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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
HALF a century ago, when America was having problems with its image during the cold war, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., the United States representative from Harlem, had an idea. Stop sending symphony orchestras and ballet companies on international tours, he told the State Department. Let the world experience what he called “real Americana”: send out jazz bands instead.
A photography exhibition of those concert tours, titled “Jam Session: America’s Jazz Ambassadors Embrace the World,” is on display at the Meridian International Center in Washington through July 13 and then moves to the Community Council for the Arts in Kinston, N.C. There are nearly 100 photos in the show, many excavated from obscure files in dozens of libraries, then digitally retouched and enlarged by James Hershorn, an archivist at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University. There’s Dizzy Gillespie in 1956, charming a snake with his trumpet in Karachi, Pakistan. Louis Armstrong in ’61, surrounded by laughing children outside a hospital in Cairo. Benny Goodman in ’62, blowing his clarinet in Red Square. Duke Ellington in ’63, smoking a hookah at Ctesiphon in Iraq.
Jazz was the country’s “Secret Sonic Weapon” (as a 1955 headline in The New York Times put it) in another sense as well. The novelist Ralph Ellison called jazz an artistic counterpart to the American political system. The soloist can play anything he wants as long as he stays within the tempo and the chord changes — just as, in a democracy, the individual can say or do whatever he wants as long as he obeys the law. Willis Conover, whose jazz show on Voice of America radio went on the air in 1955 and soon attracted 100 million listeners, many of them behind the Iron Curtain, once said that people “love jazz because they love freedom.”
Willis Conover is, or at least once was, one of the most world famous Americans for forty years, and yet unknown to all but a few Americans, as his jazz show on Voice Of America made him known to hundreds of millions of people around the world, who eagerly listened to his broadcasts several times a week, a window into a world little known to them in their native lands.
But since VoA was forbidden to broadcast in the U.S., it was only the rest of the world who knew this, to them, most prominent of American representatives.
And while only a few Americans knew that Conover was one of the most well-known Americans around the world for decades, only a few hundred sf fans, or, eventually, a few thousand hardcore H.P. Lovecraft fans, knew that Conover was once a prominent fantasy/science fiction fan in the 1930s and early 1940s.
Willis Conover (October 18, 1920 – May 17, 1996) was a jazz producer and broadcaster on the Voice of America for over forty years. He produced jazz concerts at the White House, the Newport Jazz Festival, and for movies and television. He created musical events where people of all races were welcome, thereby helping to break down the color barrier in the United States. Conover is credited with keeping interest in jazz alive in the countries of eastern Europe through his nightly broadcasts during the cold war, when jazz was banned by most of the communist governments. Conover was not well known in the United States, even among jazz aficionados, but his visits to eastern Europe and Russia brought huge crowds and star treatment for him.
Conover was a legend amongst jazz lovers primarily due to the hour-long program on the Voice of America called Voice of America Music USA. Known for his sonorous and baritone voice, many would argue that he was the most important presenter on Voice of America.
On a trip to Moscow a taxi driver recognized him by his distinctive deep-toned voice. He was a celebrity figure in the old Soviet Union, where jazz was very popular and the Voice of America was a prime source of information as well as music.
Wikipedia knows nothing, today, of Conover's sf/fantasy fan background, or his intimate connection to Lovecraft, but your Amygdala does, of course.
Today we remember him, and a time when the U.S. government knew how to reach out around the world, and was famous for things other than torture, violating the Geneva Conventions, and maintaining prison camps intended to be beyond the law.
Better times, and who would once have thought we'd say that of the darkest days of the Cold War?
And a piece of fannish writing by Conover, a "faan fiction" (fiction about fans) piece, republished in Henry Burwell, Jr's September 1952 issue of Science Fiction Digest by Conover, reprinted from its original appearance in Science Fiction Critic of 1938.
Many of the world’s best jazz musicians credit Conover with helping them learn more about jazz. This biography details his professional accomplishments in the world of jazz, including the profound impact he had on the Soviet Union and Eastern European Communist nations.
Amygdala salutes Willis Conover, who did more to break down the Soviet Union, and world communism, than a billion dollars worth of missiles and submarines. Soft power, folks: we can play to America's strengths yet again, if we try.
[...] A cartoon in a 1958 issue of The New Yorker showed some officials sitting around a table in Washington, one of them saying: “This is a diplomatic mission of the utmost delicacy. The question is, who’s the best man for it — John Foster Dulles or Satchmo?”
Powell arranged for Gillespie, his close friend, to make the State Department’s first goodwill jazz tour, starting out in March 1956 with an 18-piece band and traveling all over southern Europe, the Middle East and south Asia.
The band’s first stop was Athens, where students had recently stoned the local headquarters of the United States Information Service in protest of Washington’s support for Greece’s right-wing dictatorship. Yet many of those same students greeted Gillespie with cheers, lifting him on their shoulders, throwing their jackets in the air and shouting: “Dizzy! Dizzy!”
When Armstrong arrived in the Congo as part of a 1960 tour through Africa, drummers and dancers paraded him through the streets on a throne, a scene captured by a photograph in the exhibition. As late as 1971, when Ellington came to Moscow, an American diplomat wrote in his official report that crowds greeted the Duke as something akin to “a Second Coming.” One young Russian yelled, “We’ve been waiting for you for centuries!”
The stars were happy to play their parts in this pageant for hearts and minds, but not as puppets. After his Middle East tour Gillespie said with pride that it had been “powerfully effective against Red propaganda.” But when the State Department tried to brief him beforehand on how to answer questions about American race relations, he said: “I’ve got 300 years of briefing. I know what they’ve done to us, and I’m not going to make any excuses.”
Armstrong canceled a 1957 trip to Moscow after President Dwight D. Eisenhower refused to send federal troops to Little Rock, Ark., to enforce school-integration laws. “The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell,” he said. “It’s getting so bad, a colored man hasn’t got any country.”
Administration officials feared that this broadside, especially from someone so genial as “Ambassador Satchmo,” would trigger a diplomatic disaster. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles told Attorney General Herbert Brownell that the situation in Arkansas was “ruining our foreign policy.” Two weeks later, facing pressure from many quarters, Eisenhower sent the National Guard to Arkansas. Armstrong praised the move and agreed to go on a concert tour of South America.
The jazzmen’s independence made some officials nervous. But the shrewder diplomats knew that on balance it helped the cause. The idea was to demonstrate the superiority of the United States over the Soviet Union, freedom over Communism, and here was evidence that an American — even a black man — could criticize his government and not be punished.
The photographs in the exhibition evoke this time when American culture and politics were so finely joined. Curtis Sandberg, the curator at Meridian International, said that during the three years it took to prepare the show his staff would frequently gaze at the photos and say, “Why aren’t we doing something like this now?”
What you may not know is that the State Department does have a small program like that today:
[...] And yet the State Department has a program in jazz diplomacy now. It’s called Rhythm Road, it’s run by Jazz at Lincoln Center (a three-year contract has just been renewed), and it sends 10 bands (mainly jazz, some hip-hop, all of which audition for the gig) to 56 countries in a year.
It’s scaled more modestly than the program of yore. For one thing, no jazz musicians — for that matter, few pop stars — are as famous as a Gillespie, Armstrong or Brubeck in his prime, and the jazz musicians in Rhythm Road are not well known even by today’s standards. The program’s goals are more modest too. There is no pretense of competing for geo-cultural primacy. But that is what gives this program its cogent post-cold-war spin.
The State Department doesn’t tell the musicians what to do, but some of them, either jointly or on their own, have decided to emphasize not their music’s peculiarly American quality but rather its resonance with the countries they’re visiting.
When the saxophonist Chris Byars took a band to Saudi Arabia this year, he played the music of Gigi Gryce, a jazz composer of the 1940s and ‘50s who converted to Islam and changed his name to Basheer Qusim. “When I announce that I’m going to play compositions by the American jazz musician Basheer Qusim, that gets their attention,” he said. “Afterward several people came up, very appreciative, saying very intensely, ‘Thank you for coming to our country.’ ”
Before the bass player Ari Roland went to Turkmenistan last year, he learned some Turkmen folk songs. His band played jazz improvisations of these songs with local musicians — the first time such mixing had been allowed — and a 15-minute news report about the concert ran on state television several times the next day.
“They saw Americans paying homage to their cultural traditions,” he said. “Several people at the concert came up and said, in effect, ‘Wow, you’re not all imperialists out to remake the world in your image.’ ”
ADDENDUM, June 30th, 2008, 9:34 a.m.: welcome, readers of Discourse.net, The Sideshow, and Pharyngula. Feel free to check out other posts, and the archives; I've been unable to post very frequently for a long time, but signs are good for a return to far more frequent posting on most days in the near and mid-term future, commencing this week, so feel free to come back and check. Meanwhile, remember, if you break anything, you don't have to buy it!
(But donations are always welcome, particularly since I've just moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, and am trying to put together the money to both furnish the small attic room I'm in, and to be able to move to a place of my own eventually, while waiting to get my voter registration card, to get my state ID, to be able to get access to the local medical clinic, and then see about restarting my disability application, and/or whatever the heck else I'll be doing; etc.; whee!)
ADDENDUM, June 30th, 2008, 9:49 a.m: accidentally duplicated second paragraph of quoted article removed, and replaced with the intended paragraph; oopsie!
ADDENDUM: June 30th, 2008, 10:40 a.m.: in addition to cleaning up some typos, I'm adding this rather unclearly sourced set of quotes taken from "UFO Roundup," which seems to have used Lovecraft At Last as source material:
1910: A TEENAGED TIME TRAVELER
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) was an enthusiastic letter-writer all throughout his life, sometimes writing to several people a day. Among his regular pen pals during the last year of his life was Willis Clark Conover Jr. (1920-1996) who was then a 15- year-old boy living in Cambridge, Maryland.
While writing his book Lovecraft At Last, decades after HPL's death, Conover stated, "There is a paradox I can't resolve. When our correspondence began, H.P. Lovecraft was forty-five. Today I am older than he ever was, yet he is forever the older man. He was three times my age when I knew him. I still know him, and he doesn't change."
"Little is left of the world I knew in 1936 and 1937. World War II has come and gone. Television, jets we take for granted. Men have walked on the moon. Men's and women's clothes have become interchangeable."
"Today I'm happily married. I live in Manhattan, and I love it. I commute about fifty thousand miles per year, and I no longer exist for the newest issues of Astounding Stories and Weird Tales; the magazines themselves, as such, are gone (This was the case in 1975, when Conover's book was written. Weird Tales, "the unique magazine," was revived in the 1990s--J.T.) Everything is different."
"I don't even recognize the teenage boy I was when I wrote to Lovecraft."
"HPL lives and speaks in his letters. I am newly affected--and as much as ever--when I read them again now, from the beginning of our correspondence to its inescapable end."
"I don't recognize the boy any more. I do recognize the way he felt about H.P. Lovecraft because I feel the same way today."
"It was the boy who disappeared, not HPL."
Conover had a dream. He wanted to create a non- profit "fan magazine" (now called fanzine) devoted to the science fiction of the period.
"My father was an Army officer," Conover recalled,
"He expected me to become one, too. In due time I was to attend The Citadel--the Military College of South Carolina. But I had lived on enough Army posts and seen enough regimentation to know it wasn't for me."
"Early in life, therefore, I retreated into myself. I dreamed day and night. I sketched with pencil or pen and ink, listened to music, went to movies, read books and magazines."
"I could read almost as soon as I could talk...As a child I lived in Oz, Barsoom and Pellucidar. Beginning in the 1930s, when I found Amazing Stories and Weird Tales at newstands, I travelled to the moon, to Mars and Venus, to the past and the future, to the fourth dimension, and into crypts and castles and haunted houses."
"One day I received a letter from a science fiction fan in a Midwestern state. He had read one of my letters in a magazine, and he wanted to correspond. Soon I was exchanging letters with a half a dozen youngsters I'd never met. The sweetest music I heard was the morning clank of the gate in front of our house in Cambridge, Maryland, when the postman arrived and I prepared for new conversations with my unseen friends."
"The teenager's impulse to form a club or join a movement proved irresistible."
So was born the Science-Fantasy Correspondent, with Willis as the editor and "a boy in New Jersey as the publisher." He wrote to Weird Tales, got HPL's address in Providence, R.I. and contacted him directly. Not only did HPL agree to an interview, he supplied Willis with out-of- print poems and short stories and put him in touch with other sci-fi [note from Gary: this is a complete anachronism, as "sci-fi" wasn't coined until 1949, and wasn't used at all by anyone else until Forry Ackerman started using it in 1954, and certainly wasn't used by anyone else in the field until the 1980s and later, other than mockingly] and fantasy writers of "the Lovecraft Circle." [...]
In November 1936, Willis wrote, "A few feet above the sidewalk across the street from my own house, there was a warp in space--the focal point of where the four ends of space meet. It resembled the navel of a seedless orange, but it was almost perfectly transparent: I could barely see it. On the sidewalk, my younger brother was walking-- backwards--toward the space-warp. I realized it was a passage into another dimension or another time. In a moment my brother would fall right through it. He would disappear into another dimension. And I would follow him."
"My mother ran out of our house and into the street, to stop my brother. 'What is he doing?' she yelled. I explained that we were going into a different time- dimension--adding that we had often taken long trips in space-time, through another passageway hidden in our attic."
"Now I had gone--without my brother--through the space-warp above the sidewalk, and I was walking down High Street" in Cambridge, Maryland "in the early 1900s. I came to some sort of small restaurant or grille out over the (Choptank River's) edge on stilts or pilings, the entrance level with the street and touching it but some ten or fifteen feet above the water."
Willis shared this dream with HPL, who wanted to hear it all. So Willis followed up with more:
Approaching the shoreside restaurant, Willis wrote, "I asked the white-jacketed cook if he could tell me where I might find 'young Lovecraft.' He said Lovecraft was out on the river in his leaky rowboat, and pointed. Sure enough, there was the H.P. Lovecraft of about 1910, rowing toward a ladder hanging from the side of the restaurant down to the water's surface. The cook told me to stick around for a moment, he'd soon have the young fellow here."
Climbing the ladder, the 20-year-old, dark-haired, brown-eyed HPL encountered the strangely-dressed boy of 15. A boy with oddly-shaped glasses, dark hair parted on the left, a blunt nose and bright, intelligent eyes.
Willis wrote, "Young Lovecraft, a somewhat frail lad of nineteen or twenty (a pretty accurate description of HPL at that age, considering that Willis never met Lovecraft--J.T.), walked up High Street with me. We chatted quite pleasantly, despite a certain reserve on his part. He seemed astonished when I told him I had come from the future to see him, that I knew the H.P. Lovecraft of nearly thirty years ahead..."
At that, Willis woke up, only to find himself lying in his own bedroom in 1936.
What to make of such a strange dream? he wondered. And what about the alien "space-warp" floating above the sidewalk? Where had the inspiration for that come from?
(Editor's Note: Bopping around in hyperspace was the forte of Salem witch Keziah Mason and her alien sidekick, Brown Jenkin, in HPL's short story The Dreams in the Witch House, published in Weird Tales in 1932.)
Intrigued by the boy's letter, Lovecraft wrote back: "Your recent dreams surely seem up to the usual standard-- that one about the hidden room and the not wholly alive sleeper being a winner! You ought to make a story of that!"
Then came HPL's astounding revelation: "I feel greatly complimented by my inclusion in the time-juggling dream, and am glad of the data on my 1910 whereabouts. I was very ill (with a bad case of the prosaic malady measles-- HPL) early in 1910, and have only a hazy recollection of things for some time during that year. Now I know where I was! Undoubtedly I had gone down to the Eastern Shore (of Maryland--J.T.) to recuperate...With this memory-jogging I distinctly recall that prepossessing visitor from the future--although I'll admit I didn't believe that time- travelling stuff. I thought you were just spoofing. Indeed, I never thought I'd be alive as far into the fabulous future as 1936."
"Pray accept my belated apologies for the skepticism of 1910! Incidentally, I used to do a little rowing here (on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island--J.T.) as well as in Maryland."
Apparently, HPL's mother, Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft, brought her ailing son to her brother Elliott Phillips' house in Maryland, to get away from New England's cold weather.
Lovecraft died on March 15, 1937 at the age of 46. Willis Conover grew up and attended the State Teacher's College at Salisbury, Md and became a radio announcer for WTBO in Cumberland, Md. He gradually found his way back into music and had a long career promoting jazz on the U.S. Information Agency's Voice of America program, supporting and organizing jazz concerts and events. He wrote the book about his friendship with HPL in 1975. Retiring from VOA in 1993, he passed away three years later.
His "Lovecraft dream" remains unexplained. (See the book Lovecraft At Last by H.P. Lovecraft and Willis Conover, Cooper Square Press, New York, N.Y., 2002, pages 130 to 136, 274 and 275.)
Great piece, Gary, thanks. It reminds me of one of my teachers in Russia, who lived near the border with Poland I think during the Soviet era - he and others would get smuggled jazz records and would play them, and dance, in their basements to escape official detection. I'm still waiting for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities to get a few billion a piece, at least, along with cultural exchange programs. Unlike the latest weapon system that doesn't work, it's money that would rarely go to waste.