January 2003 Notebook
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Wednesday, January 29, 2003

A few disconnected thoughts here, things that have been turning over in my head, with no particular context. (Certainly not Bush's "State of the Union" speech, which I didn't have the stomach to witness.)


It's become something of a new dogma, at least among Democrats, that the way to stimulate the economy is to provide more spending cash to the poor. However, one problem with this is that almost all of the manufactured goods that the poor might buy are in fact build abroad, in which case they have practically no net effect on job creation in the U.S. (Minor exceptions in the shipping and retail industries.) Of course, this isn't any dumber than providing the rich with more investment money, since any newfound capital is itself likely to be invested abroad, similarly creating jobs there but not here. In both cases the problem is that the U.S. economy leaks heat so pervasively that the usual stimulus tricks just don't have much effect. (This shouldn't be a new observation: in the wake of the first Bush war against Iraq, the Fed fought the recession by dropping interest rates, but the cheap capital this created almost all went into East Asia and Mexico, creating bubbles that soon burst.)

Of course, this is backward thinking on my part: my brain is stuck in the notion that there are national economies whereas we all know that now there is just one global economy. This is presumably why nobody worries anymore that the U.S. has been running trade deficits for thirty-some consecutive years now. But I'm not the only backward thinker here -- political discourse is meant to appeal to the national polity: when a politican talks about stimulating the economy we think first of what that stimulation means to our own livelihoods, and to the livelihoods of those within our communities, states, and nation. But if there's no way to concentrate this stimulus, in effect we're not heating our homes but the great outdoors.

I suspect that the appeal of demand-based stimulus is largely based on the fact that the previous investment-oriented dogma hasn't worked too well: in particular, it has left the world with a surplus of capacity but insufficient demand, so further push down that road tends to be wasted. In such a world there is a basic need to elevate demand, but that's hard to do without tackling the economic inequality problem -- which looms worse than most people recognize, since it has been masked for so long by ever riskier loans. (Just one of many things that have creeped up on us but could collapse catastrophically.)

The one obvious approach that hasn't yet come back in vogue is the old-fashioned New Deal approach, which is for the government to spend more money, to put people to work, in effect to create demand by fiat. There are lots of reasons for this, not least of which is the fact that the Bush Leaguers in Washington make Herbert Hoover look both intelligent and concerned. (It's one thing to incur a deficit during a recession -- that's pretty much to be expected -- but another to make it worse by cutting taxes and focusing your spending on foreign wars, both of which move money away from the domestic economy and chill things further by instilling fear and exacerbating inequality and injustice.) But when you think about it there are lots of things that could really benefit from public funding -- pollution control, development of less pollution energy sources, recycling, education, internet access, free software, parks and recreation, urban renewal and better housing, public art, maybe even a highway or two, the list is practically endless.

A less obvious approach would be for the government to make strategic investments in the private sector, where the strategy is to try to bring prices down. Such investments rarely happen in the private sector, since the private sector's investment strategy is to maximize profits, and that rarely involves cutting prices. Yet almost every real gain in living standards has come about not by people achieving enough income to buy expensive products but by the products getting cheap enough to be afforded by the masses. Just look around you: how many people would have VCRs if they still cost $1300? Personal computers if they still cost $5000? Further back you have to adjust for inflation, but consider that cars in the 1900's cost thousands of dollars, but Henry Ford cut the price of the Model T to less than $300. Just look around and you'll find many places where prices can conceivably be cut significantly, enough to vastly expand the market and add to people's real standard of living. (Of course, given that I'm surrounded by thousands of compact discs, one example is music; indeed, the very popularity of file sharing shows that the latent demand is there, if only the costs can be slashed -- which of course they can be.)


The election news from Israel is sad and pathetic. Sharon is, if anything, an even worse disaster than Bush, yet the state of political discourse in Israel has become so debased that it is impossible to see any way out: even though reasonable solutions seem technically simple, the Israeli electorate is so imprisoned in its own rhetoric that it seems impossible to find a path whereby Israel might voluntarily back away from their insane oppression of the Palestinians. Sharon's program is cynically based on denying the Palestinians the right to be recognized and to negotiate their status and grievances, and anyone who can't see that anything else that he says is a lie is way beyond deluded.

What's hard to fathom here is the breakdown of the Labor party under Mitzna. I suspect that this breakdown in fact predates Mitzna's rise, and that it is mostly due to the inability of Labor to make peace when it had the chance (first under Peres and later under Barak), and its willingness to collaborate with Sharon, which effectively made Labor and Likud two peas in the same pod. If the break hurt Labor in the short run, it's hard to see that Labor would have had any long-run future anyway, since as long as you're conceding that the government will run on war and repression, you're conceding the right of the right to rule. (That this is also the problem that the Democratic Party in the U.S. faces should be noted.)

Aside from their peace positions, the big difference (at least as far as I can tell, admittedly from far away) is that Sharon was nothing but lies and deception, while Mitzna was so blunt that he would've made Barry Goldwater seem smarmy. This seems to say something about what voters expect in politicking (something depressingly shared in the U.S. and Israel), namely that voters don't trust ideologues, and do trust crooks: the latter at least are maleable, they bend to say what is expected of them even where they never act on it. (I reckon one thing Bush had over Gore was that even though Gore had proven to be hopelessly compromised, voters still suspected that he had hidden principles that might spell trouble in the long run.)


It occurs to me that the only American wars that anyone has anything good to say about were ones that were prosecuted in the name of greater freedom and justice: World War II, the Civil War, the American Revolution. Even in the case of World War I people remember Wilson's principles, most importantly the right of self-determination. These wars were led by people on the left side of America's political spectrum, and in the aftermath of these wars there was a significant expansion of political freedom. (In the case of WWII this accelerated the civil rights movement and the end of segregation, although like WWI it was accompanied by a red scare backlash against labor and socialist political movements.)

This isn't to say that these were "good wars" or even "just wars" -- they were horrible wars that we backed into, in part because we had let the injustices that underlied them fester way too long. Once you get past the primitive notion that war is about looting, all modern wars are failures of policy, perception, and responsibility. The early warning signs are injustices.

But back to my original point, which is that it is terrible policy to allow right-wingers to prosecute a war.

Monday, January 27, 2003

John W. Dower, in Embracing Defeat (p. 461) has a quote which sounds like an early iteration of the Bush Doctrine: "Peoples of all the nations of the world absolutely should not abandon the right to initiate wars of self-defense." The person quoted was Tojo, the prime minister of wartime Japan, while he was facing war crime charges, for which he was found guilty and executed. Dower doesn't go into this, but my recollection is that Japan almost always justified its wars on self-defense grounds, most obviously on the fear that European and American imperialism was carving up Asia in a way that would leave Japan isolated, without access to Asian markets and raw materials.

The Tojo Doctrine is fatally flawed: it turns out that as long as Japan has fair access to the world market they don't need (and are far better off without) war as an instrument of defensive policy. It's hard to know what to say about the Bush Doctrine, other than that it's just a sloppy piece of theorizing evidently intended as a fig leaf for attacking Iraq, but like the "Axis of Evil" speech it bites off a bit more than anyone wants to chew. (Like North Korea.)

But on the war crimes front, Bush has at least done due dilligence: refusing to sign up for the World Court, in fact demanding a free pass for all Americans. In doing so the U.S. is missing a critical opportunity to put its behavior above board, and more importantly, to provide a venue where aggrieved peoples can make a case against injustice without having to kill people. The notion that conflicts and injustices can be solved peacably is still as radical as it was when Tojo was executed for retroactively violating it.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Music: With the first "Recycled Goods" column in the can, and the unrated list up over the 800 mark again, let's try to catch up this week.

  • Ahmed Abdul-Malik: Jazz Sahara (1958, OJC). Originally Sam Gill, an American but with roots in Sudan, he played bass with Monk but mostly plays oud on this date. Middle-eastern rhythm and tone, topped with the irrepressible Johnny Griffin on tenor sax. An interesting piece of hybrid music. B+
  • Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass: Classics, Vol. 1 (1962-70, A&M). For me he came to the fore just last year, with the instrumental track wedded to a Public Enemy rap on The Best Bootlegs in the World Ever. So, yeah, that softened me up a bit, but this collection of mostly instrumental pop from his salad days is mostly listenable, sometimes enjoyable. A bit long, perhaps. B
  • Franco Ambrosetti: Gin and Pentatonic (1983-85, Enja). This is the sort of thing that reminds me of the otherwise meaningless category "post-bop." With bop it shares the fast, showy horn runs (Ambrosetti plays trumpet), and it has much the same rhythmic nuance, but it seems sort of gussied up, like a night at the symphony. Not the sort of thing I like, yet when Buster Williams takes a bass solo, and Kenny Kirkland chimes in on piano (on the title cut), my ears perk up. B
  • Billy Bang: Vietnam: The Aftermath (2001, Justin Time). Whether Bang exorcised any personal demons in this venture, he did put a lot of thought and took a lot of care in the development. One thing that helps is that Vietnamese music itself is full of strings and flutes and percussion, so Bang could build on motifs that fit his violin perfectly. He also tapped Butch Morris to conduct, which kept this rather large (eight man) ensemble tight and orderly. The result is music that is compelling and captivating, that runs the gamut from fascination to fear to sorrow to terror to amusement. Very impressive. A
  • Bikini Kill: The C.D. Version of the First Two Records (1992, Kill Rock Stars). Very rough, its construction and aura coming closer to free jazz than punk rock. I like it enough to make me wonder whether I haven't undergraded their other albums. B+
  • Acker Bilk: The Collection (1973-78, Castle). Bilk was a British trad jazz clarinetist -- a pretty good one, in fact. But in 1961 he had a freak pop crossover hit, "Stranger on the Shore," a piece of elegant instrumental fluff that has haunted him ever since -- not unlike, say, Gene Chandler: take "Duke of Earl" from him and he's a totally different musician. "Stranger" leads off this set of mid-'70s easy listening cuts, anchored with a string orchestra that is neither trad nor jazz nor anything else you'd ever want to listen to. C
  • Art Blakey: Ken Burns Jazz (1954-81 Verve). Long before I knew better I managed to come up with the opinion that everything Art Blakey touches sounds just fine, while none of his records are likely to be flat-out astonishing. Pretty good first approximation, it turns out, although it's also true that Blakey had established himself as perhaps the greatest of all jazz drummers even before he formed the Jazz Messengers and started his program "to keep the mind active" by cultivating young players. This not-quite-career-spanning collection does cover a lot of bases, ranging from Clifford Brown to Bobby Watson, with rampaging be-bop, funky hard-bop, and a dash of Monk in between. One of the best entries in an easy but uneven series. A
  • Hamiet Bluiett & Concept: Live at Carlos I: Another Night (1986, Just a Memory). I'm working backwards here -- according to the Penguin Guide, the first night's the keeper. But this is pretty incisive music, and while the piano player doesn't quite knock you on your ass, he still reminds you that he's Don Pullen. B+
  • Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham: The Concord Jazz Heritage Series (1984-95, Concord). Jeannie sings and plays piano; Jimmy plays bass trombone. The music is blues, which is predictable and comforting. Much of the added value comes from the fine jazz musicians that Concord supplements the Sweet Baby Blues Band with. B+
  • Cyrus Chestnut: Soul Food (2001, Atlantic). Sounds like superstar glut, but the obvious problem is that Stefon Harris' speed vibes don't complement Chestnut's gospel piano. The unobvious problem is that after five spins I can't even recall the saxophonists playing, which is hardly what you'd expect from Gary Bartz or James Carter. I can recall the trombone player (Wycliffe Gordon), and "Brother Hawky Hawk" is what Chestnut does best. B
  • Ken Colyer's Jazzmen: In Concert -- 1959 (Dine-a-Mite Jazz). This is the only example I have of Colyer, who was a founder and mainstay of Britain's trad jazz movement. Although trad doesn't seem to get much respect outside of Britain, I've heard examples of oustanding group interplay. This one, however, seems run-of-the-mill, with much of the problem in getting a clear bead on the rhythm section, which is buried in the mix like a metronome. B-
  • The Rough Guide to Lucky Dube (1990-99, World Music Network). Dube is a South African who plays reggae, and he seems to be a star somewhere. (The blurb claims that "some of his albums have sold in excess of half a million copies," but his U.S. distribution thus far has been on Shanachie, which seems very unlikely to deal in such quantities.) Musically, he follows very squarely in Bob Marley's ruts, but he doesn't have whatever it was that made Marley great -- charisma? Not sure what else is missing, but he's never struck me as much more than secondhand, which is too bad. Reggae outside Jamaica may be a received music, but it doesn't have to be a received experience. B
  • Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet: Here and Now (1962, Verve). I've yet to figure out how to make fine distinctions in the Jazztet's works: this is nice, graceful, tasteful, pretty much everything you'd expect. B+
  • Hal Galper: Portrait (1989, Concord). A very bright, sharp piano trio. I tend to bunch anything that's good in that format into the B+ niche, but every time I play this one it surprises me. A-
  • The Very Best of Stan Getz (1952-91, Verve). This 2002 showcase repeats two cuts from 1996's similar-minded A Life in Jazz: A Musical Biography, and shares no less than five pieces with Verve's other 2002 Getz sampler, The Definitive Stan Getz -- the latter having the advantage of access to Getz's early Roost recordings. More importantly, almost everything here comes from an album worth owning in its own right, and the albums in question are remarkably diverse: hard-charging be-bop with Dizzie Gillespie and J.J. Johnson, west coast cool with Shelly Manne and Lou Levy, samba with Charlie Byrd and the Gilbertos, Eddie Sauter's cubist strings (from Focus, the only sax-with-strings record you actually have to hear), his latter-day mainstream, and two cuts from People Time, his poignant duet with Kenny Barron. It's a lot to digest, and I can't help but wonder how well a neophyte might fare here, but what will immediately be obvious is that you're in the presence of one of the all-time greats. A-
  • Benny Golson: Free (1960-62, Chess/GRP). This combines two albums with mainstream groups, providing a good taste of Golson's sound, especially on ballad material. B+
  • Benny Golson: That's Funky (2000, Arkadia). This makes my third straight Benny Golson B+ record, and this is the most B+ of the bunch. The Farmer record is subtle and a bit slippery, could in truth go up or down, but probably not much. Free is a solid tenor album, great tone, very warm and nice. This one is, if not James Brown funky, at least Roots of Jazz Funk funky: two takes on "Mack the Knife" and pieces from the Golson-vintage Jazz Messengers, helped out by Nat Adderley and a crack rhythm section. B+
  • Dexter Gordon: Settin' the Pace (1945-47, Savoy). This is bebop-influenced, fast, jump pieces, including a session with Fats Navarro, with a couple of ballads to show off Dexter's tone and phrasing. Impressive throughout. A-
  • Stéphane Grappelli / Baden Powell: La Grande Réunion (1974, Musidisc). Half of this is a small group which mostly does light Brazillian pieces, where Grappelli's violin adds flavor to Powell's rhythm: very nice. The other half is backed by a cloying, anonymous sounding orchestra, reworking pop material as overworked as "Yesterday" and "You Are the Sunshine of My Life": dull and dreary even as muzak. B-
  • Grant Green: Born to Be Blue (1962, Blue Note). This seems to be one of Green's finer albums, with his typical guitar runs and Sonny Clark's piano propping up Ike Quebec's languid tenor sax. A-
  • The Roy Haynes Trio Featuring Danilo Perez & John Patitucci (2000, Verve). Not your ordinary piano trio: for one thing, the veteran drummer's name comes first, but even more notably it's the drummer that your ears follow. A-
  • Andrew Hill: Dusk (2000, Palmetto). This is the kind of composed improvisation that never manages to take off, perhaps because the big band just isn't big enough, or because something got missed along the way. The horns sound tinny, the pieces feel unfinished, or maybe just overwrought. This made year-end lists of most of the jazz critics. B-
  • Andrew Hill: A Beautiful Day (2002, Palmetto). Much the same music/same band as Dusk, with many of the same difficulties, but better executed, and definitely more fun in front of an appreciative audience. Again, this swept the year-end lists. B
  • Freddy King Sings (1960-61, Modern Blues). A short set of prime electric blues. A-
  • Freddy King: Just Pickin' (1960-64, Modern Blues). Two albums of King's blues instrumentals. Amazingly cogent work. A-
  • John Lewis & Svend Asmussen: European Encounter (1962, Atlantic). This was a very nice match-up, with Asmussen's violin adding rich tone and depth to Lewis's stately piano and delicate songbook. I'd like to hear more of Asmussen. B+
  • John Lewis: Evolution (1999, Atlantic). Solo piano, thoughtful takes on standards and esteemed MJQ pieces. He's never rocked, and certainly doesn't mean to start as he enteres his 80s. B+
  • John Lewis: Evolution II (2000, Atlantic). This time he gets help -- two sets of guitar/bass plus Lewis Nash -- but the help doesn't add much, light comping behind Lewis' precise and elegant pianism. Both of these records are very highly regarded by critics who are much more attuned to Lewis than I am. Don't know whether that means I'm hedging up, or dumbing down. B+
  • Portrait of Marian McPartland (1979, Concord). Good mainstream session, with her trio plus Jerry Dodgion on saxophone and flute -- the latter put to particularly good effect. B+
  • Jason Moran: Modernistic (2002, Blue Note). Solo piano, except for some much appreciated trickery on "Planet Rock." The first three pieces -- James P. Johnson, "Body and Soul", and "Planet Rock" -- progressively unveil the idea of modernism, setting the table for the originals that follow. How the latter fit in is harder to say, but what is clear is how solidly they fit together. People who get off on solo piano are into the high-wire act, the freedom that comes from working alone in the spotlight. This is different somehow: for one thing it's listenable, satisfying even. A-
  • Rizwan-Muazam Qawwali Group: Attish: The Hiden Fire (1998, Womad/Asia). The first release of these nephews and fellow travellers trailing behind Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, this has the fundamentals solid but not the clarity or distinctiveness they attained later on. B
  • Kid Thomas-George Lewis Ragtime Stompers (1961, GHB). This is a superb piece of old-fashioned dixieland jazz, done the old-fashioned way, by old guys who grew up in the real thing. The rhythm is banjo-driven, and the three horns (Jim Robinson is a treat on trombone) fly off in different directions, somehow complementing each other along the way, just like classic New Orleans polyphony is supposed to. George Lewis's clarinet is everywhere, comping behind the vocal in "Salty Dog" and leading the "Easter Parade". A

Saturday, January 25, 2003

Movie: Adaptation. A bunch of pieces, none of which quite fit together, but some are funny, and the history of life on earth is remarkable. The film-within-the-film is also fine -- Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper -- at least until the ending (not clear which cheek that popped out of). But Charlie's twin Donald was one concept I could do without, both in terms of Nicholas Cage's double-dose of ugly but especially in the nagging suspicion that the whole second role is some bogus dramatization of self-delusion, a la Beautiful Mind or even Fight Club. I don't know whether it is or not, which I suppose is a blessing compared to the two movies I named, but why was it a necessary one? B+

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Bob Getz writes a twice-a-week column in The Wichita Eagle, about whatever strikes his fancy -- usually nothing special. But a week ago he jotted down a list of reasons why the Iraq war is stupid, and followed it up by reporting on his mail, 20 out of 26 people agreeing with him. I thought about writing when the first column came out, but didn't do it until now. Thought I'd share:

Bob Getz,

I was unusually tempted to write you after your previous column on the Bush plan to invade Iraq, but didn't get around to it until after seeing your second column. So here it is: thanks for an exceptionally clear-headed and cant-free statement. I really can't see anything but woe coming out of this war, and I can't see any reason for Kansans to accept or support it. Even if every vile thing you hear about Saddam Hussein is true, I can't see Iraq as a threat to anything in my life -- unlike war, which casts a pall over the economy, sucking wealth out to be incinerated overseas. And as for helping those poor Iraqis overthrow their tyrant, God helps those who help themselves. But even short of that some sort of negotiated end to the sanctions would do far more good, and would no doubt be much more appreciated than occupation by an alien power.

But the thing that worries me most has nothing to do with the Iraqis: I'm worried about what war, even in victory, will do to us. An old Kansas named Dwight Eisenhower warned about the growing threat of a "military-industrial complex," but rather than heeding that warning John F. Kennedy concocted his "missile gap" and Lyndon Johnson plunged us hopeless into Vietnam. And while Johnson and his liberal ideologues may have thought that they were bringing American democracy to Vietnam, their methods so undermined them that they became lost, unable to fathom that it's impossible to save a village by destroying it. On the other hand, Nixon and his conservative realpolitiker saw that defeat in Vietnam was inevitable, but tragically escalated the war to remind the world to respect American power. Since then we've been in denial about what the war did not only to Vietnam and Cambodia (millions of dead) but what it did to America, which was to strip away the innocence of our good intentions and to cultivate a cynical, power-craving military/CIA establishment.

We had an opportunity to cut back with the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the hawks were saved by Iraq, and propelled forward by Al Qaeda. While the rest of the world has steadfastly moved away from war as a solution to anything, Bush seems to be intoxicated with America's status as the world's sole superpower and the military prowess that dubious claim rests on. But that power is hollow: the power to destroy, but not to build, nor even to protect. And it's harder than ever to clothe that power with anything resembling good intentions. And this seems to be pretty clear to the whole world now, even if some politicians and media moguls opt to play along.

Back in the 1960s there was a slogan in the antiwar movement: "Suppose they gave a war and nobody came." At the time reeked with irony, a flashback to the pro-war parades that launched World War I. (Hardly a more distant past then than Vietnam is now -- my grandfather fought in WWI.) Hopefully this old slogan will lose its irony and become a plain statement of fact this time.

[PS: 2003-01-27: Got a nice reply back from Bob Getz:

Dear Tom

Amen, amen, amen. What a great e-mail. What clear thinking, so well expressed. I wish they could run your e-mail on the op-ed page.... Thanks very much for sending it. I'll be doing another follow-up column for Wednesday. I wish I had the space to do justice to your thoughts....

Best regards
Bob Getz

Looking forward to Wednesday's column (which, by the way, didn't quote me, in part because almost everyone else who wrote in was antiwar).]

While at it, I knocked off a little letter to Molly Ivins regarding her column today on the health care mess:

Molly Ivins,

Regarding your Jan. 21 column, I'd like to add a couple of points:

  1. How come whenever people talk about reforming the health care system they get stuck on how much it costs and don't talk about the quality of the system? It's not like the quality of the system, even for people fortunate enough to have affordable access to it, is beyond reproach. Nor that most people would balk at paying even more for better treatment. And when we start talking about how much money could be saved doing things differently, we automatically raise a red flag that doing so might cost us some critical treatment. After all, this is complicated stuff, and there's not a lot of room for error. Also, the plain fact is as medicine progresses we just need a lot more of it -- we have more chronic ailments and need more rehabilitative care and so forth. So even if we manage to trim back excessive costs now, the long term cost trend is up, up, up; just as the demand curve is more, more, more. So we might as well face up to this and plan for it, and most importantly push the question of what kind of health care system do we want in the future? Only then can you go about figuring how to pay for it.

  2. I'm convinced that malpractice issues have to be moved out of the tort system. The reason for this is that the legal liabilities work to shroud the system in secrecy, whereas the only way to improve quality is to open it up and rigorously investigate everything that goes wrong. (Atul Gawande describes this how some of this works in his book, "Complications"; he also provides many examples of broad the gray area is between trivial mistakes and culpable malpractice, and makes the case that most doctors make mistakes from time to time, and that repetitive malfeasance is very rare, although he writes about that as well. Another example is the way the FAA examines aircraft crashes.) I won't go into how to design a new system here, but the current system really doesn't work and it's an unnecessary burden on the system.

  3. The insurance companies: you know about them, and the problem with lack of universal coverage. As profit-seeking private entities, the only ways they can make money are by charging more and paying less, which clearly they're well adapted at. Neither attribute serves us well. But aside from inherent waste and duplicity, the thing that's finally going to kill the insurance companies is that they're being squeezed between greater liabilities and resistance or inability to pay. The fallback is, of course, the government, who already picks up the tab for health care for the elderly and poor, as well as disaster aid, terrorism liability, etc. Also note that the government has intrinsic advantages as an insurance provider. It seems to me that if we don't kick the insurance companies out soon, they'll eventually abdicate on their own. The big question is going to be how to pay for the new system: I submit that payroll taxes are already too high.

  4. We need to seriously look at patent policy and how it supports private monopolies. The patent system was supposed to promote the general welfare, but in fact it guarantees maximal pricing of damn near every pharmaceutical and medical technology in use today, creating artificial barriers to the access of state-of-the-art technology. Given that the actual researchers and inventors have almost no stake in their patents, it's impossible to argue that allowing them patents does anything to promote medical progress other than to attract private investment (which is always more expensive than public investment), a sensible long-term plan would be to move research and development into publicly funded universities, which would have the added advantage of sharing all knowledge.

  5. We need to look systematically at how the whole industry is financed, and make public funds available for strategic development. For example, we might want to build more local or mobile facilities than the private sector would finance. We might want to train people for particular skill-needs to meet long-term demand. We might want to promote competition between vendors.

  6. We need to standardize and simplify procedures, such as the transfer of medical records. (Indeed, anything you do with software would benefit from the free software approach.) It would be a good idea to cut through a lot of the marketing malarkey by setting up buyers cooperatives to jointly evaluate and negotiate purchases -- i.e., to tip the power balance from supply to demand. Again, a key thing here is openness, public review, and a common goal of improving the quality of the whole system.

I don't mean to knock what you're doing, but it would be nice to push this topic a little further toward a real solution.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Movie: About Schmidt A-

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Music: I didn't really resolve much last week, in large part because I made a trek to Oklahoma City and came back with about twenty new things to listen to, some of which should start showing up here. But I'm also starting to sort out my oldies column; not clear whether that will accelerate or retard the grading here.

  • Chris Barber: Copulatin Jazz (1993, Great Southern). Another fine trad album. B+
  • Joey Baron: Down Home (1997, Intuition). This is a delightful quartet, with Ron Carter and Bill Frisell filling in nicely behind and around Arthur Blythe's saxophone. A-
  • A Cellarful of Motown! (1962-70, Motown, 2CD). Sure, these songs sound like hits, but they weren't hits -- they couldn't even pass Motown's Quality Control. Compare this to the real thing and you won't have any trouble distinguishing real diamonds from all this cubic zirconium. B
  • Don Gibson: RCA Country Legends (1958-66, Buddha). He played lonesome, blue, heartbroke, and parlayed that shtick into a dozen or more country hits; yet he never conveyed the sort of pain or pathos that came natural to Hank Williams and Otis Redding. In part that's because he was successful in his modest ambitions ("if loneliness meant world acclaim/then everyone would know my name/I'd be a legend in my time"), but it's also his easy striding rhythms. The only real problem with this comp is that I miss all eight songs it drops from 1990's All-Time Greatest Hits without relishing any of the four songs it adds. A-
  • Billie Holiday + Lester Young: A Musical Romance (1937-57, Columbia/Legacy). They were joined forever by a pair of nicknames -- Lester, who had his own argot for everything, called her Lady Day, and Billie annointed him as Prez -- but their romance was never palpable. For one thing, she was so self-destructive; for another, he was so vulnerable. But while they were two unwinding tragedies, their encounters in the studio were magical. The standard image of Lester is the one where his saxophone seems to be floating off into space, like his music is transporting him to a zone of zero gravity. Lester's levity lifts everyone, but especially Billie, who has never sounded sweeter. A+
  • Rahssan Roland Kirk: (I, Eye, Aye): Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Switzerland, 1972 (Rhino). Pretty much Kirk's usual thing -- flutes, sirens, showbiz flash, tricky playing, and he rocks out on occasion, which is, of course, an amazing thing to behold. B+
  • Leftfield: Leftism (1995, Hard Hands/Columbia). I like the beats, the instrumentals, quite a lot -- layered mid-tempo that moves you along without getting pushy. The vocals are another matter, infrequent and mostly unobtrusive, except for the pushy one from someone named John Lydon. B+
  • Bill Monroe: RCA Country Legends (1940-41, RCA/BMG Heritage). This duplicates 1991's Mule Skinner Blues exactly; also matches the first 16 songs on 1997's The Essential Bill Monroe and the Monroe Brothers [sic, the essential shit is on Columbia]. It's a mixed bag, with a couple of gospel pieces, a couple of hoedowns, some blues, a yodel, and a very funny novelty called "The Coupon Song." I suppose I should grade it the same as I graded its predecessors, but maybe I should give the others this grade. B+
  • Dr. Michael White: New Year's at the Village Vanguard (1992, Antilles). He's got a lively dixieland band, and plays fine Johnny Dodds clarinet, while the guest trumpet superstar does what he does best. B+

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Music:

  • Ken Boothe: A Man and His Hits (1967-84, Heartbeat). A-
  • Merle Haggard: Roots, Vol. 1 (2001, Epitaph). Honky tonk heaven, of course. But hang onto those old Lefty records anyway. B+
  • Rolling Stones: Goats Head Soup (1973, Virgin). This feels cluttered and sloppy, hits and filler, the former not especially compelling, the latter not particularly inspired. Big drop after Exile on Main Street, which was so tight, so much of a piece that it never separated into hits-and-filler even like its great predecessors. B

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Here's a quote from John W. Dower's Embracing Defeat, about the post-WWII occupation and democratization of Japan:

The New Dealers--whose influence over domestic policy was waning as the war entered its final stage--placed their faith in the universal applicability of democratic ideals, aspirations, and policies. Such "universalism" held that people everywhere were fundamentally the same and that the ideal government was one in which all individuals were equal before the law. At the same time, the bedrock principles of democratization espoused by the New Dealers contained a strong component of economic democracy, which in practical terms meant the active encouragement of organized labor, opposition to excessive concentrations of economic power, and policies aimed at ensuring a more equitable distribution of wealth. In addition, of course, the New Dealers had few compunctions about supporting interventionist governmental policies to achieve their goals. [pp. 220-221]

The obvious thing here is that if you think Japan provides a model for the U.S. reconstruction of Iraq, think first about who is doing the reconstructing. While Bush gives verbal support for democracy, he uses the word as American jingoism, reflexively. Indeed, the conservative vogue for democracy seems to have followed the elections in Nicaragua which through out the Sandinistas, a classic example of democracy going to the highest bidder.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

The BBWAA elected Eddie Murray and Gary Carter to the Baseball Hall of Fame today. No quarrel on either count from me. Carter was a great catcher, very similar to Johnny Bench -- maybe a bit less durable and picture perfect, a lot more high strung, but if you consider the ballparks he played in he may have been the better hitter. Murray was a textbook hitter; low-key, very consistent. Bruce Sutter and Jim Rice missed, hovering around 50%, which doesn't much bother me either. Sutter was as unhittable as any pitcher I've ever seen, but it's hard to figure relief pitchers, and I would've voted for Goose Gossage ahead of him. Rice was also a bit of a problem -- did some HOF things, but had some weaknesses as well that made him a rather frustrating player. Offensively I'd say he was pretty comparable to Kirby Puckett (elected last year?), so you could argue that the difference between the vote totals was attitude and personality (probably the latter). I wouldn't mind if Rice made it, but then I'd vote for Dick Allen ahead of him.

The one argument that I'd have is that I would've picked Jim Kaat -- who I gather has now lost his eligibility. Aside from a couple of contemporaries (Tommy John, Bert Blyleven) Kaat had more wins than anyone not in the HOF, but beyond that (even compared to John, who was the definitive ground-ball pitcher, and Blyleven, who many thought to have the best curve ball ever) Kaat had a very interesting career, with two widely separated peak periods, and an incredible number of Gold Gloves for his fielding prowess. He also had an interesting stint toward the end of his career pitching relief, and wasn't too shabby as an announcer. Fielding isn't something pitchers often get evaluated on, but he was really amazing, his follow-through setting him up like a hockey goalie, able to move either direction with terrific reflexes. (John, by the way, was a terrible fielder, just awful.)


Laura volunteered for the task of assembling a set of Iraq war questions for our ultra-slimy Senator, Sam Brownback. I thought about this a bit, and came up with my own list:

  1. If President Bush decides to send troops into Iraq, will Congress be given a chance to review his reasons and judgment? Or do you feel that Congress has already given up its constitutional right and obligation to decide whether or not to declare war?

  2. If the U.S. invades Iraq and fails to find any Weapons of Mass Destruction, will President Bush offer an apology and withdraw American forces? Will the U.S. offer any reparations for the damage it causes?

  3. If Iraq does have any Weapons of Mass Destruction, won't they be much more likely to sell them to terrorist organizations as the Iraqi government order breaks down under U.S. attack? Doesn't this actually pose more danger to U.S. civilians than under the present containment situation?

  4. The U.S. has recently liberalized its policies regarding when it would use tactical nuclear weapons. Are there scenarios (such as in response to Iraqi use of poisonous gas) where the U.S. would respond with nuclear weapons?

  5. In 1991 Iraq attempted to defend itself by attacking Israel, in the evident hope that doing so would turn Arab public opinion against the U.S. and split the anti-Iraq coalition. At that time the U.S. was able to dissuade Israel from attacking Iraq in retribution, but recently Ariel Sharon has been adamant that any Iraqi attack on Israel will result in an Israeli response against Iraq. If the U.S. attacks Iraq, and Iraq attacks Israel, and Israel responds by attacking Iraq, won't this interfere with U.S. military activities? What about the nightmare scenario, where Iraq attacks Israel with poison gas and Israel responds with nuclear weapons? Wouldn't this make the U.S. complicit, even if not directly responsible, in genocide against Iraq?

  6. The most likely scenario once the U.S. invades Iraq is that Iraq's regular military forces will collapse, but that the Republican Guards and other elite units will hide their weapons and seek refuge in Iraq's large cities, from which they will be able to wage a long-term guerrilla war of attrition against any occupying force. (This may be combined with sabotage of oil fields and vital facilities, as both of these would make it more expensive and difficult to maintain an occupying force.) Does the U.S. have realistic plans to counteract such strategies? (Note that guerrilla wars, from Vietnam to Somalia, have historically been successful against U.S. occupation.)

  7. President Bush has often stated his opposition to using U.S. resources for "nation building". Given the amount of destruction Iraq has already suffered, and the additional destruction that will occur during another war, we will be facing an immense humanitarian crisis that will call for hundreds of billions of dollars to overcome and start to rebuild. Are Bush and the U.S. prepared to stand up to this crisis? Or do they just plan on blowing things up, searching for weapons, and leaving the residual mess to the U.N., the NGOs, and a probable civil war?

  8. If the U.S. invades and occupies Iraq, there will be a whole bunch of questions: Will the U.S. attempt to mold Iraq along American lines, including minimal government and private sector control of oil and other resources? (Iraq has had a socialist government at least since the late 1950s.) If so, would the government be able to raise enough taxes to build necessary infrastructure? How will the government be organized? If it is a democracy, how do we protect minorities from the majority? What happens if Kurdistan wants to secede? What happens if a democratic government wants to nationalize the oil industry? How do we establish freedom of speech without endless criticism of the occupation forces? What has to happen before we withdraw the occupation forces? Who pays for the occupation? (If Iraq, it is a hardship on an already suffering country; if the U.S., won't there be political pressure to prematurely withdraw? Note that the U.S. occupation of Japan, which is generally regarded as a success, lasted for over seven years.)

  9. If the U.S. invades but does not occupy Iraq, how long will it be before Iraq rebuilds to the extent that again they will be a threat to their neighbors and world peace? If the U.S. leaves Iraq as a wasteland, won't this just reinforce the perception (increasingly common in the world) that the U.S. is a dangerous, immoral rogue state? Won't this invite not just anti-U.S. terrorism but a general world-wide trend to shun the U.S., which could, for instance, take the form of a boycotting the U.S. aircraft industry?

  10. Thus far, Kansas workers have paid for the war against terrorism to the tune of over 1,000 aircraft manufacturing jobs. Is the long-term projection of American military power over the Persian Gulf really worth the economic hardships that Kansas has had to pay? In a peaceful world Arabs would sell us oil and in turn buy airplanes and wheat, and we'd both be better off for that, would we not?

  11. Will a successful U.S. war against Iraq be a stepping stone to another war against Iran, already identified by President Bush as part of the "axis of evil"? Or does Bush plan on waging war against North Korea first?

  12. Doesn't the prospect of a never-ending war against terrorism, taxing us to support an unprecedentedly huge military and police state, cast a long-term pall over the economy and our quality of life? After Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush offered the opinion that the people who committed such awful acts of terrorism did so because of their jealousy over our freedom and affluence. Since then he has failed to capture Osama Bin Laden, but the policies he has pursued have managed to make the rest of the world less jealous over our freedom and affluence.

After doing this I found a New York Times article with some details on U.S. plans for post-war Iraq, which sort of answers some of these questions. The plan is for something like an 18-month military occupation, with a two-headed military/civilian administration, and the whole thing (at least financially) dependent on securing the oil production areas so that the occupation and reconstruction can be paid for out of Iraqi oil production. There was nothing that I could see in the plan about democracy, there was an emphasis on keeping Iraq whole, and there was a plan to limit trials or executions of whatever to high government officials, so the game plan appears to be to try to keep the Baathist military dictatorship largely intact, while lopping off Saddam's head.

All things considered, this isn't a real dumb plan, although it is far from certain that they can pull it off. In particular, they're still hoping that someone inside Saddam's government will take him out, which has been the basis for dozens of failed fantasies over the last 12 years. How much further damage is done to Iraq, either by the U.S. or by Saddam (or by Israel -- pointedly not part of the plan, but it's not like Bush has much of a track record in throttling Sharon) is a very open question. Even if the oil fields are captured intact, you then have the problem of balancing Iraqi production against falling prices (which given Bush's benefactors' interests is really hard to project). The other big unknown is that happens if we "liberate" Iraq only to reimpose another Arab/Sunni minority dictatorship -- what do the Kurds and Shiites do then? (Sounds like Al Qaeda and Hezbollah will be calling, respectively.)

Again, the scary thing about this plan is not that it's crazy but that it makes sense. This more than anything else convinces me that they'll convince themselves that they can pull it off. That, of course, puts a lot more faith in Rumsfeld, the military, and the CIA than they've ever earned. (The article itself admitted that they'd have to do a lot better job than they did in Afghanistan.) It also depends a lot on whether the Iraqis wind up blaming Saddam for their defeat. Reading Dower's book on Japan, it seems clear to me that the success of democratization there had less to do with what the U.S. did than with the changing consciousness of the Japanese -- the fact that such a long period of war, with such extreme sacrifices, led to such utter defeat. Until Iraq falls it will be hard to gauge that, but I am very skeptical that most Iraqis will make that shift, and if I'm right, that means that every little thing that the U.S. fucks up (and you know that's going to happen, a lot) will just ratchet up the resistance. Which also leads us to how long the American public, mired in recession and war-hype and mounting debt will put up with Bush's kind of adventurism.


BTW, Bush's "stimulus" program is a crock. The notion that tax cuts will stimulate anything is pretty ludicrous -- the traditional approach is for the government to spend more money, but if the only thing we spend it for is blowing up Iraq that won't stimulate anything either. And the notion that stock dividends should not be taxed at all is at best the wrong way to do something that probably should be done: as things stand, few companies actually pay dividends (even assuming that they have profits), basically because the stockholders make their money off appreciation, which benefits from hoarding cash and buying up assets (including their own stock). Not taxing dividends on the stockholders' end has no effect on this equation; rather, if you exempted dividends from corporate income tax that would give companies an incentive to pay dividends instead of hoarding. And that would in general be a good thing, because it would cut back on corporate empire building while giving investors cash that could be invested in new ventures. But then why is double taxation such an issue in the first place? After all, people who work for a living first pay income and payroll taxes on their wages, then pay sales and excise taxes on what they have left from the first round of taxation, not to mention property taxes.

Personally, I don't see any difference between dividends, capital gains, and interest income: they're all unearned income, which is to say that they're tied not to work that one does but to money that one has to invest. If you want to incentivize one versus the other it seems like we as a society would want to incentivize the one that produces useful work, as opposed to the one that merely recycles excess money. Which is not to say that I don't think that we should encourage people to save and invest. I do. However, I think the way to do it would be to encourage people at the lower income end of the scale, since the upper end are going to be doing it anyway. The preferred tax plan for unearned income would be to keep a running talley of how much an individual makes over their lifetime: then tax the first, oh, $300K, real low at 2%, then kick the next $300K up to 5%, then kick the next $400K up to 10% (that's $61K on your first million), then kick the next million up to 20%, then kick the next million up to 30%, and so forth up to, oh, 50%. You'll wind up with a lot more millionaires that way, and you'll still tax the people who can most afford it. And finally, when they die, tax the whole fucking estate -- recycle the wealth, give people more opportunity, and help weed out some of our silver spoon morons. Especially those named Bush.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Music:

  • Ray Anderson: Blues Bred in the Bone (1988, Enja). This is a relatively early, relatively simple showcase for Anderson's trombone work, where the blues pieces set up the 'bone's growl. B+
  • Ray Anderson/Mark Helias/Gerry Hemingway: BassDrumBone: Wooferlo (1987, Soul Note). On the other hand, this trio with a notable avant-garde rhythm duo gets nowhere at all: the 'bone just toot-toots its notes, the spaces in the rhythm breaking any chance at flow. The same trio met up ten years hence and produced a great album, but this isn't it. B-
  • Essential Blondie: Picture This Life (1978-80, EMI). This came out in 1998, in a series of albums that debased the word "Essential" even beyond the norms of the record industry. Actually, this is cut live from 1980 and 1978, with the usual catalog songs losing a bit of clarity but not much panache. And it picks up as it goes, especially on the closer marrying "Bang a Gong" and "Fun Time" -- not catalog songs at all -- where they reall kick ass. A-
  • The Best of James Brown Volume 2: The '70s (20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection) (1970-76, Polydor). In UniMoth's cheapo (10-song) series, this measures out a respectable 50+ minutes: singles and alternate versions of some of his greatest romps. Largely redundant if you have the Star Time box (which you should), but a great stocking stuffer to the uninitiated. A
  • We All Are One: The Best of Jimmy Cliff (1969-93, Columbia/Legacy). He looked like a big star when The Harder They Come came, but dwindled notably in the following years, his Islam out of sync with the Rastafaris, his pop compromises out of sync with everything that matters. This has lots of weak spots, but is still a useful summation, redeeming a couple of good songs in "Sitting in Limbo" and "Hanging Fire." B+
  • Devo: Pioneers Who Got Scalped: The Anthology (1977-96, Warner Archives/Rhino, 2CD). I liked their early work, which this does not do a particularly good job of selecting, and ignored their later work. Too ambitious to be an ordinary new wave band; too pretentious to be a great novelty group. Which puts them belatedly in the Frank Zappa tradition. B-
  • Spacemonkeyz Vs. Gorillaz--Laika Come Home (2002, EMI). This is a fairly anonymous dub album, befitting a group whose public face is a cartoon. B
  • Etta James: Blue Gardenia (2001, Private Music). Like Mystery Lady, these are standards, but while the Billie Holiday songbook is well represented the focus isn't so narrow, nor does it beg such difficult comparisons. I like it much better; the rich timbre of James's voice has never sounded better, the phrasing is her own, and the jazz accompaniment just right. A-
  • Niney and Friends: Blood and Fire (1971-72, Trojan). The title song is such a classic that they can do three or more variations on it and make it sound like a gift. But the filler is uncommonly fulfilling: spare, slow, repetitive, haunting. None of the clutter of great harmony groups, no soul stylizations, no dub toasts. This is the bedrock of reggae, as simple as Jah. A
  • Beth Orton: Central Reservation (1999, Arista). This seems likely to take a long time to figure out -- she's a singer-songwriter with a winning sound that to my ears fades quickly into the background, where I like it. Don't know what it means, though. B+
  • Big Boi and Dre Present . . . OutKast (1994-2000, La Face). Profit-taking and/or holding pattern, the cuts from Stankonia are better contextualized there and unnecessary here. I'm less sure of Aquemini, a good one that has slipped from my consciousness. Don't know the first two albums, which are sampled here and, by reputation, might benefit from some reconfiguration. Docked a notch for inutility. B+
  • Pretty Girls Make Graves: Good Heatlh (Lookout). Hard, fast, short, angry. Good sound on the brief instrumental snatches. But I can't get any traction on the vocals, and don't detect enough of a melodic undertow to make me think they might be a Clash or Husker Du in the making. B
  • Jimmie Rodgers: RCA Country Legends (1927-33, RCA). Here's something I've been waiting for a long time: a Jimmie Rodgers sampler that's as consistently great as his reputation. And don't worry that you'll miss the cut Louis Armstrong plays on: you won't. A
  • The Rough Guide to Bollywood (2002, World Music Network). This isn't really exotica -- anyone who's frequented Indian restaurants has heard lots of Indian film music, which like film music everywhere is glitzy and melodramatic when it isn't being atmospheric or obscure. I suppose it's reassuring to know that hackdom is the same the world over. Just wish I could stroll down to my local cornershop and pick up a decent samosa. B
  • The Rough Guide to the Music of Greece (2001, World Music Network). This does well by its regional concept, offering a lot of interesting samples that could serve as a useful primer. Some of which I'd like to hear more from. B+
  • The Rough Guide to the Music of Wales (2000, World Music Network). The least known of the celtic corners of Britain, yet the music here offers few surprises -- the usual harps and pipes, jigs and ballads. Some pieces are exceptionally pretty, but stately is more typical. B
  • Mark Shim: Mind Over Matter (1997, Blue Note). I've been holding back on this record for quite a while now, not for lack of pleasure but just a certain skepticism that anything this finely crafted is really distinctive enough to get excited about. But in the end sheer pleasure wins out. And anyone willing to tackle "Remember Rockefeller at Attica" is worth getting excited about. A-
  • Mark Shim: Turbulent Flow (1999, Blue Note). This, too, is well crafted, just a tad less interesting. B+
  • Dinah Shore: The Essential RCA Recordings (1940-57, Taragon/BMG). A major pop singer of the post-big band period, she had a clear voice and sang impeccably over modest string orchestras and occasional latin beats, none of which (save the cute and cheesy "Love and Marriage") has much lasting value. I don't know, but rather doubt that there is a better collection of her work. B+
  • Don Tosti: Pachuco Boogie (2002, Arhoolie). Mex-mex jump blues, from East L.A., in the late 1940s I think. They party hearty, and think mambo is just another lyric to recycle their boogie. A-
  • Transplants (2002, Hellcat). Punk rock with synthesizers and tape loops. Err, make that classic punk rock -- there's nothing cute about the toys. This is a side project for Tim Armstrong (Rancid), Travis Barker (Blink-182), and vocalist Rob Aston, and sounds to me like the strongest, sharpest record any of them have ever been associated with. A
  • Waco Brothers: New Deal (2002, Bloodshot). Whereas the Mekons celebrated 2002 by digging back into their Englishness, the Wacos continue their trend of sounding more American each time out. Such simple, unpretentious, straightforward country-influenced rock and roll, they are the new pub rock -- true, functional. Twenty-five years ago I thought that pub rock was the future, the salvation and redemption of all things rock and roll. But then twenty-five years ago I still went out drinking. B+

Saturday, January 04, 2003

The New Yorker came out with their 2002 CD "favorites" list ("listed alphabetically"):

  • Beck: Sea Change (Interscope).
  • Solomon Burke: Don't Give Me Up (Anti).
  • Manu Chao: Radio Bemba Sound System (Virgin).
  • Missy Elliott: Under Construction (Elektra).
  • The Flaming Lips: Yoshima Battles the Pink Robots (Warner).
  • The Hives: Veni Vidi Vicious (Warner).
  • N.E.R.D.: In Search of . . . (Virgin).
  • Orchestra Baobab: Pirates Choice (Nonesuch).
  • Queens of the Stone Age: Songs for the Deaf (Interscope).
  • Sleater-Kinney: One Beat (Kill Rock Stars).
  • Spoon: Kill the Moonlight (Merge).
  • Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch).

Also noteworthy: Cody Chesnutt: The Headphone Masterpiece (Ready Set Go!); James Luther Dickinson: Free Beer Tomorrow (Artemis); Tift Merritt: Bramble Rose (Lost Highway); Ron Sexsmith: Cobblestone Runway (Nettwerk); This Is Where I Belong: The Songs of Ray Davies & the Kinks (Rykodisc).

Nothing terribly surprising here, at least in the big twelve. I've heard seven, and was already aware that the other five are faves of other critics.

Friday, January 03, 2003

Jazz Times year-end list ("Top 50 CDs 2002"), only two of which I own as of this writing (some jazz critic I am):

  1. Wayne Shorter: Footprints--Live! (Verve).
  2. Dave Holland: What Goes Around (ECM).
  3. Andrew Hill: A Beautiful Day (Palmetto).
  4. Joe Zawinul: Faces & Places (ESC).
  5. Keith Jarrett: Always Let Me Go (ECM).
  6. Brad Mehldau: Largo (Warner Bros.).
  7. Jason Moran: Modernistic (Blue Note).
  8. Tomasz Stanko: Soul of Things (ECM).
  9. Tom Harrell: Live at the Village Vanguard (Bluebird).
  10. Randy Sandke: Inside Out (Nagel-Heyer).
  11. Pat Metheny Group: Speaking of Now (Warner Bros.).
  12. Weather Report: Live and Unreleased (Columbia/Legacy).
  13. Billy Bang: Vietnam: The Aftermath (Justin Time).
  14. Branford Marsalis Quartet: Footsteps of Our Fathers (Marsalis Music)
  15. Dee Dee Bridgewater: This Is New (Verve).
  16. William Parker Quartet With Leena Conquest: Raining on the Moon (Thirsty Ear/Blue Series).
  17. David S. Ware: Freedom Suite (Aum Fidelity).
  18. Ron Miles: Heaven (Sterling Circle).
  19. Wadada Leo Smith: The Year of the Elephant (Pi).
  20. Diana Krall: Live in Paris (Verve).
  21. Dave Douglas: The Infinite (RCA/Bluebird).
  22. Hancock/Brecker/Hargrove: Directions in Music (Verve).
  23. Woody Shaw: Live, Vol. Two (HighNote).
  24. Mujician: Spacetime (Cuneiform).
  25. Tim Berne: Science Friction (Screwgun).
  26. Charles Lloyd: Lift Every Voice (ECM).
  27. Michael Camilo: Triangulo (Telarc).
  28. Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Star Big Band: Things to Come (Manchester Craftsmen's Guild).
  29. Matthew Shipp: Nu Bop (Thirsty Ear/Blue Series).
  30. Roscoe Mitchell: Song for My Sister (Pi).
  31. Yellowjackets: Mint Jam (Yellowjacket Enterprises).
  32. Omar Sosa: Sentir (Otá).
  33. Curtis Stigers: Secret Heart (Concord).
  34. Norah Jones: Come Away With Me (Blue Note).
  35. John Surman/Jack DeJohnette: Invisible Nature (ECM).
  36. Greg Osby: Inner Circle (Blue Note).
  37. Eddie Palmieri: La Perfecta II (Concord).
  38. Anthony Braxton Quartet: 8 Standards (Wesleyan) 2001 (Barking Hoop).
  39. Mingus Big Band: Tonight at Noon . . . (Dreyfus).
  40. Joshua Redman: Elastic (Warner Bros.).
  41. Claudia Acuña: Rhythm of Life (Verve).
  42. Buster Williams: Joined at the Hip (TCB).
  43. Chris Potter: Traveling Mercies (Verve).
  44. Cassandra Wilson: Belly of the Sun (Blue Note).
  45. Chano Dominguez: Hecho a Mano (Sunnyside).
  46. Verve Remixed (Verve).
  47. Bill Frisell: The Willies (Nonesuch).
  48. Paul Motian: Holiday for Strings (Winter & Winter).
  49. Wycliffe Gordon/Eric Reed: We (Nagel-Heyer).
  50. Brian Bromberg: Wood (A440).

More dependably, a year-end list from Gary Giddins:

  • Jason Moran: Modernistic (Blue Note).
  • Cecil Taylor: The Willisau Concert (Intakt).
  • David S. Ware: Freedom Suite (Aum Fidelity).
  • Dave Holland: What Goes Around (ECM).
  • Arthur Blythe: Focus (Savant).
  • Ruby Braff: Variety is the Spice of Braff (Arbors).
  • Roscoe Mitchell: Song for My Sister (Pi).
  • Matthew Shipp: Songs (Splasc[h]).
  • Fieldwork: Your Life Flashes (Pi).

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Movie: Frida. A-

With the Village Voice's year-end movie poll out, here's a quick checklist of what little I've seen: 11. Gangs of New York; 15. Bloody Sunday; 16. Minority Report; 22. Bowling for Columbine; 35. Sunshine State; 41. Monsoon Wedding; 43. Auto Focus; 64. The Cat's Meow; 68. The Good Girl; 75. Secretary; 77. About a Boy; 89. The Bourne Identity; 99. 8 Mile; Frida; Road to Perdition; 143. Possession.

I think only two of the top ten have even shown in Wichita at this point (Y Tu Mamá También and Punch-Drunk Love), and very briefly at that. Excepting Minority Report, everything on the list that I've seen is pretty good, but nothing is really great.


Dec 2002 Feb 2003