19 May 2017

Just priming the keys. Will write worse soon.

Dear diary,

Am I hid, or am I hiding? Does the world render me obscure, or do I do that to myself?

It depresses me to read about The Depression. I'm still trying to puzzle out economic questions, and so I've been reading textbooks on money and history. The Great Depression — we knew its effects; what were it's causes? (Do I believe in cause-and-effect?) It's hard to maintain my usual super-positive attitude, when reading about this awful time in U.S. history, because it doesn't strike me as a unique, one-time-only fluke: on the contrary, it has the familiarity of a recurring nightmare: rather than an unexpected and improbable hiccup, it's what the machine is actually GEARED TO DO. It's an inevitability.

Instead of free-market capitalism, they should call it bubble-ism.

Boom-and-bust. Snakes and ladders. It's the glorification of trickery. That's my opinion. I'm probably wrong. What do I know? (When did I become one of those people who rants ineffectively about the doom of my begetting?) OK: Name something that you would change, if you could change anything. I guess I'd like to get the word out to all the struggling individuals everywhere. What word? The Gospel According to Bryan. ...No, I have neither a teaching nor an idea; just an attitude: Don't believe the hype. (Someone else must have said that before me — it sounds derivative.)

Like ghouls haunting a house in broad daylight...

But even if the so-called Working Class were to yoink the world from the Ruling Class, the same problems would remain – or if they disappeared, it would only be for a spell and then they'd return – because it's not something exclusive about the present Rulers that makes them so fill-in-the-blank; this trait is inherent in human nature: it's something that must be fought against diligently, constantly, by each and every individual; and the battle takes place within each private soul...

What the heck am I talking about? Note to self: Disregard the fit above. I don't know how to solve all the problems of this life. I was only trying to articulate an argument on behalf of harmoniousness. I conclude that it cannot be done. At least not with dignity. As Doctor Louis Judd says about "dipsomania" in the Val Lewton production The Seventh Victim (1943): It's a sordid affair.

Life in the jungle... Life in the city... Life in the atom... Somewhere over the rainbow...

I like authors who know how to dress well. Yesterday I watched an interview on television of an author who was very well dressed.

Anyway, what else have I been reading about? Voting. Paper ballots, electronic touchscreens. The concept of democracy. Pure democracy, representative democracy. Land owners; thieves. Oil mercenaries; ocean spoilers; star killers. Innocent businessmen, above the law. Apes and beyond. Eloi and Morlocks: play it again. The upper class and the lower classes. (The centre cannot hold.) Poverty. Labor. A more perfect union. Secession. To organize or not to organize. How to organize. The assassination of organizers. True leaders. Mob rule. The top one tenth of one percent of vanity and vexation of spirit.

And then I'm reading another book about the centennial of our godblessed country. Or it's not really about the centennial; it just takes place at the hundred-year mark. It takes place in New York. It talks about Paris. It's before the time of fast food. People drank more back then – alcohol, I mean. Absinthe in the a.m. And newspapers meant something... different. Also opium. The book's focus is definitely not DRUGS, but those facts stuck with me more than the others. (I would add SEX and ROCK 'N' ROLL but the story takes place before either of those two mortal sins were invented.) It was muddy in the past; literally, the roads became muddy after a rain; for their horse-and-carriage highways were less perfectly paved than our modern, crumbling infrastructure.

And after a chapter of that book, I go on to another: I keep a stack in front of me: this next one is a novel. What's it about? I hate that question. What is anything about? I can never tell. I'm not good at following plots. When I see a beautiful couple dressed in finery, I don't ask whence they've come or where they're going. I just like the sight. So I'll list the images that I can recall from this new volume. Policemen with flashlights. A murdered body found in a rundown mansion. Art museums. A shop that sells erotic items.

So basically what I'm doing in this entry is telling myself about the books that I've been reading, but I'm trying not to list their titles, and I'm allowing myself to be lazy to the point of incoherence in the summaries. You can't really even call them summaries; they're more like freely associated whims that may or may not have sprung from the text that was read. This is one of the perks of being your own boss: you have no editor or oversight committee to make you presentable. You can just drone on about whatever you like.

(By the way, this entry's obligatory image is of an actual envelope that my sweetheart was using to store scraps that she had cut out of magazines with the intention of using them in a collage.)

I love to wear layers of clothing: nice coats with collars and lapels, long pants and boots... It barely just turned spring and I already miss winter.

But I still say that my taste is infallible, when it comes to rap music. I never worry that my opinion represents only a personal nostalgia, rather than a dependable judgment rooted in Science and worthy of the designation "expert" (see the fine print below); for, as I am the only perceptor whose eyes can see and whose ears can hear: de facto, my proclamations are superior. I can state this roundly, because my experience yielded certain confidences. Here's what I mean. There was a time when rock music hit its high-water mark, and although since then there have been good records made, it is accurate to speak of a MAGIC ERA where works of genius were concentrated. And the same goes for punk music, and for soul, for rhythm & blues, even country & western; for folk songs and rap songs. Luck appointed me personally to witness rap's apex, thru my midwestern window (tho I did not live in proximity to its trailblazers, I bought all of their records); moreover, I grew up in the 80s. It is due to this timely coincidence plus acuity that the litter of efforts receiving lip service from the present day's critic-herd appears rather featureless when compared to my own pantheon. Most importantly, as time passes, my selections abide. They will only fail if humankind itself fails.

However, I'd prefer that the finest literary compositions of the imagination be remembered, instead of strictly audiovisual works. That's my one proviso. Since books are apparently dying and perhaps now dead, I would resurrect THEM before reviving rap. I say this only because of the fact of mortality. One human lifetime, at its current rate of about thirty functional years, is not enough to justify lavishing any amount of time on lesser evils.


Here is a list of a few of my favorite things (hastily compiled and thus subject to change), for I realized, after writing the entry above, that I was trumpeting the value of my rap opinion without ever having given my rap opinion.

  • The Ultramagnetic MCs: Critical Beatdown
  • The Sun Rises in the East by Jeru the Damaja
  • Gang Starr: Daily Operation, also Hard to Earn and Step in the Arena
  • De La Soul's first two albums (minus the skits) and Buhloone Mindstate
  • Pete Rock & CL Smooth: Mecca and the Soul Brother and their EP All Souled Out
  • Breaking Atoms by Main Source
  • Organized Konfusion's self-titled debut
  • Whut? Thee Album by Redman
  • The first four releases by EPMD
  • Leaders of the New School: A Future Without a Past (again, minus the skits)
  • Pretty much everything released by the rap group Boogie Down Productions
  • Nice & Smooth: their first three albums, especially Jewel of the Nile
  • Public Enemy: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988) and Fear of a Black Planet (1990)
  • Biz Markie's first three albums, especially I Need a Haircut
  • Cypress Hill's self-titled debut (mostly for the collage-sample production)
  • Tha Alkaholiks: 21 & Over
  • Assorted fragments from Big Daddy Kane, at least from the stuff he released up until about 1990 – the actual albums are all so uneven, but when he's good he's the best, so it's worth cobbling together a compilation
  • What I just said about Kane applies as well to LL Cool J (whose best work is on the albums Walking with a Panther and Mama Said Knock You Out) and also for Rakim's albums (thru the early 90s)
  • X Clan: Xodus and To the East, Blackwards
  • Digital Underground: Sex Packets, & maybe This Is an EP Release
  • AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted is the debut studio album by rapper Ice Cube.
  • The Beatnuts: Street Level (make your own edit, keeping only Psycho Les' and JuJu's verses)
  • Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop by Diamond D
  • The Genius: Words from the Genius, also GZA: Liquid Swords
  • Wu-Tang Clan: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
  • Method Man: Tical
  • Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version by Ol' Dirty Bastard
  • Raekwon: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx
  • The Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest; also Midnight Marauders (and maybe their first album People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm)
  • One for All by Brand Nubian
  • Wanted: Dead or Alive by Kool G Rap & DJ Polo
  • The Great Adventures of Slick Rick
  • Three tracks from Poison Clan's debut: "Low Life Mutha F--kas"; "Jeri Curl"; and "Bad Influence" (I need to make a YouTube playlist for single tracks, because this here is really about good albums)

Should I also add Reel to Reel, the debut album by Grand Puba? Or Brand Nubian's second album In God We Trust... or Black Sheep: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (minus the skits, as usual)... or K-Solo's tapes? or Master Ace's debut Take a Look Around... or most of the stuff from DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince? ...or Positive K (The Skills Dat Pay da Bills)? ...or The Grand Imperial Diamond Shell? ...Smooth Assassin by Grand Daddy I.U.? ...anything by Tame One? — I'd have to revisit all those projects before I officially canonize them. These are extremely important decisions.

Yes, I will add to this list whenever new names come to mind.

No comments:


More from Bryan Ray