Friday, October 29, 2010


This was pretty cool last night. It was my first time there. Brer Brian claimed he killed Catweazle because no one showed up, so he and the band just hung out on a stoop and played. It was magical. I am going back.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This Wednesday at the Silent Barn

I will be seeing Nuclear Power Pants, I hope, mostly because I love songs like this:

and this:

OK so I am related to certain Band members, big deal. The music is still great. Worthy of pondering. And really fun to watch. Might as well go full bore shameless on the promotion as well:

Friday, October 22, 2010

When Mad Geniuses Collide

If you haven't heard track 5 of Toby Goodshank's Untitled album ( a/k/a Baked Naturals/Johnny's Democracy). I say listen to this with your eyes closed and then watch the video by Preston Spurlock. How such connections are made is beyond me, but there is something so perfect in this rendering of a song that itself is inexplicably brilliant. I pass over this in silence to allude to Wittgenstein, and answer proposition 7  of the Tractatus with Track 5 and laugh...And to think I was going to write about the dangers of essentialism today....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New York Times East Village Blog Literary Tour and Why Therefore You Should Go To the Debe Dalton Dan Penta Tribute Night

Over at the New York Times East Village Blog there is a small piece entitled: A Literary Tour of the East Village. Now there are of course a couple of places that I feel were left out. Namely of course the Sidewalk Cafe. And yet one must ask what claim to literary fame does the Sidewalk Cafe have? I don't know. We don't deal in fame on this scene, as far as I can tell. And of course literary is often limited to the written/spoken word  Which is ironic, given that some of the landmarks are Ginsberg related, and my understanding was that Ginsberg was ecstatic at the advent of Dylan and what he thought was the reunification of music and poetry in Dylan's work.  Of course once you start going into music venues, perhaps the list gets unwieldy. Or maybe it stops in most mainstream thought at CBGB's.  Plus music doesn't have to be literary. I might not put CBGB's on a literary tour just because the Ramones played there, but once we start talking Patti Smith or David Byrne well there might be room for debate.  You see my drift.

Now I don't know if Dylan, Smith or Byrne ever passed through the Sidewalk, but there are poet/singers of equal or almost equal worth that  called the Sidewalk home for a number of years.  I guess J.J. Hayes's Amazing Antifolk Explicator and Philosophic Analyzer came into being upon the realization that there was stuff coming out of this Scene that was objectively as good as, almost as good as, or better than a lot of what critics and fans consider to be the greats.  And so I try to make the literary case for the music.

But limited as I am in descriptive talents I am better at pointing and suggesting. Now why you would want to take my suggestions is beyond me, but it might be a good starting point so that we have a common point of reference. This Saturday there is The Debe Dalton & Dan Penta Tribute Night at the Sidewalk  It speaks for itself, but here you have a chance to hear the songs performed by other than the writers of those songs, thereby allowing you to judge the songs as independent literary creations.    Go. Then Please come back and comment. We can begin the discussion of whether the Sidewalk Cafe should be a literary landmark.   Plus there's Crazy and The Brains and Rachel and Dan.

Sunday by the way is Barry Bliss, Larkin Grimm and Talking Stick with Yossarian Feedback. Barry I have written of, Larkin I really dig, but have not written about. Talking Stick  hit some heights with Yossarian Feedback a few weeks ago that were just stellar, and spoken wordy and well literary.

Monday, October 18, 2010

How Does One Value a Song?

I just discovered a piece which I thought hadn't been published, but in fact it had been: In the Urban Folk section of Boog City,  Here is the link It's on page 3.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's 12:00 P.M. Do You Know Where Your Modalities Are?

It's almost midnight, the noise of screaming drunken bar patrons rises over the Village.  The heat has yet to come on and it is cold. But I must keep repeating to myself as I ponder Godel and Leibniz and Descartes, that possibility is not the property of any object or thing, it is a property of the world. Henceforth I must banish the phrase "x is possible" from my reasoning and replace it with "the world permits x." Ah but does that mean "x is impossible" should be replaced by "the world forbids x"?  What of other possible worlds? Well, for now, in the company of the noise of drunken bar patrons and autumn cold, I will stick with possibility, leaving impossibility for those who have contact with all other possible worlds.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Actually the Previous Post Resulted From Looking for this:

    OK so over on the OJ Board there was this little comment by Major Matt addressed to Barry Bliss. Attached as you see was a little cartoon about a guy with an "end is near" sign and two down and out folks living in garbage can saying "well this calls for a celebration." This called to mind some reflections I had written a while ago for Urban/Folk/Boog City, but I don't think it ever got published. It was looking for these reflections that I came upon the Lach exegesis. But here it for what it is worth:

   Debe Dalton was performing a song in which she describes a conversation with a Jesus freak in the park. At one point Debe sings that she thought the young woman would probably "go home and re-read Revelations."  This struck me as funny since it was only the night before that I, myself, was, in fact, rereading Revelations.
      I of course distrust most statements which claim to understand the almost 2000 year old book called the Apocalypse of John, expecially when it is all based on English translations, and I have only the vaguest knowledge of ancient Greek. You should similarly distrust any apparent attempt on my part at explanation.
      Still there is this one passage that intrigues me. It occurs when the lamb breaks the fifth seal on the scroll and there appear the psyches of all these people who have basically lived and been killed in the most lonely of circumstances-- saying what they they intuitively thought they was true about the world. Please note that despite all the wrath that pours down on the world in the book it appears that none of the human beings who the book considers the good guys actually participate in dishing out the wrath. They just basically refuse to cooperate with the Beast and suffer for the refusal.
      But the psyches who are gathered in what reminds one of the Well of Souls beneath the altar, sound really on the edge of exhaustion. They seem tired that despite the fact they held on and would rather have died for their perception of the truth than kill for it, they are basically pretty much ignored by the world at large, who basically kills them and moves on. They cry out for vindication. They want Truth itself who after all is what they followed into this lonely situation to finally and unambiguously let the world know that they were right. The answer they receive is to wait a little longer until more people end up in their situation. In the mean time they are given some sort of symbolic white garment representing maybe joy.
      Now I tend to have a critical-rational-scientific perspective on the world, which means of course, that I do not dismiss such visions, since I have no one else's eyes. But I do believe that there are times when we intuitively see something about the world which others may not see. Our job I think is to neither assert that everyone else is wrong, nor to accept that we are screwed up for seeing the world that way. Our job is to test and criticize such perceptions as experience and life unfold and see how these intuitions stand up. If after long years of attack from ourselves and the prevailing wisdom of the world, it still seems that these initial instantaneous perceptions still persist and no one has offered a really solidly grounded argument, other than simply telling us its not the way the world works, then it seems pretty solid scientifically to hold on to that notion.  You want vindication, but that may never come in this life. Maybe you shouldn't want vindication, but what human can sustain that kind of loneliness in the their daily lives for long. Maybe that's why we find ourselves here-- if we don't agree with, in fact aren't even quite certain what the other people on the Scene actually think about the world, at least we get the sense that they have an understanding of the peculiar struggles of having an insight like for instance, "I have a calling to make music and write songs" and having to live with that particular truth that just won't seem to go away.
      This brings us, of course, to the music of Barry Bliss, Dan Penta and John Houx.  People familiar with Barry Bliss's music which has always involved asevere look at the values which people just go along with, and an especially harsh judgment on those who kill and torture those who are merely trying to tell the truth, may have been surprised somewhat at the almost conciliatory development some of his new songs espouse.  They are certainly very introspective, and "It's Nice" the song in which he sees Peter Dougherty on video in an airplane and he comes to the realization that its good not be jealous of another's success and "that everyone has a right to live their dream" is wonderful in its peaceful humanity.  It seems to me, with absolutely no evidence other than my own particular filters on the world, that this is an instance of someone coming to the realization that certain conclusions they had drawn from their initial heartfelt insights into the world are not necessarily good, true or productive. 
      I tend to think that Bliss in his old stuff is still right-- the machine has taken over, there are people out there who will kill and torture the bearers of good news and bad, and the hypocricy of those seeking power and success is so rank that any normal human reaction untempered by reflection and self-criticism is that they should if not burn in a lake of fire, for all the napalm they've dropped on human flesh, at least be denied entry in final happiness for the poor that they have turned away.
      But maybe that's not our judgment to make. Still there's a big difference between seeing that people do horrible things and not judging them, and not judging because we are too lazy and/or too busy or too afraid to look at clearly at the evidence before us. In this we are like Carmella Soprano, we know our life stems from from bullets in the head and torture on meat hooks but we choose not to divorce ourselves from the benefits that we get however indirectly from the perpetrators.
      So although Bliss is a little less judgmental on the individuals caught up in this machine, he still has not surrendered to some relativistic notion of this is just his opinion. The intellectual honesty of still holding and living these insights of his remains as evidenced by his song wherein he asserts that he has tried to be lame, has tried to go along with the prevailing notion of accepting the comforts offered by the society and just shutting up, but that it hasn't worked. He knows that there is something alive inside him that is just not going to rest until its free. That is a truth the singer seems to perceive, has tested and he has been offered no good arguments other than just give up, which he refuses to do.
      That me fellow travellers is a hard and lonely road.
      If one artist has sketched out in searing and evocative poetic detail the psychological and perhaps spiritual arc of the loneliness of the human refusing to so easily accept what is being offered by the world it is Dan Penta.  There is little space to elucidate the full complexity of Penta's work in this regard-- it permeates his entire catalog but his most recent show closer "Dreams of Running" has a refrain that to me captures the constant struggle and temptation of the human, who escaping from  inner oppression caused by these structures and humans in the world therefore also relinquishes the security and comfort of never having to really decide what is the right or wrong way to go.  
      I long to see my overseer
      Wicked hand watch over me
      Keep me safe from my dreams
      Of chasing fire and ice
      I'll chase nothing at all...
      You can feel this in artists like Bliss and Penta and in any number of humans trying to honestly fight the good fight-- it would be so easy to return to a life where we could do what we are told to do, and maybe even get fed well if only because others don't want us to weak to their work.  Sometimes I swear there is an almost conscious escape valve in heavy metal and punk in this world, whereby the young who actually see that previous generations are full of shit, that the Emperor has no clothes, get to blow off that angry steam, and then as the poverty exhaustion drugs and struggle finally take there toll are willing to accept what is being offered and shut up about the damned Emperor. Thus we look back fondly on our rebel days, those days of chasing fire and ice. We end up chasing nothing at all.  Which I suspect is just how the overseers like it.  Eventually we end up trying to convince the next generation that the Emperor is not in fact naked.
      It is to continue to shout like Bliss for years that the emperor is not only naked but a friggin EMPEROR a wielder of death and destruction in the interests of conquest and power, that is really difficult for the martyrdom which a society like ours has developed for its own preservation may not be the bullet in the dark, the torture and drowning of Rasputin, or the burning of Joan of Arc. It may be a long life of being totally ignored. The ever imperious claim that oh yeah we all went through the rebel phase, why don't you just grow up and give up.  It is like the state of those psyches just longing for someone who really knows what its all about to vouch for them, to point out after all that they were not out of their minds. 
      So how do we go on? Is there anything, anyone that will vindicate us? I don't know but how does one proceed. Well certainly the deeply felt intuitions, that seem to have more of a reality than simple emotional reactions and lack of medication, and which have not, when looked at honestly, yet turned out to be wrong, are certainly not going to be vindicated if we ourselves decide to give up on them.
       It interests me that Bliss's music has receded from the overt in your face stance of earlier works ,while still refusing to give up on reality that the singer has a truth to put into rhyme that he will not compromise. On the other side Penta whose work embodies at different times internal retreat and a more aggressive side, seems to be more hopeful and happy than previously, and yet he does not shy from what is really going on.  Reality actually contains tons of joyful things. So one can without compromise or deception move in that direction.  Maybe we all need to meet at that  place of which John Houx sings:
      I will fight no more forever
      Nor will I surrender
      We will go through the emotional ups and downs which Penta describes in Tag You're Hollow.  But hey what the heck life's a struggle. Why not struggle to neither fight nor surrender?
      As I said I am too scientific a person to assume that there will be no final vindication. So we might as well put on a white robe of joy and keep testifying each in our own way to or search for the truth..

Old Unfinished Draft Fragment Lach's "From A Quiet Distance"

Back in April of 2009 if one is to go by "date modified" on the file, I started this, which I may indeed have to complete, when I myself get to see things from a quiet distance. In the meantime it stands fragmentary, incomplete, but here it is cut and pasted. Be warned I haven't even reread it,

Lach just posted an "Exegesis" of his song George At Coney -- It is very interesting and I made some supplementary comments there.

It brought to mind the Exegesis I did for Mike Baglivi's "Frank Sinatra and Nuclear War" which can be found at

In that piece I applied an old method of biblical exegesis to the song, just to see if I could. It actually worked. This is nothing new, Dante himself writes of these various levels of meaning in poetry. The levels of meaning are basically the literal (or historical) the allegorical (referring or standing for other things or realities) the moral, and the anagogical (which relates to our final end).

Looking at a song in this way is obviously not necessary, and it may not even work for most songs. Nor is it sufficient since there are certain types of references to or echoes of other songs and poetry which contribute to our enjoyment of the song, but which do not seem to fit those four exegetical categories.  Still, they are a fun tool to use, as one seeks the reasons for one's judgment that a song is of value.

There are other considerations about these four categories and the fact that they seem to work so well which I will not bore you with right now.  This post will be in the main the output of the Explicator portion of J.J. Hayes's Amazing Antifolk Explicator and Philosophic Analyzer. Stay tuned for the other output, which you may of course interpret as a warning...

I decided, sitting on the porch and smoking I did, thinking about George At Coney whether I could perhaps apply some of these tools in uncovering hidden treasure in one of my favorite Lach songs-- A Quiet Distance. Only this morning, and much to my surprise, as I listened to that song did it occur to me that indeed there is a hidden anagogical component which I suspect was intentional, if only because Lach is a fine wordsmith and knowing craftsman. But if he didn't do it intentionally, still that part of the artist's brain that does not function consciously did it, so it is still his product for which he should get credit. and no mere lucky coincidence. Here there is my Explication, Exegesis if you will of A Quiet Distance:

My dad yells at newspapers
Ranting about the
Knicks and Nixon

On a literal level this is just a wonderful summation and evocation of New York in the Seventies.  (The Philosophic Analyzer asks: is it not mysterious that such word play as "Knicks and Nixon" can evoke a whole time and place? To which the Explicator replies, yes indeed but it is the Dad yelling at the papers that really evokes the kitchen tables of thousands of homes in those days.) The allegorical and moral meaning of this image will be revealed in time by the songwriter himself.

I complain about poets
who choke me with

We do not know what poets the singer is referring but the present tense being parallel with the first three lines indicates that it too is sometime in the seventies. Here we have a household with the father yelling at newspapers, one form of the printed word, while the son complaining about another form of the printed word.  Like father like son. The yelling at newspapers is a manifestation of frustration, our inability to control events, and one can feel the same frustration in a perhaps incipient artist facing an artistic world where following the correct rules is so stifling and yet it is offered as "the way things are."

Everyone’s pointing fingers
But I'd rather be
Getting messy colors dripping on my hands

These lines fill out and bring to a close the opening scene of the song.  There is that nice turn from "pointing fingers" to "finger painting" similar to the turn Lach uses in George at Coney-- "walking the boardwalk bored of the big talk".  The mention of the fingerpainting that delightful childhood exercise, really seems to solidify the feeling that this scene is a childhood scene.  The adults are off pointing fingers and yelling in the other room, while the singer as child just wants away from all of it. But in some way these lines at first seem to contradict the previous complaint about poets choking the singer with correctness.  That initially sounds like the complaint of someone already embarking on a poetical career--someone in high school, perhaps college. On the other hand one can imagine a much younger child, one still fingerpainting who is being forced to write rhymed poetry in school, but that doesn't quite hold up either.

No, I think this scene hold best together in the imagination as the poet/artist in adolescence or even older reading the various finger pointing wars of poets about the correct way, politically and otherwise (I think that the word correctness is so associated with political correctness that this must be the prime meaning but it is not the only one.
This artist gets the feeling that art isn't about correctness or rules but will be found somewhere in the simple childlike joy of  "getting messy colors dripping on my hands."
Here of course the "everyone's pointing fingers" can be heard as I think it is usually as meaning everyone else, but that I don't think is sustainable except as an expression of the emotion we all have felt at one time or other. It is not sustainable because the singer has already implicated himself in finger pointing by complaining about the poet's who choke him in parallel with his dad pointing fingers as he yells at the newspaper.

This is perhaps the allegorical and the moral. For the first two images the father and son, the newpapers and poets are revealed in some way to mean just what the singer says-- they mean everyone, and listener beware, not everyone else.  Complaining about the state of the nation, the NBA or the arts. The whirl of all this finger pointing, set as it is in the home, bring the singer to long for the whirl of fingerpainting, that time when one's fascination with color and the love of mess has yet to be suppressed. I am not sure that there is a moral level here in the sense we often associate with it namely moral judgment. But insofar as these characters stand for us all, and the singer as an artist trying to extricate himself, if only from the pressure and the racket of it all, it does raise a moral question of sorts.  The singer says he'd "rather be finger painting"-- its literally a statement of emotional preference not a even a judgment about the sources of art. But it raises the question of the proper way to be, the best way to proceed. That I think counts as a moral level.

[The above may sound forced, for it is not what we normally call allegorical, and yet the value of these exegetical tools is not that one hews rigorously to the correct definition thereof, but that one wonders about these things. I wonder for instance if the fact that we can see ourselves or all human beings in the poetic representation of particular human beings does not in some way count as allegory-- for the original use of that term perhaps referred to more spiritual items and a reference to common human nature in a time when such is denied, seems to partake more of allegory in that sense-- a sense by the way which was never meant to be fictitious. We also use the term allegory to refer to fictititious creations which refers to actual persons or historical realities, but the key commonality here is that the word, sentence, song or story which we take as allegorical refers to something in the users mind which is real. We just happen to consider spiritual matters less real than those who originally hit upon these categories of exegesis. And I actually happen to think there is a reality for which the best description I can think of now is common humanity, so I stand by my usage as being an example of something which does what allegory does.]

Home for the
and my friends are getting famous
I try on emotions
like I try on
clothes from storage

There is a flow to these lines that I really dig. I think part of its effect is in these internal rhymes or assonances.  The "o" in home and emotions and clothes (linking all those words in some subtle way); the different "o" in "for" and "storage" (because the for is unaccented this has less a linking effect a simple pleasant echo of sorts); the "I" "try" and "like"; the "a" in holidays and famous. It's all woven quite wonderfully.

This scene occurs later in the singer's life-- perhaps he is away at school, perhaps he has simply moved away. But by this time his friends are getting famous, with the implication that the singer is not getting famous. The remedy is to try on various emotions. Are we talking the temptation to poserhood, or is it just panic. Those clothes from storage refer us back again to the past in this home, which  is linked to the emotions. It is as if one returning home falls into the same old pablovian responses. I also cannot help feeling that the image of friends being famous at some level refers us back to the newspaper in the opening line of the song-- newspapers after all are a medium of fame.

Nothing seems to fit

The singer has outgrown both the clothes and emotions.

I'm not angry sad or jealous 

This is one of those lines which depending on the intonation can be heard as straight up fact, which is how I have usually heard it. But an argument could be made for irony. The man is going through a bunch of old emotions- not that he's angry, not that he's sad, or jealous mind you.

Confused I will admit
I'm like a song without a chorus

The reason I prefer the straight up hearing of "I'm not angry, sad or jealous" is that none of those emotions are necessarily a reaction to the growing fame of friends.  It is pure projection to assume that a person has to react in that fashion. I actually think that most people are probably happy for there friends success. We get angry sad or jealous when strangers or enemies are successful. The whole tenor of the scene leaves one feeling that the singer's emotions really are the product of simply coming home and facing a confusing welter of old emotions and with the realization of a certain unrootedness. What, when none of these old emotions fit, will anchor him the way a chorus anchors a song. What good refrain worthy of repetition is their within himself.?

Confused I will admit

The line is repeated and therefore emphasized. But the "I admit" is interesting, for one does not, especially with the easy going rambling music, have a total sense of crisis. The singer seems less on the edge of an emotional abyss, than simply hapless. It could of course be the singer looking back at those times and minimizing the crisis. Yet there is a sense of being adrift, or perhaps being incomplete. Maybe there is even a hint that just as a chorus represents the one part of the song which everyone sings along with, the singer at this point in his life, especially when his friends are getting famous, and therefore in some sense have something to which people sing along with, he doesn't seem to quite have that.

The women here I know
Talk like sisters over coffee
They say "How was San Fransisco" and
"Are you really happy"
They say, " I fell in love while you were
but just last week he left me,
So, I can't handle romance
can we
just go to a movie."

I've put this whole section in one piece because it raises a number of interesting interpretive questions.  Perhaps because of a lingering sense from the first stanza of something happening in another room (dad yelling at the newspaper) as the singer is in his place complaining about poets; and that childlike feel of fingerpainting while the adults are all fingerpainting, when this song is played live by Lach solo, this stanza gave me an entirely different impression.  It calls to mind as Lach sings it live of the singer listening to the women he knows talking to each other. They are sort of gabbing in the next room over, like sisters over coffee.  In this listening it is reminiscent of two relatively famous passages in literature-- T.S. Eliot's "In the room the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo" from the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, and Bob Dylan's lines from Visions of Johanna where "inside the museums" (echo of Eliot) "See the primitive wallflower freeze/When the jelly-faced women all sneeze/Hear the one with the mustache say, "Jeeze/I can't find my knees" Of course Lach's listening to the women speak has none of the implied judgment or disdain (and shall we say sexism?) that seems to run through the Eliot and Dylan lines. In fact, it seems that the singer accepts what they say to each other, and comes to his own conclusion that:

I can't handle romance

No mockery of the gabbing no; no hint that the talk is meaningless, trite. Certainly the stanza doesn't involve any of the first stanza's identification of everybody including the singer with the fingerpointing and complaining that singer is surrounded with. No these are just people talking, and we envision the singer hearing this and sort of realizing he has no clue about how to go about a love life.

BUT, in the studio version the quoted parts are sung by one female voice and it becomes clear that the scene is completely different from the one I envisioned hearing the song live. These are women talking to the singer over coffee, as if they were his sisters, asking about his well-being but making it quite clear that they don't want a romantic involvment with the singer at this moment. "I can't handle romance" and the singer walks away in a sense muttering in parallel to his admission of confusion that neither can he handle romance.

But rather then various women talking to each other about trips to San Francisco and break ups this leads us see that it is the singer who has been to San Francisco.  And this brings the realization that the young artist has left New York for San Francisco where perhaps, as a sort of home for Beat poetry--Ferlinghetti's City Lights Bookstore and all that, he hoped to escape not only the fingerpointing and the choking correctness of other poets. Now I hold that San Francisco has this reputation, and refer to one of Lach's masterpieces- "Staying Sober in North Beach"


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Repeat After Me

There is no such thing as cyberspace. There is no such thing as cyberspace. You are at a machine that sends electronic impulses to another machine somewhere, via cables and wires. This other machine is in a room somewhere with all these wires coming in and out of it. Inside the particular machine certain arrangements of molecules on discs and chips will react to the particular signals your machine is sending, which will result in a signal being sent back to your machine via cables and wires etc. Your machine then will take that particular code and through certain arrangement of molecules on discs and chips send a signal to the screen which will portray what you are reading now.

There is no cyberspace. There is no cyberspace.

Imagine you were on the only computer and there were no others. You sit at a keyboard and access information on that only computer.

Now imagine there is another computer with other information somewhere else and you connect a wire to it and now you can get the information stored on that computer.

So now there are lots of computers with lots of information and other people have connected you by wires to all those different computers.

There is no cyberspace. It is an illusion. Leave this illusion behind. Imagine what is happening before you as it really is and not the construct which has been designed this way or that.

There is no cyberspace. There is no such thing as cyberspace. Nothing in reality corresponds to this perception you have of cyberspace.

There is no such thing as cyberspace.

Let us retreat to a mountaintop where by the ancient disciplines we will train ourselves to see what is really happening here, all mundane and mechanical  and shit like that...