Saturday, February 27, 2010

Al Young Reads Straight No Chaser

Novelist, poet, essayist and jazz critic, Al Young reads his poem, Straight No Chaser. The original recording comes from the CD contained in the book, Something About the Blues. The title, Straight No Chaser, comes from an original composition by Thelonious Monk. Like other masters in the Blues idiom, Young retains the sentiments of the tradition, such as plain speech and "telling it like it is," without making direct allusion to the Blues itself.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Poem Written By Frank O'Hara


Is it dirty
does it look dirty
that's what you think of in the city

does it just seem dirty
that's what you think of in the city
you don't refuse to breathe do you

someone comes along with a very bad character
he seems attractive. is he really. yes. very
he's attractive as his character is bad. is it. yes

that's what you think of in the city
run your finger along your no moss mind
that's not a thought that's soot

and you take a lot of dirt off someone
is the character less bad. no. it improves constantly
you don't refuse to breathe do you


Lunch Poems
, City Lights Books, San Francisco

Monday, February 22, 2010

What Do Empires Do? by Michael Parenti

When I wrote my book Against Empire in 1995, as might be expected, some of my U.S. compatriots thought it was wrong of me to call the United States an empire. It was widely believed that U.S. rulers did not pursue empire; they intervened abroad only out of self-defense or for humanitarian rescue operations or to restore order in a troubled region or overthrow tyranny, fight terrorism, and propagate democracy.

But by the year 2000, everyone started talking about the United States as an empire and writing books with titles like Sorrows of Empire, Follies of Empire, Twilight of Empire, or Empire of Illusions--- all referring to the United States when they spoke of empire.

Even conservatives started using the word. Amazing. One could hear right-wing pundits announcing on U.S. television, “We’re an empire, with all the responsibilities and opportunities of empire and we better get used to it”; and “We are the strongest nation in the world and have every right to act as such”---as if having the power gives U.S. leaders an inherent entitlement to exercise it upon others as they might wish.

“What is going on here?” I asked myself at the time. How is it that so many people feel free to talk about empire when they mean a United States empire? The ideological orthodoxy had always been that, unlike other countries, the USA did not indulge in colonization and conquest.

The answer, I realized, is that the word has been divested of its full meaning. “Empire” seems nowadays to mean simply dominion and control. Empire---for most of these late-coming critics--- is concerned almost exclusively with power and prestige. What is usually missing from the public discourse is the process of empire and its politico-economic content. In other words, while we hear a lot about empire, we hear very little about imperialism.

Now that is strange, for imperialism is what empires are all about. Imperialism is what empires do. And by imperialism I do not mean the process of extending power and dominion without regard to material and financial interests. Indeed “imperialism” has been used by some authors in the same empty way that they use the word “empire,” to simply denote dominion and control with little attention given to political economic realities.

But I define imperialism as follows: the process whereby the dominant investor interests in one country bring to bear their economic and military power upon another nation or region in order to expropriate its land, labor, natural resources, capital, and markets—in such a manner as to enrich the investor interests. In a word, empires do not just pursue “power for power’s sake.” There are real and enormous material interests at stake, fortunes to be made many times over.

So for centuries the ruling interests of Western Europe and later on North America and Japan went forth with their financiers---and when necessary their armies---to lay claim to most of planet Earth, including the labor of indigenous peoples (both as workers and slaves), their markets, their incomes (through colonial taxation or debt control or other means), and the abundant treasures of their lands: their gold, silver, diamonds, copper, rum, molasses, hemp, flax, ebony, timber, sugar, tobacco, ivory, iron, tin, nickel, coal, cotton, corn, and more recently: uranium, manganese, titanium, bauxite, oil, and---say it again—oil (hardly a complete listing).

Empires are enormously profitable for the dominant economic interests of the imperial nation but enormously costly to the people of the colonized country. In addition to suffering the pillage of their lands and natural resources, the people of these targeted countries are frequently killed in large numbers by the intruders.

This is another thing that empires do which too often goes unmentioned in the historical and political literature of countries like the United States, Britain, and France. Empires impoverish whole populations and kill lots and lots of innocent people. As I write this, President Obama and the national security state for which he works are waging two and a half wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, and northern Pakistan), and leveling military threats against Yemen, Iran, and, on a slow day, North Korea. Instead of sending medical and rescue aid to Haiti, Our Bomber sent in the Marines, the same Marines who engaged in years of repression and killings in Haiti decades ago and supported more recent massacres by proxy forces.

The purpose of all this killing is to prevent alternative, independent, self-defining nations from emerging. So the empire uses its state power to gather private wealth for its investor class. And it uses its public wealth to shore up its state power and prevent other nations from self-developing.

Sooner or later this arrangement begins to wilt under the weight of its own contradictions. As the empire grows more menacing and more murderous toward others, it grows sick and impoverished within itself.

From ancient times to today, empires have always been involved in the bloody accumulation of wealth. If you don’t think this is true of the United States then stop calling it “Empire.” And when you write a book about how it wraps its arms around the planet, entitle it “Global Bully” or “Bossy Busybody,” but be aware that you’re not telling us much about imperialism.

Michael Parenti's recent books include:
God and His Demons (Prometheus 2010); Contrary Notions: The Michael Parenti Reader (City Lights); The Assassination of Julius Caesar (New Press), Superpatriotism (City Lights), The Culture Struggle (Seven Stories Press). For further information, visit his website:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Music Hears You, Too.

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This afternoon, on the 4 o'clock hour, we welcome back to the program, composer, saxophonist and founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Roscoe Mitchell. One of the key figures in the development of jazz and improvised music over the last 45 years, Mr. Mitchell is also among the greatest alto saxophonists in the history of the music. Mr. Mitchell will be performing in Sacramento this coming Thursday evening, February 25th, at the 24th Street Theater at the Sierra Two Complex in Curtis Park. Tickets are available at R5 Records, Broadway at 16th St., across from the Tower Theater.

As part of today's broadcast we will devote the entire musical content to the work of this powerful, inspiring and innovative artist. Included will be selections from the classic All the Numbers, Nonaah, and Congliptious, as well as more recent recordings, such as Spectrum (Mutable), and Roscoe Mitchell Transatlantic Art Ensemble (ECM)

Also this afternoon, at 3:25, we are joined by documentary filmmaker, Robert Clift. Mr. Clift most recent work is the extra-ordinary Blacking Up: Hip-hop's Remix of Race & Identity. This powerfully original and thoughtful work explores contemporary issues of cultural appropriation and misappropriation, racial representation and media distortions of same. Interviews included in the work feature two regular guests on this program, Paul Mooney and Amiri Baraka, as well as with Greg Tate, Aesop Rock, M1 (of Dead Prez), John Leland and the great D.J. Kool Herc.

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Artist Song Album Label

Lester Bowie Number 2 All the Numbers Nessa

Roscoe Mitchell Carefree - take 3 Congliptious Nessa

Roscoe Mitchell Tatas-Matoes Congliptious Nessa

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Interview with Robert Clift by Justin Desmangles

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Roscoe Mitchell duet with Anthony Braxton Off 5 Dark6 Nonaah Nessa

Roscoe Mitchell duet with Malachi Favors A1 TAL 2LA Nonaah Nessa

Roscoe Mitchell trio with Muhal Richard Abrams & George Lewis Tahquemenon Nonaah Nessa

Interview with Roscoe Mitchell by Justin Desmangles

Roscoe Mitchell duet with Muhal Richard Abrams Romu Spectrum Mutable

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Art Ensemble of Chicago with Cecil Taylor Intro to Fifteen Dreaming of the Masters Vol. 2 DIW

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Cult of "Personal Responsibility"

My Problem with Hardball


Most of my 53rd Street neighbors exercise personal responsibility. Like millions of African Americans throughout the nation, they play by the rules. Despite their devotion to personal responsibility, for six years our neighborhood has been under siege by an interracial drug-dealing gang. Unsavory characters from other parts of the city invade the block. They are rowdy, they insult the women and occasionally there are shootouts.

Living with a gang is the closest thing to living in a fascist state. Your personal freedom is impaired. We've exercised personality responsibility to end this menace. Attending meetings with downtown officials and doing whatever is required of us. This interracial gang is still there. Our devotion to personal responsibility hasn't worked.

Yet, when I turn on Chris Matthews' show "Hardball," I hear one of his regulars, Michelle Bernard, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, scold black Americans constantly about their lack of personal responsibility. Though I could name other ethnic groups whose social statistics are worse than those of African Americans, Bernard contends that "personal responsibility" is "especially" a problem for the black community.

If blacks behaved correctly, so the argument goes, the banks will end red lining, racial disparities in the criminal justice system will end, and we can all join hands and skip along like Dorothy and her crew, off to see the wizard.

Unlike Ann Coulter, who occasionally lobs some nasty and witty verbal bombs, Bernard disarms her audience with a smile that covers two thirds of her face.

Since hundreds of minority journalists have lost their jobs, the African American presence on cable and elsewhere is confined to the white right and left's-subsidized black opinion, people who mouthed the policies of the right- and left-wing institutions that sponsor them.

Bernard is president of the Independent Women's Forum, which was organized to counter the feminist movement. People for the American Way describes IWF as a group that "opposes affirmative action, gender equity programs like Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Act."

John McWhorter is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. The Institute, which gets money from places like Chase Manhattan Bank, encourages quack race science research. When Matthews held a MSNBC "Town Hall," a cheap way to get ratings, McWhorter was a panelist, able to spin his post-race fantasies without opposition. He believes that the only remaining grievance of African Americans is racial profiling, which in a Commentary article, he denied existed.

Even with the Brookings Institute's report about "The Suburbanization of Poverty," I doubt whether CNN or MSNBC will ever do a feature or "town hall" blaming the prevalence of poverty in the suburbs on the lack of "personal responsibility" among whites.

Another "Hardball" regular is Pat Buchanan. His repeated assertion that white people built America goes unchallenged by Matthews and his guests. Whom are we to believe? Buchanan or educator, Booker T. Washington, who among black leaders of the past most resembles President Barack Obama?

In his Atlanta Exposition Address in 1895, he referred to "people who have, without strikes and labour wars, tilled your fields, cleared your forests, constructed your railroads and cities, and brought forth treasures from the bowels of the earth, and helped make possible this magnificent representation of the progress of the South."

Whites were among several races that helped to build America. Hispanics have been the harvesters. It was Chinese-American engineering skills that helped to build the railroads in the West. Buchanan grew up in Washington D.C. but probably couldn't identify buildings in the Capitol that were constructed by African American labor; the Capitol building, for one.

One can understand Matthews' problem and why he would make a remark that some claim offended racial etiquette. He's an Irish-American who has entered the Anglo mainstream, as one writer calls it. He was congratulating Obama for doing the same, when he said that during his brilliant delivery of the State of The Union address, Matthews forgot that Obama was black.

The other problem is not his. MSNBC and CNN select black commentators, who won't offend their target audience, whites, or those who they call "the American public," or what a KPFA progressive show called "Uprising Radio" refers to as "people," as in "the people are disillusioned with Barack Obama," when his poll numbers among nonwhites is 73 percent.

As a result, Matthews is surrounded by white nationalists like Buchanan and blacks who won't level with him.

Ishmael Reed is the publisher of Konch. His new book, "Mixing It Up, Taking On The Media Bullies" was published by De Capo. “Ishmael Reed: The Plays” was published by The Dalkey Archives in Sept.

This article originally appeared in Inside Bay Area.

Monday, February 15, 2010

William Parker and Listening with the 3rd Ear

Show Description for Sunday 02/14/2010

This week, on the 4 o'clock hour, we are joined by William Parker.

A towering presence in international music, Mr. Parker is also the author of Who Owns Music? (Buddy's Knife). As part of our celebration of this extra-ordinary artist's immense contributions to contemporary culture this afternoons broadcast will focus exclusively on his music.

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William Parker's book "Who Owns Music?

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William Parker Codex Long Hidden: The Olmec Series Aum Fidelity

William Parker & Hamid Drake Anaya Dancing Summer Snow Volume 2 Aum Fidelity

William Parker Quartet Four For Tommy Petit Oiseau Aum Fidelity

Kidd Jordan Peppermint Falls Palm Of Soul Aum Fidelity

William Parker featuring Leena Conquest The Makings of You The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield Rai Trade

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William Parker featuring Amiri Baraka & Leena Conquest Think The Inside Songsof Curtis Mayfield Rai Trade

William Parker & Hamid Drake Awake, Arise Summer Snow Volume 2 Aum Fidelity

William Parker & Hamid Drake Sky Summer Snow Volume 2 Aum Fidelity

William Parker & Hamid Drake Earth Summer Snow Volume 2 Aum Fidelity

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William Parker - Raining On The Moon The Land Song Corn Meal Dance Aum Fidelity

Interview with William Parker By Justin Desmangles

Muhal Richard Abrams & Roscoe Mitchell Romu Spectrum Mutable Music

Sunday, February 7, 2010

. . . where every month is Black History Month

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Nina Simone Wild is the Wind Wild is the Wind Phillips

Jayne Cortez & Richard Davis Festivals & Funerals Celebrations & Solitudes Strata-East

Miles Davis & Gil Evans Blues for Pablo Miles Ahead Columbia

Beverly Kenney It Ain't Necessarily So Come Swing With Me Roost

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Charles Mingus featuring Eric Dolphy Stormy Weather The Complete Candid Recordings of Charles Mingus Mosaic

Ntozake Shange (read by Trazana Beverly) One For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf Buddha

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Nina Simone I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free Silk & Soul RCA

Bud Powell Cleopatra's Dream The Scene Changes Blue Note

Julian Adderley Alison's Uncle Alison's Uncle (single) Blue Note - Japan

Charles Mingus Bugs The Complete Candid Recordings of Charles Mingus Mosaic

Betty Carter What A Little Moonlight Can Do The Modern Sound of Betty Carter ABC Paramount

Betty Carter There's No You The Modern Sound of Betty Carter ABC Paramount

Margaret Walker Old Molly Means Anthology of Negro Poetry Folkways

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Billie Holiday My Man The Quintessential Billie Holiday Volume 5 Columbia

Billie Holiday Let's Call the Whole Thing Off The Quintessential Billie Holiday Volume 4 Columbia

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Billie Holiday He Ain't Got Rhythm The Quintessential Billie Holiday Volume 3 Columbia

Billie Holiday Billie's Blues The Quintessential Billie Holiday Volume 2 Columbia

Billie Holiday You're Mother's Son In Law The Quintessential Billie Holiday Volume 1 Columbia

Gwendolyn Brooks Song of the Front Yard Anthology of Negro Poetry Folkways

Gwendolyn Brooks The Preacher Ruminates Anthology of Negro Poetry Folkways

Gwendolyn Brooks The Children of the Poor Anthology of Negro Poetry Folkways

Gwendolyn Brooks Old Laughter Anthology of Negro Poetry Folkways

Gwendolyn Brooks Hollywood - Chicago Anthology of Negro Poetry Folkways

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Carmen McRae When Sunny Gets Blue Bittersweet Focus

Carmen McRae How Did He Look? Bittersweet Focus

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Carmen McRae The Meaning of the Blues Bittersweet Focus

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sun Ra at U.C. Berkeley, Spring 1971

In the Spring of 1971 SUN RA offered a lecture course at the University of Califonia at Berkeley, African-American Studies 198: The Black Man in the Universe. This afternoon on the 4 o'clock hour we will listen to a very scarce recording of the third class session lecture.

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Artist Song Album Label

Sun Ra Enlightenment Nuit De La Fondation Maeght Volume One Recommended Records

Sun Ra A House of Beauty The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra Volume One ESP

Sun Ra Of Heavenly Things The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra Volume Two ESP

Sun Ra Neptune Discipline 27 - II El Saturn Research

Sun Ra Watusa The Nubians of Plutonia Impulse

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Sun Ra (read by Justin Desmangles) Freedom From Freedom The Immeasurable Equation Waitawhile

Sun Ra Demon's Lullaby Angels & Demons At Play Impulse

Sun Ra Images Jazz In Silhouette Impulse

Sun Ra The Bad & The Beautiful The Bad & The Beautiful Impulse

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Sun Ra Just In Time The Bad & The Beautiful Impulse

Sun Ra Abstract The Magic City Impulse

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William Carlos Williams (read by Justin Desmangles) The Orchestra The Collected Poems Of William Carlos Williams New Directions

Sun Ra Astro Black Astro Black Impulse

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Sun Ra (lecture) The Black Man In The Universe The Lost Reel Collection Transparency

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Sun Ra I Am An Instrument I Am Strange Norton

Sun Ra Rocket #9 Space Is The Place Impulse