Louis Menand Quote About Music – The Free World

Most musicians are much more eclectic than their fans. If he had nothing else to do, Presley sang gospel, as did Jerry Lee Louis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash, three other Sam Philips discoveries. (A recording of the four of them jamming in a studio in 1956 was discovered and released several years after Presley’s death.) Muddy Waters sang “Red Sails in the Sunset.” Robert Johnson sang “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby.” James Brown liked Sinatra and disliked the blues. Leadbelly was a Gene Autry fan. Chuck Berry’s “Maybellee” was a cover of a country and western song called “Ida Red,” recorded in 1938 by a white band, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. Race had a lot to do with the music business in the United States. It had much less to do with the music.”
Louis Menand – The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War – 2021

Ideas about the quote above. April 5, 2024

Menand is attempting to show that musicians have diverse tastes in music. Many fans do too. James Brown probably did not dislike the blues. He was the blues. He probably did not like the blues when it is played poorly. A more, and better quote is one credited to Louis Armstrong.

“There is two kinds of music, the good, and the bad. I play the good kind.”
Louis Armstrong

Coleman Hawkins, the iconic tenor saxaphonist of the post World War II era loved to listen to Classical Symphonies and operas on his new stereo. Lot’s of people did.

The redeeming point of Menand’s quote is that musicians often gravitate to all kinds of music. In that way race does not matter.

Louis Menand Quote on History

“The critical massing of conditions that enables a way of life to come into being is almost impossible to detect while it is happening, and so is its deterioration. The world just rolls over, without anyone noticing exactly when, and a new set of circumstances is put into place. But the impulse to hold onto the past is very strong, and it is often very hard to understand why things that worked once can’t continue to work. A lot of energy and imagination are consumed trying to fit old systems to new settings, though the pegs keep getting squarer and the holes keep getting rounder. In the end, the only way to make the past usable is to misinterpret it, which means, strictly speaking, to lose it.”
Louis Menand – American Studies


American Studies
by Louis Menand

Essays on some very important characters in U.S. history, most now a bit off the radar – William James, Sir Wendell Holmes, Al Gore – before the present social-media and digital era. The chapter on Larry Flynt and Jerry Falwell and their need to play off one another is particularly illuminating.  The short prologue cuts to the chase and gets you scratching your chin.

Apologies if the quote above is incomplete or will be misconstrued. Always best to simply read the book!


Jay’s Wisdom

I don’t like to give people like that rent-free space in my head.

Direct quote from a smart young fellow I met on the train when dealing with people who piss you off. Brilliant. Voltaire would approve.

The Bitter Sages of the North Coast

When you live in a city and and your mornings are often spent listening to the sound of rubber on asphalt, your afternoons to the huffing of brakes on the local bus line, and the evenings to the scream of sirens and firetrucks, it is good to sometimes hit the road and explore the quiet hinterlands of California. One of those places is the North Coast and towns like Point Arena three hours north of San Francisco.  People are generally friendly survivors of this rugged coast, running a variety of local businesses – cafes, second-hand boutiques, carpenters, handymen, wine laborers, yoga instructors, teachers. and artists. Not a chain store or corporate restaurant in sight.

At the pier in Point Arena I ventured into Point Arena Pizza and was amused at an obviously home-made poster on the industrial refrigerator.  In San Francisco such sarcasm with the youth is not very common. In the country, they may be less inclined to refrain from such truths.

Attention Teenagers
If you are tired of being hassled by unreasonable parents
now is the time for action
Leave home and pay your own way while you still know everything.

Point Arena, CA

And indeed, sarcasm is just one of the services that they offer. The quote above is timeless. I am sure it would bring a snicker to parents all over the world.

Breaking News: The Field of Biology is Not In The Humanities

Jeffrey Cohen, a butter-voiced, bearded man who has been the dean of the humanities at A.S.U. since 2018, told me. On taking the position, he hired a marketing firm, Fervor, to sell the humanities better. It ran a market survey of eight hundred and twenty-six students.

“It was eye-opening to see their responses,” Cohen said. “In general, they loved the humanities and rated them higher than their other courses. However, they were unclear on what the humanities were—two hundred and twenty-two thought that biology was a humanity.”
From “The End of the English Major” By Nathan Heller (The New Yorker – February 27, 2023)

The “The End of the English Major” By Nathan Heller (The New Yorker – February 27, 2023) is an illuminating article about how young people today are no longer pursuing degrees in English, History, Philosophy and the other humanities. In many ways you cannot blame them. College is expensive and when you leave you are going to need a way to pay off all those loans. The help wanted listings do not have jobs outright for people who are experts in say Charles Dickens or Renaissance sculpture in Northern Italy. “Go west young man” has been replaced with “get a Computer Science degree you fool!” Be practical and make some loot with ones and zeros.

And the fact that twenty percent of kids today think that biology is in the humanities is understandable as recently the field of psychology has been confusing gender and sex and it is easy to think that they both may be “fluid” and a “spectrum”  – not so much hard science, but more about expression, culture and personal preference.

I would say what is at stake with this exodus of people from the humanities is a whole generation of people who are less literate and easily coerced into believing just about anything. Its the death of critical thinking and by the way – biology is a science!

Books I Read In 2022

Books I Read in 2022 is brought to you by Bird and Beckett Books in San Francisco.

Bird and Beckett Books

Remember, before you buy a book from Jeff Bezos consider supporting your local bookstore. There are so many great book stores in San Francisco. I also highly recommend Green Apple Books on Clement Street. They have just about everything and the staff is amazing. When you buy a book from a local bookstore you get that warm fuzzy feeling just thinking that you may have kept a local business alive and you may even make some real friends.

Below are the books I read in 2022.  This year I realized how fun it is to keep this annual list and reflect back on these literary journeys.  The list is organized in the order that I read them.

I always like to mix up contemporary works with classics. Some of the highlights of the year is reading Brave New World in January and then spending the entire year marveling at the clairvoyance of Aldous Huxley.  It is a must-read for anyone in the 21st century. What a great book! I picked up Free People of Color of New Orleans : An Introduction. in New Orleans. It is a short  book and illuminates how the issue of race is in the United States is complex, how various stories are rarely told – one being race and the City of New Orleans. I did read a few chapters of the 1619 Project but found that I already knew a lot of the material, so it became a bit of a slog.  I was lucky to read No One Writes to the Colonel: And Other Stories  while staying in Cali Colombia for a week.  Way too fun! I read it twice.

This heat is enough to rust the screws in my head.

No One Writes to the Colonel: And Other Stories
Gabriel García Márquez

Books I Read 2022

Brave New World
Aldous Huxley
Read Review

Finding the Right Notes
Ron Carter
Petrack Production

After a couple of months on the road with the band, Herbie began to feel frustrated. He was copying all the other pianists but not allowing himself to come out from hiding. Finally that frustration came to a head. “I thought , I’ve just got to play, really play.” Herbie said. ” If that conflicts with Miles, I’ll just have to hear the consequences.” So at Sutherford Lounge in Chicago one night, I let it loose. I figured that Miles was going to fire me after the set, but he leaned over to me and said. “Why didn’t you play like that before?” That shocked me. Then it dawned on that that a copy is never as good as the original. Miles wanted to hear me. And so did Ron and Tony.

Finding the Right Notes
Ron Carter

Ngozi Adiche
Anchor Books

Robots Men and Minds
Ludwig Von Bertalanffy

The Bomb
Howard Zinn
City Lights

Free People of Color of New Orleans : An Introduction
Mary Gehman
Margaret Media, Incorporated

The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitxgerald

Ladies Who Lunch
Joseph Woodard
Household Ink

The Septembers of Shiraz
Dalia Sofer
Harper Perenial
Read Review

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain
The Mark Twain Library

Witches Midwives & Nurses
Barbara Ehrenreich & Deirdre English
The Feminist Press at CUNY; 2nd edition (July 1, 2010)
Read Review

Thomas Merton, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, And The Protection Of All Beings
Bill Morgan
Beatdom Press
Read Review

The Bomb
Howard Zinn
City Lights Books

No One Writes to the Colonel: And Other Stories
Gabriel García Márquez
Harper Perennial

The Manufacture of Madness
Thomas Szsasz
Harper and Row
Read Review

Skyblue the Badass
Dallas Weibe

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk
David Sedaris
Little, Brown and Company

Gender Queer
Maia Kobabe
One Forge Publishing Group

A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
New Directions

Ron Carter and the Finding the Right Notes

I think that the bassist is the quarterback in any group, and he must find a sound that he is responsible for.
– Ron Carter (Finding the Right Notes – 2017)

“After a couple of months on the road with the band, Herbie began to feel frustrated. He was copying all the other pianists but not allowing himself to come out from hiding. Finally the frustration came to a head. “I thought I’ve just got to play, to really play,” Herbie said. If that conflicts with Miles, I’ll just have to bear the consequences. So at the Sutherford Lounge in Chicago one night, I let it loose. I figured Miles was going to fire me after the set, but he leaned over to me and said. “Why didn’t you play like that before” That shocked me. Then it dawned on me that a copy is never as good as an original. Miles wanted to hear me. And so did Ron and Tony.”
– Herbie Handcock quoted in (Finding the Right Notes – 2017)

The Quarterly Report – November 2021

The Quarterly Report: A brief synopsis of the news in San Francisco over the last three months.

Quote of the week:

“Anti vaccine types are like people who wear shirts of a band who have no idea what that band sounds like.”
Anonymous (from a comment on the San Francisco Chronicle)

Sporting News

As the World Series ended with the Atlanta Braves winning over the Houston Astros in six games, the professional baseball season for the San Francisco Giants ended in the playoffs against the Los Angeles Dodgers on a ninth inning check swing. There is just something so wrong, ill-suited and anti-climatic about ended your season on a check swing. The Giant’s bats went to sleep in the end and when it comes to the playoffs you need to have hot bats and catch a few breaks. I don’t write the rules. That’s just the way life works. As of today, Buster Posey announces his retirement. So ends an era for the San Francisco Giants.

About a month ago, the seasons changed and the surf season started.  We now go through a sequence of glorious sunny days, with offshore winds and head-high surf to stormy weather to out of control 25 foot days. Winter surfing has arrived. Buy a new leash.

San Francisco Politics

Because of strange election laws San Francisco is in the process of having recall elections for both the District Attorney and the School Board. Talk about a really stupid system that opens up even more ways for big money to enter into politics. Let us simply vote people out of office when their terms ends if we do not like how they are doing their job. The recalls makes for an endless election cycle that is no good for anyone save the people with deep pockets.


Luckily, in mid-October we got pummeled by a large storm. This was the equivalent of dousing a campfire with a gallon of water. While the “fire-season” did not officially end then it sure did help. After a few more subsequent storms, there is even a little snow in the mountains.

COVID-19 Pandemic Update

In San  Francisco the vaccine rates are above 80%. The streets and roads are returning to their pre-pandemic madness.  We even see the Google Buses are back. What short memories we humans have.

source: https://sf.gov/data/covid-19-vaccinations

Parklets, Haircuts and Where the Sun Does Shine

And the sun does shine now as the summer fog usually has disappeared.  Unfortunately the parklets are slowly disappearing as things return to normal. Speaking with business owners, the common complaint is that the city is difficult to deal with concerning the parklets and the cost is exorbitant. Too bad as the parklets are generally a really cool idea and makes for more spaces for musicians to perform.

And many of the “slow streets” are being opened for cars. OK everyone. Go out there and drive around, cart your kids off to the fancy schools make money and burn up this planet!!!

That is The Quarterly Report – November 2021. Be well. If you have not already got your vaccine time to get the jab. Do it for grandma. Drink plenty of water, get regular exercise and for the love of God stay away from “social media.”

Photo Gallery of SF

Kurt Vonnegut – A Man Without a Country – The Review

If you live in San Francisco, check out Bird and Beckett Books. A great place to buy books and listen to live music.

Bird and Beckett Books

Remember, before you buy a book from Jeff Bezos consider supporting your local bookstore. You get that warm fuzzy feeling just thinking that you may have kept a local business alive and you may even make some real friends.

When I was a younger man, but decades after the bombing of Dresden, Kurt Vonnegut was an author that people took seriously, but he was never taught in your  English class. Too modern. Too rock-an-roll. Far too funny. It was just assumed that everyone read Vonnegut.  The language was crisp, often ironic, sometimes funny as hell and always profound. The chapters always short, you could often finish a book in a day.

I finally got around to reading A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut. It was a gift from a dear friend and in the end it it made me reread Slaughter House Five and God Bless You Mr. Rosewater; I just needed more Vonnegut. I realized that all Vonnegut’s work is worth rereading. Slaughter House Five should be required reading in high school.

Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We are dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.
– Kurt Vonnegut

A Man Without a Country is unlike any of Vonnegut’s books. He wrote it later in life when in his 80s. It is confessional and in many ways but a brief autobiography – a great place to get to know some of the core values that undermine much of Vonnegut’s work. Early on he recommends everyone read what he believes to be the greatest short story in American literature –  An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce. You can download it as a pdf.

Do you think Arabs are dumb? They gave us our numbers. Try doing long division with Roman numerals.
– Kurt Vonnegut

One of the reoccurring themes of Vonnegut’s life of course is World War II and the realization that World War II was fought, like all wars, by children. This is why Slaughter House Five has a subtitle of The Children’s Crusade. 

Reading A Man Without a Country, it is interesting to get Vonnegut’s take on drinking and smoking. I never really knew that he smoked two packs of Pall Malls, unfiltered every day. Incredible, that he lived into his 80s. Born in 1924, He was a man of his times.  Most everyone in his generation smoked like chimneys at one point or another.

He was a humanist, pacifist, a stealth stoic, an environmentalist who believed strongly in the notion of community. One of his guiding moral principals was kindness.

And when he reflects back on America he signals out African Americans.

…the priceless gift that African Americans gave the whole world when they were in slavery was a gift so great that it is now almost the only reason many foreigners still like us at least a little bit. That specific remedy for the worldwide epidemic of depression is a gift called the blues.
– Kurt Vonnegut

Experiencing the fire-bombing of Dresden made him a pacifist. He also sees that all wars and the destructive nature of capitalism (he was a huge fan of Eugene Debs) will do us in in the end. The quote below is from almost twenty years ago.

That’s the end of the good news about anything. Our planet’s immune system is trying to get rid of people. This is sure the way to do that.
KV, 6AM 11/3/2004

A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut. I am giving it 5 stars as just being in the presence of Kurt Vonnegut’s wit is 5 stars. You can read A Man Without a Country in an afternoon.

Catching up with Ralph Nader

You do not hear much about Ralph Nadar these days. Once a public figure, and a household name, Ralph Nadar is not a regular guest on FOX News, ABC, CBS or even NPR. So it was with great curiosity that I listened to an interview of Ralph Nadar by Robert Scheer on Scheer Intelligence, Robert’s podcast. It is a great conversation between two brilliant old sages. While listening I kept imagining these two octogenarians as the old guys up in the balcony in the Muppets, spouting off their wise observations. A very candid conversation.

Scheer Intelligence


Below are some quotes.
“One thing I’ve learned is that Democrats are on an infinite journey towards cowardliness,” responds Nader, “because now they’re getting credit for their $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, 100% financed on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren, without a single effort to [rescind] the Trump tax cuts that are at least $2 trillion over the ten years since they were passed in 2017.”

“What we’re seeing is an entrenched corporate state, where Wall Street controls government and turns it against its own people. And the awareness of the young generation, of what’s going on, in terms of the corporate supremacists’  controlling our political economy, strategically planning every conceivable nook and corner, their commercializing childhood, they’re strategically planning higher education, they’ve planned our tax system, they’re strategically planning our electoral and political system, our public budgets, our military foreign policy. They’re strategically planning the public lands and its disposition… daily… one third of America. They’ve strategically planned the epidemic of obesity that they knew full well was the result of their high fat, high sugar, high salt diet that they have seduced young people with billions of dollars of TV advertising over the last forty years.”
– Ralph Nader: Democrats Ushered in an Era of Corporate Fascism – March 19. 2021

And then Ralph takes the kids to task:

“And this young generation, that calls itself progressive, and “change agent(s)”, they just don’t have a clue! They don’t read! You don’t read, you don’t think. You don’t think, you don’t read. If you don’t do those things, you don’t set the stage for social justice movements. We all know this.”
– Ralph Nader: Democrats Ushered in an Era of Corporate Fascism – March 19. 2021

Nadar goes on to show the way and how to bring about change.

“Here’s the rub,” explains Nader. “It has never taken more than 1% active citizens scattered throughout the country representing [or building] the majority public opinion to change Congress on any number of agendas throughout history.”

Ralph Nadar.  Someone, who in the year 2021 does not own a computer or a cellphone. Probably the reason we all have and wear seat belts in cars, can drink clean drinking water and have safer consumer products. Unfortunately, also why Al Gore lost the presidential election in 2000 and George Bush II came to power and got the United States entrenched in wars in the Middle East.

Ralph Nadar. Someone to listen to.

Kamala Harris Quotes

“I know predators, and we have a predator living in the White House, and let me tell you, there’s a little secret about predators. Donald Trump has predatory nature and predatory instincts. The things about predators you should know, they prey on the vulnerable. They prey on those who they do not believe are strong. The thing you must importantly know, predators are cowards. I have a background where successfully, I have prosecuted the big banks who preyed on homeowners, prosecuted pharmaceutical companies who preyed on seniors, prosecuted transnational criminal organizations that preyed on women and children, and I will tell you we have a predator living in the White House.”
Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator and Presidential Candidate – July 3, 2019

“Women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all, including the black women who are often too often overlooked, but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy.”
Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator and Vice Presidential Elect

“Can you think of any laws that give the government the power to make decisions about the male body?”
Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator Questioning Brett Kavanaugh – September 2018

Brett Kavanaugh had no answer and looked dazed and confused.  And isn’t it peculiar that like Jeff Sessions who said “you scare me” to Senator Harris when she was questioning him on the floor, Kavanaugh seemed a bit terrified. January 20th will be a great day for woman. For little girls it will be a day where being smart, tough and thinking critically is now part of the accepted performance.

For people in the Bay Area there are three camps. People who hold a grudge for Kamala Harris over the simple fact that she was District Attorney of San Francisco and made some mistakes along the way. Those who are simply glad that you have someone who is intelligent, qualified and decent. And, the few Republicans who think she is soft on petty crime and social issues.

There was an op-ed in the New York Times recently that took the point of view that Kamala Harris should be given a more substantial job than Vice President.


All I can say is: there’s still time.

Kamala Harris – For the People, here we go.

Artie Shaw Quote

Reading “I Walked with Giants” the autobiography of Jimmy Heath I ran into a very prescient quote about the United States of America from a speech delivered by Artie Shaw, the great big band clarinetist.

“This is a great country, but there are a lot of idiots in it. That’s why I went to Spain for a while.” – Artie Shaw in 1998 at Jewish Community Center – Washington, DC (“I Walked with Giants” p245)


This was in 1998. I fear that the idiots are simply multiplying!

Facebook’s Strange Terms of Service that Facilitates Fascism

“This came to yet another head last Friday night when Mark (Zuckerberg) decided Facebook would not remove Trump’s post in which he invoked a historically racist phrase to threaten violence against civilians. Mark suggested that it didn’t violate Facebook’s terms of service because Trump was a state actor and so his threat was more of a warning.”
Jessi Hempel, June 3, 2020 Will employee protests fix Facebook’s power problem?

What a strange terms of service. So if you are a “state actor” you can get away with racist hate speech, toxic and dangerous lies and sexist insults. But if you are a black man, in our society you get a knee in your neck and killed by the police for just breathing air. Facebook is toxic. It is really that simple. Mark Zuckerberg is simply a greedy capitalist… a lot like Donald Trump. Mark Zuckerberg is NOT your “friend.”


Mark Zuckerberg’s Lost Notebooks – Further Proof that Facebook is Not Your Friend

Paul Bley – Time Will Tell – “A scale is a very ugly thing”

“A scale is a very ugly thing and it’s a bad discipline to expose your ear to bad music in the name of technique.  If you decide what to play and what aesthetics to use in your choices then the “how” will follow. There is a basic advantage in not being able to play well, in that if your music is very simple then you are less likely to play bad notes. The more notes you play the more likely you are to play a lot of bad ones. By limiting your choices you improve the result of your music. I went through a period in my life when rather than trying to make my music sound better I started eliminating things that didn’t sound good and everyone said that I had made a great improvement, but what I had done was just housekeeping.”
Paul Bley – from Time Will Tell – Conversations with Paul Bley (2003) – Norman Meehan

Such an odd perspective, but it makes sense that Paul Bley would say that scales are “ugly.” I think what he is saying is that scales, when played like “scales,” are ugly. When played like music are just music. The notion that you get rid of bad notes in your playing by simply playing less notes is pretty funny!

if your music is very simple then you are less likely to play bad notes

This is perhaps the definition of a bluegrass solo, or what the cowboys call a “break.” Good jazz musicians never have a hard time with “wrong” notes as that is sometimes the fodder with which they create their motifs.

Feel free to comment below.

Hiram Johnson, Grooms and Corpses

Hiram Johnson, governor of California around 1911 and part of the Progressive Republican party. It is so odd to think that Republicans at one point were actually progressive, fighting for the environment, working folk, attempting to combat the concentration of wealth.

Below is amusing quote from an excellent book on California history.

“The personality of Hiram Johnson bore some resemblance to that of Theodore Roosevelt, and in the early years of their association Johnson exploited this resemblance to the point of imitating Roosevelt’s gestures and exclamations. Both were extraordinarily intelligent and courageous political fighters, but also had in extraordinary degree the human failing of self-centeredness. It might have been said of Johnson, as it was said of Roosevelt that he disliked attending weddings and funerals because at a wedding he was not the groom and at the funeral he was not the corpse.”
California – An Interpretive History – Eight Edition James Rawls, Walton Bean (p. 280)

Progressive Republican party, these days seems like quite an oxymoron. While politicians are al
ways full of themselves, the quote above puts a comic spin on the self-indulgence

Zoe Lofgren States the Obvious

“Representative Zoe Lofgren said that like Nixon, Trump abused his power when he attempted to influence the 2020 presidential election. But unlike the former, Trump “used a foreign power to do it.”UPI.com – House leans on Rep. Zoe Lofgren’s experience from Nixon, Clinton impeachments

Zoe Lofgren is a Rock Star
Zoe Lofgren is doing a great job as well as Adam Schiff and all the house managers. In recent times two Republicans were impeached by the House of Representatives for attempting to rig a Presidential election – Richard Nixon and Donald Trump. Nixon had the wherewithal to simply resign and get on an airplane, walk up the stairs with Pat, raising his arms with that ironic and  stupid victory sign thing that Roger Stone (now in jail) has tattooed on his back.

Bill Clinton, however, after Ken Starr followed him around like a gringo Inspector Clouseau for two years , ended up getting impeached for getting far to close to the interns, surely sexual harassment  and personal misconduct.

So there is a moral to this story. Never trust sleazy hotel mobsters who like to hide their taxes and thus ties to Russian mobsters. Never trust paranoid, baritone, hard drinking former governors with really bad posture. And surely never trust “neo-liberal” saxophone players who chase dresses, harass women, never practice and can barely play in-tune.

Trump Impeachment Trial Summary
Sure, let us have more witnesses for otherwise this would not even pass the sniff-test for city jury duty. President Trump has been publicly calling foreign  governments to meddle in our national elections since 2016. The trial is simply about Trump again meddle in our elections through executive and back channels. This is completely obvious. Republican Senators. Have you completely lost your senses?

NOTE: The opinion above is only that of the author and does not represent the San Francisco Journal, investors or subsidiaries. Letters to the editors can be sent via the contact link below.

Please do not pray for the President – It Creeps Him Out

“Even worse than offending the Founding Fathers, you are offending Americans of faith by continually saying “I pray for the President,” when you know this statement is not true, unless it is meant in a negative sense. It is a terrible thing that you are doing, but you will have to live with it, not I!”
– Donald Trump’s letter to The Honorable Nancy Pelosi – 12/18/2019

We live in such strange times and this letter to the Speaker of the House by the President Trump is just another example. That the President gets so irritated about Nancy Pelosi’s Catholicism and her daily prayer is actually sort of funny. It reminds me a bit of the final scene in the movie The Princess Bride in which the Spaniard states over and over again in the final duel “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” After about the fifth time the Count, who Inigo Montoya is about to kill yells “STOP SAYING THAT!” Donald Trump is just like the Count. “STOP PRAYING FOR ME! IT’S CREEPING ME OUT!”

Speaker Pelosi has gotten under his skin and Trump just cannot take it anymore. It may be Trump’s downfall in the end, and hopefully the Evangelicals that voted for him should be aghast. Questioning the ritual and power of prayer. How un-Christian. How un-American.

My bumper sticker for those “fly-over” states.

Please do not pray for the President – It Creeps Him Out

The Atlantic – How to Stop a Civil War – The December 2019 Issue

The Atlantic

Totally redesigned with a custom typeface. Magazine journalism at its best. Subscribe to The Atlantic today!

With the rapid decline of thoughtful, diverse journalism, The Atlantic’s latest issue is excellent, taking on the current volatile political and cultural climate as a theme. The articles are always at least a few pages long and seem to go a bit under the hood. Many pieces are collaborative ventures with two or more writers. This brings a depth that you would not get with a single voice.

Below are some quotes from “The Dark Psychology of Social Networks.” by Jonathan Haidt,
Tobias Rose-Stockwell


From The Decline of Wisdom from The Dark Psychology of Social Networks – The Atlantic

In 1790, the Anglo-Irish philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke wrote, “We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages.” Thanks to social media, we are embarking on a global experiment that will test whether Burke’s fear is valid. Social media pushes people of all ages toward a focus on the scandal, joke, or conflict of the day, but the effect may be particularly profound for younger generations, who have had less opportunity to acquire older ideas and information before plugging themselves into the social-media stream.


Our cultural ancestors were probably no wiser than us, on average, but the ideas we inherit from them have undergone a filtration process. We mostly learn of ideas that a succession of generations thought were worth passing on. That doesn’t mean these ideas are always right, but it does mean that they are more likely to be valuable, in the long run, than most content generated within the past month. Even though they have unprecedented access to all that has ever been written and digitized, members of Gen Z (those born after 1995 or so) may find themselves less familiar with the accumulated wisdom of humanity than any recent generation, and therefore more prone to embrace ideas that bring social prestige within their immediate network yet are ultimately misguided.

From The Decline of Wisdom from The Dark Psychology of Social Networks – The Atlantic

The polar icecaps are melting, the world is now run by reality TV stars,  Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook peddle lies, Jeff Bezos is the “borg” and now wisdom is in sad shape. Keep positive.

AI and the Metamorphosis – The Atlantic Article

“The challenge of absorbing this new technology into the values and practices of the existing culture has no precedent. The most comparable event was the transition from the medieval to the modern period. In the medieval period, people interpreted the universe as a creation of the divine and all its manifestations as emanations of divine will. When the unity of the Christian Church was broken, the question of what unifying concept could replace it arose. The answer finally emerged in what we now call the Age of Enlightenment; great philosophers replaced divine inspiration with reason, experimentation, and a pragmatic approach. “

From The Metamorphosis, The Atlantic  – Henry A. Kissinger, Eric Schmidt And Daniel Huttenlocher

The Metamorphosis is a very interesting article in The Atlantic. Co-written by three very influential people it muses over the impacts of artificial intelligence which is all the rage now. Some of the three writers end with forecasts that are optimistic. Others are more skeptical. It is easy to figure out who wrote what in the article. The quote above is surely Henry Kissinger reminding the kids of some of the fundamentals of history in the West. It is rather peculiar that Kissinger jumps from the medieval period to the modern in one fell swoop but so be it. I highly doubt that most kids graduate from college these days with even the faintest understanding of the Age of Enlightenment or any notion of this concept of history and humanity.

The other unifying concept was of course the creation and notion of the “self” but that is far too complex for most people to comprehend in our current age of narcissism and selfies. You can get a better understanding how this is relevant  in the field of psychology by reading The Invention of the Self: The Hinge of Consciousness in the Eighteenth Century  by John O. Lyons, my dear old dad who’s ashes are floating around somewhere in lake Michigan.  Rest his soul.






Kamala Harris Taking a Stand

“I know predators, and we have a predator living in the White House, and let me tell you, there’s a little secret about predators. Donald Trump has predatory nature and predatory instincts. The things about predators you should know, they prey on the vulnerable. They prey on those who they do not believe are strong. The thing you must importantly know, predators are cowards. I have a background where successfully, I have prosecuted the big banks who preyed on homeowners, prosecuted pharmaceutical companies who preyed on seniors, prosecuted transnational criminal organizations that preyed on women and children, and I will tell you we have a predator living in the White House.”

Kamala Harris
U.S. Sentaor
Presidential Canidate
July 3, 2019

You can point to Bernie’s “billions and billions,” Warren’s epiphany to break up the monopolies in big tech, even Andrew Yang’s idea that we need to move to higher ground, but the quote above speaks to the reality of our current society. There are predators taking advantage of the vulnerable everywhere and it has unfortunately become acceptable and part of business as usual.

“The Knowledge Illusion” – Some Quotes

We live in a community of knowledge, and unfortunately communities sometimes get the science wrong. Attempts to foster science literacy cannot be effective if they don’t either change the consensus of the community or associate the learner to a different community.

People tend to have limited understanding of complex issues and they have trouble absorbing complex details (like answering factual answers to factual questions). They also tend not to have a good sense of how much they know and they lean heavily on their community of knowledge as a basis for their beliefs. The outcome is passionate, polarized attitudes that are hard to change.

…shattering people’s understanding by asking them to generate a detailed causal explanation also makes them less extreme.

From The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone by Steven Sloman (Author) & Philip Fernbach
Riverhead Books (March 14, 2017)

The Worlds’ Greatest Hitchhiker Quote

“This one little car ride instantly redeemed us and rejuvenated us, offering an almost irrational hope for what lay ahead down the road. This I realized was the real magic of hitchhiking: not how it supposedly affirmed your faith in the goodness of humanity, but how it could make and break the faith, over and over again, often multiple times in a single day.”

From The World’s Best Hitchhiker on the Secrets of His Success – The New York Times – 3/22/2018


The Sunday New York Times Magazine has been producing some very entertaining issues. In the travel issue was an article about a crazed Polish man, Aleksander Doba who obsesses about kayaking to the point where he has kayaked across the Atlantic three times by himself.
In the same issues is the story about “The World’s Best Hitchhiker on the Secrets of His Success,” quoted above. It is 2018. Rarely do we ever see someone hitchhike in the United States on America. There probably is an app for that, or perhaps just craigslist, of this thing called facebook. It is unfortunate that hitchhiking has died out as hitchhiking is ultimately a way to challenge people’s beliefs, perceptions of reality and has the potential to have people from very different walks of life and classes interact. It is a way of taking a true chance on strangers and humanity and in the end it can be profound. In the least, for the hitchhiker it can be a test of patience and a realization of how often it is more beautiful on the side of the road on an empty stretch of highway than in a car. How liberating it can be to throw off the shackles of time and schedules. “We’ll get there when we get there.”

Just about everyone over forty has a tale of hitchhiking. The cross country trip out West. The trip that got derailed in a rainstorm. The trip from New York to Key West Florida and the amazing sunrises in Georgia. The ride down the Snake River Canyon in the back of a pickup. So many tales. All of them true.

In the current fashion of personal narratives I will indulge the reader with my own experiences with thumb exposed. It started in earnest with a cross-state trip of about 150 miles to visit my older brothers who were attending a pottery camp in Iowa. I was just fourteen years old. My parents did not seem at all worried and basically said, “Sure, have a good time. Need a ride to the highway?” What different times we live in now.

I left early in the morning with a map, a backpack, some sandwiches and a few dollars for sure. I do not remember every ride but in the end it took over ten rides. I remember being picked up by farmers heading a just a few miles down the road. Truck drivers were always good as the ride tended to be longer and the chatter on the CB radio was always cryptic yet entertaining. One ride, out in that territory, maybe not on that maiden voyage, was perhaps my most dangerous. A large rusted-out Oldsmobile sedan stopped. Three people were in the car. I got in the back seat with one of the riders and soon discovered that everyone in the car was completely plastered out on a bender. In the backseat was a case of beer and I was immediately offered a beer which being fourteen I politely turned down. We then proceeded to drive away at breakneck speed, flying over the rolling farmland hills of southern Wisconsin. After about fifteen miles of so and going over 100 miles per hour we came to a crossing and the driver stopped, to which I departed the car and thanked them for the ride. I never heard later if they ended up driving off the side of the road or not as we had no internets at the time back then to scour the movements of other humans, but they probably made it home fine and ate brats and kraut for dinner… washed down with five more beers.

To be honest, I was not an epic hitchhiker by any means but I do remember some beautiful hitchhiking with an ex-girlfriend out West in Montana. I remember hitching from Bozeman Montana to Salt Lake City Utah. Somewhere along the way we were picked up by a fancy black BMW sedan. After about 5 minutes the driver’s “fuzz buster” made a sound and we slowed down to avoid the highway patrol and a speeding ticket. We had been moving so fast that when we slowed down It literally felt like we were going twenty miles per hour when we were now going sixty. In a few minutes we returned to the normal 120 miles per hour. Sort of the Montana autobahn perhaps. Rides in the backs of pickups were always a joy with the mountains and open skies, the padding of your backpack, which you used as pillow providing comfort. I remember a ride down the length of Wisconsin from Upper Michigan. We were picked up by a pastor who worked with Native Americans and he seemed like he needed someone to talk to to make the ride easier and perhaps clear his conscience. All of these rides courtesy of “the kindness of strangers.”

The last hitchhiker that I picked up was about twenty years ago. You simply do not see many hitchhikers today. It was some youngsters heading down the coast on Highway 1. I was checking out the surf at Ocean Beach in San Francisco and had a hunch that the waves were better down in Pacifica. The two people in their early twenties had a sign that said “L.A. Bound” and after telling them that I was not going but fifteen miles down the coast they said that it would suit them just fine. I let them off at Linda Mar Beach and by the time I got my wetsuit on I noticed that they were headed south, looking for a good spot to continue the journey. Free spirits on the road.

Hitchhiking. A way to connect with every walk of life and find commonality in the human condition. Way safer than the internets.


Zorba the Greek and Thugs, Leeches, Shouting and Playing Piano in the Lobby

“ Mr. Fintiklis, 39, declined to comment, but he has made several notable — and provocative — appearances at the hotel in recent days. On one evening, following a verbal confrontation with Trump employees, he and his entourage of about a dozen people retired to the lobby and had pizza delivered from a restaurant on the property. Then Mr. Fintiklis played music from “Zorba the Greek” on the lobby’s baby grand piano while his friends sang along.”

From N.Y. Times – Thugs, Leeches, Shouting and Shoving at Trump Hotel in Panama (March 3, 2018)

This story in the Sunday N.Y. Times seems like the perfect material for either a documentary or a piece of historical fiction. We are at a point where in the world of politics, reality is stranger than fiction. Imagine Mr. Orestes Fintiklis, a young millionaire in a tussle with Trump and he uses art (playing a song in the hotel lobby) as a way to state his position. If this was a proposed screenplay it would never make the cut – too unbelievable. I like the fact that this really rich guy takes pleasure in playing the piano and singing songs from the mid-twentieth century. Imagine the party eating probably Dominoes pizza in the lobby hanging around the piano singing songs while the security in military garb and armed with AK 47s stood guard. What a bizarre scene.

Perhaps the movie would be called Orestes the Cypriate.

Observations on the Word “Feminism”

“According to Merriam-Webster’s “feminism” was the most searched-for word in its online dictionary, up seventy percent from 2016. But who in 2017 needed to be told what “feminism” means? Upon searching, these people would have learned from Merriam-Webster that “feminism” is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Some number of them where probably relieved to learn that it is still just a theory.”

From The New Yorker – Jan 8th, 2018 – Talk of the Town – Words of the Year (Louis Minead)

There are some words that are confusing by their very sound and came to life in a way that in the end does not serve humans or the word well. “Feminism” is one. “Net neutrality” is another.  Wordsmiths and politicians conjure up others. Citizens United, the law that allows corporations to be treated as citizens is another and should really be called Corporations United to Screw You Over. But once a word takes life it is hard to undo the confusion and damage.

The reason why people were probably looking up “feminism” is because for many it conjures up an image of the feminine – perhaps lipstick and high-heels, but originally it was not meant to mean that at all, but I digress and am “mansplaining”  – a word that is quite good and accurate – way better than “feminism.” But I hope the people who looked up the word “feminism” are satisfied with the Merriam-Webster’s definition. That is how I have always had it defined in my head.  Equality. Maybe it should be “equalitism,” but that almost sounds like a mathematical theory.

It is strange that the UCLA feminist magazine and website Fem is staffed entirely by woman. https://femmagazine.com/about/staff-2015-2016/. I think it may have to do with the confusion about the word “feminism” and perhaps a feeling by men that they are not welcome. Surely nothing could be further from the truth. One of my friend’s kids that is off to college joined the  school’s Latin Dancing Club and is loving it. Very few men and a lot of woman who are eagerly looking for dancing partners. Smart guy.

Anyway, this little essay ,Words of the Year, is extremely well written and also pretty funny. I have been exposed to the New Yorker since I was young. When I was a little kid, I would eat my bowl of cereal and page through the single pane cartoons and never get a single joke. Now I look at the cartoons and marvel at how they came up with such great ideas. Usually the Talk of the Town is all about the dreary state of politics. It is good that they mix it up from time to time.

Scheer Intelligence – Danny Goldberg: In Search of the Lost Chord

I cannot say I have read this book In Search of the Lost Chord but I have been really getting into this podcast. Robert Scheer, the veteran columnist from the LA Times and editor and producer of Truth Digg. The guests that Robert Scheer gets on the show are all surely friends of his but he still manages to keep their feet to fire and Robert asks some direct and often challenging questions. Here are some quotes from this interview.

Bill Graham also liked to get paid including in the 60s and he’s an example of somebody who balanced.. wasn’t perfect but the good outweighed the bad. I mean if you expect perfect people, you are going to be disappointed. Even Doctor King had some human frailties.

Danny Goldberg

When you bet on artists its a good bet and that’s the one thing I feel good about. I’ve always tried to put the artists I work with first and they have taken care of me.

Danny Goldberg

I have to say that it is a moment of sadness reading your book because San Francisco is gone. It’s gone not just in the sense of the summer of love its gone as the baudy town of honky tonks.

Robert Scheer

To check out the whole interview, go to http://www.kcrw.com/news-culture/shows/scheer-intelligence/danny-goldberg-in-search-of-the-lost-chord

Where is Janice Raymond?

The Internet has a strange way of broadcasting value and worth. A forty-year-old book about transgender issues can be a cornerstone of critical thought at the time but then gets misquoted and passed off as old fashion. Today the book is out-of-print but fetches around $100 used on Amazon for a used hard cover edition. You have to wonder why the publisher does not make another printing? Modern books read like pop self-help books, quoting daytime TV shows and sourcing checklists of acceptable pronouns. The Transgender Empire written by a “radical lesbian feminist” (how did she ever get that label?) is both academic, historical and cuts to the chase and journeys deep into the topic. Below is just a short quote from the 1994 reprinting.

The medical model is also a disease model. And here exactly is the rub. If transsexualism is treated as a disease, then does desire qualify as disease? As Thomas Szasz asked in his New York Times review of The Transsexual Empire, does an old person who wants to be young suffer from the “disease” of being a “transchronological, ” or does a poor person who wants to be rich suffer from the “disease” of being a “transeconomical”? Does a Black person who wants to be white suffer from the “disease” of being a “transracial”?

All these questions, of course, raise larger social and political issues and remove these conjectural “diseases” from the medical/psychiatric framework.

From The Transgender Empire – Janice Raymond
Reprinted in 1994 by Teachers College Press, 1234 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027
Originally published in 1979 by Beacon Press
Copyright © 1994 by Janice G. Raymond

Download the pdf

Quote of the Week

“I prefer someone who burns the flag and then wraps themselves up in the Constitution over someone who burns the Constitution and then wraps themselves up in the flag.”

― Molly Ivins

Heard this quote from a friend while riding bikes. Molly Ivins gets the point that’s for sure. If you have not read it in a while, The Constitution of the United States with the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation are actually a really good reads. Highly recommended for people in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Quotes of the Week

“On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

-H. L. Mencken

I do not know much about this character Mencken but what amazing foresight.

And something else to give you pause and maybe pull yourself together with.

We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids and we Democrats can go for a long brisk walk and smell the roses.

-Garrison Keillor

Good to know everyone has not gone mad….

For me, the biggest disappointment with this whole election is there should be some level of decorum, respect and dignity when it comes to the election of the president. It just went out the window. Maybe we should’ve seen it coming over the last 10 years. You look at society, you look at what’s popular. People are getting paid millions of dollars to go on TV and scream at each other, whether it’s in sports, politics or entertainment. I guess it was only a matter of time before it spilled over to politics. Then all of a sudden you’re faced with the reality that the man who’s going to lead you has routinely used racist, misogynist, insulting words. That’s a tough one. That’s a tough one. I wish him well. I hope he’s a good president. I have no idea what kind of president he’ll be because he hasn’t said anything about what he’s going to do. We don’t know. It’s tough when you want there to be some respect and dignity and there hasn’t been any. Then you walk into a room with your daughter and your wife, who’ve basically been insulted by his comments, and they’re distraught. Then you walk in and you see the faces of your players, most of whom have been insulted directly as a result of being minorities. It’s shocking, it really is. We talked about it as a team this morning. I don’t know what else to say. Just the whole process has left us feeling kind of disgusted and disappointed. I thought we were better than this. I thought ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ was ‘The Jerry Springer Show.’ Watching the last debate, Trump would make a crack at (Hillary) Clinton and you’d look at the fans. The fans would go, “Oooh! Oooh, no he didn’t!” It’s like, “Yeah, he did. Yeah, this is a presidential election, it’s not ‘The Jerry Springer Show.’ I’m sorry, this is my rant and I’m disappointed in the lack of respect and dignity that’s involved. That’s the way it goes.

-Steve Kerr – Head basketball coach of the Golden State Warriors


Presidential Addresses


“Civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to truth.”

From President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address

Just one quote from the speech. How far we have come… or at this point in history be humbled by a great speaker and a bright mind. It is interesting how at the time the word “terror” meant missiles from Russia. I actual fear that today in 2016 we are living in a James Bond movie without James and Melania Trump may be a spy. That would not be good but with all the weird stuff that is going on not out of the realm of possibilities.

Gloria Steinem Quotes – From My Life on the Road (2015)

Also, one of the simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak”

“More reliable than anything else on earth, the road will force you to live in the present.”

I asked her how she has remained herself all these years. She looks at me as if at a slow pupil. “You’re  always the person you were when you were born” she says impatiently. “You just keep finding new ways to express it.
Gloria Steinem in conversation with ninety-eight year old former Ziegfeld Woman

All of my life campaigning have given me one clear message. Voting isn’t the most we can do, but it is the least.

All quotes by Gloria Steinem – from My Life on the Road (2015)
Available at your local bookstore.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act 18 Year Anniversary

Passed on October 12, 1998, by a unanimous vote in the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on October 28, 1998, the DMCA amended Title 17 of the United States Code to extend the reach of copyright, while limiting the liability of the providers of online services for copyright infringement by their users.

It is 1998 – The Senate Now Has E-Mail
Let’s Have a Party!

18 years ago today the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was passed. I would wager that very few people even know what the DMCA is, but it has affected modern life substantially. It is in many ways just one more version of an old story of plunder by larger more powerful entities, and the taking advantage of the smaller, but often more vibrant creators. In many ways, it has made it so the copyright laws in such industries as music are pointless.

But let’s back up a bit. Everyone can remember the transition that happened when CDs came out and then everyone was ripping their CDs to MP3s and handing off 100 gig drives full of music files to their buddies. Then there was Napster that simply stitched all these drives together in one big mass orgy of free MP3s. Napster got the injunction primarily because the established music industry  had no cut of the racket. Along come tech giants like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung and to cover their liability the DMCA made perfect sense. If someone has “illegal” music on their devices, they should not be held accountable. Furthermore, if someone uploads a Beatles tune as a video with a picture of Ringo Starr as the graphics to YouTube, why should YouTube be held accountable for such blatant infringement? All good and well. But that was 1998. Today is 2016. I am certain that in 1998 most members of the Senate had no idea the true implications of the DMCA. In 1998, most of the members of the Senate probably did not even know how to manage their own email. They were still licking stamps.

The DMCA’s principal innovation in the field of copyright is the exemption from direct and indirect liability of Internet service providers and other intermediaries.

Let’s look back a bit. In 1998 the leading browser of the day was Netscape 2. Internet Explorer was at version 5.5. If anyone remembers IE 6, imagine how terrible IE 5.5 must have been. Windows 98 had probably just been released.  Man, that is scary. My point is that the DMCA has not been updated for 18 years and is an extremely flawed piece of legislation. The large tech companies have in many ways based their entire industry on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It allows for basically everyone to break the law everyday and not have to worry about it. When was the last time that a cop pulled someone over and wanted to check if the person had pirated music on their phone? There probably is thousands of dollars of contraband on everyone’s devices. Ain’t gonna happen.

Times Have Changed – Google Is Our Master of Information

But this is what is disingenuous about the DMCA. Companies like Google know just about everything about you. What you buy. What websites you visit. Your birthday. Your favorite color.

In 2016 they have the ability to determine if a piece of music is copyrighted via matching wave forms, and indeed this is how they “monetize” this work.  But YouTube refuses to acknowledge this UNLESS they are in a position to make money off of that music – they make money anyway but that is another post. The only way the copyright holder can get the videos of their music taken down is with take-down notices. If a song is popular, this can mean hundreds of separate videos with the same song on it.  The artists cannot simply tell the ISP such as YouTube “I do not want my work on your network.” YouTube is sort of like that creepy neighbor running a crack-house who borrowed your weed-whacker last spring and refuses to give it back claiming ignorance. Musicians, songwriters and composers have better things to do with their time than chase down illegal version of their work.

YouTube is sort of like that creepy neighbor running a crack-house who borrowed your weed-whacker last spring and refuses to give it back claiming ignorance. Musicians, songwriters and composers have better things to do with their time than chase down illegal version of their work.

Which brings me back to 1998. Do you really think in 1998 anyone could predict such entities as YouTube or Facebook? And unlike the owners of these companies, I believe these entities are not just platforms, they are simply publishers with free content providers and creators. These publishers have to take responsibility as well for copyright infringement. It is within their technical realm but they are playing dumb as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 suits them just fine. The DMCA is to their advantage.

The real master of deception with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is  YouTube. Facebook, Twitter and the like have simply entered personal lives and monetized birthdays and other important life events until people depart from this world. Personalized marketing on steroids that the users all agree to though without  really reading the privacy policies.

But all such companies are the modern-day plunderers. Instead of grabbing continents, forests, rivers, enslaving the natives and digging for gold, they are plundering your personal events and consumer habits along with the likes of great artists like James Brown, Elton John, Charlie Palmieri, Vince Gill,  Willie Green,  Slayer, Bette Midler, Woody Guthrie (the list is endless) and any person who has recorded or published a piece of music in the last hundred years.


The Digital Millennium Copyright Act needs to be reexamined and rewritten every five years to reflect and take into consideration the changes in technology, creativity and platforms. It is an important part of combating the many inequities in our society.

“Saving Capitalism” – Robert Reich is Looking Up

It is a bit odd that when you search for “Robert Reich” on Google you find this.


The fact that Robert Reich is a man who is perhaps often looking up should probably not be the first thing on his list of accomplishments or even personality traits. For Robert Reich, I would probably just pull this line from John Taylor that begins his latest book Saving Capitalism. This pretty much sums it up.

“There are two modes of invading private property; the first by which the poor plunder the rich… sudden and violent; the second, by which the rich plunder the poor, slow and legal.”

JOHN TAYLOR, An inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (1814)

But with Google, perception is a bit slow and plodding. Just a bunch of numbers banging their heads against one another. On that same page, a bit further down, you see a post by his son who is announcing to the world that his lawyer mom and his professor dad Robert, former Secretary of Labor under Clinton, have legally separated. His mom left law, I suppose, and is now a license acupuncturist. No, I did not make that up and that news did not make it onto the front page of the Enquirer so it did not register for Google I guess. His son, in order to clear up and confusing had to write a blog post about it, so that Google could index the information. Bizarre.

Robert Reich “Saving Capitalism”
Available at your local bookstore


A Call for Observations

Some other people in the news. Bernie Sanders seems to rarely get mentioned in the media though his following seems to be growing daily. Any ideas what to make of this stuff? It seems like an odd way to present this content. Google is a private company with interests. I wonder what sort if editorial goes into this stuff. Any observations?



The first thing that seems really strange, is that Robert Reich and the guy on the bottom were born just 10 days apart, not to far from each other. Something to ponder.

Fred Dean and the Zen of Exercise

A country boy from Louisiana, where he developed an impressive muscular build, Dean was convinced the he did not need to work out.

“Whenever I feel like exercising, I lie down until the feeling goes away.”

Fred Dean – All-Pro Defensive End for the San Francisco 49s in the 80s. From Season of the Witch – David Talbot

Cuba and its Music – Thoughts on Ned Sublette’s Amazing Book about American Music

“So imagine the Zarabanda, the Congo god of iron – the cutting edge, if you will – traveled on a slave ship with his magic, his mambo, and his machete as soon as the New World was open for business. Then he went back through Havana, across the ocean again, where he got all of Spain dancing, then covertly crept upward through Europe – through the servant’s entrance, of course – and became part of what we now call classical music. In the process, his name was frenchified, he lost his drum and his voice, and his tempo slowed way down. All that remained was the distillation of his dance onto the lute and the guitar, with only the barest trace of the original flavor remaining. Today we call that process going mainstream.”

Ned Sublette Cuba and its Music – From the First Drums to the Mambo (2004)

In December, my brother-in-law, Ted “Banjo” Kuster gave me Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo by Ned Sublette. It is five hundred and eighty pages long and I thought that it would take me until the following December to finish the book, but it was a page turner, at least for any musician who plays American music. In 1998 I wrote a book called Arranging for Salsa Bands – The Doctor Big Ears Essay were I stated – “Let us look deeply into music and explain why things are the way they are.” Ned Sublette goes very deep.

There are many fascinating ideas in the book. One of the main ideas is that African music has had a much larger effect on Western classical music than we realize as the quote above illustrates. The Zarabanda is the grandmother as the Sarabande which composers like J.S. Bach used in pieces like his Bach Cello Suites. And as has been duly noted in many books, the influence of Cuban music on North American music is often ignored and unacknowledged.

The Elephant in the Room – Ned Sublette on the Spectrum of American Music

“If you ever heard an America sax player fail to lock in while jamming with a salsa band, or heard a Cuban band take on a bluesy jazz tune that doesn’t feel right, you know for all that Afro Cuban and African American music might have in common, they’re also very different than each other.

Why? Because essential elements of these two musics came from different parts of Africa, entering the New World by different routes, at different times, into different structured societies.

Ned Sublette Cuba and its Music – From the First Drums to the Mambo (2004)

Here Sublette points out how the differences between the Muslim influenced sub-Saharan Africa as opposed to the forests of the Congo. It is the thesis of the book and he convincingly states the case. This concept alone is worth the price of the book.

Ninth Voluntary Infantry Immune Band from New Orleans

During the time of the Spanish-American war, 1898, the US Army sent a band from New Orleans to Cuba. At the time they thought that black people were immune to yellow fever. Unfortunately they were not. Just imagine the mind set of the military. “Let’s get those jammin’ horn players from New Orleans and send them into war in Cuba. They will do anything!” Anyway, the Ninth Voluntary Infantry Immune Band from New Orleans went down to Cuba for about a year.

“There is no documentation of the Immune Band having performed in Cuba, and it is impossible to say whether their stay in Cuba affected the course of New Orleans music or not. But if a band of the best horn players could stay in Cuba for nine months without absorbing something, at a time when the oquestas typicas were all the rage in Cuba, they would be unlike any musicians this writer has ever known.

Ned Sublette Cuba and its Music – From the First Drums to the Mambo (2004)

As in many places in the book, the scenes seem almost like historical fiction. It would have been fun to hear this band and if they make a movie, just think of coveted gig of being the costume designer for this epic Hollywood blockbuster! Sublette, of course, points out that Havana and New Orleans were were like cousins both being important and vibrant port towns. Wild and crazy places. The Immune Band was just one of many cultural exchanges.

Puerto Rican’s in New York – The Jones Act

The 1917 Jones Act gave Puerto Ricans U.S citizenship. This enable Uncle Sam to fortify the army for the nastiness of World War I. But the Jones Act would also change the cultural and musical landscape in New York in very interesting ways. Most folks just think of West Side Story but of course much more was going on in the art and music worlds.

Any history of jazz that doesn’t mention Puerto Ricans, is leaving something out.

Ned Sublette Cuba and its Music – From the First Drums to the Mambo (2004)


Then Sublette presents this heavy concept about modernism that probably makes many academics roll their eyes, but which is an interesting perspective. They did not teach this point of view, in terms of African influence of European music when I was in school, that is certain. Part of the concept has to do with the looting and display of African art around 1900, and that this art was being influential to the abstract artists in Europe such as Picasso and his “Africa period,” but it also has to do with the empowerment of black artists no longer in Africa.

It would later become academic common practice to speak of modernism as being a move toward abstraction and stylization and away from representation and realism, it could perhaps be better explained as the consequence of the liberation of black creativity – which to many white people was an abstract concept.

Ned Sublette Cuba and its Music – From the First Drums to the Mambo (2004)


These are all the quotes I will pull from Ned Sublette Cuba and its Music – From the First Drums to the Mambo (2004). There are many more but at this point you’ll just have to buy the book. The book finishes with a few sections about the Mambo and explores briefly the beginning of television, Desi Arnaz and Perez Prado. It is curious to think that Prado and his dissonant, in your face music, was banned from writing in Cuba and had to go off to Mexico where he eventually became an international sensation. There is mention of many Mexican movies that feature his music that I am really interested in checking out. Prado’s music introduced an adventurous dissonance, resolutions to a dominant 7 #11 b9 chord for example, that now we associate with Mambo, but it was very disturbing for many. I have a feeling that this adventurousness then helped propel some of the more interesting work of later “salsa” artists, like Eddie and Charlie Palmeri, Willie Rosario, Ray Barreto and many of the Fania record label.

This era, from about 1970 to 1990, when the urban music of the Harlem Renaissance known as “be-bop,” a music that signaled the end of jazz as dance music, a harmonically and rhythmically rich music that was pushing the status quo, completely fused with the Cuban son and other rhythms in such a way that made both musics even more vital – and people danced. That is not in the book but is my thesis, and I am standing by it!

If you are interested in actually writing for Latin music groups and want to explore more some of the basics of clave, orchestration and arranging, I would seriously recommend the book below. I reread it last week, and I still think it fills a void in the published material in this field. Below is a link to the first chapter which is pretty silly but actually very important. A lot of people from France seem to be buying it.



Feel free to comment on any of the quotes above with the discussion below.

“Smoke” (1995) by Wayne Wang – Auggie Wren and his Philosophy of Time

Auggie Wren: You will never get it if you don’t slow down my friend.
Paul Benjamin: What do you mean?
Auggie Wren: You are going so fast you are hardly looking at the pictures.
Paul Benjamin: They are all the same.
Auggie Wren: They’re all the same, but each one is different than every other one. You got your bright mornings, your dark mornings. You got your summer light, your autumn light. You got your weekdays, your weekends. You got your people in overcoats and goulashes and you got your people in t-shirts and shorts. Sometimes the same people. Sometimes different ones. Sometimes the different ones become the same. The same ones disappear. The earth revolves around the sun and everyday the light from the sun hits the earth at a different angle.
Paul Benjamin: Slow down, huh?
Auggie Wren: That’s what I recommend. You know how it is. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. Time creeps in its petty pace.

From the movie “Smoke” (1995) by Wayne Wang

Simón Bolívar Statue and Semour, the Western Gull

The full title is “Simón Bolívar Statue and Semour, the Western Gull. Fuerte still Charging Forward Moving Slower Than the Alaska Glaciers.”


“God grants victory to perseverance.”

Simón Bolívar

The quote really works in this case. One has to “persevere” with a seagull sitting on your head! At this point, I think the seagull is winning. It is interesting the Simón took off his helmet right before the seagull landed. Stay tuned for the latest news on this epic duel. Will Simón draw his sword and do away with the large gull or will he plead for unity?

The Simón Bolívar statue is in United Nations Plaza in San Francisco and makes for a great field trip in San Francisco. At times a little rough around the edges, the United Nations Plaza tends to get a lot of overflow from the disenfranchised but it is generally a peaceful place. The Simon Bolivar Statue is great cheap tourist attraction. http://heartofthecity-farmersmar.squarespace.com/about/

The SF Main Library. SF Jazz Center, City Hall, Asian Art Museum, any many other sites all close by.

A great to time to go is for the farmers market.

Sundays 7am to 5pm – Open year round, rain or shine.
Wednesdays 7am to 5:30pm – Open year round, rain or shine.

Simone Bolivar, one of the great symbol of Latin American unity and fitting that he rides his horse here in San Francisco. Aqui se puede…

“An ignorant people is the blind instrument of its own destruction.”

Simón Bolívar

“The first duty of a government is to give education to the people”

Simón Bolívar

Hunter S. Thompson Music Quote

“The music business is a cruel and shallow money
trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and
pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.
There’s also a negative side.”

― Hunter S. Thompson

What a great quote. Things have not changed at all but I thing now it would be a “long fiber optic trench.” Stay positive friends in the biz. The act of playing music, in the end, is the reward. The vultures are still in the suits, and be wary.

Thinking has its own laws… a Kitaro Nishida quote

Thinking has its own laws. It functions of its own accord and does not follow our will. To merge with the object of thought – that is, to direct one’s attention to it is voluntary, but I think perception is the same in this respect: we are able to see what we want to see by freely turning our attention to it.

Kitaro Nishida
From a stone on the Philosophers Walk in McLaren Park in San Francisco

I feel better now

I don’t know anything and have no perspective, but here is my comment…. I feel better now.

From Barnswarm, commenting on the website Stoke Report and the “Rant – Laird speaks,” bringing up the concept that on the new Internet, everyone has the ability to post, and that the behavior is really about personal therapy.

Ueli Streck and the Light Workout

But the weather was lousy, so he went for a jog. He ran up and down a mountain near Interlaken three times – eighteen miles, and eight thousand vertical feet, in three hours and forty minutes. (“I enjoy it,” he said. “I feel my legs. I see nature.”) Then to cool down, he went to the gym and lifted weights for two hours. He explained, when I met him for coffee the next morning, that he was taking it easy: he was conserving energy for Nepal.

From The Manic Mountain – Ueli Streck and the dash on Everest
New Yorker – June 3, 2013

The concept that after that run he simply “feels his legs,” seems a bit crazy. I am certain I would be passed out after about mile ten, somewhere on the side of the road.

Tom Hanks and How the Hero Pie Gets Divided

Some people are cowards. … I think by and large a third of people are villains, a third are cowards, and a third are heroes. Now a villain and a coward can choose to be a hero, but they have got to make that choice.

Tom Hanks – Parade Magazine
September 22, 2013

UPDATE: November 18, 2023

You have to love the simplicity of this quote – villains, cowards and heroes. If only the world was really that simple. But then again, Mr. Hanks may be on to something. Just about every event or situation has these three characters. The person who steals the candy bar. The person who sees it all happen and refuses to say anything. The clerk who confronts the thief. Granted this is a shallow and silly example and it is obvious to make an example of our current political world where cowards abound. The Republican party has its share of villains and the cowards are everywhere afraid for their own skin. The problem is that the few heroes that exist are leaving the room but state their case in clear language.  The Liz Cheney’s and Adam Kinzinger’s  of the world may be heroic in their own way but unfortunately they are no longer in the room. No one is holding their breaths waiting for all the cowards to suddenly choose to be heroes and state the obvious. Now wouldn’t it be interesting if Tom Hanks ran for president. That would be a heroic choice!

Kitaro Nishida Quote from McLaren Park

Thinking has its own laws. It functions of its own accord and does not follow our will. To merge with the act of thought – that is, to direct one’s attention to it – is voluntary, but I think perception is the same in this respect: we are able to see what we want to see by freely turning our attention towards it.

Kitaro Nishida