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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Dream of escaped zoo animals

 I was somewhere outside; across the river, I started to notice animals that should not be there, a baby elephant; rhinos charging; then lions eating other animals.  I tried to alert the people I was with but I couldn't make myself be heard. 

Friday, July 28, 2023

Is Lorca a writer of fiction

 Here's another one I will write.  It is called something like: Is Lorca a Writer of Fiction? The idea is really rather simple. The search for real-life models for Lorquian characters leads to a naive epistemological view. His plays and poems are fictional works. Paquita la Coja is not the Bride of Bodas de Sangre. 

The refusal to see Lorca as a writer has significant consequences. 

I like the brutal directness of titles like this. Are Lorca's works, works of fiction? I wrote a poem about this once. 



 Philip is attracted to women he finds ... unattractive or ugly. Love arises when he doesn't actually like person in question, or is treated badly. He dumps one ugly but nice woman when the woman he really loves comes back to him, pregnant with another man's baby. She doesn't love him, but needs his help. He is ecstatic. He first falls in love with him because she is rude to him and he wants to get back at her, even though her skin has a weird greenish twinge and she is anemic. 

Maugham can't really write the novel as a gay novel at this period of time. The character is not the author, but clearly the emotion of love for someone who is not returning it, and in fact is not even likable, has to be an authentic emotion. Love arises not in spite of the lack of reciprocity and attractiveness but because of these factors.  

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

More bondage

 Maugham has an eye for the illustrative anecdote, the "objective correlative." When Philip gets to his uncle's house, his uncle offers him the top of his egg. Philip would have liked to have an egg for himself, but they are rationed. The uncle gets more than his wife. He gets the chair with arms, she gets the one without. She rationalizes it by thinking that she would prefer not to be so comfortable because she values a certain business and asceticism. 


Philip is often with women that he is half repulsed by. He loses virginity to an older woman, almost out of a feeling of obligation. She turns clingy and effusive. In Paris, he makes friends with a rude and disheveled woman. He invites him to her apartment to see her art, and he finds that it is quite bad, even though she feels herself convinced that she is a good artist. He lies to her and says it is good, but when pressed he starts to critique one paintings for its visual "values." She recoils and says that it the painting she is most proud of. She appears to understand art in theory, or when looking at art in museums, but cannot apply that to her own work.  

(There is cruelty here, but Philip himself (the stand-in for the author) is not spared any of it. He is naive, has no skills, is socially inept, and is slow to gather self-awareness (though painful lessons). He is shaped by a series of friendships with other men, and is sponge-like in imitating their attitudes. He looks for authenticity everywhere but in himself.) 

One feels the scene of the bad artist is an objective correlative of the distance between her self-image and the reality of the situation. (Somewhat like someone telling me once that Cornel West travels with a valet, or that the George Bush family had no books in their house.) 

Of human bondage

 This was the first book I read, if I remember right. The first book that I read that was not meant for children, I mean. I just pulled it at random from my parents' bookshelves and read the whole thing. I don't know how old I was, but it had to be 10 or 11, because I know by 12 I was reading voraciously. At that point (10) I had not preference for poetry over prose, and my chief intellectual interest was Greek mythology. I had become a reader in search of something (I wasn't sure) at age 8, and had read most of the Bible at this point.  

Before the first re-reading in 50 years, all I remembered was Philip praying for his club foot to be healed and being disappointed, an accidental declaration of love in a foreign country, and the someone telling Philip in France that he was a mediocre painter and dashing his dreams. I remembered that Philip lost his faith, and reading the book helped me to be a non-religious person as well. A lot of other things faded away in my memory. 

Another book that spurred my atheism was the Bible itself. There is a reason why theology students like Weeks are more likely to be non-believers than ordinary folk.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

On a Lorquian trope

 Here is a Lorquian trope. I call it "the many Federicos." It can have several meanings. 

Not wanting to be limited by artificial horizons. "es imprescindible ser uno mil... en la eternidad tendremos el premio de no haber tenido horizontes."

Inauthenticity of living in the closet: I have never been born... a thousand García Lorcas..." [from a letter] 

Another, from a text not written by Lorca, but perhaps suggested by him... five or six Lorcas, because of the multiplicity of his activities. 

His professed love for "todas las poéticas." 

There is another instance of this trope in the suites, in which the self is conceived of as a water wheel.  

I relate this trope to the idea of negative capability (Keats). The idea that a self gets in the way. The poet is the least poetical thing possible, etc... 

I could put all of this together in an article... It would have the advantage of being very concrete and palpable.  This trope exists, and is in enough various texts. It is about the variability of the self, but it is, itself, something of variable meaning.  


There's a character in Of Human Bondage, Hayward. He is an aesthete, and he likes Roman Catholicism for the aesthetics, the incense, etc... Another character, Weeks, an American theological student, says that Hayward's faith is narcissist: his image of God is simply a reflection of his own superficial nature. "He believes in the picturesque." The self gets in the way.    

Tuesday, July 11, 2023


I can improvise. I can be directing my attention toward motifs; paraphrasing the melody; hitting the chord tones to signal the chord changes; going up and down scales; having one phrase answer another... There are, indeed, wrong notes. They are notes that are not what you heard in your head, or that clash with the harmony. I can improvise using only a certain note value, like only quarter note triplets. 

A lot of the improvisation will be dissonant. There are several categories: a note that is fairly dissonant, but actually forms part of the chord, say, a seventh in a major seventh chord. That will sound dissonant to someone not familiar with jazz. Then, an upper extension or altered note, like a sharp 9th. Again, this will be dissonant, but forms part of the jazz language. These are not wrong notes. Wrong notes are outside the harmony of the piece, but outside in an unintentional way (as opposed to being chromatic ornaments). 

I find myself playing things that are too harmonically ambiguous, so, for example, any notes sound acceptable if they are part of the diatonic scale of the piece, but I need to emphasize the chord tones more to make the melody sound less random. 

The main flaw in my playing is that it doesn't sound jazzy enough. I can improvise, but that does not mean I can improvise well, or in a way that's idiomatically jazzy enough. Even playing the cliches would be better, from that perspective. 

Probably the most interesting thing to do is develop motifs. Invent a motif, then play it using different notes (but with the same melodic shape and rhythm). Then vary or expand it. 

Sunday, July 9, 2023

The hierarchy

 As a consumer of television and movies, I think good writing is rarer than good acting, music, and cinematography.  That is to say, even a bad movie can have a decent musical score, one that functions ok. It can have professionally competent camera work, etc..., and thousands of actors competing for those parts.  But the writing is what makes the difference. Strong plotting and good dialogue.  

Friday, July 7, 2023

More misanthropism

 I've been looking at the Molière. "You probably don't want to ask me what I think of your poem, because I tell the truth." "Be sincere with me, tell me what you really think of my poem." "Are you sure?" "Yes..." [recites poem] "What do you think?" "Not very good."  "You are a jerk." 

It's interesting that social and political judgements are linked to aesthetic ones. A particular kind of aristocrat writes a particular kind of bad poem. Bad taste is based on enforcement of social falsity.  It is an obligatory kind of bad taste: you cannot refuse to offer an opinion; the opinion is compelled. Molière must write a parody of the kind of bad sonnet he has in mind. His audience, then, shares in the judgment of Alceste's misanthropy.  Molière's own taste, then, becomes normative. We are too far away from 17th century France to understand exactly what is going on. 

Thursday, July 6, 2023


 In Moliere's play, the main character's act of misanthropy (among other things) is to refuse to praise a bad poem. 

This reminds me of the polite fiction that prevents us from telling our friends that their poetry is not very good. Generally, you can be reasonably smart and know a lot about poetry, but that doesn't mean your own work will be good. And from that mediocre position you can feel superior to many, but most of us don't go around making enemies of other poets. Because if everyone told the *truth* the institution of poetry would not survive. Generally, one's own opinion of own work is inherently biased. 

Obviously famous but also bad poets get most of the venom, because of the gap between the reputation and the reality.  

Wednesday, July 5, 2023


 "El grupo de intelectuales y amigos entusiastas que patrocina la idea del concurso..."

Lorca uses the word "intellectual" in this sense in 1922. It would be interesting to know how common this usage was, when it became a common word and concept in the Spanish language. We associate it with Zola and the Dreyfus affair. But did Unamuno, Ortega, etc... use this concept about themselves?   


 Adorno was the only big name theorist who wrote about music at all. As a consequence, people in popular music studies still use Adorno, despite Adorno's dislike of popular music. I did a blurb for a book on a Spanish jazz pianist, that used Adorno, because of this. Of course, with the requisite apologetics. It is a good book and my blurb was complimentary, sincerely so. This is just one of those odd contradictions. Somehow, Adorno's harsh words about jazz don't matter. 

He lived until 1969, so he had time to rectify, if he cared to or wanted to. He outlived Coltrane, for God's sake.   

Dream of gullibility

 In this dream I was the victim of many scams, the most gullible person ever. I was tricked into going someplace that involved climbing up a weird tower / bridge to cross a street. I was very fearful. Then the evidence was shown to me of previous practical jokes or hoaxes to which I had fallen. 


A dream of a few nights ago: I found an instrument in a house where I was visiting with strange keys that looked like red and yellow leaves of a plant, and was going to play Bemsha Swing on it, but then realized it only had seven notes. As I played, the instrument disintegrated.