January 28, 2017

Facts (and Alternative Facts) About Lunar New Year

Happy New Year of the Rooster, everyone! Also, happy Fire year. Happy year of the West. Happy 5–7PM. In total: Fire-Roasted Western-Style Chicken Happy Hour is from 5–7PM.

Let me unpack that.

The Chinese zodiac, shown below, is a cycle of 12 ‘terrestrial stems’—animals—and 10 ‘celestial branches’—elements. The latter is actually a combined cycle of 5 elements and yin (陰) & yang (陽).



Yes, folks, the first element is the Christmas tree! (#AlternativeFacts) Sorry about those emoji. You’d think they’d have an emoji for wood.

November 9, 2016

On the Nature of Progress


So our path to progress is two steps forward, five steps back. Nevertheless, we must continue to push the overall curve up and up, my friends.

Oh, and by the way: this is actually a graph of global temperatures from 1920 to 2016—the red dot at upper right is us now. Ha! Ha! We’re FUCKED.

[Global Mean Surface Temperature (January–June) from NASA GISTEMP; vertical range shown is approx. 1.5ºC; link here.]

October 30, 2016

How to Mess With Kids: Halloween Edition

aka How to Seriously Traumatize Children For Life
aka Why I’m Never Allowed to Have Children, Ever

 
~ dedicated to the child upstairs who never stops running and jumping ~

Warning: scary photos below!

Wear an only moderately scary face mask. When you happen upon a child who seems scared of it, say “Don’t worry, don’t worry,” in soothing tones, “it’s just a mask. See?” Take it off and show them this underneath:


@_jessbel_ on Instagram

March 5, 2016

Everyone’s Favorite Bullsh*t Song About Japan!

YorkSpace Library
Four of six members of the Au Brothers Jazz Band are of at least half Japanese descent. Yet—and this may wrinkle a few brows—one of their favorite songs to perform is Harry Warren and Mort Dixon’s 1928 hit “Nagasaki,” or, as I like to call it, everyone’s favorite bullshit song about Japan! (Plug: I should mention that the Au Brothers recorded the song on their forthcoming album—more info here.)

For those of you not yet wrinkling your brows: Surprise!—“Nagasaki” contains some lyrics that are frankly cringe-inducingly offensive. Forget politically incorrect: these are OMFG incorrect.


With sweet kimoner, I pulled a boner, I kept it up at high speed.
I got rheumatics, and then sciatics,
halitosis, that’s guaranteed.
[…]
Not too gentle and not too rough,
but you’ve got to tell them when you’ve had enough

So how can anyone perform this song in good conscience, in this day and age? More to the point: how can a band with so many Japanese Americans not only perform, but SING this song, and repeatedly, with gusto and glee?

The answer, as with so many real-life things, is: it’s complicated.

January 23, 2016

Modern Jazz vs. Trad Jazz


Imagine a pie. 

Now imagine you get a piece (yay!), but not 1/6th or 1/8th of the pie, but rather 1/70th of the pie. How would that piece look? Could you even remove it from the pie? Now picture taking your thin slice and trying to slice it even further, into say a dozen pieces. Could you do it? What would those tiny slices look like? Now imagine gathering all those wispy micro-slices on your plate in a sad little pile.

That’s jazz.


At a whopping 1.4% of American music consumption1, jazz is that slice of 1/70th of the pie, and its subgenres—traditional, Afro-Cuban, modern, fusion, etc.—are those all-but insubstantial slices of slice.

1. Nielsen 2014 U.S. Music Year-End Report: http://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/corporate/us/en/public%20factsheets/Soundscan/nielsen-2014-year-end-music-report-us.pdf
 

I say all this to demonstrate the microscopic scale on which we operate when we talk about  TRADITIONAL JAZZ vs. MODERN JAZZ.