Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sun Ra's Reading List for African-American Studies 198: The Black Man in the Universe

Listed below are the books assigned by Sun Ra for his lecture course, African-American Studies 198: The Black Man in the Universe. The classes were offered as part of the regular Spring semester at the University of California, Berkeley, 1971.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead
Alexander Hislop: Two Babylons
The Theosophical works of Madame Blavatsky
The Book of Oahspe
Henry Dumas: Ark of Bones
Henry Dumas: Poetry for My People eds. Hale Charfield & Eugene Redmond, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press 1971
Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing, eds. Leroi Jones & Larry Neal, New York: William Morrow 1968
David Livingston: Missionary Travels
Theodore P. Ford: God Wills the Negro
Rutledge: God's Children
vol. 13, no. 1 (Spring 1971), Temple University
John S. Wilson: Jazz. Where It Came From, Where It's At, United States Information Agency
Yosef A. A. Ben-Jochannan: Black Man of the Nile and His Family, Alkibu Ian Books 1972
Constantin Francois de Chasseboeuf, Comte de Volney: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires, and the Law of Nature, London: Pioneer Press 1921
The Source Book of Man's Life and Death (Ra's description; = The King James Bible)
Pjotr Demianovitch Ouspensky: A New Model of the Universe. Principles of the Psychological Method in Its Application to Problems of Science, Religion and Art, New York: Knopf 1956
Frederick Bodmer: The Loom of Language. An Approach to the Mastery of Many Languages, ed. Lancelot Hogben, New York: Norton & Co. 1944
Blackie's Etymology

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Holden arrives at the station, Chapter 17, "Who the hell knows? Not me."

I was way early when I got there, so I just sat down on one of those leather couches right near the clock in the lobby and watched the girls. A lot of schools were home for vacation already, and there were about a million girls sitting and standing around waiting for their dates to show up. Girls with their legs crossed, girls with their legs not crossed, girls with terrific legs, girls with lousy legs, girls that looked like swell girls, girls that looked like bitches if you knew them. It was really nice sightseeing, if you know what I mean. In a way, it was sort of depressing, too, because you kept wondering what the hell would happen to all of them. When they got out of school and college, I mean. You figured most of them would probably marry dopey guys. Guys that always talk about how many miles to the gallon they get in their goddamn cars. Guys that get sore and childish as hell if you beat them at golf, or even just some stupid game like ping-pong. Guys that are very mean. Guys that never read books. Guys that are very boring - But I have to be careful about that. I mean calling certain guys bores. I don't understand boring guys. I really don't. When I was at Elkton Hills, I roomed for about two months with this boy, Harris Macklin. He was very intelligent and all, but he was one of the biggest bores I ever met. He had one of these raspy voices, and he never stopped talking, practically. He never stopped talking, and what was awful was, he never said anything you wanted to hear in the first place. But he could do one thing. The sonuvabith could whistle better than anybody I ever heard. He'd be making his bed, or hanging stuff up in the closet - he was always hanging stuff up in the closet - it drove me crazy - and he'd be whistling while he did it, if he wasn't talking in this raspy voice. He could even whistle classical stuff, but most of the time he just whistle jazz. He could take something very jazzy, like "Tin Roof Blues," and whistle it so nice and easy - right while he was hanging stuff up in the closet - that it would kill you. Naturally, I never told him I thought he was a terrfic whistler. I mean you don't just go up to somebody and say, "You're a terrific whistler." But I roomed with him for about two whole months, even though he bored me till I was half crazy, just because he was such a terrific whistler, the best I ever heard. So I don't know about bores. Maybe you shouldn't feel to sorry if you see some swell girl getting married to them. They don't hurt anybody, most of them, and maybe they're secretly all terrific whistlers or something. Who the hell knows? Not me.

Page 123, The Catcher in the Rye

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Prevalence of Ritual: Matthew Shipp Talks with Justin Desmangles

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Show Description for Sunday 01/24/2010: This week on the 4 o'clock hour, an exclusive in-depth interview with one of the contemporary masters of jazz and improvised music; pianist, composer, Matthew Shipp.

Artist Song Album Label

Matthew Shipp Nu Bop Nu Bop Live Rai Trade

Matthew Shipp From the Otherside of Anywhere Nu Bop Live Rai Trade

Matthew Shipp Rocket Shipp Nu Bop Live Rai Trade

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Matthew Shipp The Crack in the Piano's Egg 4D Thirsty Ear

Matthew Shipp Equilibrium 4D Thirsty Ear

Mathew Shipp Teleportation 4D Thirsty Ear

Matthew Shipp Dark Matter 4D Thirsty Ear

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Declared Enemy Flowers Salute to 100001 Stars: A Tribute to Jean Genet RogueArt

Declared Enemy Alberto's Workshop Salute to 100001 Stars: A Tribute to Jean Genet RogueArt

Declared Enemy Mettray Salute to 100001 Stars: A Tribute to Jean Genet RogueArt

Declared Enemy Black Panthers Salute to 100001 Stars: A Tribute to Jean Genet RogueArt

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Interview with Matthew Shipp By Justin Desmangles

Matthew Shipp & Roscoe Mitchell Duo
Matthew Shipp & Roscoe Mitchell Duo Thirsty Ear

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Eugene Redmond and the tradition of Damn Sure Telling It Like It Is

Poet, critic, editor and publisher, Eugene Redmond, is one of the leading figures in the history of African-American letters. Author of the seminal critical work, Drumvoices, Mr. Redmond is also the major force in the dissemination of the work of the late master Henry Dumas.

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Track Artist Song Album Label

Gato Barbieri La China Leoncia Arreo La Correntinada Trajo Entre La Muchachada La Flor De La Juventud Part One Latin America: Chapter One Impulse

Gato Barbieri La China Leoncia Arreo La Correntinada Trajo Entre La Muchachada La Flor De La Juventud Part Two Latin America: Chapter One Impulse

Gato Barbieri La China Leoncia Arreo La Correntinada Trajo Entre La Muchachada La Flor De La Juventud Part Three Latin America: Chapter One Impulse

Gato Barbieri La China Leoncia Arreo La Correntinada Trajo Entre La Muchachada La Flor De La Juventud Part Four Latin America: Chapter One Impulse

Nina Simone Isn't It A Pity Emergency Ward RCA

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Michael White The Land of Spirit and Light Part 1 The Land of Spirit and Light Impulse

Michael White The Land of Spirit and Light Part 2 The Land of Spirit and Light Impulse

Michael White The Land of Spirit and Light Part 3 The Land of Spirit and Light Impulse

Margaret Walker For My People An Anthology of Negro Poetry Folkways

Sam Rivers Involution Extensions & Dimensions Blue Note

Andrew Hill No Malice One for One Blue Note

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Andrew Hill Ilusion Change Blue Note

Interview with Eugene Redmond by Justin Desmangles Part One

Jayne Cortez with Richard Davis Essence of Rose Solitude Celebrations & Solitudes Strata-East

Interview with Eugene Redmond by Justin Desmangles Part Two

Andrew Hill Hope Change Blue Note

Thursday, January 14, 2010

What Tiger Woods Jokes Tell Us About the American Character Knocking on Woods By Cecil Brown

What Tiger Woods Jokes Tell Us About the American Character

Knocking on Woods


Moments before the New Year 2010, as the clock was ticking towards midnight, comedian Paul Mooney was ending his routine at the Black Repertory Theater, in Berkeley, California. He looked at the all African American audience, and, as if to settle a score with white America, shouted, “That Tiger Woods!” Just floating his name sent the audience into a howl of laughter. They knew that what they were about to hear was the truth, a take on what white comedians had not given the Tiger phenomenon.
In fact, the end of the decade will always be recalled as the phenomenon known as the Tiger Joke Cycle. I heard the same Tiger Woods joke three times the same day. That night, I heard Jay Leno tell it on television:

“What’s the difference between Tiger and Santa Clause?”

Answer: “Santa Clause stops at three ‘ho’s’”

In this joke, Santa Claus, the old man with a white beard, can only make it past three “Hos.” Young Tiger, on the other hand, can go through more than three. He can — Alas! — go up to eighteen “Hos.” There is a wave of Tiger Woods jokes. What is the significance of all this? What is the meaning of this phenomena?

This brings to mind the late Alan Dundes, professor of Anthropology, Prior to his death in 2005, he was the world’s most famous analyst of the Joke. Professor Dundes liked to regale his class with the story of how some fan had written to him a letter addressed: “To the Professor of Jokes, UC Berkeley, USA.” (He got the letter, too.)

Although he was a popular teacher of folklore, it was his interpretation of the joke that both infuriated critics and excited students. One of his thousands of students, David Lewis, recalled how Dundes would begin his first lecture of the course on jokes: “He started the class with the warning that he would offend every single person in the class and within an hour and a half, he had succeeded.”

This is true. Professor Dundes rightly saw jokes as being an aggressive attack of one group against another. He openly admitted that jokes had an aggressive tendency in which one ethnic group will often attack another one: “Jokes told about the members of one particular ethnic, national, or religious group might offer a socially sanctioned outlet for the expression of aggression toward that group.”

“He had also explained why we tell jokes and how specific jokes (e.g. dead baby jokes), and how they relate to events in history/society,” Lewis recollected, Like thousands of students who took Dundes’ class in folklore at UC Berkeley, Lewis never forgot those interpretations.

Neither did I. My own fascination with Professor Dundes work occurred in Berlin, in the early eighties, when I had been living in Europe for four years. It was difficult to get an English book in Berlin with the Wall around it. A German friend had a collection of English books and agreed to lend me some. After reading Dundes, I was so impressed that I decided that I would return to Berkeley and see if I could study with him. I ended up writing my PhD dissertation there and publishing it with the Harvard University Press.

So, how would Professor Dundes interpret Tiger Woods’ jokes? In the first place, Professor Dundes would look at the Tiger Wood’s jokes as an opportunity to examine what American men are really thinking about themselves, marriage, infidelity, race, and sex.

In his classes and in his books, Dundes told us that the fact that someone is even transmitting jokes means something. “As a folklorist, I have come to believe,” he said, “that no piece of folklore continues to be transmitted unless it means something—even if neither the speaker nor the audience can articulate what that meaning might be.”

For Dundes, the meaning is never apparent to the joke teller or his audience, and the reason for this is that if they knew what the joke was really about they wouldn’t be telling it — or enjoying it. But I’m getting ahead of the theory. Jokes, he lectured to his students, are built around cycles. There was the elephant joke cycle, the dead baby joke cycle, the Helen Keller joke cycle, the Polish Pope joke cycle, the Jew joke cycle and the Polack joke cycle, the Jewish American princess and Jewish American Mother joke cycles, and the Clinton joke cycle. And now the Tiger Woods joke cycle!

Although a cycle may just be a collection of jokes with a particular theme or a particular narrative, with Professor Dundes, it has both a psychological and a social context. A hint as to the meaning behind the Tiger Woods cycle has to do with hidden subjects. “In the United States, subjects such as sexuality and racism — which cannot always be discussed openly — tend to become the hidden subjects of joke cycles.” The joke cycle springs up because of the social events that give rise to it. Dundes believed that the reason we transmit folklore is that it means something — not just to make somebody laugh, but to transmit meanings no matter if these meanings are conscious to the teller.

Joke telling “function[s] as a steam valve,” Dundes wrote in “Cracking Jokes: Studies of Sick Humor Cycles and Stereotypes, “ allowing the defense of aggressive expression against something that is causing a threat and thus creating anxiety by regressing to childish expressions of wit.”
“The release of the safety valve function of oral humor,” he went on, “would be less effective if people knew what they were saying or laughing at.”

As much as the psychological analysis alone would not explain why a joke cycle came about exactly when it did. The social-historical context must be taken into account. During the heat of the OJ trial, I saw Professor Dundes on campus at UC Berkeley. “I have a joke for you,” he greeted me, “ but it’s really dirty,” and — to highlight that he was telling the joke to a Black man — he said, “…and racist!” Then he added: “But it’s funny!”

Robert Shapiro, OJ’s lawyer, saw him dressed up in a bright, Hawaiian shirt. He asked him, “OJ, where are you going? Why are you so dressed up?”

OJ responded, “Didn’t you say we were going to Cancun?

Shapiro: ‘No, I said you were going to the Can, Coon!”

Dundes claimed that his job was to make sense out of this “nonsense.” “As a psychoanalytic folklorist,” Dundes once said, “my professional goals are to make sense of nonsense, find a rationale for the irrational, and seek to make the unconscious conscious.”

He discovered that wit is a combination of word play and puns. The association of golf terminology and sexual content allow the teller to show off his wit. Conveniently, the terminology of golf is the perfect metaphor for sex, and so is “Ho.” ‘Ho’ s the Black English for “whore.”

It has its origin in the historical relationships between white men and black women. The sound of the ‘ho’ that is traditional associated with the Santa Claus’ ‘ho,’ – the European clipped for “hello.” Two different meanings are masquerading under the same sound — all the better to sneak in past the censors who are on guard against any improprieties like sex and race.
The joke teller’s audience is surprised when he realizes that this disguise has duped him — and laughs: it is his inadvertent reaction that results. In our society it is not just, but race combined with sex and black men. This is particularly true with the puns on “wood.” another word for male sex organ:

Tiger’s name should be changed to “Tiger’s wood.”

“Tiger can’t control his wood.”

Somebody heard that he had a “9 wood.”

1st golfer: "Is it true Tiger Woods is playing around?"

2nd golfer: "Yes, he's doing 18 holes"

The Tiger Wood’s joke cycle’s obsession with “holes” and “woods” uses symbols of female and male organs, and the tellers of these jokes like to play around with them. Other puns include “clubbing (night club activity) and “the club” (golf.) The use of “Clubbing and “club’” are very popular — the terms mixing hitting with sex. The term ‘clubbing’ is also Black English, for going to night clubs looking for sexual partners, hence “clubbing.”

What was Elin doing out at 2:30 in the morning? Clubbin'!

Apparently, jokers don’t distinguish between Norwegians and Swedes — they are all the same.

What does Tiger Woods have in common with baby seals? Norwegians club them both.

Another pun was used with “golf course” and (sexual) “intercourse!”

Tiger Woods is designing a new golf video game, hydrants are par 1, car windows are a par 5, and and Tiger's face is a par 3.

Why did Elin recommend that Tiger quit golf and take up miniature golf? Because he's going to have to play with his putter for a long time and he won't need a driver.

As I looked at the Tiger Wood’s jokes on the Internet, on television, and listened to comedians like Letterman and Jay Leno, I saw that there are two types of cycles.

There are jokes in which Tiger is the hero:

Tiger's neighbor asked him: Tiger, where are you going so early in the morning?"

Tiger says, "I'm going to go play eighteen holes."

Neighbor says, "You're not dressed for golf!"

Tiger says, "Golf?"

Tiger is an early favorite for 2010 Noble Piece Prize.

Elin: “Who’s Jamie? Tiger: The one that’s polishing my clubs.”

Hey Adidas, this is Tiger; Nike found your number in my phone. I need you to change your name…

Q) What is Tiger Woods' handicap?

A) White women

Question: What is handsome, talented, rich, smart and black? Answer: A groupie’s fantasy.

In 1969, Dundes published a major study on the elephant joke “On elephantasy and elephanticide,” in which he considered elephant jokes to be convenient disguises for racism, and symbolized the nervousness of white people about the civil rights movement. While blatantly racist jokes became less acceptable, elephant jokes were a useful proxy.

In the first type, the elephant is the epitome of sexual power, which Dundes believed represented the Black male. ”His immensity (especially that of his phallus) and his alleged ability to procreate even under the most trying conditions are recurrent themes.”

Therapist Susan Block claims “The Tiger Syndrome” in CounterPunch that her white male clients are already idolizing Tiger and imagining that he has slept with their girlfriends and wives. “The most popular turn-on for my Caucasian cuckold clients is to see their white wives having wild sex with well-endowed African-American men,” she reported. “Now that the Cadillac has hit the tree, so to speak, their biggest fantasy is to see their wives or girlfriends doing Tiger Woods. He’s the old myth of the ‘Mandingo’ come to life, the black man who comes to town and seduces all the white men’s wives.”

In the second type of the Woods joke cycle, people who want to knock Tiger down. Associating Tiger with “phallic grandeur” of the Elephant, most joke tellers put Tiger in the victim role, the second category. They try to, as Dundes said of the Elephant jokesters, “represent a defense against the super phallic elephant. These jokes contain diverse techniques for keeping the elegant away and castrating him.

How do you keep an Elephant from charging? Take away his credit card.

How do you keep an elephant from stampeding? Cut his ‘tam peter off.

This is the type that Paul Mooney was aiming for on the New Year Eve’s celebration. He suggests that Tiger wasn’t even a Black man:“That white woman [Elin] beat his ass!” he laughed. “There is nothing as embarrassing as when Becky [black slang for white woman] beats your ass! Becky beat the black off that boy!” As Mooney sees it, the incident just proves that Tiger Wood is not much of a black man. What black man would let a white woman beat him up? When Elin hit him with the golf club, she caused him to give up his blackness and rely on his Asian background, Mooney said:

“That was why he ran into the tree!” He couldn’t drive straight, because, you know, Asians can’t drive. “When Becky was finished with his ass, he woke up under a tree…eating a bowl of rice!” The audience went crazy. Mooney extended the joke.“Becky [Elin] said, ‘Tiger may hit those little white balls,” meaning golf. “But she said, ‘I’m gonna hit me some big, black balls.”

Today in America, in a time in which the most powerful man in America, the president, is a black man, whites—even the liberal whites—experience anxiety over white women and black men. The Wood’s joke cycle indicates this as well:

Q) What is Tiger Woods' handicap?

A) White women.

If Tiger had been white or if his girlfriends had been black, the Tiger joke cycle would have no reason to exist, because it wouldn’t cause anxiety in white men. In the Clinton joke cycle, Clinton is praised for his misdeeds — here Tiger is punished. The moral of the story is that if you are a white male, you are not a threat. If you are a black male, the joke is against you.

Even David Letterman, who was sexually involved with a female staff member, had the nerve to criticize Tiger. Yet the women whom Tiger dated were not employed by him. According to the jokes, we are a nation of hypocrites. While they may not be aware of it, the tellers of jokes are showing their unconscious sexual envy of Black men. If the reader thinks the folklore jokes don’t tell an accurate picture of the white male fantasy’s about Tiger Woods, one might consider the conclusion that Susan Block came to after numerous interviews with white male clients.

With the Barry Bonds joke cycle, the jokes gained momentum as Bonds reached Babe Ruth’s record. Once Bond had reached the record and the white male’s threat had diminished, so did the joke cycle. When a black man challenges white male dominance in a sport, joke cycles flare up. When a threat is no longer imminent, the cycle subsides.

“These white people are mad at Tiger,” Paul Mooney joked as the night yielded to 2010, “He done lost them billions of dollars, in endorsements, in advertisement, in stocks. He should just go away somewhere and change his name…. yeah, from Tiger to Cheetah.”

To tell a Tiger joke becomes a socially sanctioned way of putting down a black man — especially one that has it all — both on the golf course and in the bedroom. In a culture in which black men dominate areas that used to be ruled by whites males, jokes that will gratify their egos, if only for a few minutes, are needed. White males have seen themselves bested in every area of sports — basketball, football, tennis, baseball, and now golf. (A Black man occupies even the Presidency. So where is the white male supremacy?)

The January Issue 2010 issue of Golf Digest featured Obama and Tiger together. In the image, Tiger hovers over the President, and the caption reads, “Ten Tips Obama Can Take From Tiger.”

By conflating—and compositing--these two images, the magazine encourages us to imagine these two powerful Black men as one. Since they dominating areas that white men use to occupy, white men have reason to be wary.

What the Joke Cycle makes clear is the Tiger phenomenon is not of much about his infidelity as it is about our own anxieties. Tiger’s mishaps are a perfect foil to put him down.. Images of powerful men like Woods and Obama fuels fears of racism. Telling a Tiger joke is a good thing.

Cecil Brown (pictured above, photo by Al Young) is the author of I, Stagolee: a Novel, Stagolee Shot Billy and The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger. He can be reached at:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Celebrating Max Roach, Freedom Now!

This week, on the 4 o'clock hour, my guest will be San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Leah Garchik. Join us for a lively conversation on California, the arts, media in the 21st century and, of course, all things San Francisco.

Also this afternoon we will celebrate the birthday of the great drummer, composer and arranger, Max Roach, with selections from his masterwork, We Insist: Freedom Now! Suite, featuring Abbey Lincoln, with lyrics by Oscar Brown, Jr. A seminal figure in the history of American music, Max Roach was one of the foremost contributors to the language of BeBop percussion.

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Track Artist Song Album Label

Langston Hughes I Have Known Rivers Anthology of Negro Poets Folkways

Langston Hughes I, Too Anthology of Negro Poets Folkways

Andrew Hill Siete Ocho Judgement! Blue Note

Bobby Hutcherson Catta Dialogue Blue Note

Claude McKay Tropics In New York Anthology of Negro Poets Folkways

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Ella Fitzgerald & Ellis Larkins My One and Only Sings Gershwin Decca

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong Under a Blanket of Blue Ella & Louis Verve

Ella Fitzgerald Misty Ella in Berlin Verve

Ella Fitzgerald Jersey Bounce Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie Verve

Modern Jazz Quartet Monterey Mist Blues at Carnegie Hall Atlantic

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Bobby Hutcherson Ghetto Lights Dialogue Blue Note

Claude McKay Introduction to If We Must Die Anthology of Negro Poets Folkways

Claude McKay If We Must Die Anthlogy of Negro Poets Folkways

Bing Crosby Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? New World

Interview with Leah Garchik by Justin Desmangles

Max Roach with Abbey Lincoln Driva' Man We Insist: Freedom Now! Candid

Max Roach with Abbey Lincoln Freedom Day We Insist: Freedom Now! Candid

Max Roach with Abbey Lincoln Prayer/Protest/Peace We Insist: Freedom Now! Candid

Ntozake Shange No More Love Poems # 1 For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow is Enuf Buddha

David Bowie Starman Starman EP RCA - Portugal

David Bowie Hang on to Yourself Starman EP RCA - Portugal

Sunday, January 3, 2010

John Coltrane Interview on Swedish Radio 1960

I've Got Five Dollars - Bobby Short
Everything I've Got Belongs To You - Chris Connor
Bohemia After Dark - Oscar Pettiford
Do The Dead Know What Time It Is? - Kenneth Patchen
Hora Decubitus - Charles Mingus
God - Richard Pryor
Grandmothers - Richard Pryor
Woman Talk - Carmen McRae
I Didn't Know What Time It Was - Carmen McRae
Witchcraft - Bill Evans Trio
A Shade of Jade - Joe Henderson
Get Up Blues - James Emanuel (read by Cicely Tyson)
The Rebel - Mari Evans (read by Cicely Tyson)
Look No Further - Betty Carter
Beware My Heart - Betty Carter
Celia - Charles Mingus
Come Rain or Come Shine - Ray Charles
Come Rain or Come Shine - Sonny Clark
Journey to a Parallel - Bruce Wright (read by Moses Gunn)
The End of Man is His Beauty - LeRoi Jones (read by Ellen Holly)
All Blues (Live) - Miles Davis & John Coltrane
Interview with John Coltrane By Carl-Erik Lindgren
I Left My Heart in San Francisco - Carmen McRae
If You Could See Me Now - Carmen McRae