May 12, 2013

Waiting Out Benghazi With Barry Galbraith

My present method for dealing with Made-for-Madtime-TV scandals (Madtime TV is my designation for those cable television shows on MSNBC, Fox and CNN that cluster around the late afternoon hours and take whatever story-du-jour has captured the public imagination and beat it into senseless oblivion) is to wait them out.  You can fall for one of these manufactured "controversies," and breathlessly await the next breaking development as the story "builds;" or you can ignore the whole thing and wait for the sagging denouement in which it is admitted that there was never anything there in the first place.  Watching Bill O'Reilly or Rachel Maddow from one day to the next has the huge downside of wasting a tremendous number of hours of your life.  You do not know anything more at the end of your viewing sessions than you knew at the beginning, not really.  You only think
you do, and there are never any "general lessons" that you learn about anything, other than the state of our public discourse is more than faintly ridiculous.  And you already knew that.  Bill O'Reilly and Rachel Maddow run with these stories because they are in the business of attracting viewers to their boring shows; that is, it's a business.  If you thought that bulb planting was equally riveting, they would do an hour on that.

If you eschew these faux-controversies, a number of immediate benefits spring up and bloom in your life.  You don't have to watch John McCain's strange, lopsided face get further distorted into yet another paroxysm of insane rage, as he demands "answers" and vows "to get to the bottom of this." By itself, that's an extremely salutary development.  You don't have to deal with Hillary Clinton's hair enigma: why is she growing it longer now than really works at her age?  But best of all, you can do other things with your time.

For example, I've gotten into jazz guitar comping.  This is fun, and it can take you to places of musicianship you didn't know you could access.  It takes a lot of time, however, and you have to choose between Rachel Maddow's high-energy, frenetic shouting about something you don't quite follow, and doing something where you can actually make progress in personal development on a day-by-day basis.  I owe it all to Barry Galbraith, a great jazz guitarist and teacher who bequeathed a series of books to the practitioners of the music he loved.  You've never heard of Barry Galbraith, although he was an American and a genius at guitar arrangement and music theory, who lived a quiet, humble life and played with all the great jazz singers and musicians of his era: Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, you name it.  He arranged standards and collected a whole bunch of the very best in two books; sadly, only two books.  Another fellow came upon a trove of his hand-sketched arrangements of a bunch more and he published those on the web, although they're hard to read.  This fellow was amplifying the generous nature of Barry Galbraith's spirit. He knew that Barry's followers could never get enough of this stuff.

And Barry put together a couple of strictly pedagogical books to teach you how to comp, how to play, for example, a walking bass line with the voicing of chord notes for another group of standards where he hadn't done full-scale arrangements.  It's hard to describe how much fun it is to feel these arrangements come together under your hands.

I can't remember exactly how I first came across Barry Galbraith.  I think maybe I was looking on YouTube for videos of guys playing jazz guitar standards, and over and over again the notes below the video would mention that the arrangement was by Barry Galbraith.  Usually the player would call him the "great" Barry Galbraith, because by the time you learn one of his arrangments, that's how you feel about him.  Then one fellow mentioned that the arrangements could be found in those books I mentioned, and I sent away for them, and then I sent away for everything else Barry had ever published and now I own them all.  And I'm set for life, especially if I begin (as I will) printing out those chicken-scratched arrangments that fellow was nice enough to hoist up on the 'Net. And then I'll spend years figuring out all of those.

The larger idea being: there's something in your life that's life jazz guitar comping, something rich and personally nourishing, and it's not Bill O'Reilly gassing on for two or three months about whether the Benghazi attack was inspired by an anti-Muslim video shown in Cairo, or was (instead!) a covered-up terrorist attack on an American diplomatic post.  After watching Bill and Rachel for months on end talking about this nonsense, you'll feel limp, and cheap, and used, with absolutely nothing to show for it.

And if you wait long enough, you find out, in one article by Glenn Kessler in the Washington Post, that the Benghazi "consulate" was actually a CIA station installed there by the Agency to retrieve shoulder-launched missiles which had fallen into insurgents' hands, that it had almost nothing to do with the State Department, and the reason the story was "muddled" at first by Susan Rice was because the White House didn't quite know how to play the revelation that our "consulate" was a spook house, although the Libyan attackers obviously already knew.  There, I just saved you 200 hours of excruciatingly borning television.

And now back to Barry's comp of the great Jimmy Van Heusen's "Like Someone In Love."

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