Friday, October 19, 2018

The Final Solution: Here Comes the Judge

Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham
Jurisprudence and case law have been in the news recently—particularly due to the controversy surrounding the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. But all the brouhaha brings up precedents created by another voice who came into the public eye during an earlier period of conflict. And that’s Judge Pigmeat Markham whose "Here Comes the Judge" and "The Trial" (which was the flip side of the 45 and might be conceived as the closest thing to Kafka in jukebox form) handed down decisions that echoed through the halls of music as well as justice. Remember the opening of “Here Comes the Judge,” “Hear ye, hear ye, the court of swing it's just about ready to do that thing” and later “Every body near and far I’m going to Paris to stop this war.” The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” (1999), produced by Sylvia Robinson (of Mickey and Sylvia, “Love is Strange” fame) is often credited as being one of the first rap or hip hop hits, but actually Pigmeat, a comedian on the R&B circuit who played venues like The Apollo was one of the first to produce this kind of “talk radio.” The record is also significant to the extent that it directly references the Paris Peace Accords, which though not signed until 1973, had begun to be negotiated in 1968, the year “Here Comes the Judge” was released. In his version of “The Trial,” Pigmeat throws the case of a man who's accused of being a nudist out of court when he finds that the man has had 9 children in 3 years and hasn’t had time to put his pants on. Joseph K's case might have fared better with Pigmeat on the bench.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

False Equivalence

False equivalence is a fetching concept. Understanding it is a good way of undermining a hyperbolic argument. Comparing apples with oranges is one kind of false equivalence. A person is not a car and while it might be poetically useful to use expressions like "putting “the rubber to the road,” it actually makes little sense for understanding the human condition, even for those who wear shoes with thick rubber soles. The following statement from President Trump is an almost perfect false equivalence: "Here we go again with, you know, you're guilty until proven innocent. I don't like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I'm concerned," ("Trump criticizes rush to condemn Saudia Arabia over Khashoggi," The Washington Post, 10/16/18).There's an almost a comical side to many false equivalences since, for instance, a victorious candidate has really nothing in common with a winning horse and an unlikely winner is hardly a dark horse though that expression might simply qualify as a plane old figure of speech. A person with a famously busy social schedule who accuses you of being too busy when you try to make a date with him or her is employing false equivalence. Should a wealthy industrialist who drives around in a Ferrari be more required to ante up his money for philanthropy than the person who plays it closer to the vest? Why should ostentation be tantamount to generosity? Just because you like to show off your hard earned cash doesn’t mean you have to give it away. "The last shall be first" is a wonderful kind of false equivalence since it replaces a wish with a reality. Sure it’s a very pleasant and Christian notion (deriving from the Gospel of Matthew) that those at the bottom of the food chain will be rewarded for their penury, but it flies in the face of the facts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Final Solution:The New Civil War

If you’re a baby boomer, they’ll be the memory of a day, week or month, some watershed event that marks the moment when the counterculture changed your life and created and transformed your relationship to your parents and/or any representatives of the older silent 50’s generation that preceded you. It might have been the assassinations of JFK, RFK or Martin Luther King. It may have been the violent attack on protestors at the Chicago Democratic Convention or maybe it was the music of the era that was transformative, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Stones. Perhaps you simply regarded yourself part of the Woodstock generation. Martin Buber talked about I-Thou versus I-It relationships. The depersonalized I-It may have described your relationship to those whose humdrum existences (for instance the famous character in The Graduate who recommends "plastics' to Dustin Hoffman) seemed totally irrelevant to your life. Your new bibles were books like On the Road, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran or R.D. Laing's The Divided Self (which was more a primer for the time than some people might have liked to realize or admit) and you found yourself worshipping  at the alter of gurus like Timothy Leary. Today you may also find yourself growing alienated from a whole demographic of people who seem to uphold a totally different worldview that you, but the difference is less predicated on youth and age or appearance (short or long hair) or even matters of lifestyle like sexuality (though abortion is one of the big issues in the current divide). Those who support the agenda of Donald Trump or other right leaning populist candidates in France, England, Germany and Italy are the new “It” for a generation weaned on the globalism and humanism of modern liberal politics. The counterculture of the 60’s was a civil war and before that was the actual Civil War in which many Americans died. Now we're in a totally new civil war which is characterized by the complete eclipse of bipartisanism. It’s war all right and there are few turncoats brave enough to cross the aisles.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Pornosophy: The Second Coming

"The Last Judgment" By Michelangelo
Have you ever been accused of being too selfless in your sexuality? Have you ever received complaints from partners who feel they’re the recipients of more pleasure than they can handle? Overstimulation can be equally as serious as lack of interest and there are people who simply do not possess the wherewithal or have not had the kind of upbringing where they were taught to tolerate or even expect great amounts of attention to their being and more specifically to their private parts. If you’re in a relationship with someone who’s used to the slam bam thank you sir or madam kind of sex, they may even prefer nostaglie de la boue for déjà vu si vous parlez francaiswhich as everyone knows is the language of love. Yes there are those who do not like a French, French kiss, or to revert to the Latin which is source of all so-called Romance languages, fellatio or cunnilingus. They’d rather turn the other butt cheek and follow the precept that it’s better to give than receive. “The last shall be first” and “the second coming” are their mantras. Chacun a son gout! Butt is not usually employed as a conjunction since it’s a noun, but you get the point.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Final Solution: Towards a Value Free Politics

Value free politics means, it doesn’t matter what any regime does as long as they’re on your side. Of course the US has a long history of this kind of realpolitik. In Chile, the right wing dictator Augusto Pinochet became our choice over the democratic socialist Salvador Allende when the “domino theory” and “spheres of influences” were still important catchphrases of US foreign policy. Remember a Secretary of State named John Foster Dulles? The United States would depose Mossadegh and replace him with the Shah. Now the Trumpocracy is  selling us to the selfsame "Russkies" Colonel Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) warned against in Dr. Strangelove.The president has called Kim Jong-un who has yet to promise anything and who likely ordered the murder of his own half-brother (and who the hell else) “a funny guy” “a great negotiator” and “very smart” while still sending the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to a conference in Saudi Arabia. This latter is occurring despite the apparent ordering of the grisly murder of the muckraking journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi born US resident on Turkish soil. With friends like these who needs enemies? In the light of Mike Pompeo returning from a recent stopover in North Korea where he discussed a second summit, it’s as good a time as any to remember Neville Chamberlain’s famous words: "My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Art of Quitting

photo: Byron Rollins (AP)
Is there something to be said for quitting, for giving up in the face of a challenge? Perhaps you're someone who has spent all of his or her life climbing the mountain. Is it possible that for a personality type of this kind the challenge lies in not trying to climb the mountain anymore? Cancer survivors are always told to fight, but there are patients with terminal cancers who may end their lives feeling they're in a final losing match. Dr. Atul Gawande wrote about this in a New Yorker piece entitled "Letting Go: what should medicine do when it can't save your life," (The New Yorker, 8/2/10). Is that the way you want to die, facing the pain of death and feeling like you’re losing a competition or not stepping up to the plate? The ethos of modern civilization is a business model with the idea that no company can survive unless it constantly grows. War is the other metaphor that's employed. Might is right and nobody wants defeat. Everyone is trying to improve and get better. People make themselves miserable constantly seeking out the best life has to offer. Of course, you don’t want to be a lump or blob, but is there nothing between scaling El Capitan without a rope and turning into a couch potato? Maybe there isn’t. Maybe you have to accept the fact that you’re either someone who meets challenges or not and if you're in the latter category, you’re going to do it until the day you die—when everyone will be patting you on the back and praising you for not giving up and all you want to do is sleep. You will never surrender and you will never find peace.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Museum of Modern Love

Heather Rose’s The Museum of Modern Love is a great title for a novel, but the subject, according to a recent review in PW is even more inventive. PW describes the book as “an exploration of love and convergence set against the backdrop of a work of art performed by Marina Abramovic at MoMA in New York City in 2010.” Surely our present period will beget numerous novels set against the background of the Trump presidency with the turmoil of The White House mirroring the inner conflicts of the characters— and even the pathetic fallacy becoming politicized. But Rose’s idea is truly original and recalls an artistic event that however transfixing may have vanished into the collective unconscious of a previous era. Remember the naked acolytes at the entranceways and the eyes of the artist? It was a little like one of those games where you lock into the gaze of someone waiting to see who will crack first, only Abramovic never budged. It would incidentally be interesting to find out if she ever met her match, if anyone tried to take on this Serena Williams of performance art. There was also sense in which Abramovic’s gaze acted like a tabula rasa in which you could either feel you were being seen or ignored depending on the penchant created by your own psychohistory. Imagine further someone writing a novel about the brothel which was the basis for “Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon” or painting Marina Abramovic. Sitting totally still, she made the perfect model.