and, a bit of musical conundrum: moondog’s ‘bird’s lament’: and alice contrane’s ‘turiya and ramakrishna’

certainly not a cover of ‘bird’, aka, charlie parker, but nonetheless a very moving tribute to him:

no doubt in any case a great, compositional tribute by the viking of 6th ave… “the blind busker,” louis thomas harlan, who remains one of the all time great jazz musicians.

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supplemented, in decon terms, by alice contrane, equally indeterminate… as no kind of cover of her father… as brilliant as moondog’s non-cover of Bird.

and, a bit of musical conundrum: moondog’s ‘bird’s lament’: and alice contrane’s ‘turiya and ramakrishna’

‘pure’ joy in the midst of all the mierda and scheise and shit – what life is suppose to be about, remember? oh! the voice!

for SB of brunswick:

some, many, even perhaps most, seem to think of music as merely entertainment, something one listens to in order to escape, as a side track from what’s most important, work… that view has things entirely upside down. in utopia, work wouldn’t exist, and we’d spend all our time listening to music, looking at art, reading great literature, going to the theater. yes, of course, this view can be dismissed as merely utopian. an unattainable dream and fantasy. still, it’s not wrong. what would ‘art’ do in world free of capitalist enslavement of workers? wouldn’t it have no subjects? no, it wouldn’t. it would celebrate, what? it would celebrate ‘life’, the ‘life’ of the everyday, of everydayness, that aspect of life 99.9% percent of those living live and suffer. there would be no lack of material to sing about, in a utopian. only a demented and barren imaginary whose only ‘subject’ is the politics of capitalism and it’s intentionally manufactured suffering for the greatest number of people, could ‘imagine’ that humans evolved to be workers for the rich who spend their time, not working, but buying art to hang on the walls of their super-yachts and hire art historian consultants to give lessons to their crews so that they don’t use a scrubby to clean vomit off a picasso.

neither does life imitate art; nor art imitate life; art IS life; life IS art. those who don’t live art as life, and, life as art, are dead; today, those who don’t understand this are most exemplified by the ‘businessman’, the ‘accountant’, those for whom ‘value’ is ONLY conceived as monetary, as credits to their balance sheets at the cost of ALL workers, lives. capitalists are truly, barbarian animals who only ‘value’ their own pocketbooks and have no problem with slaughtering anyone, literally, anyone, who gets in the way of that.

sorry, back to the alternative possibility: pure joy as expressed by one of the most robust of the world’s oppressed populations: far more than jews in fact, the gypsies. whose skepticism, cynicism, distrust of others, dignity and resistance, has produced one of the world’s greatest bodies of musical joy of the greatest intelligence. personally, as a committed atheist, i’ve often imagined, if i were forced to chose a religion, what religion would i choose? i’ve often imagined that i would become a zen sufi.  but i’ve realized that ‘zen’ and ‘sufi’ are redundant terms, theologically speaking. musically speaking, they are quite different. i don’t think zen has a dance tradition. and any culture that doesn’t dance is moribund. therefore, i would elect to be a sufi, for whom art and the imagination and the body are inextricably linked. for them, there is no ‘worship’ with dance, and therfore with a body. zen would be happy to do without the body, or, the mind. but in sufism, the body and the mind are so intertwined they are inseparable. but… if gypsy-ism were a theology, it would be my first choice. perhaps it might be conceived as a political-theology, and therefore, a practice, that is, a practice, a practice, of secular spirituality based entirely in/on/about, human being, existential being, as a self-conscious and self-reflective art, in practice. thus i’m a fan of the composer/muscian goran bregovic, a non-gypsie, who gained the respect of gypsies enough so that they would not only play with him, but absorbed his compositions into their own musical tranditions, as he did theirs. now, that, IS, living art as life and life as art, across boundaries. Bregovic is a paradigm of the sociopolitical artist for whom is life can become an artist practice, even utopian, in practice.

and no, i don’t intend to speak here of ‘style’ or ‘genre’. i intend to speak of an artistic practice that grabs hold of everyday life. of an artistic practice that remarkably ‘feels’ and ‘expresses’, human existence as it is, as exactly as possible, without a trace of the market’s demand for branding.

it’s not only the gypsies who do this, of course. though they may have been at it longer than most absorbed into the western musical canon… deep waters here. so i stop here. with armstrong’s  ‘black face’ pose…  and his great ‘gypsy’ music.

‘pure’ joy in the midst of all the mierda and scheise and shit – what life is suppose to be about, remember? oh! the voice!

one of the problems with ID politics gone wrong

this truly fab and unfortunately short lived french band of the 80s, Les Rita Mitsouko, so obviously inspired by the amor between it founders, guitarist Fred Chichin and singer/dancer Catherine Ringer, would be driven from the stage today by the rabid catcalls of the jeering crowds of ID political fanatics. COLONIALIST APPROPRIATERS!! they would scream. That is, if they even noticed the fact that neither Fred nor Catherine were neither japanese nor indian. it’s likely that they wouldn’t. they would merely boo because of what they would perceive as poor visual quality, mistaking great wit and great musical quality for kitsch while lamenting that it wasn’t available on their dumb smart phones and hadn’t been delivered to them through facelessbook. it’s doubtful that they would even know what a ‘book’ is.

yes, perhaps i’m being particularly narrow minded myself and over-generalizing. perhaps. am i being mean-spirited? a bit. with good reason? some. do i have many close friends committed to social media and in particular, facebook? yes. will i offend them? no because they love me despite my polemic views. still, i doubt in the land of trump and adele and beiber that i’m that far off. i’m far from the only one condemning facebook. but how many of those i condemn here have heard of the latest american banjo sensation: songs of our native daughters? or rhiannon giddens? let alone Les Rita Mitsouko?

but back to Les Rita Mitsouko: what happened to humor? humor is not an human pathos devoid of politics, necessarily. what’s happened to the intelligent musical use of the kazoo? last heard with zappa?

and by the way: as reported by the ‘female’ brain scientist, Gina Rippon:

The idea of the male brain and the female brain suggests that each is a characteristically homogenous thing and that whoever has got a male brain, say, will have the same kind of aptitudes, preferences and personalities as everyone else with that ‘type’ of brain. We now know that is not the case. We are at the point where we need to say, ‘Forget the male and female brain; it’s a distraction, it’s inaccurate.’ It’s possibly harmful, too, because it’s used as a hook to say, well, there’s no point girls doing science because they haven’t got a science brain, or boys shouldn’t be emotional or should want to lead.

so much for identity politics. and yes, i realize that brain science doesn’t automatically obviate systemic gender, race and other ID’s that are culturally, socially constructed and maintained. but it’s a start to move away from tribalism and libertarian, socially constructed individualism that only fractures and fragments the social cohesion absolutely necessary to rebuild a viable public human and humanity, and even extend that to include all other animals, and of course, the environment and the planet. the problem is not that men treat women badly, or that white people treat black people badly. it’s that treating non-males and non-whites badly, is not okay, period. that female people and black people share the same problem. that male  white people have more power than non-male and non-white people, is the problem. that’s an ethical problem that can summed up as, treating anyone badly is not okay. so the social strategy is not to empower women and non-white people; but to disempower non-women and non-colored  people. the problem with the strategy of empowerment of non-males and non-whites, is that it seeks only to level the playing field on the terms of those who are already powerful; so that power doesn’t change –it’s only, in theory, more equitably distributed. more non-whites and non-males are allowed into the white boys club, while the club remains the same. the implication of this analysis is that class is indeed the primary locus for political change toward social and economic justice; because, disparity in wealth is ultimately, the gate keeper of power. obama didn’t become president because he was black at a time when the electors were tired of a white ruling class; it was because he had access to power; and he had access to power because he had access to wealth. that’s a bit over-simplified, but not by much. my point being that obama wasn’t elected because of his identity, but because he had transcended it, through access to power = wealth. because of his class, derived in part from his elite standing as a graduate of harvard law school and all the power and wealth that comes from that, because it allowed him access to the brand of higher class social status. remember, that the longer he was in power, the more his support from the black constituency diminished.

Screen Shot 2019-02-24 at 6.43.06 AMobama’s post-presidential vacation on branson’s boat off the shore of the latter’s caribbean home depicting the mock conflict between races and – the mock conflict between corporate and political power. at that level of power, no conflict exists. not even between Trump and Muslims: power and wealth dissolves all ID politics. similarly, the only form of political resistance to racism and genderism etc., is through class alliances. if you’re not a millionaire, then you’re lower class, no matter who you are. the ‘middle class’ no longer exists. if you’re not a multi-millionaire, then you’re merely a wage earning worker. so, worker’s must unite!

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one of the problems with ID politics gone wrong

banksy of england

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Contacted by the Guardian, a spokesperson for the artist said the banknote had been donated by “someone who runs Banksy’s currency exchange”.

As well as showing Diana’s face instead of the Queen’s, the note has been altered to read “Banksy of England” and the motto: “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the ultimate price.”

banksy of england

whoa! inuit punk heavy metal avant-garde classical?

thanks to my dear friend richard steinbacher for passing this on.

in concert with Nanook for the North: First Peoples Cinema kicks off with the world premiere of the acclaimed throat-singer’s new composition, created especially to accompany our screening of Robert Flaherty’s classic documentary, Nanook for the North.

and for contrast, tagaq with native american, buffy sainte-marie

whoa! inuit punk heavy metal avant-garde classical?

In Defense of ‘Postmodernism’: a reply to Giles Fraser – draft

note: I’ve long been annoyed by those who criticize postmodernism, without really knowing much about it. So here are some rudimentary thoughts meant to refute those naive critics. I intend to submit it to a promising new media platform called Unherd, which explains the reference in the last paragraph below.


Historical periodisation is a notoriously difficult problem. Eric Hobsbaum famously wrote of the long 19th century, which in his view, came to end only in 1918 at the close of World War I. That would of course leave us with a short 20th century of only 82 years. Based on Hobsbaum’s reasoning for his periodisation, things become even more complicated. For a Marxist, historical periods are determined by the means of production that give rise to them, and determine the economic form of the period. So a change in the form of the economy requires historians to give an account of a new periodisation. ‘Postmodernism’ is the name used by some to describe the economic shift from the industrial-military complex to the industrial-information-military complex. Most historians and economic historians are in agreement that the latter has produced a form of digital economy that is radically different than that of industrial capital. The digitization of capital is what has made globalisation possible. In other words, information-based capital has led directly to a transnational economy in which corporations are no longer tied, completely, to nation states and their forms of governance, whether they are representational democracies or totalitarian regimes like Saudia Arabia. Global economics, in other words, has transcended most forms of governance meant to regulate it.

This state of economic affairs is what many economists refer to as ‘postmodernity’, a period of history that is no longer determined by the means of production that regulated ‘modernity’, but has been set on a new course of historical development determined by globalised, digital economics. While many scholars in many different fields are not in agreement about the terminology, they are generally agreed with the description I’ve just recounted. That said, there is no consensus for what the term postmodernism means, and it has been used in widely divergent fields of enquiry. The earliest use of the term was by the architectural historian Charles Jencks in 1972. His term was largely used aesthetically, to describe forms of architecture that mixed styles from different historical periods, or turned away from the rationalized, machinic, modernist style of form-follows-function toward ornamentation and figuration. A second landmark use of the term was in the title of Jean-François Lyotard’s book, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, published in 1979. From there, the term was quickly picked up in the writings of American, UK, and French philosophers, literary theorists, critical theorists, and cultural studies proponents as it originally emerged in its British Marxist form at University of Birmingham through the work in particular of Stuart Hall. Fredrick Jameson and David Harvey were two of the most prominent scholars of postmodernism in the US.

The history and genealogy of the term is complex and cannot be sufficiently accounted for here. But it’s important to note that it wrongly became allied in particular with the difficult writings of a group of French philosophers that came to be collectively called, poststructuralism, that included Jacque Derrida, Michel Foucault, Giles Deleuze and many others associated with the Tel Quel group. Meanwhile, postmodernism became, from the 1980 through the mid-2000s, a prominent category in the art world. By the mid-2000s, a backlash against postmodernism, poststructuralism, and cultural studies emerged within universities which succeeded in discrediting these highly important and generative schools of thought.

My point here is that ‘postmodernism’ is not a monolithic term, but has many different meanings which are often not synonymous and often contradictory. The term must be understood, to oversimplify, as used differently in three different primary contexts – art theory, philosophy, and economics. The opponents of postmodernism have been highly vocal from the term’s inception. In large part, its critics have been ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ academics opposed to the leftist, often ‘Marxist’ agenda of the ‘postmodernists’ to provide a rigorous critique of capitalism, racism, patriarchy, power, western dominance, colonialism, and the like. The postmodernists, for example, are those most aligned with multiculturalism, feminism, gender differentiation, interdisciplinary and intersectional research, anti-colonialism, civil rights, social, environmental, and economic justice. It’s fair to say that they have been the most rigorous defenders of these social movements, and the most rigorous theorists and historians of them. Postmodernists have been great champions of cultural diversity and difference for aesthetic, philosophic, economic, political, and ethical reasons.

Now, I’ve been a big fan of Giles Fraser ever since his committed resignation from St. Paul’s over the Occupy Movement’s occupation of that august church’s square. I’m also a big fan of David Foster Wallace. (I consider Infinite Jest one of the great postmodern novels of the postmodern period.) And while I do agree that a small current of postmodernism is fairly described as bereft of moral seriousness, is cynical, and employs a bankrupt irony; I must protest both of their over-generalisations of postmodernism’s faults. Fraser’s comment that

David Foster Wallace was himself a student during the high point of critical theory and post-modern philosophy, a cultural moment that emphasised the need for irony and a kind of self-referential knowingness that looked with suspicion, derision even, at all attempts at moral seriousness.

wrongly conflates postmodernism with philosophy and critical theory. Postmodernism is not a philosophy or a theory. It is a historiographical category meant to periodise and give an account of the social, political, economic, aesthetic, and cultural transformations of global human life on planet Earth since… well, and therein lies the rub. Some would argue since 1968; some since 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall; some since 1991 with the twin occurrences of the fall of the Soviet Union and the invention of the first graphical user interface which allowed the world’s populations access to the World Wide Web. In any of these ‘postmodern’ scenarios, Hobsbaum’s short 20th century would be cut very short indeed. The 21st century would have to be understood as beginning in 1968, 1989, or 1991, when the era of postmodernity began. When, in Marxist language, social relations were put on a radically different footing than those of modernity.

Thus, even if Fraser were correct that postmodernism killed America’s morality, one would have to conclude that it killed morality in the UK, the EU, and the world generally. That seems a bit of a stretch. Why single out America? Particularly if postmodernism had it’s origins in Paris and Birmingham, as well as New York? I doubt that postmodernism, as theorized, had much to do with the terrible state of morality anywhere. But as a general human condition, if my arguments are accepted, then it’s all or nothing. It certainly cannot be limited to a single nationality.

While the term ‘postmodernity’ may legitimately be viewed as a very unsatisfying and even dodgy one; the seriousness, rigor, ethical and political commitments of those willingly or unwillingly subsumed by it, should not be questioned. Not that there isn’t plenty of room for criticism of the thought deemed postmodern. ‘Postmodernists’ are in fact a feisty lot and vigorously argue amongst themselves, as in any other historical era. But what should not be overlooked is their extraordinary influence or the profound contributions they have made to comprehending who we are as a diverse and motley aggregation of human animals.

One last observation. The very title of this new media platform owes it’s possibility to postmodernism. The ‘unherd’ is a perfect example of a deconstructive pun. And the allusion to the ‘herd’ is, knowingly or not, a direct reference to the ‘father’ of postmodernism, Frederick Nietzsche.

In Defense of ‘Postmodernism’: a reply to Giles Fraser – draft