Tuesday, September 22, 2015

800 Words: Frank Shipway (Parts I II and III)


In this time of trouble, I've gotten more from listening obsessively to the Alpine Symphony than virtually any other activity in my life. The Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss is everything in music we've lost - the good and the bad, which stand next to each other unashamedly in a brilliant, Breughelesque aural canvass that reminds us of just how timid our music's become in the century since the work's premiere.

This is, almost beyond doubt, the greatest recording I've ever heard of Strauss's Alpine Symphony. A no name conductor with a C-list orchestra - so often these are the miracle performances that put the corporatism of capital cities in the shade. To be sure, the playing's a bit shaky at times, and the storm section is a little underpowered, but who cares? Has there ever been a performance so awake to the many possibilities of this piece, the stupefyingly graphic onomatopoetic detail, the harmonic rhythm and textural clarity, the incomparable dignity of Strauss's last and deepest (I'm completely serious) orchestral statement?

Amid many mediocre ones, there certainly are other very fine recordings: The composer himself made a wonderful one in 1941 - amid the dim sound, you hear a naturalness of pacing that makes this allegedly bloated work seem as classically proportioned as anything by Mozart or Mendelssohn, surely a feat only possible in the hands of a musician of equal talent to those masters. Franz Welser-Most, the most self-effacing interpretive personality among today's conductors, seems to do his best to copy Strauss tempo for tempo, and downplays the vulgarity to the point that we seem to be hearing something as natural as Schubert - a very fine, if downright bizarre performance in the way that it's so normal-sounding.  Rudolf Kempe, a German musician to the marrow but with a completely un-Teutonic elegance - marshals the Staatskapelle Dresden to an almost Beethovenian dignity from what sounds so blowsy and vulgar in other hands. Andre Previn, ever the showman, gets captures the piece's encyclopedia of orchestral sound effects in stupefyingly vivid detail - from the Vienna Philharmonic no less, an orchestra which prizes its dignity like a Hawk does her eggs. An ailing Lorin Maazel, only in his final few years a musician worthy of his massive fees, stretched the usually less than 50 minute work to 67 minutes with the Philharmonia orchestra, and gives a performance of glowing luminosity. Christian Thielemann gives a live performance with the Vienna Philharmonic that, for whatever reason, sounds as expressive as his recording was lethally boring (though for all I know, it might be the same performance...). In my first listen, I thought Francois-Xavier Roth tries to load the first half with virtuosity and the second half with metaphysical depth, but didn't realize that you can't divorce the two in this symphony (and for some reason I forgot that his name wasn't 'Franz'-Xavier Roth), but upon relistening, I realize that it doesn't matter, and perhaps you can separate the two with far less trouble than I previously thought. And a similarly little known conductor to Frank Shipway (at least in the West), Kazimiriez Kord, gives a performance of truly exceptional virtuosity - I listen and think to myself that perhaps this is how Carlos Kleiber would have conducted it. But until now, no performance could take the place in my heart of Fabio Luisi's performance with the Staatskapelle Dresden at the Proms, which was the first performance to make me take the work seriously as more than just a showpiece of a composer running out of ideas. Even after hearing Shipway, there are details of this Dresden performance of which I have never heard their like in any other. Luisi's occasional subtle effects to increase the piece's inherent bravado only makes the piece sound still greater.

But except for Thielemann, none of these conductors have anything in common with Shipway's approach, for the simple reason that none of the others are combing the score for every nuance of its astonishing diversity of expression. It is not in the nature of most musicians to do so. How many conductors would have been flexible enough to take their time to let every detail speak to its proper weight, and still blaze forth in a hail of virtuosity when the music demands the exact opposite approach? There is a rain of good conductors - BohmBlomstedt, Janowski, Jansons, Bychkov, Harding - who come undone in this piece by the fact that there is nothing particularly memorable about their performances. Doubtless we'll get another generic one soon from Kirill Petrenko and the Berlin Philharmonic. Carl Schuricht does his best to imitate Richard Strauss's performance, but he can't quite do it and the result sounds as though he skates the surface. A legend like Bernard Haitink gets bogged down by the sheer metaphysical weight of the score and completely misses the joie de vivre, whereas another legend like Georg Solti completely misses the depths that lies beyond the score's miraculous surface, while the most legendary Straussian of all - Herbert von Karajan - does what he so often does, giving the score everything it needs but oxygen and a beating heart beneath the astounding skill. I'm probably too hard on Karajan. There's a part of me that wants to declare his electrifying recording without parallel as everyone else does; but there is something truly disturbing about musicmaking so electrifying yet so cold. This is a performance for the work's Nietzschean source material - truly magnetic and superhuman virtuosity, almost always capturing precisely the right color for the right moment. And yet, if Shipway is organic, then Karajan is eugenic. He achieves this amazing sonic document without any sense of human expression, as though reminding us that nature exists without the human perception of it, yet might be recreated to the last detail by a spectacularly engineered human machine. Truly, it's an extraordinary and deep performance in its way, but the way in which it's extraordinary makes me deeply uncomfortable.

Could any other conductor have captured both the surface exuberance and the unfathomable depth that lay behind? Surely Furtwangler or Bruno Walter would have, ditto Leonard Bernstein and Celibidache in his prime, or Carlos Kleiber and Victor De Sabata. Perhaps Kubelik or Barbirolli or Monteux or Beecham or would have, or Georges Pretre to name a less obvious name, and perhaps even Simon Rattle or Manfred Honeck still could if they ever took the piece on. Charles Munch and Leopold Stokowski would have probably erred on the side of flash, Eugen Jochum and Klaus Tennstedt on the side of depth. I have yet to hear Andris Nelsons in this piece, but I have very high hopes, as do I have Christian Thielemann's remake in Dresden. I once valued Daniel Barenboim's recording, and one would think his mixture of philosopher and showman ideal for this piece, but in relistening to it, his recording with the Chicago Symphony is a strangely diffuse performance. The chemistry of Barenboim the metaphysical striver with the Chicago Symphony, acme of orchestral virtuosity, was always awry. A musician as great as Barenboim could never truly fail, and like Rattle in Berlin after them, they made the best of a bad marriage, but Barenboim should never have gone to Chicago.

Could any contemporary of Shipway's do it? The England of his generation produced some truly extraordinary batons, but none of them was particularly extraordinary in quite Shipway's way. Charles Mackerras, perhaps the greatest of their generation in any country, would create a performance in the Kempe mode - not capturing every detail, but getting all the essentials correct for a great performance. Colin Davis would have captured the grandeur, but been utterly embarrassed by the comic kitsch. John Eliot Gardiner wouldn't touch this elephantine piece with a ten foot pole, and Norrington would have been fascinatingly perverse. Vernon Handley would have never been interested in it. Perhaps Andrew Davis would have made something of it, depending on the side of the bed he woke up on on the day of the performance. Edward Downes would have been dreadfully soporific, and Neville Marriner would have been far too timid in the face of such aggressive music. Perhaps Wyn Morris would have made a fair go of it, but we have scant evidence of the conductor Wyn Morris was. Much Beethoven and Mahler, impressive too, and nothing else.

(Elgar doesn't get better than this)

But compared to Shipway, we have a veritable encyclopedia of the artist Wyn Morris was. And if the recorded evidence is anything to go by, Frank Shipway's talent may have dwarfed even Wyn Morris, but we'll never know. Frank Shipway, just as he was finally to get his due as a great conductor with a record contract to set down a complete Strauss cycle, died in a car accident at the age 79. All that's left is scant evidence of a gift that might have equaled the very greatest the world's ever seen.


Even in postwar England, the finest musical culture in the Free World of its time, there was no place for Shipway on the national stage. Think of how amazing a place postwar London must have been for music. At its center was Benjamin Britten, along with Shostakovich, the last lion of the classical canon who roared before popular music subsumed us all. As only a giant can, he expressed not only his own experience, but the experience of entire nation's, and spoke to the entire world about the gay experience, the experience of the outsider, the experience of innocence lost and corrupted. At his side was Ralph Vaughan Williams, whom in what might have been his dotage wrote masterpiece after masterpiece. Just behind them, a chorus of talents who sometimes touched on mastery - Tippett, Walton, Finzi, Constance Lambert, and Malcolm Arnold, along with a number of composers of generic accomplishment like George Lloyd, Edmund Rubbra, Herbert Howells, Arnold Bax, Lennox Berkeley, Alan Rawsthorne, William Alwyn and many others whose names haven't even lasted fifty years but could count on performances in their own time. Even composers of personal, countercultural vision who embraced the latest European techniques like Humphrey Searle, Elizabeth Maconchy, and Robert Simpson could get performed. Even if amateur eccentrics like Havrgal Brien, Lord Berners, Cyril Scott, and Kaikhosru Sorabji, could not count on performances for their often quite demanding music, the fact that their work was known testifies to the fact that there was a centralized musical culture to which all paid attention. Talented composers of an extremely different bent from their older colleagues - like Harrison Birtwhistle, Peter Maxwell Davies, Alexander Geohr, Brian Ferneyhough, Jonathan Harvey, Richard Rodney Bennett, and Gavin Bryars, all found places within the firmament to be performed, and even if there was much grumbling along the way, with comparatively little resistance from the establishment.

London had five professional orchestras which in any week could give performances of extraordinary quality, and being the center of worldwide classical recording, there must have been more than a dozen ad-hoc freelance orchestral enesmbles operating at any given time. Even the names of orchestral musicians like Hugh Bean, Reginald Kell, Jack Brymer, Leon Goossens, and Aubrey Brain, still ring quite a bell to obsessive music lovers. Every mid-size British city had its own orchestra, and the quality programming of the BBC ensured that British musical audiences were the best educated and most passionate of their time. There were extraordinary native conductors like Beecham and Barbirolli, and extraordinary immigrants continually roaming around London like Klemperer, Krips, and a bit later, Sir Georg Solti. and extraordinary immigrants roaming around the provinces like Jascha Horenstein and Rudolf Schwarz and Constantin Silvestri. This doesn't even begin to cover the gamut of extraordinary singers and soloists, both native and immigrant, who lived in London during the postwar years.

The quality of this musicmaking was not particularly extraordinary in the annals of music history. What was extraordinary was that it happened so late in the game - popular music was still merely a highly successful niche pursuit in England while it long since conquered America. England was a musical village in which no matter how unique your personal musical vision, you were practically guaranteed to find a reasonably sized musical audience, somewhere in your country, that was sympathetic. No musician was an island. Its like existed neither in America nor in France nor in Italy nor in Germany, and seems to exist nowhere today.

And still, there was no room on the A-List, or even the B-List, perhaps not even the C-List, for Frank Shipway.


Every music snob has their weakness for a period when music was never better. Some testify to their broadmindedness by keeping it a secret, others partisanly shout their preference from the rooftop. As much as my heart will always belong above all others to the classical: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, and by extension Mendelssohn, Schumann, Brahms, and to a lesser extent Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, and Dvorak. But my infatuation is for the late Romantics - Janacek, Elgar, Puccini, Mahler, Richard Strauss, Sibelius, Nielsen. The Belle Epoque and Fin de Siecle does relatively little for this blogger in painting, and the literature is sometimes hit or miss, but the music, my god the music...

I think I've finally hit on what I love. This was the moment in history when music, already probably raised to its pinnacle by Mozart and Beethoven, was the most crucial of all arts to the world's well-being. Never could more people have appreciated music on so complex a level - appreciated not only as a passive art on recording as it mostly is today, but as an art which you actively study with profound humility: a piano in every home with multiple people to play it, chamber and choral ensembles everywhere made up of family and friends, and reading music was considered part of basic literacy. So engorged was the world on this most powerful of drugs that the best composers were expected to write works of massive length and breath, incorporating the most culturally relevant topics from philosophy, history, and politics, and still expect to make it accessible (albeit still quite challenging) to a universal audience. If music can render emotional experience into sound, why can't it render whole philosophical concepts as well? Without music, philosophy is merely words on a page which we must interpret to understand, but music would make philosophy into a living experience. All it takes to create is musical geniuses of unlimited perception and cosmic ambition. And yet was it ever truly done again by a composer who came of age after World War I?

In its way, music has never been so complex an enterprise ever again. Sure, we can now write music full of polyrhythms and dissonance unlimited, and who but a small niche cares? Around the corner from Puccini and Strauss was the disease of recorded music, the drug that made music, that most powerful and dangerous of all arts, omnipresent in our lives at the click of a button. Never again was music an awe-inspiring force but a simple fact of life. Music became accessible enough that it couldn't help but be trivialized, in so-called art music as well as in popular music. In a single generation, it turned the most musically accomplished and adult populace in world history into spoiled musical children - with music that grew ever less complex and ever more infantile.

Milan Kundera inveighs against it again and again, and puts it much better than I ever could:

“As early as 1930 Schoenberg wrote: "Radio is an enemy, a ruthless enemy marching irresistibly forward, and any resistance is hopeless"; it "force-feeds us music . . . regardless of whether we want to hear it, or whether we can grasp it," with the result that music becomes just noise, a noise among other noises. Radio was the tiny stream it all began with. Then came other technical means for reproducing, proliferating, amplifying sound, and the stream became an enormous river. If in the past people would listen to music out of love for music, nowadays it roars everywhere and all the time, "regardless whether we want to hear it," it roars from loudspeakers, in cars, in restaurants, in elevators, in the streets, in waiting rooms, in gyms, in the earpieces of Walkmans, music rewritten, reorchestrated, abridged, and stretched out, fragments of rock, of jazz, of opera, a flood of everything jumbled together so that we don't know who composed it (music become noise is anonymous), so that we can't tell beginning from end (music become noise has no form): sewage-water music in which music is dying.”

- Milan Kundera, Ignorance

"The music (commonly and vaguely) called "rock " has been inundating the sonic environment of daily life for twenty years; it seized possession of the world at the very moment when the twentieth century was disgustedly vomiting up its history; a question haunts me: was   this coincidence mere chance? Or is there some hidden meaning to the conjunction of the century's final trials and the ecstasy of rock? Is the century hoping to forget itself in this ecstatic howling? To forget its Utopias foundering in horror? To forget its art? An art whose subtlety, whose needless complexity, irritates the populace, offends against democracy?   The word "rock" is vague; therefore, I would rather describe the music I mean: human voices prevail over instruments, high-pitched voices over low ones; there is no contrast to the dynamics, which keep to a perpetual fortissimo that turns the singing into howling; as in jazz, the rhythm accentuates the second beat of the measure, but in a more stereotyped and noisier manner; the harmony and the melody are simplistic and thus they bring out the tone color, the only inventive element of this music; while the popular songs of the first half of the century had melodies that made poor folk cry (and delighted Mahler's and Stravinsky's musical irony), this so-called rock music is exempt from the sin of sentimentality; it is not sentimental, it is ecstatic, it is the prolongation of a single moment of ecstasy; and since ecstasy is a moment wrenched out of time-a brief moment without memory, a moment surrounded by forgetting-the melodic motif has no room to develop, it only repeats, without evolving or concluding (rock is the only "light" music in which melody is not predominant; people don't hum rock melodies).   A curious thing: thanks to the technology of sound reproduction, this ecstatic music resounds incessantly and everywhere, and thus outside ecstatic situations. The acoustic image of ecstasy has become the everyday decor of our lassitude. It is inviting us to no orgy, to no mystical experience, so what does this trivialized ecstasy mean to tell us? That we should accept it. That we should get used to it. That we should respect its privileged position. That we should observe the ethic it decrees.
   The ethic of ecstasy is the opposite of the trial's ethic; under its protection everybody does whatever he wants: now anyone can suck his thumb as he likes, from infancy to graduation, and it is a freedom no one will be willing to give up; look around you on the Metro; seated or standing, every single person has a finger in some orifice of his face-in the ear, in the mouth, in the nose; no one feels he's being observed, and everyone dreams of writing a book to tell about his unique and inimitable self, which is picking its nose; no one listens to anyone else, everyone writes, and each of them writes the way rock is danced to: alone, for himself, focused on himself yet making the same motions as all the others. In this situation of uniform egocentricity, the sense of guilt does not play the role it once did; the tribunals still operate, but they are fascinated exclusively by the past; they see only the core of the century; they see only the generations that are old or dead. Kafka's characters were made to feel guilty by the authority of the father; it is because his father disgraces him that the hero of "The Judgment" drowns himself in a river; that time is past: in the world of rock, the father has been charged with such a load of guilt that, for a long time now, he allows everything. Those with no guilt feelings are dancing.
   Recently, two adolescents murdered a priest: on television I heard another priest talking, his voice trembling with understanding: "We must pray for the priest who was a victim of his mission: he was especially concerned with young people. But we must also pray for the two unfortunate adolescents; they too were victims: of their drives."
   While freedom of thought-freedom of words, of attitudes, of jokes, of reflection, of dangerous ideas, of intellectual provocations-shrinks, under surveillance as it is by the vigilance of the tribunal of general con-formism, the freedom of drives grows ever greater. They are preaching severity against sins of thought; they are preaching forgiveness for crimes committed in emotional ecstasy."

 Milan Kundera - Testaments Betrayed

(the next one is not entirely true but mostly...)

"At jazz concerts people applaud. To applaud means: I have listened to you carefully and now I am declaring my appreciation. The music called "rock" changes the situation. An important fact: at rock concerts people do not applaud. It would be almost sacrilege to applaud and thus to bring to notice the critical distance between the person playing and the person listening; we come here not to judge and evaluate but to surrender to the music, to scream along with the musicians, to merge with them; we come here to seek identification, not pleasure; effusion, not delight. We go into ecstasy here: the beat is strong and steady, the melodic motifs are short and endlessly repeated, there are no dynamic contrasts, everything is fortissimo, the song tends toward the highest range and resembles screaming. Here we re no longer in those little nightspots where the music wraps the couple in intimacy; we're in huge halls, in stadiums, pressed one against the next, and, if were dancing at a club there are no couples; each person is doing his moves by himself and together with the whole crowd at the same time. The music turns the individuals into a single collective body: talking here about individualism and hedonism is just one of the self-mystifications of our time, which (like any other time, by the way) wants to see itself as different from what it is."

Milan Kundera - Testaments Betrayed

Perhaps there's an argument, not much of one but an argument nevertheless, to be made that what truly drove Old Europe insane was music. When photography made visual art accessible to all, perhaps the result was the Belle Epoque. But when recording made music accessible to all, perhaps the result was World War. The German speaking lands, ever the center of musical discourse in its Golden Age, was accompanied by the martial strains of Wagner and Strauss - misinterpreted though they might have been. America and England and France were accompanied by the strains of a new, simpler music that gave the audience what it wanted - Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, even Carmen and Noel Coward, great though they are, make few if any metaphysical demands. With the passing of the old Germany, the age of transcendent metaphysics was over, and in place of this quasi-mystical quest for a greater self came a conception of us as nothing more than a bundle of neuro-physiological wires that needed no greater transcendence than pleasant feelings as often as possible.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

800 Words: Performance Part II - or The State of Music (now updated...)

I could go through many other genres of music and say what I think is wrong with them with nothing more to substantiate it than my opinion, but that wouldn't get to the heart of the matter. I chose jazz and bluegrass in Part I simply because I hang out a lot with jazz and bluegrass musicians. They have remedies to little parts of the problem, but their solutions are no better than using a bandaid to mend a broken leg.

The problem is that we live, with a few exceptions, in a profoundly anti-musical world. It's not that we hate music, it's that we use music for every conceivable wrong reason. Music is everywhere, it's absolutely inescapable, and it's used almost never for revelation, but always for escape. 

When we work, we use it as background noise. When we exercise, we use it as a stimulant. When we have sex, we use it as an aphrodisiac. When we go to shows, we use music so loudly that we can't possibly appreciate what we're hearing critically. We use it as a soundtrack for movies, TV, theater, dancing, even the visuals of our concerts usually take more effort to assemble than the music itself. Compared to what used to be, music in our time is a plastic, deadened, artificial replacement for art. Music is now used for everything but to appreciate the awesome wonder of music. 

(Beethoven's 9th in Nazi Germany. I still don't know how I feel about this performance. But Beethoven's 9th is the piece of music that defines what music is capable of doing, and perhaps over every other piece ever written. Here it's played in a situation where its audience needed more direly than ever before or afterward to truly appreciate the message it conveys.)

 Music, the most difficult to master and mysterious of all the arts, used to be the most wondrous thing any person in the world could possibly experience. In its most glorious period, the 19th century, music, with its direct person-to-person communication, could be was a form of democracy in action and a form of protest against the increasing mechanization of the world. In an age when peasants overthrew decadent monarchies and began the process of social mobility, music was perhaps the best way that they could realize that they were more than simply servants of kings and noblemen who should always know their place, but full individuals with needs and wants that they had every right to pursue. Industrialization could not help but make each person feel like a cog in a larger machine - but when these cogs heard music, they knew they were still fully human. But now, music is a form of pornography - a poor substitute for the real experience. When you hear what music truly once was in a live setting, you open yourself to the wonders of the universe. Only science and religion can make us feel a similar awe. 

There is so little music organically grown by the 20th century - and not an refrigerated holdover from the 19th - that can approach what the experience should be. You can love the music of our time, as I actually do a lot of it, and still be utterly incensed that it's not exponentially better than it is. Music can make us feel human, but at its best, it's about more than expressing our simple humanity. It is about opening yourself to what was until recently the most mysterious known power in the universe - a collection of sounds which you cannot see, smell, or taste, that appear fully connected to one another, with a direct conduit into your emotional consciousness. A great piece of music can express not only your simplest primal emotions, but your most complex, conflicted ones as well. 

But there is something about contemporary life that obliterates our need for the most complex music. The world was a very different place when music was at its historical peak. In today's world, defined by democracy, however ersatz that democracy sometimes is; at a time when the freedom to express whatever sentiment you want to express is taken for granted in so many places, 'real' music is almost unnecessary. In today's First World, we take our individuality for granted, and sometimes don't even realize that too few among us have any real individuality to express. We in the West achieved individuality so long ago that perhaps, if anything, people in our corner of the world would attain more individuality if we valued individuality a little less. 

The world seems to work in opposites. In today's world, where individual expression is everywhere, most expressions of individuality are too banal for words. Yet this contemporary world of individuals creates mass technology that will revolutionize our world for as long as the human race is in existence, and perhaps even longer. It's almost as though our freedom makes us want to become slaves again - slaves to our televisions, slaves to the internet, slaves to our phones, slaves to driving long distances, slaves to depositing our information online, slaves to whatever governments and corporations want to access every bit (bite?) of our individuality and record it forever in a mass of data in which every individual part of us is merely one among trillions of pieces.

It was a process that began nearly three-hundred years ago. The Industrial Revolution mechanized our world, and as we awoke to the fact that technology was about to become more powerful than humanity, humanity had more emotions to express than ever before. The flowering began with Bach and Handel and Vivaldi and Scarlatti and Rameau and Purcell and Telemann and Pachebel and Froberger and Corelli and Charpentier and Buxtehude and Hasse, and went through Pergolesi, Gluck, Haydn, Boccherini, Clementi, Viotti, Mozart, Cherubini, Beethoven, Paganini, Rossini, Donizetti, Schubert, Bellini, Berlioz, Glinka, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, Verdi, Wagner, Gounod, Offenbach,  Franck, Johann Strauss, Bruckner, Brahms, Borodin, Bizet, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Chabrier, Sullivan, Massenet, Grieg, Rimsky-Korsakov, D'Indy, Janacek, Sousa, Chausson, Elgar, Leoncavallo, Puccini, Mahler, Wolf, Albeniz, Debussy, Delius, Mascagni, Richard Strauss, Sibelius, Nielsen, Glazunov, Dukas, Roussel, Scriabin, Vaughan Williams, Rachmaninov, Ives, Schoenberg, Holst, Ravel, Bloch, Bartok, Enescu, Stravinsky, Szymanowski, Kodaly, Bliss, Webern, Berg, and ending with Shostakovich and Britten and Copland and Hindemith and Prokofiev and Honegger and Poulenc and Milhaud and Walton and Martinu and Villa Lobos and Barber and Hovahness and Khatchaturian and Kabelevsky and Rota and Chavez and Revueltas and Ginastera and Tippett... and so many others....................

But maybe our freedom is slavery by another name. It's easy to be free when your individuality is so marginal that we have no real individuality to be free to express. In the same way that technology rendered the danger inherent in expressing dissident sentiments obsolete, technology rendered the old musical instruments and forms obsolete, and the revelation is now a process nearly impossible to recapture. In a world where popular music is ascendent, with its insistent focus on the greatness of the here and now, it becomes more and more difficult to reach out towards eternity. Some innovative musicians, like Edgar Varese and Harry Partch and particularly Olivier Messiaen (about whom I still have to write...), began searching for new ways to appreciate the eternal. But with the possible exception of Messiaen, their attempts, by and large, turned into exercises more technical than emotional. Beginning with this first generation of innovators - the aforementioned three, plus Carter, Babbit, Cage, Boulez, Nancarrow, Xenakis, Henze, Stockhausen, Ligeti, Lutoslawski, Dallapiccola, Nono, Berio, Zimmermann, Scelsi - composers declared their independence from audience taste. A number of them have made interesting music, but mostly interesting in the manner that ingenious machines are interesting. Lots of life, no soul. Much good it did them, because the audience responded to their independence by declaring independence from them.

There are a few composers whom I think have reached out towards the infinite in our time, but they are so few and far between that hardly any of them are named in any list of the world's greatest musicians or composers. I can think of a number of good Eastern European composers over the age of 80 who sometimes get within striking distance, perhaps because they hail from a place where classical music's culture was artificially preserved by political repression (Rautavaara, Penderecki,  Gubaidulina, KancheliGorecki - recently deceasedSchnittke - not so recently deceased but very much still with us as no other composer of the last 50 years is, and even - gasp - Arvo Part) but there is no way in which such elder statesmen are 'of our time' rather than a former era. I suppose that there is an argument to be made that the minimalists aim that high - perhaps Glass in Koyaansqatsi, or Steve Reich in Tehillim - but you still have to squint past the pretensions of accessing ancient Buddhist and Jewish cultures which they clearly know very little about. In our era, certainly Osvaldo Golijov reached to the infinite with La Pasion Segun San Marcos, and very nearly got there with The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind. Perhaps Tan Dun did in The Map, and he certainly tried in The Water Passion, but like Bernstein's Mass, the result was sometimes as ridiculous as it was magnificent. Many people find both Dun and Golijov kitschy and banal, but I find them the most keyed in composers of our time, who are among the few understand that music is suffering from anorexia. Music in our time needs the energy of popular music, but it needs to grab the popular traditions and toss them in the air as hard as possible so that it can get past the gravitational pull of triviality and start orbiting around the cosmos. When I think about it seriously, perhaps James MacMillan gets to the cosmic infinitude with more frequency than any other musician of our time that I can think of.

Every generation has its sticks-in-the-mud who declares that music or art or poetry got worse right around the time the prematurely old fogey was born. But for me, I sometimes wonder if Shostakovich and Britten, who both died roughly five years before my birth, were the last composers of consistently eternal music, and if no large batch of similarly eternal music will be written in my lifetime. Eternal music seems to be a party unable to be attended by any musician born after World War I, because they cannot remember a time when what we now call Classical Music was the lingua franca of the world. The true form of classical music as we generally think of it today expresses a longing, a yearning, an unquenchable desire, a desire so intense that it cannot be articulated in words. 

Sehnsucht, by Brahms

The Germans have a word for this emotion - Sehnsucht - that truly has no equivalent in English. Sehnsucht, as best as we can describe, is an emptiness that yearns to be filled. The yearning is for an ideal state, an ideal perhaps only possible in a transcendence of this world, or perhaps no more (or less) than the desire to perfect this world. But regardless, it is an ideal which thus far in our consciousness, is only expressible through music. Ian McEwan put it better than I ever could:

“There are these rare moments when musicians together touch something sweeter than they've ever found before in rehearsals or performance, beyond the merely collaborative or technically proficient, when their expression becomes as easy and graceful as friendship or love. This is when they give us a glimpse of what we might be, of our best selves, and of an impossible world in which you give everything you have to others, but lose nothing of yourself. Out in the real world there exist detailed plans, visionary projects for peaceable realms, all conflicts resolved, happiness for everyone, for ever – mirages for which people are prepared to die and kill. Christ's kingdom on earth, the workers' paradise, the ideal Islamic state. But only in music, and only on rare occasions, does the curtain actually lift on this dream of community, and it's tantalisingly conjured, before fading away with the last notes.”

It's worth noting that McEwan was talking about a group of blues musicians when he spoke of this (more on that hopefully in another post...), but this is the state to which the ideal of music aspires to. Anything less than this is an insult to what music is capable of expressing.

And yet, in today's world, this Sehnsucht is so omnipresent in all of our lives that we've almost forgotten about its existence. Music, which until the 20th century, had to be produced by live musicians who worked fiendishly hard to master their material, is now available at the click of a button. How can we ever experience the yearning to fill this longing when we unconsciously try to fill it with every minute of every day?

Music is everywhere, and it doesn't exist so that we can remember this longing, but so we can forget it ever existed. We have literally achieved mastery over music, and rendered it so domesticated that we can't even remember what it used to do for us. If people were not able to master music or know people who had, they must live their lives in silence, with nothing but their Sehnsucht for company. If you doubt that, read this truly amazing story from Willa Cather, A Wagner Matinee. 

Today, music is everywhere, and it is the most banal force in our lives. Would that we had a bit more silence. Until recently, we all saw the same TV shows, most of us still see the same movies, but our musical tastes, above all else, are an advertisement to the world as to our social class, our financial situation, our political leanings, our religious belief or disbelief, and our overall worldview. Music, the force which meant universal brotherhood in Beethoven and universal forgiveness in Mozart, has now become the most divisive force in the affluent world.

No artist is above compromise, and in order to be successful, every artist requires an audience to whom, at least to a certain extent, he gives what they want to hear. Oftentimes, the limitations placed on artists spur them to far greater achievements than they would possess if left to their own devices. But in an ultra-privileged society, the limitations are dictated by the social circles in which an artist runs. If you're a musician and the people you associate with want to hear rock music, you damn well better provide them with rock music. If they want to hear electronic, you damn well better learn a way to produce electronic music. If they want hip-hop, you gotta learn how to make hip-hop. If they want atonal music, you better start composing atonal music. But if you want to make a fusion of all of those, your chances for an audience automatically become smaller, as does the chances for even the small amount of eternal musical quality these genres generally possess. Experiments are important because they run the risk of failure, and successful experiment that is truly great music walks over the corpses of failed experiments.

More kinds of music, perhaps exponentially more, are available to us than at any other point in history. As with music in any period, most of it is mediocre. And there is so much mediocre music that it almost makes you want to give up on new musical discoveries. Even among the good stuff, there is so much music that there is no way of appreciating all but a small sliver of it. This musical dark age could well have produced more great music than ever before in history, but it is a hopeless task to find even a fraction of it. One day, hopefully, a great musical mind, a second Bach or Mozart or Schubert, will sift through all the musical bullshit to find the quality, synthesize it into a new musical language, and deliver us from this horrific musical chaos. But until that day, we're adrift in a sea of mediocrity. There are lots of good musicians in nearly every genre, and I can name quite a few. But if you ask me where true musical greatness is in today's world, I very nearly draw a blank.

When technology took over our world, music was the first of the arts to revert to the most basic simplicity. One electric guitar can make more noise than 150 orchestral musicians, and a generation after Strauss and Mahler built their cathedrals of sound, the world was dominated by jazz combos and dance bands, producing the most elementary harmonies and basic rhythms. Some of it was very good, but even the best jazz and blues and danceband music from its best period - W. C. Handy, King Oliver, Ledbelly, Blind Willy Johnson, Charlie Patton, Coleman Hawkins, Bessie Smith, Jelly Roll Morton, Robert Johnson, Skip James, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Son House, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Art Tatum, Benny Goodman, Earl Hines, Django Reinhardt, Stefane Grappelli, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Ma Rainey, and arguably later musicians (a Silver Age?) like Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderly, Art Blakey, Stan Kenton, Oscar Peterson, Errol Garner, Dizzy Gillespie, John Lewis, Stan Getz, Max Roach, Bud Powell, Lennie Tristano, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, - all of them are legendary names today to many, but with only a few exceptions, and never a career-long exception, their aims were so much lower than the greatest of their classical predecessors that it was almost as though there should be a different word than music for what they were trying to do. There are certainly transcendent moments in Jazz when you feel them coming into contact with those eternal mysteries: Ellington's Come Sunday, Coltrane's A Love Supreme, Pops singing St. James Infirmary. But how many more?... To be sure, there were many, many great classical composers during the period when classical music was the world's lingua franca who tried to play to the gallery. But how many jazz musicians from the period when Jazz was the world's lingua franca tried to reach for the metaphysical stars and truly succeeded? Lots of later Jazz musicians reached for the stars, but they got bogged down as so many classical composers have, in dry questions of form, and their music became indistinguishable from an intellectual, technical exercise. You can still love jazz, I do, and say that jazz is still not as great as the great music which came before, because in 99% of it settles for distracting us from our emptiness rather than filling it. The same goes for all the great rock musicians - occasionally, you get something truly transcendent: perhaps Imagine gets there, or A Change is Gonna Come, or Sympathy for the Devil, or Dancing in the Street (if that even counts as Rock), or a bunch of Dylan songs. But the truth remains, if Dylan is the closest our country's gotten to asking eternal questions in sound, there's an enormous problem.

The problem is that we don't think about eternity anymore, and music is too wondrous to require anything less than eternity. To feel that Sehnsucht, you need to express something truly awe-inspiring. But in an age when child mortality is so low, and life expectancy so high, eternal questions no longer mean as much. We have, to an extent unforeseen even seventy years ago, or perhaps even twenty-five, conquered death. Death is the most awe-inspiring force in the world, and now billionaires like Peter Thiel seem on the cusp of donating their fortunes to death's very conquest. When eternity seems attainable on Earth, even to an infinitesimal extent, then we can spend eternity procrastinating its contemplation.

For the entirety of 'popular music's reign, the great subject was not death, or the natures of good and evil, or the state of the soul, it has been romantic love. When life is so prosperous that we no longer need to spend our lives contemplating their end, we contemplate what will most increase the quality of our lives, and nothing is more important to an adult's quality of life than sex. It is the one force in modern Western life that everybody agrees is sacred.

But to reduce life's experience to sex, and to make it the overarching subject of music, is to trivialize both music and humanity. What about the lonely who dwell among us that go through life with no sex or bad sex or sex at an abusive price? Where is the music that speaks for them when the most torrid emotion in most music is a lover's quarrel?

The past century, and perhaps it's exactly a century now, has not been a century for music. , World War I started in August 1914, and Birth of a Nation was released in March of 1915.  It was the century of the electronic screen. Whether the screen involves movies or TV or video games - the experience of reality itself can now be completely reproduced at a future date. This is a wonder beyond even music. For the first time in the history of the world, we can imagine ourselves in another consciousness - not just in our minds, but physically enter another consciousness. It is the great aesthetic miracle of living memory, and has provided the lion's share of the last century's greatest art. Compared to Welles and Ford, compared to Hitchcock and Lubitsch, compared to The Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy, compared to Coppola and Scorsese, compared to Renoir and Truffaut, compared to Bergman and Bunuel, compared to Ozu and Mizoguchi, compared to Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, compared to The Simpsons and Seinfeld, compared to The Sopranos and Mad Men, what can our music offer to counter it?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Complete Season's Greetings 5770-5077

5770: (the first, an unoriginal benediction, but with many, many personal emendations)

To All the Jews (honorary ones too),

In this coming year may you have friends who insult you to your face and neighbors who don't spy.  May you win the lottery, thereby acquiring a long list of relatives, and may you remember Evan Tucker when you win.  May you get good reports from your internist, ENT, dentist, cardiologist, chiropractor, proctologist and urologist, and if you don't may there be an organization to pick up your health policy when it's dropped.  May your hair stay in, your facelift not fall and your stock portfolio rise.  May your cholesterol stay low and your mortgage interest rate not rise.  May your broadband and refrigerator be free of spam (really just the broadband) and may your gchat records be easily deletable.  May the swine flu go back to the swine where it belongs.  May you get through the day without feeling the need for alcohol or nicotine at the end of it, or something else, unless you really think it's good for you in which case may you do that something else and may the government leave you be.  May you know your calling - choral singer or otherwise - and may your calling give you much satisfaction.  May those of you who think Israelis are always right be satisfied, may those of you who think Palestinians are always right be satisfied too, and may we all learn to stop talking about it at parties.  May you have a merciful IRS agent and a boss who charges lunch to the company card.  May those of you getting married, recently married or oldly married have all the best fortune.  May you make enough money to support all your children through college and grad school and for their whole lives thereafter.   When it's cold, may you have sealing windows.  When it rains, and it will, may you have non-leaking roofs.

To the Goyim,

Don't fuck with us.  

All the best,


5771: (easily my least favorite, toned down because it was the year I had to use it to try to convince DC singers to sing for Voices of Washington... I should have just done a better Season's Greetings)

To all the Jews: 

Real Jews, fake Jews; red Jews, blue Jews; Jews by force, Jews by choice; honorary Jews and dishonorable Jews.  To the three-times-a-year Jews and Shabbos Goyim, bacon-lovers and crabcake-connoisseurs; Jews when they watch Seinfeld and Jews when they read about Mel Gibson, Jews when they listen to Mahler and Jews when they watch Adam Sandler; Jews when they see the restaurant bill and Jews when their mothers call four times an hour.  To the 6'4 blonde Jews and the 5'3 balding goy, to the doctors named Esposito and the baseball players named Youklis; to the Jewish mechanic who works on your car and the Scotch-Irish accountant from West Virginia who sets up your 401 K, to the goyim who feel Jewish when Israel comes up and the Jews who feel Palestinian when talking to them; to the goyim who don't throw up when they realize what Kishkes are made of and the Jews who wretch at the sight of kippered herring, to the Jews who never miss a chance to look inside a church and the Goyim who feel like they're going to scream if they have to go again.  

To everyone, both Jewish and not, because beneath it all we share a common hatred of Yankee fans:

May the coming year bring you good health, good fortune, and happiness.


5772: (I went unoriginal again for the most part. But it was definitely funny)

Dearest Jews and/or Goyim,
In the coming year may you have all the health, wealth, wisdom and happiness which so clearly eluded you in the past year. I know I shall see you all tonight at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem where we shall partake of the great happiness that awaits all who devote eternity to the study of Torah. Should the Messiah however be unexpectedly delayed, here's fondly wishing you a happy New Year.

And here is a questionnaire I recently received from my synagogue:

During the last holiday season, many individuals expressed concern over the seating arrangements in thesynagogue. 

  In order for us to place you in a seat which will best suit you, we ask you to complete the following questionnaire and return it to the synagogue office as soon as possible.  

1. I would prefer to sit in the . . . (Check one)   

______Talking section    

______No talking section

2. If talking, which category do you prefer? (indicate order of interest)

_____ Stock market

_____ Sports

_____ Medicine

_____ Congregate's secret medical tragedies

_____ General gossip

_____ Specific gossip (choose)

_____ The rabbi

_____ The rabbi's voice

_____ The rabbi's wife

_____ The choir

_____ The rabbi's "secretary"

_____ Fashion news

_____ What others are wearing

_____ Why they look awful

_____ Your neighbors

_____ Your neighbor's relatives

_____ President Obama

_____ Sex (Preference:______)

_____ Who's cheating on/having an affair with whom

_____ Other:

3. Which of the following would you like to be near for free professional advice?

_____ Doctor

_____ Dentist

_____ Nutritionist

_____ Psychiatrist

_____ Child psychiatrist

_____ Mother in law

_____ Pilot

_____ Podiatrist

_____ Chiropractor

_____ Stockbroker

_____ Accountant

_____ Lawyer

_____ Criminal

_____ Civil

_____ Estate agent

_____ Architect

_____ Plumber

_____ Buyer (Specify store:_____________)

_____ Sex therapist

_____ Golf pro (tentative: we're still trying to find a Jewish one) 

_____ Other:_____________________________

4. I want to be seated (Indicate order of priority)

_____ On the aisle

_____ Near the exit

_____ Near the window

_____ In Aruba

_____ Near the bathroom

_____ Near my in-laws

_____ As far away from my in-laws as possible

_____ As far away from my ex in-laws as possible

_____ Near the pulpit

_____ Near the kiddush table

_____ Near single men

_____ Near available women

_____ Near anyone who's available - I'm bisexual or just not particular   

_____ Where no one on the bimah can see/hear me talking during services   

_____ Where no one will notice me sleeping during services 

  _____ Where I can sleep during the rabbi's sermon (Additional Charge)

5. Orthodox only - I would like a seat where:

_____ I can see my spouse over the mechitza
_____ I cannot see my spouse over the mechitza
_____ I can see my friend's spouse over the mechitza

_____ My spouse cannot see me looking at my friend's spouse over the mechitza
6. Please do not place me anywhere near the following people (limit of 6 names):


(If you require more space, you may wish to consider joining another congregation)

Fondly yours,

5773: (easily the best so far, though a presidential election made it easier)

Dear Sir, Madame, Or Other,

My Judaism primer sheet informs me that a holiday signifying a supposedly Jewish new year is approaching and that it would be prudent to issue a greeting for this allegedly sacred time. So for those economically successful people of Jewish persuasion, I would like to wish those Jews whom God has blessed a Happy and Blessed New Year. For any of those economically successful Jews who would give five hundred thousand dollars and above to my campaign, I would endow them with a gift basket of honey-glazed pork chops and a freshly-killed lobster dinner with me and Anne at the White House. 

Best Wishes for a Sweet New Year,

Willard Mittens Romney


To all my Jewish Friends,

I would like to wish you all a great and sweet New Year with lots of dragons and fortune cookies. I know that soon you will achieve your dream of founding a country in your ancestral homeland and that you'll have a friend in America, who will be at your side when the next Holocaust occurs. 

Your Friend,

Joe Biden


So I'd like to wish you all a new year. Except for the teachers, whom I'd like to wish a !@#$%# @#$%@##!#$ %Y#@$%!#$!# !@$%@#! @#$@$%^@#$ !@#%@#%^@#$% @$%@#$@#$^ CHAINSAW @#$%!@$@#^ ^&$%^&*$%* !@$%#$%#^& @#%^#$^&%#$%& BLUMPY #@$%@#^$% #^#$%&#$%^#$@#% &$%^&@$ *(%^&*#$% !@$%#$%& #$^&$%&*&@#$ @##$%^ DUKAKIS @$%&$% %^&*#$%^ #$^&^&*%*$^ $%^#$%^#$%^ @$#%@$%&#$^& NEW YEAR!!!!

Best Wishes,

Rahm Emanuel 


Dear Jews,

I'd like to wish all you movie business Leninists a good New Year or whatever it is you celebrate. I don't even know why I'm sending this thing but I think my agent's implying that I need to if I ever want another Oscar. 

Back to the Links,



Dear Jews, 

You make me sick.



To all Jews (self-identified or honorary)

May you be written in the Book of Life and may you have a sweet new year. Unless you prefer otherwise. 

Best Wishes,


(a little too close to the bone this year, but I don't take a word of it back :) )

Dearest Jews, self-identified or honorary, of Baltimore,

Your new-found reappearance in my life has been such a blessing. I am so happy to have ditched that tiresome, disgusting, pestilential blight upon the world that is Washington and all those people within it whom I claim to love but secretly loathe with all my might for their disgusting fakery, their fanatical belief systems, their craven ambition and catty social climbing, their uninformed bloviations, their corporate facelessness, their collusion in the thievery of the country's money, and the overpriced restaurants, rowhouses, bars, public transit, and clothes, for all of which they spend the money they stole from us like water. Like hell, Washington is nothing more than a demon-filled swamp disguised as a real city.  Satan's kingdom must come down, and one day we'll do a field trip to dance on the remains of its ashes.

Happy New Year,



Dearest Jews, self-identified or honorary, of Washington,

Oh my god TAKE ME BACK TAKE ME BACK TAKE ME BACK!!! If I have to sit through one more shitty band/gallery/theater production then I'm going to become the artistic equivalent to a disgruntled postal worker who goes crazy and shoots up his office, and the Baltimore City Paper would name my mass shooting the 'best show of the year.' And it just might be, because everything in Baltimore is like a bad show: "look how few murders we've had this month!", "look how effectively we've stopped the drug trade!" "look how much better gentrification's made life for us!" "look how amazing it is to work for your father!" No wonder so many shitty artists take root here. We're a town tailor made for bad shows. At least DC is a show which some idiots believe. Nobody believes in Baltimore. 

Happy New Year,



Dearest Jews, self-identified and honorary, of all cities,

What the hell did I do to deserve you people?

Happy New Year,



To all the Jews (spoiler alert),

On this, the 5th anniversary of the Season's Greetings emails, may you be written this year into the Book of Life, may this year bless you with good health and happiness, may you live a life like Kramer and not like George, may you have Homer Simpson's luck and avoid Sideshow Bob's rakes, may you keep your secrets better than Don Draper does, may your marriages be like Woody and Kelly and not like Frasier and Lilith, may you get through your addictions like Bubbles and not like Sherrod, may you escape bad home situations like Barbara Soprano and not like Janice, may you be there for your family like Michael Bluth and not like Lucille, may you get second chances like Jesse and not screw them up like Walter, may you maintain your integrity like Larry David and not sell out like Hank Kingsley, may you embrace commitment like Liz Lemon and not avoid it like Jack Donaghy, in fights may you win like Tyrion and not lose like Tywin, may you live to Dowager Grantham's age and not to Sybil's, may you prosper through preserving your integrity like Saul and not die a sellout like Estes, may you deal with clients like Manuel and not like Basil, may your family view you as a joy like Raymond and not a burden like Robert, may you have the gumption of Cartman and not the spinelessness of Butters, may you be in on the joke like Sophia and not the butt of them like Rose, may you be an inspiration like Picard and not an embarrasment like Lwaksana Troi, may you appreciate the world like Wilson and not spurn it like House, may you fulfill your responsibilities like Louie and not avoid them like Larry Sanders, may you be as confident as Gonzo and not as insecure as Fozzie, when you put your foot in your mouth may you be as well-meaning as Michael Scott and not creepy like David Brent, when you reach power may you be as benevolent as President Bartlett and mendacious like President Underwood.

May you devote many more hours to what really matters in life: TV. Glorious TV. 

5776 (too prescient, no?):

All you Jewish Dummies out there,

I know it's your new year and you all have to celebrate like idiots, so instead of suing you for all your money after stealing mine because you're third rate hypocrites who never.apologized to me for the horrible job you did for me with your bad real estate tips and zero ability to get me out of bad Casino deals, I'm going to wish you a Happy New Year. Even though all you liberal clowns are third rate total losers. Your goofball leech race just uses me for publicity while you 'make' my money and then talk 'bull' about me with the media you control in between programming your hokey third-rate garbage against The Apprentice. 

But I"m willing to cut you all some slack if you're Jewish women, even though most of you pieces of ass could still use a good nose job. And I still don't hate you guys as much as I hate those ridiculous Chinese clowns and the Mexican dummies who steal the jobs I provide. So listen you Jewish motherfuckers, you like to win, so I'm gonna let you stay here, and when I'm president I'm gonna tax you only 25% more than everybody else, because it's only fair that a race that steals for us gives us our money back. 

And you're gonna show me Obama's birth certificate. Cuz I know you guys are behind that one too and let that Kenyan born loser get that office that should be mine. 

And then all you little short guys in Yamakas are gonna count my money all day. Penny by fuckin' penny so you know what a real rich guy looks like. And if you tab the sums wrong, I'm gonna stick ya where I stuck Rosie O'Donnell, and you don't wanna know where I stuck her... It's the same place I stuck Arianna Huffington and Hilary Clinton... 

And then I'm gonna build a shrine to your new God, Me. You're gonna bow down to my image. It's gonna be solid gold and a hundred stories high, cuz nobody builds better shrines than me: real classy. And then I'm gonna tax the rest of your money to build the wall to keep the Mexicans out, which you're gonna build, cuz I'm the motherfuckin' Pharoh and Moses rolled into one. 

Happy Fuckin' New Year,



Greetings of the Season to all,



Dearest Jews and Non-Jews,

For my annual greeting card, I unfortunately have no original jokes to offer this year. Instead, let me just direct you to this bandcamp website, which has the new music of a man named AC Charlap, the 'stagename' of someone you know (Charlap was the 'Tucker' name until the 20th century, AC being my Hebrew name: Avraham Chai. I'd have preferred to use the name 'Richard Nixon' but that was already taken). Please feel free to listen to this half-hour of celestial muzak if you feel like it, or don't if you don't. But if you like it, or simply feel sorry for me, it would be lovely of you should you find generosity within your heart to GIVE FUNDING since my thus far non-extant children will require a repleted college fund should I continue with this project. There will hopefully be a second half-hour ready by Channukah in late December.  

Anyway, to the main business.... Last year I wrote a, er... missive in this greeting which was deliberately in the worst possible taste, in the style of a certain narcissistic would-be Generalissimo whom at the time was still a national joke - how could one resist the temptation? A few people thought it was truly offensive, so I'm going to do the only logical thing and send the exact same greeting again this year - with a MILD TRIGGER WARNING for those offended or disturbed by... pretty much whatever imaginable crudities one can surmise. This year, he's a bigger national joke than ever, but it isn't funny anymore. I can't bear the thought of writing yet another email in The Donald's voice and rising to what this 'historical hour' clearly demands, so in lieu of writing another jokey email about a would be dictator, I'm simply going to copy and paste the email last year so we can all marvel at the different (and no doubt more orange) hue which a year has given to this vulgar joke, which isn't nearly as far from reality as it was but a year ago. How tame this all now seems compared to reality...

All you Jewish Dummies out there,

I know it's your new year and you all have to celebrate like idiots, so instead of suing you for all your money after stealing mine because you're third rate hypocrites who never.apologized to me for the horrible job you did for me with your bad real estate tips and zero ability to get me out of bad Casino deals, I'm going to wish you a Happy New Year. Even though all you liberal clowns are third rate total losers. Your goofball leech race just uses me for publicity while you 'make' my money and then talk 'bull' about me with the media you control in between programming your hokey third-rate garbage against The Apprentice. 

But I"m willing to cut you all some slack if you're Jewish women, even though most of you pieces of ass could still use a good nose job. And I still don't hate you guys as much as I hate those ridiculous Chinese clowns and the Mexican dummies who steal the jobs I provide. So listen you Jewish motherfuckers, you like to win, so I'm gonna let you stay here, and when I'm president I'm gonna tax you only 25% more than everybody else, because it's only fair that a race that steals for us gives us our money back. 

And you're gonna show me Obama's birth certificate. Cuz I know you guys are behind that one too and let that Kenyan born loser get that office that should be mine. 

And then all you little short guys in Yamakas are gonna count my money all day. Penny by fuckin' penny so you know what a real rich guy looks like. And if you tab the sums wrong, I'm gonna stick ya where I stuck Rosie O'Donnell, and you don't wanna know where I stuck her... It's the same place I stuck Arianna Huffington and Hilary Clinton... 

And then I'm gonna build a shrine to your new God, Me. You're gonna bow down to my image. It's gonna be solid gold and a hundred stories high, cuz nobody builds better shrines than me: real classy. And then I'm gonna tax the rest of your money to build the wall to keep the Mexicans out, which you're gonna build, cuz I'm the motherfuckin' Pharoh and Moses rolled into one. 

Happy Fuckin' New Year,