (10-0) are Nos. 4 and 5, respectively.

It's still possible for Georgia to make it to the playoffs, provided it wins its remaining games against Kentucky and Georgia Tech, and gets a few breaks by some teams ranked above them losing a game or two.  That doesn't look like it'll happen this coming Saturday, though, as the higher-ranked teams all have unranked opponents this weekend, most with losing records at that, with the exception of No. 5 Wisconsin playing No. 24 Michigan (8-2).  That's as good as it gets this weekend.  Far from a sure-thing upset to be sure, but Big 10 rivalries can't be ignored.  For the rest of this season, I'll be cheering for Georgia and against Alabama, Clemson, Miami, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Auburn (although I was pretty much doing that already), and this Saturday, I'm going to have to swallow my pride, hold my nose, and cheer for the Michigan Wolverines as well.  Wish me luck with that.

No. 6 Auburn still has to play No. 1 Alabama this year in their annual rivalry matchup, the Iron Bowl.  The winner of that game will clinch the SEC West title, so Georgia, who's already clinched the SEC East, will have to play the winner of the Iron Bowl, either Auburn or Alabama, early in December in the SEC Championship game here in Atlanta.  

As I've mentioned before, it's possible that Georgia may have to beat Alabama not once but twice to win the National Championship, and if Auburn somehow manages to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl and clinch the SEC West title, Georgia may have to play Auburn two more times on top of last weekend's game to win the National Championship.  First, they'll have to beat Auburn in the SEC Championship game.  Georgia will have home-state advantage in that game, given that the SEC Championship will be here in Atlanta, plus they'll have a very strong revenge motive to win.  But even if they do, it's still entirely possible that both Georgia and Auburn will end up among the top four ranked teams and both qualify for the national playoffs, and then Georgia may find themselves having to play Auburn a third time in a best-two-out-of-three contest. 

Granted, there's a lot of "ifs" in that scenario, as there is for any scenario that has Georgia becoming the National Champ.  But it's still possible - anything's possible.  So, all we can say for now, is "Go Dogs!" and "Let's Go Blue" (damn, that feels weird!).   

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Paranoia In America

What with all of the stress of the trial last week and its demands on my time and attention, I went another week of cold turkey and didn't play any video games from a week ago Saturday until last Saturday.  I finally got some free time last Sunday and opened Wolfenstein 2 - The New Colossus and in just a few hours I managed to finally complete the game.  I was told it was a quick play-through. Even after the plot's been resolved and the main missions are complete, though, there's still gameplay to be had wrapping up some side missions, taking out various Nazi ubercommanders across the country, and competing in the shooting gallery/obstacle course.

Of course, as soon as I completed the game, Bethesda, the developer, comes out with some new DLC additions to the game, as well as a schedule for future DLCs (DLC = "downloadable content" or additional content for the game).  So I should be busy killing American Nazis for the foreseeable future, although as soon as I catch up on the current DLC and have some quality time to play (like the upcoming four-day Thanksgiving weekend), I look forward on going back to medieval times and starting the game The Witcher.  

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Eulogy for Louis C.K.

There's a bad man in everyone
No matter who we are.
There's a rapist and a nazi living in our tiny hearts,
Child pornographers and cannibals and politicians too,
There's someone in your head waiting to fucking strangle you.

Those are lines from the song People II: The Reckoning by the folk-punk band Andrew Jackson Jihad, now known simply as "AJJ." I don't think the band had Louis C.K. or any of the current crop of pussy grabbers in mind when they wrote the song, as it's from their 2007 album People Who Eat People Are The Luckiest People In the World (hat's off to Barbra Streisand for the title). Despite it's age, however, the lyrics of the song fit our current situation so well, they sound almost prophetic today.

AJJ was scheduled to play People in its entirety at Atlanta's The Masquerade tonight to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the album, but the show was cancelled. A shooting last night at the downtown music venue left two people dead and two more wounded. Apparently, there was some rap show Sunday night and some idiots reportedly tried to get on stage in between the acts, and then some even bigger idiot in the audience took exception to their actions. So he shot them.

Two dead, and two wounded by incidental gunfire.  As The Masquerade's still part of a crime-scene investigation tonight (they haven't caught the shooter yet), tonight's shows (it's a multi-stage venue) were cancelled.

Fatal shootings at a downtown rap show.  It's tempting to say, as some already have, that's why we can't have nice things in Atlanta.

But I don't blame rap music for the violence.  Rap, even gangster rap, doesn't incite violence, it's merely reporting on it, just like the the rise of sex and drugs in the 60s wasn't caused by rock music - the musicians were merely acting as sentinels chronicling an emerging scene.  No, rap doesn't cause violence, it's an unfair and unjust system of economic and racial inequality that results in violence, and rappers are just telling people what life is like for many people on the streets.

Systematic prejudice, racial inequality, gentrification and displacement - that's why we can't have nice things, Atlanta.    

So here's to you, Mrs. Robinson, you live in an unforgiving place.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Luna At Terminal West, Atlanta, 11-11-2017


The adored indie rock band Luna performed last night at Atlanta's Terminal West.  We were there and so was Eleanor Friedberger, who performed the opening set.

Eleanor Friedberger is the sister part of the brother-sister band Fiery Furnaces, and while the Furnaces are pretty hard to categorize, Eleanor's solo work would most correctly be categorized as "singer-songwriter."   But while that category often brings to mind images of faux-sincere acoustic folk artists, Eleanor is a rocker and played her set solo (no band) but on electric guitar.  To be sure, on a few songs, she played a recording of the backing music and sang the vocals karaoke style, holding the mic while singing and dancing on stage.  We think that takes a lot of self-confidence, but then again, she rocks the best bangs in rock 'n' roll.

Here's one of her older songs (from 2011) but she covered it in her set last night, so we think it's fair to include it in this post.   

Following the 1991 break-up of the band Galaxie 500, dream pop/indie pop band Luna was formed by singer/guitarist Dean Wareham.  The band recruited bassist Britta Phillips in 2000 and eventually broke apart in 2005. Wareham and Phillips got married in 2007 and toured occasionally as Dean & Britta and as the Dean Wareham Band.  

Luna had a devoted, near fanatical, fan base, and after they got back together in 2015, we were lucky enough to have been among the audience for the reunion tour's first set, also held at Atlanta's Terminal West. Last night's audience seemed no less devout than at the 2015 set, if a little less beside themselves for the opportunity to hear the legendary band perform once again.

Luna opened the set with the instrumental GTX3 from their new EP, A Place of Greater Safety.

Since we got there early to see Eleanor Friedberger, we were one row back from the stage for Luna's set.

Britta was adorable as always, and showed everyone how to rock a jumpsuit.

The set was near perfect, and the interplay of the two guitars often created near hypnotic passages of pitch-perfect indie guitar rock.  Luna's set lasted for well over 60 minutes and although a peek at the set list (one of the perks of being at the front of the stage) showed they only planned to perform two songs for their encore, they played a third solely at the request of one person in the audience. 

Added old-fogie bonus points for getting home before 11:00 p.m.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Alleged President Donald Trump says he believes Vladimir Putin "means it" when he says that Russia did not attempt to interfere with the U.S. election, and if The Donald believes it, then that's good enough for me.  

NOT!  Just kidding, we're going to impeach this son of a bitch and imprison him in Guantanamo for a long, long time.  Treason, collusion, tax evasion,  emoluments, and so on - the charges go on and on.

Meanwhile, the band POLIÇA have collaborated with the orchestral ensemble s t a r g a z e on a project called Music For the Long Emergency, and the first single is a ten-minute composition titled How Is This Happening, which singer Channy Leaneagh says was inspired by Trump’s election.  On top of reflecting my political mood, it's also a lovely piece of music and well worth your listen.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Big Ears

This is remarkable.  Something needs to be said about this - this cannot go by without comment.  A four-day music festival in Knoxville, Tennessee featuring Algiers and Godspeed You! Black Emperor?  The two bands who both can rightfully claim the title of The Only Band That Matters? That, plus Four Tet and Suuns?  Nels Cline, Lucius, Jenny Hval, and Laurel Halo?  Count me in!

But wait, there's more!  The lineup includes Alice Coltrane, which is truly remarkable considering she passed away 10 years ago.  Actually, I'm pretty sure that The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda will be a performance of sacred Hindu music by members of her ashram, maybe with some tape of her vocals. Still remarkable, nonetheless.

Talk about eclectic - I've been a fan of banjo maestro Bela Fleck since at least 1990 and the festival will feature performances by Fleck playing his unique brand of bluegrass-jazz fusion with his wife Abigail Washington as well as with the chamber ensemble Brooklyn Rider, and a performance by Washington with Wu Fei (whoever that is).  More new music or modern classical or whatever you want to call it will be provided by the Bang On A Can Allstars, the Knoxville Chamber Orchestra, and the extraordinary singer Diamanda Galas. Medeski Martin & Wood will be there to lay down their funk-based groove, and more jazz will be provided by the Rova Saxophone Quartet.  And look - there's folk musician Sam Amidon!  And Steve Gunn!  Arto Lindsey's in the lineup too, to do whatever it is he wants to do at that moment.

Perhaps the most remarkable name in the lineup, though (I could just go on and on just reading off all the names above) is that of Roscoe Mitchell.  Roscoe was a founding member of The Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and has remained one of the key figures in avant-garde jazz ever since.  I've been on an Art Ensemble kick ever since hearing a sample of theirs open Kelsey Lu's set at The Earl a month or so ago, and now I've got a chance to hear one of the few remaining members live and in concert (Lester Bowie and Malachi Favors have sadly passed, and the other reedman from the Ensemble, Joseph Jarman, is now a Shinshu Buddhist priest).  I'm not sure how long either of us will remain on this planet and if our paths will ever cross again, so of course I have to go.

Here's Roscoe performing one of his compositions with The Art Ensemble Of Chicago on their live LP Bap-tizum, recorded at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival at Otis Spann Memorial Field, Ann Arbor, Michigan on September 9, 1972.  I've probably bought this album two or three different times since the late 1970s, replacing damaged or worn out copies with new versions bought at used record stores and even from street vendors. It's essential listening, and a terrific showcase for Roscoe.

The Big Ears lineup hits all the right buttons for all of the unusual music I've learned to enjoy over the years, and to be perfectly honest, I don't know who else but me would even be interested in this, so I pretty much have to go.  Another reason to attend is to discover if a community of people actually exists that likes the same weird shit as I do, so I went ahead and bought the full VIP Sonic Explorer Weekend Pass that gives access to all the performances and venues for all four days of the festival, that guarantees entrance at all seated venues, provides premium viewing areas at all seated venues, priority entrance at all venues, advance notification of secret shows, a Sunday Brunch experience, a private Q&A cocktail hour with the Big Ears Managing Director, an exclusive VIP concert performance, and even a commemorative gift package.  Expensive, to be sure, but this really does look to be a once-in-a lifetime experience, so how could I not?

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Last Note For a While From the National Affairs Desk

It's easy to focus on the negative and to overlook the positive.  Our brains are hardwired to always be on high alert for potential dangers and threats, and consciousness acts as sort of a radar system.  However, if we identify too much with that radar system, then of course we're going to constantly feel under attack.

Tuesday was a historic Election Day, but all I could focus on was that my preferred candidate for Atlanta Mayor didn't make the cut for the special run-off election.  But so much more happened that day, and almost all the rest of it good.

Democrats managed to flip enough districts blue in Georgia to break the Republican supermajority in the state legislature, positioning Georgia to be the next battleground state in 2018 and 2020.  

The Georgia towns of Milledgeville, Statesboro, Cairo, and Norcross all elected their first African-American mayors.  

Meanwhile, over in neighboring Alabama, Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore has been accused of sexually molesting girls even younger than Alabama's young age of consent of 16, creating an advantage for his democratic rival in an already tight race. 

Yup, the South is changing, if slowly and behind the national timeline, but still changing nonetheless.  There was more good than bad in Tuesday's election, and even the disappointing mayoral candidates aren't all that bad, they're just not as good as others in the field.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

And The Winner Is . . . TBD

According to the final tallies, only 96,777 people voted yesterday in Atlanta's mayoral and City Council election.  That's less than 20% of the registered voters.

To make matters worse, if I had to rank the field of 12 running for mayor, my bottom two candidates won the most votes and will be facing off in a run-off election.  

Keisha Lance Bottoms, outgoing Mayor Kasim Reed's hand-picked choice for successor, has been dogged for years by ethics charges and rumors.  I can't tell how much is really true and how much is just political propaganda so I won't repeat the allegations here, but it seems certain that the rumors and investigations will continue into her term as Mayor if she's elected, and Atlanta has already suffered enough from political corruption in City Hall.

Mary Norwood, the one-time front-runner in the campaign, is a Republican businesswomen from Buckhead whom many in the black community fear will continue the on-going gentrification of African-American communities and drive people out from the few remaining affordable Atlanta homes.  She has said that her major reason for running was to promote "safety" in Atlanta, which many people read as a code word.s for "less black people."  I've already seen #anyonebutmary hashtags on Twitter and Facebook posts.

The election comes down to a choice between the lesser of two evils - an exemplar of City Hall cronyism and corruption vs. a perennial candidate who represents Atlanta's small but wealthy conservative element. 

For what it's worth, I voted for Cathy Woolard, who Atlanta Magazine described as "a policy-oriented politician who’s comfortable speaking about affordability and transit—one reason why she’s picked up support from a good number of the city’s urbanists, nonprofit pros, and environmentalists."  When Ryan Gravel was pushing his vision for the Atlanta BeltLine in the early 2000s, Woolard, then the president of the Atlanta City Council, was his most enthusiastic supporter, shepherding him through neighborhood association meetings to present his plan.  She was the first openly gay elected official in Georgia history and was the first woman to be President of the Atlanta City Council.  According again to Atlanta Magazine, during a mayoral forum that focused on Atlanta’s arts scene, she showed that she understood that a vibrant arts culture needs affordable housing just as much as canvases and stages. Unfortunately, she came in third in the election, with 17% of the vote compared to Bottoms' 26% and Norwood's 21%, or to put it another way, a little over 9,000 votes short of the frontrunner.

20% turnout.  If more of the arts community, the gay community, transit enthusiasts, or just the everyday commuter stuck in Atlanta's notoriously grid-locked traffic bothered to vote, we might have had a Mayor Woolard. 

20% turnout - that's why we can't have nice things.