Exhuming Joe Hill

Trump, O'Donnell and Klasfeld photo

By now viewers of MSNBC surely are familiar with reporter Adam Klasfeld who currently is attending the Manhattan trial of Donald Trump. You may not know that Klasfeld holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Rutgers and studied in London with Richard Digby Day (who “is credited with discovering actors Ralph Fiennes and Hugh Grant”1). Klasfeld is the author of a number of plays as well as artistic director of the theater company One Armed Man.2

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Meeting the Master, Rudy Perez 1929–2023

Rudy Perez in Spiritual Offering

As of six months ago, “Meeting the Master” might evoke the histrionic single by Michigander rock band Greta Van Fleet. It’s not unlike Medium Medium’s “Guru Maharaj Ji” from four decades before, which I’ve described as “either a snide putdown, or a pedestrian description, of the teacher-student dynamic.” I added: New York Times’ Robert Palmer writes that the song “manages to be understanding and wryly humorous.” (The epitome of this polarity might be The Beatles’ “Sexy Sadie,” written by John Lennon about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.)

Last month I wrote to my filmmaker friend Albert Gasser about

all the gurus I’ve “followed,” secular and non-, among them César Chávez (UFW), Arthur Janov (Primal Therapy), Rudy Perez (dance performance), Charles Cameron [literary and spiritual mentor], Tarkovsky (you introduced me to him), Roman Catholicism, Robert Adams (Advaita Vedanta), Lowell May (IWW), Guy McPherson (abrupt climate change). 

To that list I would add my wife Andrea Carney, whose writings salt-and-pepper this blog. And from the New World and Old World respectively, Ricardo Reyes (art and culture) and Álvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca (compassion on a tightrope). And my spiritual mentors Milania Henley and Rev. Bruce MacKenzie. And to that original list I added, to Albert, “If I spouted the party line, I hope usually it was for a brief while. But oh, what I learned.”

Rudy Perez died yesterday morning after a severe asthma attack that took him to the ICU. A year ago I had my first such attack, mild by comparison, but scary enough for an ER session, and as the doctor told me, “You can deal with a lot of things, but not being able to breathe…?”

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Thank God you’ve got a Job

Blake, Job's Despair illustration

The music label ECM is well known to fans of jazz, but also of avant-garde classical music. Recordings in the latter camp are by familiar composers like Arvo Pärt, John Adams, Steve Reich, John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen—and Meredith Monk, who Rob Berg and I (and friends) caught at the lovely John Anson Ford Theater last month as she celebrated her eightieth birth year in song, movement, and music with the Bang on a Can All-Stars.1

Aside from Monk’s music, which was profound yet playful, I must mention that we arrived early enough to witness a deep-teal-colored cloudless sky framed by the theater’s walls. I had to look away; I didn’t want its perfection to pass. I was reminded of the John McLaughlin title, “What Need Have I for This—What Need Have I for That—I Am Dancing at the Feet of My Lord—All Is Bliss—All Is Bliss.”2


Definitely not dancing, but rather writhing, complaining—confronting—is Job, whose challenge to his Lord is neatly summed in the Christian devotional cycle, Officium Defunctorum (Office of the Dead). Thirty years ago this month, ECM recorded Job’s Parce mihi domine, from the Office, coupled with kindred motets, by Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and British quartet The Hilliard Ensemble, under the simple title of Officium. This arranged marriage was contrived by ECM founder Manfred Eicher, inspired by composer Cristóbal Morales’s sixteenth-century setting of the Office, which Eicher (re)heard while filming his Holozän, based on Max Frisch’s novel Man in the Holocene. In the booklet that accompanies the ECM release, Frisch mentions “driving through the jagged lava fields of Iceland” during filming, of his protagonist’s “encroaching isolation,” the landscape “a metaphor for the silencing of mankind whose history has come to an end.”

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Sloan's Lake photo

It’s been three months since I’ve posted here. My wife Andrea Carney and I have separated; she’s in Minnesota near her son Alex and his family while I remain in Denver, moving next month from Central Park to the neighborhood named after Sloan’s Lake, the city’s largest body of water, at its western border. Like many places here, its working-class roots show while the peroxide of gentrification blandly bleaches.1 Gentrification can be seen as rejuvenation, giving youth to the old. But it’s a kind of death.

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