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Genius Guide to Jazz

Genius '04

By Published: May 8, 2003

It is time for me to take the bull by the horns and the tiger by the tail, which means I will need someone to hold my beer because both of my hands will be full.

Well, kids, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and I’ve decided that what this country needs is a return to the ideals and values of another age, followed by a couple of hotdogs and a twi-night doubleheader. I know we’ve discussed this matter before in the late and hardly lamented Modern Bachelor bits from last year, but it has become more and more an issue to me as I’ve watched the ominous approach of the end of Western civilization in the popularity of reality TV and the proliferation of all these yammering dullards driving around with a cell phone to their ear and a blissful disregard for the fact that yes there ARE other cars on the road around them.

Be that as it may.

I’ve decided that the only way to get this country back on track is for me to take responsibility myself. No more hurling criticism from the safe sidelines of the Geniusdome. It is time for me to take the bull by the horns and the tiger by the tail, which means I will need someone to hold my beer for a minute because both of my hands will be full. That’s right, kids, I’ve decided to throw my hat in the ring and announce right here in the hallowed HTML of AAJ that I am officially running for President in 2004.

I realize, of course, that there are certain logistical problems that must be addressed right out of the gate. For one, the Constitution of the United States says that a person must be 35 years of age in order to be President. I am 35. And I can tell you right now that no one my age has any business running the country. But I can assure you that I will appoint a (Pabst) Blue Ribbon fact-finding committee to look into that very troubling fact as soon as I take office.

Then, there is the matter of campaign funds. Right now, the Genius Campaign war chest contains eleven dollars in nickels and a lint-covered Jolly Rancher candy of indeterminate flavor. But just to show you that I am a man of integrity who cannot be bought by special interests, you have my solemn word here and now that I will accept each and every contribution offered and spent it strictly on nonpartisan beer, chicken wings, and baseball tickets. Furthermore, I will be swayed by no lobbyists (unless they happen to be redheaded females between the ages of 24-35, because I’m only human for crissakes).

And even though I have never held elected office, I will not let my lack of experience in any way effect the headspinning rapidity with which I become absolutely mad with power.

A man’s word is his bond.

I know what you’re thinking right now, kids. You’re thinking, “How can I become part of the Genius ’04 juggernaut? What the hell is a juggernaut, anyway? Is it different from a dreadnought, and if so, how? Just how much is this juggernaut thing going to cost me? Do these pants go with this shirt? Does anyone have some gum? Will there be pizza and a keg at the victory party, or just one of those deli platters and some 7-Up? I sure could go for a cold 7-Up right about now. Wait a minute...where does this Genius guy get off expecting me to help him get elected President? What’s in it for me?”

I’m glad you finally asked.

If I am elected President, my first official act will be to completely eliminate the current Federal income tax. Did that get your attention? Actually, you would still pay taxes, of a sort, but I would do away with all those confusing forms and deductions, and especially with the strongarm tactics of the IRS. Everyone would pay a flat tax: 15% of their income or 10% of their Visa bill, whichever is greater. And to insure there are no cheats, taxes would be collected by doe-eyed orphans who would go door-to-door in the dead of winter wearing tattered mittens and threadbare secondhand coats and anyone who could pike on their taxes in the face of such a heart-wrenching little waif has already earned their own personal level of Hell so keep your filthy money we don’t want it.

Being the Dean of American Jazz Humorists©, I would naturally want to be known as the Jazz President. Actually, I’d rather be known as the Wealthy, Talented, Irresistible to Women President, but I’ll take what I can get. The focus of my administration would be the promotion of America’s most original creation (no, not the spokesmodel), facilitating a return to the hope and promise of the first Jazz Age without the perfunctory goldfish swallowing and flagpole sitting or that inconvenient Depression at the end.

Moving along.

As President, I’d be expected to deal with more than just returning Jazz to its rightful prominence. I’m told there are all sorts of issues out there that demand attention, and you have my word that I will give each and every one of them my fullest consideration so long as they don’t cut into my naptime. To ease your minds, I’ve prepared a few position statements on major issues:

The Environment: You have my word that I will do everything in my power to keep the environment outside, where it belongs. With me in charge of the national thermostat, you can forget all about that global warming nonsense. It will be a comfortable 72 degrees, year ‘round (special exemptions made for ski resorts and wet t-shirt competitions). Rain once a week during the growing season, and a fluffy blanket of snow for the holidays. Golf ball-sized hail and the occasional tornado to give TV weathermen something to talk about, random frost to keep the farmers on their toes, and sleet just whenever I take a notion.

The Economy: I have always subscribed to economic principles proffered by such luminaries as economists Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, and Nobel laureates Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek. Laissez faire capitalism with minimal government intrusion produces a free-market economy that is libertarian, self-scaling and self-adjusting. Barring that, of course, we could always just sell Krispy Kreme donuts in front of every supermarket in America on Saturday mornings, which seems to work quite well as an engine of economic progress for a variety of special interest groups (including cheerleaders, in whom I am specially interested).

National defense: I am in favor of Buddy Ryan’s still-ingenious 4-6 defense which led the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl in ’85. By taking away our enemy’s running and short-yardage passing games, we can force them into a low-percentage long pass strategy that will expose them to our superior speed and skills in the secondary. At which point we can bomb them till their country looks like Charles Bronson’s face.

Homeland security: First, as a native Virginian, I believe that the pointy end of the Commonwealth should face the other way, to discourage naval attacks. And instead of all these lengthy delays at airports while we scrutinize the molecular structure of everyone who wants to get on an airplane, we should simply require every prospective passenger to explain the infield fly rule. Insidious outsiders will be tripped up by the intricacies of the national pastime, and anyone who doesn’t like baseball doesn’t belong on the damned plane anyway. Thus, we can simultaneously keep America’s passenger rail system afloat by filling Amtrak trains with nefarious foreign elements and soccer moms, who frankly deserve each other. Every problem contains its own solution.

Education: I would lower tuition for all public colleges to $4.95 plus one proof of purchase from any sized box of Kellogg’s Product 19 per semester. How would I pay for that, you ask? By taxing the absolute hell out of such current college mainstays as Abercrombie and Fitch, Grand Theft Auto videogames, Spongebob Squarepants, and Red Bull energy drink. In my administration, you’ll either be part of the problem or part of the solution.

Now for the most important question: What will the Genius Administration do for jazz? On that matter, I have a five-pronged plan (it was actually three-pronged when it started, but I had extra prongs that were getting close to their expiration date and it seemed a shame to let them go to waste).

1. Higher profile for jazz artists. How does Secretary of State Ornette Coleman sound? Live with Regis and Keely Smith. Thelonious Monk guest stars on Six Feet Under as a dead jazz musician. Bikini-clad Diane Krall and diaphanously-wrapped Karrin Allyson highlight Maxim’s “Hot Jazz” issue (and for the ladies, beefcake shots of Keith Jarrett in Cosmo ).

2. More jazz on radio and TV. Did you know that Canada requires that broadcasts contain 60% Canadian content? And that’s just one of the reasons no one takes them seriously. At least our talentless pop chanteuses are slutty enough to be entertaining so long as you turn the sound down when they’re “singing.” Does anyone want to see Celine Dion’s horrifying skeletal remains in hip-huggers and a tube top? Sweet Lord no! Which has nothing at all to do with jazz, but isn’t it enough to know that you have a President who cares enough about America to diligently keep emaciated chest-thumping Canadians off our airwaves?

Anyway, more jazz on radio and TV. ‘Nuff said.

3. Increased jazz education in our public schools. If we’re going to use our public schools as testing grounds for every crackpot social engineering scheme to come down the pike, why not get some mileage out of the deal for something really important? Give those kids a Coltrane CD with their condoms, so that they won’t have to face the rest of their lives with the stigma of having lost their virginity to some forgettable top-forty nonsense.

But seriously.

Your Own Personal Genius is living proof of the efficacy of music education at the public school level. Here I am at the tender young age of 35, already the Dean of American Jazz Humorists© and a candidate for the highest office in the nation. It is music that is responsible for my staggering American success story. If this were the Genius Guide to Algebra, do you think I could have ascended to these dizzying heights? Is it even possible to make fun of higher mathematics? Let’s see:

True or False: If X=Y and Y=Z, then X=Z. False. In his dreams is X ever going to be half the man Z is. X is a twice-divorced drunkard, while Z coaches Little League and has been married to the same beautiful woman since he graduated from college. And Y, where does he get off comparing himself to Z? He and Z started with the same company ten years ago and Z is already a vice-president while Y is still in packaging.

There you have it. Jazz it is.

4. Improve jazz’s image from within. Part of jazz’s problem is its current image, the perception of the music and the musicians by the general public. Remember the days when jazz was an irreproachable pantheon of cool? When jazz musicians were among the coolest individuals on the face of the planet, and even their slang was the de facto lexicon of all that was hip and happening?

Well neither do I. I’m only 35. By the time I was born, jazz was virtually the exclusive province of the Fusion set, garage bands with liberal arts degrees. It has lived through an era of designer sweaters and wine-and-cheese soirées, and now acts as the go-to selection for when the NPR fundraisers need a little kick. Elitism, even fake elitism where people like something because it seems like something people like them should like, has no place in the Genius Administration. Hipness (and its close cousin, Coolness), unlike elitism, is not disclusive. It is a pinnacle to be achieved, and can be achieved by careful application of certain principles. To be hip is neither to follow trends, nor to rebel against them. Hipness is above mere group identification manifested in cliquishness. Hipness is about style, which George Carlin defined as going to the bathroom, realizing that your underwear is on backwards, and leaving them that way. Hipness transcends the juvenile desire to color outside the lines just to be different, or worse, to be different the same as everyone else. Thus, the truly hip don’t have tattoos or pierced anything. Hip men do not wear ponytails, or socks with sandals. Hip women do not wear potato-sack dresses or jewelry made by unfortunate minorities they feel great empathy for but have never met personally.


With a Genius in the White House, jazz musicians will be required to wear suits, ties, sunglasses, and cool hats. Women will be allowed the cocktail dress option; or my personal favorite ensemble of fishnet hose, bullet bras, sleeveless black turtlenecks, cat-eyes sunglasses and white lipstick (beret optional).

5. “It’s all about the music, man.” Music is the tangible expression of intangible humanity. Properly, it should be a tri-faceted amalgam of brain, heart and groin. All groin, and it is vulgar pop music that has become too stupid to even try to come up with yet another euphemism for the act of human procreation. All heart, and it is sugary love songs that make liberal use of the terms “always” and “forever” but rarely mention “grad school” or “venereal disease.” All brain and, well, let’s be’s 94.75% of the jazz out there right now. It is a common mistake among the intelligentsia to regard emotion as a leash with which to jerk dumb people around (particularly around election time), and to treat the primordial need to go bangity-bangity as little more than a bodily function to be indulged whenever and however the need arises. Thus, jazz has lost much of the visceral inertia that catapulted it from a regional novelty to the representative example of the American experiment’s success.

As President, I would be involved in returning balance to jazz. To this end, I would appoint a panel of experts from both within and without jazz to craft a set of guidelines for the music. I’m still debating several appointees for the panel, but first and foremost would be funkmaster George Clinton, who summed up my argument with the brilliant pronouncement, “Free your ass and your mind will follow.” I would also appoint actress Thora Birch, because she appeals to my own personal tri-faceted amalgam. Make of that what you will.

So there you have it, my official announcement. It’s a long way to November, 2004, kids, so we’ll deal with such matters as running mates and First Ladies as the need arises. Till next month, exit to your right and enjoy the rest of AAJ.

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