Archive for January, 2010

Feel it

January 29, 2010

When Fela Kuti & his band toured the United States in the late 60s and eventually took up residence in Los Angeles, they played as a 7-piece plus a dancer, a woman named Dele. The setup of L.A. clubs like Whiskey a Go-Go turned Fela on to the idea of situating dancers on a pedestal, and when the group returned to Lagos a few years later as Africa 70, their show heightened the prominence of Dele and the other dancers. I was reading all this on the bus home yesterday in an article about Tony Allen, the mastermind drummer of Africa 70 and co-creator of Afrobeat. And, maybe I was just overtaken by the intoxicating charms of DC public transport, but Allen’s reflection on dance as a muse for his approach to drumming struck me as (not sure of a better word here) straight-up sexy.

Afrobeat is always about dancing; like highlife, it is dance music, music for party. So my goal as a drummer was always to watch Dele dance. Dele was a great dancer. I would design patterns to make her move in the way that I found her the most beautiful. That is where those patterns come from, to command her to move in various ways. The relation to the woman in the audience to the dance was always a part of the music.

“Lady” from Shakara (1972)



January 22, 2010

Yesterday was good day for venality, today is yet another good day for “sovereign authority“. Scott Horton continues to beat the drum for the rule of law, but I wonder at what point the corruption, short-sightedness, self-interest, laziness, mendacity, etc of our system of government becomes so pervasive, pernicious, and inescapable, that ethical, reasonable, and by no means radical thinkers such as Horton begin to abandon the exhausting and humiliating process of petitioning the government for redress & reform and turn their efforts towards… well, I realize calling for something like “the construction of new systems of living and organization within interstitial spaces between participation in regimented society/government & complete secession from the world” is problematic/goofy and left to academics and marginal nutbags likes myself, but WTF are we supposed to do. As the Obama Justice Department busily covers up the Bush Justice Department’s evident complicity in the coverup of possible murders of prisoners by intelligence officers at a black site in the bowels of Guantanamo, and as Congress remains the playground of petulant bullies and pathetic weiners who fork over their lunch money even before they’re threatened with a beating (which they in fact deserve), and as the Supreme Court torpedoes any illusion that this nation’s government is well-constructed system of checks and balances that ultimately preserves & protects its people, is anybody serious still going to tell me that I should keep voting for a change, or ask these people to pretty please pay some attention to my interests a few million more times because they really want to help but need to wait for the right political moment? GTFO OMG.

Legendary hams

January 20, 2010

Samuel Johnson’s 1738 poem London opens with the narrator reacting to his chum departing the city & its vices, lamenting: “I praise the hermit, but regret the friend”. Among the several tings one might note about this poem, I’d be sure to include: dudes at the time loved themselves a dang hermit!

Exhibit A! “The… appointments and appurtenances which one might find on a wealthy estate are too numerous to discuss here, but suffice to say that eighteenth-century imaginations were fertile…. Looking through the nursery window one might see a pseudo hermitage installed on the estate for color and atmosphere. There might even be an actual hermit, hired to grace the estate with his dour presence. Some had stuffed hermits on their grounds.” (p. 107)

Exhibit B! The grandest of the sixty or seventy pleasure gardens of eighteenth-century London were Vauxhall and Ranelagh. “Vauxhall had a fairytale atmosphere which contrasted with the elegance of Ranelagh…. Vauxhall had a Chinese temple, hermit’s cottage, and smugglers’ cave, a lovers’ walk and musical bushes where an orchestra hidden underground played fairy music. (The musicians complained of damage to their instruments from the dampness.) There were also clockwork mechanisms, trompe l’oeil paintings, and very high prices for refreshments. The ham was legendary for its thinness.” (pp. 80-81)

Cribbed from Richard Schwartz, Daily Life in Johnson’s London (1983)


…or perhaps the strange fascination with the hermit was a holdover from the previous generation’s preoccupation with “heroic romance” (in which the hermit played a featured role). Cf. The Rambler, No. 4. Saturday, March 31, 1750. Third paragraph, my italics.

[The New Realistic Novel]

The works of fiction, with which the present generation seems more particularly delighted, are such as exhibit life in its true state, diversified only by accidents that daily happen in the world, and influenced by passions and qualities which are really to be found in conversing with mankind.

This kind of writing may be termed not improperly the comedy of romance, and is to be conducted nearly by the rules of comick poetry. Its province is to bring about natural events by easy means, and to keep up curiosity without the help of wonder: it is therefore precluded from the machines and expedients of the heroic romance, and can neither employ giants to snatch away a lady from the nuptial rites, nor knights to bring her back from captivity; it can neither bewilder its personages in deserts, nor lodge them in imaginary castles.

I remember a remark made by Scaliger upon Pontanus, that all his writings are filled with the same images; and that if you take from him his lilies and his roses, his satyrs and his dryads, he will have nothing left that can be called poetry. In like manner almost all the fictions of the last age will vanish, if you deprive them of a hermit and a wood, a battle and a shipwreck.

Deep Dark Abyss

January 20, 2010

“Heart Like a Wheel” is actually by Anna, I realize too late, and as there are no readily accessible video performances of my favorite Kate song “First Born,” an mp3 will have to do.

La victime coiffure

January 19, 2010

In the eighteenth century English men and women kept abreast of French styles through the use of “fashion babies,” dressed dolls which were regularly sent from Paris to London. In a period when the bizarre was often commonplace, one of the more striking fashions was the post-Revolution, 1790s technique for imitating the aristocrats who had gone to the guillotine. Englishwomen wore thin crimson ribbons around their necks and had their hair tousled, in a style termed la victime coiffure.

Richard Schwartz, Daily Life in Johnson’s London (1983)

Xmas Eve

January 17, 2010

Lap of Gods

January 12, 2010