PP — Alan Grayson

recently Florida Representative Alan Grayson told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that Dick Cheney should: STFU. That’s right: Shut the Fuck Up. And its cause a mild shit-storm in the media. So Molly and I took it on this week on Perpetual Post. Was this a huge frack up on Grayson’s part? Is he going to be a liability for the Democrats in years to come? Is Dick Cheney really to be so feared? Shall we never speak poorly of his legacy in public for fear of his omniscience? Those and more questions answered this week on: PerpetualPost.com
AKIE BERMISS: When Alan Grayson told Chris Matthews that Dick Cheney should “STFU” — well I, for one, was ecstatic. I’ve been saying that every time I hear Dick Cheney speak since the turn of the century. And in the liberal salons that I frequent (Starbucks? Target? Barnes & Noble?) its not uncommon to hear Cheney come up in the course of the evening political discourse. And invariably someone will say, “Well what he needs to do is shut the f*** up!” So I will say this: it was nothing new. Nothing revolutionary. No surprises there. Still, I wonder sometimes about Grayson: does he go too far?

There is a time and a place for antics. Why? Because they can get in the way of productivity. I hate nothing more than the three-ring circus that is FOX News, if they’d just do sensibly conservative journalism we might not have to deal with MSNBC and what has become of CNN. And, look, I love MSNBC. I’m a liberal and it feels good to hear just how awesome my positions are, why they are right, and which Republicans are evil, crooked, and conniving. At the same time, I’ve had to really cut back on my MSNBC since last year’s election. There’s only so much self-aggrandizing I can stand before I begin to feel ill. Give me a few who disagree! Something to counter the sickening sweetness of all this mellifluous leftism.

But I’m straying from the topic at hand: Alan Grayson. So I feel like there just something a little too awesome about Grayson throwing all his snarky wit in the Republicans’ faces. This is the same representative who said that the Republican Health Care plan was: “Don’t get sick and if you do get sick, die quickly.” Dead-on, of course. But it lacks any subtlety. And the story after that became about him. Should he apologize? Will he apologize? How dare he say that from the floor? Too his credit, he did return to the floor the next day under the premise of apologizing perhaps to his Republican colleagues, but only to apology to all those millions of Americans who have died because they could not get quality, affordable Health Care. Smart move, that.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. I did a little background research on our boy Grayson. Born in NY, attended Bronx High School of Science, the Harvard University where, while working his way through school, he managed to graduate in the top 2% of his class in just three years. He worked for a couple of years and then: went back to Harvard to get a J.D. of Law and a Masters degree from the Harvard School of Government. So lets not pretend he’s some simpleton or just incapable of controlling himself. He’s clearly and intelligent individual with talent and drive. He went on from there to work in law primarily taking whistle-blower fraud cases against government contractors.

Some where in there, I guess, he moved to Florida, ran for office, and got elected. Now this enfant terrible is wreaking havoc in the Capital building. Given the illuminating background research, I find myself more at ease with Grayson being so outspoken. The fear, with out-spoken representatives, is that they’ll eventually put their foot in their mouth. Eventually, they’ll pull a Joe Wilson and disrespect the office of the President of the United States. Eventually, they’ll turn out to have a foreign mistress or a married mistress or a same-sex mister-ess — and all their constant shouting will be some much more poignantly made meaningless.

But something in me (must be the latte-sipping liberal) finds comfort in his obvious intelligence, his past diligence, and his obvious concern for getting things done. I don’t think Grayson is setting us up for a fall. Nor is he cast precisely in the mold of a gaffe-master like Joe Biden. Instead, he is conscientiously talking truth to power. And how many people can you say that about? He’s not just running his mouth — he’s got plans. He’s making moves. It may not be nice to say, but you know what? Dick Cheney does need to shut the f*** up.

And quickly.

PP – Moustaches

this was a busy week for Perpetual Post — but among my favorite topics we took on this week were Moustaches. Apparently there has been a resurgence of popularity of the moustache. i don’t believe it, personally. i’ve had a moustache since grade school, but if i didn’t I wouldn’t try to rock on now and act like its cool. here’s my piece. (go to perpetualpost.com to check out Jillian’s and Ted’s perspectives.)


AKIE BERMISS: I agree with Jillian in principle: moustaches are not for everybody. I don’t necessarily think you have to be 45 years old to pull it off, but you should think about it before you just grow it out like you know what you’re doing.

I, personally, have a scraggily moustache. Its a really a shameful piece of work. But, I never trim it. I never shave it. I never comb it out or condition it. Its just my moustache. When I was 12, hair started to grow on my face. I was shocked. Scared even, I didn’t like it so much. But I didn’t know what to do about it. None of my siblings has very much facial hair. I was sort of the odd man out. So it took a while for me to figure out shaving. And then it took a while for me to figure out that shaving was a mistake. I shave my moustache and I look like a duck that’s been in a bar fight. It don’t work. I did it a few times in Junior High and then gave it up forever.

You see, for me, the moustache has always been bittersweet. I never really wanted one. I always wanted a nice, full, luxurious beard. I wanted inches upon inches of hair to grow on my chin. None ever really came in. I was one of those unfortunate types who can get plenty of hair to grow UNDER his chin — but nothing on it. For a while, in High School, I had no hair on my cheeks or chin and so just rocked a sort of sad chin-strap beard. It was really, truly a sad thing to behold. All I’d ever wanted was a soul-patch and goatee — but it wasn’t mean to be, friends.

So you know what I did? I gave it up! I relinquished my hopes of ever being that cool jazzer with the sexy goatee. Without it, I was forced to find new and innovative was of being hip. It was hard, believe me. I had to deal with some residual anger about it in college when it would get cold and my friends would just grow out a beard and be done with it. If I let mine grow out? Chin-strap.

Why am I telling you these things (these horrible, horrible things)? Because I want you to know that I always knew that if I could grow a beard, it’d be awesome. But I couldn’t. And that fact, as I grew to accept it, helped me to understand that some people SHOULDN’T rock a beard. Even if they can grow it out.

And so, in my early twenties I decided I’d better be sure about this moustache thing so that I wasn’t just making an ass of myself and thinking I was covering up the pummeled-duck look of my adolescence. And what did I discover? Hey — the moustache works! It really does.

So yeah — I can rock it. I’m not even 30 yet. But you can’t, friend. So stop. Is it ironic? Yes — very. But to a mature audience it draws on an irony that plumbs depths you are probably not ready to expose. (We’re not laughing with you, you know.) When you’re ready for the ’stache — you’ll know it.

Don’t jump the gun, my friends. Stand clear.

PP – Merry Christmas?

this week our PerpetualPost.com discussion was pushed into the realm of religious tolerance as we discussed the overbearing-nature of Christmas in our culture. My fellow writers, Emily Saidel and Zoe Rice, express a fed-up feeling for being told that that December is Christmastime no matter who you are. I definitely don’t ascribe to the school of thought that say you can start wishing everyone a Merry Christmas anywhere from December 1st to New Years Eve.

But I will admit to enjoying how my family celebrates Christmas. And we certain don’t just keep it to ourselves. Still, i’d argue its a good vibe nonetheless. in fact i DID argue as such.

AKIE BERMISS: Having grown up in the very diverse locale of Brooklyn I am naturally somewhat over-aware of different religions, nationalities, and cultures and their various observances. That said, I grew up Baptist and when it comes to religious holidays: we celebrate hard. And Christmas is an especially joyous occasion. A reason for my somewhat large nuclear family (two older brothers, a younger sister, two sisters-in-law, two aunts, and grandparents — at is largest) to all come together at the family house in Brooklyn, go to church and give presents to each other and just generally hang-out and catch-up.

The height of celebration comes on Christmas Eve when we get bundled up and go out caroling up and down our block. Its a standing tradition started by my mother ’round about the year we moved into that house (about two years before I was born). My mother was a musical woman and by her example we all became musical people. We sing our hymns in harmony and with gusto (its the only way to fend of the bitter cold of most Christmas Eves) and so, if I do say so myself: we sound good. And so, over the years, our friends and their friends have joined the troupe. Now its not surprising for denizens of E. 22nd street to find themselves faced with 30 singing misfits on Christmas Eve.

And our block is by no means all Christian. Several people put up decorations and lights, though, and we normally use that as an indication that its ok to ring their doorbell and sing for them. Even if no one comes to the door we normally do a verse just for the sake of singing and then move on. But its a tight-night community down there in South Midwood and so we basically know every family on the block. There are a couple of Seventh Day Adventists who don’t really dig it so we skip their houses. A number of Jewish families for whom we sing “Oh Channukah” (one elderly couple in particular always plies us with sweets either cookies or challah bread and honey). Some folks offer us hot chocolate or come out to request a song in particular. Its not infrequent that a car drives past and stops for a couple of verses.

In short, we celebrate by trying to bring music and cheer to the neighborhood. Its not really an attempt to bludgeon people with our belief or make them feel uncomfortable with our celebration. I suppose it may do that regardless on some level — but I doubt it. Especially in Brooklyn where its common for all of us to observe several Holidays. I know its time for Sukkot when I walk down the street in my neighborhood and I see all the huts going up in people’s front yards. Purim is an all out party here, as well. Complete with a street fair and car blaring some sort of traditional Hebrew songs mixed over house beats. There’s the West Indian Day Parade, and the Thanksgiving Day parade — and well, tons of parades. So maybe I’m just used to the affront of all these varied celebrations, but I expect it has something to do with growing up here.

Normally, at the end of caroling we pause about 10 houses down from hours and begin a loud and boisterous march while singing The Twelve Days of Christmas — stopping every time “five golden rings” comes around to singing it at the top of our lungs. And finish up right in front of our house. Then we enter to warm up, drinking coffee and hot chocolate, and generally debate and argue until well into the morning.

By the time I reached young adulthood, I came to enjoy these Christmas Eve traditions more than the actual Christmas Day opening of presents and such. And for the last 8 years or so we’ve basically done away with the lavish gift giving anyway. These days we each get one person a present and try not to get anything exceeding 50 dollars.

In this way I think we celebrate with more of the holiday’s spirit at heart. We come together as a family and enjoy the reunion. We have good times and we argue with each other. And we normally go out Christmas day to see a movie. These are the traditions we observe. So I’m not really one of those people who goes around all month long singing Christmas songs and saying “Merry Christmas” to everyone I see. And I perfectly understand how that can be totally annoying. Most “holiday” songs annoy the hell out of me. I like them fine in small doses, but hearing them everywhere you go for months and months can drive all the cloying sweetness from them and leave only the residual nausea that comes from having eaten too much candy.

I suppose everyone has their own way of celebrating whatever it is they celebrate. I personal never liked how far some people go with birthday parties. But to each their own, no? Though it might be helpful, Christmas-ers, if we were aware of just how our December Holiday Onslaught affects those around us.

For we are all here.

Ghost Star

City of Love & Disaster

the music of Daniel Jose Older from our show at the Tribeca PAC in March.  Turned out to be a pretty excellent little show.  One which we are expanding and developing as part of the a show early next year with the Brooklyn Historical Society.


PP: Roman, Roman, Roman — what have you done?

most recently, I’ve been getting into it about Roman Polanski.  No question he’s a fucker and deserves jailtime.  But I do admit to an appreciation of his work.  And I think a nuanced approach to Polanski will be more illuminating that the usual, simple villification.  Its tired.  We are intelligent adults.  So lets go deep here and really look at this.  Because its clear the ISSUES run deep here.

check out www.perpetualpost.com for Molly Schoemann’s counter-argument.


AKIE BERMISS: Roman Polanski is a living legend.  And the best kind — that is, the most complicated kind.  He is the kind of director every director wants to be.  Of course, truth is, no one wants to be him at all.  Its been 32 years since that fateful evening at Jack Nicholson’s house and we’re talking about the director of such movies as Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown — but when most people thinking of Roman Polanski they’re thinking of his legacy as a fugitive genius.  Indeed, for many of us, there was never a period of our lives when Roman Polanski, despite his critical acclaim was NOT a fugitive.  And so we probably view much of his work in light of that illicitness.

And you should know: I’ve come to bury Polanski, not to praise him.  Subversive though Antony’s words may’ve seemed they were, indeed, true.  If anything in this world is as it should be, Polanski is about to sent to jail for quite some time.  And we may never see his like again where film is concerned.  I’m not writing this, as some might think, to make the case for leniency.  I say let’s nail his nuts to the wall.  BUT I do think its worthwhile for us not to fall into the trap of over-simplifying the issue especially when this may be our last chance to deal with it as a modern and current situation.

First this goes out to all the hipsters: Polanski is your favorite director.  You may not know it, but its true.  Before there was Tarantino or Jarmusch, or M. Night Shyamalan — there was Roman Polanski.  He took kitsch and made it Gothic, made it terrifying, made it hilarious — made it powerful, even — well before anyone else could lay claim to it.  While there are directors who, in my layman opinion, predate him stylistically: He is the first to make it a style unto himself.  And for that, he should be remembered.  Perhaps even honored.

For the balking masses who thinking of him as just a rapist: Polanski is more than the one horrible deed he got caught at in 1977.  Polanski was born in Poland in 1933.  He lived through WWII with both his parents in concentration camps.  Polanski survived somehow on the run.  He then came of age in Soviet-ruled Poland.  I believe it was then he began making films.  Again, I readily admit to being no expert, but I’ve watched a documentary or two and I do love me some Polanski films.  What’s more Polanski young wife was killed by the Manson family in the late sixties, I believe.  And during all this time he worked on some of his most seminal projects.  Only a few years after his wife died he made his Macbeth (quite possibly the best film Macbeth that has ever been made — and one of my favorites).  In 1977, he is convicted of drugging and raping a 13 year old girl.  After a brief stint in a psychological institution, he flees the country upon learning that he may receive a stiff sentence.

And that’s where you lose ‘em, Roman.  Our pop-culture reference for Roman Polanski may include the term “genius director” but it will invariably be incomplete without  “who raped an 13 year old girl and then fled the country.”  Doesn’t help that Polanski stayed in France where we couldn’t extradite him for his crimes.  And for so many years he’s been on the run and avoiding justice.  Making movies — some of them great — and living off the notoriety that his crime and exile afforded him.  And to my mind, there is no more appropriate ending to the story of Polanski than, after all this time, his traveling to the UK to accept a lifetime achievement award and FINALLY being arrested for his 1977 crime.

Here’s your lifetime achievement award, Roman: Incarceration.

In ways that we only know how to process because of Polanski, its a funny, and appropriate, and depressing, and ironic denouement to this on-going 30+ year drama.  But what do we learn from all this?  Is it debunking the myth that only great people can do great things and only horrible people can do horrible things?  Does it show how sometimes an excess of brilliance and inspiration can lead to an excess of depression and depravity?  That justice is best served cold?  That crime doesn’t pay?

And on and on — we could analyze it until we are all blue in the face.  Probably, it changes nothing.  Polanski is an icon.  A genius and a trailblazer.  But, like anyone else, he will go to jail for his crimes.  And in the case of such phenomenal talent it can be said that perhaps the knife of imprisonment cuts both ways (certainly Hollywood will think so when they can turn to Polanski for another brilliant and complex cinematic opus).  I think, however, that it will be a rightness of all things considered when he IS in jail.  Polanski, you’ve had your run.  You’ve said your piece.

Its time to pay the boatman and get off the stage.

PP: Obscenity and Culture

I’ve been writing with regularity over on www.perpetualpost.com and having a ball doing it.  I apologize for not posting all those articles here.  I am attempting to update. But its weird how writing and posting become two totally different beasts.

This week Dave Tomar and I took on vulgarity and the proposed coarsening of our culture.  Go to Perpetual Post to read Dave’s marvelous take on the matter.  My not-so-marvelous take can be found below, dear reader.


AKIE BERMISS:  Obscenity is important to me.  I wake up everyday with the hope that somebody, somewhere will give me a REASON to curse them out.  Oh yes – I live for the sound of my own voice swearing up a storm.  Its true.  You wouldn’t think it from some one like me.  I’m generally mild-mannered: I teach music, I sing, I attend fine dinner parties dressed in my business casual finest.  But don’t let that fool you!  I’m waiting for someone to cut me off in the middle of a sentence or to bump into me brusquely as they rush to the bathroom or for the last glass of sangria.  Try me, buddy!  I wish somebody WOULD get in my way — I’ll lay into them with out mercy.  I swear like a sailor when provoked and I think its an art form.

And its going to take everything I’ve got not to get to cussing in this here post.

The question of obscenity has been raised because of recent forays by high profile persons into the realm of profanity.  Ernie Anastos (blunder-man himself) told the weather man to “keep f@cking that chicken” recently and it just sent the blogosphere into a tizzy.  Firstly, what does it mean?  And secondly, why is he cursing on television?  In answer to the first question: I have no idea, but it means the world to me now!  And as per the second question, who can say? Anastos is kind of an idiot.  You need only type his name into the search bar of youtube to see just how many on-air gaffes he’s made over the years.  The guy is a walking disaster.  And I love it.

Then there’s the case of Jenny Slate’s f-bomb on SNL’s season premiere.  Purely accidental and actually: quite ineffectual.  I hope she gets to keep her job, honestly.  I had to listen to the clip like four times to hear the curse it was so understated.  Of course, as stated above, I’m not so sensitive to curses.  My ears don’t burn whenever someone shouts something offensive at someone else.  In fact, being from New York, there’s a kind of comfort in the humdrum constancy of it.  Slate’s f-bomb came at the end of a line that also contained the work “friggin’” which I think all adults know is a clean substitute for the f-word.  But when she said “friggin’” weren’t we all already hearing the word its supposed to insinuate?  So when it actually slips out, I actually barely noticed it.

But what’s all this about cursing coarsening our culture?  I have to disagree!  There have always been curses.  And there have always been people uttering them at one another.  Of course, in ages past, it wasn’t really deemed respectable to use foul language in front of certain people.  At a particular time it was thought women were too delicate to endure coarse, manly linguistics that might include an f-bomb or two.  These days, things are a little more open.  I think we don’t keep things as private as we used to.  These days, men wear shorts in public.  Women wear shorts in public!  100 years ago that would’ve been outrageous to see.  Are these allowances a coarsening of culture, I wonder?  Or just the nature of a society that is becoming less and less concerned about propriety and appearances.  You must remember we come from singularly puritanical stock.  Even as adults we still think we’re being racy when we speak to other about our sex lives.  Really?  I mean everybody is having sex, right?  So why pretend its something that is never done?  Sex happens.  People do it.  Its really not that exceptional.  Quite bland, actually, in that pretty much everyone does it.  Like eating or sleeping.

Still there is a rite of passage (natural or otherwise) that takes us from childhood — when sex is taboo and, literally, not doable — to adulthood.  And as adults we acknowledge that sex is something other adults also do.  I think this is a good way to deal with cursing as well.  In my household, there was pretty much no cursing…. at least from the ages of 1 – 12.  But somewhere around the age of thirteen, my father started sneaking in curses here and there (and usually not when my mother was around).  And I caught on that this was something I was being initiated into.  Something I was now being allowed to do, but that it was something I’d earned with age.  With experience.  And something to be used with the wisdom (scant though it may’ve been) that age brought to me.  And I grew into the understanding that cursing is ok, but its not ok.  And I think that’s a useful paradigm to deal with.

As per the coarsening of our culture — that’s debatable.  Is it the widespread us of profanity, our lax dress codes (in comparison with the historical norms), our lack of privacy and increased ease of communication?  Are these the agents that make us more coarse?  Or do they, indeed, make us finer?  A play on words, perhaps (as is all profanity), but it illustrates my point.  Words have power and curse words have great power.  Should we deprive ourselves of this power in the name of some artificial sense of politesse? I think not.

What we see on the television is the not the coarseness of our culture betrayed by vulgar language, but the coarseness as betrayed by vulgar people.    When an enlightened person curses it should rain down like fire or lightning or vulgar hail upon the ears.  But for effect.  For emphasis.  Or for color (people often leave this one out thinking profanity is only for the most high energy moments, but sometimes a good f-bomb can turn a brothy compliment into a soup that eats like a meal: “What a lovely f@cking day!”)  Obscenity becomes a problem when its in the hands of amateurs.  Those who know nothing BUT profanity.

But that can also be detrimental to other forms of speech.  Poetry has been assailed by hacks on all sides and now sits at the bottom of the barrel of literacy.  Songwriting used to be the highest form of composition arias and libretti being the songs of the ages.  Now that song goes, “Baby, you the f@cking best/ You the f@cking best/ You the f@cking best/ You the f@cking best…” (and so on).  We must combat THAT vulgarity in our culture.  The vulgarity that is ignorance and charlatanism which has indeed seeped into nearly every facet of our being.  Beat it back and in its place put up a new rigorous standard for all things.  Profanity included.

How do we do this?  Well, me?  I get wake up every morning with the hope that somebody somewhere will give me a REASON to: get in that ass.

PP: The Sunday Program

this week on www.perpetualpost.com Howard Megdal and I watched Obama on the three major Sunday morning political programs and tried to compare the hosts of each.  it was a done-deal, i think.  but still interesting to compare and contrast. Obama’s reactions really gave us the best meter to measure from.

AKIE BERMISS: I grew up with the Sunday politics programs. During my formative years I remember Sundays being devoted almost exclusively to: Church, Meet The Press, and the Sunday New York Times. And occasionally, homework. But in a house with two parents, two older brothers, and a younger sister all with differing points of views and specialties, there was no finer tradition than the Sunday afternoon current-events melee. Of late David Gregory’s tenure as the anchor for Meet the Press has brought the show down to some of its lowest moments in my short life. Where once rigor and argumentation and vigorous interviewing were the standard, now the show is mostly vapid rehashing of old news and interviews that seem to hone in on the most insignificant frivolities of politics.

So it is with great trepidation that I put my beloved MTP up against ABC’s THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos and the inimitable Bob Schieffer and CBS’s FACE THE NATION. But since Obama decided to go on all three for one-on-one interviews, it’s the perfect time to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. If I had to predict, I’d say FTN is going to come out on top. Schieffer is a veteran of the golden days of journalism and, I suspect, knows how to get to the real pith of things without dallying too long in romantic and sensational hullabaloo. Meanwhile, Stephanopoulos and Gregory are of the newer ilk of reporter. A sort of fat out-of-shape-ness seems to be the du jour style among anchors who come out of 24-hour news cycle generation. As if there’s no need to be too focused because everything is going to get rehashed over and over, again and again. Meaning — there is little opportunity for us to see our government officials being challenged to explain themselves with clarity and OVERT intelligence.

I started with THE WEEK and found the interview to be better than I’d been expecting. I’d had bad feelings about the interview when I check the show’s website the night before and the headline was something like “Obama talks to George about race.” Oh great. So once again instead of a discussion of what is happening with the governing of the country, we’re going to get all the hard questions and follow-ups being centered on race and the soft-ball loose-end questions for everything else. But either to Obama or George’s credit the interview stayed MOSTLY centered on the issues at hand. A good discussion on Afghanistan with Obama being able to speak about how important skepticism is to the process of sending (or NOT sending) more troops in. There was a bit of fluff that didn’t really do much for the interview. They did “discuss” race — but it was more like Obama deflected the question with greater intellect and pushed things back towards the issues. Still, it was a fine interview, insofar as television goes. Nothing absolutely distasteful, so I give it a pass.

The show fell down went it came to the round-table discussion. Instead of coming across as a group of professionals arguing over differences in opinion, the roundtable seemed to be more of a pulpit or lecture hall for the participants who, while looking at each other, were clearly just telling their audience what to think. It became rapidly dull and I started shouting at the television. So, points for a good interview. But much of that was negated by the analysis being about a rigorous as a 4th grade book report.

FACE THE NATION was by and large the champion of the Sunday programs. A sober (yet not sing-songy pedantic) Schieffer began with three tough questions about health care. He challenged him on his promise not to raise taxes on the middle class. Then they shifted to foreign affairs (Afghanistan and Russia) and had a good discussion about the President’s aims in terms of missile defense and troop numbers. In short, they discussed policy. Issues that may pertain to the American people. But perhaps what is most illuminating is what they didn’t discuss: Joe Wilson, Jimmy Carter, and whether or not his opposition is racist. These are issue that, while sensational, are intellectual junk food. News items that make us THINK we’ve watched the news and become informed but actually keep us entirely out of the loop.

Then, just as in ancient Greece the serious tragic and epic theatre was always followed by a shorter, punchier comedic Satyr parody, Obama’s interview was followed up with a live interview of the Republican party’s own horny, hoary goat-man: Michael Steele. And Schieffer good-naturedly allowed Steele to hem and haw and mug for the camera. To act surprised and shocked and shake his head about how insubstantial the President’s comments were. It was a very satisfying bit — even Schieffer seemed to be openly enjoying the show…

MEET THE PRESS, sadly, brings up the rear. Of all the interviews I watched, only on MTP did the President have to laughingly refer to his own speech as a means to answer a silly question about “what his plan” was for health care. He basically said to Gregory, “Did you see my speech? I think I was pretty clear about what I want.” His follow-up question was what might have passed for a sly segue into subject matter of Carter’s remarks about the underlying racial issues that may be behind some of the criticism of the Obama administration. After Obama basically says, that’s really not important and gives a basic history lesson of how sensationalism distracts the people from what they should be doing — Gregory does a SCATHING follow-up to the tune of: “Are you saying that former Presidents and members of Congress saying these things are being counter-productive?!”

Yes, David. That is what I was saying. Please pay attention.

When we finally get to Afghanistan we’re 10+ minutes into the interview. Who’s still watching at this point? What a stark contrast from Face The Nation! Schieffer manages to get all the same amount of information and totally ignore all the soft-ball, sensational stuff. Gregory tries to “nail” Obama on either saying America is racist or that… Jimmy Carter is a jackass, apparently. David, as usual, completely misses the point. Obama says his bit about Afghanistan and Gregory hardly goes in for more information before wrapping up by asking the President about his picks for the World Series.

In the end, I think the winner is clear. Of all three, only on FTN did Obama appear to be in the room with someone who might be his intellectual equal. With Stephanopoulos the President seemed like a college professor speaking to one of his brighter students. And with Gregory, the President was made to appear the only working brain in the room. Even Stephanopoulos seemed a little delighted to talk about the Jimmy Carter situation and whether or not Obama was the modern day JFK — these are not soup questions, gentleman. If we wonder why the national dialogue is so base and uninformed and nonsensical we need look no further than our so-called informed professionals. Schieffer is great, but how much longer is he going to be at the helm of FTN? What happens when he retires? Three bubble-gum Sunday programs — and a seething American mass of ignorance.

Bob help us — this might be a long, hard road.

i’m a nerd.

it took 30 seconds.  but it made my day bearable.

its alive!

its alive!

akie dailyDose#3 [?]

as always, I’m working on material to sing if i ever get to do a concert or record just playing piano and singing.  here’s a tune I’ve been tinkering with for a month or so.  enjoyable — perhaps.


PP: Blue Print 3

AKIE BERMISS: In the late 60s Miles Davis was really the king of jazz. Yes, there were a lot of other famous cats on the scene all sort of vying for the title (Bill Evans with piano trios, John Coltrane working in the sacred quartet, Ellington was the master of the bigbands, Sonny Rollins… Women too, friends, Marriane McPartland, Mary Louise… It was sort the later goldenage of jazz), but Miles had the happeningest band, all young guys: Herbie, Wayne, Ron, and Tony. And, since he was financially secure and signed to a major label, he had droves of haters nipping at his heels.  Notably, avant guardist Cecil Taylor is aprocryphally quoted as saying “He plays pretty good… for a millionaire” when asked about Miles Davis. Comments like that abounded while, in retrospect, who would dare to speak derisively about miles’ catalogue?  Of the dozens of record there are maybe, what, five subpar efforts I can think of off-hand (and even those would’ve been great albums for lesser cats).

And in the late sixties Miles was playing his best music, really. His chops were absurd, his voice was inimitable whether a ballad, mid-tempo swing, or up free-bop.  His records flew off the shelves (even when he started getting going electric to the dismay of hardcore jazzers).  And much of what came in the decade or so before he retired in would be classic material: In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew, Filles de Kilimanjaro, Miles In The Sky, The Sorcerer, Nefertiti — all of them controversial at the time and considered alienating to those fans who were devoted to Workin’ or Round About Midnight or Kind of Blue.

I think, in many ways, Jay-Z is like hiphop’s Miles Davis.  His arrival during the greatest heyday of the music, his importance as a figure bridging the gaps between old and new, the rabid amount of imitation that he inspired, and his longevity on the scene.  Now Jay has had some rough albums of late.  I couldn’t really get next to Kingdom Come or American Gangster.  To a certain extent, I think he was really phoning it in with those two albums.  And to be fair, these were following The Black Album after three years on hiatus from rap.

With The Blueprint 3, however, I think Jay-Z has shown he remains on of the greats of the art form.

I think Jay-Z is a victim of his own legendary status.  We hear he’s coming out with an album and we expect him to alter the collective perception of all Hip Hop heads instantly.  Yes, he’s had some great albums.  Written some insanely brilliant verses and he is responsible for some of the most memorable lines of the 90s.  His name became synonymous with Brooklyn MC-ing.  And when he retired (in 2003) it was on a high note with the powerful Black Album.  So it’s no surprise that we expect him to raise Lazarus every time he releases an album, but if we temper our expectations and remember that Jay isn’t rap’s messiah, then we can listen to BP3 with fresh ears.  And respect the technique.

I don’t care what anybody has told you, BP3 is an excellent record.  Its actually: excellent.  I was taken back to like ‘98/’99 — when rap was the pulse of the city.  The first track, “What We Talkin Bout”, is kind a throwaway.  He calls upon the muses, sets up the tone for the record and basically just get some issues off his chest.  This is not unusual for Jay to do.  A sort of meandering, slow-burn beginning with a couple of good lines, but mostly just exposition.  It is followed by “Thank You” which is Jay at full-swagger.  Being enormously clever and phrasing fluidly and casually. I know I’m a bit a stodge old man, but I think this kind of clarity and smoothness is what alot of rap is missing these days.  Lots of cats are getting over on being overtly clever or completely unintelligible for all the complex metaphors.  There was a time, though, that you could basically depend on an MC from Brooklyn to drop a nearly classically-composed on any track you heard.  And Jay-Z masterful flow, when at its best, is the epitome of that era.

“Death of Autotune” was the single that preceded the album and which brought me back into the fold — having, in the past, been moved to apathy regarding Jay-Z — and it is the third track you hear.  I mean, by this point, I was pretty happy.  Not as happy as I would be, however, after hearing “Run This Town” and “Empire State of Mind”, the latter of which is my favorite cut on the album with its triumphant hook (sung by Alicia Keys) and Jay doing braggadocio as only he can (”I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can…”).  “Run This Town” is a Jay-Z/Kanye West vehicle that does everything a rap song should — its hard, its banging, and its quotable.

Despite my active disgust with Drake (HipHop’s newest bland personality and semi-talent), I thoroughly enjoyed “Off That”, the track where Jay basically says, “Ummm… its 2009… you’re really still jocking my style from 1998?!  We off that!”  In fact, it seems like a lot of what Jay-Z is doing with BP3 is just upping the ante.  Taking some of the more tired material off the table and forcing rappers to innovate and come up with something new.  Or, if its old, at least let it be of unmistakable quality.

I am less enthused about the rest of the tracks.  Most are pretty good — a few are throwaways — and some are worth an honorable mention: “Venus vs. Mars” is a perfect re-imagining to LL Cool J’s “Doin’ It”; “Hate” featuring Kanye West has some memorable moments; And I was pleasantly surprised by “Young Forever”.

In short, whatever the criticims of Jay-Z may be, with BP3 he’s upped the game.  And I acknowledge that I’m not really a Hip Hop aficionado so I may be missing something — some crucial underground record or mixtape or something.  All I know is the music I grew up with, the rappers I grew up with.  I know what I like.  I know I’m from Brooklyn and I demand a very particular kind of MC if they want to be called the master of ceremonies.  And what’s been on the radio and on the television of late — just hasn’t been cutting it.  But I’m ready to come back into the camps if Jay’s about to make a stand.

I honestly do think of Jay-Z as the Miles Davis of rap.  A living legend trying to live up to the legend, but also distance himself from it.  And I think if there is anyone who can do it, Jay might be the cat.  I expect he’ll be artistically relevant for many years to come.  At least here, in Brooklyn, I’m sure of it.