Saturday, August 31, 2019
Nice to see Ubu still doing quality work. They've been at it almost fifty years now, counting precursor bands. I had a strange look on my face listening to this one. I didn't look, but I could feel it. I think that I can still feel it. And I think the brother's right.
Friday, August 30, 2019
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.