Friday, July 31, 2015

Ten Questions for Lee Drutman:
Author of The Business of America is Lobbying

by Norman Ball

(This interview appeared previously in Dissident Voice and 
Counterpunch in slightly abridged forms).

 When it comes to lobbying, it’s high time we

dropped the pejorative and embraced the agnostic.

New America Senior Fellow Lee Drutman’s new book The Business of America Is Lobbying deprives the reader of ready characterizations. It also robs us of the illicit fun of knee-jerk demonization.

Instead of shifty-eyed politicians huddled in the shadows with Gucci Gulch lobbyists, we’re presented with a faceless and highly competitive industry employing, “…several thousand individuals across almost 2,000 different lobbying firms, all of whose livelihoods depend on them retaining existing clients and/or acquiring new ones.” How drab. How familiar. Sounds like pharmaceuticals. Or telecommunication. Sounds like business. 

For those seeking a screenplay sequel to Casino Jack, please venture elsewhere. This book is for grown-ups intent on grown-up solutions. Sound, practical reforms require the early spadework of empirical analysis. Drutman is careful not to offer prescriptive remedies. The real job of this book is to point out areas of inquiry on the road to possible future shifts in public policy. 

Drutman was kind enough to fire back at ten of our most impertinent questions. This exchange barely scratches the surface of what former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich recently called, “a vitally important book everyone who cares about America must read”—a glowing recommendation this interviewer shares. 

Question 1: Thanks Lee for spending some time with us. First of all, this is not a test. It will not go on your permanent record and we grade on an ideological curve. Still, if you wish to submit your answers in No2 pencil, that’s fine. 

Early on in the book, you suggest how a reluctant business sector felt compelled to answer the progressive activism of the 60s with its own lobbying counter-offensive. Over the ensuing decades, this counteroffensive has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings, the TPP being but a recent and egregious example of corporate activism run amuck. Does the Left bear some culpability for ‘corporatizing’ the civic space?

Answer: I once posed a gentler version of this question to Ralph Nader, who was, of course, the key leader on much of the progressive activism in the 1960s. He told me that he never anticipated the magnitude of the lobbying counter-offensive. And how could he? Nothing like that had ever taken place in American history. What began in the business community in the 1970s was something new, a level of organization and resources never before seen. I don’t think it’s fair to blame the 1960s left for not anticipating the magnitude of the counter-response. 

Question 2: You cite a wonderful E.E. Schattschneider quote: “The flaw in the pluralist heaven chorus sings with a strong upper-class accent.” Today, this accent can be detected in what you call the Countervailing Power Ratio, the ratio of lobbying dollars spent by business versus those spent, “by diffuse interest groups and labor unions combined”. This ratio expanded from 22:1 in 1998 to 34:1 in 2012. And yet, the Supreme Court assures us money is a form of speech, at least in the world of campaign finance. Do you see ways to constitutionally rein in this ratio? 

Answer: I think trying to “rein in” activity is a tricky proposition. One, it’s generally on shaky constitutional ground, especially given the current majority on the Supreme Court. And two, because it involves drawing legal lines, actors determined to participate will find ways around those lines. 

Personally, I’m more interested in leveling up strategies. I worry that the more we try to circumscribe lobbying by putting strict limits on it, the more we wind up limiting lobbying to the moneyed interests who can hire the lawyers to find the loopholes and who can afford the compliance costs, while discouraging more diffuse interests who worry about breaking laws and therefore just don’t participate. 

I already see many progressives being cautious in their Washington advocacy precisely to avoid having to call themselves “lobbyists.” I’d rather see the same energy devoted to amplifying the voices of diffuse interests, not more barriers to discourage them from participating because the laws are complex and the penalties tough. I often say that the solution to our lobbying problem is MORE rather than less lobbying. 

Question 3: To be sure, the marked ‘deterioration’ of the ratio sounds like cause for populist alarm. Yet the adage ‘money buys elections’ is not empirically self-evident. I realize we’re mixing metaphors here a bit, moving from lobbying to campaign finance, but Sheldon Adelson’s track record is spotty at best despite his massive cash outlays. Are you suggesting there’s some empirical basis or linear function within the lobbying business wherein one dollar of lobbying actually purchases one dollar of favorable outcome? 

Answer: As you say, we’re moving into campaign contributions here, and it’s important to make a distinction between campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures. Obviously, they are related, but companies spend on average 13 times more on lobbying than they do on PAC contributions. Wealthy individuals dominate campaign contributions. Now, some wealthy individuals are linked to corporations, but as you note, all Sheldon Adelson’s money didn’t help him get the online casino ban he sought, and it probably hurt him. 

There is no one-to-one relationship between campaign contributions and favorable outcomes. There is no one-to-one relationship between campaign expenditures and electoral outcomes. But, money is not irrelevant. On the money-buys-outcomes story, campaign contributions help access, and access is necessary for influence. But it’s possible to have access without making contributions, and plenty of actors have access but no influence. 

Or perhaps more simply: by making a contribution, you are buying a ticket to the main event. But there are far more tickets for sale than there are prizes. 

Question 4: At another point, you suggest the steady increase in lobbying expenditures may be more a function of the lobbying industry’s success convincing clients that they, the lobbing firms, are the procuring cause for legislative victories. These claimed victories go on to justify larger budgets the following year. I’m back wondering whether we‘re sometimes too quick to equate power with money. Corporate lobbying could simply be a huge mal-investment. Do we fret in vain?

Answer: This is where a lot of people get tripped up. They assume that either lobbying pays off or it doesn’t. But these aren’t the only two possibilities because “lobbying” is not one thing. There are thousands of organizations lobbying for thousands of different issues. Some lobbying will work, some of it will not work. Certainly, there are things you can do to improve your chances of getting what you want, but there is no guaranteed formula for success. There is a political process that involves more than just adding up who spends more money on lobbying or who gives more in campaign contributions.

It’s like the old saw about advertising: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.” In lobbying, it may be even more. But corporate managers never know in advance what will pay off and what won’t. And while they don’t know the optimal level of lobbying at the high end, there are enough examples of companies being caught off-guard by politics and enough examples of companies getting favorable outcomes that they know the optimal level of lobbying is not zero.

But, here’s the key point: because lobbyists have a strong self-interest in continuing to get paid for their work and they want to expand their business, they have a strong case to convince companies that lobbying matters, and the more you do, the more likely it is to pay off. This may involve an exaggeration, but, on average, it’s not a lie. And since lobbying is competitive, the costs are constantly increasing. 

Question 5: Ah for the good old days of making real stuff when competition actually drove costs down. You make a fascinating case for the drive towards what you call particularism, the waning of aggregated trade association influence for the legislative objectives of a specific company. At one point you suggest, “if every lobbyist wants to have something he can point to as his, this leads to more complex policy.” In the next paragraph you suggest, “as companies increase their political capacity, they tend to become more ambitious.” These conclusions seem inconsistent, if not contradictory. What’s really driving particularism, client ambition or the lobbying industry’s self-interested penchant for complexity? Or both?

Answer: The two feed on each other. Particularism produces more complexity, because it’s more complicated to write a tax code where every industry has its own benefit. But once you have a tax code with a bunch of specialized benefits, companies want their own benefits and lobbyists can plausibly sell companies on this possibility. As the tax code becomes more complex, tax lobbying experts get better at navigating it, and the whole process feeds on itself. Client ambition comes from what is plausible. But today’s plausibility is the result of yesterday’s ambition. Which results from the previous day’s plausibility, and so on. 

Question 6: What kind of reception has your idea received for bringing more expertise into Congress itself, thus lessening the reliance on outside lobbying conduits? This would include raising Congressional salaries, drawing more brain power from the private to the public sector, etc. I’d imagine this doesn’t please Tea Party and small government types. 

For example, Right-wing Libertarian Charles Murray monitors the Code of Federal Regulations which expanded in the 1960-2012 period from 23,000 to 175,000 pages. He tends to portray the private sector as being the victim of this regulatory onslaught. But might they—or at least their discretionary, self-financed lobbying campaigns—be the instigators instead? 

Answer: The idea of bringing more expertise into government has received widespread support so far. It’s one of those things that’s obvious when you think about it. Anybody who has worked in government gets this immediately. Even lobbyists are frustrated with the lack of expertise in government. They don’t like relying on 24-year-olds with virtually no experience. I’ve even had some support for this idea for libertarian and small-government types, who recognize that if you want to simplify government, it requires expertise. They are not fans of letting self-interested corporate lobbyists run the show either!

Question 7: Complexity and careerism seem to go hand-in-hand. In a sense, complexity is the ‘corporate goodwill’ a congressional staffer accrues and carries over to his second career as a private lobbyist. Thus it behooves the ambitious staffer to shun clarity and simplicity. In essence the nation’s laws are unreadable because, well, popular comprehension is not an overriding objective. Is effective legislation big enough to serve both the Peoples’ Will and the career aspirations of those who draft it? Or is that too cynical?

Answer: I disagree with the claim made here, that congressional staffers deliberately make legislation more complex in order to increase their value as lobbyists later in their career. For one, public policy is already complex enough, and expertise is already hard enough to gain (and therefore valuable). For another, I don’t think congressional staffers are that calculating, and the vast majority don’t become lobbyists anyway. For a third, experienced congressional staffers will get lobbying jobs primarily based on their networks and knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of the political process, more than their policy expertise. Finally, the complexity is the result of a political process where large numbers of interests all try to have their say, and many do. Complexity is the path of least resistance. Simplicity is much harder.

Question 7: Points taken on my overbaked cynicism. But is there not the faintest whiff of resignation in the all too ready abandonment of simplicity? We have—by broad, bewildering consensus—consigned ourselves to a complexity that practically all actors acknowledge is ill-conceived. Sounds like the democratic sausage machine is churning away in a manner counter to all interests. I’d add that complexity theorists equate complexity with increased vulnerability. 

Doesn’t your own argument first acknowledge, then quietly acquiesce, to this manufactured complexity? You say the, “increasing complexity and specialization of policy makes this public-private gap in expertise all the more consequential…” However the gap, though consequential, is contrived. Why not first undertake an effort to stamp out gratuitous complexity before simply enlarging Congress to accept ‘complexity-padded’ legislation? 

Answer: I’m all for making public policy simpler. I believe you’d have a strong left-right coalition around simplifying the U.S. Code. But it’s a very hard problem, because it means that some of the existing winners will become losers. And they will fight against those changes with all they’ve got. It requires incredible resources to simplify public policy. This, by the way, is a conservative case for more expertise in government. Simplification is hard work, and requires considerable expertise.

Question 8: You do an effective job of taking the pejorative out of lobbying and making it a profession among other professions. What’s the reception been in the lobbying industry to the book? 

Answer: The lobbyists I’ve talked to seem to like this book, probably for precisely the reason you’ve mentioned. I honestly believe that lobbyists serve an important function in our democratic system by extending the potential knowledge base of government, and I don’t think we get anywhere productive by demonizing them. I think there are a number of smart and thoughtful lobbyists who have genuine concerns about the state of American democracy and are important potential allies in improving our democracy. Obviously, government has gone too far in outsourcing expertise to corporate lobbyists. But the optimal level of corporate lobbying is not zero. 

Question 9: This question may hark back more to your Sunlight Foundation tenure and issues of transparency which your book doesn’t really address. But, what additional steps do you foresee in the areas of disclosure, ethics and enforcement? Are you happy with HLOGA in its present form? 

Answer: HLOGA is fine, but I’ve become more and more convinced that the problem is not the regulation of lobbying. The problems are 1) we have a Congress that lacks the institutional capacity and expertise to effectively make policy and therefore relies considerably on the expertise and legal skills provided by the lobbying community; and 2) that lobbying community increasingly represents large corporations far and above any other potentially countervailing forces. This is not a problem of ethics or disclosure or enforcement. It is a problem of resources and imbalances among those resources. It’s tempting to think if only we get the right enforcement, or the right disclosure, things will work better, because those are in many respects easier tweaks. But we’ve got to do deeper. And again, large companies can bear the compliance costs of more rules and stricter enforcements. Smaller diffuse interest lobbies may decide they cannot, especially if the risks are increased.

Question 10: Echoing political scientist Sheldon Wolin, Chris Hedges has been mentioning inverted totalitarianism a lot lately. If in fact, at some structural level, corporate interests have captured the mechanics of government from within, do we belabor a constitutional anachronism (petitioned grievances, etc.) that has long since fallen victim to a behind-the-scenes coup? Beyond public-private spending disparities, is there really an actionable forum for public grievances anymore?

Answer: I refuse to lose faith. There are still an impressive number of very progressive members of Congress. And it is still possible to make genuine public-spirited laws and implement and enforce them. I don’t believe that the current levels of inequality are sustainable for a democracy, and we are entering a new era of economic populism in response. To assume that there is no actionable forum for change is to give up, which guarantees that there will be no change.

Question 11: Hmm, you breach the empirical to express faith in change. Some would suggest we already inhabit an immutable and expropriating Panopticon. Thus it becomes an exercise in irrationally exuberant faith, a form of madness, to persist in the mantra of change since material change is no longer possible. But I’m rhetorically musing. Your faith that democracy is reviving after a prolonged, cyclical nadir is duly noted and will be a solace to many. 

Okay, we’re cheating with an eleventh question. Since we don’t want you to feel as though you’ve just been dragged through a deposition, we’d like to end on a note of popcorn and sticky shoes: Suppose your book defies all expectations and becomes a Casino Jack-esque movie sequel. Who would you like to have play you in the film?

Answer: How about Andrew Garfield? Though, I’m not counting on a movie anytime soon. I’ll have to write a novel about Washington lobbying for that.

N: We’ll have Andrew’s guy call your guy just in case. True to your academic bona fides Lee, you’ve succeeded in removing the demagogic punch bowl from our midst. I hope you’re pleased with yourself. We thank you both for our new sobriety on the issue of lobbying and your generous allotment of time.

L: Thanks, Norm. I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Darkened Rooms of Summer (a review)

Troubled Water: Quietism in the Age of Performance

(previously appeared in Trinacria, Fall 2014 in abridged form)

"The mind is a stone to be rolled away 
from the entrance of the soul."

In Jared Carter’s latest collection of poetry The Darkened Rooms of Summer, the poem ‘Picking Stone’ is prefaced with the following passage from Emerson’s ‘Self-Reliance’:

“Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost…we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”

Carter’s poetry conducts the latent convictions of the earth with unwavering fealty. Latent conviction suggests oblique paradox as does a room darkened by summer (also, the “dark shining” in ‘Scryer’ and the “harsh glare billowing darkness” in ‘The Shriving’). The grand, ineluctable cycles that move across the earth, and in equal measure through Carter’s poetry, extinguish their ends in their beginnings. Everywhere, light appears out of the darkness, or does one interpenetrate the other? Both. Stones are regurgitated to the surface like bundled mysteries. Were they there last planting season? Yes and no. Each encroaches upon, or drains from, the other as though through a great quantum sieve. One well imagines how fevered entrances and sweeping bows—all that performative mumbo-jumbo—would overwhelm what arrives to Carter’s still eye as a, “…broken heave of light and dark” (from ‘Phoenix’). Animated readings seize the eyeballs in the room yet banish the clearing. Through it all, the world forever adulterates and falls, mostly onto the shoulders of those who labor, in brief intervals, atop its primordial cycle. 

Carter is a contemplative poet, yes. But in the spirit of Wordworth’s wise passiveness (there are powers/Which of themselves our minds impress/That we can feed this mind of ours,/In wise passiveness - Expostulation and Reply ll.21-24). This contemplative state is metaphorically expressed in ‘Mississinewa Reservoir at Winter Pool’. Here, the townspeople, ‘as though/having risen from a deep sleep/and come at last to a place/no longer having anything in it/except themselves.’

Quietism has fallen on loud, hard times. No one wants to take a silent bullet and invoke the clearing. Every day across America, poetry jumpstarts a bright new career in readings. Ill-suited ovations are the rage. Bowling night hardly stands a chance. In ‘The Oddfellows’ Waiting Room at Glencove Cemetery’, Carter begs to differ. A resolute listener, he continues to hold the thin, quiet line: ‘There must always be a place like this/where the dimensions collapse inwardly/ like a telescope you slip into your pocket.’ This is a beautiful image echoing again the Emerson quote; a telescope, tasked with mapping the outer reaches of the universe, collapsing into and inward, to a place where the poet stands waiting. 

A heretical notion from the earliest times, quietism was formalized as such by Pope Innocent XI in 1687. Thomas Merton referred to it as an inert ‘spiritual vacuum’. The Protestant work ethic was equally hostile to a movement that rejected faith’s role as a catalyst for striving, wrestling and capital formation. The fundamental objection was that a faith that lacked vigor and purpose in the world risked falling into listlessness and solipsism. Soon enough, God’s voice would be shouted down by the clatter of railroads and later the ubiquitous presence of handheld devices. 

There’s even less escaping the world today. Poems arrive hyperlinked to position papers. Recently, poetry critic and identity politician Ron Silliman accused quietism (or as poetasters like to call it, The School of Quietude) of a sly tactical reticence aimed at “denial of self-identification” and a refusal to be named. State your business or lay down your pen. Resisting industrial barcodes is, for the poetry confab, a first-order sin of omission. Poets are expected today to ‘splain themselves on the way to a good internecine squabble. Wearing their schools on their sleeves, they hoist grievances with a gusto that would make Robert Frost’s politicians blanch.

Well offstage, heads down and dimly lit, Carter’s people are forever lifting bricks and stones, digging up roots, exhuming the dead, but not with the isolating despair of Sisyphus. Here is a passage from ‘Ginseng’:

But all of them together— hunters, 
thieves, those who keep the old ways— 
pass it from hand to hand along 
a chain of those who know exactly 
where it is going, what it is worth—

The continental malaise of self-absorption has never reached Mississinewa County. Carter’s people accept their sublimated roles as momentary caretakers of the land—from prior hands, into future hands. To paraphrase Frost, life is notable mostly for going on, albeit with a flitting cast of characters, which is another way of saying time has a way of standing still:

Nothing done well ever ends, 
she said, touching my hand, not even land 
built up one act at a time, so that all 
that went before, and after, still waits 
there. –from ‘Poem Written on a Line from the Walam Olum’

We lift stones at our appointed times, then drop them for the earth to reclaim, swallow up, to be expunged anew, rediscovered and lifted once again (‘the inmost in due time becomes the outmost’). This human bucket brigade treads a cosmic circle that may well harbor a far-off, though ultimately inhuman, coherence. Coleridge’s tail-eating serpent meets Eliot’s still-point in ‘Mourning Dove’ where, “all of their singing is circular, and comes back to the same stillness.” In ‘The Undertaker’, we find a similar acquiescence to a cycle larger than one generation’s labors: 

Each man slowly recognized, like a combination of lost numbers, 
that men younger than themselves had labored here, 
grown old, and were gone, who had lifted this same earth, 
who had put in what they now took out

As for this moment, for you and for me, the mind is a stone to be rolled away from the entrance of the soul. Only then can man and earth enjoy unmediated communion. The ubiquitous arrowheads, stones with a fashioned vengeance, are scattered about the landscape like long-discarded arguments “dropped from an empty sky”. At times even the dead must be lifted in order to deliver their stillness to higher ground. The new reservoir promises to round all edges. Who will save the dead? Few congregants are up to the task, as the undertaker soon learns: 

Fell overcome with heat, one did, the first day; 
another struck by the sun; two more threw down their tools 
and walked away. The few who stayed till the job was done 
rode together in the back of Sefe’s pickup each quitting time 
to a tavern on the highway”—from ‘The Undertaker’

What happens when self-negating labor is abandoned for the seductive rush of slogans, movements, grand causes and petty, indulgent feuds, in short the usual “bed of fabrications” (from ‘Shaking the Peonies’)? In ‘Phoenix’, we find two soldiers in borrowed Napoleonic uniforms, trapped in a generational family feud not of their making, in a Shawnee war not of their bidding. Adding to the worldly layers of confusion and “alienated majesty”, they find themselves comrades in the same war. Seeking to resolve these bewildering allegiances, they end up fighting one another to the death. In perhaps the most comprehensively emblematic image in the collection (we have the water, the rocks, the rising darkness and the failing light), the two men venture down to the hollow with the General’s consent where a “dark presence/rose up— a basin of troubled water, seething/and boiling, surging over heaps of stones/catching the last light through the trees”.

In ‘Picking Stone’, these men seem to appear again, this time as boys, “still in baseball uniforms from a game at the Legion” Later they, “pry with an iron bar against a great gray rock. They will not quit, they begin to roar as they bear down on it.”

Those closest to the earth do not bear uniforms well; or else the organizing principle becomes, “…so smudged you can’t tell what army” they’re in (from ‘Covered Bridge’). Uniforms are regimenting colors that march us away from ourselves. The uniform du jour in poetry these days is the performance poet. In his struggle to be heard, this thoroughly modern bard finds his public voice only to lose his vocation. After all, his job is not to linger, but to vacate the clearing his contemplation ushers through. The limelight eludes the proper poet by design. 

Carter’s quietude is a conscious and sustained act, hardly a feeble acquiescence. He resists polluting the stillness with gratuitous detail, resigning himself with poetic fatalism to Keats’ negative capabilities, that ‘part of your mind that cannot hurry, that has never learned to decide’ (from ‘Mississinewa County Road’). Forbearance is the bright shadow that guides his pen. 

The poet advertises himself only on the rarest occasions. In ‘At the Sign-Painters’, he extolls the Depression-era sign painters who stoically accept being observed at their labors. We sense the poet’s calling slowly forming in a boy’s mind. The words are prefigured, waiting to be filled out with whispers. But no speeches please. The universe entrusts its signs to the artisan who stands, in ready quietude, brush in-hand:

for the slow sweep and whisper 
of the brush— liked seeing the ghost letters in pencil 
gradually filling out, fresh and wet and gleaming, words 
forming out of all that darkness, that huge disorder.

Contemplatives are particularly maddening because they eschew textual impartations from ‘higher authorities’, be they clergymen or self-appointed poetry critics. At least meditation involves meditating upon something: a prayer, a papal bull, the new Tom Cruise movie, a political manifesto. The arrangers of the world seek indoctrinated readers, not divine listeners. In the absence of doctrinaires, the sway of earthly power is loosened. French Quietist Jeanne Marie Guyon called it ‘loosening the stays’. Or as Carter says in ‘The Shriving’, ‘‘Things got in the way of what he saw and heard.”

I can detect no earthly authority to which Jared Carter’s poetry answers, except perhaps the earth itself. No sooner did I fancy him brushing against Shaker sensibilities in Indiana, his lifelong home and the locale for most of these poems, than I fell across ‘The Believers’ inscribed to “Shakertown at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky” with appearances no less, from Mother Ann Lee, the “endless chain” and the “narrow path”.

There is, in his poetry, Mother Ann Lee’s ‘retirement’ from opinion and argument into the unitive state of divine contemplation. When the nervous chatter stops, the clearing is allowed and the universe bursts forth. While nature can be chronicled for the labors it performs beneath our feet, we are here not to move mountains but to occasionally move our dead to higher ground. The mind feeds nothing. Carter’s poems cannot be willed into existence. Rather, they find him at his workbench, bristling with craft and emptied of polemic. 

This is a sprawling collection, nearly 200 pages, that assembles poems from Carter’s first five books. I confess to approaching this task with great trepidation, knowing I could never do the volume anywhere near full justice. For instance, I have barely touched upon his metrical verse and his astonishingly unlabored villanelles. Instead, I have kept things to where my own fascinations seemed to gravitate, mostly, as it turns out, in the earlier work. That would be stones, arrowheads, borrowed uniforms, adulterated light and the elevated dead. I note his latest work favors compression. I prefer the unhurried eccentricity of his longer lines. In the main, this poetry moves across the earth with understated majesty. The ultimate testament to craft is the poet’s polite absence. I applaud Carter for leaving well enough alone.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Museum of American Poetics: An Appreciation

Re-printed from Home Planet News

I came upon the Museum of American Poetics, an e-village of many mansions celebrating Beat-influenced culture—with poems, stories, memoirs, reviews, videos, films, audio, art collections and more under one website—through the recommendation of another writer. In December of 2011, I interviewed visual poet/fiction writer/jazz bassist Vernon Frazer for Giant Steps Press Blog. In 2004 Frazer had gone to China to read from his essay, “Extending the Age of Spontaneity to a New Era: Post-Beat Poets in America,” which appeared in Selected Poems of Post-Beat Poets (Shanghai: People’s Publishing House, Horizon Media Co., Ltd., 2008), an anthology he edited for Chinese readers with translations by Professor Zhang Ziqing.  It turns out that Boulder poet/scholar Jim Cohn had also been in touch with Ziqing on an appreciation of the beat legacy in China. So Frazer suggested I read Cohn’s essay, “Postbeat Poets.”

Cohn’s wide, majestic sweep of the myriad influences of the Beat Generation east and west, high culture and low, then and now, oral and writ, re-connected me most powerfully to my own tradition. I returned again and again to the points of contact Cohn had mapped out in what he called the New Demotics of postbeat poetics. Quoting Randy Roark’s responses to Ginsberg’s “Eight Pillars of Poetics” and Steve Silberman’s interview on the centrality of meditation in the Naropa poets, Cohn also included a compendium of postbeat literary sources and revealed to me a living lineage of poetic inspiration that went back to Whitman and embraced compassion and insight as the modes of poetic discourse. In short, his essay invited me back home.

Where had I been? Perhaps like many who had studied with Allen Ginsberg or who had gone to Naropa University or who celebrated meditation in their work or who blended music and spoken word, I had experienced an unexpected postbeat backlash in the Eighties and Nineties. Indeed there seemed to be few jobs in the po racket for writers advancing the New American Poetics as Don Allen called the post-’45 avant-garde. I found more work in ghostwriting where none of my business clients asked me about my writerly origins. However, I kept scribing, publishing and performing work. One day in 2003, deep in my own sense of isolation, my girlfriend suggested I stop complaining and start reviewing spoken word CDs whose excellence could help bury the cliché of oral poets dominating the band and blowing over the chord changes. So by the time I checked out MAP in January of 2012, I felt that I had “covered the waterfront” of spoken word-music collabs. However, I was not nearly as thorough as I had thought!

Located alongside Cohn’s essay and his follow-up, “A Postbeat Poets Chronology 1962-2010,” in a back garden of the website called “Postbeat Poets Activist Scholarship Project” was a wider range of music and oral poetic experimentation that I knew little about. For a couple of weeks I spent hours every day reading through these eighty essays. The Beat thing was bigger and stranger and more influential and more substantial and more “wild daughter” than I had imagined---and I hadn’t yet clicked on any other mansions. I discovered next the parent mansion to the postbeat appreciations, “Legacy Transmissions,” forty essays which brought me back in touch with the generation of the New American Poetics. 

Cohn had really done his homework. The lines from Pound and Williams resonated through these many practitioners of open forms and spontaneous expression. For the first time, American verse did not look like an either/or event of hip versus square, or this school over that school. Like so much of the vision that undoubtedly made MAP, I saw our lit and music traditions as united under Papa Walt’s Democratic Vista. Working without any academic hierarchical canonization authority complex, Cohn is linking together an entire world of poets invisible at the institutional po’ sites, highlighting common traditions in a collaborative spirit with poets in communities too various to ever be otherwise related.

I looked more closely at what Cohn calls “Exhibits” and I saw the larger picture in his MO. In the international section, “Old Globe Masterminds,” for example, Cohn has compiled work starting with cave paintings and the discovery of writing and then winding through ancient Greece, Rome, China and India and into Arabia and Scandinavia, and finally France, Italy, Spain up to the 19th century AD. His idea of “curating” poetry is an old tradition going back to Chinese-Japanese painting, and in “Diversity Exhibits” guest curators cover topics like Gertrude Stein, troubadours, African-American poetry, Middle Eastern Americans, sexual poets and the like. His “Audio Exhibit” is a marvel of scholarship and “Hydrogen Jukebox” connections. Then there is Napalm Health Spa archives, an online literary journal he started in 1990. All 26 issues are there for the clicking! To see how he erases the separation between business and pleasure, go to a mansion called “Store.” Audacious as its title, the Museum of American Poetics is a global poetry village for the digital age.

By February of 2012, I got the chance to interview Cohn at Giant Steps Press blog on his MAP website, his own work and his postbeat scholarship in books like Bardos and Sutras (2011). He followed that up with an invitation for postbeat essays which we also ran at the blog. When he discovered I had written reviews on jazz, poetry, spoken word and fiction, he invited me to send them to him. He bundled them by group and they never made more sense than in the context he created for them. I felt most humbled to see my praises of excellent work at such an inclusive website, one whose celebration of our literature transcends the small-minded marketing mentality that has characterized the pub industry.

In that interview Cohn told me that he started MAP after he had a dream on April 5, 1997, the night that Allen Ginsberg died at home. At first, this struck me as scary---as if Ginsberg were speaking to him out of time, much like William Blake had done to AG in Harlem. Now that I have spent so much wonderful time at MAP, I have come to see how sensible both his dream and his website are. 

Learn more about Jim Cohn here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Cosmoetica Interview Series: Essay-writing

This interview, moderated by Dan Schneider, with GS Press' own Norman Ball along with Jeremy Collins, and Andrew Grossman, was recorded on Sunday, May 10, 2015, and is the eighteenth in the Cosmoetica Interview series. 

A true Internet-literary phenomenon, Cosmoetica is fast closing in on 500 million visitors and over 60 billion page reads since its inception in early 2001. 

All copyrights for questions and answers belong to Dan Schneider, Cosmoetica, and the Interviewees.

For further Information, see:
Norman Ball at his Full Spectrum Domino and of course, right here at the Giant Steps Press blog
Jeremy Collins:
Andrew Grossman:

Interview topics:
0:22 - Introduction
0:52 - Essays: History and the Art Form
30:29 - Essayists and Essays
1:05:14 - The Future and Closing Remarks

This Idea Must Die (a review)

(This review appeared previously in Pop Matters)

This Idea Must Die
Harper Perennial, 2015
John Brockman, Editor
by Norman Ball

“Never Fall in Love with Your Theory of Everything”

Traditionally, one proud boast of science has been that it offers a refreshing alternative to the dogmatism so prevalent in other realms of human endeavor. Nothing is sacred in science, its practitioners like to say, since any prevailing theory is shown the door when a usurping theory with greater explanatory power arrives on the scene.

That sounds sporting enough. However, in recent years the spirit of earnest self-correction has all too often suffered the grimy imprimatur of human nature. Study findings have been exaggerated or statistically massaged. Problematic data points go AWOL when they undermine desired outcomes. Would you believe money often plays a leading role? Say it isn’t so! That’s right. White lab coats are not always indicative of antiseptic integrity because, well, absent grant money, all smocks risk getting mothballed in the closet. Big Money doesn’t just finance Big Science. Often, between the lines it buys predetermined outcomes. From there, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to 'bureaucratized O-rings' en route to Mars.

As a recent study showed (to paraphrase the Dentyne ads of yore), four out of five scientists surveyed are all-too human. In other words, we’re all prone to cavities—and influences. Take Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel. Not satisfied with merely disappearing a handful of nettlesome outlier data points, Stapel conjured ex nihilo entire schools from which whole-cloth data were then presented as fact. As Sarah Estes of The Atlantic described it ('The Myth of Self-Correcting Science' 20 December 2012) Stapel’s mea culpa was more Shakespearian than Copernican. Far from his Bunsen burner breaking mid-experiment, he succumbed to the usual garden variety character flaws: “reckless, ruthless ambition and playing the odds against getting caught.”

If New Good Science can’t be trusted to hack away the detritus of Bad Old Science, perhaps we need to exit fully-appointed laboratories altogether for unfunded but informed speculation. That’s where Editor John Brockman’s This Idea Must Die fits the bill nicely.

This Idea Must Die is a fascinating collection of mini-essays from 175 scientific luminaries describing which scientific idea they deem most eligible for falling by the wayside, cushy grants and prevailing vogues be damned. In that sense this book puts speculative self-correction back in the driver’s seat. Think of a Pruner’s Digest that argues for clearing away old brush to make room for the green shoots of tomorrow.

The collection is something between a Faustian romp and a dilettante’s bedside companion. That’s right. You too can sound like Michio Kaku at your next cocktail party—though the Einstein mane is between you and your hairdresser.

In “Artificial Intelligence”, (sardonic/ironic quotes the author’s) longtime AI theorist Roger Schank attacks the efficacy of the term itself, feeling it a misnomer that served a priori to poison the inquiry. Part of the dilemma stems from emulating an altogether human phenomenon—intelligence—that science is far from comprehending within the hairy ape himself. It’s like attempting to paint a reproduction of a Picasso that’s kept in a dark room. Schank suggests changing the name of the endeavor to “getting computers to do really cool stuff” would better illustrate the nature of the inquiry.

One of the key fascinations of this collection is how some essays subtly contradict one another. For example, physicist Frank Wilczek is more sympathetic to AI than Schank, suggesting (in “Mind Versus Matter”) that one of the three developments responsible for collapsing the mind versus matter demarcation stemmed from the realization that, “many accomplishments once viewed as prerogatives of the mind, from playing chess to planning itineraries to suggesting friends and sharing interests, are things that machines…by pure computation, can do quite well.”

Yet another take on the intelligence conundrum is suggested in Alexander Wissner-Gross’ “Intelligence as a Property”, wherein he suggests intelligence itself is misunderstood as a “static property”, when it’s better thought of as a “dynamic process”. Tool use, for example, may not be a first-order static goal of intelligence so much as it is the, “side effect of a deeper, dynamical process that attempts to maximize future freedom of action.” Now that’s heavy. Where’s my hand-truck?

In the scientific humility department, physicists Geoffrey West and Martin Rees weigh in from slightly different vantages in “The Theory of Everything” and “We’ll Never Hit Barriers to Scientific Understanding”, respectively. Both men puncture the hubris of a science that believes it will one day sit astride all things. West suggests the quest for a Grand Unified Theory has telltale echoes of religion’s monotheistic vision and therefore is “intellectually dangerous”. Like calculus’ asymptotic function, something will always be missing such that the goal of encapsulating everything will forever be left splitting an infinite difference.

Rees takes another tack, suggesting that even if science was capable of converging on everything, it is, in the end, constrained by the limitations of the observer: “Nonetheless—and here I’m sticking my neck out—maybe some aspects of reality are intrinsically beyond us, in that their comprehension would require some posthuman intellect.”

Technology Forecaster Paul Saffo inverts the question altogether by discarding the notion of scientific progress as being some imposing, ever-growing noosphere that threatens to subdue everything. He focuses instead on how scientific advance, paradoxically, accentuates how little of the mystery has acceded to our grasp. In short, science, suggests Saffo, highlights with each new discovery the “profundity of our ignorance”. Awe and wonder are still the appropriate responses.

Interestingly, two essays appear under the name ‘Culture’ that is to say, the latter is marked for white smock death. Twice. The first, by Anthropologist/Psychologist Pascal Boyer, starts off oddly enough: “Culture is like trees. Yes, there are trees around. But that doesn’t mean we can have a science of trees.” But don’t we have a science of trees, dendrology or forestry? Though I lack the expertise to identify the grievance or turf war, Boyer seems to be wielding a professional ax against culture as science, suggesting the phenomena therein are more than addressed by sociology, anthropology, evolutionary biology, neurology and others. He may be right.

In the second essay, Anthropologist Laura Betzig is beautifully prosaic in her polite disavowal of culture as a creditable science. But is there the slightest hint of condescension in relegating culture scientists to a chorus line? Let the reader be the judge:

"…it has seemed to me that ‘culture’ is a seven-letter word for God. Good people (some of the best) and intelligent people (some of the smartest) have found meaning in religion: They have faith that something supernatural guides what we do. Other good, intelligent people have found meaning in culture: They believe that something superzoological shapes the course of human events. Their voices are often beautiful, and it’s wonderful to be part of a chorus. But in the end, I don’t get it. For me, the laws that apply to animals apply to us. And in that view of life there is grandeur enough." 

Bringing this review full-circle—back to the sociology of science, two interesting essays draw some rather sanguine conclusions about how science is presently conducted. In “The Way We Produce and Advance Science”, anthropologist Kathryn Clancy reports on her disturbing recent study which found 60 percent of the respondents had been sexually harassed and 20 percent sexually assaulted while on field study sites. Other forms of exploitation are rife in the field promulgated typically by scientists in positions of power over others. Tenure is often held as a bargaining chip.

The implications are rather obvious. The quality of scientific study has to suffer in an environment where human beings’ welfare is not paramount.

Clancy points to other studies that reveal environments conducive to women's contributions produce more papers and better research. In “Allocating Funds via Peer Review”, Gerontologist Aubrey De Grey exposes a peer review process that favors low-risk, low-ambition projects for all the familiar bureaucratic reasons. Too much energy gets devoted to submission protocols and pleasing peer review panels that may lack the necessary expertise to assess the project’s merits. Alas, this risk-aversion bias is endemic across culture and is hardly a peculiarity of science.

This review barely scrapes the surface of what lies in store for the intrepid reader. The strength of the essays lies both in their disciplined brevity as well as the remarkable ability of these very brilliant thought-leaders to convey their areas of inquiry in a manner general readers can understand. For those who tend to stereotype the planet’s empiricists as plodding, observation-driven technicians, the elasticity of thought and imaginative excursions on display here easily dispel that notion. Buckminster Fuller once said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Perhaps this non-confrontational, end-run approach is the optimal path to establishing new paradigms. But surely recognizing and articulating the sacred cows in our midst, as happens here, is one step towards constructing newer, better models.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Dissent: It’s Not Just for History Anymore

(A slightly abridged version of this review 
 appeared previously in Pop Matters) 

Dissent: The History of an American Idea 
By Ralph Young 
New York University Press, 2015 

“Our textbooks on political science and economics are obsolete. Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow, selfish, political, and economic elite, a small and privileged group that governs, and often steals, on behalf of moneyed interests…During this plundering we remained passive, mesmerized by the enticing shadows on the wall, assured our tickets to success, prosperity, and happiness were waiting around the corner.” ― Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle 

This review starts not with a quote from Ralph Young’s Dissent: The History of an American Idea, but from one of the most vital political analysts of our time addressing a potentially irreversible crisis happening right now under our very noses: the suspension of dissent as a corrective and cyclical mechanism against the prevailing status quo. Of course as Dissent abundantly shows, the composition of both the privileged and dissenting class changes dramatically with each historic engagement. Less clear is whether the power structure will succeed in evolving an ever-more repressive paradigm on the way to stifling dissent altogether. 

In fairness to Young, his book is (as the subtitle fairly reflects) a history. So this reviewer’s disquiet precedes the reading of this expansive and, in many ways, impressive account. Nonetheless in other ways, Dissent reads like one of Hedge’s superseded text books, perhaps what one might encounter in a 200-level survey course in a university Political Science class. When the forest is ablaze, the last thing one wants to be handed is a field guide to its pristine flora and fauna. How about a red phone to the forest fire-fighters instead? 

At the end of the day, history is at the end of the day. Flames lapping at your heels? That’s a whole ‘nother campfire. I confess to first flipping to the book’s conclusion where any sense of urgency might best be expressed. The book is after all a 2015 edition, a full two years on from the tragic ‘death by prosecutorial mischief’ of Aaron Swartz, easily his generation’s Abbie Hoffman. Hedge’s 2010 book for all its portent could not have incorporated that cruel injustice. Yet Dissent makes no mention of Swartz; nor of electronic civil disobedience pioneer Jeremy Hammond, sentenced in 2013 to ten years in prison for leaking intelligence firm Statfor’s emails which detailed money laundering and other improprieties. Indeed there’s no mention of hacktivism at all. Wow. Tales of yesteryear indeed. The book concludes with this: 

“And we need to demand more responsible journalism, we need to demand politicians who are beholden to the people and not to those who bankroll them, we need to question authority, we need to speak out, we need to make sure that “We the People” really means something. We need to dissent.” 

Never mind the comma splices. I’m thinking wan, pedestrian and textbook-safe; obsolete, as Hedges might say, before the ink dries. There are kids in jail right now, others in early graves over this whole dissent business. Historical remove aside, the nation’s commissioned thinkers in this space have an obligation to meet these dark times with something that reaches beyond banal pieties. 

Equally dubious is the author’s introductory assertion that we can expect more of the same because, well it’s been that way for four centuries. Here’s Young: 

“In a century that is only in its second decade, we cannot foresee the scope and extent of future protest movements, but if the history of the past four hundred years has taught us anything, it has taught us that dissent and protest in all its numerous manifestations is not going away and will continue to shape the United States.” 

Oh really? Suppose modern surveillance techniques and perfected manufactured consent has in fact delivered us to a Panopticonic dead-stop? What we thought was an endless cycle may turn out, in the final analysis, to be a ratchet converging on its terminal click. 

So much for my book-ended beefs. Perhaps I overreact with the jealous prerogative of the present moment. Are we wrong to expect more here-and-now hand-wringing from a historically focused account? On to the middle part, the history stuff, which is really quite fascinating and where Young exercises his true vocation. In fact, he excels in story-telling mode. 

The odd thing about dissent is the illusion of its perpetual virginity, which Young ably conveys—how it always feels peculiarly impudent to the status quo each time it is invoked. During the western expansion of the 1870-80s period, myriad groups meet near-identical resistance, from Chief Joseph’s Nez Perce to Chinese coolies, to the Mexican resistance group the The White Caps. Then later, Americans of northern and western ancestry express alarm at the influx of Eastern European Catholics and Jews. 

The fundamental fear never seems to abate and typically manifests in a twofold manner: one, there is a sense that ‘true American identity’ is being hopelessly diluted by the new strangers and two, a selfish determination resists sharing the wealth and allowing economic parity and enfranchisement. Sometimes the status quo’s fear is not ethnically-based at all, but rooted instead in cultural or even psychological factors. 

Speaking of the 1950s’ consumer explosion and general exuberance born of full employment, Young also points to the dark Cold War imaginings fanned by McCarthyism: “Whereas the 1920s featured a conflict between modernism and traditionalism, the 1950s was a schizophrenic age split between confidence and paranoia.” 

At other times, dissent is not a unitary expression issued towards a singular injustice. In the chapter Progressives and Radicals, which deals with the turn of the twentieth century, Young details a complex milieu of, “political, economic and social problems caused by rapid industrialization, urbanization, and mechanization” giving birth to a “range of responses”. Much of the dissent is of a reactionary cast, as opposed to a bold, progressive bid for a heretofore unclaimed promontory, as a loose and disparate coalition of farmers, small store owners, capitalist reformers, etc. weigh in against growing wealth disparities that are robbing their hard-won gains. Not unlike our own era, political corruption is rampant and wealth distribution is dramatically skewed (In 1900, the top 10% owned 72% of the nation’s wealth). The middle was losing ground. Sound familiar? 

In Dissent in the Age of Reason, it’s already clear by 1720s-era Colonial America that Enlightenment ideals and the Age of Reason are destined to clash with slavery, Native-American relations, women’s rights, the more rigid strains of Calvinism and Empiric mercantilism. By the end of this chapter (around 1740), Young points out that while the preponderance of, “demands fell on deaf ears…they did help raise awareness…furthermore, dissenters were aware of each other. When one group spoke out against injustice, it set an example for others to speak out.” 

While this emboldening process assists in normalizing the righteous dissent of the oppressed throughout the centuries, the individual battles never seem to get easier. At least past dissenters could count on hospitable enough terrain from which to mount their subversive aspirations—from the Suffragist movement of the post-Civil War era, to the Quaker pacifists of World War One, to today’s Tea Party. One is always left hoping the war is not over altogether. For one thing, there’s unfinished business. Edward Snowden could use a plane ticket home. 

But then, maybe the Mugwumps nursed similar anxieties. The last battle will not announce itself as such. One also fancies Fighting Bob La Follette devising a way to fight around today’s thicket of drones and eavesdropping devices. Might human ingenuity have its limits though, particularly in the face of some oncoming Terminator? 

Indeed dissent has been, as Young insists, “one of this nation’s defining characteristics.” However definitions change. Wars on International Terror mission-creep into Wars on Domestic Dissent (if the former, and not the latter, was even the original intent, a debatable point.) Despite its penchant for repetition, history, today, may offer the least instructive value to the present moment than at any other time in, well, history. Let us hope, my fellow post-TPP Americans, the circle stays unbroken. To expand upon a certain historian: We need to dissent if we are to avert a permanent breach.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Gettin' It in Our Souls: A Review of Marty Khan's STRAIGHT AHEAD

Straight Ahead: A Comprehensive Guide to the Business of Jazz (Without Sacrificing Dignity or Artistic Integrity) by Marty Khan, non-fiction, Outward Visions Books, Tucson, AZ, 432 pages, 2004, $50.00
A Review by Kirpal Gordon

(an abridged version was previously published at Big Bridge)

“Better get it in your soul,” penned Charles Mingus when amongst us, and he was on to the Big Powerful Something about this music: it can change your life. Although gettin’ it in your soul is the destination of jazz, the music industry historically has preyed upon the recording and performing jazz artist, so there is much to celebrate in this insider’s look on how to survive and thrive in the contemporary environment of all too many musicians looking for all too few gigs.

Straight Ahead: A Comprehensive Guide to the Business of Jazz (Without Sacrificing Dignity or Artistic Integrity) by Marty Khan is a watershed work, a summing up and a moving forward with his eye to the jazz tradition as embodying a living spiritual presence, not merely selling a dead commodity. Like hearing John Coltrane, “whose message and spirit have been the primary inspiration in my life’s work” (from Khan’s dedication), reading this book changes the reader at the cellular level. For one thing, it’s clear on every page that the music has changed Khan’s life. He started out as a teenage fan in the mid-Sixties, learned the alto sax, dropped out of college to play and study with Sam Rivers, “graduated” to record distribution and artist management, pioneered the use of the non-profit organization for the self-empowerment of jazz musicians while forging a new circuit of performance opportunities for an array of avant-garde artists such as the Art Ensemble of Chicago, George Russell, the World Saxophone Quartet and Sonny Fortune before branching out to dancemaster Alwin Nikolai and composers Steve Reich and John Zorn.            

The exploitation of art and makers of culture has not been limited to the shenanigans of the music industry suits. What makes Khan’s book so worth reading is that it’s both a monstrous wake-up call to the facts and a call to arms with a non-stop series of ingenious tactics to reverse the trend at the personal level. In this sense it is an intriguing read for any performer, but it holds particular significance for the literati, especially those MFA-ers who graduate in large number but have no clue to the racket or how to build an audience, market a book, create a tour or work collectively with other artists to serve the existing literary needs of a community.

However, for all his can-do style, Khan is tough and serious-minded; he goes against the grain of the typical contemporary how-to guide, which generally is cut to fit the size of a sixth grader’s mind with an additional purchase in the wings like a seminar, a second title, a thousand spin-offs.  Khan believes too deeply in the transformative power of the music to make us buy twice or to sugarcoat the funky details that hem in today’s musician. Furthermore, even though much has happened in the industry since the book was published, one needs no other guide to help navigate any of that. By the time one gets to the last section of the book, “Strategies, Recommendations, Solutions,” one won’t be thinking about any issue in the same ol’, same ol’. 

Hey, one can’t get through Chapter Two, “Ten Disturbing Facts That Must Be Understood,” without checking a lot of personal baggage at the door. Cutting right to the chase, here are a few of those facts:  “There is an enormous amount of money in jazz, produced by an economy that is based on failure.” How about: “The entire economic structure of the music business---artist and publishing royalty rates, CD prices, etc.---is a fabricated reality that bears little resemblance to its real economics.”  Or: “Jazz professionals distrust musicians even more than musicians distrust professionals.”  Or: “Virtually everyone on the business side of jazz is a failed musician.”

Khan has distilled in these 432 pages his 35 years in the game. This is where the revolution has gone, not televised but hybridized, joined with other art forms, street legal with a 501 (c) (3), ready for anything, capable of navigating every opportunity to perform and get paid---even inventing new venues along the way. So the reader isn’t getting conjecture about what might work for an individualistic, idiosyncratic (alleged non-commerical) sound but what has worked, when, how and why---and what the next step is to take.

In addition, the guidebook is highly organized, making it easy to find everything---and everything is the key word: complete, exhaustive and thoroughly explored from every angle! His anecdotes about clubs, musicians and the scene aren’t bad either. His succinct prose style owes a great deal to Raymond Chandler, but his brains are all Coltrane: he sees every permutation in an unfolding event and how it connects. So in sections like “The Artist’s Team,” there are descriptions and stories of what to look for in a manager, agent, attorney, roadie, rekkid producer, engineer, publicist, consultant, fundraiser-grantwriter, band member.  Ditto the major labels, execs, A & R, indies, art and marketing directors, radio promo and every aspect of the performance---clubs, managers, bookers, concerts, fests, venues of all sizes, promoters, line producers, house crew, sound tech, audience.

It is more, however, than just an ongoing artist empowerment strategy, a welcome attitude adjustment, a new “skillful means” way to do business, a method to replace alien-nation with jazz-nation that roots and grows through one’s own labors. It’s also the antidote for that “gimme a gig” mentality, among the mistaken entitlements that Khan socratically scrutinizes. The sixteen questions he asks and answers in Chapter 1 are worth the price of the book alone. To check out his interview about how the book came to be and to access for free “Seven Keys to Empowerment and Productivity,” click