Critique of Pure Reason

There was a time when all jazz musicians did was party and chase women and blow amazing saxophone (or whatever.) Now they are smart and do this:

So I got to ask this..
Let’s say you are sitting under an oak tree, and there is a guy next to you, let’s say he’s reading a book…Suddenly, the tree sheds a branch, hitting him, but you are (miraculously?) unscathed..
Do you proclaim “God is great” “I am blessed” or variations on this theme (which I see a lot of here on good ol FB…)
And, equally importantly–what about the dude who is injured by the branch?
Did God decide he was a bad man?
You were better?
More blessed?
More worthy of not being pounded by a falling tree branch?
I am genuinely interested in hearing rational non reactive responses from at least relatively sane individuals.

Holy shit. That was Rufus Philpot, the real thing. A bassists’ bassist. People don’t talk through his bass solos. So his philosophical quandary was not something easily blown off. Not bad poetry from a singer songwriter poet with hair like the Flying Burrito Brothers. Not some kid writing in a journal in a dark corner at the Blue Whale, discussing tonality. Not a philosophy major like the editor who so got on my nerves instantly at the LA Weekly that I walked, Johnny Paycheck style. No, this is Rufus Philpot, a heavy. Not to mention with the rare ability among jazz musicians of writing well (he should be blogging those jazz album reviews of his, they’re beautiful.) But last night I gave several smart ass responses to this and forgot about it. But you can’t just forget about it on Facebook. The next day they stare at you again. Your comments, I mean. Sitting there. Glaring. No wonder everyone is so mewly nice on Facebook. No wonder that everyone writes as if their grandmother is reading everything they post. No wonder it’s so Mr. Rogersesque. Because you can’t escape. You write the wrong thing–OK, the way wrong thing, like bragging about Hitler or something–and all virtual humanity will loathe you, make you miserable, cost you your job, and weird if beautiful women with a thing about losers will want you. Of course if you write something no one noticed nothing of the sort will happen. But it’s my blog, so I will exaggerate–well,lie–and say everyone noticed and you will probably keep reading anyway, waiting for the punchline.

But back to Mr. Philpot’s quandary:

I’d say it was just a tree branch that was ready to fall off–eucalyptus, probably, they do that, I saw one smash a Volkswagen once–and Mr. Philpot was in the right place and the guy reading Critique of Pure Reason was also in the just right place, but at the wrong time. So what’s to do but dial 911 and see if he’s breathing.

I say that now. But last night I came home from three hours of Bruce Forman and gave acerbic, misanthropic responses for which I am truly ashamed. I said that God hated that arrogant book reading motherfucker…He does that, for no reason. And then later I said that it was the guy’s fault for pissing off God in the first place. I told another lady that if she stood on her head and coughed it would get her high. There were more, too, on Facebook, on Twitter, in email. In my blog. I was making vicious fun of everything. I felt possessed by Ambrose Bierce. Had I lived near the beach I would have slipped an insulting note into a bottle and tossed it into the sea. My wife finally bopped me on the head and told me to cool it. This is what happens when you hang around jazz musicians. My mama done told me.

Of course, this mea culpa itself might be yet a further extension of cynical misanthropism. A nightmarish gyre of irony. I’m a writer, and embittered old jazz critic and we get like that. It’s all those solos. They screw up the head. I was a nice guy when I did my thesis on Peter, Paul and Mary. Oh well. But that anyone who does read Critique of Pure Reason is asking for it, you Kant deny.

I’ve never read Critique of Pure Reason. For one thing I was not smart enough. One paragraph in and I knew that. For another thing, I had a life. You can spend years on a tome like that, and by the time you finish you’d have none of your old friends left, though some very irritating new ones. And I was gonna say you can’t get laid reading Critique of Pure Reason but actually that is not true. I discussed this in a previous essay. Had I known the truth, I would have changed majors. But what, then, is Truth? The truth is I dropped out of college, joined a punk rock band and got laid instantly. I was the drummer, and came out on stage that first gig and warmed up using logs for sticks. That’s all it took. That’s the Truth. Epistemology didn’t even come into it. And while I know the jazz musicians among you won’t understand the logs thing, this was the late seventies. Two words: “Disco Monk”. And that was Sonny Rollins. Logs for drumsticks, Disco Monk, thrift stores full of abandoned pet rocks. It was an ugly time.

OK. Daylight Savings Time is over and I’m thoroughly confused. To make it worse I saved up the last twenty years of Daylights Savings Time and used it all at once so now it’s sometime next Tuesday. You don’t fuck with the calendar. I wish someone had told me.


Until I up and quit, I had the misfortune of being a jazz critic for years. Which meant I had to meet a lot of other critics of all kinds. Turns out critics are pretty boring people, for the most part. I mean dullsville. They can’t tell jokes. They don’t get jokes. They sit around all serious because, I dunno, critics are supposed to sit around all serious. Now there were some flagrant exceptions, but not many. And of all the different kinds of critics I met, I thought that movie critics had the stuffedest shirts. In a world of pompous asses, their asses had pomp to a unique degree. I mean I think all critics are secretly wanting to be Addison DeWitt in All About Eve,  it’s just that critics of the cinema have that George Sanders shtick down, man. The motherfuckers can groove on it, baby. Easier than I ever could. Plus they get to use all kinds of big words and if they’re Peter Travers and love every movie ever made they get to see their name in big gnarly letters on all the ads and even in commercials which is almost like being in a movie and their mothers must have been so proud. I know mine would have been.

But man, the cats just ain’t funny. Critics think some boring little movie is witty, while some funny shit goes right over their heads. But then such is the price of smartassery…the squares just don’t get it. And while those squares ain’t the only voters in the Oscar academy or whatever it is, these critics have a big impact because people know how much influence they have (unlike a jazz critic….)  and give them respect which kinda pervades everything. The whole academy culture. Like the grotesqueries of Inside The Actors Studio, that James whatshisname grovelling before the mighty like a Byzantine eunuch and fuck, this has nothing to do with my point at all and now I just trashed that guy for nothing and is that show still even on? I remember Paul Newman playing a mean blues on a nearby piano and Dennis Hopper saying dude that was not a fake joint and Jack Lemmon saying his favorite swear word ever was ratbeep motherbeeper which made me feel good as that was my favorite swearword ever and  it made me wonder what the eunuch’s deal was getting stars to talk dirty which reminds me of the gorgeous icy blonde I worked the daytime gig with who would beg me to use eff words and the like at work and she would giggle excitedly as the air tuned blue. But to undigress, I suspect film critics’ deadly seriousness kinda bleeds all over the whole industry and soon if it’s funny, well, it can’t be that good. At least not good enough.

But as the Good Lord sez, fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke. Or as my wife sez, normal people, don’t ya just hate ‘em?, kinda quoting Harry Dean Stanton in Repo Man, one of the great funnier than living fuck movies back then. I would say and no Christians either!, and we’d giggle, stoned, and wander about the hills of Silver Lake getting lost, driving past homes the long dead famous once partied in and stopping to neck in the darkness and coming up for air to gaze upon the vastness of LA, sparkling like a zillion diamonds all the way to the sea. It was a beautiful ugly city then, the dead piled up in the streets, neighborhoods rotted away, everyone hated everyone. It was wonderful.  We partied like mad, went to clubs, formed bands and made ungodly noise. Mistakes were made—I took on a dozen cops once, they beat the shit out of me. I wouldn’t take on a dozen cops now. I’m old and respectable and a critic. Well, was a critic. Critics know better. Though certainly no better than you or you or you or even you, who played on the fucking record or made the fucking movie or wrote the fucking book or cooked the fucking food or fucked the fucking fuck (the porno critics, ya know). Life is lived by others, we just don’t get the jokes.