Saturday, September 29, 2007

"The Office" (Workstation series) 48 (Nearly Home edition)

Nearly home now.

In the meanwhile, here's the best description I've heard so far of my candidate:

The thing that I notice as I see more of John Edwards is that this is one tough motherfucker. Don't let the Jimmy Carter smile and the excellent hair and the honey-tinged drawl fool you for one minute. This guy has more stones than the rest of the Democratic candidates combined.
This is why the Republicans hated Clinton, and Carter, and still hate Gore, as much as they do: because there is nothing those faux-folksy punk-ass bitch preppies from Choate or Yale or Princeton hate more than a self-made Southern boy (OK, not Gore, but Clinton, Carter, and Edwards for sure) who is smarter than they are. It's like the time Bush Sr tried to bandy Scripture with the Clinton/Gore campaign: as Molly Ivins said, "an Episcopalian should really know better than to try to argue Scripture with a couple of Southern Baptists." Living in the South and Southwest for the period I now have has confirmed for me that one of the subtlest but most prevalent ethnic prejudices still accepted widely in the mass media is the presumption that people from the South are universally dumb, conservative, racist, or fundamentalist.

What they are, typically--in Texas anyway--is unselfconscious. If they're happy about being rich, they ain't subtle with it. If they're racist, or classist, or sexist, they're unselfconscious about that too. On the other hand, if you're broken down in the caliche dust by the side of some rural route, every single car will stop for you--even if it's your neighbor who hates your guts because he lost a dispute with you about water rights. On the other hand, those monosyllabic ranchers, and backslapping oil wildcatters, and big-haired ladies at the Methodist Ladies' Fellowship Society, are past-masters at keeping their cool in the face of foreigners (really, anybody from outside the state) who don't understand them. The myth of the hot-tempered "shoot first and ask questions later" cowboy is just that--it's a myth. They're much more likely to shift the quid to the other cheek, say "Waal, hoss, sorry to hear you feel that way" three or four times, or through three or four bullshit insults, and then punch your lights out.

The Bush/Baker/Cheney Axis are Yankee oligarchs: they believe in a ruling class, as defined primarily by inheritance, education, prior privilege, and corporate allegiances. The idea that some Southern boy with perfect hair, a gleaming smile, an astonishing facility with the language of religion-based social uplift, might also be smarter than they are, causes their heads to explode (or, in the case of Darth Cheney, the pump in his chest which in homo sapiens is referred to as a heart).

If I'm going to balance competence, program, prior allegiances, and a reasonable shot of electability, then that's my candidate.

"One tough motherfucker"; couldn't have said it better meself.
Now playing: Martin Simpson - The Flying Cloud

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fuzzy people 18 (Ocean State freshwater edition)

More evidence that animals are superior to humans.

Sammie: shop-dog here.

More photos after the jump.

20 years in exile

This is what I grew up with and where I'm from--still, 20 years later: granite, oak, slate, maple, pine. This is in my bones.




"The Office" (Workstation series) 47 ("My people!" edition)

OK, I know this is where I grew up: nice coffeeshop, all the Old Guys sitting around who used to prefer the bad Purolator coffee (with added salt) at the diner that got torn down, but have since reluctantly discovered that the fancy coffee at the "Brewed Awakenings" coffeeshop that replaced is actually pretty good, plus the cute multi-ethnic waitresses, who obviously thrive on the adrenaline rush of the busy days, give back as good chatter as the Old Guys supply, and there's lots of energy in the place, and you can get an egg sandwich on a croissant for 2 bucks.

Plus there's the overheard dialogue:

"Ya heah what those bastids are doin' to those monks over in Burma? They're fuckin' blowin' 'em up. Jeesus! The Dalai Lama, he's a good man, he don't fuckin' botha nobody."
Good-looking Italian woman going by, talking on the cell phone:
"See, this is what I'm talkin' about. It's when I'm not theah that they friggin' throw me undah the bus!"
Another good-looking woman, in her 40s, excellent highlights, tight black clothes, interacting with the Old Guys:
"What up, boys!"
"Hey come you stay so gawgeous?
"Aw, fellas, you remember I had that deal with the devil!"

Everyone laughs.
Goddammit, I wish I lived here. I can roll with these people.

Home tomorrow.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

Classroom discipline, or "The biggest dog in the room"

[Originated in a comment over on Terminal Degree]

Youngsters (especially freshmen and sophomores) respond best to those disciplinary methods that are familiar. It's as true of the music kids as of the sports teams: my cattle-call classes got *much* more manageable when I realized I should conduct presentation and discipline using the style of their most familiar authority figures (and parents don't count, in this case): for the music kids, that would be their high-school band, chorus, or orchestra directors.

That means, for the violinists, that you act like a hyper-professional with insanely high standards and a short temper (picture Stokowski impatiently tapping the baton on the conductor's stand, and you'll have the affect); for the singers, you provide histrionic fits of praise or blame, depending on student conduct (think Christopher Guest in "Guffman"), and for the low brass and percussion you yell at them like a football coach ("Get in your seats; NOW! NOW! NOW! NOW!").

When you use this method appropriately, you can literally *see* them calm down when the disciplinary or presentational methods are ones they recognize: they're like puppies who finally understand that you want them to pee ON the newspaper. And if you ever have a concern about being seen as not-nice versus nice by students (during student evaluations, for example), just wait a little bit longer before landing on a miscreant with hobnailed boots. By waiting until the other kids in the class are fed up with the bad behavior, you've generated for yourself a massive cheering section who are on your side, and the biggest "rebel" or "discipline problem" in the world will fold like a wet rag when he (usually it's "he") realizes that every other kid in the room thinks he's a jackass.

Also, college coaching staffs are intimately aware that their teams can present discipline problems in classrooms and are usually incredibly responsive to teacher concerns about discipline or ethics. Dharmonia has had entire football or baseball teams in her cattle-call rock history class, and in the worst-case scenarios (say, massive cheating) has needed only one phone-call to have an assistant coach in her office tearing strips off a long line of hangdog culprits. Though it may not feel like it, in a Southern university the coaching staff are typically completely on your side and will back you up.

That said, I think there's a lot of merit to figuring out the body language, affect, and tone of voice that says to a roomful of late adolescents, "I'm the biggest dog in this room and you DON'T want to butt heads with me." Peer pressure will often take care of the rest.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fuzzy people 17 (Sunday on Long Island edition)

There's really not fuck-all to do on L.I., according to most natives, besides shop and sit in traffic. Being congenitally incapable of the first, and having in my fifth decade lost all my patience for the second, I stopped here, ate a few apples, and took a few shots. Simultaneously bored with being here and envious that they can do stuff like this here--where I'm from, we're still, in terms of audience-development, a couple of years away.

More below the jump.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"The Office" (Workstation series) 46 (East End & childhood edition)

I don’t remember too much from the years between age 11 and age 17, when I bugged out for college at the last minute but with a clear sense that it was an escape hatch. That’s not coincidence: I think I intentionally blanked out many memories (though I’ll still wake up with nightmares). My parents’ marriage was circling the drain and there was a lot of unhappiness, anger, and guilt. I fuckin’ hated high-school—I was that deadly combination of smarter, angrier, better-educated, and more mouthy than my contemporaries, and I thought the espoused values (buy stuff, go cool places, plan to get into your parents’ universities and then businesses, yacht in the summer, ski in the winter) sucked. I’d been a reasonably happy kid, but things got worse and worse, until by the time I was 14 there weren’t too many places in my home town where I felt safe.

But there was one: the local library, which ever since I could remember, was a refuge for me and my siblings. This was back in a decade when it was still safe, and accepted parenting practice, for our mom to drop us off at the library on a rainy Saturday, knowing that she could go off and do two or three hours of errands with no fear that we’d be unsafe or bored. We were all bookish kids, raised in a home environment in which voracious reading, and the curiosity, vocabulary, grammar, and speaking skills that result from it, were all considered legitimate and valuable (of course, it got the shit kicked out of us in the blue-collar neighborhood where we lived, until—rite of passage for each of the male brothers—we each learned to hit back, as hard as we could, and the beatings stopped).

I loved that library.

I loved the grownups’ reading room, dark-oak-paneled, filled with cracked-leather-upholstered overstuff chairs, with chiming grandfather clocks, the figureheads from old sailing schooners, nautical maps of the surrounding coastline, and a sense that time would pretty much stand still for as long as you wanted to be there. Years later, as I read Wodehouse and Dorothy Sayers, I always imagined those authors’ English gentleman’s private clubs to look like that room.

I loved the adult’s recent-acquisitions room, with big bowed windows that looked out under the oaks and maples on the library’s front lawn, though I didn’t spend too much time there—I wasn’t much interested in The Power of Positive Thinking and the latest Philip Roth.

I loved the stacks—my first experience of that sense of endless adventure that could emerge from the close-packed narrow aisles between jammed gunmetal-gray industrial shelves—that sense of adventure that came from finding the LOC number of a book you loved on the shelf, and then looking to its left and right, and realizing that, not only were there more books by the same author, but that those numbers almost always meant (especially for non-fiction) more books on the same topic that had drawn you into the stacks in the first place. Right there, right then, by the age of 10, I had figured out the tactile, visceral joy of getting lost in a library’s collected wisdom.

I loved what would now be called the “media” room—which in those days basically meant battered LP’s and a random collection of filmstrips (basically, spooled slideshows printed on film that could be shown in a cheap pot-metal projector sold to schools and weren’t as finicky as slide carriages or projectors). I found an awful lot of great music that way—records that would continue to be touchstones for me, like this one and this one, and it helped to spark that sense of curiosity and discovery about the mysterious stuff on records whose names, titles or artists I didn’t recognize: the world of music—like so many others worlds—is much bigger and more exciting if you seek out the things you don’t already know.

But where I felt most at home, earliest, and safest, the longest, was in the kids’ and young-adults’ books section. I wasn’t a huge fan of kids’ books, and had grown up with an interesting and complicated combination of 1920s kids’ books my mom had known, the fantastic resources of the Weekly Reader and the Scholastic Book Services company, who between them had set up a program that, on a monthly basis, brought a catalog of book titles into grade-school classrooms, out of which you could select as many as your parents would pay for (in cheap 25c, 45c, or 95c editions), and magically, a month later, a crate of books would appear in the classroom and your stash would be handed out to you. I always had a hard time concentrating for the balance of those days.

In that kids’ book room, which was down a staircase at the oblique back corner of the building, looking out its back windows to the sunken back garden and parking lot behind the library, were the books that got me through my late childhood and early adolescence. I can’t remember all their titles, but I’ve mentioned some before in these pages, notably Esther Forbes’s heart-breakingly great Johnny Tremaine. But there were others: Robert Lawson’s gentle and loving Rabbit Hill, The Tough Winter, and (my secret wish-fulfillment favorite) Mr Wilmer, about a Casper-Milquetoast-esque insurance drone in ‘40s New York who, discovering a remarkable gift for conversing with animals, rides his Man-in-a-Grey-Flannel-Suit notoriety to fame, fortune, a farm in Connecticut, friendship with a zoo lion and elephant, and an idyllically-beautiful redhead who falls for who he is, not for who the world thinks he is. There were the magnificent and inspiring picture books detailing the adventures of Jacques Cousteau and his cooler-than-cool crew. There were the obscure books of poetry and genealogy by local postmen and fishermen which taught me the history of my own home town.

But perhaps my favorite books of all, that I remember from that magical room where there was always time enough and where I was always safe and where no-one could hurt me, were the trio written by the great Kin Platt, who’d been a cartoonist, a gag-writer, a World War II vet, but in his fifties wrote a series of books about a teenage hero named Steve Forrester which changed my life—and, I suspect, those of a lot of 1970s kids.

The first one I encountered, the first one that Platt wrote but which was set later in Steve’s life, was the supernatural/psychological tale called The Blue Man, about a weird and mysterious guest who comes to visit Steve’s uncle’s rundown hotel in Maine, and the series of events that sets Steve off in pursuit of the eponymous villain. It’s a spooky story, which with hindsight I realize was occupying the same realm as The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone. My elder brother brought it home, I remember, and I read it, but at 11 or 12 I was just sophisticated enough to have it scare the living shit out of me.

The third in the Steve Forrest series was also the third that I read: the wonderful, evocative, sympathetic paranormal tale The Mystery of the Witch Who Wouldn’t, which is the only kids’ (hell, only adults’) book I’ve ever read that deal with issues of the supernatural plausibly, as if they were neither fairy tales nor delusions, but simply not-yet-understood science. Steve Forrest returns, as well as his sort-of girlfriend Minerva (whose dad is a cop and is easily the coolest, smartest, mentally- and physically-toughest adolescent female in any of the young-adult’s fiction I read: as Steve narrates “she’s a good ball-player and she packs a mean punch. No one picks a fight with Minerva Landry”) and his best friend Herky Krakower, a polio survivor whose physical infirmity is no mask for the precision of his mind—both this book and its predecessor are full of references to codes, ciphers, and obscure learning, and Herky’s encyclopedic knowledge and computer-fast analysis make him the real hero of Witch, as well as incredibly imaginative one-off and bit characters, including the mandragora-addicted undertaker, his bleached-blond sexbomb nurse wife, and Aurelia Hepburn, the grandmotherly old lady from the Outer Hebrides whose white magic, in the climactic scene in a burning windmill in Long Island Sound, saves all their lives.

The second in the series, and surely a book that helped save my life and shape my future, is Platt’s masterpiece, Sinbad and Me. It’s the story of Steve’s twelfth summer when, having flunked math and facing summer school, persuades his folks to let him stay on in the house on the outer shore of Long Island, in company with his English bulldog Sinbad (easily in the running for the greatest name dog name ever). Left to their own devices, Sinbad and Steve find themselves in all kind of hot water: nearly drowning in an undertow trying to get into a locked summer home; investigated by both the FBI, the Mob, and Steve’s summer science teacher; and yet Platt still finds time for fascinating (to a young teen) plot eddies into numismatism, pirates, immigration history, the background and personality of bulldogs, and the architecture of Long Island (Steve is an architecture buff and first bonds with his science teacher because of Steve’s wonderfully engaging conversation about the eras of American architecture).

Sinbad was an important book for me, at the time I encountered it, for all kinds of reasons: it was about a kid my age who wasn’t sure what he was going to do with his life but had been left alone for a summer to figure it out, who knew he was attracted to smart funny girls but had no idea what to do about it, whose best friend was a nerd but who Steve freely acknowledged was three times smarter than himself, who would look out for the old immigrant lady who years before had saved Sinbad from poisoning, who knew he was smart himself and knew that some adults (and some of his contemporaries) were idiots—and sometimes got into trouble for acknowledging that he knew it, and who, when the chips were down, was going to stand up for himself, his friends, and his own growing sense of himself. It’s a wonderful, wonderful book, and was immensely important for me (and, I’d guess, several generations of boys-turning-into-men). It gave me the ability to articulate the kind of person I wanted to be, and it provided a template I could try to live up to.

For years I wanted an English bulldog, because of this book—and only dissuaded myself because I took the trouble to find out about all their health issues. As a result of this book I also discovered an interest in vernacular architecture, and a year later in junior high school was the team leader when my friends Larry, Jon, and I wrote a semester project on an 18th-century house in my home town that, for a bunch of 14-year-olds, was absolutely masterful (we traced the history of the house from sheep-cot to farmhouse to shoe-maker’s shop to mansion), found the old deeds, reconstructed the various facades and the construction techniques that would have been used to render them, and even found (wedged between rafters to stop leaks) early 19th-century newspapers which let us trace the history of the various repairs.

Kin Platt, Steve Forrester, and Sinbad and Me gave me a sense of how to get from the angry, bored, alienated, frustrated, over-amped kid that I was to the young man I wanted to be. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I read and re-read this book more than any other in that library—I’d even say that this book gave me the courage to decide, in April of my junior ear, that in August of that same year I was going to be going to school in New York—and to succeed.

The last time I was in that library—that place that kept me safe, my one safe haven during my adolescence—was several years ago. I was back visiting my folks, and thought they (and I) could use a few hours of “quiet time”. So I walked from their house on the waterfront, up the steep streets to the granite hills that made this town a peninsula rather than a bay, and to that library. The fa├žade was just as I remembered it: red brick, white clapboard, slate roof, oaks and maples—but when I walked in the door, it was all changed: they’d done a renovation and not only all the furnishing, but even the rooms, and the interior orientation of the building itself, were all changed. It was so shifted around that I couldn’t even find the kids’ books room. It was—more than the sale of the house where I grew up, or the loss of my dad, or of 90% of the mementos I cared about—the last tie to my childhood.


But when I open the pages of this book—out of print for more than 30 years, and selling for inflated rates on Amazon so high they confirm that others love and miss it as much as I—I feel like I’m back home.

Fuzzy people 16 (East End edition)

At the East End Seaport Maritime Festival (not much maritime about it except the scent of brine in the air).

More below the jump.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Dervish rocking' it the way it oughta be

Turning the absurd airbrushed glitz of the Eurovision open party into a kitchen hooley:

I would be reasonable certain that no other finalist in the Eurovision contest (ridiculous festival of lip-synching and nitwit nationalist bombast--like the World Cup but without any talent) could have created any music remotely comparable in the absence of backing tapes. Dervish was ranked second-lowest in the final results--because they were real musicians, trying to play real music in an entirely unreal context.

As Eugene Lamb said: "There's great violence in that music."

Traditional music is about life and death, celebration and sorrow, and the transformation of suffering into joy. That's what they do here. That they didn't win changes nothing.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"The Office" (Workstation series) 45 (Masking ethnomusicologists edition)

Reading a really good dissertation on my painter as a translator of pre-Civil War racial attitudes. It's good, not least because it forces me to articulate how and why what I'm doing is different. Herewith:

This dissertation, like so many other studies of blackface minstrelsy, does not recognize the bodily joy that participation in African-American musicking could create. Like so many others, this is a rather essentialist reading, which assumes that participation in these arts must be understood as operating from ulterior socio-political-communitas purposes. Of course this is true: it is fair to say that public performance always implicates motives, allusions, subtexts, and issues of cultural power. But to argue that public performance is only focused upon this ulterior motives and meanings fails to sufficiently recognize that pleasure in the participatory motions of bodies was (a) a fundamental part of African and African-American performance, (b) powerfully attractive as a target of not only observation but also imitation and participation, and (c) directly as a result of its attraction, powerfully subversive. Middle-class and aestheticist derogation of working-class and minority art forms was precisely a political response to the liminal “threat to order” which these art forms represented. This is what Elvis, stock-car racing, black transvestism, and hip-hop were about—they were participatory, transgressive, illicit, body-integrative, sexual, and thus powerfully attractive. And thus massively threatening.

Various authors have recognized that blackface minstrelsy was in part a strategy that allowed working-class whites and youth to simultaneous aspire to and mock the pretensions of the middle class. What none of these authors have articulated is the next insight: that the “minstrel mask’s constructed whiteness” might itself be based upon the playful trickster masks of African and African-American culture. Lott and Lhamon recognize the ways that blackface minstrels took on burnt-cork as a “mask” in order to make social critique (cf Inside the Minstrel Mask etc) but, perhaps because they don’t have a deep understanding of African performance arts, they don’t recognize sufficiently the degree to which such masking, imitation, satire, and allegorical mockery was an African retention. There is no question that satire and mockery were part of European carnival. But imitation a la the cakewalk was an African and African-American province and contribution. Surely these early blackface practitioners, who I have suggested made legitimately be regarded as the first urban ethnomusicologists, were cognizant of the African tradition of caricature? Surely they learned that also from their informants?

This is a strange presumption: that the process of construction (as a process, independent of the particular racist content) must be originating with white imitators—it does not recognize that perhaps the process of construction could be an Africanism that was itself attractive to and borrowed by whites. The “blackness” that was being imitated was itself already a synthetic construction—this is the point of what happened to different ethnic groups when brought from Africa: they created a pan-African syncretic culture in America.

In the case of my painter, to identify the complexities and the contradictions in his racial attitudes and representations can be informative but it is not the focus of my investigation—it is rather background. For my purposes, assessing motive is a secondary consideration, to be considered to the extent that it distorts evidence. I am interested only secondarily (or tertiarily) in motive—I am much more interested in data. Because the analyses of motive by Cockrell, Lhamon, Lott, Scott, et al are so good, I am liberated to look at the data, in this crucially under-documented period and topic.

The dissertation provides useful articulations of the ways in which middle-class racial constructions in the antebellum North were untenable, but he falls short of considering the direct aesthetic appeal of the art form. He locates the internal contradictions in these elitist attitudes, but fails to recognize the single most significant factor subverting elitism: the powerful and seductive attraction of the performance itself. This is why cultural arbiters were at pains to derogate working-class performance: because its attraction to working-class (and selectively, middle-class persons) had to be attributed to something illegitimate: this is why they denied aesthetic quality, why they claimed that bodily pleasure was unacceptable, why they created a canon in the first place. It is an untenable position: in the face of the demonstrable, pleasurable bodily and participatory experience of African-American performance, those with an investment in maintaining racist categories had to find other rationales for derogation.

Most authors seem to use my painter to understand the complex conflicts of racial and class constructions in antebellum North. I want to use him as a witness to complex musical, cultural, and performative interactions. This is a crucial distinction: others care about his attitudes; I care about his accuracy.

Below the jump: a few "this friggin' hotel is driving me crazy, gimme some fresh air, some wetlands, some seafood, and a banjo" photos:

Now playing: Barbecue Bob - Going Up The Country

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Why this is Ground Zero

2007 The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. 1850's

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Digby is my hero

Read the whole thing, but dig the money shot:

The congressional Republicans are the most invertebrate bunch of jellyfish in American history and they'd ultimately go along with their Dear Leader if he suggested nuking Scotland.
Ooh, snap!

"The Office" (Workstation series) 44 (Zero-hour edition)

Day 1 of 10.

This is where the rubber hits the road, folks: those boxes in front of the LCD screen contain original materials from the 1830s, '40s, and '50s. I'm about to put my hands on the actual pages that my guy used to notate music in the decades before the Civil War.

I'm back in the archive I first visited in July, to spend 10 days working through original materials associated with my antebellum painter of black musicians, an (I'm arguing) crucial-yet-neglected informant on the performance practice and black-white musical collaboration that yielded minstrelsy, the first great syncretic American popular music style. I am suggesting that this man, who was born on Long Island but spent his adolescence and early manhood as a sign-painter's apprentice in NYC on the Lower East Side in the period (1820s and early '30s) when blackface in the contorted bodies of GW Dixon and TD Rice was first bubbling up from under--was first expressing the rebellious working-class uprising that Andy Jackson had ridden to the presidency but which the old power elites, terrified, were working to suppress with new draft laws and the creation of municipal police to control public space--this man who was there at the time, a member of the apprentice working-class but who, like George Dixon and Tom Rice (and later Dan Emmett and Joe Sweeney), was going to use art to claw his way upward into the middle class, this man, who played fiddle and flute himself, whose brother was a dancing master, who painted black banjo- and fiddle- and bones-players...

this man...

is a key to understanding where American popular music came from.

Had a bit of a shock this morning: finally got my hands on (through the kind offices of the Art curator, a wonderful person and colleague) a 2004 dissertation, which on very preliminary first pass looks like an excellent piece of work, but presented a bit of a shock, as its first section addresses very much the claims I want to make about the ways my painter's images reflect valuable information about race in America in the antebellum period. He draws on some of the same scholarship and analysis (about "race", and "identity", and "community", and "performance") that I would draw upon.

This is always a bit of a shock when you're working in an original area of research. If you have chosen a topic for more "pure" than "pragmatic" motives (that is, because you are fascinated by the topic than because your dissertation advisor has assured you the topic is so hopelessly obscure that you can safely corner the intellectual market for it), then you typically begin simply with curiosity: you want to know more about a historical topic, question, or connection and so you try to find things to read about it. Only gradually, as you cull through the existing scholarly literature, you begin to notice that there are gaps in that literature. Something (a question, insight, problem, or connection) that seems utterly obvious to you does not seem to have been addressed in the literature, and the more you delve in the literature, the more you discover that it just ain't there--that what strikes you as a glaringly obvious query or insight does not seem to have been caught by anyone else.

This is simultaneously exhilarating and intimidating: you think "Holy crap, nobody has worked on this, and it's so obvious, that I might have something original to add here" (as my revered dissertation advisor said, "At some level, you should never write an article or a dissertation unless you are convinced it can change the world"--if for no other reason than that it is so fucking hard to write an article or dissertation that, if you aren't feeling a little messianic about it, you'll never get it done), and at the same time, you think "Holy crap, I have to write this fucking thing!" No matter how much hubris we academics are (justly) accused of harboring, if, when you discover a gap like this in the existing literature, you aren't a little scared, you're not a real scholar.

So you dig and dig and dig, read and read and read, write and write and write, grappling with capturing and translating to cogent prose the abstraction of your ideas which is (really very hard) work--and I say this as someone who was a short-order cook, a janitor, a carpenter, and an oil-field mechanic--and grinding away through the existing literature, simultaneously more and more exhilarated as you find that the gap really is there, scared because the job seems bigger and bigger as a result, and fearful that--at the eleventh hour, after you've put in months of research trying to confirm the gap--you'll find at the last minute the brilliant book, article, or dissertation that does everything you were going to do, and does it FIRST and/or BETTER.

And all those months of reading, thinking, searching, writing are simultaneously confirmed to have been well-founded ("the question really was there") and now superfluous ("the bastard got to it before me!!!"). It's an endemic risk in trying to do good scholarly historical work that makes an original and valid contribution--you have an intellectual responsibility to be on the lookout for prior good work which makes your own superfluous.

I think I may have dodged this particular bullet. The dissertation is brilliant, and I certainly want to meet the guy, try out my take on the material in the thrust-and-parry of scholarly conversation, and see what he can provide by way of critical feedback--and I'll certainly have to cite the (really excellent) work he's done that will provide a late-breaking and late-discovered component of my book's foundation.

But (thank God) I'm doing something slightly different, slightly more focused, damned sure more musicological than art-historical in methods and perspectives, so I think I'm OK. But I'm damned sure glad I found this dissertation now, rather than 6 weeks before my book went to press.

This is Day 1. Nine more to go.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"The Office" (Workstation series) 43 (archive-mole edition)

Close to ground zero for the minstrelsy project. Just up the road is the museum which holds the vast majority of my antebellum painter's works, drafts, and papers. I've got 10 days clear to work through that material, find out what's there, and plan for the detailed and specific reading in November. Hotel is boring, the highway is deadening, but the wireless is free (damned good thing: daily rate is outrageous).

Good meeting today with a friend who's executive music editor at a major textbook publisher. Disappointing news, but no surprise, about the market for musical memoirs (we're talking, like, typical sales of 1,000-2,000--shit, I've sold more than that just to guitar players).

BUT, major though very hush-hush news about a new project that suddenly hove over the horizon. Can't talk about it right now, but it might shape my academic writing for the next several years (beyond the ways in which the minstrelsy project and the "100 Greats" memoir already is). We'll see how it pans out.

Tomorrow, photos from minstrelsy Ground Zero.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fuzzy people 15 (pumpkin spice edition)

Dharmonia's mom's housemate Punkin--so named because she's more-or-less the color of pumpkin-pie spice: cinnamon and clove and brown sugar. A pound kitty, rescued to provide Dharmo's mom a companion when she moved from Dharmo's childhood home to her current condo. Mom was never a cat person, but she's really bonded with Punkin nevertheless. Which isn't hard: she's affectionate and playful and talkative and responsive. Also likes to come and sleep on the guest bed when visitors are here.

Off to NYC to talk to publishers in the morning.

Thanks to Missa Thompson for the "Fuzzy people" appellation.

"The Office" (Workstation series) 42 (Western Mass edition)

Piggybacking onto some neighbor's Netgear wireless in the condo complex where Dharmonia's mom now lives. Mostly a travel-and-old friends day today: overnighted last night with Elder Brother and spouse in their beautiful place on a side street just off of Harvard Square. The Nieman Fellowship building is around the corner and John Kenneth Galbraith lived on the next block, but it's Nancy's garden that was featured as the block's entry in the Cambridge cavalcade of homes last year.

Thence to visit old music buddies Josh and Janell at their house in Weston, whence they moved from the back side of Beacon Hill. Beautiful old 1890s place, probably the "summer house" for a Boston lawyer or stockbroker, where the wife, kids, and servants would stay from June until September to get out of the City's heat, and Father would come on weekends on the old passenger rail. The place is a beautiful but a little quiet and sad since the recent decease of beloved Phoebe, the Golden who was the soul and spirit of the house.

Then out Route 2, the old "Concord Road" out which Gage's 700 redcoats and Hessian mercenaries marched on the late night/early morning of April 18/19, when in the confusion on the Lexington Green at sunrise, someone amongst the disciplined ranks of regulars and the 77 disheveled farmers, brewers, and cowherds who opposed them pulled a trigger, and the militiamen broke and fled, leaving eight of their number dying on the Green. It's the climactic scene of Esther Forbes's great young-adult novel of the American Revolution, Johnny Tremaine, a book that captures, as much as any from my childhood, what it felt like to imagine the history of the place where I grew up. The regulars marched out along this road, having embarked over the Charles River to the tune of the mocking anthem Yankee Doodle--but, to quote a minor character in Forbes's novel, "They go out to Yankee Doodle, but they'll dance to it by nightfall."

The regulars marched on from Lexington, out the route that would later be called the Battle Road, intending to confiscate the stores of powder and arms that spies had reported in Concord, and hoping to snap up, along the way, the rabble-rousers John Hancock and Sam Adams. They were stopped at the North Bridge--90 to 95 British grenadiers and light-infantry against something like 500 militiamen, clumped on the high ground at the other side of the bridge. Someone among the ill-ordered, badly-deployed British fired a shot, and in the confused mass of return fire from a vastly superior force, the youngsters and conscripts of the British forces turned and ran.

They retreated 18 miles--back through Concord, through Lexington, and down that Battle Road back toward Boston. In contrast to the claims of Longfellow's bullshit romanticism and knuckleheaded revisionist historians' cowardly apocrypha, it was a fighting retreat. They were far better trained and commanded, far more heavily armed, with the entire weight (vastly distant, and with horribly overextended supply lines, it's true) of an empire behind them, with far greater esprit de corps and a learned courage under fire--and they held tough.

But they were vastly outnumbered, fighting an irregular militia on terrain unfamiliar to them and unsuitable to their or their commanders' training but infinitely familiar to the colonials, ill-commanded by their generals (who as ever were fighting the new war with the old war's tactics, and killing their men through their nostalgic anachronism), with a government back home who cared nothing about a changing world order but only about safeguarding the investments of the speculative corporations who had invaded and colonized the new territory in the first place, and would send poor men to die for the sake of rich men's stock dividends.

Of course they were defeated. Of course they retreated. Of course the war became a war of attrition: not just of supplies, but of conscripts' lives, and of terrain that could be captured in the daylight with pointless loss of life, only to revert at night or in bad weather to the control of the insurgents. Shot from behind trees and rocks. Their barracks burned. Their forage patrols doubled and tripled and quadrupled and still ambushed and picked off by irregulars who would loose a few shots or fire a rick or spike a cannon before fading off into the night or the weather.

The lesson of the American Revolution is that an occupying imperial army cannot hold an entire geographical region in the face of local insurgencies, a sympathetic local population into which the insurgents can disappear "like fish" (as Mao--a masterful guerrilla commander--said), a supply train which has to cross half the known world, and failing political will at home. No matter how much the stockholders insist on their dividends, not matter how much the politicians will thunder about a "clash of civilizations" or the "battle between order and chaos," no matter the raw courage of those kids who have to actually stand up under fire from behind the rocks and trees--or the mosques and palms and walled gardens--the cold hard economic/political/demographic/military/historical lesson is that, in the circumstances described, the occupying force will always--eventually--be defeated. The only choice the empire has is in when it decides to recognize that defeat, cut its losses, save lives, and withdraw.

I've known that since my childhood. Here. In this place.

On this road, between these old stone walls, and the rocks and trees that are still scarred with the bullet-marks of that spring day in '75.

[ETA 9/17/07: Jack Murtha agrees]

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Fuzzy people 14 (E Coast edition)

Paco, 16 years old. I remember Paco when he and Romy (now-elderly Lab mongrel) lived with brother-in-music Larry and his new wife in an upstairs apartment in an old colonial house with canted floors and skewed doors in Salem Massachusetts. By now, Paco's creaky and thin (you can feel all his ribs and he has that sunken-cheeked look old cats get), and he can't see very well and is easily spooked by sudden movements, but he's still affectionate and responsive, and can still infallibly identify a black shirt upon which his graying shedded hairs will show up most clearly. He's a nice old boy and it was nice to see him again.

Thanks to Missa Thompson for the "fuzzy people" appellation.

Now playing: The Meters - Pungee

"The Office" (Workstation series) 41 ("On the street where we lived" edition)

Sitting in an overpriced espresso-and-wireless place on Mass Ave in Cambridge Massachusetts ($4.95 per hour for wireless access--note to self: it's not Net Neutrality if you're paying to get online), just down the street where Dharmonia and I first lived when the Guitar Studio folded around our ears and I was trying to scratch out a living as a freelance musician and teacher.

Don't like the idea of paying 5 bucks an hour for wireless, but I'm too lazy to walk up and down the street and try to find somebody's unguarded wireless upon which to try to bootleg. And, a double shot is well-done (in the People's Republic of Cambridge, you'd expect it) and the price is right: you could get two double-shots for the price of an hour of wireless. Decisions, decisions...

Nice visit with brother-in-music Larry, his wife and child. Unnerving yet heartwarming to see a contemporary's child growing up (turning into a good little Irish dancer too). Even more unnerving yet heartwarming to see nieces and nephews heading off to college this year. A huge relief that they're smart, talented, and healthily snarky kids. It's one thing to be passive, bored, alienated, pretentious, self-conscious, lazy, mass-mediated, clothes-conscious, drunk with hormones (I call it "Testrogen" [tm]: If I could find a way to tap and bottle the amount of testosterone and estrogen exuded on the marching-band practice lot every day during marching season, I could retire to a private island)--all those things are to be expected in someone who's eighteen years old and itching to get away from home and start turning into an adult human being (even if they don't know that's what they're craving). It's quite another to have all those things, plus brains and a vocabulary. One reason I'm so proud of my nephews, especially the two who are just going off to college for the first time, is that they're all those things that late adolescents are, but they also have brains, talent, and a work ethic.

They'll do fine, and I'm proud of them.
Now playing: Hubert Sumlin - Walkin' Thru The Park

Friday, September 14, 2007

"The Office" (Workstation series) 40 (Granite and brine edition)

This is where I come from. I have gone far away in my life. But this is where I'm from. I grew up just across that bay there, in a small house (converted "summer cottage") with an inlet of the Atlantic at the foot of the street. My beloved Black Lab would sneak out any unlatched door and run down to the end of the street, on any day of the year including New Year's and Christmas, to break through the soft ice at that frosted the granite boulders fringing the water and go swimming.

I swam across that bay at the age of 11--a challenge to myself, not articulated to anyone else, to prove to myself that I could do it (I was a self-mythologizer even at that age, probably because I was so desperate to escape what I perceived to be the sadness and frustration of my actual circumstances)--and then I swam back again.

Behind me, about 5 doors down from my left shoulder, is the bar called In a Pige's Eye where I played one of my first "folk" gigs with Dharmonia and m brother-in-music Larry: crammed into the bit of wallspace between the door to the kitchen and the one that led to the johns, playing guitar/bouzouki/fiddle versions of Irish folk tunes and sea chanties. I remember how young I was (in years and in experience) because, when the drunk at the bar spent 2 hours yelling "Play 'Drunken Sailor'!" I was too stubborn, too pigheaded, to agree, despite Larry and Dharmo's pleas. Had I even a bit more of historical awareness at that time, I would have realized that playing the shouted requests of drunks was something that had been going on, on that street and probably within that very building, for at least 250 years. As Larry points out, that street on the wharves had seen every cultural and sociological phenomenon Salem could throw at it: Puritans and pagans, Anglos and Indians and Chinese and Africans, ship-captains and longshoremen, whalers and sailors and fishermen, reeling down cobblestone streets lined with grogshops and fancy houses and wealthy merchants' mansions. Playing "Drunken Sailor" would have been apt historical performance practice, for that place.

Spent the morning in the back room of the Salem Customs House, a historic building and a National Historic Landmark, where Nathaniel Hawthorne held a job (for a few years) and where those same ship captains and merchants would have counted the golden guineas down on the barrelheads to keep their accounts. We were recording Irish and American versions of fiddle tunes for this project, which I might finally see in broadcast documentary form in, oh, two or three years. It was hard work but enjoyable (there' s nothing so verbose as a musicologist with a platform, unless it's a musicologist with a platform and a banjo), and I think the producers got good stuff--at least, at the end, the camera-man said of my talking-head stuff "this guy is an editor's dream" (20 years of public radio and 17 years of lecture classes will teach you how to be organized, memorable, and succinct).

But my favorite moments were afterward, the improvised bits filmed sitting down on the bollards of the old wharves themselves, the renovated 1798 schooner Friendship behind us, with the sun shining, the gulls calling, and the salt wind blowing through our hair. We played tunes together--my oldest musical friend in the world and I--tunes that Larry and I have played together for more than 30 years, tunes that were some of the first we ever played together, tunes I remember putting on an analog cassette using an old Marantz Dictaphone, in a disused "youth room" in my childhood church, in a sampler of music we put together so my now-long-deceased father would "understand what I wanted to do with my life" (boy, the heartbreaking naive optimism of adolescence); tunes that had come across the water at around the same time my own people had, and had echoed down the narrow cobblestoned streets and clapboard house-fronts of my home town ever since. We didn't really have to learn those tunes: we just had to lean in close, to the curbs and the shingles and the salt-bleached wooden boards of the wharves themselves, and catch the vibration of those tunes as they echoed down our arms and into the wood and gut and steel of our instruments.

And as we played, singing those old songs that had come across the water in the Age of Sail, with the gulls calling and Larry at my left hand, and the house that I grew up in and the beach where my dog played visible in the camera shot behind us, I was reminded again that there are no accidents in life. Our job is to get out of the way and let life hand us what it will.

And I'm grateful. For all of it.

For all the events and people and choices and chances and heartbreaks that led us from there to here.

All of it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Knowing where you are...

[Now Nashville: funky old airport in throes of what look like delayed renovations: when even the temporary partitions and hallways look scuffed, worn, and faded, things are taking too long. Shrieking infants ignored by exhausted parents, and EIGHT FUCKIN' DOLLARS for wireless access. Sheesh!]

Didn't get a prior chance to post this, overheard in the AUS airport:

"Wall, golddangit, I moved his danged cows last spring! He oughta be willin' ta move mahn naow!"
Nothing like regional flavor.

Now playing: Bob Marley & The Wailers - 05 - Lively Up Yorself

Vernacular Music Center Concert Series Oct 8 8pm HRH: The Janissary Stomp (world music)

For immediate release. Please feel free to download, forward, and post. Apologies for any cross-postings.

Vernacular Music Center Concert Series Oct 8 8pm HRH: The Janissary Stomp (world music)

On Saturday, October 6 at 8pm in Hemmle Recital Hall on the TTU campus, bouzouki virtuosos Roger Landes and Chipper Thompson present The Janissary Stomp, a duet program of ancient and modern, original and traditional musics of the Mediterranean and Near East. The event is co-sponsored by the TTU Vernacular Music Center, the School of Music, and the Caprock Celtic Association. Tickets are $7 to the general public and available through Select-A-Seat.

About the musicians:

Roger Landes was introduced to the bouzouki through his interest in Celtic music in 1981, and has been exploring the frontiers of the instrument ever since. He played in the popular Kansas City-based Celtic group Scartaglen, recording several CDs with the band and contributing a cut to the best-selling Narada compilation Celtic Odyssey. He has continued to perform on the bouzouki, in a duo with fellow Scartaglen alumnus Connie Dover, and since recently moving to Taos, New Mexico, has continued to expand the possibilities of his chosen instrument, particularly adding a taste of the desert Southwest to his playing since discovering jarocho music from Veracruz.

Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Chipper Thompson has been stirring an intoxicating brew of roots-based music for several years from his home in Taos, New Mexico. A relative latecomer to the bouzouki, Chipper took up the instrument after hearing its use in Irish music, and after meeting Roger through Taos-based bouzouki builder Stephen Owsley Smith. He has quickly developed one of the most original voices on the instrument, incorporating Appalachian, Blues, Celtic, Rockabilly and Middle Eastern influences into a seamless and articulate personal expression.

About the music:

The origin of the term janissary is as a label for the elite shock troops of the Ottoman Empire, who were responsible for introducing everything from coffee to croissants to cymbals to the Western world. The CD The Janissary Stomp is Roger Landes and Chipper Thompson’s exploration of the expressive possibilities of the bouzouki, a double-strung instrument originating in the East but now played in a wide variety of world musical traditions. Combining medieval, Near Eastern, Balkan, Mediterranean, and original musics, the Stomp is a unique and engrossing musical experience, suitable for all ages and audiences.

Roger Landes and Chipper Thompson “are exploring uncharted territory with their original compositions for two bouzoukis. Drawing on a wealth of musical influences, they are creating a new style for the instrument in which innovation flourishes while remaining true to the spirit of the Middle-Eastern and Celtic cultures which molded the bouzouki. Arabic taqsims meet Mississippi Delta Blues; a Greek rembetika meets a New Mexican Hispanic waltz; while African, Celtic, Spanish and Balkan strains compete for the ear’s attention.

Review excerpt: “But even more unique is the music, a global ethnic folk, Appalachian folk, Celtic, and early music merging experience. And boy does it work!...The soundscapes heard will take you on an audio journey to Ireland, Scotland, Celtic Brittany, Mexico, medieval Spain, Europe of the middle ages, the Middle East, the Balkans, the Appalachians, and the sun soaked mountains and deserts of New Mexico. It is a beautiful celebration of our global folk heritages.” –Dennis Stone

Roger Landes instrument gallery here: Original Chipper Thompson poster art here:

You can read more about, and see images and hear clips from, The Janissary Stomp at . Sample below:

Fuzzy people 13 (gray streak edition)

Mister Man perched on top of the highway car (Dharmonia and I consider ourselves to have attained the lap of luxury to have finally equipped ourselves with both a Highway car--comfortable to ride and drive, relatively good gas mileage--and a City car--capacious, rattly, but good for toting large numbers of students, instruments, black boxes, or scavenged stone from a neighbor's yard). The Highway car is an '05 Honda CRV--as Dharmonia says, "the one all the Bloomington hippies drive"--obtained for us by old music comrade David S, who has connects with a dealership in E Lansing, found us this one, and drove it non-stop from Michigan to W Texas, nearly swerving off the road in the 19th hour when his first tumbleweed rolled across the highway in front of him about 4am. In honor of that epic journey, the fact that the vehicle comes from the region of Macinac Lake, and David's veneration for Kerouac and the Beats, the car's called "Jacky" (to distinguish it from "Buddy", the rattly old van we bought, and named after Lubbock's favorite son, when we knew we were moving here).

Mister Man is actually pretty damned smart (though he does do dumb things like crossing the street, or trying to duke it out with cats 10 years his junior in the back alley): he can pick up on departure-vibes, even when he doesn't see the rolly-bags coming out. And when they do come out, he can't tell whether it means that we're both leaving, or only one of us. He's as undemonstrative as most cats--God forbid that, like a dog, he might reveal that he'd been pining for us--but he's prone to curling up on top of the bags, or in them, and growling when you try to get at them. And this latest thing of perching on top of the car, the night before the departure, is pretty endearing.

More photos below the jump. Thanks to Chipper for the "Fuzzy People" appellation.

Now playing: The Slickers - Johnny Too Bad

"The Office" (Workstation series) 39 ("On the road again" edition)

[Inscription on the in-airport stage reads "Live Music Capital of the World"]

I wasn't kidding when I said flying into/out of Austin was, for a musician, an anomalous and energizing experience, because here, they understand that music and musicians (and the tourists they draw) are about the only import/export option they've got, although maybe you could add Robert Rodriguez and the much-missed Molly Ivins as two more priceless exports.

This is an airport where they treat you respectfully when you walk up with instruments, when cabin staff ask you if you'd like to store your instrument in the crew closet, when you walk through the airport carrying the instrument and people look at you curiously, wondering who you are. Even with the geek-squared (G2) quotient of carrying two banjos--for this project--they treat you good.

This is a very different experience from flying as a musician just about anywhere else, where ticket and cabin staff tend to treat a musician carrying an instrument like some overdressed Fort-Lauderdale-bound vacationer who's trying to skeeze 4 overloaded bags full of clothes, shoes, and jewelry past them without paying the extra fees.

Next leg (departs 12:15) is to Nashville, another town that recognizes the level of value-added income musicians create, and treats them accordingly with relative decency.

Blogging off-and-on throughout the day; will post photos for sure.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"The Office" (Workstation series) 38 (D-minus-One edition)

Leave tomorrow AM, spending nearly all day on planes or sitting in airports to get here. Fortunately, Southwest Airlines flying into Austin is unlike just about any other airline/airport experience I know (with the exception of First Class on some Far-East airlines). Going into and out of Austin with a musical instrument, you're actually treated like a VIP: Austin has figured out that musicians, and the tourists they bring to the city, are about the only worthwhile import/export they've got, and so they treat us well. Free wireless helps too--I'll be blogging from the road.

Tough anniversary yesterday: 9/11 plus loss of Joe Zawinul. I'm glad that large percentages of the mainstream media--in addition to we DFH's in the blogosphere--are not trusting the Kabuki play put on by the White House's pet general on Capitol Hill.

They're not leaving Iraq until Junior can walk away and blame his catastrophic failures, as he has done throughout his entire career, on his successors. I have come to believe that he is a true sociopath--that is, as a result of upbringing, genes, experience of privilege, programming in the towel-snapping homophobia of Yale fraternities and Skull-and-Bones, the experience of being a "dry" (as opposed to "recovering") alcoholic and coke head, the insane level of protection his grandfather's money provided him--he is psychologically incapable of understanding others' suffering. That's true whether he's making fun of some vision-impaired reporter in the Rose Garden, laughing when some woman in a meet & greet tells him she has to work 3 jobs to make a living, playing "where's those danged WMD's?" at the WH Press Correspondents' Dinner: he is so psychologically damaged that he does not comprehend others' suffering.

He's turned out to be the ideal public face for the fascist oligarchy, made up from an unholy alliance between religious fanatics and international corporations (including many run by those who sent in the 9/11 hijackers), which has wrecked our military, destroyed our economy, created a permanent chasm between rich versus poor and educated versus uneducated, and oh, by the way, killed thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. And he, and they, will never, never answer for it.

Not a very cheery anniversary.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007



We lost Joe Zawinul. That means 1/2 of the classic Weather Report lineup is gone. I never heard Joe play live, but I was in the room one night when Jaco came into Jack's on Mass Ave in Central Square Cambridge, and sat in with James Montgomery's blues band. For about 3 choruses, it was the absolute most hellacious shuffle you ever heard, and then it went away again. Jaco died on the street, beaten to death by a bouncer he'd confronted in the midst of a schizophrenic episode, about four months later.

Joe was tougher and more focused than that. He took a lot of abuse for his fusion, but he never turned a hair (not that he had much to spare). He was a tough old bastard: tough enough to hold the band together through Wayne's spaciness and Jaco's insanity, and to recognize the heartbreaking beauty they were capable of creating together. And he wrote one of the great hard bop anthems ever, Mercy Mercy Mercy, for Cannonball Adderley.

Goddammit. With all the horror associated with this anniversary, it would be nice not to have lost Joe too. Thank the Universe for the bedrock sanity of his music, I guess.

Gruss Gott, Joe.

Anniversary decencies

There are certain anniversaries upon which the only decent response is silence. I'll talk about this with my students, if they ask, because it's my job to help them learn to process the world.

But not here: silence is more respectful.

Which is a lesson some never learn, and some willfully ignore, for the sake of fiscal or political (identical terms, really) profit. Those people should be silent, too.

But they won't. And they're going to hell for it.

GiulianiThe image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Damn them all.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hangin' tough

Hangin' tough here. Too much to do and too tired to blog, but all is well.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Quick shot:: proud of my guys

Only the second rehearsal for this year's edition of the Celtic Ensemble (Fall repertoire: Galician dance music and songs; Spring: Irish and English country-dance music) but they're already sounding excellent: good ears, good chops, good attitudes. It's a pleasure to work with musicians who already, even at a young age, think like professionals, and who understand that excellence is more fun than the alternative.

Friday, September 07, 2007

No Office today, but still here

Too busy to even get my own work done, but did make the day's deadlines. More tomorrow.

[Revised to add, at Quantzalcoatl's prompting, from the Lewis & Clarke Journals]:

"...Nothing to eat today but pounded fish."

Thursday, September 06, 2007

"The Offish" (Workshtathion seriesth) 37 (Novocaine edithion)

Just came back from the dentist: this is the post-Health Plan Era when Dharmonia and I can actually afford adequate dental care. Prior to this Era, I went seventeen years with, at most, two dental visits. What's astonishing is that I still have a tooth in my head.

If you want to know what makes radicals, look at suffering. And, to quote my much-missed stonemason father-in-law, the suffering of some broke graduate student whose teeth hurt are a "fart in a hailstorm" compared to the suffering which teenagers (and all others) go through daily--hourly--on the streets of Basra, Baghdad, Lagos, Addis Ababa, or Compton.

You want to depressurize radicalism? Lessen suffering.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Gettin' rant on

Which I don't usually do in this space. Not because I'm not prone to that (just ask anybody who's ridden in a car with me), but because a rant is quite tiresome-enough in person, let alone online.

But can I just say that when, on a day when I've already done 40 minutes on the elliptical machine, I find myself saying at 1:30 in the fucking afternoon "Jeez, I need to go to the Rec Center and work off some of this stress," it is time to get out of fucking Dodge?!?

Imagine the initials



"You're entering a world of pain, Smokey."

'Nuff said.