Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More Cactus Flowers

Another bunch of cactus flowers. It's been a great spring here in the furnace:

Escobaria missouriensis:

Echinocereus dasyacanthus:

Mammillaria theresae:

Epithelantha bokei:

Echinomastus johnsonii:

Escobaria laredoi:

Escobaria minima:

Echinocereus nivosus:

Discocactus buenekeri:

Echinocereus pectinatus 'coahuilense':

Astrophytum capricorne v. senile, top and side view:

Echinocereus baileyi:

Echinocereus fitchii:

Thelocactus bicolor v. ?:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Alabama In Between

"Pennsylvania is Philadelphia on one side, Pittsburgh on the other and Alabama in between."

I've always heard that quote attributed to HL Mencken (or James Carville) but it turns out no one is quite sure who originally said it.

The Democratic primary reminded me of it. Listening to the execrable warblings of the shallow fatheads on NPR this morning, drumroll please, "Race was a factor in Pennsylvania." Oh my, really?

An aside: Why aren't Democrats in general blushingly proud of the fact that their party offers up both a woman and an African American? At a time when the best the Repubs can do is float yet another old white guy?

The good folks at ImprovEverywhere offer this brief meditation on race in America, set in Aspen, Colorado but just as trenchant for, say, State College, PA.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

a floral interlude

Astrophytum asterias

Echinocereus laui

Strombocactus disciformis

Echinocereus russanthus

Toumeya papyracantha

Escobaria leei

Escobaria sneedii

Mammillaria viridiflora

Echinomastus erectocentrus

Escobaria organensis

Echinocereus papillosus v. angusticeps

Closer view of E. papillosus v. angusticeps

Escobaria orcuttii v. koenigii

Escobaria guadalupensis

Thelocactus bicolor

More about Jazz soon. The culture around here has been mostly cactacean.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Tabula Rasa

In brief: Rex Harris carefully sets out the following general theory of the origin of "jazz" in his book, Jazz:

Slavery in the US completely erased African culture. "Jazz" originated from the resulting blank slate. It did not originate in other slave holding areas because those areas allowed for more African cultural expression.

This seems like an innocent enough claim, and sounds so familiar as to be nearly aphoristic. But the general thesis also lays the groundwork for Harris's fetishizing of the rough, raw, untutored, masculine, artless, nearly "savage" Black Man, who is the ideal practitioner of the only phase of the music's history Harris acknowledges as "Real Jazz." (Roughly, 1918-1938 or so). It's a double edged sword, because he does a certain justice to the outrage and inhumanity and reality of slavery, yet seems to use this same historical reality to develop an essentially racist (no matter how "positive") musicology.

This seems such a reflection of the history of people writing about the music. One reason I find Harris's book so fascinating is it's more than 50 years old, yet echoes many of the tropes encountered in current and intervening "jazz" writing. "The problem of slavery" is always dealt with in some way or another, as is "the problem of technique" and "the problem of education" and "the problem of improvisation." It's usually a fairly easy matter to uncover the bias behind a theory of the origination of improvisation as an art form born out of ignorance, necessity and a sort of romanticized/fetishized primal stupidity.