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Do something nice for your ears

Have lunch with the Godfather tomorrow

Your lunch may be boring Friday, but your noon hour doesn't have to be. Tune into my weekly show, "The College of Musical Knowledge," right after Bona News Now at 12:05 tomorrow on 88.3 FM The Buzz. I'll be rolling with some classic soul: a Marvin Gaye song that's just as true today as it was when it was written, some Wilson Pickett, Otis, Ray Charles, Sly Stone, Temptations, a Was Not Was cover of a soul classic, and of course a track of two from the Godfather, Mr. James Brown. Tune it in, or be prepared to explain to your ears why you didn't treat them to something good.


It's the Archduke!

Franz Ferdinand

I knew this was coming. We all did. But I didn't know who was going to say it. How could I have not known? From the Washington Post:

BEAUMONT, Tex. -- Donald Trump says the tough gun control laws in Paris contributed to the high death toll during a series of terrorist attacks on Friday. The attacks, he added, also reveal the danger in allowing Syrian refugees into the country.

"You can say what you want, but if they had guns -- if our people had guns, if they were allowed to carry -- it would have been a much, much different situation," Trump said to cheers during a political rally at an arena in southeast Texas on Saturday afternoon.

I don't like Trump much at all, but in this case, he couldn't be more correct. And I am Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Frank Zappa's theory of the universe: “Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe."

You? Me? Us?

Your music
sounds as old as my father

Your face
declined away
from invisible alphabets

Our memories
I spend carelessly
exhaling smoke
from another cigarette

Our embroidered hearts
threaded together yet
you are unraveling
and sharpening scissors.

“A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” — Paul Valery, as paraphrased by W.H. Auden


The endorsement

Thanks to the Soul Town channel on Sirius-XM, I'm discovering a lot of great acts that I had either never heard of, didn't care for at the time, overlooked or forgotten. I don't know which of those categories Wilson Pickett falls into, but it really doesn't matter—I'm hearing him loud and clear these days. What a voice!

Halloween sweets

FullSizeRender FullSizeRender[1]
Kobe looked a little sheepish in his shark costume, but Paci looked as cute as a bug.

If government is broken, why are you running?

The Republican presidential candidates’ debate last night was the most cynical two hours of campaigning I’ve ever heard—and I’m not referring to policies or proposals raised by any of the candidates.

I’m referring to the loudly and repeatedly stated theme that emerged: Our government is broken beyond repair.

What a hopeless—as in devoid of hope—point of view. And I disagreeCollapse )

The big gong

Look up and wonder where the sky begins.

'Is this what our culture has come to?'

Miley Cyrus is a Girl Scout compared to Wendy O. Williams, whose performances were getting her arrested for lewd conduct 30 years ago.

Three faculty colleagues and I spoke informally last week at a lunchtime program for people who work at the university but don’t teach. They invited us to talk about what it’s like to host a weekly show on the university’s student-run radio station.

One of the speakers is in his early ’70s, I would guess. He’s a good guy: cordial and well traveled, with deep knowledge about a wide range of topics. He began by saying he had seen a clip from an MTV music awards special that showed Miley Cyrus being her faux outrageous, self-promoting self.

“Is this what our culture has come to?” he asked earnestly.

Of course it is. Paging Alice CooperCollapse )

Blank pages

Time came to excise pages of a fiction I’d created

Untouched, they twitch in a file folder:
Look again at us!

I prefer not to, said the scrivener.

It takes a reader to turn back the dog-ear
It takes a reader to forget

Something else is working harder

"Evil man make me kill you/evil man make you kill me/even though we're only families apart."

On Wednesday, I started preparing my play list for my Friday radio show. I got about five songs into it after deciding I'd play a funk show.

Then came Thursday's shootings in Oregon. A friend said to me, "We forget all about them after the funerals are over," which the president said, in a different way, in his speech Thursday afternoon.

So I turned Friday's show into an hour of music about gun violence. I believe in the transformative power of music and hoped that maybe, one song might inspire one person to do something or say something that might make a difference, regardless of how small. And, as we've learned in our age of social media, sometimes small ideas mushroom into big ones.

Here's the playist:

• "Something Else is Working Harder," Golden Palaominos, which is about Christ coming to Earth to leave a legacy of love in our world, but "something else is working harder."

• "Johnny Was," Bob Marley and the Wailers. "Woman hold her head and cry/'Cause her son had been shot down in the street and died/from a stray bullet."

• "Decoration Day," Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, a song about a longstanding family feud. "My daddy got shot right in front of his house/He had no one to fall on but me."

• "Ten Cent Pistol," Black Keys. "The couple screamed/But far too late/'Cause a jealous heart/Did retaliate/She hit them with her ten cent pistol."

• "Machine Gun" Jimi Hendrix with his Band of Gypsies. For my money, the most powerful anti-war song ever written. Hendrix's long solo is unlike anything else he ever played. It's terrifying.

• "Bullet the Blue Sky," U2, another song about hate and war: "And I can see those fighter planes/Across the mud huts where the children sleep/Through the alleys of a quiet city street."

• "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)," Rolling Stones. "The police in New York City/They chased a boy right through the park/And in a case of mistaken identity/They put a bullet through his heart."

• "Strange Days," The Doors. As someone said the other day, those who insist on interpreting the Second Amendment as saying everyone has the unfettered right to possess firearms capable of slaughtering dozens of people are essentially saying "fuck you" to the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that the rest of us are entitled to. So: "Strange days have found us/Strange days have tracked us down/They're going to destroy/Our casual joys."

• "Sirens in the City," which I sneaked in hoping no one would realize it's about Bernard Goetz. But even his point of view contains words all too appropriate as a commentary about Sandy Hook: "There's no such thing as the law/So who's gonna save the children?"

Foreigners (with a nod to Shelley)

The words gelled last night for an idea I've had a long time, but only in nebulous form:

No matter what we professors may think, students live in another country. They only let us into their land when they want to. Many times we think we've sneaked across the border, but we are mistaken. Our eyes are too old to see the the border.

Even if students give us a passport, once we're in their country, they let us see only what they want us to see. They take us sightseeing, but just to the usual tourist destinations, where we pay too much for cheap souvenirs. We never see their hidden neighborhoods, where life really happens. Instead, we stay on Main Street and pose for photos, travelers from an antique land.

They can revoke our passports at any time, for no evident reason, and they always do. Sometimes, they take us back to the border so we can leave. Other times they simply leave us alone in their country, half-sunk with our visages shattered, where the lone and level sands stretch far away. We are outcasts, so we head back to our homes.

We get postcards from them once in a long while, but there's never a return address, only a sentence or two in quick handwriting we can barely read. And then the postcards stop coming.

("Nothing beside remains")


The College of Musical Knowledge

Do you recognize this man? Tune in Friday!

My radio show returns Friday at noon for a final year on WSBU-FM, 88.3 The Buzz, St. Bonaventure University.

Friday's hour-long show will be unlike anything you've ever heard before, but you'll enjoy it anyway. Tune in here: http://tunein.com/radio/The-Buzz-883-s22715/

Click the "local tab," download the station player, and get ready for eardrum ecstasy.

The big gong

Shooting star: streak, then


In shade. Shot!
Strikes near my feet,
Sound muffled like
Spy gun silencer.


Hide head.


Are you experienced?


Show host Nancy Alden was riffing on Sirius-XM yesterday about the “27 Club”—the long list of musicians who died at that age. As she went through the names, I waited for her to mention a certain one. Just as I decided she had forgotten it, she ended the list by saying Jimi Hendrix had died at 27 exactly 45 years ago. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)Collapse )


Why I do this

We're midway through the third week of classes, and I got this email today from a student in my freshman writing class:

"Just so you know, I'm now going crazy just reading through the simplest forms of writings. I can't go through Twitter or Facebook without seeing sentences I want to shorten or re-create.

"I'm not sure if this was your goal or not, but if it was you have succeeded."

He'll never be the same again.


If this is Rosa Parks ...

... then this is me

I just finished reading an Associated Press report about the furor in Morehead, Ky., yesterday, when a deputy county clerk started issuing marriage licenses again to same-sex couples.

Of course, this set off more shouting matches between the different camps of people who have flocked to Morehead to bear witness to history. One of them, Elizabeth Johnston, is reported to have screamed, "Don't let Kim's five days in jail be in vain." Kim, of course, is Kim Davis, who decided her religious beliefs trumped federal law, stopped issuing licenses to same-sex couples, and went to jail.

Johnson, in a statement oozing irony as thick as the Earth's crust, tried to colorize Davis with the paintbrush of civil rights—but she wound up painting with the wrong end of the brush.

"We want her to be our Rosa Parks," she said.

As Frank Zappa observed, “Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe."

Now playing on the brain jukebox


Jeff Beck, "Hammerhead," from his live CD released in May. This disc was recording during Beck's 2014 tour, when I saw him from the front row, dead center stage, at the Seneca Allegany Casino.

Here's a great video of the song from a concert in Japan. It's the same band I saw:

Two things to watch for: first, his deadpan expression while he cranks out monster riffs. There's no guitar hero stuff going on. He simply plays.

Second: Note how he uses his thumb to pick the notes while working the vibrato with his other fingers at the same time. It's brilliant. I've seen a lot of great guitarists over the years, but he's the only one I've seen with this technique.

Jeff Beck is 71. Catch him while you can.

The big gong

No words can say so much.

When words collide

No matter how many times you look at it, this headline—from The Guardian, no less—makes no sense:

Oklahoma deputy shoots dead man who shot local police chief

Here's the story, which eventually clears things up: (from Oklahoma). There's nothing funny about it. But the headline sure is a head-scratcher.


Latest Month

November 2015

Wish I'd Said It

Nota bene: “Fear has governed my life, if I think about it. ... I always feel like I’m not good enough for some reason. I wish that wasn’t the case, but left to my own devices, that voice starts speaking up.” – Trent Reznor

“I hate to say this, but not many people care what you do. They care about what you do as much as you care about what they do. Think about it. Just exactly that much. You are not the center of the universe.” — Laurie Anderson

"The path's not yours till you've gone it alone a time." – William Carlos Williams

“Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.” – Twyla Tharp

"My definition of peace is having no noise in my head." – Eric Clapton

"The wreckage of the sky serves to confirm us in delicious error." – John Ashbery

"We are all here by the grace of the big bang. We are all literally the stuff of the stars." – Dwight Owsley

"For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream." – Vincent van Gogh

"It is only with the heart that one can see right; what is essential is invisible to the eye." — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"Forget about being a perfectionist, because entropy always wins out in the end." – Darren Kaufman.

"Impermanence. Impermanence. Impermanence." – Garry Shandling

"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion." – Mark Twain

"There is no realm wherein we have the truth." – Gordon Lish

"Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere." – E.M. Forster

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe." – Frank Zappa

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” – Elmore Leonard

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” – Voltaire

• Journal title and subtitle: Ian Hunter, “Man Overboard”


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