Friday, November 30, 2018
In Phase One Man took charge of the virtual heavens and earth.
The earth was wild and perilous, and adversity was over the surface of the deep, and the Striving of Man was travailing over the land and over the waters.
Then Man said, Let me find some Light, that I might have some Sight, and (S)he separated the Light from the Night. Man called the Light Right and the Night he called Fright, and there was Light and there was Night, Phase One.
Then Man said, Let there be a Net in the midst of this stuff, and let it connect the Light to our Sight. Man made the Net, which separated what we Feel from the Real deal. Man called what we feel Cool, and the Real deal he called Cloud.
And there was Cool and there was Cloud, Phase Two. What’s it to you?
Then Man said, Let the Lectrons in the Net be gathered together, and let the Web appear, and it was so and so. And Man called the Web virtually Real, and the Cloud he made so Loud that it was virtually every Where.
Then Man said Let the Web sprout vegetation: couch potatoes yielding their data with virtual tomatoes yielding their what’sittooyas. Yeah I say unto ya but you say tomato while i say tomahta and the Cloud say yeah we gotcha, it be just hot n jot like siracha.
And behold, as you can see, the Net broughteth forth confusion, or excuse me: vegetation. The Web brought forth vegetation: virtual tomatoes spurting their hootoos and and couch potahtas spudding their duds and the data from so many couch potatas tweeting their seeyalata alligata
and i’ll text it tooyah if’n I can. The candy man can the candy man can, sayeth the candy man sam, son of sam cuz he be a sagittarius ram or an L.A. ram i think i am i am therefore i am.
And there was teasing and there was mourning, Phase Three.
And then Man said, Let there be Sites in the Web to separate the Haves from the HaveNots, and the Littleduds from the BigShots and let them be for data and for you say potata an’ how’bout i say potahta and it was so and so and so on and so on.
And so Man made the two great Mights: the Righty Might to be the Right and the Lefty Might to amp up the Fright, all Night long, y’all. All night long they drum up the Fright and so by ’n by they drive the Trolls to Flight, while so many be high, high as a kite, up all night, surfin’ site to site.
It ain’t right, y’all.
And there was seething and there was mourning, Phase Four.
Then Man said, let the Web and the Net and the Cloud teem forth with swarms of living creatures, and let birdbrains fly above the virtual earth.
And Man created great Webbed monsters and Netted numerous comfortably numb couch dummies after their kind and Man saw that it was Cool.
Everybody’s cool, or thinking they am, and so the Cloud swarmeth with various and sundry mucho macho nacho-grandmother’s critters of all minds after their kind, some before and some behind, spouting babble with unbelievable babel meanwhile babylon be amblin’ along waitin for the watchtower to deflower all that proletarian power at the witching hour.
And Man messed with them, sayin’ be ye tooty-frooty and Occupy and fill the Cloud, loud and proud, and let the birdbrains multiply on their virtual reality schme-ality.
And there was scheming and there was dreaming and there was mourning. Phase Five.
And Man conceived Man in his own image, and (s)he deviated in their own lineage and brought them forth as if they were winning in their own sinnage, and stirreth them up in their svelte squirming, while they as yet knew not that they be tweeting their shittage in their own image.
And yet Man still saw it all as pretty damn good, and he liked them all; thumbs-up he gave ‘em all, y’all, in their teeming and in their scheming; so there was daydreaming and there was mourning in the days of Phase Six.
Man had at last evolved to his full potential, more crafty than any other beastly species of the field.
Good luck with that.
Thursday, November 22, 2018
Well I’m glad those Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, aren’t you?
Back in the day, it was. . . 1620 or so.
Those Pilgrims had found themselves in a tight spot over in Europe. The hyper-institutionalized Church—both the Roman version and the Brit version—had become too high and mighty for its own good. So those Puritans, looking for a purer manifestation of the Old Time Religion, pulled up stakes and lit out for the New World.
When they got here, it was a whole new ball game; they didn’t have all that advanced Euro culture and tech to make life manageable as it had been back in the Old World.
So, thank God for Them Injuns, huh?!
Squanto, or Squatcho or Pocahontas, Sacajawea—or whoever Injun it was—demonstrated for the clueless Pilgrims how to grow corn, as you see in the pic here:
Well by ’n by, as it turned out, those Pilgrims made it through, with a little help from their friends, new friends. They managed to hang on, get through a few winters and all that adversity we hear about at Turkey Day, if we’re not too busy watching football or gearing up for the black friday ritual dance.
Anyway, after those Pilgrims squeaked through, and word got back to the old country, there were other groups of emigrants who headed west for America. And for all kinds of reasons. . . religious, economic, etcetera etcetera, and just to feel free in an undeveloped continent that wasn’t so crowded and constricted with religious and political authoritarian blahblah.
In fact, the buzz about the New World got so widespread that after a century or two it went viral. Next thing you know there’s everybody and their brother piling on ships to go west young man and get the hell out of dodge and make it over here where a man could breathe free and a woman could too.
Long about 1886 or so, those crazy French sent the Statue of Liberty over here, because they were so caught up in the idea of freedom, and they knew we had done a better job of making liberty really happen, see’n as how we didn’t have all that ancient class system and religious institutional inertia to obstruct our westward quest for freedom and liberty.
Gosh, France! Thanks for that statue, y’all.
Couldn’t a done it without you.
Anyway, long about the time that Lady Liberty showed up in New York harbor—that was pretty much the most intense period for folks get’n fed up with the Old World and strikin’ out for the New.
Crazy! Leavin’ it all behind and coming over here. Unbelievable. That took some balls, y'all! Or some gumption, or chutzpah, or hutzpah or courage, or just down-right down-n-out desperation.
Anyway, they did. They came. They forsook the Old in search of the New. So many of those Europeans and other, Africans, Asians, etcetera etcetera caught a whiff of the Liberty that was blowin’ in the wind across the wide world and so many of ‘em just chucked it all—all the the old stuff—and threw it in a rucksack or whatever and headed for the land of the free and home of the brave.
Like I said before, it went viral. And about the time that Lady Liberty got her spot in New York Harbor—that was the most intense time for folks coming this way.
And they just kept coming, and coming, and coming. . .
Brutha Neil wrote a song about it, y’all:
And they’re still coming! God bless ‘em! Coming to America!
Nowadays, some Americans who got their britches on too tight are trying to put a stop to all the folks who wanna get in on the greatness of America (Again).
They need to stop and wonder: what if your great great great great grampa and granma had’t gotten in back in the day?
Where would you be now?
Probably bobbin’ along on a rubber dingy somewhere between Lesvos and Athens, or between Belfast and Boston, or between Havana and Miami, or between San Salvador and San Isidro, or between Bangladesh and Bangor, or somewhere between a rock and a hard place.
And if your politics doesn’t allow for the extension of American liberty unto them newbies and immigrants, maybe you should adjust your politics, so you don’t feel so high and mighty about what all you got, but rather—renew the vision for what this America is all about—the land of the free and home of the brave.
Free enough to let that Freedom be extended, and brave enough to not be all paranoid about the new immigrants.
This may seem kinda naive and corny to you. But let’s not forget this is the last Thursday in November, Thanksgiving.
Cornucopia Time! There's plenty enough for everybody! Spread it around. As Brutha Paul sang it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlfW62c2nIQ
King of Soul
Monday, November 19, 2018
Antonin Dvorak was born in the Czech region of Europe in 1841. His life path brought the gifted musician through a trailblazing role as a composer of bold, new symphonic music at the Prague Conservatory,
In 1892, Antonin chose, like many other adventurous Europeans of that age, to travel to the land of wide open spaces and wide open opportunity—America.
Although his residence here was for only for a few years, that was enough time for the inspired Czech to catch hold of the American Dream; by skillful composition, he enunciated that dream in one of the most American-spirited pieces of music ever performed.
The symphony he composed here—his 9th—became known as the “New World.”
This transplanted Czech’s musical gifting had propelled him to a podium of international renown, so the National Conservatory of Music of America recruited Dvorak as their Director. When Antonin left Europe in 1892, he was bound for the big apple— New York City, USA.
During that New World phase of his life’s journey, Antonin extended his westward adventure far beyond our Atlantic coast, into the very heartland of the frontier experience. In an Iowa community of transplanted Czechs, Antonin dwelt comfortably for a season with his countrymen.
That trip from New York out to our heartland and back must certainly have been a life-changing experience for the alert musician; the orchestral piece he dreamed up— and then committed to musical score in New York in 1893— generates vivid images in my imagination. Whenever I listen to the New World Symphony, my mind fills up with excitement about the urgency and resourcefulness of our vast continent-wide expansion, which began in the farthest regions of an Old World and culminated in a New.
A recent New York Philharmonic performance of Dvorak’s New World Symphony, under the masterful hand of Alan Gilbert, presents a tender, and yet impetuous, rendering of the piece. An energetic portrayal of what Antonin had in mind when he composed his New World masterpiece.
Hearing this symphony summons adventures of travel in my imagination.
Embarking on a great adventure: this, it seems to me, is the theme of Dvorak’s musical odyssey. In the early passages, I catch glimpses of a virtuoso voyage across the rolling Atlantic Ocean. . .
with the wind in my face and a sensation of sailing steadily toward some new venue of opportunities and bright horizons.
The bouncy flutes and piccolos set this course for my imagining.
Sailing onward through Dvorak’s audible vision, I hear a finely-honed orchestra moving melodically westward, inducing a sense of fair wind favorable terrain . . . past the Statue of Liberty, then disembarking in a bustling 19th-century New York port, negotiating the busy streets, through a dynamo of enterprising business and yankee industry, then rolling farther along, out of the city and into the countryside . . . moments of repose along the way . . . through coastal commerce past planted fields o’er dusty roads, riding into green Appalachian hills,
over blue mountain ridges, catching a locomotive in Cincinnati, steaming past the fruited plains and barreling along across vast, wind-swept prairies:
The New World!
Along with the rhythmic locomotive journey through verdant landscapes, Dvorak’s bold, loud use of the trombones and trumpets provokes urgency, tension, danger at points along the way—then periodic resolvings through the ministry of exquisitely tender woodwinds—mellow oboes,
resonant clarinets—and the declarative legato of French horns, backed up, sometimes boisterously, sometimes gently, with those ever-present violins and violas.
And low thumping bassos that stand as tall and deep as elms in the great American landscape.
These flights of fancy then deliver us into thankful moments of contemplation, yeah, even reverence for a Providential presence, accompanied by fluted tremelos, and blown deeper into the traveler’s soul by the vibrant contemplation of oboes, with resonant clarinets and mellowing horns. Excitement decrescendoes past repose, into full contemplation, with the ultimate reward: wonder.
And by ’n by, sudden stirrings of urgency—yea, even danger and warning—from the bells of the trumpets and trombones, because that is the real world.
Always back to the real world. That’s the American way.
The real world of conclusion. A good thing can’t go on forever; it has to end at some point.
Oh, what a strong, bold brassy conclusion from our trombones and trumpets!
A great piece of Music!
But maybe you’d have to be there to catch my vision of it.
Or, maybe not. Next best thing:
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In 1969, I graduated from high school and went to University. In college, there was no threat to life and limb for me. It was a safe place to be.
Many of my high school buddies didn’t take that route; they joined, or were drafted into, the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard to defend our nation. At that time, defense of our nation—defense of our security and our ideals—was considered by most of our leaders to be directly related to the defeat of the Viet Minh and Viet Cong in Vietnam.
While I went to college, many men and some women of my same age shipped out to the other side of the world to run the Viet Minh insurgents back into North Vietnam, and to the shut the Viet Cong down.
The difficult mission that our national leaders had laid upon our soldiers over there was no easy task: dangerous, deadly and damn near impossible. About 54, 000 of our guys and gals who served and fought in Vietnam never came back, or they if they did return it was in a casket.
My college experience here, Stateside, was a walk in the park compared to what our armed forces were called to do in Vietnam and other theaters of war. What they did, however, was nothing new. Although in Vietnam we were strapped with a whole new set of warfare rules that few understood, and that was a major part of our problem.
But I am here today to say that: Our soldiers have been defending the USA—our freedoms and values—for two centuries.
From Valley Forge to Vietnam and Very Near, millions of our men and women have lived and died to defend us. We owe them—whether they served willingly, or were drafted—we owe them respect and gratitude for their willingness to be threatened and humiliated by the pains and dangers of war and the perilous requirements of maintaining government of the people, by the people and for the people.
From Valley Forge to Vietnam to now. . . their brave service continues to this day: defending our shores, our borders, and helping other liberty-holding nations to maintain freedom from oppression.
While thousands of guys and gals of my generation were on duty in Vietnam, many of us back here at home were protesting and working to bring our people home, because . . . the longer that war dragged on, the more and more controversial it became. Finally, by 1975, we had shut the whole project down.
So our Vietnam veterans came home and got back into the routine of living in the good ole USA. For many, many of them, this was no walk in the park, no easy transition. PTSD was, and still is, rampant among them. And while we who did not go will never understand what they endured, we can still show our appreciation.
A few years ago, I reached a time of life in which I felt a need to somehow reconcile the controversy of Vietnam that our generation had endured. My literary working-out of this angst took the form of a novel, King of Soul, which I published in 2017.
On this Veterans’ Day, I share a brief excerpt that describes one little experience in the Vietnam War. I post it here today, so that those who were there and endured such tribulation—they will know that their bravery and sacrifice does not go unnoticed by us who did not serve.
For the sharpening of our collective memory of what the hell happened over there, I post the excerpt, which begins with a quote from a popular song that many of us singing here at home. from Chapter 19 of King of Soul:
. . .where have all the young men gone, gone to flowers everyone, when will they ever learn when will they ever learn? But on the other side of the world something very different was going down . . .
. . . the gunner for their platoon, and that day he was packing an M-60 machine gun. And now there was no doubt about the threat of those nearby
NVA. Sure as hell, there was no doubt any more about anything except: they were in a firefight. Time to fight, or die. Rob got the order to haul that M-60 down the hill to a certain position and open up on ‘em. He said all he could remember about that was that he put one foot in front of the other while scuffling down that hill dragging all that weight with him, and the infernal noise that was blasting out all around him. The adrenaline was pumping and he was stumbling through it, trying to keep himself and the gun upright until he could get to where he was going, or where he was supposed to be going, which he wasn’t yet sure of. It wasn’t just the machine gun he was packing, but also three ammo belts. I mean, it was a good damn thing that he had ‘em, because he was gonna need every last one of them rounds before it was all over with. Finally he got to where he was s’posed to be, rid himself of the ammo belts and heated up the M-60, aiming up at the ridge where the AK-47 flashes were poppin’ like deadly firecrackers, but a helluva lot louder. He said he felt like he was going crazy, but somehow the craziness itself was what drove him on to do what he needed to do. I mean, what else could a man do? He was just shootin’ the hell out of them NVA, or at least he hoped he was, because it was gonna be either us or them if he had anything to say about it.
For you guys who went over there and endured such as this, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, Iwo Jima, Normandy, Ypres, San Juan Hill, Gettysburg, Valley Forge, or wherever you performed your duty for us . . .
Although we'll never understand what the hell you did over there, still . . .Thank you.
King of Soul
Friday, November 9, 2018
The greater rhapsody is the American one.
Composed by George Gershwin and performed in 1924, Rhapsody in Blue embodies the merging of our native black-born jazz with highbrow classical European instrumentation.
The other great rhapsodic composition of that time, Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, created by the immigrant Sergei Rachmaninoff, represents a Russian music-master’s exploration of an Italian violin virtuoso’s experiments. It is also a great piece of music.
Both rhapsodies are experimental, ground-breaking. Both are bouncy in their beginnings, disruptive in some transitional phrases. But both works resolve, rather suddenly, 2/3 of the way through development, to an exquisitely lush romantic theme. The listener’s endurance in earlier discordant excursions through frantic forte poundings is unexpectedly rewarded with a sudden soothing melody. In both pieces, the earlier tensions disappear as they resolve, melting into an absolutely beautiful melody.
And yet, both works return again to a frantic piano part before resolving again at the end.
Gershwin’s 1924 opus was intentionally concocted as a music experiment; it was commissioned by pioneering bandleader Paul Whiteman, and subsequently orchestrated by his jazzy arranger, Ferdie Grofé.
It turned out to be an extraordinary work of profound importance in the history of music.
By the 20th century, the hundreds-of-years old tradition of European classical music had reached an impasse. Composers were running out of ideas; they needed to break new ground. A morose preoccupation with dissonance and atonality threatened to turn orchestral music into academic drudgery.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Sergei Rachmaninoff fled Bolshevik Russia in 1917; in so doing, he also began a long process of escaping the heavy gravitational pull of a Continental musical death wish.
Europe’s rapid descent into World War I and wide-scale mechanized destruction was tragic.
America, on the other hand, was wide open with possibilities. Sergei traveled here and performed more and more frequently, accompanied by popular acclaim; ultimately he acquired US citizenship shortly before his death in 1943.
Before finally establishing residency Stateside, he had spent significant time in Dresden, Germany, and in Switzerland. While in Switzerland during the summer of 1934, he composed Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.
It’s a marvelous piece of work.
Taking his inspiration from the great Italian violin virtuoso of a hundred years before, Sergei spun Niccolo’s multiple variations into an energetic iteration of thoroughly European rhapsody.
It was quite well done. . . profound, a notable accomplishment.
But Sergei did not have the benefit of one powerful influence that George Gershwin had been born into: a wide-open America with an entirely new beat, and worldview:
America had given birth to Louis Armstrong, and Louie— along with his ground-breaking black compadres— gave birth to jazz.
American jazz is what the Old World had been waiting for—though nobody knew—to get a new lease on creative life:
all that Jazz!
Atlantic City NJ honky bandleader Paul Whiteman was the pioneering musician who crossed the jazz bridge that changed the world; later, he commissioned George Gershwin to compose Rhapsody in Blue, because Paul knew that something symphonically jazzy was needed.
And so Gershwin came up with Rhapsody in Blue. The rest is history.
And that’s why I say the greatest rhapsody was the American one, the Blue one, written by an American, in America. It changed the world of music forever.
King of Soul
Saturday, November 3, 2018
Beneath the appearance of things
behind the wonder that contemplation brings
there lies a universe of joy and pain
entrained upon whatever relics still remain
of a world colored by some eternal stain;
and wherever that stain remains
things are not and will never be the same
provoking some to surmise it’s just a game
that they can play and then refrain
from any effort to name
so many live for what they can get;
they allow no time to pause and let
life just happen along the way
so they can soon look back and say
what a joy it is to pause and stay
in the lingering light of a well-lived day
while the world just turns on come what may.
Oh, history breaks on sands far away
while here we enter into the fray;
we laugh or cry along the way
tomorrow and today,
I say, I say:
If I could comprehend this troubled world
so creative, yet destructively unfurled
I’d grasp the mystery, so sublime
that slaps between the sands of time
on this ever-shifting, long shoreline—
maybe it’s in or out of line
and maybe with a little sip of wine,
yes, I’d dream up some silly little rhyme,
and whether it be sublime and fine
or not worth a dime,
it nevertheless is mine,
and yet it can be thine
if you take the time.
King of Soul