I woke up yesterday morning to the Charlie Parker birthday broadcast on WKCR. I might be a little desensitized to Charlie Parker in the morning, since I’ve listened to the Bird Flight show every day before leaving for work for the last seven years. Having it on all day tends to bring new things out, though, and I caught a few sides of Dizzy’s west coast band where Lucky Thomson was filling for Parker. What caught my attention in this group, though, was Milt Jackson. The tone of the vibraphone just shoots through the room. The speakers can’t hold it back. I immediatly stopped what I was doing and listened. It was like some metallic fluid spilling over the speakers, carrying waves of information about life.

I remember meeting Jackson after an amazing concert of his at Merkon Hall. He was friendly and encouraging, and seemed healthy. I wouldn’t have guessed he wasn’t well. A few months later I heard back-to-back Jackson on KCR on a day that wasn’t his birthday and I knew right away he had died. Later that evening I was going uptown on an F train and a tall black guy with dreadlocks gets on the train decked out completely in a white suit, wearing a white hat, white shoes, and pushing a white bicycle with a Loisida Puerto Rican-style custom stereo in a white box mounted on the back. Playing from the stereo, and filling the subway car, was the music of Milt Jackson.

So this is on my mind as I go out tonight to meet Katie and Ryan at the Sunshine to see American Splendor. Jordan had seen it last week with Gary and Nada, and said it was the “best piece of art ever made by anyone anywhere at anytime, ever.” I was keeping my expectations low nonetheless, just in case. On the way a homeless guy got on the B train and made a pitch. He said he had been robbed and that the men who robbed him also took his electronic keyboard. I remembered seeing this guy set up and play a Casio on a train weeks earlier, and I was wracked with guilt, thinking I should call off the movie plans and give the guy my extra crappy Yamaha keyboard. I give him a few quarters instead, wincing at myself. I changed trains and saw him and heard the pitch again, then got off at 2nd Ave. Exiting at the south 2nd Ave. side is like exiting the subway into a forest -- all trees and cicadas at the top of the stairs.

Walking toward the theater, I heard what sounded like a vibraphone coming through the open air. As I get to the park I realized it was. There was a guy there, looking a lot like me, dressed sort of like me, and playing a Musser vibraphone on the sidewalk, a nice version of Norwegian Wood.


"If the enlightened pacifists attempt to abolish war by means of rationalistic argument, they simply make fools of themselves, but if the armed masses begin to use the arguments of reason against war, that means the end of war."
-Benjamin via Trotsky

I'd like to see this idea updated with an American libertarian slant. If the idea of the right to bear arms is based on the idea that the population should be able to remove an oppressive government by force, and if the government now has nuclear weapons, then shouldn't every citizen now own tactical nuclear weapons? Perhaps give them out instead of a tax rebate? Wouldn't this ensure a patriotic attitude in the population (concern for what the country is doing) if people knew they could just nuke Washington if the politicians attempt to wage profiteering wars of foreign occupation for the enrichment of Haliburton?


Blackout postmortem

Loisida was on of the last neighborhoods to get back online. The power came back on at 9:00 last night. Friday morning there was no hot water and I was starting to wonder about the water pressure. We took a siesta until mid afternoon and then walked across 4th street to Marcella and Rich’s building were we paged them the old-fashioned way - by yelling "hey Marcella" up to their window. A few minutes later she was down on the street and we exchanged blackout notes. We walked east and noticed almost everyone was eating or carrying some kind of ice-cream. "They’re giving out free ice cream on 4th and B," one woman informed us, so we walked to the bodega where the last bit of the nearly-melted ice cream stock was being picked over by enthused and overheated residents. I passed on the Powerpuff Girls popsicles, and eventually hit the jackpot with a half-full box of ice cream sandwiches. We ate some, Marcella kept one to bring back to Rich, and I distributed the rest to some surprised-looking people on Ave. B.

On the was back we ran into Nao, the guitar player in Nao’s Superfortress, a band I used to play drums with. Nao said that there was some kind of mini-burningman scene in Tomkins Sq. Park Thurs night, with bonfires, drumming, and people dancing naked and burning their clothes.

We hung out at Marcella and Rich’s (and their cat’s) apt for a while, then all went over to Zum Schneider were they were selling plates of bratwurst, bread and sauerkraut on the sidewalk for 4 bucks. Went over to Tompkins Sq., found a bench and ate the sausage. At 9th and A it was possible to see through to beyond Broadway were a single glowing green traffic light told us the power was back up on the west side of town.

We stopped at La Linea on the way back and wrote a collaborative poem on four business cards. Each person would write a line, then we would rotate them around. The high-quality rhyming doggerel that resulted can read here.

We went home and rested in the candlelight around 9:00. When the power came up loud cheers echoed through the neighborhood. It reminded me of the cheers in the theater when I first saw Star Wars, and the Rebels blew up the Death Star.


The East Village is still blacked out. I’m writing this on Katie’s laptop on battery power via dialup.

At around 4:00 yesterday the lights went down in the apt to a eerie feeble brown, then disappeared entirely. I thought it was the just the apt and went downstairs where people were starting to gather on the streets, listening to the car radios and sharing information. One such group was at 3rd and Ave. A, fifty people listening to a blasting car radio news report tell us that the entire eastern seaboard was blown out. The vibe on the street was a mixture of NYC crisis, friendliness, excitement and wariness. Fears that this was another terrorist attack disappeared fairly quickly.

By five most of the larger grocery stores were closing. I went to the smaller place on 6th and B, which was full of people roaming the isles with candles and lighters, helping each other find stuff. I got bread peanut butter chips candles matches etc, and noticed the items going fastest were beer and ice.

Walking back to 4th and D I noticed large groups of sweaty bedraggled people who obviously walked a long way from work since the entire subway system was out. Local bodegas were giving out free Italian ices to kids on Ave C, and people were already starting to set up lawn furniture on the sidewalks and dig into the beer.

The timing wasn’t right for Katie to be stuck on the subway, but I was worried that she could have been trapped in an elevator. She arrived home 20 minutes later, glad to see I wasn’t trapped underground somewhere.

We broke out a transistor radio which is still our only source of news besides word of mouth.

Everyone in Katie’s Building collected out in the back and basically had a big party where many of us met for the first time. Normally we would just pass in the hallway. It was hot but quite festive. You could see stars.

The sounds of cicadas and crickets mixed with the sirens. Much different city sound mix with no power! Later it became one of the loudest nights I remember in the building- a huge block party on D and 5th with 50 Cent and Sugar Hill gang blasting from car stereos.

The darkened city was beautiful, lit by passing car headlights and candles.

Katie woke me at 6 this morning to see the no electricity-dawn.

Today: reading and listening to the transistor radio. We made a great brunch by lighting the gas stove with matches. Eggs, grilled bread and French press coffee (we put the eggs and milk in the freezer early.)


Michael Scharf, Verite, ubu editions, 2002, PDF download.

Fascinating and pained explorations of the junctures of cathexis and cultural capital. Verite opens with an essay which is perhaps the most original _day my father died_ confessional poem ever written.

Much of the work here is possessed by a lyrical scrutiny and a broad dyspepsia with history coming up in guilty, humorous and ironic burbs. The language moves in searching and uncomfortable fits from and over the interlocking strands of personal and political life, using only the fray as material.

Sharf returns again and again to a mode where the poet’s role is to directly and indirectly draw information about life from things that are in front of him, rather than try to fulfill expectations about an experience, or present raw blocks of the textures of language.

It is not unlike the poetries of Olson, Ben Friedlander and John Clarke in its way of scanning weirdly over one’s own personal and collective history at the same time with one ear on the formalism and one eye on an environmentalizing of subjective states, subjectivizing of environmental states.

There is a beautifully crafted propositional dynamic at work here as well, and a sweet, odd songlike reaction to undercurrents of personal and communal disappointment. These two elements, inert by themselves, chemically bond to form a kind of information-rich poetic epoxy.


All Around What Empties Out, Linh Dinh, Subpress/Tinfish, 2003

Dinh sets up and sustains a warmly amusing polite rudeness with controlled riff-switching and paratactic absurdities.

Catullus without the vendettas.

Every page is designed with a repetitive light decorative noise that frames the poems. I found this annoying at first but it wound up contributing to the overall humor by the end.

Cinematic dream presentations, tweaked, sweet chumminess with a chaser of mockery. Ren and Stimpy?

The poetic labor is distributed equally among a self-consciously (and ironically and absurdly) crafted persona, the vibes and connotations of the language, and the interestingly mixed feelings about the traditions being incorporated/mocked -- confessional poetry, books of dream-image interpretation, surreal prose-poetry, etc.

Serious issues of identity sneaking in amongst the careful ironic/absurd whimsy?


Steve's recent spate of notes on movies made me want to make one of my own:

on cable last weekend:
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, John Ford 1962.

Like Njal's saga, where layer/poet is the same person (do we still feel the tensions of that ancient (non)division of labor as poets today -- the person who knows things, but in a context where that knowledge doesn't necessarily apply?).

Naive lawyer Jimmy Stewart goes west and gets his ass kicked and his lunch money stolen for being a bookworm, and then threatens the thug-based political economy of a small town with the twin forces of literacy and federalized power. Told in flashback, the story famously addresses the nature of collective memory ("When the legend becomes fact, print the legend")

Despise some light flag-waving scenes in a classroom and the ostensible message of John Wayne as the self-sacrificing, powerful good-guy realist who sacrifices romantic love to give the community representative democracy, the lasting vibe of the film is a good bit darker.

Just before Jimmy Stewart is about to embark on his seemingly suicidal gun fight with Liberty Valance, the window pane of the town newspaper projects the reversed image of the letter "E" onto his chest, where it lingers disconcertingly like a transformed Scarlet Letter. It is the language that remains unaware that the power of someone else's violence is the true reason for its efficaciousness, since Wayne is actually the one who fires the fatal bullet from the shadowy sidelines.

That message is contrasted with the collectivist power sharing evoked earlier during a town meeting, where the bad guys are defenseless against the pooled power of the population, or as Liberty Valance says, you people are brave when you're together, but think about what going to happen when you're alone!


McCoy Tyner Trio, Damrosch park Band Shell,8/2/03
Lincoln Center Out of Doors Series.
Charnett Moffett – bass, Al Foster – drums

Packed, overflowing Damrosch Park. Good to see so many people out to hear this particular strain of American culture.

Acoustic music sounds good in a small room. The space of the room is an additional member of the band. No music sounds good in a festival setting. It’s unreasonable to expect it. The only loud thing that sounds good in a huge open space is thunder. When any music is played loudly through PA speakers outside the highs sound tinny, the mids sound flat and the lows sound muffled and boomy. You go to these concerts for the spectacle and large scale mutual appreciation, and to see how an artist handles approaching such a large audience.

The other traditional hazards of festival jazz were also firmly in place -- some tired, grumpy turf-war crowd vibes peppered in among the slightly forced excited happiness. Worst of all, though, was the fact that the musicians were playing to what they thought the crowd wanted -- relaxed accessibility.

The disappointment of comparing what you hear now with what you hear on the Coltrane records, or on Tyner’s own work from the sixties and early seventies, is fairly keen. It makes you want to go home and put on Extensions. Tyner still had a few good moments, though. Seeing him in a club is obviously a much better experience.

The high point was an oud-like Moffett bass solo built around a monochordal Arabic scale vamp. Some beautifully placed extended techniques used to develop and broaden the melodic and rhythmic content of the solo rather than to just show off the extended techniques. I remember hearing Sonny Rollins here a few years ago and the high point of the concert was also an Arabic scale based solo by Rollins. Is there something about this space that brings this out?


I see Stephanie has been tuning into the Brecht channel too.