Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Saturday, August 17, 2019
Welcome to deep (Stax) Volt (Enterprise)! Volt 151, from June, 1967. That's an outfit with a catalog that is deep and wide. Things changed after 1968, when Atlantic records was sold and Stax/ Volt/ Enterprise reformed around a new distribution deal. I could mention that Otis died around this time, but that would be too sad.
There were a lot of great records after the break from Atlantic, but the feel was different. The Emotions, the Dramatics, the Staple Singers, I'll let the musicologists explain it. For me, the material from the Atlantic years is part of the high-water mark for Soul music.
Friday, August 16, 2019
He'll probably want to change the name.
Many of us like to complain about Trump, and we sometimes lose sight of his inherent power to amuse us. El Presidente can be a funny dude. Usually this is unintentional, but the comedic effect is just as real. Take a movie like “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” for instance. No one set out to make that movie funny, but it is nevertheless pure comedy gold.
Similarly, there is zero possibility that Trump is trying to make us laugh by wearing that silly thing on his head every day, and yet, every day, it gets a chuckle out of me. (No, I do not mean the MAGA hats.) When Trump opens his mouth, there is no telling what will come out. His utterances range from jaw-droppingly ignorant to totally ridiculous. No kidding, that's about the range of it. Funny stuff, though, either way.
Trump went full boffo this morning with a proposal that the United States enter into negotiations with Denmark about them selling us Greenland. It reminds me of that old Margaret Cho joke, “does anyone in the audience want a vagina? I've got one I'm not using.” It also reminds me of a joke that many of us had a chance to tell back in the old days. “I just flew back from Europe, and the weather was clear enough to give us a good look at Iceland and Greenland. It's some kind of joke: Iceland is mostly green and Greenland is covered in snow.” The joke is now on us, of course, because the ice and snow that once covered Greenland is disappearing faster than rats escaping from a sinking ship. This has suddenly gotten Trump's nose open. He's a very bold businessman, after all, especially with other people's money. Ordinary people will look on with mild bemusement at Greenland losing its sense of irony, but the great billionaire sees a wonderful opportunity. It's the last such undeveloped lot in the world! Greenland becoming green creates an awful lot of prime real estate! Really, an awful lot. 835,000 square miles of it.
That comes to 535,000,000 acres! Trump obviously expects the Danes to sell cheap. His whole team believes the Danes to be a bunch of stupid hippies who go through life making one socialist mistake after another. Let's make 'em an offer! Throw it on the wall and see if it sticks!
Trump claims to be a tough negotiator, and I'm sure that he is. “Let's see,” as he makes that ridiculous tough-guy face, “we bought Alaska for seven point two million, and that was almost 600,000 square miles, figure some inflation, how about $50,000,000?” The Danes do not appear to be as desperate as the Tsar was back in 1867, so they'll probably hold out for a lot longer than he did. How much is Greenland worth, anyway?
Let's consider Iowa, that's a nice flat place with a lot of good farmland. Thirty-seven million acres total, and twenty-eight million of them are devoted to agriculture. The low-end estimate for Iowa farmland is $4,000 per acre . . . that comes to $112,000,000,000 (one hundred and twelve billion dollars). You can have the rest of the state free. There are fifteen times the number of acres in Greenland when compared to Iowa, 535,000,000 compared to 37,000,000. So you can scale up the estimate.
Nobody is expecting Greenland to be as fertile as Iowa, although it might be. The Vikings seemed to like it when they were there. The growing season will be shorter, even without the ice and snow all the time. So there are negatives. There are also enhancements, as you might expect. Look at that extensive coastline! New opportunities for tourism and trade. With glaciers that thick, I doubt if there has been a comprehensive survey of the natural resources, but I think that it is safe to say that Greenland offers much more in the way of valuable resources than Iowa. This thing is not going to be cheap.
Assuming that only twenty percent of Greenland turns into decent farmland, that comes to 107,000,000 acres. At a value of 75% of the low-end price for farmland in Iowa ($3,000 per acre), that comes to $321,000,000,000 (Three hundred and twenty-one billion dollars). Another portion of the land will no doubt be good for grazing sheep or something, so tack on another $50,000,000,000 (fifty billion dollars). Then you've still got eighty percent of the land to fool around with, and a lot of that is coastline. The resource profile will probably be similar to the rest of the northern edge of the world, which is resource-rich. That would be Alaska, Canada, and Russia. (And I guess little bits of Norway, Sweden, and Finland.) So if I'm the Danes, I'm looking for two trillion dollars in cold, hard cash. ($2,000,000,000,000.) It would probably be higher if I did some more research. That's a bargain, too. That's less than we spent on useless Middle Eastern wars that only made us look bad with nothing to show for our blood and treasure. It's a lot less than we spent to dig our way out of that George W. Bush economic collapse thing. Two trillion, that's my take-it-or-leave-it price. You snooze, you lose. I'm smiling for six or seven minutes and then I'm looking at my watch, putting some phone numbers on the table, and walking out the door. You know where to reach me.
No exclusive rights for any particular purchaser, either. Maybe the Russians or the Chinese are interested. They might want to start a bidding war. Who else could afford it? Cash on the barrel head; serious buyers only. Let's not make a list of the untrustworthy ones, although we know who they are.
Yeah, that El Presidente Trumpo, he's a hoot. Make 'em an offer! Let's make a deal! He's a regular laugh a minute. How much do you think the Mexicans will take for Baja California? We could always use more of California.
Thursday, August 15, 2019
Down this column a ways is a post from August 11th that has the word “flaccid” in the title. Coincidentally, I read an article in Harper's Magazine yesterday about the degeneration of the English language. It was brought to my attention that we are all saying flaccid wrong, or maybe our way is no longer wrong. Things are changing so fast that it's hard to tell anymore.
I have always understood the word to be “flasid,” and I have always pronounced it “flasid.” I'm pretty sure that I have always heard the word pronounced “flasid.” The writer of the article, however, has a much greater license than me to have an opinion about the proper pronunciation of English, and she said that the word is actually, “flaksid.” Recall that this was in Harper's Magazine, and they have a lot of credibility in such matters. She did allow that “flasid” was becoming an acceptable alternative. You could have knocked me over with a feather.
I consulted my big-as-a-house Oxford Concise Dictionary. It's a good one, with full etymological information. The Oxford is a United Kingdom publication, but they are scrupulous about setting forth the British and the American versions where there are differences. Sure enough, the pronunciation guidance was given as, “flasid, flaksid.” No geographical separation, just a simple pair of alternative pronunciations. I don't think that I've ever heard it pronounced “flaksid,” but I wouldn't be surprised if there were people in England who would do it.
People who had undergone the old-fashioned classical education in England, especially. I took two years of Latin in high school, but honestly I did not pay that much attention. Flaccid comes to us via the Latin word flaccus, meaning flabby. The Romans applied the hard “c” to Latin, but for all I know the double “cc” was pronounced “ks.” That would explain “flaksid,” working backwards.
Even so, “flasid” was the first suggested pronunciation ten years ago, so I guess we're okay to say it that way. That's a relief.
Or you can just steal the entire musical idea, add new lyrics, and the hell with the footnotes. Marvin Gaye's Hitch Hike, in the space of only five years, went from a bouncy, early Motown, full-band pop hit, to a rough-sounding guitar band cover by the Rolling Stones, to finally be reimagined through the dark vortex of the Velvet Underground as There She Goes Again.
Isn't music wonderful?
The Rolling Stones were a great cover band. They never simply copied anything, like Chubby Checker's precise duplication of Hank Ballard's "The Twist." The 'Stones put the songs through the filter of their own considerable attitude. They also credited what they "borrowed." Not like some people. This is how it works: good musicians start out playing what they have heard, and after they have played it all a sufficient number of times they start to sound like themselves.
Long time readers will recall that I believe all music to be theft. Go ahead baby, cop riffs, steal songs, melodies, the whole kit and caboodle. It's more polite to give credit where credit is due, and share the royalties, but you only get nailed if you steal the musical idea and the lyrics. The thievery is more likely to take place on a smaller scale.
Stealing things like the feel of a song, or the elements of a new style, or a new instrumentation for an existing style, are fine. You get away with those things every day and twice on Sunday. If someone's personal style of playing a particular instrument becomes popular, the style will not remain personal to them for very long. That's a fair cop as well. Style is a tough thing to copyright.
This is a good song with a great hook, and it's no surprise that it was all used in other projects after this first go around.
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
I still want to know. What is so Goddamned funny about peace, love, and understanding? Come on. I'm waiting.
Good and evil exist in the world. This is true whether you like it or not. We are encouraged to believe that there is nothing to be done about it. I am no longer sure that that is entirely true. I certainly believe that there are no instant, magical solutions that we as individuals could apply to the problem of worldwide good and evil, but there are opportunities for us to begin to move the ball in the right direction. We are all stronger and more capable than people have ever been, thanks to new technologies that we are already taking for granted. This might be a good time to revise our big-picture strategies and goals.
Any ideas that concern helping people are immediately challenged by a wave of negative energy. Whatever is proposed would be “too expensive,” or is “impractical,” or even “socialist!” This is true even of good things that have worked successfully in the recent past, like free education through university and widespread, inexpensive health insurance. The wave is paid for and supervised by people who do not have the best interests of society in mind. Here is a good place to include the definitions section of today's essay.
Good generally consists of orderliness, cooperation, empathy, compassion, and love.
Evil generally consists of chaos, self-interest, greed, violence, bigotry, and hatred.
Admittedly, I will be praising herein the attributes of good that are listed above, while condemning the attributes of evil. That does not make me some kind of communist, nor a crazy left-wing liberal wealth redistribution fan, nor a dirty hippie, nor even a Pollyanna. Hell, I'm not even an optimist. I am, I believe, a very practical person, a responsible adult, and I am in most ways a centrist, with fiscal-conservative tendencies. It is my advised opinion that there is plenty of room in the political center for good, and I believe that moving world society in the direction of the general good is a practical goal.
If you, dear reader, find yourself defending chaos, self-interest, greed, violence, bigotry, or hatred, and if you find my attacks against these things unfair, you should probably consult a mental health professional, just to be on the safe side.
It is usually the practice on this blog for me to complain about things and then offer no solutions. Today, however, we'll be moving to the solution portion of the text shortly. The subject here is promoting good while discouraging evil. My ideas along these lines echo homilies that have always been in the air, little blasts of good-will that our friends share now on social media. Bits of Buddhist or Christian wisdom reduced to greeting-card sized messages of good will. The problem is not that they are wrong or foolish. The problem is that in their brevity they are easily misunderstood, or not understood at all. It's amazing that you can hear something over and over again but still fail to understand it.
Take, for example, the simple admonition that one constantly hears in golfing circles, “hit down on the ball!” Everyone agrees that you must hit down on the ball in golf. I played golf for forty years before I understood what that the phrase means. For forty years, the picture in my head was of a golfer holding a club aloft like an ax and swinging it down in a hitting motion like someone playing Whack-A-Mole. I was beginning to think that maybe I was crazy, or maybe all of the “hit down on the ball” people were crazy. It came to me suddenly on the driving range one day. All it means is that you must begin your swing forcefully! The club-head should describe an almost perfect circle, and there is a momentary pause at the top of the back-swing, before the swing portion of the exercise is begun. From that pause, hit down on the ball with some force. Don't start the movement lazily and build up speed. I still don't know why this is referred to as “hitting down on the ball,” but I now understand what it means. This kind of misapprehension happens all the time.
We are told to “love people,” and “help people,” we are warned against acquisitiveness and longing for things, we are asked to consider other people's needs and to help them. From the look of things, the understanding of these concepts remains at the low ebb at which it has coasted along for all of recorded history.
Here, now, the lesson.
I'm going to start small. Consider, if you will, a married couple. This is a subject that I know something about. If you observe a married couple in which the husband concerns himself mostly with his own happiness, and the wife is equally focused on her own happiness, that marriage is doomed to failure. It cannot survive. Both husband and wife are being selfish, and they lack empathy and love. They are both failing to cooperate in the enterprise of marriage. Divorce is inevitable.
If, on the other hand, you come across a married couple for whom the best interests of the other party always come first, you are witnessing a successful marriage. If the husband wakes up every morning fully determined to do everything that he can to make his wife happy, and considers her feelings and needs before acting even in small matters, and if the wife does the same as regards her husband, the marriage is and will remain successful. It's as simple as that.
Note that the husband and wife in the second example are making themselves happy by devoting themselves to the happiness of the other. This is the beauty and wonder of it: by being generous of spirit and considerate, each spouse is also helping themself.
Scaling up slightly, consider a band consisting of four or five musicians. Any kind of band, a wedding band, a jazz combo, a chamber music ensemble, a thrash-metal band, any kind of band at all. If all of the band members are only concerned with making themselves sound good as individuals, the band sounds like shit on a stick. If the players are selfish, the band loses the musical idea. If, on the other hand, all of the band members concentrate on making the band itself sound good, the band will have a chance at achieving that true magic that is the goal of shared music. When the band is really humming, individuals hardly hear themselves playing at all. They hear the band; they hear the shared music. I can tell you from experience, you can hear yourself playing in the mix, but it is almost removed from the physical act of playing your instrument. There is a selflessness in the musical experience that would be wise for us to cultivate in our experience of human society.
Scaling up a bit further, this idea of concentrating on the success of the group also works very well for team sports, especially sports that require a certain flowing action in the motion. Sports like soccer (football to the rest of the world), or basketball. The best players visualize the flow of the entire team; they know where all of the players will be at any moment in the near future. They can see the plays in slow motion, and they can pass wordless cues to their teammates. This level of cooperation and group-interest makes teams great. I've seen soccer games where individual players were trying to go it alone, and it almost never works.
There is a strong strain of selfish interest in the world these days. Many individuals, and many individual families, are engaged in a futile contest to see who can accumulate the most money. The buy-in on this contest is way up in the tens of billions by now, with the top winners passing the hundred-billion mark as we speak. I say “winners” because the participants obviously see it as a contest. I say “futile” because all of these rich assholes have long since surpassed the greatest amount of money that anyone could possibly hope to use or benefit from in any way. The entire game is ridiculous. I use the term ridiculous advisedly.
Some of these individuals still earn money by selling things, but some of the things that they sell are themselves ephemeral. Microsoft and Amazon sell mostly things that exist as computer files. It's like one of the old gangsters said about prostitution: it's a great business, you got it, you sell it, you still got it. Other rich bastards make money out of thin air, like those who sell securities based on future earnings or market fluctuations. Amazingly, much of the new wealth is created from debt. (I have that one on good authority, although I don't totally understand it myself.)
Instead of allowing all of this squandered, stolen money to pollute our politics and strangle the entire world, it would be better to seek ways to cooperate in the alleviation of suffering in the world. Society must eventually cut back on all of this pointless competition and scale back the ambitions of individuals who aspire to wealth that is beyond imagination or utility. Strategies and tactics for achieving those things are beyond the scope of a mere blog, so let's start small, shall we?
A good beginning might be to start thinking of ourselves as “us,” instead of “us and them.” It's not so hard. I also have a suggestion about that. I was as crazy as most young people when I was young, and I would just shoot my mouth off about this and that, like many young people are wont to do. Then a few years went by and I found myself happily married with two nice children. I loved those children beyond measure, as a young parent might. They needed me, and I enjoyed their company. The experience of parenthood put life in a different light. The whole thing became more real, and I felt more connected to the world and to the future, and to the past. When they were up and running around, I got to know their little friends. It seemed only natural to expand the circle of love to also include the friends.
That's how it goes, how it went for me anyway. The circle kept getting bigger. My children; their friends; their friends' families; all of the children at their schools and their families; Los Angeles; California; America; the world. It seemed natural to me. Why draw lines? Children are children, why not take care of them all? Take care of them by helping their parents to have better lives. The best way to help children is to help their parents. Why don't we just take care of everybody? Well, why not?
Did I say that I wasn't a Pollyanna? I still don't think that I am. What is so Pollyannaish about taking care of everybody? There is plenty of money and resources in the world to do it. No one is suggesting that we change every single aspect of our current system all at once. That would be the biggest revolution in history, and we have all seen where revolution leads. It leads to war and mass death. No, far better to take it in steps. The only thing standing in the way is evil. Self-interest and greed lead to bigotry and hatred, which leads to violence and chaos. If people have security and can be free to benefit from their efforts and raise their children in peace, the result would be a flourishing of good. Wouldn't that be nice?
Well, wouldn't it?
Sunday, August 11, 2019
Many dictatorial regimes have decided on the raised fist as their favored salute, and there is a certain rhythm to that. The fist delivers the appropriate sense of aggression and danger, if displayed properly. Trump has been trying for months now to get it to catch on, but he's not having much luck so far. I don't see a lot of fists raised at his rallies. It's probably because Trump's fist is so uninspiring. It conveys none of the required aggression, and the element of danger is notably absent. It's such a poor, dead, flaccid thing. It doesn't look like a fist at all. It looks for all the world like the small hand of a woman in the act of clutching her pearls.
You know what I mean; you've seen him do it at rallies. Please spare me the necessity of introducing yet another photograph of Trump into our discourse. He raises this “fist” with a fully bent elbow, displaying his closed hand up close to his head. There is no tension in it, not in the hand and not in the wrist. He simply closes his fingers gently and holds it there, with the top of the hand falling weakly back towards his forearm so that the knuckles in the middle of his fingers point skyward. He even waves it back and forth to emphasize the loose, feminine quality of it all. You will break some of those fingers if you hit anything with a fist like that.
The effect ruins everything that he sets out to prove by his Steven Seagal tough-guy facial expressions and his attempted tough-guy rhetoric. One look at that sad little fist and he is betrayed as a wannabe. He'll never get his colors; he'll always be sent out on the beer runs.
What's he doing calling attention to those little hands anyway? I thought he was sensitive about it. Maybe he wants to prove to everyone how big and masculine they are. You never know what's going on in that head of his.
Trump's dilated pupils, on the other hand, are a true icon of fascism. That's a symptom that we've seen before. And not only on the offending mongrels in, “Dingoes Ate My Baby.” No, just ask the French about the nightmarish black eyes of those meth'd out Nazi Blitzkrieg enthusiasts. The Hitler Gang loved the stuff, cleverly marketed under the brand name, “Pervitin.” As everyone knows, when you get it from a doctor, it's not narcotics, it's medicine, it's vitamins or something. The Germans in the 1930s were marketing it blended into chocolates to housewives. Oh, honey! You'll just fly through your day's housework with a few of these! They go great with coffee! It was all over the place. The entire Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe were tweeking their brains out, until it was time for them to crash, anyway. How did you think that the English got away at Dunkirk? Pluck? Nope. It was good luck. Seventy or eighty hours is all a body can stand, Nazis included. Finally you collapse on the ground with your eyes open.
In other photograph-related Trump news last week there was a meme consisting of close-ups of Trump's eyes at a press conference. He's standing there at a bank of microphones, looking out into TV lights and cameras, with only a thin circle of blue surrounding the huge black dishes of his dilated pupils. He looked like someone in an ophthalmologist's antechamber waiting for his eyes to be ready for a procedure requiring full dilation.
There are several possible explanations for this. David Bowie had a permanently dilated pupil in his left eye due to head trauma received in a fist fight as a teen. Trump's condition seems to come and go, so it's not this one. I think that it's safe to say that Trump is not an LSD aficionado. That stuff will spread your pupils out to the corners of your face. Also on the subject of drugs, though, speed is a distinct possibility. That stuff is very popular in America, and it has been for a long time. The doctors have always been way up on the game, too. They still are! As I mentioned, it's not narcotics and it's not illegal if you get it from the doctors. It's FDA approved! These days, disinterested parents give their kids Ritalin to keep them occupied and malingering adults claim ADHD to get Adderall from carefully selected doctors. Malingering adults like Trump, perhaps, or do you think it's normal for someone to be frantically Tweeting while respectable people are sleeping? Midnight Tweeting and tweeking go hand in hand.
Was it Ivana that informed us that Trump kept a copy of Mein Kampf on his bedside table? A bit of light reading for sleepless nights? Maybe he has more in common with those Nazis than we thought. They found out the hard way that the reckless misuse of methamphetamine leads only to tragedy. I hope that we get off easier than they did.
And lose the fists, Jimboni. Keep those little things in your pockets, if they'll reach.
Thursday, August 8, 2019
Alert the media! Philip Glass remains alive!
He's only eighty-two, and he looks like he's still got some wind in his sails. There was a time when I loved stuff like this and listened to a lot of it. It was well represented in my record collection, well, present in some numbers anyway. Later on I moved towards more conventional but still slightly obscure fare, filing in the blanks in my R&B, Soul and Jazz knowledge, and looking overseas for excitement, in between a lot of Rock music played way to loud and fast. I'm happy to be back.
I recalled Glass today because I watched a trailer for a movie called Samurai Marathon 1855, which is in Japanese but doesn't seem to be a Japanese movie. Glass did the outstanding soundtrack. I'm happy to be back to listening to him. God knows, my mind needs soothing.
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
Monday, August 5, 2019
That would be Ivana Marie Trump, aka Ivanka Trump, aka Yael Kushner. She Tweeted this today after the latest two in an apparently endless series of mass murders by gunfire in the United States:
“As our nation mourns the senseless loss of life in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio and prays for the victims and their loved ones, we must also raise our voices in rejection of these heinous and cowardly acts of hate, terror and violence.”
My hat is off to Ms. Kushner-Trump for presenting us with one of the longest dependent clauses in recent memory. It's a beauty:
“As our nation mourns the senseless loss of life in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio and prays for the victims and their loved ones . . .”
I live overseas and many of my students and friends are English learners. I usually tell them to keep the dependent clauses to a minimum and don't let them get too long. At some point they tend to take over the entire sentence, and nobody wants that. So this is quite a bold sentence, grammar wise.
I'd have put an Oxford comma after “terror” in the phrase, “hate, terror and violence.” (Making it, “hate, terror, and violence.”) But that's just me. The Oxford comma may also be called a serial comma or a series comma. If there are three correct names for a piece of grammar, it's probably important.
Ivana Marie is onto another fine point here, although she doesn't seem to realize it. The phrase, “heinous and cowardly acts of hate, terror and violence” is also a fine description of the racist, bigoted statements that come out of her father's mouth on a daily basis.
Sunday, August 4, 2019
(From a YouTube video of the same name.)
One, Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or their color.
Two, Do not even think about using people as private property.
Three, Despise those who use violence, or the threat of violence, in a sexual relationship.
Four, Hide your face and weep if you dare to harm a child.
Five, Do not condemn people for their inborn nature.
Six, Be aware that you too are an animal, and dependent on the web of nature.
Seven, Do not imagine that you can escape judgment if you rob people with a false prospectus rather than a knife.
Eight, Turn off that fucking cellphone!
Nine, Denounce all Jihadists and Crusaders for what they are: psychopathic criminals with ugly delusions (and terrible sexual oppressions).
Ten, Be willing to renounce any god, and any faith, if any Holy Commandment should contradict any of the above.
(Switching here to editorial content.)
I tend to agree with Hitch in most things, and I am substantially in agreement with these commandments, with minor exceptions as follows:
Religion should be renounced in general. Singling out one religion or another just makes it personal. A general renunciation will make religious people angry enough. Don't go the extra step.
Don't mention the Freudian sexual horrors that underpin the attitudes of most religious extremists. Unless you are a qualified mental health professional, then it's okay.
You can still use your cellphone. Mr. Hitchens was just being cranky.
On my own behalf, may I add an eleventh commandment of my own? Perhaps as a replacement for number eight, which, to be fair, may have been a frivolous inclusion?
(Proposed New) Number Eight, Never be too certain that you are correct about anything. Always consider that you may be wrong.
Why do you think these new proposed commandments are at such variance to the original ten? (Or any of the several Biblical versions of the original ten?) Could it be because those Iron Age cretins were routinely violating many of the new proposals? Yes it could.
That is because our ancestors in the dim past of three thousand years ago were so different from you and me that a whole other set of things was important to them. Condemning your local enemies because of their ethnicity was an important precursor to slaughtering them. Killing their children after slaughtering the men was just good judgment. Taking their women as slaves was the natural order of things. Murderous condemnation of people based on their inborn natures was common. It's right in the Bible: God told them to do those things!
That is why using the Bible as a template for modern life is such a bunch of crap. Times, thank God, have changed.
It happens sometimes. You love somebody, but it all goes south somehow. Ms. George has a great attitude here. Don't waste too much time worrying about it. If that special someone doesn't love you anymore, maybe it's time to pack your little rags and go. Hold your head high! You might be walking into a brighter day.
Saturday, August 3, 2019
A sincere apology, if overdue. A real offense, although unintended. There was a time when I said something that injured the feelings of a certain group of people that happened to be at the scene. I was wrong, and I am deeply sorry.
Something happened long ago, and I’ve been ashamed about it ever since. I said something out loud in a voice full of venom, something that could be understood in two different ways. One way was offensive to Jews, although my working-class Jewish friends used the term in the same manner. The other way has always been offensive to the Japanese, all of them. A family, unbeknownst to me, was close by when I said it. They heard what I said, and they were mortified and embarrassed.
What I said was, “she’s such a fucking JAP!” The family were Japanese. It was one of those times when the facts speak for themselves, even though the facts lie. Please allow me to explain.
I spell the term “JAP” in the above quote advisedly. There was a phenomenon in the New York Jewish community at the time that was known as “the Jewish-American Princess.” I was working at the time in a store selling records and tapes, in the Borough of Queens in New York City. The year was 1974. It was getting late on a weeknight, and there were no customers at the time. Three or four of us employees, all in our early twenties, were standing around the front of the store waiting for something to do. The manager was behind the counter reading a newspaper. One of us was Jewish, in fact, and we all knew many young Jews. The manager, whom we all liked and respected, was Jewish. We certainly did not find anything objectionable about Jews, especially Jewish young women. We were discussing one such young woman at the time.
These girls came from very prosperous families, and they were often very beautiful. Their families expected them to marry a Jewish boy from a prosperous family, one who had spectacular earnings potential. The girls were fine with this plan. They would not consider even going out with any young man who was not all of these things: 1) Jewish; 2) from a rich family; and 3) demonstrably on his way to a high-income career (i.e., currently attending an Ivy League law school). They could be very rough in their dealings with boys who did not make the cut, or girls who came from less advantaged backgrounds, Jewish or not. Many could be friendly about it; many could not. Most of them were disagreeable. We called them JAPS. That was the only way that we ever used the word. One such girl was the topic of conversation just as the family cleared the door to the store. We all knew her. She had recently rudely turned down one of us who had asked her for a date. At that moment, I made my comment.
I will admit that the boys in my milieu in Queens at the time were a pretty rough bunch, borderline hooligans actually. Racial prejudice was common, but it was directed at groups that were part of the population of northern Queens. We hardly saw any Asians, and certainly no Japanese people, until the mid-1970s. Only a few Chinese, and a sprinkling of Filipinos. There had been no Japanese around yet to express an opinion about. (The Filipinos were an odd case study. There was a lot of discrimination and hostility against the blacks and Puerto Ricans, even though they had been born in New York and were American citizens. The Flips, however, were treated like family, even though they had probably been born overseas and had strong accents. Discrimination can be a strange thing.)
None of this makes me any less responsible for my hurtful remark. I have thought about that night many times over the decades, and my face always flushes red with the memory of it. Later on, I realized that the remark, even directed against a conceited Jewish girl who was not very nice, was wrong. If a family of Jews had heard me say something in the same tone of voice about anything Jewish, they would have felt just as bad as the Japanese family had felt.
In the law there is a concept called, “transferred intent.” Let’s say that I am very angry at person A, and I aim my pistol at him. I fire the pistol, fully intending to kill person A, but the shot misses him, takes a ricochet, and hits person B, killing him. I am guilty of murdering person B. I don’t even know person B, but the intent necessary for murder is transferred from person A to person B by the force of the bullet. It’s the same with my awful comment. The intent was bad enough directed against a Jewish girl; I am just as guilty if the actual victim was the unintended Japanese family. That makes the incident more than an unintended consequence. It must be viewed as an actual offense.
It does seem excessive for me to be worrying about this incident forty-five years after it took place. It’s not like this is the only blemish on an otherwise spotless record of love for my fellow man. This one bothers me in a way that is unique in my experience, and there are several reasons for that.
One is the accidental nature of it. The store was near the end of the IRT’s number 7 line, the Flushing train. There were many nice apartment buildings close by, and also many nice little parks. It was close to transportation and shopping. The area had recently been chosen by big Japanese corporations as a good neighborhood to place executives and their families for a year or so. It suddenly became common to see young Japanese moms with their babies in the parks, often several at a time. Ten years earlier, even five years earlier, you would never see a Japanese person there, much less a family. Flushing had recently become the first home to a small Japanese community, the first one that I was aware of in all of Queens. A Japanese restaurant had just opened up the block.
Another reason was that there was nothing to be done about it at the time. There was no way to explain that it had all been a misunderstanding. Even if the entire family spoke perfect English, there is no way to explain the cultural context of such a thing right there, on the spot. I could only wait it out, soaked in shame like someone who had just fallen into an ocean of the stuff.
The biggest reason that I feel the shame of it so strongly is because I had already been, for many years, a big fan of Japanese art and culture. Although I had never actually met a Japanese person, I had discovered Japanese art at the many fine museums in New York, and Japanese cinema at a small theater on 47th Street close to Broadway that was dedicated to Japanese movies of all kinds. The movies especially appealed to me. I was a big movie fan already. French New Wave, Italian Neorealists, Ingmar Bergman, New York offered many opportunities to see serious movies of all kinds. When I discovered that theater, by walking past, Japanese cinema was all new to me, and I loved everything. Not just the sword flicks, but also movies by Ozu, Kon Ichikawa, Masaki Kobayashi, and others. Tokyo Story; The Burmese Harp; Harakiri; Kwaidan; and yes, Seven Samurai and everything else by Kurosawa, including the early contemporary material, I loved it all. I was there every week for years, even if the show that week was low-brow material like Samurai Sheriff or a low-budget gangster movie. And then, all of a sudden, my first actual interaction with a Japanese family went spectacularly wrong! My humiliation was magnified one thousand-fold. Even now, at the age of seventy-one, I can hardly stand the memory of it.
I’ve never lost my interest in Japanese culture, and I’ve never forgiven myself for making that wayward remark at exactly the wrong time. I can still see the looks on their faces, mom and dad, a boy about ten, and a girl about eight. I have wished for the chance to apologize, to put my forehead on the floor and beg, please forgive a poor fool! I was wrong, it was terrible, but making amends is hard to arrange in the real world. It is also hard to judge what course of action is best after such things have happened and have had a chance to settle down. It might be better just to shut up about it.
No, I’ll launch this apology off into the cosmos. I don’t feel any better for having written this, but at least it acknowledges the fault.
Thursday, August 1, 2019
P5 are a sinfully underappreciated act. Defunct for some time now, they got very little attention when they were active and by now they are barely remembered. It's a shame.
This is serious music. The musical pallet that Konishi draws inspiration from is very broad, including various schools of rock, pop, jazz, and classical music. This cut, for instance, owes something to Stravinsky's "Rights of Spring." Anyway, I give it a 95%. It's an intellectual challenge, and you can dance to it.
Sunday, July 28, 2019
We all go through the stages of life in their turn. Childhood, adolescence, young-adulthood, the peak earning years, middle age, and the varying degrees of old age, ranging from slightly old to decrepit. We all know what's coming, unless we willfully shut out the knowledge. The clock ticks, and the calendar pages flip, at the same rate for everybody, and when they're done, we're gone. It's very simple, and not so bad when you think about it. It happens to everyone, rich or poor, on about the same schedule. So far, anyway. The trick is to be well-organized about it, and a bit of luck doesn't hurt. It turns out that the whole enterprise is much more difficult in America than it is in any other similarly situated country.
Unlike the rest of the developed world, Americans are required to figure out how much money and how much insurance they will need to take care of themselves through the unpredictable end-game of life. For all of my long life, the help that Americans in bad situations can get from our government has been less, and less, and less. While other rich, modern countries are busy caring for their people, and cushioning life's blows for them, we Americans have the freedom to stand on our own feet, or fail spectacularly, it's our choice. All of the other fully industrialized nations prefer to level the playing field in a world where some people are born with a full house and others have to make due with a pair of fours. They seek to share the risks of life and help each other. America, on the other hand, prefers to deal with its citizens at arms length, demanding that we make all of our own arrangements. “Don't be bothering me, pal,” says America, “it ain't my fault that you got cancer in your forties.” Maybe you should have spent more on insurance! God help Americans whose children are born with terrible diseases. America is as rich and modern as any other country on earth, and yet our government will not lift one little pinky finger off of the table to help us. We are free to die in a ditch. We are free to charge so much for insulin that our diabetic neighbors die from the lack of it. We have every freedom you can think of, except the freedom to feed the hungry people among us. They put you in jail for that. This is all very problematic for me.
I've always said, if we were some paleolithic tribe living in some cave somewhere, and the chief acted so uncaring about the people under his leadership, we'd stove his head in with a rock while he was sleeping and toss his ass over a cliff. The next boss would be tuned in to taking care of the tribe from day one, knowing what happens if you don't. But those were simpler times, and now we're stuck with this uncaring bunch of millionaire “elected representatives” who only pay attention to the billionaires, from whom their prosperity stems.
The whole idea of making a life-plan when you are a young man or woman, or a young married couple, and then sticking to that plan for forty years or so, has always been a daunting proposition, and these days it has become downright unmanageable. How much has the country changed in the last forty years? How have costs and prices changed in that time? How have government policies changed? How has the medical community changed? What genius could have made a sensible plan forty years ago that would have put him on easy street today? Unless, of course, the plan was to make a huge fortune, and you had the talent and luck to make it work.
It's even worse now for young people starting out. What will the world be like forty years from now? Any ideas? Should they hoard savings in Bitcoin? Buy gold? Stock? Bonds? Dollars? Stock up on canned tuna fish? Bullets? Do you want to try to predict the cost of living? Or the ways and means of it? Will houses be as good an investment as always, or will they turn into millstones around your neck? Condos? All of those things are up in the air, liable to come down anywhere. How is anyone supposed to plan for that?
It's even worse now for young people starting out. What will the world be like forty years from now? Any ideas? Should they hoard savings in Bitcoin? Buy gold? Stock? Bonds? Dollars? Stock up on canned tuna fish? Bullets? Do you want to try to predict the cost of living? Or the ways and means of it? Will houses be as good an investment as always, or will they turn into millstones around your neck? Condos? All of those things are up in the air, liable to come down anywhere. How is anyone supposed to plan for that?
It wasn't that long ago when all medical facilities and providers, including health insurance providers, were administered on a non-profit basis, and almost all jobs above paper-boy came with pretty good health insurance at no cost. It was not that long ago when the children of working class people could attend good universities at little or no cost. It was not that long ago that our grandparents actually bought houses in Florida and lived on Social Security! It all seems like a dream by now, of course.
So here we are, we “active retired,” trying to plan for the future. The very idea is comical. It's all questions, and no answers. How many years are we talking about? How long do we expect to live? Five? Ten? Twenty? God forbid, thirty years? Do you wish to continue living in America? Ouch! That's expensive. Maybe you're lucky and you have a house in a still decent neighborhood in a still decent city. If it's nice, the taxes are probably high. If you're like people my age, you still have a mortgage, because those re-fi's were hard to resist back when you were in those peak-earning years. Maybe the house is worth a lot of money. The trick there is that you can't have your cake and eat it, too. You've either got the house, and the bills, or you can have the money in the bank. That's if you're lucky, and then you'd still have to pay rent somewhere, or buy a smaller house in the stix, and pay all kinds of insurance, and various taxes, and co-pays on all of the meds, and co-pays on the Medicare. Yes, you will need more meds and more doctors visits over the years. When you add up the monthly expenses, even for a less than extravagant lifestyle, you come up with a figure that looks like it came directly from outer space, like it was old Italian lira instead of dollars. Does anybody save enough? Almost nobody, in fact. And pity those without the house to help out with this vicious mathematics.
Many Americans had personal retirement plans that included continuing health insurance coverage and a generous pension plan from a long-term employer. Many of them paid good money into those plans over the years. Well, my friends, if you retired and your old employer is still solvent, and is actually paying out those retirement funds as promised, you're well ahead of the game. Many employers are not honoring those agreements. Not just the unwary companies that went out of business or something, but also many perfectly solvent companies who had clever boys tell them how they could get away with denying you those benefits. Do you know anyone who was “laid off” by a perfectly solvent company right before retirement? Or just before their pension was scheduled to vest? I know several myself. Some of them needed that money, too. That's another thing about America. It's not just the government that is after your blood and treasure. There are not many companies that still have any sense of loyalty to their employees anymore. It's really not necessary for them to rob you, they don't need your money, not the government and not those still prosperous corporations, but they figured out that they could steal it and get away with it. The ethics of it are somewhere down in the dumpster with those tuition free public universities and non-profit health providers.
The whole thing is unimaginable. In my case, the odds are that I will live another ten years. What will happen with my health? Will I get cancer? The good kind? One of the terrible ones? Maybe a stroke, that's always possible. How about Parkinson's Disease? People still get that. Heart disease? Well, I've got that already. Will I need a bypass operation before it's all over? It's possible, although it does not seem probable. Lesser procedures? Almost certainly. Scans and angioplasties, sure. And meds. Those are things that I can afford. How about my wife? Cancer or something? And dentists! How they peck away at you! Boy, are they annoying. If our luck is good, we have enough money to get by okay and die in bed. If we have bad luck? If my doctors bills spend us down to the bright line where more spending would be money that my wife will need to live on after I'm gone, that will be it for me. Goodbye cruel world! I'm not spending a dime on doctors if my wife will need it to live on. And I'll be working right up until the day I die, one way or another. I'm still working a job right now, and I'm riding that one until the wheels fall off. What if they don't need me anymore? Not to worry! I'm already easing into an alternate income stream for when the time comes. I could get by nicely on my Social Security if there were no medical surprises, but we can't count on that, now can we?
Here's the big plot-twist: I'm doing all of this in a developing country. My wife's country, actually. It's all very comfortable and it's much more affordable than America. We have a very good lifestyle here, which includes restaurants and taxis and treatment at one of the better hospitals. I couldn't afford to live in America. I recommend living overseas as a solution for any of my dear readers who may be having trouble making ends meet in our country of origin. Go for it! There are many nice places with hospitals and doctors and dentists that are very good. Beautiful countries with better weather and more reasonable costs of living. Several Spanish speaking countries come to mind, and that's a relatively easy language for an English speaker to learn. And fun, too! Beautiful literature and poetry, beautiful songs. You'd be surprised. Challenge yourself! You might like it.
And you might find that you worry less about money, and that you are enjoying life more, and watching less news on TV, and that your quality of life has risen. You can always Skype your family, if they have time. Between social media and Skype and Line, they may not even know that you have gone.
Friday, July 26, 2019
This one is an important phenomenon to consider when planning aircraft carrier flight operations. Maybe it's not so important anymore in our age of computerized radar navigation and fly-by-wire, but it was very important back when pilots needed to see where they were going. It is also interesting to know what you are looking at when you admire a California sunset.
Whenever the sun is retreating westward over endless stretches of ocean and under clear skies you will notice a lot more light after the sun has sunken below the horizon. This is called, “nautical twilight.” In California you may get the poetic impression that the daylight is loathe to give up its ascendancy over the world. On an aircraft carrier you will also be happy for the extra time that this allows for flight operations.
The mechanics of this phenomenon are simple. The sun is below the horizon, but it is still shining down onto the reflective surface of the ocean. It reflects back into the sky, including the sky where you happen to be at the time. A book that I read recently about carrier operations said that you get nautical twilight until the sun passes about twelve degrees below the horizon. This allows for an additional hour of light both before dawn and after sunset, two additional hours per day at the equator. The length of time shrinks as you move north or south away from the equator. The Navy has charts for those things.
I miss those California sunsets. As the sun goes down, clouds slowly move in closer to the coastline, and the reflecting sunlight, bouncing back up into those clouds, creates great colors in schemes that you do not find in other places. The colors change as you watch, moving from green to purple to orange before your eyes. The low humidity assists in this act of creation, or at least gives in a different character than, let's say, the west coast of Florida. The Pacific Ocean is also a much bigger lens than the Gulf of Mexico.
There is a trade-off to console me in my case. I now live in the tropics, and we are treated on a regular basis to skies that are dramatic and beautiful. Those California sunsets, in Los Angeles anyway, usually came after a sky of solid blue, unadorned by clouds after about ten in the morning. The cloud vistas in the tropics can be vast and impressive. These often culminate in solid gray and biblical rainfall, but that's another story.
Monday, July 22, 2019
It turns out that both the Cobras and the Van-Dells were one-shot records put together by members of the Mar-Keys down at Stax Studios. Steve Cropper and Donald Dunn play on both, and since both were recorded in 1964, Al Jackson is probably the drummer.
None of those Stax people were rich at this point, not the owners and not the artists. So they were trying everything that they could think of to sneak more records into the charts without having to wait for the right time to release a "new Mar-Keys record." The mechanics of the record business could be harsh.
Both of these cuts are rocking good records.
See the commentary on "Restless," above.
By the way, I make no claim to know of which I speak right off the top of my head when it comes to these semi-obscure records. In this case, I was just reading along with the extensive documentation that came with the box set. Many times I consult Professor Google. My point-of-view is that I love this material and I enjoy spreading the word. Some of you might enjoy the stuff too.
Sunday, July 21, 2019
One of the great lessons of classic fairy tales is that very often the last person that you might expect turns out to be the perfect person for the job. Of the King's four sons, three are highly accomplished and respected far and wide, but the fourth son appears to be a talentless simpleton. Guess who becomes the next King and makes a fabulous success of it? Right! The simp! It turns out that the three high achieving brothers are too wrapped up in their chosen fields. They can no longer see the “forest,” because they are so wrapped up in the “trees.” The simpleton lacks focus, but he can see the entire forest; he can clearly see everything at once. He is the generalist that the kingdom needs to thrive. You can take your own moral from that lesson, but today I'm here to propose that history will view D.J. Trump as the perfect front man for the plan that is now being brought to fruition by the ruling cabal in America. The plan being to install themselves, the super-rich, as the sole and permanent rulers of the United States.
What I mean by the “super-rich” might need some explanation. That would be the top of the top of wealth holders in America. The buy-in is in the billions somewhere, where exactly is not important. I don't include corporate entities, because, whatever you may have heard to the contrary, corporations have no personal reality. They are simply a manifestation of their human owners, the super-rich. (You may own some stock, or even a lot of stock, in corporations, but that does not give you any meaningful ownership interest. You exist to be cheated out of your shares when the super-rich decide that the time is right.)
Rest assured that Trump is just a stooge in this plan. The super-rich will get rid of him when the time comes, consigning him to either bankruptcy court or prison, or maybe some foreign exile. He's not in on the joke, and the real billionaires are cynically using him because he is the perfect cover for the real plan. As I am sure that you have noticed, for almost the last four years all of the news cycles have been focused almost exclusively on whatever stupid shit Trump said yesterday, featuring photos or videos of Trump looking fifty shades of preposterous. Comedians tell jokes; opposition politicians prevaricate and feign outrage; social media is clearly divided between outrage against Trump or dumb-struck admiration for Trump, with no room for any notice of the other changes that are taking place. People, pundits, public intellectuals, bloggers, YouTubers, news presenters, and others warn of the dangers that face our whole form of government, but none of it seems to get any traction. During this entire time, our new form of administration has been taking shape as each of the power centers of our government has been remade to suit the needs of the super-rich.
None of this started with Trump, of course. Must I recap everything leading up to this moment? It started with Nixon; Reagan is still the poster boy. Some tax cuts here, some deregulation there. We wake up these days in a country where education no longer educates American children for anything but useless standardized tests, and a university degree is much harder than it has previously been to attain, unless you have the do-re-mi and a fine pedigree. Congress, both parties, do only what they are told, save for a few heroic individuals who only get eviscerated for their trouble. The courts are manned mostly by stooges. Even the Supreme Court has been bulldozed, with Gorsuch getting the seat that was stolen from Merrick Garland and Kennedy being forced out to make way for Kavanaugh. We are surrounded by fifty kinds of militarized police, and everything has been criminalized. God help the Millennials, who are at the mercy of the gig economy, living doubled and tripled up in lousy apartments with few possessions to slow them down when they are forced to move. Private prisons anyone? Leasing out prisoners for day-work that they do not get paid for? World's highest rate of incarceration? Sentences of several hundred years for drug crimes? (What do you get for murder now? Four-hundred-and-nineteen years!) Concentration camps? Separating immigrant families and then “losing” the children? Abrogating treaties around the world for no apparent reason? Is that enough?
If you think about it too much, you may wish to join a peaceful demonstration or something, but I don't recommend it. You might get arrested and charged with rioting! Get your ass thrown in prison for ten years. Lose your house and savings to the “fines,” or be billed for damage done by some judgment-proof anarchists who really were rioting, but who were not caught and who have no money anyway. Besides, the anarchists serve a political purpose, whereas you are just a malcontent who won't get with the program.
The stage was almost set with the Bush II v. Gore fiasco, but the gang of idiots around W. Bush screwed it all up and put everything behind schedule. Not to worry, it all worked to the clampdown's advantage. Hope and Change put a black man in the White House for eight years and society began to scream for relief from the chaotic excitement of democracy. “Please God!” America begged, “deliver us unto certainty!” Social changes; technological changes; demographic changes; what's a poor bourgeois fathead to do!!! Why, surrender to fascism, of course. Surrender, hell, beg for it! Be careful what you wish for.
And into that terrible moment stepped the people's savior, a failed businessman turned reality TV host who had nothing to recommend him for the job of president, but who did have one great skill in abundance: a supreme talent for self-promotion. Since he entered the political arena in 2015, Trump has dominated all forms of media in all dimensions, every day. Even before taking office, the real forces of the clampdown were busy dismantling what was left of American democracy. During the past two and a half years, the work of the previous two centuries has been largely swept away. The damage may be irreparable by now. We'll see what happens next year, but hey, you tell me, do I sound optimistic?
Sure, a Democrat might take the presidency next year, but we've all seen how much good that does. I'm on record as believing that they don't really care enough to be of much help, and they may, in fact, be losing on purpose as part of the master plan of the super-rich. They're the ones with the money, don't you know, and the Democrats like money as much as anybody.
Trump has been a wonderful tool for destruction, but what follows will be different, one way or another. If we are lucky, it will lean more heavily on smiles and businesslike efficiency than bluster, threats, and fear mongering. That might be more efficient. Or it may be a dystopia of misery. Terrible things will happen either way, and no deviation from pious patriotism will be tolerated, and there will be enough suffering to keep people in line, but wouldn't people be more manageable if there were big screen TVs, Netflix, and weed? My guess is that there will also be universal health care, only because it makes so much financial sense. Freedom and real prosperity will continue to fade into oblivion, but some measure of life-security may exist, for a little while. Just when we're getting used to it, climate change will hit with full force, and none of it will have mattered anyway.
The apocalypse will be televised, but only in the beginning.
Thursday, July 18, 2019
Slate is reporting on a potentially dangerous heatwave now sweeping the east coast of the United States. Now, my memory is fine, and I can tell you that a brutal heatwave in July is not exactly an “alert the media” moment for that area. I grew up there, and you could be sure of few real scorchers during June, July, and August every year. Temperatures over a hundred anyway. We were used to it. Maybe it's different now, because of all of that newfangled air-conditioning. Maybe people are spoiled. Anyway, Slate offered some advice about how to handle the heat. It was a good start.
The article advises sufferers to drink a lot of water, stay out of the sun, and stay in air-conditioning as much as possible. To that I would add that people should walk very, very slowly, remaining in the shade if at all possible. Also, don't be embarrassed to deploy an umbrella to create some shade where there is none. Get one of those reflecting umbrellas if you can find one. If you can't find the reflecting ones, start a business selling them. They're about to become popular items as the world nears its burning-point.
Most of these instructions will not affect the behavior of New Yorkers, of which I was one. Take, for example, the suggestion that people walk more slowly. New Yorkers will continue to average five miles-per-hour, as usual, up to the point of dropping in their tracks from the heat. They have places to go, and don't get in their way.
Drink a lot of water? It's not always possible to find a bathroom in New York, so that's a big maybe not. New Yorkers practice “tactical dehydration,” like fighter pilots on long missions, to avoid the need to urinate. Here's another tip that you can try though. Buy a bottle of cold water and pour half of it over your shoulders. If it's hot enough, your shirt will be dry again pretty soon, and then you can pour the other half over yourself.
Dehydration can be very dangerous. It leads to symptoms that mimic oxygen deprivation. Like hallucinations and dizziness. Safely navigating a day in New York is hard enough without picking your way through hallucinations.
Here's a helpful tip that the Peace Corps shares with its volunteers in tropical countries: if you don't have to urinate right this second, you ain't drinking enough water. They told us that we should be drinking water more or less constantly. If it's hot enough, you still won't have to worry about finding a bathroom. You'll sweat it out.
Good luck, everybody! Thanks to the climate change routine, summers will be hotter, winters will be colder, and storms during the entire year will be more severe. And, if that weren't exciting enough, soon we'll be hitting the dreaded “tipping point,” and no one knows what will happen then. To my New York friends, take heart! It could be worse! Instead of suffering in New York, you could be suffering in Philadelphia.
This is a lovely bit of deep YouTubing. Tina at the beginning of her stardom, and Ike and the gang in a particularly playful mood. Nice job, fellows and girls.
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
There is an article in the paper this morning about a black woman who thought that it would be interesting to ask white men straight out what were their thoughts about white privilege. From the tone and vocabulary of the article she appears to be an academic of some kind. She wondered, how would the answers differ in real-life settings from the typical answers in social science experiments? I didn't read the article.
I didn't skip it for lack of interest, but I have grown tired of white people's typical responses to such questions. Many white people just deny that there is such a thing, which is ridiculous on its face. Others who will allow that white privilege may exist claim that they have never benefited from it. This is also ridiculous. These are the reasons that I'm tired of reading about it, because they just make us all look bad, we white people.
I couldn't help thinking about what my own answer would be. My first challenge was deciding how different my answer would be if the questioner were black or white. The questioner in this case would be a black woman of the academic persuasion, so I'm pretty sure that my answer would tend towards the apologetic to some degree, with a touch of exculpation. If the questioner were white, I would tend more towards the educational type of response.
The existence of white privilege is beyond dispute. Let's face it, it's right there in front of us, big as life, still functioning every day like a well-oiled machine. Every day, in thousands of ways, there are distinct benefits that accrue to white people. Applying for jobs; shopping in retail outlets; enjoying public facilities like parks or pools; dealing with government entities or, God forbid, police; entering public buildings or elevators; or even entering the building that you live in; you're experience is greatly enhanced by being white. Your personal security is greatly enhanced. This is white privilege, and like it or not, you're stuck with it.
My personal feelings about white privilege include a certain amount of relief, certainly, because the possession of an advantage requires one to be somewhat grateful. I am thankful, for instance, that I need not fear for my life upon being pulled over for a traffic violation. (Not unless I start shooting my mouth off, anyway. White privilege is a rebuttable presumption.) My feelings also include, however, a good deal of embarrassment and even some resentment. Why, pray tell?
It's embarrassing because the very existence of such a thing is a constant reminder that humanity is still much closer to the mud than to enlightenment. White privilege is proof that human society, the whole of it, remains largely an ignorant exercise, tribal in character, lacking in common sense and human decency, and markedly primitive. Don't let your iPhone and your fancy clothes fool you, you damned dirty ape.
I resent white privilege because a) I hate it; and b) I have no choice but to accept it. It exists, even though I had no vote in the matter, and I benefit, whether I like it or not.
And here's the resentment that I hate the most. Because it exists, and because I benefit from it, anyone who does not enjoy white privilege looks at me with hostility and resentment to one extent or another. They can't avoid it altogether, and many feel the hostility and resentment with great vigor. White privilege exists because white people have spent the last millennium dominating non-white people by violence and exploiting their labor and their resources with great ruthlessness. This pattern continues today, although now generally disguised with a smile and self-described “good intentions.” Imagine the fury, indignation, and hilarity with which black Americans must greet assertions that America is now a “post racial” society where people rise or fall on their own merit, regardless of race. That, dear reader, is poppycock, notwithstanding the existance of a dignified, successful, black two-term ex-president.
So I cheerfully admit that my own feelings about white privilege are ambiguous. I grudgingly accept the benefits, but mostly I find the entire concept distasteful.
The failing New York Times is good for some things besides spreading fake news about our fabulous president. (Sarcasm alert.) For instance, there was a lovely article in their Sunday magazine recently about a fire ten years ago at a storage facility for music master tapes. The article is highly recommended for patient music fans with time on their hands. (It comes in at about 10,000 words.)
The Day the Music Burned, by Jody Rosen, published some time in June, 2019. I'm sure that you can still find it somewhere. It's the definitive article about an important subject, so it will be around for years.
Of course it's terrible when masters for top stars are destroyed, but "top stars" are almost always identified by the money that they made for the company. Mr. Rosen is sensitive enough to notice that many real musical treasures do not make a dime for anyone, and in fact they may disappear without being heard by more than a couple of dozen people. This record by Don Bennett is Rosen's example of a record whose master was lost in the fire, and whose existence is now dependent on the loving care of the few record collectors who possess a copy of the vinyl release.
I could go on, but that's enough to outline the problem. It's impossible to win the fight to preserve the entire cultural patrimony of the world, whether it is Buddha statues in Afghanistan or silent movies or recorded music. It's the same for the world as it is for us as individuals: one way or another, you lose all of your shit in the end. I was lucky. I lost all of my shit in a divorce, sparing myself the trauma of a big fire or the embarrassment of having ungrateful family throw it all away after I died. I've always been a lucky guy.