Poem for a Friend

Ann belle princess of the isles

The orbs whisper your name

Even if you’ve gotten piles

Of if you’re on the game

Buxom barmaid or bellicose barfly

Begs the inevitable question

Booze improves the poet’s eye

But ruins her digestion

Her uncle made a fortune

Cold calling clogs

And swamped a shocked surburbia

With plasticine polywogs

Downstream from the trust fund

You wile away your day

On alert for the bloke in the cummerbund

Who’ll provide the perfect lay

We desire to be known, desire to be seen

It’s the deepest human condition

I don’t know where you are, much less where you’ve been

All that’s left, babe, is volition

Notes on “Dude” Usage

Yo dude, he’s the stallion

Ween

Author’s Note: The following is essentially a piece of linguistic ethnography.  Here on thekyotokibbitzer, we are interested in how language is used and how it evolves.  Today, we are taking a look at the word “dude.”  A comprehensive look at dude usage would, of course, rival War and Peace in length, and we only ever got to page 330 or so of that SOB.  Therefore, what follows is a breakdown of some of the most common dude variants as used between, primarily, the American male of a certain demographic complexion.

Dude” I think, goes back to cowboy culture and something called “dude ranches.” I don’t really know what a dude ranch is; naturally I know a bit about the modern use of the term.  Below are some examples of “dude in the wild.”  The examples given are intended as neither endorsement or critique.  Dude variants simply abide.

I. “Dude, what the f***?”  One of the classic dude phrases, this is used to register sincere umbrage, usually with a friend or “mate.”  Examples include: a friend says something unkind about a woman you both know, a friend steps in front of your putt on a golf course, a friend takes the last juice from your refrigerator without asking, etc. “Dude, what the f***?” is a little tart, however it contains an opportunity for the offender to climb down. Example:

Guy 1: Dude, I don’t know about that chick Tracy.  She’s blowing me off and she’s really becoming kind of a bitch.

Guy 2: Dude, what the f***?  You know Tracy’s a friend of mine and she’s cool people. Come on man.

Guy 1: Sorry man, you’re right. It’s just been a rough week.

Guy 2: Dude that’s totally understandable. We love you man—we got you.

Comment: Illustrated here is a principal of male friendship where guys can speak sharply to each other, offend for a moment, and just totally get over it the next second.  Guys marvel at women, who sometimes seem to drag this reconciliation process out for aeons, counting count themselves lucky, in this instance, to be guys. 
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II. “Duuuuuude.”  This is used when a guy sees a guy he knows and hasn’t seen for a while.  It is often coupled with a hand shake and “bro-hug” and/ or a slap on the back. Example:

Guy I (seeing his friend approaching): “Duuuuude”

Guy II: Hey buddy, what’s up man?

Guy I: Duuuude, how the f*** are you?

Guy II: Dude, it’s crazy to see you man.

Guy I: Dude, I know right.  So what are we doing?  Are we drinking yet or what?

Comment: Illustrated here is the multi-purpose functionality of both “dude” and “man,” which may seem interchangeable to the untrained ear, but in fact have different nuances and ideal placements in male patter. And, a good long “duuuuuude” can be very satisfying to unleash. 
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III. “Dude, that’s not the way we need this to go here”/ “Dude, that’s really not gonna get it done,” “Dude, I need you to take a step back and check yourself for a second,” etc.  These are all part of the very wide set of phrases that a manager can use with a direct. Managerial theory is divided on whether or not “dude,” is acceptable in supervisory conversations of this sort and strong opinions exist on both sides.  I side with the “yes” camp, but only in a basically dude-centric culture. As a middle-manger for many years in a former life, I have many times said things very similar to the above, using the person’s name or just “hold on” instead of “dude” as nods to a cross-cultural workplace. But in my head, I’m saying “dude” every time.

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Breakdown: The Stage Banter of Matthew Houck and Dean Wareham

After the rousing success of our first breakdown here on the kibbitzer, we have doubled down on the form.  Here we will be exploring two incidences of stage banter by musicians captured on live albums.  We will look at Matthew Houck from Phosphorescent introducing his band, and Dean Wareham from Luna riffing with a French audience.  Phosphorescent and Luna are two of our most beloved bands, and the proto-thesis of this piece is that through their stage banter we can see into the core of what makes Matthew and Dean who they are as artists and entertainers, and in so doing discover anew what makes them great.  Stage banter, in short, may be the royal road to stylistic explication.

That all sounds pretty good, though we aren’t actually going to start with stage banter. Instead, we will take a quick stroll through the archives, back to 2009 when we published a little piece on our first blog, Classical Sympathies called “Curtis John Tucker Had a Lot to Do With It.”  Around this time, I was interested in artistic communities, artistic communes really, I guess.  My Dinner with Andre was a huge influence.

Around that time I was also listening to a bit of Giant Sand.  Giant Sand is an ever-evolving group of musicians around the enigmatic Howe Gelb, a shape-shifting Southwest troubadour who makes a lot of music, some of which is really good.  On the record Cover Magazine, the Sand covers a Kris Kristofferson song called “The Pilgrim (Chapter 33)“.  It is this song that the Curtis John Tucker piece took up.

The themes that occupy a Gemini through life, though certainly never stable, do have a certain macro-coherence.  Such is it with stage banter—our current focus calls back to this little piece on Giant Sand.  What follows then is a re-write of the original piece as an introduction to our main topic.


Re-write of “Curtis John Tucker Had a Lot to Do With It;” original version July, 2009.

On Nothing Left to Lose, a Kris Kristofferson tribute album, and later collected on Giant Sand’s Cover Magazine Howe Gelb covers the song “The Pilgrim (Chapter 33).”  You may know the song; it goes:

he’s a poet/ he’s a picker/ he’s a prophet/ he’s a pusher/ he’s a pilgrim and a preacher and a problem when he’s stoned/ he’s a walking contradiction/ partly fact and partly fiction/ taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

Yeah, you know the one.

It’s a good song, and Gelb turns in a sound version.  But it’s his spoken introduction that really peaks my interest.  On Kristofferson’s original he name-checks a number of folks who “had something to do with” the genesis of the song.  Gelb repeats the original name-checks, slightly out of order, before listing a set of artists that he, Gelb, learned the song for:

Well, I guess when Kris wrote this song he wrote it for Chris Gantry–he started out doing it though by–ended up writing it for Dennis Hopper, Johnny Cash, Norman Norbert, Funky Donny Fritts, Billy Swan, Paul Seibel, Bobby Neuwirth, Jerry Jeff Walker.  Ramblin’ Jack Eliot had a lot to do with it.

Me I ended up learning this song for Vic Chesnutt, Jason Lytle, Evan Dando, Polly Jean, Paula Jean, Patsy Jean, Juliana, Victoria, Bobby Neuwirth, Bobby Plant.  Curtis John Tucker had a lot to do with it.

The alliterative Bobbys and the matching of Ramblin’ Jack Eliot and Curtis John Tucker make this speech into a mini-poem of sorts, and we know many of the protagonists.  Hopper and Cash of course; Jerry Jeff Walker and Ramblin’ Jack Eliot are folk singers, older than Kristofferson; Bobby Neuwirth is a folk singer, multimedia artist, and Dylan confidant in Don’t Look Back,  Funky Donny Fritts is a session keyboardist, and I believe Norman Norbert and Billy Swan were session musicians as well.  Paul Seibel was also a folksinger–I don’t know him; maybe you do.  Kris’ meaning is pretty clear—a song like The Pilgrim doesn’t come from nowhere, and the folksingers he learned from are portals back in time to an earlier tradition to which he generously pays tribute.

Not being myself a 70’s session musician completist I did have to look up a few of the names.  The Gelb names are more familiar, expect one.  Vic Chesnutt, Jason Lytle and Victoria (Williams) are folk singers (or were, as sadly Chesnutt has passed).  Evan Dando, Juliana Hatfield, and P.J. Harvey are/were alt-rock superstars.  Bobby Plant would be Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame, Bobby Neuwirth is Bobby Neuwirth.

But here’s the point, after listening to Kristofferson and Gelb name-check Funky Donny and Curtis John, I feel an affinity for them–were I to bump into Funky Donny in an airport bar or lounge his presence would resonate with an essential familiarity.  Even if I didn’t know precisely that it was he, I would recognize immediately that he was indeed funky, not to mention a serious problem when he’s stoned.  And Curtis John Tucker, well, his role is still opaque to me, but he clearly had a lot to do with it.

What both singers hint at in their evocation of the circumstances surrounding the creation of a song is the presence of community behind the music.  Behind or beside every Kristofferson is a Norman Norbert, behind every Dylan a Bobby Neuwirth, every Gelb a Curtis John Tucker.  In 2009 I wrote that “this thought fills me with a little jealously and a little sadness; I’m not at all sure that such communities of practice are as common as they once were; (there is) something about the atomisation of human affairs in the first world in the 21st century means that the idea of an artistic community where minor but still vital players such as Norman Norbert is no longer viable.” Today, although this statement still rings somewhat true, things appear rather different to me.  It seems that at least two things are occurring: first the internet has evolved such that any artistically minded person can find a niche community(s) that fits their style, and live with a foot in this community.  The second is that an apparently opposite, and actually concomitant, vitalisation of local community is underway all over the world, and a vitalised local community by necessity contains a vitalised local artistic scene.

Whatever the case, the humanity and camaraderie inherent in the spoken introductions to The Pilgrim remind us that artistic communities are vital in the creation of lasting artistic production–Neuwirth may not have been essential to Dylan’s art in the mid-60’s, but he was instrumental to its vitality; Kristofferson wrote “The Pilgrim” but it wouldn’t have been as good without Paul Seibel.  And as for Curtis John Tucker, well he had a lot to do with it.


On the spoken introduction of the band Phosphorescent by Matthew Houck between the songs “Joe Tex, These Taming Blues” and  “Los Angeles,” from Live at the Music Hall.

On side two of Phosphorescent’s majestic 2015 live album Live from the Music Hall, the band plays a song from their 2005 album Aw Come Aw Wry, called “Joe Tex, These Taming Blues.”  Houck’s early Phosphorescent albums are interesting–they are more ambient and keening than his mature work and some of the songs are really long.  Joe Tex is one of the better early songs, and Houck puts a little something special into the first couple lines on the live version: 

Is it ever gonna not be so hard to see you around/ or am I really really really really gonna have to really gonna have to really have to leave town

Houck is a master at harnessing the power of repetition—here each “really” takes on its own character and valance.  The band gives an excellent performance, which goes for about 4 minutes.  It is apparently the second last song of the night, because at the end of the song Houck moves to introduce the band.  Here he goes, as the band chugs on behind him:

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