Jazz and Self-Determination

audience back view band blur

Photo by Lucas Allmann on Pexels.com



These are some excerpts broadcast today on Arts Express from a fascinating panel called “Jazz and Self Determination” at this year’s Left Forum. The speakers you’ll hear in order are Jeremiah Hosea, Ras Moshe Burnett, Ahmed Abdullah, Greg Tate, and moderator Althea Sully Cole. Listen as they grapple with what self-determination means to a jazz musician both personally and creatively.


One More Left Turn


My friend, Mitchel Cohen, has just published a new book, The Fight Against Monsanto’s Roundup: The Politics of Pesticides, and once again, as he did three years ago, he asked me to participate in a Left Forum panel—as a magician. I put on my thinking cap, and this is what I came up with to provide some entertainment for the troops.

FYI: The messages on the index cards read:

Say No To GMOs

Ban Glyphosate

Build Community

Defeat Monsanto

Left Turn


Gadzooks, it’s Magic and Marxism.

I had an opportunity last Saturday to speak about and perform magic at this year’s Left Forum, an annual gathering of political leftists, with hundreds of lectures and panels throughout a hectic weekend. The theme of the panel for which I was performing was the neurotic pitfalls of doing political work. My tenuous contribution to the other panelists’ fascinating talks was a magic performance that emphasized the vulnerability of all of us—even Marxists!—of falling victim to deception and self-deception.

You can see a video of the performance by clicking on the video above.

Thanks to panel organizer Mitchel Cohen, and panelists Irene Javors, Ann Snitow, Debbie DeSpina Sophia Stamos and Margaret Stevens.

Try Again, Fail Again, Fail Better


I had planned on posting a video from a magic performance I presented at the Left Forum yesterday, but I’m having technical difficulty, so until I’m able to post the video I’d like to share with you something said at the plenary session by one of the participants, the popular musician and revolutionary, Immortal Technique.

His remark was in the context of addressing  the possibility of forming a truly viable leftist party in the United States, given that so many recent efforts seemed to have been failures with little impact.

His reply was this: “The reason that I’ve achieved the position that I have is because I have failed. Failed over and over. More importantly, I’ve failed many more times in my art than most people have even tried to take a chance. There has to be space for failure.”

There’s almost no way for an artist to be good without first being bad. Artists need the space and permission (from themselves!) to be bad. Each painful lousy performance or draft is one step closer to getting it where it wants to be.

As Samuel Beckett said, “Try again, Fail again. Fail Better.”