Policy, Theoretically   (2017Sep27)


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Wednesday, September 27, 2017                                              3:24 PM

Policy, Theoretically   (2017Sep27)

Trump spouts an endless stream of lies, hate-speech, willful obtuseness, and the rhetoric of a school-yard bully (or is it ‘a junk-yard dog’?) yet the media displays these assaults on our society, these insults to our intelligence—then they turn around and talk about the ‘Administration’s policies’, discussing them as if they were ‘thought-out’, or ‘a settled matter’—neither of which is ever the case.

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To talk of a Trump policy is to posit a theoretical—unless we count ‘a pompous attitude and suppressed rage’ as a policy stance. Look at health care (ignoring the GOP for the moment—which, trust me, is the best you can do for them at this point). Trump’s office has never specified a single item of detail on health-care legislation—and Trump has never said anything on the subject that he hasn’t contradicted in some video archive somewhere. He has blamed specific people for his failure. He has attacked his opposition (everybody?) for thinking there is anything good in Obamacare. But positive input? No, Trump doesn’t play that.

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Now everyone is discussing tax reform—referring to Trump on this or that point—but Trump, being pointless, simply functions as a screen for GOP wealthy-donor pandering. He’ll say stuff (My god—as if this overgrown lap-dog could ever stop his yapping!) but it won’t have any bearing on anything besides himself.

The GOP will try to publicly reconcile their overall stinginess with their generosity towards the fat-cat donors, in statements that will push bamboozlement to new heights—but it’ll all be so much bullshit. Nothing new there—except perhaps the new, raw, nakedness of the GOP’s pandering to the wealthy, counter to any public-opinion-poll that shows 98% of citizens wanting the opposite. The wealthy, IMHO, are painting themselves into a corner. When there are only a dozen of them, and ten billion starving outside their mansion walls, what will their money be worth then?

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Alas, we are ruled by people who specialize in winning campaign fights—a mark against them, if anything. Look at HRC—woulda made a great leader—but she lacked Trump’s capacity for hypocrisy and bullshit. It was never about which would make a better president—lucky for Rockhead Man.

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Denial   (2017Jun09)


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Friday, June 09, 2017                                               10:35 PM

During the Depression, it became obvious that business owners were a threat to the equality of the workers—but with the Red Scare, we managed to deny that—and denying that business owners are a threat is a founding pillar of the Republican platform to this day. When Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a new awareness came to the public—an awareness that what we do, and the waste we produce doing it, and the poisons we use doing it—has an effect on the places where we live.

Even as we busied ourselves, learning to throw our trash into receptacles (instead of on the ground)—chemical and petroleum companies began to push back on the idea of ecology—denying that our use of natural resources could have any ill-effect on the Earth—or that resources would ever run out. And climate-change-denial is still a part of the Republican platform, as well.

It was different in the past, when big money and big business had an understanding ear in the GOP—now, it seems more as if the fat cats outright own the GOP—lock, stock, and ethics. The masses of people who overlooked the favoritism of the entitled for the promise of conservative, unchanging security—they have become dupes of those who would make great change—and most of it retrogression or partisanship. And now they have a crazy man in charge—it may take time, but they will come to see him as a dangerous man.

So many of our political footballs carry within them some sort of denial on at least one side of the argument—right-to-lifers deny that legal abortion is better than illegal abortion—climate-change-deniers ignore the preponderance of both scientific authority and evidence—marijuana-haters deny the probability that pot has many medicinal uses—gun-nuts deny that the ubiquity of guns has any connection to our sky-high murder rate—it goes on and on.

And these people have their arguments, their points-of-view—but seem, in the end, to simply deny something which they are uncomfortable accepting as part of their reality. I can sympathize—but I still think they’re wasting their own—and everyone else’s—time.

Improv – Woods Trails

Improv – High Notes

Bach – Prelude in C (with Improv)

Satie – Gnossienne (with Improv)

Improv – Maelstrom

 

ttfn.

I’m Already There (2017Feb13)


Monday, February 13, 2017                                             7:11 PM

Actively dysfunctional—is that a thing? Do some people go through life thinking that their job is to screw everything up? Is it possible that people realize the fragility of the status quo—and some are actively making it as bad as possible? I mean, you wouldn’t think so, would you?—because it wouldn’t make any sense at all. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

People do lots of disruptive things—and for a wealth of rationales: to strike back at ‘authority’ (whatever ‘authority’ may mean to the disruptor—and whoever is picked as its representative)—or simply to feel empowered by being capable of disruption—or to use disruption as a diversion for something else that won’t bear close scrutiny.

This is something I don’t think a lot about. I’m overly earnest in thought and deed. It would never occur to me to kick over an apple-cart, because that would just mean someone had to pick up all the apples. I’m all about cooperation and efficiency—thinking otherwise, for me, is a trip across the line into insanity—but I’ve come to recognize that we all have our own sanity. Just because I can’t think of a reason to put a knife between my ribs doesn’t mean no one else is thinking about it.

Surely you have wondered, like I do, how we can reconcile the incredible powers of communication, where people from twenty distant parts of the globe can interact as if in the same room, with a globe that is such a shit-storm—how can this be? How can we have reached a point where we can do momentous things, as if by magic, but we don’t do any of them—because of the rules we’ve set up? What crimes do we commit against each other in our enslavement to Capitalism? Beyond poisoning the planet, that is—I’ll leave out the obvious.

I’ll grant you the fact that imposing order is easy if you don’t care about people’s rights or feelings, and a just organizational plan is far more complicated than trying to rule the world by fiat—but with modern organizational tools and our ability to transport materials and communicate with each other, it remains a mystery how we could be so shoddily led by our government, or all the world’s other governments, for that matter, absent a tremendous lack of will—or possibly even intentional disruption. I’d like someone to explain to me how we can make progress in every avenue—except that which makes government more efficient and transparent, life less scary, or people less helpless.

The whole world sits around while Aleppo is bombed into rumble, for years on end—and yet the whole of the world’s nations can’t summon the will to defy those two or three countries for whom all the deaths and blood and suffering are part of some cold calculation of power and profit. We have the technology to watch the whole thing on TV, in real time—but we act like it’s fucking Twain’s weather—everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it.

And when the helpless women and children come crawling from the ashes—do we spring into action then? Oh no—those people are a threat—they might blow us all up at any minute. Let’em suffer.

I tell you—I wrote a blog the other day about how I am still embarrassed to be white—but I think it’s becoming more pervasive than that—I’m about to become ashamed to be an American. Too late—I’m already there.

I’m still in love with the idea, the history, the memory, and the dream of America—but I’m living in a country I don’t recognize—a country where hate and fear have become, somehow, popular—popular enough for them to elect a modern incarnation of Hitler. Truth itself—and Science, are both under attack by forces that can only be bent on disruption. America may recover some day—I haven’t given up—but I still don’t know how we got here—so how will we ever get back? It’ll take more than a twitter-war.

You think Trump is crazy now? Just wait until they try to tell him his term is over.

thought

Last Licks   (2016Nov04)


Friday, November 04, 2016                                              2:53 PM

Tuesday is Election Day. Hopefully, this will be the last time I write about Trump. Even if this country’s voters are sane enough to elect Hillary on Tuesday, in future I will be writing about Hillary and all of her many obstructionist opponents—but I will happily ignore his name for the rest of time. Once the danger of seeing that expletive-deleted man-child elected president has passed, a lot of the urgency will be gone.

I was always going to vote for Hillary. Way before Trump announced, I trusted Hillary as much as I would trust any politician. She is respected by people I respect. Her life story and her curriculum vitae are impressive, without any regard for gender. Finally, her job experience is as close to ‘presidential trainee’ as you could get if you had planned it.

But as the election went on, it became clear that the most important reason to elect Hillary Clinton was to make sure we don’t elect Trump. At this point, if Hillary wins, all the great things she will do will all be gravy—she will have already saved the country, the economy, the environment, and the planet—simply by beating Trump. Oh, and we’ll finally have a woman president—something her opponents would like us all to forget.

Choosing our first president from that half of the citizenry, the half that has had the vote for a just shy of a century, is no small thing. We like to think we live in a post-racial, post-misogynist culture—but we don’t. Bias is not so easily banished. And gender bias is the most intractable. Electing Hillary is as important because she is a woman, as it is because she is Hillary Rodham Clinton—and it matters to every little girl (and boy) in this country because of the example it sets.

Even a President Hillary would still have a Congress of mostly males, a Cabinet of mostly males—as in business, the higher up the chain you go, the less women you find. That’s no accident—and that’s not women’s fault. Chauvinism is alive and well—Hillary’s election won’t end it, any more than Barack’s ended racism—but it’s a darn good start.

The Republicans, and their Faux News channel, describe Hillary as the worst person that ever lived—but if even part of what they’re saying had any facts behind it, you wouldn’t see the First Family trying so hard to get her elected. And remember, Obama is a guy who does what’s right, even when it’s not politically smart. Many Faux News stories are laughed at outright by more level-headed journalists—and, in my opinion, even the anti-Hillary rhetoric with some grounding in truth is overblown to the point of unrecognizability.

In trying to make her quite-human lapses seem equal in horror to the monster running for their team, the Right have made themselves ridiculous—and dangerous. If this country had a lick of sense, the Democrats would run the entire ballot, up and down—the Democrats would screw it up, of course, but they would get some things right. The Republicans have gone so far to the right that they don’t even hew to American ideals any longer—and their policies are just their way of turning the country into a for-profit business. That goes beyond opposition, all the way to treason, if you ask me. And it doesn’t help that they nominated an ignoramus who makes Bush-43 look like a gosh-darned genius.

But there is the great conundrum all of us are faced with—do we want a guy who doesn’t read the paper—or a woman who has made the news the papers write about? Yeah, I can see why this election is so close….

Today’s video is called Kindergarten because it was played while I was remembering my own kindergarten days. They’re pretty thin memories, at sixty, but those early experiences are so full of emotion that they seem to retain their impact, even when they degrade into shards and flashes.

Thanks, GOP   (2016Oct28)


Friday, October 28, 2016                                         2:43 PM

Ten days left in the election and the FBI announces it’s re-opening its investigation into Hillary’s emails. That doesn’t seem the least bit partisan, does it? It seems Hillary Clinton did not break the law by using a private server—so they have to go after her for misusing her private server. And even that didn’t turn up any great catastrophe—so they had to let it go. Now, they’re just messing around, trying to throw cold water on her campaign at the last minute. But, sure—the Democrats are rigging things.

Bernie said it best: “Can we just forget about the damn emails?” Hillary hasn’t been Secretary of State for four years now—if her private server was putting America at risk, it was then, not now. And no evidence has yet been produced showing she did anything seriously damaging, four years ago. Yes, we can keep looking into it—but it is old news, unless you have an undying desire to destroy Hillary Clinton. After all this time, and all this investigating, with no results—to re-open the case ten days before the election is pure politics.

But that’s par for the course of this election season. A disgusting egotist gets more respect than he deserves—and a fine leader gets mud thrown at her. Show me one decent thing that Trump has ever done—you can’t, because he’s lived a life of self-absorption. Now he wants to save America from itself—yeah, right. Did you hear him talking about ‘ghettos’ today? Yes, he’s seventy—hell, I’m sixty—I’ve heard the word—we used it (improperly) in the sixties. But nobody uses it now. See, Donald doesn’t get it—yes, anyone can become president—but only if you’re qualified to be president—otherwise, no sensible person would vote for you.

Lucky for Donald there are so few sensible people in this country. He’s still got a shot at this thing. Can you believe that? He should have never won the primary—Republicans, I’m talking to you. How did a TV entertainer out-campaign your best and brightest? How did you nominate possibly the only person who could lose to Hillary, after all the years of trash-talk you’ve all laid on her? With the media so eager to follow every red-herring you dream up about the ‘horrors of Hillary’, you’ve got most of the country seeing her as an evil witch, instead of the competent leader she actually is. Only one problem.

By turning your base into deluded crazies, you set the stage for this idiot. But he’s such an enormous douche that Hillary has a chance to climb out of the hole you’ve dug for her. I hope you’re happy. I know I will be, when Hillary takes the oath of office. Thanks, GOP.

 

P.S.  Hey, people are talking about a post-election revolution. Yeah, good luck with that. Plenty of Second Amendment folks are voting for Hillary—so if you start shooting, they’ll be shooting back, believe you me. And they are not cowards, afraid to let Muslims or Mexicans find a place in this great land—or afraid of you idiots, either. So come ahead—just remember, if you think ISIS is scary, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

*****

Okay—Now—today’s video includes a life-study that Claire drew last night. She’s really going to town on this art stuff. In the middle I put baby pictures from our new granddaughter. I also played a Rodgers & Hart cover: “Where or When” in the middle of improvising. So this is a kind of patchwork performance. Hope you like:

Book Review: “The Sound of Time: A Novel” by Julian Barnes (2016Jun03)


Friday, June 03, 2016                                               11:37 PM

Friday’s here—and just as I often don’t get fully awake before noon, I feel like I’m just getting warmed up whenever the end of the week rolls around. Old and in poor health is no way to suck the marrow from life. But I find I have company, or rather, competition.

That is to say that I’ve just finished reading Julian Barnes’ excellent historical novel, “The Noise of Time: A Novel”, touching on the life of Dmitri Shostakovich—a Russian composer of the Soviet era, and a favorite of mine since my early teens. I clearly remember mentioning the name to my mother one day, mispronouncing it, and being surprised that she corrected my pronunciation of his name—firstly because I realized he was famous enough for my mother to know his name, and secondly because I had been enamored of his music for months, while saying his name wrong (I had been thinking of him as Shos-TOCK-ovich!)

The Russians take pride in their deep sadness—as an American, I’ll never get that, but I get it, kind of. Masochism, irony, and melancholy are tools I have used myself in defense against a dysfunctional reality. But my life, and my troubles, are of an American smallness, in comparison to Barnes’ description of the living hell Shostakovich found himself in. He was a sensitive composer trapped in Stalin’s Russia, forced to publicly denounce his own works, and the works of his hero, Stravinsky—and other close friends and respected musicians; in danger for years from ideologues and politicians trying to ferret out disloyalty, even in thoughts and feelings, especially among artists—and even more especially in composers who had achieved global fame.

The book reminded me of the stories I heard about Soviet Russians living in terror of anonymous squads who came and took them in the night, often never to be seen again—and about the ideological tyranny that deposed aesthetics as the yardstick against which their art was ‘measured’—and sometimes condemned, along with the artist’s life.

Stalin’s rule, up to 1953, was so bloody that upon his death and the ascension of Khrushchev, it was said that ‘the Soviet had become vegetarian’. Although it may be more proper to say that the Soviet ceased to be cannibalistic, since Stalin’s machine had been devouring his own people. And Shostakovich was apparently a pretty nervous fellow—at the height of the pseudo-ideological criticisms of his music, he spent every night, for weeks, waiting at the elevator to be taken away by the KGB so that they wouldn’t have to burst into his apartment and drag him away in front of his wife and child. Barnes writes that Dmitri was just one of many people who observed this nighttime ritual during the terror known as Stalin’s Cult of Personality. Shostakovich’s life was one horror show after another—and it didn’t help that he was fairly well-off, compared to the average Soviet Russian—that just gave him more to lose.

As a boy, my favorite of his works was the last movement of his fifth symphony—but as I matured, I learned to prefer the rest of the symphony. According to Barnes’ story, Shostakovich was forced to add the final ‘triumphal’ movement to the symphony because the foregoing movements were so unremittingly ‘pessimistic’—and so he composed the final movement ironically. To my callow ears, and to the politburo, it sounded glorious (which saved Shostakovich’s life, and career)—but as my tastes matured I came to find the last movement somehow brash and ugly, and prefer the music that comes before—and now I know why, I suppose. Much is made in the book of the fact that when confronted with brainless tyranny, the only safe rebellion is in irony—but that irony over time gets lost in itself.

This book is no happy story, but it is something perhaps better—a fascinating story about strange and awful truths, and the horrendous lies that hide them, for a time at least. I have long since given up hope of finding in great artists’ lives any kind of reflection or explanation of the exaltation of their creations—but this book actually matches up the bleakness heard in most of his music with the day-to-day life of its composer. I read it in one sitting—something I’m only pushed into nowadays by irresistibly good writing and an enthralling story.

Barnes quotes Shakespeare at one point, mentioning that his Sonnet LXVI resonated with the artists of Soviet Russia, particularly the line, “And art made tongue-tied by authority”. I had to go look at the whole poem and I am struck, not for the first time, by how apropos Shakespeare always is, no matter how modern we think we have become:

  Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,

  As to behold desert a beggar born,

  And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity,

  And purest faith unhappily forsworn,

  And gilded honour shamefully misplac’d,

  And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,

  And right perfection wrongfully disgrac’d,

  And strength by limping sway disabled

  And art made tongue-tied by authority,

  And folly—doctor-like—controlling skill,

  And simple truth miscall’d simplicity,

  And captive good attending captain ill:

     Tir’d with all these, from these would I be gone,

     Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

(Shakespeare, William (2011-03-24). Shakespeare’s Sonnets (p. 132).  . Kindle Edition.)

I love that line about “And folly—doctor-like—controlling skill,”—geniuses so often appear to fools as people who need to be ‘cured’, or at the very least, ‘corrected’. The poem as a whole is fitting for a Shostakovich biographical novel—he too was often tempted by thoughts of suicide, harried by the ubiquitous surplus of malevolent injustice crowding every aspect of his life.

That’s my take on the book—-lacking a segue, here’s two improvs from earlier today–hope you like them:

 

 

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Improv Poetry   (2015Jul06)


Monday, July 06, 2015                                             3:37 PM

I have two kinds of improvs—ones that I just sit down and do, and ones that I think about beforehand. Today I did both. When I improvise on the piano, I have one rule—if it sounds like someone else’s music—stop doing that. I’ll gladly copy a chord progression or something general like that, but if I’m not being original, I’m not really improvising, am I? I even go so far as to try not to repeat myself—though to listen to my stuff, you’d find that hard to believe. Still I maintain that, technically, no matter how many times I play one-four-five chord progressions or circle-of-fifths, I’m always trying to do it differently in some way.

Oddly, you can do a lot of different stuff in music without changing the overall sound of what you do. And that’s a shame for me because if my music showed half the invention and exploration I put into it, it wouldn’t sound nearly so monotonous.

Today’s improvs get ‘poems’ to go with them:

Freedom

We don’t call Freedom chaos but it is

Unless there is some self-control involved.

We’re free from someone else’s stupid rules—

That doesn’t mean we do whatever we want.

Freedom lets us have our own opinions

But preference isn’t purpose—think what you want

But do the right thing.

Exercise USA

 

Let’s all do the exer-blues—ankle-weights and running shoes—

Fancy pants, expensive trainer—fat-to-lose, or muscle-gainer—

Sweat to Eighties—leotards, ladies—pumpin’ Ahnolds—compress Hots/Colds…

When you’re young your springs ain’t sprung—

You learn to swim and go to gym.

Them was the days—a half-remembered haze.

You’ve been retired.

Now get inspired.