Thursday, August 16, 2007

These Days

Muggy days, sluggish days! I feel like I'm cutting through honey with a baby spoon just to post anything these days.

So much grim news; a few days ago I'd meant immediately after we watched the local late evening newscasters breathlessly announce, without any clear or corroborating information, a pending Al Qaeda strike that was, according to anonymous chatter on various websites, set to strike near 34th Street (or was it 42nd Street), but I couldn't muster the enthusiasm to do so. Why add to the white noise? Then there was horrific insurgent strike in northern Iraq, on top of the daily horror cornucopia over there of attacks and bombings, political dysfunction and ineptitude, worsening infrastructure, exile and ethnic cleansing, general crime, and so on, that the traditional newsmedia no longer want to report on--because they'd have to admit their complete and undiminished complicity in the disaster unfolding over there (and the political nightmares we've had to endure over here).

And the bleak news keeps coming: consider the poor men trapped in that Utah mine collapse. Sadly for them, the traditional media decided to turn into a cheering section for the mine owner--I even wrote The News Hour with Jim Lehrer to complain about Judy Woodruff's nauseating performance, in which all she was missing was pom poms--without reporting on his 300+ safety violations and citations, including more than 100 this year, and the extremely dangerous, high risk mining technique the men had been engaging in. In fact, this Murray person, who has given more than $200,000 to Republican candidates and the party over the last few years, was given free rein by the news media over this last week to trash unions, Hillary Clinton, and Al Gore and the environmental movement. As of today, he's still blabbing away on TV, the miners still haven't been found, and tonight it appears that some of the rescuers may have been injured by another partial collapse at the mine.

To echo Molly Shannon, don't get me started, don't get me started...on the mortgage, housing and banking industries, or the wobbly US stock market and sick global financial industry. Developers are still tearing down everything they can get their hands on in New York City and downtown Jersey City and erecting "luxury" condos, and at least in the former case, it appears that the demand currently and unfortunately is inexhaustible.

I do want to extend my thoughts and best wishes to the people of Peru in the wake of the terrible earthquake, with numerous aftershocks, that struck there yesterday.

Max RoachOver the last few days, a number of notable figures have passed away. Max Roach, the extraordinary drummer, bandleader, composer, and cultural alchemist, passed away on Wednesday. I was telling C. tonight that Roach's album Karbouda (a/k/a Mop Mop), featuring Tommy and Stanley Turrentine, Julian Priester, Coleridge Perkinson, and Clifford Jordan, has three of my favorite disc performances of all time: Abbey Lincoln's unforgettable medley of "Love for Sale," "Who Will Buy?" and "Long As You're Living." Talk about soul, and songs that embody, in Roach's group's open and exciting playing, and Lincoln's raw and incandescent voice, the dramas of life and love. The 60s marked the third great phase of Roach's very long career; he had started out in the 1940s during the bebop revolution and first made his name alongside some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time; in 1954 he headed his own band with Clifford Brown, inaugurating a new and fertile style, hard bop, until the trumpeter's untimely death. Roach would go on to play with free jazz musicians, rappers in the early 1980s, a string quartet, while also teaching at the University of Massachusetts, injecting political activism into the worlds of jazz and black music more generally, and continuing to create exciting projects and music. One of the finest of all time, Max Roach.

(From Geoffrey Jacques: WKCR-FM, 89.9 FM in New York City. Max Roach Memorial Broadcast 24/7 from right now until (at least) August 22, 2007. Folllowed by the Lester Young-Charlie Parker Birhday Broadcast, starting (maybe) August 24, but definitely Aug. 27-29, 2007.)

Murray paintingOthers who've recently transitioned: Elizabeth Murray, the innovative, acclaimed painter, who was one of the 1970s pioneers of the form in the wake of Minimalism's and Conceptual art's dominance (the poet and Bowery Poetry Club founder Bob Holman is her husband)--her 2002-2004 painting "So Long Maryanne," at the Pace-Wildenstein Gallery, is at right; New York Yankees great and Mr. Money Store himself, Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto, whose bunting gifts and lyric improvisations as a sportscaster have never been surpassed; Factory Records impresario Tony Wilson, who was instrumental in disseminating the music of some of the finest punk bands to come out of Manchester, including Joy Division (later New Order), A Certain Ratio and Happy Mondays, and whose experiences from that era were immortalized in the wacky film 24 Hour Party People; Brooke Russell Kuser Marshall Astor (at the astonishing age of 105), one of the grandest dames of New York's aristocracy and one of the remarkable philanthropists of all time; entertainment visionary and mogul Merv Griffin, whose interview and game shows were integral aspects of my and many others' childhoods; and Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, a native Baltimorean and longtime New Yorker who was one of the early pioneers in the mid-20th century Civil Rights movement when she refused to comply with segregated seating rules and her appeal, led by then attorney Thurgood Marshall and William H. Hastie, to the Supreme Court led to a 6-1 ruling, in Morgan v. Virginia, in her favor that served as one of the inspirations for Bayard Rustin segregation-challenging rides and for the Freedom Riders.

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