Archive for ‘the ridiculous’

December 11, 2009

Does this theory make me look phat?

by Carl Dyke

Back when I was in grad school I had a subscription to Lingua Franca, the since-defunct gossip rag of academe. So at the local library book sale recently I was pleased to find for $.50 Quick Studies: The Best of Lingua Franca (2002), a transparent cash-in bid that collects some of the real gems of pithy reportage, analysis, confession, revelation and snark for which LF was known.

At this point it’s all old news, twice warmed over and therefore hardly the material of cutting-edge bloggery, but still it’s great bathroom reading and I can’t help but reengage with it freshly. My topic today is Larissa MacFarquhar’s dry report (“Putting the Camp Back into Campus,” 1993) on the fanzine Judy!, in which “a University of Iowa undergraduate who calls herself Miss Spentyouth” rhapsodizes about the hotness of theory divas including ‘Kitty’ MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, Eve Sedgwick, Geeta Patel and Diana Fuss. “These are the ladies who put the lay back in the MLA!” The central character of the burlesque is Judith Butler, then recently wooed by the “floundering” rhetoric department at UC Berkeley on the chance she’d like it better than her steady gig at Johns Hopkins’ Humanities Center (full disclosure: I applied twice and interviewed once for graduate study at the Center but was not accepted, for what I now see was ample reason).

MacFarquhar reports the parodic homoerotic excesses of the fanzine with admirable formulaic journalistic restraint, amplifying the camp in the funhouse of reflection. I’m sure I’m saying nothing new here and true to the ephemerality of this form I have no interest in backchecking. Miss Spentyouth is interviewed by phone from her bed at about 11am; Monique Wittig is “‘fabulous;'” it’s all “‘really a critique of the whole theory circus–I don’t know, don’t say that. You have to make me seem incredibly clever.'”

Of course Miss Spentyouth is a little shit. An awesomely droll little shit with a laser eye for the absurd. MacFarquhar captures both with efficient metadiscursive craft. Not so Judith Butler herself, apparently, who wrote in to LF (a reply brilliantly appended without comment to the original article in Quick Studies) to register her outrage at this “appalling and tasteless piece of journalism.” She deplores the “conjectured and debased speculations [sic]” of the fanzine and asserts that in publishing the story “Lingua Franca has effectively entered the homophobic reverie of the fanzine itself.” “If the fanzine signals the eclipse of serious intellectual engagement with theoretical works by a thoroughly hallucinated speculation [sic] on the theorist’s sexual practice, Lingua Franca reengages that anti-intellectual aggression whereby scholars are reduced to occasions for salacious conjecture … rather than as writers of texts to be read and seriously debated.” Those being the only two options. To top it all off Butler returns the ad feminem by righteously outing the undergrad’s real name. Twice.

Irony circuit overloads, brain locks, jaw drops, words fail.

Words fail. Rebooting operating system. Perhaps an image will help?

Well. In my experience there are three basic categories of people who get something done: people who have no choice; people who have made an existential commitment to press on in absurdity; and people convinced of their own importance. Arguably the latter two are subsets of the first. What seems clear is that Butler, whose work I often admire, is squarely in the third.

Seems…. We can hope that cultural über-theorist, professional rhetoritician and serious reader of texts Judith Butler has made a meta-clever double move here, inventing a humorless ‘Judith Butler’ sock-puppet to add another layer to the parody and reflexively redirect the readership to a contemplation of the ironies of the self-referential construction of theorized knowledge. Yes, there’s always hope. As God is my witness, tomorrow is another day.

November 26, 2009

Entropy in the cul-de-sac

by Carl Dyke

I noticed this morning [yesterday, now] that the bathroom floor had collected enough schmutz to pass my action threshold. Leaves blanket our lawn and laundry blankets a corner of our bedroom. There are dishes in the sink and a bagful of student papers to read. The fish need feeding, the dog needs walking and the State taxes on one of our cars are due. Recycling was last night, and again in two weeks.

At moments like this I feel the grip of entropy most keenly. The little orderly systems of my life require the regular application of energy to keep from sliding down into chaos. Each time it’s worth it – the modest pleasures of a clean floor, a tidy lawn and an empty bag add up to a satisfying little life. Nevertheless, as I contemplate each outlay of attention and energy on doing that’s just going to need doing again, and again and again, the happy Sisyphus remains a tantalizing ideal.

In the classic The World of Goods: Towards an Anthropology of Consumption (1979), anthropologist Mary Douglas and economist Baron Isherwood argue that the periodicity of tasks is a primary marker of status. High-frequency, non-postponable entropic tasks describable as chores are the specialty of women, children, and servants. This is economically rational, they propose, in the way that any specialization is.

Thus, the division of labor between the sexes is set, the world over, by the best possible economic principles as follows: work frequencies tend to cluster into complementary role categories. These differentiate upward: the higher the status, the less periodicity constraints; the lower the status, the greater the periodicity constraints (86).

It follows that “[a]nyone with influence and status would be a fool to get encumbered with a high-frequency responsibility (86-7).”

No wonder I try to turn the entropic work in my life into rare and extraordinary events rather than daily habitual duties. The problem, I suppose, is that my sense of status does not match my class, as Weber might say. The classy thing to do would be to engage Central Americans to regulate my floor schmutz and tidy my lawn; start a grad program so there are intellectual strawberry-pickers around to grade my papers; and delegate the dishes and laundry to my wife. Too bad she’s an artist and has no more sense of vocation to keep the house up than I do. If only I had a real wife and not this impressive doer of awesome things! Maybe the two of us could marry someone else to do the chores for us? Or adopt a kid, an older one so someone else has already made the training investment. But, you know, kids these days….

October 28, 2009

Let all the evil that lurks in the mud hatch out

by Carl Dyke

When students ask “did I miss anything important on Tuesday” or its correlate, “will this be on the test,” they are offering a peek at the creepy-crawlies under a rock most teachers would prefer not to turn over.

The unstated premise is that the class is only a series of exercises in hoop-jumping, trivia of two types: on the test, therefore given use-value only by arbitrary curricular requirements; and not on the test, useless altogether, a complete waste of time.

The fact of their presence in the classroom means that so far in their educational careers they have been pragmatically right, at whatever level of performance that particular classroom represents. The job for good teaching is to change the game so that the way they were right doesn’t work for them any more.

September 14, 2009

Better the demon you know

by Carl Dyke

In a bit of amusing local news, conservative groups got together in Raleigh recently for workshops, strategic planning, demon-strations and inspirational speeches from such luminaries as former Miss California USA Carrie Prejean.

Also attending were some Durham progressives who thought it would be a good idea to understand the enemy, the better to combat them. As activist Lanya Shapiro explained, “it has illuminated why the extreme right-wing grass-roots are so cynical and hateful:… their leaders call the left evil and power-grabbing.”

Maybe being called cynical and hateful extremists by evil, power-grabbing lefties has something to do with it too.

August 28, 2009

Plagiarism-proofed essay assignments: update

by Carl Dyke

From a recent post at Edge of the West comes this comment from an artisanal plagiarism entrepreneur:

I used to work for a service that wrote custom papers for students. We advertised on Google AdWords (terms like Hamlet essay were successful, but judging by the lack of advertising on these search terms now, I wonder if Google banned them?), through flyers on college campuses, and through word of mouth. We got A LOT of repeat business as well.

In case you’re curious, our most common customer type was older students (generally with jobs and families) who had gone back to school and felt they “didn’t have time” to do their papers. Second most common were undergrads for whom money was clearly not an issue – we charged $200+ for a five page paper, as much as $500 for a rush job, and kids in this category would usually order well ahead of time and not complain about the price. Third most common were students that were clearly in over their head in a particular course. They tended to feel most conflicted about purchasing the paper, and also tended to be most stressed about the price.

So far as the actual papers we produced, your best bet for identifying them would have been by a shift in writing quality or tone. The papers were all original, and the writers were actually competent. We tended to write papers with a very simple structure…the first thesis that came to mind, followed by 3-5 major supporting points and a conclusion. People who came back to us generally said they’d gotten an A or a B. Our savviest customers would ask for the same writer to do all of their assignments for a semester, and some of them told us they went in and added typos because they thought it made the paper more believable.

As Buster argues in the commentary, “the only reliable way of solving the plagiarism problem is at the point of assignment-creation and building relationships in the classroom/lecture hall,” although as post author SEK notes they’re harder to practice for online and other cattle-call educational formats. Anyhoo, here for new readers’ convenience are my earlier thoughts on the subject. Note that there are several strategies here that would intercept or at least complicate the above procedure:

[L]et’s start with an ethos. You have to be loyal to students learning, not to covering content. It’s not impossible to do both, but starting with the second tends to fubar the first. And you have to give up the idea that there is essential content every student must master. Standardization of content outcomes is the single greatest stimulus and enabler of plagiarism there is. What you’ve got to want is for students to learn critical uptake, thinking and production skills in relation to content, where the skills are essential and the content is contingent. If you’re stuck with essential content, you’re stuck with some plagiarism. Take a moment to make sure there’s no way to get unstuck. I’ll wait.

OK. The first thing to notice is that shifting your loyalty to students learning (note: ’students’ learning’ is a different subject) changes the moral environment of the classroom. Why? Because now what you care about is each student, not the material; which, if you communicate this properly and consistently, creates a social psychology of reciprocal obligation among you. It’s just much harder to cheat on someone who cares about you than someone who’s using you as a means to other ends (reproduction of content outcomes). There’s nothing magical or foolproof about this, however, so if you stop here as some of the more touchy-feely teacher ed. fads do you’ll still get plenty of plagiarism; maybe more, once they figure out what a lightweight you are. Furthermore, although it’s good and right to care about the students as whole people, it’s essential to care specifically about their development as thinkers and doers, which means they don’t get to derail the process or skate to passing grades just by dropping by your office to chat about the weather or tearing up over their abusive childhood.

As thinkers and doers students in my experience are a pretty mixed bunch. The ones who already have some critical uptake, thinking and production skills are rarely the plagiarizers, especially once you get them on the hook by caring about them. They can do the work cheaper and better themselves without plagiarizing. So once you’re caring about students learning and you get the moral environment sorted out so they care back, plagiarism becomes obviously something the ones who do it are driven to by missing elements in the necessary skillset. The task then becomes filling in those skills. Essays shift subtly from being a ritually formalized way to test content knowledge to being part of a longer process to develop practical intellectual capabilities. (It helps a lot to ’sell’ those skills. All but the geekiest of them, who will become us later, think the various specific contents of the humanities are useless, they’re right, and trying to argue otherwise is counterproductively delegitimating.) This process orientation means among other things that for students at all but the elitest schools there will probably have to be lots of explicit instruction on how to write papers as a way to organize and communicate thought, including not just rules and recipes but rationales; peer reviewing of drafts (I do both intro paragraph and full draft); and a rewrite option, at least for the first paper until they get their chops together.

Classroom time has to make the same subtle shift. There are probably a lot of ways to do that. What works for me is to teach content through skills. So for example in World History I might want to cover some modern African history in relation to the Atlantic complex. Let’s say the skill we’re working on today is reading critically, and we happen to be doing that this time around using a 16th-century letter from the King of Kongo to the King of Portugal. This letter is a pretty subtle little piece of work, with a lot of information to be gleaned about culture and politics in Kongo; activities and attitudes of Portuguese merchants there; early phases of the slave trade; and so on. Of course we’ll need to crack the textbook to fill in some context to better understand what the Portuguese were doing on the coast of Africa, why they were welcomed by the Kings of the Kongo in the first place, what the slaves might have been needed for, etc.

Small groups and competitive/cooperative reporting are good ways to get most of the students involved and invested in the process of puzzling it all out. Classroom work has to be personal and recursive, including for example lots of interaction with the groups during their investigations and pauses to allow students who don’t know answers to find them or think them through, so that each student develops a personal class voice and habit of analysis that carries over to written work. Reasons and foundations always have to be specified, by them and us. Expectations should start high and get higher, so there’s always something of value to be accomplished for every student to be proud of. It’s a lot easier to convey the importance of scholarly apparatus to respect and communicate other people’s authority when the students are in touch with their own. I’ve done this directly with classes as large as fifty, by the way, and with discussion sections for classes in the hundreds.

And still all this is not enough to plagiarism-proof your essay assignments, although it’s a pretty good start. To knock out the last lingering vestiges of moral depravity, bad habit and performance anxiety, the last line of defense is to make it harder and riskier to plagiarize effectively than to write the paper straight. Here’s one way to do that with actual pedagogical value: design essay assignments that are unique to each class, its discussions and resources.

The simplest trick is to require students to write source-supported essays, to use only the course texts as sources, and to use more than one. By ‘require’ I mean if they don’t do it, they fail. This has the pedagogical value of forcing them to: engage with good sources you selected on purpose; mine available sources thoroughly rather than skipping around superficially; crosscheck sources rather than taking one at face value; synthesize information into their own analysis rather than just doing stock book reports; and appreciate the difference between mere opinion and informed opinion. All of these skills are supported by the reading work in class. By the way, this doesn’t help much if you don’t mix up your course texts. Publishers’ text ‘n’ source suites are a nice convenience for lazy teachers and plagiarizers alike, as is keeping the same texts and topics year after year. And stay away from stereotypical topics and sources. The easiest and most tempting paper in the world to plagiarize is yet another reaction paper on famous poem/article/book/event X. When you can google your topic and the first hit is a plagiarism site, maybe it’s time for a rethink. [For a droll instance of this syndrome see here.]

The idea is to make it vanishingly unlikely that they’ll find any mass market boilerplate that adequately addresses your assignment. Here’s an example of such an assignment: “Using only the course texts for evidence, analyze the relation of agency to happiness in rural Ming China,” where the course texts are a primary source reader from one publisher and a world history text from another. (Research comes later in the term once skills and habits are better, but course texts are always required.) What would it take to plagiarize this? Most of the standard strategies – cutting and pasting generic information on China, e.g. – would result in an incoherent, nonresponsive paper that would fail on its own merit without getting into plagiarism detection. Furthermore, they’d fail without regular and accurate citation of the course texts. (I usually get about a third with this error, innocent or otherwise, in the first batch of papers. I don’t even read papers with epic fails, I just hand them back to be fixed. Obviously you have to know, communicate, and enforce your standards for this to work.)

OK, here we are at the end of this post and I have to confess, it’s still not impossible to plagiarize under all these conditions. Easy, in fact, for the resolute scallawag. Here’s how. As mentioned above, they can pay an artisanal plagiarizer big bucks for completely customized papers. At least three of them, in my classes, which would only be prohibitive for really rich scoundrels if all my colleagues were also plagiarism-proofing their assignments. Or if the determined rabscallion wants to save that bling for beer, they could scour the ‘nets for snippets of information about agency and happiness in Ming China, stitch them together with topically-relevant analysis, then invent plausible citations to the course texts. To do that, all it would take is to understand the assignment and its rationale, properly identify relevant information, produce focused and coherent analysis, and know the course texts well enough to target the fake cites effectively. And at that point they might as well write the A paper those skills indicate they’re capable of writing.

August 18, 2009

One more on 'grey vampires',

by Carl Dyke

trolls and insufferable scholars who, as we all know, infiltrate our thoughts and drain our precious energy. My recent perusal of old posts yielded a moment of clarity that came together for me in a dream last night. I’ll let Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, a real expert on these issues and a subtle observer of the human psyche, take it from here:

Now there’s a man with a project.

April 15, 2009

Philosophy is an excellent thing

by Carl Dyke

Over at Edge of the West, in the context of one of the usual pseudo-discussions about what philosophy is good for (prompted by yet another of Leiter’s snarky shills for the discipline, apparently), a guy named Michael Turner just posted a long, fascinating comment explaining how he went from software engineering to (Japanese) technical translation to language philosophy; in the course of which he said this:

OK, so I’m interested in what meaning is, and how meaning happens, through language. Can you philosophers help me out? Which one of you do I trust? Which ones are, by contrast, measuring their value to the field only by citation index, which might only be an indication of how many stupid arguments they’ve been able to start by feverishly propagating misunderstandings?

This is far from the most interesting thing he said (John M. and Evan, this is our kind of guy), and of course it leaves out all the genuinely valuable things the philosophers we all know we can trust do, but I still had a good snort over it.

In another comment, Anderson kindly offers up this provocative quote from Callicles’ rant in the Gorgias:

Philosophy, as a part of education, is an excellent thing, and there is no disgrace to a man while he is young in pursuing such a study; but when he is more advanced in years, the thing becomes ridiculous, and I feel towards philosophers as I do towards those who lisp and imitate children.

One might say the same of the study of history, or any of the humanities.

April 7, 2009

Freedom squish

by Carl Dyke

I was recently involved (as a bit of a thread-jacker) in a conversation over at Edge of the West about drug policy. Dana’s original post expressed a sensible doubt about the value of anecdotal evidence in disproving the destructive effects of pot smoking, and noted that the success of the anecdoter in question “has less to do with the fact that pot isn’t dangerous and more to do with the fact that if one is well-educated and well-off one has to really screw up before anything affects one’s expected life outcomes. They have a safety net made of money.”

It seemed to me this good thought got pretty well covered in short order, so I went meta by suggesting that moving transgression thresholds here and there was more likely to squish unfreedom around than to actually make anyone more free (although I’ll accept ‘more choice’ in a supermarket sense as marginally preferable to ‘less choice’). Pot itself is not much of a point, nor are its specific properties and effects more than a distraction; it’s just where the line happens to be drawn in a disciplinary regime that works by drawing lines somewhere. I made this argument in some detail there and won’t reproduce it here – click through.

So if it’s not squishing unfreedom around, what would it mean to be more free? I don’t have a satisfying answer for that, but here’s my answer, in a couple of parts. Like Voltaire’s Brahmin I wouldn’t want to exchange paralyzing awareness for busy ignorance. And like Camus’ Sisyphus I think there are all sorts of things worth doing anyway (like teaching) not because they’ll actually work in some larger transformative sense but because this absurd fate belongs to us.

Would it be different if it was cheese?

Would it be different if it was cheese?

Freedom is the recognition of necessity, as Hegel said. When I was driving down to school this morning I chanced to be behind a couple of cars in a row that were pretty much ignoring the lines painted on the road. Their flirtation with those transgression thresholds may have seemed like freedom to them, but acceptable transgression is part of how the system’s built. Around here beat up old guys in beat up old pickup trucks drive real slow, right down the center of the lane. Freedom is in coming to grips with the lines, accepting their power to limit and compel, and releasing the desire for somewhere, something else they simultaneously create and frustrate. If there’s room to move and to play within the lines, so much the better.

November 5, 2008

Obamas' dog

by Carl Dyke

They totally oughta get a pit bull and name her Sarah.

Such a sweetie.

September 24, 2008


by Carl Dyke

Courtesy of Alexandre Enkerli at Disparate, whose commentary is typically aromatic, here’s a meme.

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

So here goes. I will remove some suspense by establishing from the outset that I have a thang about slimy textures. It took me the first five years of my adult life just to teach myself to like raw tomatoes. I’ll also choose savory over sweet most every time. And some of these are pretty transparently reaching for snob appeal. I’m not a collector of experiences just for the sake of checking off an item on a list.

1. Venison (Courtesy of hunter friends. Very tasty; a bit dry, which I like in meat.)
2. Nettle tea (No, but I’ve drunk plenty of flower/leaf/stem/root teas and I’m not clear on why this particular one is the issue.)
3. Huevos rancheros (Yum. Just this weekend.)
4. Steak tartare (Near enough to the edge of slimy to discourage my interest.)
5. Crocodile (No opportunity and not clear why I would seek it out.)
6. Black pudding (Hasn’t come up.)
7. Cheese fondue (Make it myself sometimes, with a touch of port or sherry.)
8. Carp (Not a big fish fan, but if it’s put in front of me I’ll bite.)
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush Eggplant is high on slime but I love the Mediterranean flavors.

read more »

September 3, 2008

The wonders of college

by Carl Dyke

It’s that time of year in the halls of academe when hope springs and experience pings, when we imagine the sweet epiphanies we will share with excited and eager students, while remembering years past’s slow boring of hard boards.

Mikhail has some thoughts about the first year experience, I am teaching a class explicitly designed to frame the first year experience, each of us has memories of those rosy days, so this is probably a good time to recall Tim Clydesdale’s sociological work on teens in the first year of college. There’s a nice short review in the Chronicle, titled “The Myth of First-Year Enlightenment.”

He finds that students in their first year are perhaps uniquely resistant to the kind of deeply transformative experience we imagine is the real payoff of college, and indeed are busy just figuring out how to get along away from home. In the meantime they put the very core values we’d like to get them to question into an “identity lockbox” for safekeeping.

Clydesdale notes that “Only a handful of students on each campus find a liberal-arts education to be deeply meaningful and important, and most of those end up becoming college professors themselves…. And so the liberal-arts paradigm perpetuates itself, while remaining out of sync with the vast majority of college students.” Yup.

Practically, Clydesdale recommends several shifts of emphasis: from content inculcation to skills development; from lectures students will soon forget to class discussion of issues, perspectives and interpretations; and from grand goals about moral awakening to modest goals about competence.

Mikhail is quite right that our young charges “will have to get used to the idea that life is full of situations in which you have to learn something, even if it looks like a completely useless subject – remember, [they’re] not old enough or experienced enough to be the judge of what is or isn’t useless.” And the first year is part of that process. But as a matter of practical pedagogy in the face of brute sociological facts, much of what we can accomplish in the first year is to not so thoroughly turn them off with our sanctimonious attempts to jam goodness into their heads that they’ll never recover and will remain sullen anti-intellectuals for the rest of their lives.

August 19, 2008

Outside the box

by Carl Dyke

There’s always a box. There are many of them. The best we can do is think outside this one. Sometimes that’s enough.

July 24, 2008

Wordle pedagogy

by Carl Dyke

The commentary on Rough Theory’s wordle post of dissertation chapter 1 stimulated a further thought about Wordle, which its creator describes as “a toy.” I’ll agree with that to start with, because it’s fun to play with.

The “beautiful word clouds” generated from our more ‘serious’ work feel like they capture something, however. As Lynda said ironically at RT, “it’s all there, and presented much more eloquently than I could ever do with bothersome things like sentences.” NP wonders if they could be submitted in lieu of an abstract, and Lynda says “*Now* I know what my thesis is about.” I had the same reaction, including that shiver of embarrassment about certain words that should have been inconsequential turning out to be heavy in the distribution (Wordle removes linguistically common ‘stopwords’ and weights the rest by frequency).

Still, in principle it should matter what order and relation we put words in; otherwise we could all just stop with the bothersome sentences and write word lists for wordling. For example, frequency is not the only index of importance; sometimes a word that appears only once is the fulcrum of a whole argument. In fact, this transition from lumped word clusters to organized thoughts is pretty much what I’m trying to teach during my day job. I get papers that read like wordles all the time; if the words are well-enough chosen, they sometimes even pass. Now I find myself wondering if I could use Wordle itself to graphically represent to the students the difference between a word dump and a fully-articulated paper.

I’d welcome thoughts on this. Just as a first impression, I imagine requiring students a week before an early-semester paper is due to come to class with a Wordle printout of their introductory paragraph. I would then put them in work groups and have them attempt to interpret each others’ wordles to see how close they could get to the author’s intended meaning. In the process I think they would be clarifying in their own minds what ‘extra’ is needed beyond mere words to communicate a meaning and frame an argument. The additional benefit is that this would move their procrastination window up a week.

If this seems like fun, we could always experiment with my chapter wordles here or NP’s at Rough Theory….

July 14, 2008

Bo Diddley, 1928-2008

by Carl Dyke

I must have been under a rock because I missed the recent death of Bo Diddley, one of the greats of the generation that turned blues, r&b, gospel, jazz, country, worksong, hollers, and street music into rock & roll. Thanks to Lumpenprofessoriat here’s a video of Bo and the band at the top of their game:

Rachel and I were just watching a John Lennon documentary, and so one striking thing to me about this vid is all the white girls going all beatlemania for big black Bo. It can be easy to forget that this hysterical and racially goodwilled fanitude was a general cultural style at the time, of course with gendered variants. Even earlier. My dad has reminisced about the virtual mosh pit up at the front of the stage at a Charlie Parker concert (at that point, must have been the early ’50s, Dad was the only white guy there).

In his heyday Bo had a great band, as you can see. It’s all about the rhythm. The girls had moves, and it’s interesting and unique for the time to see one of them, Lady Bo, doubling on guitar and taking a lead turn. In Bo’s music there’s very little of the predatory misogyny that catches at contemporary sensibilities about much of the popular music of that time, and maybe here is more evidence of Bo’s good nature in that respect. He wasn’t a guy who drew the line; everyone was invited.

I saw Bo about 22 years ago at J.C. Dobbs on South Street in Philadelphia. It was one of those cash-maximizing affairs where he was touring without a band and played with whatever locals he could pick up. Like many artists of his era, black and white, he signed bad contracts, managed what money he did make poorly, and had little to show for his glory years. The venue was small and noisy, the band was a bunch of clueless young guys, and Bo was disinterested; but even so, there were flashes of the charisma, wit, and style you can see in the video, and it’s a cherished memory.