Tuesday, February 19, 2008

D'Angelo on Speed

Andrew D'Angelo, newly diagnosed with cancer, writes about the steadfast friendship of the great sax and clarinet player, Chris Speed:

... the night after having my head operated on, my friend Chris Speed stayed with me in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for the evening. Sleeping there even. In fact, I'm not even sure how he achieved this because it was suppose to only be family allowed in the ICU. But there he was. Sitting in what I'm sure was THE most uncomfortable chair watching me try to deal with the pain I was having and of course, watching me try at [sic] get some rest. That being said, I don't think there is anyway to explain to you what it was like to be able to open one eye (not sure if both eyes would open at that point) and see him sitting there for me. That, is something you have to experience first hand I think to really understand.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Best Wishes to Andrew D'Angelo

I used to follow New York downtown jazz pretty closely. It's great, aesthetically regenerative music, but it's annoyingly bifurcated. There's really great shit -- like Tim Berne's various projects and people like the pianist Uri Caine and the drummer Jim Black; and there's really awful shit -- like John Zorn's various excrescences and the people who buzz around him like flies tending the ass of a mule pissing in summer.*

Saxophonist and composer Andrew D'Angelo is one of the good guys. I'm not a fan of his personally, but he's collaborated with people (like Jim Black and Chris Speed) I admire greatly. I found out today that he was suffering from a brain tumor. He just had it removed. I wish him a strong recovery and all the best.

Postscript: I learned this from Darcy James Argue's blog. I had never heard him before. He's written some great music.

* Thank you, Catullus. I'll always be grateful.

Update: I should say I'm aware some great musicians have collaborated with Zorn and appeared on the Tzadik label. I always wondered why people like Uri Caine and Marc Ribot would give him the time of day. I suspect these guys just sucked it up and did what they had to do to work and network downtown.

Update again: Fuck. The biopsy shows it's cancer, a nasty, aggressive kind.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Obama and Race

Christopher Hitchens writes:

People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with. One does not banish this specter by invoking it. If I would not vote against someone on the grounds of "race" or "gender" alone, then by the exact same token I would not cast a vote in his or her favor for the identical reason.


Far from taking us forward, this sort of discussion actually keeps us anchored in the past. The enormous advances in genome studies have effectively discredited the whole idea of "race" as a means of categorizing humans. And however ethnicity may be defined or subdivided, it is utterly unscientific and retrograde to confuse it with color. The number of subjective definitions of "racist" is almost infinite but the only objective definition of the word is "one who believes that there are human races."

I think this trends too far toward a tone-deaf inappreciation of the meaning of race in American politics. You can't just shroud its significance with a pedantic deconstruction of the word "race". My friend's sister is a teacher in the NYC public school system. She says she marveled recently that a gifted black student of hers who lives 25 blocks from Columbia University literally had no idea that school existed and that he had a good shot of getting in. An Obama presidency would have a galvanizing effect on those blacks today who are without real ambition.

But you can acknowledge the significance of race without promoting political pathology. Hitchens has a point when he writes, "People who think with their epidermis or their genitalia or their clan are the problem to begin with." Another friend of mine has been a high school teacher in NYC for some years, and he dismayed me by approving something one of his Education professors said: "It doesn't matter where you came from or what your self perception is, when you get off that boat you're either black or white."* This is soft-Marxist pablum oviposited in liberals' heads by New Left hecklers of the civil rights movement.** It's refried historical determinism with class superseded by race.

One of the reasons I would vote for Obama is because he would propel us into a kind of "postmodern" phase of our history with regard to race. There is no question inequalities persist in America, but nothing I observe demonstrates that more than a handful of extreme examples -- literally, the few people each year who are murdered in hate crimes -- are caged by race, ethnicity or anything. This endless and needless detour from the mountain top would cease to make sense, both to the quiet racists and the members of the NPR class who piously accept its inevitability. An Obama presidency will banish determinist cant about race to the academic realm, where it will maunder like an underworld ghost with the rest of the Marxian geegaws. This sure as hell ain't the only reason to vote for Obama, but it's a good one.

* What boat is he talking about? The Mayflower? The Stugots?

** Here I'm borrowing from Stanley Crouch, who often aptly refers to Malcolm X as a "heckler" of the non-violent and civil rights movements.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Quote of the Day

How She Move”? I’d much rather see a movie called “How She Conjugate Verbs.”

Well, this is the quote of a few days ago, by journalist and screenwriter David Mills.

Thanks to Steve Silver.

Dead Fish

Does anyone else think Glenn Greenwad has jumped the shark? At this point the guy is so repetitious and boring you no longer notice his supererogatory, corpse-heavy prose.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

The Totalitarian Stupidity of Bobby Fischer

I've got a new essay up at The Socialism of Fools, exploring what I think was omitted from the public reactions to Bobby Fischer's death. Take a look.

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