Friday, April 02, 2021

The chill

 

The knell that is sounded periodically for jazz is ringing again. The jazz press, which loves to weep over even fancied catastrophe, is itself pulling the rope, and there are other signs. Folk music has seized a considerable chunk of those listeners who, fifteen years back, might have been studying jazz. The night club business, which is probably outmoded anyhow, is rapidly falling away, and fewer jazz records are being made. Radio and television have again slammed their doors. Musicians of every stripe are scratching for work. But these are, I'm sure, transitory difficulties sown by faddism, and they have little to do with a problem in jazz that does deserve brooding and even melancholy: the chill that has crept into the music in the past decade. One feels it in the glittering younger pianists, in the crushing sarcasm of Sonny Rollins and the autonomous frenzy of John Coltrane, in the vapid musings of Miles Davis, and, most depressingly, in the drummers shaped by Max Roach.




Whitney Balliett, 1965

Such Sweet Thunder: Jazz Today

London: Macdonald, 1968, 282





Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Scottie

 




Kierkegaard, Kafka, Connolly, Compton Burnet, Sartre, "Scottie" Wilson. Who are they? What do they want?"


'I've heard of some of them. They were being talked about in London at the time I left.'


'They talked of "Scottie" Wilson?'


'No, I don't think so. Not of him.'


'That's "Scottie" Wilson. Those drawings there. Do they make any sense to you?'


'No.'


'No.'


Sir Francis Hinsley's momentary animation subsided. He let fall his copy of 'Horizon' and gazed towards the patch of deepening shadow which had once been a pool.











Friday, March 26, 2021

Mitten privilege

 

From the San Francisco Chronicle



Three weeks ago I processed the Capitol insurrection with my high school students. Rallying our inquiry skills, we analyzed the images of that historic day, images of white men storming through the Capitol, fearless and with no forces to stop them. “This,” I said, “is white supremacy, this is white privilege. It can be hard to pinpoint, but when we see, it, we know it.”


...


And there, across all of our news and social media feeds, was Bernie: Bernie memes, Bernie sweatshirts, endless love for Bernie. I puzzled and fumed as an individual as I strove to be my best possible teacher. What did I see? What did I think my students should see? A wealthy, incredibly well-educated and -privileged white man, showing up for perhaps the most important ritual of the decade, in a puffy jacket and huge mittens.


I mean in no way to overstate the parallels. Sen. Sanders is no white supremacist insurrectionist. But he manifests privilege, white privilege, male privilege and class privilege, in ways that my students could see and feel.


“When you see privilege, you know it,” I’d told them weeks before. Yet, when they saw Sen. Bernie Sanders manifesting privilege, when seemingly no one else did, I struggled to explain that disparity. I am beyond puzzled as to why so many are loving the images of Bernie and his gloves. Sweet, yes, the gloves, knit by an educator. So “Bernie.”


Not so sweet? The blindness I see, of so many (Bernie included), to the privileges Bernie represents. I don’t know many poor, or working class, or female, or struggling-to-be-taken-seriously folk who would show up at the inauguration of our 46th president dressed like Bernie. Unless those same folk had privilege. Which they don’t.


Ingrid Seyer-Ochi is a former UC Berkeley and Mills College professor, ex-Oakland Unified School District principal and current San Francisco Unified School District high school teacher.







Brand X:









Monday, December 07, 2020

"I am bottom of the pile here"


 Not so long ago I heard somebody in the grove of academe prating something to the effect of racism being something that only white folks did, that this was axiomatic because of the hegemony of the orientalist nexus in the post-colonial discourse, or words to that effect. Then I remembered Martin Jacques:


That evening the duty doctor came to see her. I asked him various questions and received only evasive responses. I had been anxious for the medical staff to be aware that I was white; in Hong Kong my colour commanded deference and respect, the opposite to how they saw Hari's beautiful deep brown complexion. When he left, I said to her: "A fat lot of use that was." She replied: "I am bottom of the pile here." Her words travelled through my body like an electric shock.The hospital staff were no different to the rest of Hong Kong. Prejudice was ingrained and systemic. Hari's words were all the more disturbing because they were so uncharacteristic. She was uncomplaining, patient and extraordinarily compassionate. She would see prejudice as an affliction of the perpetrator that needed her help and kindness to overcome. But lying in hospital, vulnerable and unwell, was a different matter. She uttered these words with a sense of resignation. When I asked her what she meant – expecting her to give examples – she simply said: "I am Indian and everyone else here is Chinese." The staff were no doubt unaware that Hari was fluent in Cantonese and could understand the racial epithets they were using to refer to her. I told Hari I was going to get her discharged. I went to see the nurse, debating in my mind whether to take her home there and then or in the morning. I opted for the morning because she was still unwell. It was the worst decision I have ever made. 


The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus:




 

Monday, October 26, 2020

History

 

'Historical understanding is always situated and necessarily coloured by our present values and interests. Historical accounts are stories we tell to provide a coherent narrative about who we are and how, through interacting with each other and the world, we got here. Such stories are inherently retrospective - each community in each age will tell the story differently - and they are constructed. The only sense in which a historical narrative can “gets things right” is by telling a story which proves to be both acceptable and enabling to the members of a community; and the only sense in which one such narrative can be “better” than another is not by offering a more faithful description of the objective sequence of events, but rather by redescribing the events in a novel and helpful way.’  




James Conant. ‘Freedom, Cruelty and Truth: Rorty versus Orwell’. 
In Rorty and His Critics, edited by Robert B. Brandon. 
Oxford: Blackwell, 2000, 276.



Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus