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Archive for May, 2010


Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

  • To skip the run-up and go straight to the poem, scroll arrow-down-seagreen_benj_01.svg.thumb
  • The oil spill and the food web

    By Dan Brennan
    30 June 2010
    © World Socialist Web Site

    The ecological destruction of the oil disaster in the Gulf is perhaps most aptly embodied in the pictures of brown pelicans made lifeless by a thick coating of toxic sludge. However, the true toll may spread far beyond these dreadful images. Scientists warn that the gravest threat, including possible ecosystem collapse, is posed by the poisoning of organisms at the base of the food chain.
    Read the rest


    Lessons learned from the Santa Barbara Oil Spill of January 1969

    spkr2 Listen


    Ripples of the Santa Barbara Oil Spill

    L.A. Times | September 7, 2008

    oil-spill-latimes-7sept2008 © L.A. Times



    © 1969 Associated Press


    The Great Santa Barbara Oil Disaster, Or: A Diary

    a poem by Conyus

    Day one

    We ride down the coast hwy

    through the heavy rain

    to a beach that sits in a rocky cove

    hidden from the eye.

    I sit in the rear of the bus

    where the shadows pass

    over cold metal walls

    & window screens,

    looking through dirty glass

    at the somber scenery.

    A young Mexican girl stands in the muddy debris

    of her home, rummaging through the mud.

    The river flooded suddenly two days ago

    after a torrential rain & shifted the terrain.

    Overhead the clouds mount menacingly

    in small squalls, prostituting themselves again

    against the sky, & we turn left off the freeway

    into the spent community of Carpinteria

    like a funeral procession on a grey Saturday,

    heading to the bone yard in tandem.

    Beyond the border of thin sidewalks,

    sit bleached out houses on paper stilts

    with tattered venetian blinds & curtains

    barely moving on the stiff ocean breeze.

    We walk beneath the bleeding sky

    single file to the oily beach in perfect silence;

    everything around us is a chemical foundry.

    Day two

    The 1st. night

    we arrived,

    the college girls

    in the dormitory

    across from us

    paraded before

    their window in

    bras & panties,

    being friendly.

    The people

    came to watch us work,

    in hip boots & work gloves,

    cleaning oil & shoveling straw.

    Some said, “my! don’t they look almost human?”

    Others said, “a convict is a crime. don’t forget that!”

    Sometimes the children’s ball

    bounded in our area,

    & the Spanish inmates

    soccer kicked it back lightly.

    We all laughed

    & smiled a lot

    the first day.

    The sunset & the night

    came on slowly.

    From out of the night

    came gargoyles

    with church fathers

    & concerned parents

    to tell the children

    not to play

    within the border of red flags

    & the fence of thick cane around us.


    the sky would fall

    & hell would follow,

    if they instilled

    licentious ambitions

    in our minds.

    & so

    we didn’t laugh

    anymore, or smile

    at all the second day.

    From that day forward,

    we just worked,

    hard & steady,

    with our heads

    low & our eyes

    to the ground,

    so the sky

    wouldn’t fall,

    & the people

    wouldn’t know,

    & the world

    wouldn’t burn.

    Day three

    All day we work behind the sea breaker

    in the black sand, shoveling straw

    & thick lumps of oil

    into the mouth of the skip loader,

    while the cat skinner rides high

    in the driver’s seat with a hole for his eye.

    On the beach,

    in the window

    of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club,

    Black servants watch us

    swing picks & shovels

    in the wet sand

    like machetes

    clearing a cane field

    on their small island

    in the Caribbean.

    On a concrete wall

    below this Diaspora

    i sit & swing my legs over the ice plants

    & puddles of oil where sand crabs,

    & small fish lie dead

    & stinking in the sun.

    Beneath my work jacket

    i touch the crushed sandwich

    of white bread & yellow cheese

    & think of the young Chinese girl

    in the pink hairnet with braces.

    After lunch we return with rakes & hip booths,

    wading through the constant tide

    of thick oil & grey foam,

    to gather balls of sticky oil

    stuck between rocks,

    & place them in yellow plastic bags.

    Along the beach

    the tide falls back out to sea,

    taking with it the trail of our feet

    that follows us like a shadow.

    I turn my back to the Santa Barbara Sound

    & pull the weather jacket tight

    to shield against the cold & damp air.

    Over my shoulder,

    past the far islands near the horizon,

    someone is singing a song,

    that i can barely hear,

    in a voice

    that i cannot recognize.


    ‘HOLD THE LIGHT’ for DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: James P. Belcher, Jr.’s DVD of the April 30th Benefit Reading

    Wednesday, May 19th, 2010


    View the original event announcement at



    Richard P. Belcher, Jr. comes from a background in film production as a professional gaffer and lighting director. For 15 years he also produced his own films and videos before becoming a photographer. Follow his editing of the HOLD THE LIGHT video right here from this page, or at Richard’s Putah Creek Photo page now evolving at Facebook.


    Button-Play-32x32 Boadiba

    IshReed HoldLight

    Button-Play-32x32 Ishmael Reed


    Button-Play-32x32 Shailja Patel

    ClaireFloyd HoldLight

    Button-Play-32x32Claire Ortalda/Floyd Salas

    Organized by PEN-Oakland, this benefit reading for Doctors Without Borders was staged at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California on the evening of Friday, April 30th, 2010.

    Emcee: Wanda Sabir  |  Produced by Kim McMillon  |  James P. Belcher, who captured the poet-performers on DVD video, is in the process of editing his footage. Part of this process entails trimming each reading down to 10-minute units, the maximum duration that YouTube allows for general uploads.


    PEN-Oakland thanks the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California for hosting this fundraising event in the wake of earthquakes that devastated Haiti, Chile and Tibet.

    Button-Play-32x32 Doctors without Borders | Médecins sans Frontières


    Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California ~ 1433 Madison Street ~ Oakland, CA 94612 ~ Phone: 51.0. 832.7600 ~

    Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California’s (ICCNC) Vision: “An exemplary and socially responsible Islamic and cultural center that helps engender consciousness and appreciation of Islamic and cultural values, ideals and ethics to generate a conscientious and socially responsible human being.”



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    HANK JONES: July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010 ~ In Memoriam

    Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

    Thad Jones | Elvin Jones | Hank Jones

    © Ron Hudson Photography


    Click to watch Hank Jones’ music, conversation, and others’ stories about the magnificent pianist bring you back to life.

    HankJones3 Courtesy photo

    Henry ‘Hank’ Jones
    July 31, 1918 – May 16, 2010


    Slick Licks and Lazy Clichés Got No Free Ride
    When He Soloed

    Still growing up in Detroit, still in my teens, it was my good fortune to have met and rubbed shoulders with each of “the Jones Boys” — pianist Hank, trumpeter Thad, and little brother Elvin, a fierce drummer. Technically, they were from Pontiac, close enough to Big D for them to qualify as Detroiters. At 15 I became a regular contributor of articles and poems to Idioms, the publication of the Motor City’s New Music Society. We held meetings and edited the tabloid-sized journal at the busy bohemian home of Harold and Jodi Neal. During the day Harold climbed telephone poles for Michigan Bell, but at night and on weekends he was a serious, imaginative painter. It wasn’t unusual for musicians and other artists to attend the Sunday afternoon-into-evening meetings the Neals hosted at 824 Atkinson Street, where they were also raising their daughter Chinyere (a.k.a. Jan) and her little brother Harold, Jr. (a.k.a. Sule).

    What a heady time. Even then, a non-stop reader, listener and observer of life, I seemed to understand fully how valuable this period in my development would become. Monday nights I made it to World Stage in closeby Highland Park, a theater-in-the round venue, where local and touring musicians would gather and jam on the only night that most clubs sat dark. Barry Harris, Kenny Burrell, Tommy Flanagan, Dorothy Ashby, Pepper Adams, Yusef Lateef, Donald Byrd, Doug Watkins, Earl Williams, Kirk Lightsey, Louis Hayes, Curtis Fuller, Roy Haynes, Frank Wess, Paul Chambers, Roy Brooks, Harold and Bernard McKinney, Charles McPherson, Lonnie Hillyer, Alice McLeod (the future Mrs. Coltrane), Terry Gibbs, Doug Watkins, Joe Henderson, and the Jones Boys — these are some of the musicians who showed up at World Stage or in the Neals’ diningroom, where we argued, planned and laid out Idioms.

    Like saxophonist Yusef Lateef, whom I practically worshiped as a model artist, Hank Jones held a high place at my jazz altar. Born the same year as my father and the eldest of the family’s musical threesome (in all there were 10 Jones children), he had long ago emigrated from Michigan to New York, where he made a shining name for himself. But of course he would gig from time to time in the old adopted hometown. It was the strong yet gentle way did everything that stuck with me. My earliest concept of what it meant to be sophisticated flowed into me from his speaking and playing presence. His technical mastery of the keyboard, his savvy, sassy lyricism , his love and respect for the bebop repertoire as well as straight standards and popular song wasn’t wasted on me, either. Hank Jones knew what to play, what to skip, and to skip and what to leave unstated unstated. Slick licks and lazy clichés got no free ride when he soloed. Taste and class were always his signature. For me, way back then, in another troubled century, Hank Jones’ playing personified the virtues of eloquence and poise in the presence of passion. The adjective we favored was hip.

    — Al Young


    groovin high hank jones cvr


    Link courtesy of Muse Records’ producer Fred Seibert and ‘Kathleen Loves Music’ at Frederator Blogs: Cartoon Central of the Internet, a genuinely original site


    Peter Keepnews: Hank Jones, Versatile Jazz Pianist, Is Dead at 91 | The New York Times, May 17, 2010

    Culture Obituaries: Hank Jones |, 17 May 2010

    atc75x75 NPR’s All Things Considered: Legendary Pianist Hank Jones Dies at 91 | May 17, 2010

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    hankjonesweb banner

    The Official Website of Hank Jones


    DJANGO 100 ~ Celebrating Django Reinhardt (January 23, 1910 – May 16, 1953)

    Friday, May 14th, 2010



    Button-Play-32x32 Django Reinhardt “et son orchestra” at Bal Tabarin, 1944 ~ A dance sequence inter-cut with shots of Marlene Dietrich (and off-camera laughter possibly from French jazz pundit Charles Delaunay), this is footage so rare that you’ll even spot a colored GI in uniform with a colored partner out there on the dance floor, jitterbugging like everybody else. Through all of it, the nimble two-fingered Django tears up Cole Porter’s “Night and Day.”

  • A Django Reinhardt Filmography
  • djangocloseup Courtesy photo

    Django Reinhardt

    spkr-icon Djangology

    spkr-icon Minor Swing

    spkr-icon Nuages (Clouds)

    spkr-icon Body and Soul

    spkr-icon Blues for Ike

    spkr-icon Honeysuckle Rose
    With Duke Ellington, Django goes electric)

    spkr-icon Brazil

    Button-Play-32x32 DJANGO mjq ~ The Modern Jazz Quartet in live performance at the Zelt Muzik Festival; Freiburg, Germany, 1987 ~ John Lewis, composer and pianist; Milt Jackson, vibes; Percy Heath, drums; Connie Kay, drums. A classic musical tribute to the brilliant Gypsy jazz guitarist



    django bio dregni michael dregni
    Django biographer Michael Dregni’s affectionate interview at Jerry Jazz Musician

    Django Reinhardt: The Famous Jazz Guitarist Documentary Film at Guitar Wow

    Django at WNEW 1947

    Mosaic Records

    Limited edition boxed set]

    Al Young

    al-age-13-hutchins-detroit Courtesy of Dan I. Slobin Archives

    The poet at age 13, Detroit 1953


    From the moment the sound of Django Reinhardt reached my conscious ears, a whole, old world arose in me that felt instantly familiar. That my record-collector father, a tuba and bass player, was crazy about jazz music, sweet or hot, was a given. I’ve written of this at length in Bodies & Soul, the first of four books of musical memoirs, all of them collector’s items now like those those scratchy, exquisite 78’s Django & the Quintette du Hot Club de France recorded so long ago. Not only does time float by like those clouds of Django’s wistful ballad “Nuages,” time teases memory and shades events. Now that I’ve lived long enough to understand how each event is actually a process wiggly and meaty with back-story, I celebrate this brilliant, unlettered Gypsy guitarist.

    Surely in the run-up to World War Two, music — like wind and sea, like sunshine and fog — oozed through the belly-membrane of a starch-eating pregnant girl hurrying out of Mississippi rain to a dry, warm place. I like to imagine the prenatal me who soaked up measureless shares of songs and melodies that hovered in the air, soothing or ruffling our blood while my mother carried me here. Some might say Django takes his cue from such early American jazz guitarists as Eddie Lang and Carl Kress. But when the Oklahoma guitarist Charlie Christian heard those Hot Club disks, he fell under Django’s spell and morphed some of what he’d heard and liked into electrifying solos he recorded with Benny Goodman.

    CharlieChristian spkr-icon Charlie Christian, 1941

    As a poet who still operates under the influence of music, I love traveling through Django’s veins back to places that no longer exist: a room, a rendezvous, nights of pleasure and panic, visits with idols like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, German soldiers dancing outside the Paris club where the gig and Nazi-occupied Paris herself was all yours, rushing by taxi from the wartime London club where you and Grappelli are playing “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” for the very first time,  then during the break between sets, rushing by taxi with violinist Stephane Grappelli to Berkeley Square, where, according to Grappelli, you two sat on a bench and, listening hard for that nightingale, heard nothing but foot and car traffic.

    In friendship, new and ever renewable, here’s to another century, Django.

    © 2010 Al Young

    Peter S. Beagle

    Peter S Beagle © Jayme Lynn Blaschke


    My father was no jazz fan. He didn’t not like jazz; it just wasn’t something he listened to, or – as far as I could ever tell – thought about much. He didn’t object to my listening to jazz LPs or radio stations, when I could find air checks of Count Basie, whom he vaguely knew, and Louis Jordan, whom he didn’t. But it was my dad, all the same, who introduced me to Django Reinhardt, on a few old 78s from the Hot Club days. “Sweet Sue” was one, as I remember it, and there was a tune with Rex Stewart on trumpet, called “Solid Old Man.”  There was almost more surface noise than there was music … but not quite.

    “They sound almost Jewish,” my father said. “If you listen.”  He told me then, for the first time, about the itinerant klezmer bands that used to play for weddings and other celebrations in Matsev, the desperately poor Polish shtetl where he was born. I remember this in particular, because he almost never talked about Matsev – he couldn’t, not without crying. But Django’s sound, and Stephane Grappelli’s violin, and the distinctive chunk-chunk rhythm of the rest of the Quintette – Django’s brother Joseph, Roger Chaput and Louis Vola – brought back something warmly thoughtful that I’d never heard. “They played together,” he said, “gypsies and Jews, in those bands. They understood each other’s music, so they understood each other.”

    Not long before I was born, in the fall of 1938, Django, Stephane, and the others laid down four tunes with Larry Adler, the great harmonica player – or “mouth organ,” as he always preferred to call it. “Body and Soul,” “Melancholy Baby,” “I Got Rhythm,” “Lover Come Back To Me” … I have turned to those four tracks for countless years whenever I felt despairing, hopeless – blue. I can’t speak for anyone else, but there’s never been any way I could possibly remain unhappy, taking the joy in that music, that playing, into myself, not even in the worst times. That a musician with three working fingers on his fretting hand could make such a sound in the world … The late Jerry Reed said of him simply, “I’ve got the usual ten, and there’s no way in the world I could create that fire, that spirit. I don’t know how he did it.”

    Nor, of course, do I. But I think often of Django’s death, at the age of 43, on his way to play billiards in Samois-sur-Seine, where they still hold a guitar festival for him every year. The story is that he collapsed in the street from a brain hemorrhage, and might have survived if he hadn’t insisted on getting up and doggedly heading for the billiards parlor he never reached. I used to bewail his stubbornness, and curse the doctor who took almost a day to arrive from Paris. But I don’t do that anymore, not for a long time. Django was here to play music, and when he was done he went somewhere else – probably to play billiards, or to fish. He’d bail on a club gig to go fishing.

    I’ve been reminded since beginning this essay that in recent years Django has finished in 66th place in a list of the greatest Belgians – 76th, if you’re a French-speaking Walloon. But he spoke no Dutch, and very little French, and he was born in a gypsy wagon that merely happened to be passing through Belgium at the time. Django was a gypsy: he was always from somewhere else.

    Oakland, California 13 May 2010 Copyright © 2010 by Peter S. Beagle


    Jack Foley

    Poet-critic-playwright Jack Foley to receive the Berkeley Poetry Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award June 5, 2010

    Jack Foley encircledPhoto: Lucha Corpi


    Button-Play-32x32 Django Reinhardt – J’attendrai Swing 1939

    Imagine a mind as fine and all-encompassing as, say, the mind of Albert Einstein. (At the end of July 1939, Django, Naguine, and the Quintette set off again for England on their third visit in two years. Yet this tour—and Europe in general—was doomed.) And then imagine that there is no place for that mind to discharge itself fully except for one: a guitar. But the guitar is the great instrument of the Gypsies, and this particular Gypsy, whose name—like the Buddha’s—meant “I awake,” knew in his hands that the depths of every note were history, went way back into all the sounds that Gypsies had made throughout their magnificent, tragic, triumphant, banal, thieving, unwritten lives. Music was life—and battle. (“Django’s playing is so beautiful that I almost forget to play, just listening to him.” “I was unaware of his virtuosity and quick ear. To my astonishment, he proceeded not only to play the blues but to embellish them with an evocative gypsy quality.”) Watch him, expressionless, with that elegant, trim, manouche mustache, his eyes cast down, a modest man, unassertive, except with his fingers, and those damaged. There is no emotion he is not capable of with that stringed box in his hands. The fascination is in part because he is a great virtuoso—but there are other virtuosi. The fascination is because no one knows what Django Reinhardt might do at any given moment out of the vast emotional repertoire that his extraordinary intelligence has placed at his disposal—out of those myriad things that have made him the sensitive, sounding instrument that he is. He is limited (“Django spoke little English, if any…”) but his guitar is infinite. “My brother,” he said of Louis Armstrong, whose genius was the same as his. The illiterate (the illiterate) professor (professor) speaks with his guitar (speaks with his guitar) he is a dark gypsy (he is a dark gypsy) with mustache and sly smile (with mustache and sly smile) he is speaking farrrrum farrrrum (he is speaking farrrrum farrrrum) on a subject of the most (on a subject of the most) immense, immediate, life-changing (immense, immediate, life-changing) interest (interest) and his chords tell us (and his chords tell us) what we can do (what we can do) what we can do (what we can do) Improv / improves sings the guitar (Improv / improves sings the guitar) to a classroom masquerading (to a classroom masquerading) as a night club (as a night club) or a concert hall (or a concert hall) the professor (the professor) rat a tats & riddles (rat a tats & riddles) roars & rambles (roars & rambles) tells us with superb intelligence (tells us with superb intelligence) of Charlie Parker (of Charlie Parker) and of wild (and of dark)

    gypsy (gypsy)

    ways (ways)

    © 2010 Jack Foley


    spkr-icon Listen

    Django-DukeEllington Courtesy photo

    Django Reinhardt and Duke Ellington, 1946

    Paul Vernon Chester ~ DJANGO ‘N DUKE: The American Dream Denied

    spkr-icon Django: One Hundred Years of Hot Jazz | Tom Cole | NPR | 23 January 2010


    Read the back-story on Django’s two-fingered soloing technique at


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    Peter S. Beagle: SONG FOR JAMES D. HOUSTON | 1933-2009

    Friday, May 14th, 2010


    jameshouston James D. Houston

    SONG FOR JAMES D. HOUSTON: 1933-2009

    When I think of you,
    in this year of death,
    when the great sequoias of my youth
    are snapping like saplings in a storm,
    one by one,
    the wise and the wild alike,
    I think of your laughter,
    head thrown back,
    that laugh exploding
    rolling out of your belly and your throat,
    and your eyes,
    wrinkling and squeezing shut,
    with such surprise,
    as though you had never heard such a joke,
    such a riddle, such an epigram
    in all your life, not ever.
    And I would come away from your high house,
    thinking, If Jim thinks I’m funny,
    maybe I maybe am,
    and I would laugh with you,
    puzzled but grateful for my own apparent wit,
    and for the gift of your laughter,
    so grateful still,
    hearing it yet, through the rising storm.

    — Peter S. Beagle

    © 2010 by Peter S. Beagle