Friday, February 24, 2012

Workweek Audiotopia

Here's my latest idea for an Audiotopia/dystopia:

Every day of the work week will have an assigned key signature. Sirens, whistles, car horns and hums, trains, buses and other noises in the city all must adhere to this noise ordinance to maintain harmony.

Throughout the week, a logical progression of key changes will be enforced daily to raise the feeling of action as the exhausting workweek goes on. The week will ascend in key while transposing properly to minor keys on rainy days.

To prevent depression, everyone has government-issued noise-canceling headphones to opt-out of the day's mandated ambience music.

Starting Friday afternoon through Saturday evening, strict silence will be enforced for all noise makers involved in the week's ambience. Everyone is allowed to listen to whatever music they wish, wherever they wish, as loudly as they wish.

Still haven't worked how to make the transition from the freedom of the weekend to the strict key code again but I think it might have something to do with soma.

Join me and we can rule the world!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Trial of Jesus by Judge Mental: Christ Against Humanity

All rise for me, The Honorable Judge Mental! I have reached a verdict on the defendant, Jesus H. Christ, for his crimes against humanity, namely, creating it.

Almighty then, "judge not, lest ye be judged!" What an infuriating paradox! Just because I'm a hypocrite doesn't mean I'm wrong, Christ. Thanks for existence but I can't sit around waiting another millennia for you to dish out punishment to the morons making life miserable. Besides, this Book of Revelations bluff is a crock of it!

If anyone else threatened revenge with such sorcery, we'd try them for witchcraft and wizardry. Here's to finding this Harry Potter prat, he acts like he's the next… well, you know who!

I'm just mad you died for people who think they're pious because they pretend like they don't judge everyone. 

When somebody says, "I'll pray for you," I know they're really telling me I'm going to hell until I agree with them. "Turn the other cheek," my ass! I'm not going to be bullied. Passive-aggression is still aggression, you know. How the hell could you create such an annoying species?

It's unhealthy! Each group has their own day for getting together to bad-mouth to your many forms. Muslims have Friday, Jews have Saturday and Christians have Sunday. All to read a revenge story promising heaven for killing infidels who don't believe their testament. You never rest a bit, do yah, Yahweh?

It's not just Semitic religions. Buddha, whoever the hell that is, said holding onto anger was like holding hot coals intending to throw it at someone. It burned me when atheist hipster Jack Kerouac used Eastern religion to call getting blackout drunk a "spiritual experience." Then he made a bad pun of your Beatitudes, pretended like he never started the "Beat Generation" and called himself a Catholic!

Don't get me wrong, God's been pretty good to me. He's given me almost everything I ever wanted, but claiming these people can strive for perfection might prove His creative impotence. In my courtroom, we don't stone people to death but I'll be damned if I'm going to let some Bethlehem-born, commie-pacifist say I have to put up with Osama bin Laden. Just 'cause I think dirty thoughts doesn't mean I can't judge a murderer! It was nice of you to stop those jerks from stoning that adulteress, Jesus, but if you're truly the one without sin, you could have totally gotten your rocks off.

"Everybody must get..."
Bob... you're not helping!
Even so, you can't pretend like you didn't make this mess! Thanks to you, we suffer through self-righteous stupidity of all styles, even without religion. If you haven't joined the latest book cult, seen a certain indie-chic movie, or listened to a different kind of death-metal-dubstep than the next person, somehow you're less of a human being. Why the hell didn't you say hypocritical humans would make life so insufferable? I should throw the whole Good Book at you. Have you seen the show the kids watch called Jersey Shore? If these people are the "salt of the earth," it's sodium content, not sodomy, you should have warned us about.

Isn't suffering what you supposedly did for us? I thought we could just pray it away but I won't get peace 'til these buffoons die slowly. Then, when I die, You forbid, I'll have to put up with them all over again in Heaven! 

For creating this inescapable hell, I sentence you to life in prison, Mr. Christ. I ain't falling for that martyr-miracle-madness with the death penalty you deserve! I'm God in this courtroom and Judgment Day is today. It's back to the cave you came from and time to contemplate your wicked creation! Let me cast the first stone, you started it!

Monday, February 13, 2012

153-Year-Old Man Arrested for Planting "Historical Herb" Across Gettysburg Battlefield

Since America's bloodiest battle in July 1863, Gettysburg has struggled with the tension between preserving the battlefield to be historically authentic and allowing nature to take its course. A man claiming to be the distant relative of General Ulysses S. Grant seems to have found a balance between the two positions: planting pot.

Local vagrant, Johnny "Appleweed" Grant, 153, was arrested at Devil's Den in Gettysburg for allegedly planting marijuana seeds across the battlefield. Grant claims he has photographic proof that the plant, made illegal in the United States in 1937, grew naturally in the woods surrounding the battlefield in 1863.

Though his ancestor was not present at the battle, Grant said he planted the "historical herb" to honor veterans of the conflict. Over a period of three days, he crossed the hallowed ground tossing seeds from a Civil War ammunition cartridge box while wearing a Union kepi cap. Park visitors complained that Grant was disturbing the peace, singing Bob Marley songs and reeking of patchouli.

Park rangers found Grant sleeping at the famous Confederate sharpshooter’s barricade after pretending to fire his guitar towards Little Round Top, where Union general Stephen H. Weed was shot during the second day of the battle. As Grant was arrested, he saluted the park rangers and said he would report to General George Meade, the commanding General of Union forces at Gettysburg, "im-Meade-iately." He giggled raucously as he was handcuffed and taken to Adams County Prison.

The National Park Service has dealt with delusions caused by the illegal drug before. In the 1980s, park ranger Godfrey Spooks found hash-smoking historians growing the plant near the Eternal Peace Light. The historians argued that Franklin D. Roosevelt had smoked a marijuana cigarette lit from the monument's flame when he dedicated it in 1938, a year after the plant was made illegal. 

Spooks agreed to let the historians off with a warning, admitting, "he dedicated a monument to eternal peace while Hitler rose to power--he had to be high!"

While burning the evidence, one of the historians, a Grateful Dead fan named Peter Gastley, breathed in too much campfire smoke and had a vivid hallucination of Abraham Lincoln urging him to "start telling ghost stories around town to trick tourists out of their money."

Grant also cited the beloved martyr President in his defense. He said he was fulfilling Lincoln's hope in the Gettysburg Address "that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under Ghost, shall have a new growth of weed soon." When asked for further comment, Grant sang, "this land is my land, now get off my lawn!"

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Germantown: LaRose Jazz Club Sunday Sessions Continue Despite Superbowl

Steve Moliene, a busboy at LaRose's Catering and Ballroom, an aspiring sportscaster studying at Community College of Philadelphia and an avid Patriots fan since 1998, just wanted to watch the Super Bowl like the other 111.3 million people who tuned into Sunday's game.

However, as Kelly Clarkson began to sing "The Star Spangled Banner," drummer Robert "Rappin' Rob" Henderson had to ask the busboy to turn down the television he was watched enthusiastically the entire evening near the bar. Nothing was going to stop the bandleader of the club's weekly Sunday Sessions. He was thinking downbeats, not touchdowns.

Turning back to the band in the ballroom, Henderson exclaimed, "They ain't gonna cancel the Super Bowl because of us!"

Henderson has been hosting the weekly jam session at the venue, better known as LaRose Jazz Club, for nearly three years. Henderson has been playing drums in Philadelphia since 1970. After Ortlieb's Jazzhaus shut down in April 2010, he was inspired to find a new location to feed his appetite for improvised jazz.

"Historically, Germantown has been a breeding ground of great musicians," Henderson said.  "We're simply carrying on a tradition of Philadelphia jazz that's been happening for decades and decades." The shows typically feature two experienced musicians to get things started. This week, Henderson recruited bassist Jonathan Michel and pianist Jeff Knoetter.

Dr. Chenet LaRose was Henderson's dentist when he found out that "he had a place that had music." Henderson gained an interest in the club  by going to the Monday night jam sessions hosted by Tony Williams, which have been happening for the last six years at the venue. Henderson had found a the "place where the young cats could come out and play and network and have fun" like they used to do at Ortlieb's.

Henderson pays out of pocket for the band and the use of the venue with the money he earns as an owner of an automobile inspection station and a drummer. He considers both to be his full-time jobs.
Other "early birds" at the venue assist Henderson in the endeavor of running a quality show each week. With the help of jazz promoter, Kim Tucker, and photographer Lester "Les" Hinton, Henderson has developed a forum for learning and networking that JazzTimes writer Suzanne Cloud described as  "an incubator for jazz babies who hunger to learn about playing music for a living."

Tucker, a former professor of music business at Temple University, arrived early with homemade brownies to set at the table where she collects the $5 cover for the band. She has been keeping a log that lists performers, songs, instruments and any other important details about the show. Though she documents the event for her own enjoyment, she shares the information on Facebook as soon as she gets home from the evening performance.  Along with Hinton, who currently works at Temple, their contributions have made each show memorable as a distinctive experience. The team's extensive documentation has kept the event fresh, even when filled familiar faces, ensuring that no set is ever the same. Tucker recalled, "I was calling out songs last week and eventually, Rob yelled, 'no more!'"

Frequent audience members have taken notice to each show's uniqueness. Lola Crooks, a resident of West Oak Lane, said, "I've been attending these shows usually two times a month. I started coming about a year ago. I'm a big jazz fan and what I like the most about the event is the versatility that is brought to the show. It's always different and that keeps it exciting."

Proactive promotion brings a wide variety of performers to the shows. Legendary musicians like Leon Mitchell, who once led the house band at North Philadelphia's Uptown Theater, tenor saxophonist Sir Charles Cunningham and drummer Edward "Eddie" Jones represented previous generations of the city's jazz performers in the audience and in the performance.

Mitchell's wife for 33 years, Ella Gahnt, was one of the first audience members to join the initial trio, singing the popular standard, "It Could Happen To You." The event functioned as a direct way for her to network and to promote future gigs in the city. Gahnt noted that she was booked heavily this month as a result of many "Afro-American history events throughout the city."

Many more audiences members spontaneously joined the show as it progressed, showing off their vocal and instrumental chops in an atmosphere free of the pressures of some of the city's more structured and competitive jazz venues. The welcoming, relaxed spirit of the event has created an environment comfortable enough for anyone to participate. Henderson, as band leader has certainly become a crowd favorite, but he noted that the true success of the event stems from an interactive between participants and an audience he reminds that without them there would be no show.

"We're bringing people from the community together," Henderson said. "It's different than downtown and we allow for a lot easier access as a place to play."

Not only do participants feel welcome to experiment and improve their chops, they feel at home enough to express themselves with a group of people they consider to be like family. Monti Keino dedicated a version of "Autumn Leaves" to her mother, who is currently in the hospital. She explained how her feelings about the event extend to anyone who walks through the door at LaRose, saying, "I don't just share with my people, I share with everybody."

Seventeen-year-old Dustin Hill, who lives in Cheltenham and attends Abington Friends School, said he had only been playing tenor saxophone for a year. Nevertheless, he was able to keep up with the changes in songs he had never played before as bassist Jonathan Michel told him and guitarist Noah Gershwin the root notes to his bass line.

"These guys have like 300 songs memorized," Hill said. "I'm usually learning new songs on the spot but they give you a lot of help along the way."

Henderson has been happy to use the event to continue the jazz tradition of on the spot learning. College and high school performers, like bassist Bruce Ketterer, pianist Karl Reiders, drummers Anthony Chieffo and Ben Singer, received rides from parents, audience members, and public transit from all around the city in pursuit of learning a little more about performing for a live audience.

"I've been fortunate enough as a jazz musician to travel the world with my music. This is my small way of giving back," he continued. "Venues have started to decline. Our success is our consistency. We offer a chance for younger players to learn with seasoned performers. That's what the greats like Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington where known best for doing, sharing their knowledge with others."

At the end of the show, Henderson thanked the audience for understanding that "it takes a special kind of person to play jazz music and when they do it, it's great."

Sunday Sessions are held at LaRose Jazz Club at 5531 Germantown Ave. from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m every Sunday.

Correction: At the time of publishing, this essay mistakenly said that Leon Mitchell and Ella Gahnt had been married for over 50 years, they have actually been married for 33 years.