Jack Trammell, Vampire Hunter

Some Thoughts On Jack Trammell

 

Paul Klemperer, 6/12/2014

 

Finally, some fresh air in the political discourse.  A right wing economics professor vs. a progressive sociology professor (and novelist), are going to duke it out in Virginia.

 

David Brat, the new Tea Party darling, grabbed the reins of the GOP’s runaway stagecoach from Eric Cantor, who was too busy fundraising at high-dollar steakhouses around the country to win his own primary race.  Brat promises to steer the stagecoach firmly back into the past, with paranoid economic theories on immigrants, gays, uppity women, and other time-tested hot-button issues designed to circle the wagons against the forces of history.

 

Meanwhile Democrat Jack Trammell is reprising the role of Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” by running for office because no other Democrats would step up.  His greatest strength is perhaps the fact that he is writing a vampire novel – the metaphorical resonance of battling the undead will connect with voters more than any other political soundbites that get tossed around.

 

As someone with a background in both sociology and writing, I am naturally inclined to support Trammell.  Of course, it depends on what he does with the vampire theme.  I’m working on my own vampire novel, but our popular culture landscape is glutted with vampire shtick these days, and it will take someone with great insight and creativity to lead us into new vampire metaphorical territory, someone with bold new ideas who won’t just rehash old vampire storylines.

 

Frankly, our country can’t afford out-dated, dead-end vampire plots.  After the Anne Rice books, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, True Blood, and Twilight (for the tweens, some of who may be of voting age by now), we can’t go back to simple Euro-Christian vampire themes: crucifixes, holy water, Good vs. Evil.  These dusty memes aren’t just limiting in metaphorical resonance, they are actually dangerous plot devices for our modern 21st century vampire stories.  They can’t prepare our young people for the complex vampire-related questions they will face in the world we have created for them.

 

We need fresh ideas about the undead.  In the same way business leaders are embracing innovative thinking and out-of-the-box business models, we need fresh, out-of-the-coffin ideas about vampires, zombies, werewolves, and all the rest of our monster mythology.

 

Why?  Because our popular culture monsters are the dark mirror we hold up to examine ourselves.  When a young person comes to the realization that the blood-sucking fiend stalking the neighborhood is really just a metaphor for our own sociopathic gluttonous consumer culture, will that young person be able to grapple with the crushing existential moral implications when armed only with a silver cross, wooden stake and holy water.  I don’t think so!  Even without armies of pedophile priests cluttering the moral battlefield, these antiquated tools have lost their cultural potency.

 

What we need now are writers with a greater vision, people who can draw from global cultural traditions, using both traditional and modern metaphorical plot devices to equip readers with a much more diverse set of intellectual tools.  The struggle against vampires is really part of a larger struggle to understand ourselves.  It’s a tough job but America has always shown great sociological and novelistic ingenuity in the past.  I just hope Jack Trammell, vampire hunter, is equal to the task.

Free Music Workshop: “Using Blues In Jazz” @ TX Historical Society

On June 15, noon-2:00pm, Paul Klemperer will lead a free workshop: “Using Blues In Jazz.”  The 2-hour workshop, sponsored by Diverse Arts Culture Works and the Austin Jazz Alliance, is aimed at beginning to intermediate players who want to learn jazz, but may be coming from other musical styles like rock, blues, folk and classical.  Some knowledge of basic major and minor chords, and the minor pentatonic scale, is helpful but not essential.

Paul will demonstrate melodic and rhythmic phrases that occur in many jazz tunes, and are helpful for playing solos over various jazz song forms.  Participants can bring their instruments and will have a chance to play.

This workshop is an introductory sample of other workshops and classes offered by Paul.  Handouts and links to helpful online PDF’s will be available.

Summer In Austin

May has given us a taste of summer with some  sweltering days, but we still get reprieves of cooler weather and spring rains.  As a sometime gardener I do appreciate the rain.  My big satisfaction this spring is a crop of artichokes which I’ve started sharing with friends.  My mom makes a delicious hollandaise sauce and I always associate that with artichokes.  But I’m too lazy and set in my ways to learn how to make it, so I make do with lemon & butter, or throw together some kind of remoulade with mayonnaise, hot sauce and whatever else falls into my hand.  Really, the artichokes are so deliciously fresh they taste magical just by themselves.

Musically it has been a productive spring as well.  I finished up a semester playing with the ACC big band under the direction of Tom Husak (I love his arrangements, always fun & challenging to play).  We closed the semester with a fun concert at the Clive Bar, with Redd Volkaert as the featured artist.

I’ll be playing a show in June with my old compadre Graham Reynolds and the Golden Arm Trio.  It will be a concert in the park in Houston, June 6.  I’ll have a few more shows in June and then it’s off to New England to play and teach for several weeks.  That will still leave plenty of Texas summer for me when I get back in August.  Gotta love it!

Spring Events 2014

SXSW was Dickensian as always.  The best of times, the worst of times.  All the ink and blogging about it maybe reflects how its huge size has changed its character in one fundamental way: It is too big to sum up.  Everyone who participates in SXSW (or is just impacted by it) has a unique set of experiences.  In this spirit, I think all the commentary is helpful rather than confusing or detrimental, as long as we can try to step back and let the various voices help fill in the big picture.

For myself it was an exhausting couple of weeks, but I met some good people, gleaned a few specks of gold from the various panels and publicity events, caught a few interesting musical acts that stood out from the pack, and even managed to play my usual gigs around town.  The biggest victory was, of course, finding a parking space when you needed it.  For my showcase at the Russian House I did have to resort to a pedicab to get my gear and myself to the gig from my car which was parked over a mile away.  I was one of the lucky ones, I’m sure.

The high point of SXSW was getting to play with Sandhya Sanjana, the amazing Indian vocalist, who bridges classical Indian styles, jazz, funk and pop.  I look forward to working with her again when the stars align.

A big thank you also to Jakes Srinivasan and WOBEON, for working so hard to strengthen and promote the world music scene here in Austin.  The monthly shows at One2One Bar are really memorable, and more cool events will be forthcoming through the year.