Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Greatest Songs of All-Time (Clownsilly YouTube Fun Zone)

Mark Morrison-"Return of the Mack"

I am headed to Minneapolis City Hall tomorrow to make this my official theme song. I want it to accompany my entrance into resaurants, supermarkets and book stores, as well as being blasted on a loud speaker hoisted above my house when I get up in the morning.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bach's Face

A fascinating and exhaustively documented website from a lecture given by Teri Noel Towe on "The Face of Bach". Despite the author's lapsing into long, uncomfortable personal asides, great stuff. Detailed comparisons of purported portraits and drawings of master along with photos of his skull taken during a 1895 exhumation. Tow lists the main physiognomical characteristics of Bach:
1. A massive skull,
2. A receding forehead,
3. drooping eyelids, particularly over the right eye,
4. shallow eye-sockets,
5. unusual asymmetry of the eyes,
6. predominantly blue color of the eyes, and
7. protruding jaw and double chin.

After a personal examination of the portraits and skeleton of Johann Sebastian Bach's, I, no expert on physiognomicalities, conclude that "the greatest composer of all-time", creator of some of the most transcendent art in history, could best be characterized as "a cock-eyed fatty".

Comforting, in a way.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Nietzsche On His Death Bed

From what I've read, I can say I'm not the biggest Nietzsche fan. Still, while pouring through Greek literature over the last few months I must say that I've enjoyed reading his writings on Homer and Hesiod and Classical civilization in general; He's a very lively read.
Also very entertaining are his so-called "letters of insanity" he wrote towards the end. They, and most other items of Nietzsche interest can be found on this great site.
Here's a great one he wrote to Cosima Wagner 1889; Apparently he took to sending her strange love notes at this time (addressing them to 'Ariadne' and signing them either Dionysus or 'The Crucified'):
To Princess Ariadne, My Beloved.

It is a mere prejudice that I am a human being. Yet I have often enough dwelled among human beings and I know the things human beings experience, from the lowest to the highest. Among the Hindus I was Buddha, in Greece Dionysus—Alexander and Caesar were incarnations of me, as well as the poet of Shakespeare, Lord Bacon. Most recently I was Voltaire and Napoleon, perhaps also Richard Wagner ... However, I now come as Dionysus victorious, who will prepare a great festival on Earth ... Not as though I had much time ... The heavens rejoice to see me here ... I also hung on the cross ..

For all the hubbub surrounding Nietzsche, his abuse at the hands of fascists, post-structuralists and fans of Nine Inch Nails, what comes through most in what I've read, and in even in the letters of his corroded mind are his buoyant humor. Watch the haunting film above of Nietzsche before his death. Silently staring on his death bed, mind elsewhere. At the end of the clip he looks right into the camera and your eyes and grins like a satyr.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Post-Thanksgiving Rehabiltation Mode: Begun

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Heartwarming Message


Material things I'm thankful for...
Greatest Songs of All-Time (YouTube YouTube YouTube)

Donald Fagen-"Snowbound" (directed by Michel Gondry)

"To read a book early in the morning, at daybreak in the vigor and dawn of one's own strength-this is sheer viciousness!-"

-Friedrich Nietzsche (Ecce Homo)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Greatest Songs of All-Time (A YouTube Series of Videos of Songs I Don't Think Are the "Greatest" But Rather Songs I Somewhat Like For Being Amazing, Good, Bad, Silly or Wacky)

Haircut 100-"Love Plus One"
Sympathy for the K-Man

This will go down as one of the most bizarre and awkward events in television history.
I have to be honest and say I sort of feel bad for Richards. Seeing the video I kind of understand what he was doing-turning the tables on the idiots who were heckling him and talking (of whatever race). Going off in a rage, he said nasty things for an effect. Even so, racism is impossible to defend. It seems less evidence of a true racist human being having a nervous breakdown than a lame attempt at "shock" humor in the confines of an embarassing loss of control on stage.
I must also say that I've heard from people who have worked with Richards (stand-up comedians mostly) that's he's a bad stand-up and a dick too. So-perhaps he sort of deserves all this. I don't know.

Finally, I should admit that the reason I feel the most sympathy for Michael Richards is that this exact same thing happened to me when I did the toast at my sister's wedding. Let's just say me and my sister's co-worker Elgin Hughes won't ever be on very good terms again!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Greatest Songs of All-Time (Clownsilly YouTube Fun Zone)

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony: "Tha Crossroads".

Hell yes.
I have been in the process of arranging a cover for this song in my head for the last month. Most touching line: "Why did they kill my dog and man I miss my Uncle Charles, ya'll".
This is most definitely the best music video that has been posted yet. I remember watching this video over and over again in my youth when it came out. I was in 5th grade. Like most other affluent white grade school children this was the video that tipped me off to the 90s horrible glossed over trend of inner-city black men randomly being vaporized in broad day light for no apparent reason.
Watching it again now at age 20 I am also comforted that in heaven Easy-E still wears the 1991 Baseball cap of the Chicago White-Sox.
Book Meme

My first "Blog Meme", which finally qualifies me as an "Average Blogger". The other qualifications: Selfishness, Loneliness, Obligatory Use of Puns For Post Titles, etc.

A Book That Changed Your Life:
The Turner Diaries. I read it and knew that my life of taking down the Government to provoke the coming race war would never be the same.

A Book You've Read More Than Once:
Flaubert's Madame Bovary. The second tme you read it you are slightly in awe of the famous coldness of Flaubert's construction. He's like a long-gone deity who sets up a world to let it play itself out until destruction. A beautiful and disturbing novel.

A Book I Would Take With Me On a Desert Island:
Most likely some Spinoza or Lucretius for atheistic comfort in facing death. I would bring The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, but as it's been hypothetically brought so many times by the 99% of people who answer this question, I'm sure there is a copy lying in some underbrush somewhere.

A Book That Made Me Laugh:
Recently: Letters of Cosima Wagner. They are hilarious for how completely awful a human being she was.

A Book I Wish I Had Written:
Origin of the Species. Darwin still has my vote, along with many scientists and scholars (so there!) of being the most important human being in history.

A Book I Wish Had Never Been Written:
The Complete Poems of Charles Bukowski.

A Book I've Been Meaning to Read:
After finishing the Odyssey and Hesiod I will be moving onto Herodotus. Fun, I know.

I'm Currently Reading:
The Odyssey (Homer), Egypt Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean (Charles Freeman), The Operas of Richard Wagner (Ernest Newman), Antony and Cleopatra (William Shakespeare).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Honk If You Love Pitch Class Cycles!

Mark Guerrieri, in reference to the Boston Conservatory's New Music Festival use of the above on posters promoting the concerts wonders:

Do you think a bumper sticker of that on your car would result in more traffic tickets, or fewer?

Fewer; Rather, it will lead to quieter and shorter car crashes, in which all the intensity of a bloody accident is contained in the way your Honda Accord's bumper melds pianissimo with the Nissan XTerra's, and the silent enigmatic stares and quick spiny words you parley with the driver of the other vehicle.
Then, after exchanging insurance information, you will walk strictly backwards to your car while he uses inverted posture to spin back to his.
Strange as it seems, your accident will be copied and abused for the next couple decades, and considered "the only way to have a car accident" by the local pharisees.

UPDATE: Mark provides an excellent amendment in the comments section.
Greatest Songs of All-Time (YouTube Series of Fun No.232904H)

The Police-"Everything She Does is Magic".
This song is in my estimation, immensely dope. Unfortunately, the video has bad sound which is a problem as this song is produced so well. The music video itself though mostly sucks (Sting and company dancing around and doing the whole "we are in an African village and have found common ground with the Natives" thing. This video has spawned many Cultural Studies dissertations I'm sure.).
Malachi Ritscher

An interesting though typically overwritten piece from the abominable Pitchfork Reviews website on the sad demise of Malachi Ritscher, the Chicago based avant-garde musician/engineer/activist who burned himself to death in protest of the Iraq war.
The main question the article poses is 'whether it was an important act of political protest or the tragic end of a mentally ill person'. It was probably both.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Greatest Songs of All-Time (A Hyperbolically Titled Youtube Extravaganza

Van Morrison and The Band-"Caravan" (from The Last Waltz)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Greatest Songs of All-Time (A YouTube Series Extravaganza)

Milton Nascimento and Lô Borges-"Clube de Esquina No.2"

In the outer world that was before this earth,
That was before all shape or space was born,
Before the blind first hour of time had birth,
Before night knew the moonlight or the morn;

Yea, before any world had any light,
Or anything called God or man drew breath,
Slowly the strong sides of the heaving night
Moved, and brought forth the strength of life and death.

And the sad shapeless horror increate
That was all things and one thing, without fruit,
Limit, or law; where love was none, nor hate,
Where no leaf came to blossom from no root;

The very darkness that time knew not of,
Nor God laid hand on, nor was man found there,
Ceased, and was cloven in several shapes; above
Light, and night under, and fire, earth, water, and air.

Sunbeams and starbeams, and all coloured things,
All forms and all similitudes began;
And death, the shadow cast by life's wide wings,
And God, the shade cast by the soul of man.

Then between shadow and substance, night and light,
Then between birth and death, and deeds and days,
The illimitable embrace and the amorous fight
That of itself begets, bears, rears, and slays,

The immortal war of mortal things that is
Labour and life and growth and good and ill,
The mild antiphonies that melt and kiss,
The violent symphonies that meet and kill,

All nature of all things began to be.
But chiefliest in the spirit (beast or man,
Planet of heaven or blossom of earth or sea)
The divine contraries of life began.

For the great labour of growth, being many, is one;
One thing the white death and the ruddy birth;
The invisible air and the all-beholden sun,
And barren water and many-childed earth.

And these things are made manifest in men
From the beginning forth unto this day:
Time writes and life records them, and again
Death seals them lest the record pass away.

For if death were not, then should growth not be,
Change, nor the life of good nor evil things;
Nor were there night at all nor light to see,
Nor water of sweet nor water of bitter springs.

For in each man and each year that is born
Are sown the twin seeds of the strong twin powers;
The white seed of the fruitful helpful morn,
The black seed of the barren hurtful hours.

And he that of the black seed eateth fruit,
To him the savour as honey shall be sweet;
And he in whom the white seed hath struck root,
He shall have sorrow and trouble and tears for meat.

And him whose lips the sweet fruit hath made red
In the end men loathe and make his name a rod;
And him whose mouth on the unsweet fruit hath fed
In the end men follow and know for very God.

And of these twain, the black seed and the white,
All things come forth, endured of men and done;
And still the day is great with child of night,
And still the black night labours with the sun.

And each man and each year that lives on earth
Turns hither or thither, and hence or thence is fed;
And as a man before was from his birth,
So shall a man be after among the dead.

-Algernon Charles Swinburne

Thursday, November 09, 2006

More Jarrett

Please enjoy Keith Jarrett make an absolute mockery of metacarpalian limitation with a free take on Miles Davis' "Solar". This shit is unbelievable. Please ignore his apparently Marc Summers-inspired getup, as well as his attempts to mount the piano like a Mandrill. Sometimes he lets the rhythm and counterpoint desolve into hilariously bad cruise-ship calypso before desolving it into broken faux-Bach and resolving the faux-Bach into Romantic Spanishisms. And he believes in all of it. Words and adjectives fail a musician as singular as Jarrett. He's bad he's great he makes you cringe he makes you laugh he's clever he's obvious he's trite he's profound. He's like a jazz pianist version of Mahler.

Also watch at the end to see a surprisingly not-unfrequent example of lovably awkward sense of humor as he wows the respectful Japanese audience (no wonder it is his favorite place to play) with his magic tricks. A perfect metaphor for his art.
Jarrett's Regime of Phlegmy Fear

Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett is a genius, and it follows that he is difficult. This is simple enough. But Keith Jarrett is a strange type of difficult genius. He's mostly annoyed when people cough.
Here's one fan from a Keith Jarrett message board describing a recent solo concert in Paris:

He started to play a very delicate piece (another classical improvisation).
Started soft and seemed to get even softer. After about 5 minutes... a very
loud cough stops him in the middle of the piece.

Jarrett was in mid motion to a chord when interrupted and slumped at the
piano, his right hand grasping the frame. The audience gasp at the sudden
termination of the piece. Then a pause followed by a small ripple of
applause. I guess the audience thought "well... that's what you do at the
end of a piece right? Clap?"

Jarrett hold his right hand up to the audience and solemnly says, "no, no..."
to the clappers.

Someone coughs again...

KJ: "Yeah... good one"

Then... the magic already gone, he turns to the audience and says:

KJ: "I don't know whether i'm allowed to speak in English here but...,
do you notice how I NEVER cough?"

(Audience laughs)

He then proceeds to explain to the audience:

KJ: "I have a certain reputation (rep-u-tash-eon) for being disgusted by
audience noise. Well... the potential for audience noise..."

KJ: "The music is very fragile and become MORE fragile as it progresses...
I get to a slow passage and 'cough'... it's gone"

He also insists on saying the words that are the same in English as French
twice: The english "FRAgile" followed by the French "fraGILE" etc... This
gets groans from the French audience!

Then I think he tried to laugh it off with "Now... where was I?!" which
does get a laugh from the audience.

He starts to play and is interrupted by more coughing. He abruptly stops
after one chord. Then says something about "Concerto for piano and cough".
He strikes a chord and the audience don't really get it and cough at
different times. He mummer something about how the orchestra usually come
in together...!

KJ: "And now the national anthem..."

Then, after discussion, I think he beings again to play, but is interrupted
by more coughing. Then, he left saying, "I am outta here" and walked off
the stage.

The audience responded by first booing him on the exit and then clapping
wildly asking for him to return.

Then what followed was a strange discussion...

I think he said "Where has concentration in the world gone?"

KJ: "I cannot do this if you can't concentrate."

KJ: "If you have influenza or something, then you now have permission to

Audience member: "We love you Keith!"

Audience member: "But we are your sponsors...."

KJ: "Good... we have a forum here. I wish we could do this in my
country." (I as not being American - or Republican - find this very

KJ: "I don't play Billie Joel songs.... if you think you're my sponsor,
then you also have permission to leave"

[More clapping]

KJ: "When I play, what do you expect from me?"

Audience member: "Your emotion"

KJ: "Good... I heard someone say 'your emotion'... And what would you
expect from someone if you were giving them your emotions?"

Audience member: "Silence"

[KJ nods with approval of the response]

KJ: "This music is for YOU (looks all round at the audience). I only get
one take. ONE take..."

Then... as he approached the piano...

KJ: "I'm not going to explain how difficult this is... but do you see
anyone else in the world do it?"

He follows up an encore of "My Song". The audience recognize the and start
to clap. They are then "shushed" by other audience members into silence.
This somewhat reminds me of a classroom where the children have just been
told off by the teacher.

Then, a further Encore of As Time Goes By and When I Fall In Love. There are
moment in both the last two where people cough and Jarrett looks straight at
the audience and shakes his head in disapproval.

He bows, exits, and the light go up.

Anyway, I thought people might like to hear this. I hope I've captured it
accurately - I wish my memory were better! There was a microphone there, so
I'm sure ECM and Jarrett can relive the experience at their leisure.

I must add that I was disappointed with the audience, but Jarretts reaction
was hard to cope with. Firstly, walking off and then coming back to play
more made it seem purely egotistic. Secondly, it's hard to enjoy the music
once something like that has happened. I was so tense during the rest of
the performance. At the back of my mind was "what if someone coughs now...
is he going to get to the end of this piece...?"

If people were finding it hard to concentrate on the music at the start, by
the end, I think all people could do was concentrate on not coughing. Doing
what he did, KJ just assured HE could concentrate on the music. The
audience were silent afterwards, but their attention was not with the music
- it was with trying to keep as still as possible.

This is fascinating for a couple reasons. One, it points out how much of a dick Keith Jarrett can be, as well as how lame many of his fans are ("Your emotion!"). Jarrett unfortunately does attract many who view him as the jazzy black* version George Winston. I am put off by a lot of Jarrett's music, especially when he drifts into dangerous new agey waters of embarrassingly Romantic tonal backwash. But when he is on, and he is often on-he is frighteningly good. Much of Jarrett's improvisational work has always balanced an song-like lyricism and gospel influenced Americana with Cecil Taylor runs of craggy frenzy; in fact, much of his new and marvelous Carnegie Hall double disc sounds like Cecil Taylor tamed by Hindemithian counterpoint and Schoenberg's Piano Concerto. Dissonant but singing. A lot the applause after some of Jarrett's more thorny improvisations on the new disc and last year's also-marvelous "Radiance" emanates from a polite but indifferent crowd hoping to hear him play something a little more "pretty."
Still-Jarrett's genius also encompasses his awkward but steady mystique as an irritable and almost spiritual figure: a pianist held in awe by many hardcore jazz purists for his improvisational prowess and stubborn commitment to his ideals, and hated by many others for his vocalizations, his baffling eclecticism, his tendency to often meander on empty ideas and vamps in his solo concerts, his wry and holier-than-thou lectures to the audience, etc.

Despite the controversy surrounding him, most will admit that he is a great showman. His solo concerts are like shamanistic rituals. He comes out of the wings, approaches the piano, closes his eyes and precedes to enter into some sort of magical trance state whereupon he will play the piano for often 40 minutes straight, completely off the top of his head, singing and moaning and groaning and stamping his feet and grinning. It's frankly a little too much.
I had the pleasure to see Jarrett and his trio (Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette) live a couple of years ago and it was pretty damn impressive. I was a Jarrett worshiper at the time (I still am a believer in much of his work), but even then I knew it wasn't anything magical or spiritual he's just a serious and incredible musician with some quirks . He plays, he plays good, he can play everything from bop to Shostakovich and incredibly well. He sometimes sings along and emits noises that recall a bunch of gay bees. The end.
But the purist facet of Jarrett's showmanship I sensed that night was the tenseness in the crowd. Jarrett rules his legions of admirers by fear disguised as trust. "I'm doing this for YOU", he says.
But that night, the crowd knowing full well his habit of stopping a show if someone coughs or takes a picture, everybody was a little jumpy. Outside each entrance of the concert hall there were tubs full of cough drops for the audience-tinging the event with the air of silent and emptied- lung purification. But sweet sassy molassy-the tenseness. It felt sort of like that party where everyone notices your father start to get a little too tipsy which makes everyone in the room afraid of to become the target drunken dressing-down ("uhh...ha.....fuckkin'...Hey you! I'm talking to you Darren. You think you are suuuch hot shit, don't you? I have a Ford Taurus too-you ain't so great.").
I, one who is rightly deemed a 'Nervous Nelly', silently meditated-"Will I vomit all over myself and disrupt an amazing solo during 'Bouncing With Bud'?" The drama did not mix well with my Shostakovichian anxiety, but made for great theater.
Alas, one must simply submit to the fact that coughing fits come and go and Jarrett will continue be the frustrating genius that he is as long as he's healthy enough to play.

*Of course, Keith Jarrett is not black at all. Although thought by many to be some part black due to his 70s afro and dark skin tone is Hungarian and Irish. The fact of his non-blackness famously puzzled Miles Davis when they played together in the early 70s sparking their immortal exchange:
Miles: Are you black?
Jarrett: No.
Miles: (Amazed and dissapointed). No man. You lying. You've got to be black.
Jarrett: I'm working on it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sullivan Smacks Down Hewitt

I'm not a fan of Andrew Sullivan, but I have to give it to him for more often than not being intellectually honest. His gay Catholic smack down of the ludicrous Hugh Hewitt* a few days ago was marvelous. Although I am no believer, I am from a family of Irish Catholics and I have much respect for Catholic intellectual history. That said, Hewitt and Sullivan arguing over Catholic theology sometimes seems a bit like two 12 year old boys debating what became of Boba Fett after he fell into the Sarlac in Return of the Jedi.
What you have here however is a very smart Catholic man taking a faux-smart Christian hypocrite to task for his whoring of Christianity for shady Conservative politicians and policy. Hewitt refuses to discuss his support for torture and other poisonous aspects of the Bush regime, preferring to fire lame sneaky non-question questions at Sullivan, who simply will not have it.
Read the transcript here. Here is Sullivan post-interview.

*That picture is Mr. Hewitt apparently running in a marathon while showing signs of the rare and extremely holy Nipple Stigmata.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Haiku for democracy.

Poor Rick Santorum;
How Jesus has failed you!
Gay sex will now reign.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Gervais on Hitler and Nietzsche

Hitler and Nietzsche as two bumbling Berkshire tea buddies. I especially enjoy the dopey and sheepish Hitler.
Gervais is a genius.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Steve Allen?!

I always knew the late Steve Allen to be a bit of a polymath, but I guess I didn't know the extent. While looking through biblical commentaries at a bookstore I found none other than the talk show/comedic pioneer's own very serious tome on the subject: "Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion and Morality".
The book is a collection of essays on various topics (abortion, Christian fundamentalism, Biblical history) and commentaries on many books in the Old and New Testaments. Allen seems like a fairly thoughtful guy with a standard liberal/secular worldview, but perhaps he was a little out of his league here. However, if you've always wanted to know what Allen had to say about the Book of Esther, this is your book.

I myself am partial to Jack Benny's book on the Holy Qur'an. I especially urge you to check out the audiotape version, where he accompanies himself on the violin while he discoursing beautifully on the verse style of the Makkan suras.
After you digest that, be sure you get a copy of Don Rickles' masterpiece on Zoroastrianism, 'Humata, Huktha, Hvarshta' Ya Hockey-Puck!.