Aisha Harris, writing at Slate, is worried by the media coverage of Charles Ramsey:
“Charles Ramsey, the man who helped rescue three Cleveland women presumed dead after going missing a decade ago, has become an instant Internet meme. It’s hardly surprising—the interviews he gave yesterday provide plenty of fodder for a viral video, including memorable soundbites (“I was eatin’ my McDonald’s”) and lots of enthusiastic gestures. But as Miles Klee and Connor Simpson have noted, Ramsey’s heroism is quickly being overshadowed by the public’s desire to laugh at and autotune his story, and that’s a shame. Ramsey has become the latest in a fairly recent trend of “hilarious” black neighbors, unwitting Internet celebrities whose appeal seems rooted in a ‘colorful’ style that is always immediately recognizable as poor or working-class…
“…It’s difficult to watch these videos and not sense that their popularity has something to do with a persistent, if unconscious, desire to see black people perform. Even before the genuinely heroic Ramsey came along, some viewers had expressed concern that the laughter directed at people like Sweet Brown plays into the most basic stereotyping of blacks as simple-minded ramblers living in the ‘ghetto, socially out of step with the rest of educated America. Black or white, seeing Clark and Dodson merely as funny instances of random poor people talking nonsense is disrespectful at best. And shushing away the question of race seems like wishful thinking.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Gary Younge at the Guardian takes the opposite view:
“Millions in America talk like him. But rarely do we hear them unless they are on Maury, Jerry Springer or America’s Most Wanted, the butt of some internet joke or testifying to a shooting in their neighbourhoods. Working-class African Americans are generally wheeled on as exemplars of collective dysfunction. So when Ramsey emerges as heroic, humane, empathetic, funny, compelling, generous and smart, there is a moment of cognitive dissonance on a grand scale. Here is a man with a criminal past and a crime-fighting present…
“…Unvarnished and un-selfconscious, charming and compelling, he reminds me of none so much as Muhammad Ali in his prime, who said: I am America. I am the part you won’t recognise. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky.
“I’m looking forward to getting used to Charles Ramsey.”
If you’re one of the few people who hasn’t yet seen the film of Mr Ramsey in full flow, you can judge for yourself:
P.S: now there’s a song as well.
Former Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson is preparing for a short farewell tour in March. This really will be ‘farewell’: he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer and, having turned down chemo, has less than a year to live. He’s just given this interview to Radio 4′s ‘Front Row’ and if you didn’t hear it when it went out yesterday I must INSIST that you listen, NOW.
It reminds me of Dennis Potter’s incredible 1994 interview conducted by Melvyn Bragg, but might just be even more powerful and moving, with its humour, philosophy and complete lack of self-pity:
“When the doctor told me, I walked out of there and felt an elation…I looked at the trees and sky and thought, ‘wow!’…
“…I’m a feather for each wind that blows. Why didn’t I work that out before? It’s just the moment that matters. Imminent death…makes you feel alive. Every cold breeze against your face, every brick in the road, makes you think ‘I’m alive’…
“…I’m a miserable person but that has all lifted…I’ve had a fantastic life. Anybody that asked for anything more would just be being greedy.”
He also talks a whole lot of sense about music and recording.
Below; Wilko on guitar, with vocalist Lee Brilleaux:
Review by Michael Steinman, reblogged from Jazz Lives:
Maria S. Judge’s book about her Uncle Jake — one of the most swinging musicians ever — JAKE HANNA: THE RHYTHM AND WIT OF A SWINGING JAZZ DRUMMER — is irresistible.
I write this in all objectivity, even though I have a connection to the book. When Maria let people know that she was collecting stories about Jake for this group memoir / portrait, I sent her my recollections of an hour spent with Jake before Sunnie Sutton’s 2006 Rocky Mountain Jazz Party.
I don’t mean to inflate my own importance by this: I am not sure Jake knew who I was before, during, or after his recital, but he HAD to tell stories as dogs have to bark and cats meow. So I was the delighted recipient of some of his best tales — affectionate, scurrilous, sharp, verifiable. My only regret is that I didn’t have my little digital recorder concealed to get Jake’s delivery — a Boston Irish W.C. Fields with expert comic timing — for posterity. I contributed a paragraph about that encounter, and I read the manuscript before it went to press.
But when a copy came in the mail two days ago I thought, “Oh, I know all this already,” and was ready to put the book on the shelf unread.
But Jake’s powers extend far beyond the grave, and I opened it at random. An hour went by as I stood in the kitchen reading, laughing, feeling honored to have met Jake and heard him play.
The book follows Jake from his family and birth in Dorchester, Massachusetts (1931) to his death in 2010. The family narratives are fascinating, because all of the Hannas seem to have been engagingly larger-than-life and the book begins not with serious historical heaviness but with the genial mood of a Frank Capra film. Here’s Jim McCarthy, a younger friend from the neighborhood:
We lived . . . two blocks away from the Dorchester District Courthouse. . . [which] was surrounded by a granite wall about two feet high that the guys used to sit on. When Jake sat there he’d straddle the wall and hit on it with his drumsticks. My mother and I were walking past the courthouse one day when we saw Jake playing the wall. ”Is that all you have to do?” my mother asked him. ”Just beat those sticks?” ”Hi, Mrs. McCarthy,” Jake said. ”Someday they’re going to pay me to beat those sticks.”
There are tales of Jake’s army service, his first meeting with Charlie Parker, “the nicest guy I ever met in my whole life,” working with Jimmy Rushing, Marian McPartland, Maynard Ferguson, and Harry James. Here’s drummer Roy Burns:
When Jake was playing with Harry James, Harry used to go “one, two, one, two, three, four,” with his back to the band, but his shoulders were slower than the tempo. So Jake finally asked him, “Harry, should I take the tempo from your shoulder, from the piano, or just play it at the tempo we usually play it?” Harry said, “Jake, you’re the leader.” Jake said, “Do you really mean that?” Harry said, “Yes.” Jake said, “OK, you’re fired.”
There are many more funny, smart, naughty stories in this book — but it is not all one-liners and smart-alecky. Jake comes across as deeply committed to his craft and to making the band swing from the first beat. And for someone with such a razor-sharp wit, he emerges as generous to younger musicians and his famous colleagues, affectionate and reverential about those people who epitomized the music: Count Basie, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney. We read of his work with Woody Herman, on television with Merv Griffin, in Russia with Oscar Peterson, Supersax, the long run of jazz albums for the Concord label, a sweet sad encounter with Chet Baker. There are long lovely reminiscences by John Allred and Jim Hall, by Dan Barrett, and Jake’s wife Denisa — plus memorable stories from Scott Hamilton, Hal Smith, Charlie Watts, Rebecca Kilgore, Warren Vache, Jim Denham, and dozens of other musicians and admirers.
Uncle Jake is still with us — not only on the music, but in these pages. “Pay attention!” as he used to say.
May your happiness increase.
In the Captain’s Bar last night the duo Rantum Scantum were playing. Bobby Nicholson on guitar and vocals, Eddy Hanson on fiddle. Bobby Nicholson, writes funny, satirical songs. This is a recent topical one, Go and see the pandas:-
Things to do when nothin’s on the telly (recorded live, so sound quality not good:-
The poet Christopher Logue’s finest work was a version of the Iiliad, War Music, which is considered by those who know, to be the finest since Pope. He reinvigorated Homer by using contemporary idioms including advertising slogans (“Permanent Red” was a slogan for lipstick) and film directions (“Cut to the fleet”).
He also wrote plays, screenplays and (under the pseudonym of Count Palmiro Vicarion), pornography. But I (like most people) only really know him for his work for ‘Private Eye’ : the columns ‘Pseud’s Corner’ and ‘True Stories’, both of which were often laugh-out-loud funny and consistently the best features in the magazine.
‘True Stories’ was devoted to bizarre real-life incidents culled from newspapers round the world, involving ordinary people. Logue slightly re-wrote the items in a dead-pan style, turning them into surreal masterpieces. But – significantly – he often changed the names of those involved. They were, he explained, ordinary people - not celebs - and so should not be publicly humiliated.
Unlike most of the upper-class, public school shits who ran Privare Eye in the sixties and seventies, Logue was a decent and principled radical who campaigned against the death penalty, actively supported CND (at a time when it was still an honourable movement) and attempted to use his poetry (alongside Adrian Mitchell) against the Vietnam war. He went to jail for his anti-Vietnam campaigning.
I for one intend, belatedly, to read him
I hadn’t come across this Larkin poem before last weekend. It’s not one of his best, but it made me laugh:
The Life with the Hole in It
When I throw back my head and howl
People (women mostly) say
But you’ve always done what you want,
You always get your way
- A perfectly vile and foul
Inversion of all that’s been.
What the old ratbags mean
Is I’ve never done what I don’t.
So the shit in the shuttered chateau
Who does his five hundred words
Then parts out the rest of the day
Between bathing and booze and birds
Is far off as ever, but so
Is that spectacled schoolteaching sod
(Six kids, and the wife in pod,
And her parents coming to stay)…
Life is an immobile, locked,
Three-handed struggle between
Your wants, the world’s for you, and (worse)
The unbeatable slow machine
That brings what you’ll get. Blocked,
They strain round a hollow stasis
Of havings-to, fear, faces.
Days sift down it constantly. Years.
He’s on at 11.00pm on Wednesdays, BBC Radio 4. He had me laughing out loud. You’ve got six days to listen to this week’s programme:
- Andrew Lawrence:
What To Do If You’re Not Like Everybody Else
- Available now on BBC iPlayer
Listen to the latest programme
I often despair of the Grauniad, my daily paper of choice for nearly forty years. Ignorant shite like this regularly reduces me to a quivering semi-coherent hypostasis of unalloyed fury. And they won’t even let me onto ‘Comment is Free’ because I’ve been nasty to posh-boy Seamas so his pretorian guard “pre-moderate” me every time.
Then every Monday, along comes the Graun‘s number one saving grace. He’s in vintage form, on a particular bête noire of mine, today:
“Anyway, the whole disagreement reminded me how furiously defensive sports fans become when you attack their favoured pursuit, as though they’ve invested half their personal self-worth into it. Was our relationship with sport always like this? Back in the 1930s, when men with handlebar moustaches played football in long johns and tails, and the ball was a spherical clod of bitumen, did fans weep in the stands when their team lost? No. They limited their responses to a muttered “blast” or a muted “hurrah” before going home to smoke a pipe and lean on the mantelpiece. People had “hobbies” and “interests” and no one claimed to have “a passion” for anything…”
Give yourself a treat: read the rest here
For no particular reason beyond my own amusement and desire to proselytize:
Ruby Braff, jazz trumpeter/cornetist, b 16 Mar 1927, d 9 Feb 2003
“Nobody in jazz was saltier or more pugnacious than the diminutive Braff, but he was able to back everything up with playing of the highest order. He arrived at exactly the wrong time, from a career point of view. A trumpet man who played in an impeccable Armstrong style was hardly the hottest property in the early 50s…” – Richard Cook’s Jazz Encyclopedia
The following fabulous evocation of Mr Braff comes via Michael Steinman’s wonderful Jazz Lives blog:
MICK CARLON RECALLS RUBY BRAFF, BEAUTIFULLY
Reprinted from JAZZ TIMES, May 2011:
05/04/11 • By Mick Carlon
Ruby Braff: The Beauty in Music
It’s 1999 and I’m watching a PBS special on Mark Twain. The phone rings. It’s Ruby Braff. “Are you watching the show about Twain?” he asks. “It’s superb. The man was one of our nation’s greatest geniuses.”
I agree. “Too bad Twain didn’t live to be one hundred,” I say.
“Why?” asks Ruby.
“Because then he could’ve heard Louis Armstrong’s Hot 5 and Hot 7 recordings and we’d have Twain’s reaction to them.”
I hear an intake of breath. “Why the (bleep) would you care about that? Why would anyone want to know how Mark Twain felt about Pops? What a (bleeping) stupid thing to say.”
Not taking Ruby’s insults personally (for some reason, I never did), I reply, “Well, I think it would have been interesting.”
“That’s because you’re a (bleep),” and, once again, Ruby Braff hangs up on me.
For the past quarter century, I’ve lived on Cape Cod. Believe it or not, this sandy peninsula, about an hour south of Boston, was once a garden of jazz delights. Although his fans in Japan and Denmark stood in line to buy tickets to his gigs, Dave McKenna’s local gigs were ridiculously easy to attend. My wife and I would simply stroll into Hyannis’ Road House Café to delight in the world-class sounds of Dave on his “saloon piano”—for free.
And we could hear Ruby Braff, playing the most gorgeous cornet in the world–with a sound redolent of summer dusks and autumn wood-smoke—often with McKenna and bassist Marshall Wood.
I met Ruby through Jack Bradley, his old friend who had once actually saved Ruby’s life. In the depths of a three day coma, Ruby was responding to nothing and nobody. Deciding to visit Ruby at Cape Cod Hospital, Jack brought along a cassette player and a Louis Armstrong tape. He pressed play and the sound of Pops playing “I’m In the Mood For Love” filled the hospital room. Amazingly, Ruby’s eyelids began to flutter. The color returned to his cheeks. A few moments later, his eyes opened. “Hey,” he said in his Beantown Dead End Kid voice, “that’s not the 1935 version.”
“Nope,” replied Jack. “It’s from ’38—Pops with the Dorsey band.”
A few minutes later, now fully awake, Ruby said, “You know, that’s the second time Pops saved my life.”
“When was the first?” asked Jack.
“The first time I heard him.”
Ruby, of course, was a graduate of the Louis Armstrong School of Music. “It doesn’t matter what instrument you play—you’re supposed to be listening to Louis Armstrong. It doesn’t matter whether you write, sing, dance, or anything. If you haven’t listened to Louis Armstrong, there’s nothing, nothing going to come out of your playing that will ever please me. I can tell you that.”
And Ruby would tell you. When I once mentioned a young hot-shot trumpeter, Ruby scoffed, “He can’t play (beep). And you know why? He’s never listened to Louis. I can tell.”
However, one time the young hot-shot trumpeter I admired was Ruby himself. “I love those albums you made with Dave McKenna in 1956,” I said.
“What? Are you nuts?” Ruby thundered. “Do you have ears? I couldn’t play worth crap back then. Only an ignorant fool would like that playing. Dave’s the only reason to listen to those pieces of (beep). I thought you had more sense than that!”
I guess I didn’t. I stand by my high opinion of Ruby’s 1950s music. But his later work, recorded when he was often breathless with emphysema, is among the greatest jazz of the past thirty years: On the Arbors label: Variety is the Spice of Braff; Being With You (Ruby’s lovely Pops tribute); Live at the Regattabar; Music for the Still of the Night; Controlled Nonchalance at the Regattabar I and II (with Dave McKenna and Scott Hamilton). On the Concord label: Ruby Braff and His New England Song Hounds I and II (once again with McKenna and Hamilton, along with Howard Alden; Frank Tate; and the immortal Alan Dawson). I also have big eyes for The Ruby Braff/George Barnes Quartet Live at the New School album (Chiaroscuro) and (sorry, Ruby!) his 1956 duets with Ellis Larkins (Vanguard).
My friend rarely had a good word to say about anyone—myself included—but I never heard him say anything negative about a fellow he had known since boyhood in Roxbury: Nat Hentoff. “That man,” said Ruby one evening, “has never written one phony word in his life. God knows how many bum notes I’ve hit over the years—but as a writer, Nat has never hit a bum note.”
When illness struck again, in the autumn of 2002, I visited Ruby often at Cape Cod Hospital. Strangely, amazingly, he was now always kind, with never a negative word for anyone. It worried me. “I don’t think I’ll ever play my horn again,” he said one rainy November afternoon. I kept quiet. With Ruby, phony optimism would’ve rung false—a bum note.
He died on February 9, 2003, a month short of his 76th birthday. Cape Cod has been one quiet place since.
I’ll let Ruby himself take one last word-solo. In 1979 he told Wayne Enstice: “I believe in beauty, and there’s got to be nothing but beauty in music. And if you’re not playing beautiful music that takes people to another plane, to a delicious place that they can’t ordinarily get to in their own lives, then you’re producing nothing. I want delicious sounds…that’ll take me away on a dream.”
Thanks, Ruby. You gave the world countless such delicious sounds.
P.S. I hope that neither JAZZ TIMES nor Mick Carlon mind my reprinting this delicious piece that catches Ruby whole. I, too, loved his music and followed him around with a camera (once) and a cassette recorder (many times) to be closer to the source of that wonderful sound. And who’s Mick Carlon, aside from being a good friend and a fine writer?
Mick Carlon is a 27- year veteran public school teacher. His young adult novel, Riding on Duke’s Train, starring Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra, will be published in December by Leapfrog Press. Says Nat Hentoff: “I knew Duke Ellington for over 25 years. He was my mentor. The Ellington in Carlon’s book is the man I knew.” In 2014, Leapfrog will publish Carlon’s young adult novel on Louis Armstrong, Little Fred and Louis. Carlon lives on Cape Cod with his wife Lisa and his daughters, Hannah and Sarah - Michael Steinman
Finally, here’s the diminutive curmudgeon himself in 1988, with pianist Ralph Sutton, bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Gus Johnson jnr; the tune, appropriately enough, is an Armstrong favourite. Ruby actually starts with a bum note but immediately makes it right:
The dangerous homicidal maniac Brooker has issued a terrifying threat, menacing in its content and obviously so. It could not be more clear. Any ordinary person reading this would see it that way and be alarmed:
“The moment I’ve finished typing this, I’m going to walk out the door and set about strangling every single person on the planet. Starting with you, dear reader. I’m sorry, but it has to be done, for reasons that will become clear in a moment.
“And for the sake of transparency, in case the powers-that-be are reading: this is categorically not a joke. I am 100% serious. Even though I don’t know who you are or where you live, I am going to strangle you, your family, your pets, your friends, your imaginary friends, and any lifelike human dummies with haunted stares and wipe-clean vinyl orifices you’ve got knocking around, perhaps in a secret compartment under the stairs. The only people who might escape my wrath are the staff and passengers at Sheffield’s Robin Hood airport, because they’ve been granted immunity by the state.”
Read the entire blood-curdling communication here.
I’m sure you will agree with me, Judge Jacqeline Davies, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and , indeed, all right-thinking folk, that such bloodthirsty maniacs as Brooker, Paul Chambers and Councillor Gareth Compton must be arrested and banged up immediately. The usual “civil liberties” lobbyist will bleat on about ”draconian measures”, etc, but the safety of the nation depends upon it.