September 2010 Notebook|
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Nation Reader's Books
Nation Reader's Summer Books: Nothing more than a laundry list of all sorts of books. Thought I'd scan through this at some point, but said point never came -- at least not until I had to shut the browser down for a trip.
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Jazz Consumer Guide (24): Play Louder, and Pray for Peace
The Village Voice has published my 24th Jazz Consumer Guide column: Play Louder, and Pray for Peace. For once I finally managed to write my own title. One thing I've noticed that almost amounts for a trend is the growing number of free-ish jazz outfits that incorporate rock-ish noise levels. The best example of this is one that I reluctantly dropped from the draft as the fight for space became desperate: Epileptical West by Martin Küchen's group Angles. That leaves Fight the Big Bull and Led Bib as two instances where I used the word "loud" below, and more where I thought it.
More curiously, Prayer for Peace is the first title to have appeared twice as a pick hit, one of those coincidences that seems statistically impossible. The first time was in Jazz CG (4), when I tapped a reissue of Amalgam's 1969 album. Truth is, I'm not big on prayer, but I am on Billy Bang. I just had a lot of trouble cranking out this review, so kept playing the album over and over and fell more and more in love with it.
Previous column came out June 30, so this one is almost exactly three months later. Not sure if I'll ever manage to speed them up. I'm usually so beat at the end of one that I want to do something else for a while, then before I know it I'm playing catchup again. I have enough already written for the next column, but also close to 200 unplayed records in the queue.
Jazz Prospecting for this round covered 218 records, starting June 1 and ending August 30. I also considered 96 records carried over from previous prospecting. The collected Jazz Prospecting notes are: here.
I haven't done a final surplus cull for this round, but for whatever it's worth the current surplus file is: here. I usually post the top part of that file as a sort of consolation prize for good records I never expect to find space for, but as of this point I only have one record in it. Given what my schedule looks like for the next couple of weeks, I may call that done and plan on a more serious cleanup next time.
Still need to do some more paperwork to get everything up to date. Will add a PS when that gets done. Meanwhile, judging from my local copy, I find this looking more and more like a laundry list, with way too many HMs and too little detail on everything. Only in reference to the background does the HM list look rather select. Don't know what the answer is, but I hope this is still useful.
The Village Voice has published my 24th Jazz Consumer Guide column this week: link The previous one came out June 30, so despite all my hopes to speed things up we remain on a firm every-three-month schedule. Index by label: 482 Music: Rempis/Rosaly Abstract Logix: John McLaughlin Audial: Soren Moller/Dick Oatts BAG: Tin Hat, Ben Goldberg Beeswax: Will Sellenraad Blue Note: Jason Moran Clean Feed: RED Trio, Bernardo Sassetti, Kirk Knuffke, Luis Lopes, Fight the Big Bull Concord/Telarc/Heads Up: Esperanza Spalding Cuneiform: New York Art Quartet, Claudia Quintet, Jason Adasiewicz, Led Bib Dare2: Dave Holland Dolfjin: Wolter Wierbos ECM: Arild Andersen, Tord Gustavsen, Ralph Towner/Paolo Fresu Electrofone: Gabriel Johnson German Projekt: Andrea Fultz GPE: John Hollenbeck Greenleaf Music: Dave Douglas Hancock: Herbie Hancock High Note: John Hicks/Frank Morgan Inarhyme: Mark Lomax Innova: David Crowell Jazzheads: NYNDK KMB Jazz: Matt Lavelle Libra: First Meeting, Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo Mack Avenue: Gerald Wilson Motema: Babatunde Lea Nonesuch: Pat Metheny Not Two: Satoko Fujii Pirouet: Gary Peacock/Marc Copland Plunge: Gordon Grdina Plunk: Cynthia Sayer Posi-Tone: Brandon Wright Skirl: Ben Perowsky SoLyd: Jones Jones Strudelmedia: Edward Ratliff Sunnyside: Scott DuBois, Dan Tepfer/Lee Konitz Table Pounding: Abraham Inc. TUM: Billy Bang, Juhani Aaltonen Tzadik: Borah Bergman, Roberto Rodriguez (2), Minamo Verve: Nellie McKay Jazz Prospecting for this round covered 218 new albums, with 96 older albums carried over for consideration here. The Jazz Prospecting notes are collected here: link Some more comments on my blog announcement, and every Monday as I reduce the pile of incoming music to this more/less quarterly survey of the very best of a lot of very good jazz. Appreciate your support and patience as these reviews work their way to print.
Notes for the records covered in Jazz CG (24):
Notes for records dismissed during the round:
Monday, September 27, 2010
Music: Current count 17165  rated (+28), 858  unrated (+7). Another average week, with a little bit of all the usual things.
Jazz Prospecting (CG #25, Part 3)
All signs look like Jazz Consumer Guide will be appearing in The Village Voice this Wednesday. Of course, I've been bumped at the last minute before, so we won't know for sure until it happens. Also a good chance that something or other will get cut when they lay it out, but as of now I haven't heard anything about that.
Thomas Savy: French Suite (2009 , Plus Loin Music): Bass clarinetist, from France, second album, a trio with Scott Colley on bass and Bill Stewart on drums. Suite runs through seven parts, followed by Ellington's "Come Sunday," an extra bit from the suite, and Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament." Packaging is oversized. B+(**)
Puttin' On the Ritz: White Light/White Heat (2010, Hot Cup): B.J. Rubin dates his relationship to the music of the Velvet Underground to 1999, about 25 years after I fell hard for their four studio albums, so I can sort of relate but also tend to be hypercritical. He talks his way through "The Gift" and sings, if you can call it that, "White Light/White Heat," "Lady Godiva's Operation," "Here She Comes Now," "I Heard Her Call My Name," and "Sister Ray." His partner is MOPTDK drummer Kevin Shea, whose other side project is a tasteless duo with Matt Mottel -- credited here on Turkish organ -- called Talibam! MOPDTK mainstays Moppa Elliott and Jon Irabagon add some noise, as do fellow travellers Nate Wooley (trumpet) and Sam Kulik (trombone, bass trombone). The horns aren't without interest, but only on "Sister Ray" does the music salvage the vocal. B- [advance]
Anat Fort Trio: And If (2009 , ECM): Pianist, b. 1970 near Tel Aviv in Israel, moved to US in early 1990s, based in New York. Third album, second on ECM. Trio with Gary Wang (bass) and Roland Schneider (drums). Quiet but remarkably assured. Opens and closes with meditative pieces dedicated to Paul Motian; one exception is "Nu" which jumps around a bit. B+(***)
Odean Pope: Odean's List (2009 , In+Out): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1938 in North Carolina, twentieth album since 1980. Likes to work with extra sax players, often under the Odean Pope Saxophone Choir rubric. He's joined here with two other saxophonists (James Carter and Walter Blanding), two trumpets (David Weiss and Terrell Stafford), piano, bass and drums. Impressive in spots, especially if you like your sax rough. B+(**)
Frank Gratkowski/Hamid Drake (2009 , Valid): Drake should be well known by now; his distinctive percussion provides an exceptionally flexible and resonant match to anyone he plays with. Gratkowski plays alto sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet. B. 1963 in Hamburg, Germany, prolific since 1991 but this is the first of his twenty-some records I've heard; plays free and hard, not as harsh as Brötzmann or Gustafsson, but not easy to distinguish from a dozen others. He's a SFFR if I ever get hold of the discs. B+(**)
Julian Argüelles Trio: Ground Rush (2009 , Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1966 in England, ten albums since 1996, close to 50 side credits. Trio with Michael Formanek and Tom Rainey, same lineup as his 2006 album Partita. Very solid trio work; impossible to fault although I don't get the extra charge I expect to bring it up a level, maybe because he's so sure of himself he makes it look easier than it is. Another SFFR. B+(***)
Michaël Attias: Twines of Colesion (2008 , Clean Feed): Alto saxophonist, b. 1968 in Haifa, Israel; family moved to Minneapolis in 1977, and he's kicked around a fair amount since then, including Paris and New York and a stretch studying at Wesleyan under Anthony Braxton. Fourth album since 1999; has a couple dozen side credits. Odd album, five musicians only loosely connected, but they keep slipping into interesting juxtapositions, so consistently one suspects some sort of plan -- although it certainly he helps that the musicians are so strong individually: Tony Malaby (tenor sax), Russ Lossing (piano), John Hébert (bass), Satoshi Takeishi (drums, percussion). B+(***)
Lisa Mezzacappa's Bait & Switch: What Is Known (2009 , Clean Feed): Bassist, based in San Francisco, first album, has a handful of side credits going back to 1996, no one I recognize except (barely/obviously) Pyeng Threadgill. Quartet, with Aaron Bennett (tenor sax), John Finkbeiner (guitar), and Vijay Anderson (drums). Anderson I recognize because he has a new record on Not Two I just added to my wish list. Needed to jog my memory on Bennett and Finkbeiner, but they are indispensible cogs in Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra -- which has a past pick hit and a new record I don't have yet but Stef Gijssels has raved about -- and Finkbeiner is part of Nice Guy Trio. Finkbeiner has an uncanny knack for adding harmonics to Bennett's sax, making this play more like a two-horn group than sax-guitar. The bassist composed eight of ten pieces, covering one from Air -- Pyeng's father's group, although Steve McCall is the author -- and one from Don Van Vliet called "Lick My Decals Off, Baby." She also works in a lot of bass solos/leads, fine by me. [PS: Did finally get the new Adam Lane record, and neither Bennett nor Finkbeiner are on it, so maybe not so indispensible; will see when I get to it.] A-
Louis Sclavis/Craig Taborn/Tom Rainey: Eldorado Trio (2009 , Clean Feed): The eminent French clarinetist is credited here with soprano sax and bass clarinet; Taborn with piano and Fender Rhodes; Rainey with drums. Two pieces are joint improvs; the rest come from Sclavis's songbook. Feels kind of jumbled together, the sort of thing jazz musicians do on the spot, sparking strong solos and occasional mismatches. B+(**)
Daniel Levin Quartet: Bacalhau (2009 , Clean Feed): Cellist, with Nate Wooley (trumpet), Peter Bitenc (double bass), and Matt Moran (vibes), a combo that tends to be stratchy with blips and bits here and there. B+(*)
Stephen Gauci/Kris Davis/Michael Bisio: Three (2008 , Clean Feed): Gauci is a tenor saxophonist, b. 1966, based in Brooklyn, leans avant, has been deserving of HM mentions his last two times out (Nididhyasana and Live at Glenn Miller Café) but somehow slipped through the cracks. He isn't an especially voluble player, and subtlety can be hard to credit. Davis is a pianist I like a lot. Her own group features the very voluble Tony Malaby, generally a plus but he tends to overwhelm her; she emerges here as a thoughtful counterpoint to the sax, and for that matter to bassist Bisio, who is always engaging on sets like this. B+(***)
Ben Syversen: Cracked Vessel (2010, Ben Syversen): Trumpet player, b. 1983, based in Brooklyn; first album, a trio with Xander Naylor on guitar and Jeremy Gustin on drums. Syversen cites Tim Berne, Ellery Eskelin, and Jim Black for ideas, as well as "seminal punk bands such as Black Flag, twisted takes on Americana, and sly, just beneath the surface references to Eastern European folk music." There seem to be a lot of young guys like that coming up, with the MOPDTK gang on the more scholarly end of the spectrum, with this on the more punkish end. The jumbled riddims and guitar noise are exhilarating, but even the one where they slow it down gives you pause for thought. A-
Vijay Iyer: Solo (2010, ACT): Pianist, b. 1971, a dozen or so albums since 1995, has been winning a lot of polls lately, especially with his trio album Historicity sweeping album of the year honors from Downbeat to The Village Voice. Solo piano, his first, one of those inevitable coming out exercises that practically all jazz pianists do sooner or later -- later than usual in his case, which is one reason I sat on my advance until it seemed probable no real copy would follow. Four originals, six cover, two of those from Ellington. Manages to keep a bright touch and keen interest throughout. [B+(***)] [advance]
Helen Sung: Going Express (2009 , Sunnyside): Pianist, from Houston, TX; based in New York. Third album, going more mainstream and becoming less interesting. Seamus Blake plays tenor and soprano sax, Lonnie Plaxico bass, Eric Harland drums, a solid group, especially on tracks with a little lift like "Love for Sale" and "In Walked Bud." B+(*)
Joe Gilman: Americanvas (2009 , Capri): Pianist, b. 1962 in Sacramento, CA, studied at Indiana University, teaches at American River College back in Sacramento. Eighth album since 1991, including two "revists" to Dave Brubeck and two more to Stevie Wonder. The theme here isn't anywhere near so simple: not sure what it is, but the liner notes cite various cultural artifacts from the early 1940s to the early 1960s, and the sound itself is straight bebop. Gilman's piano is a live wire, and two saxophonists vie for attention: Ben Flocks and Chad Lefkowitz-Brown. B+(***)
Greg Burk and Vicente Lebron: Unduality (2010, Accurate): Burk is a pianist, b. 1969, who has done consistently interesting work as far as I've followed it -- Many Worlds (482 Music) was a recent HM. Lebron is older, a conga player from the Dominican Republic, moved to New York in 1971 and on to Boston in 1974, where he plays with Either/Orchestra. The record here is piano-percussion duos, with 13 of 23 cuts named "Unduality" with a number and a "Bach" pun -- "Bach at You," "Bach and Forth," "Bach to the Future," "Bachlava," etc. While the percussion is nice enough, the rest of it sounds like Bach to me. Especially "Vox Bach," where they lose the instruments. B
Darrell Katz/Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra: A Wallflower in the Amazon (2009 , Accurate): Composer, based in Boston, teaches at Berklee, has eight records since 1992, the earliest as JCAO. The organization dates back to 1985, and Katz is listed as "founder/director," with many other composers passing through. Their MySpace page lists five other "resident composers," but only Katz provides songs here -- three with poems by Paula Tatarunis, and Katz-arranged covers of Ellington, Willie Dixon (one you know from Muddy Waters: "Hoochie Koochie Man"), and Big Maceo Merriweather. Most pieces have vocals, and I find Rebecca Shrimpton warbly on most of them. The exception is "Hoochie Koochie Man" where Mike Finnigan takes over. That's when I also started noticing the fine print, which is where Katz excels as an arranger. B+(*)
Aaron Shelton Quartet: These Times (2009 , Singlespeed Music): Alto saxophonist, also plays clarinet, b. 1976, based in Chicago then Oakland, has two previous albums under his name since 2005, plus a pretty good one as Ton Trio. Quartet includes a second sax -- Keefe Jackson on tenor -- plus Anton Hatwich bass and Marc Riordan drums. At times, the sax sparring is worthy of Ammons and Stitt, updated with a more flexible rhythm section, though not everything is that frisky. B+(**)
These are some even quicker notes based on downloading or streaming records. I don't have the packaging here, don't have the official hype, often don't have much information to go on. I have a couple of extra rules here: everything gets reviewed/graded in one shot (sometimes with a second play), even when I'm still guessing on a grade; the records go into my flush file (i.e., no Jazz CG entry, unless I make an exception for an obvious dud). If/when I get an actual copy I'll reconsider the record.
Moe! Staiano's Moe!kestra!: 2 Rooms of Uranium in 83 Markers: Conducted Improvisations, Vol. II (2003-04 , Edgetone): Percussionist, b. 1973 in New York, based in Bay Area; works with found objects, some attached to drum kit ("prepared drums"). This is his third Moe!kestra! album, consists of two pieces of Butch Morris-style conducted improvisation using twenty-some Bay Area mostly-jazz musicians -- a few I recognize because I backed into this researching Lisa Mezzacappa's quartet. Doesn't feel like jazz instrumentation even though a fair number of horns are credited. More like industrial machinery slogging erratically toward doom -- which is sort of interesting. B+(*) [Rhapsody]
Marty Ehrlich: Fables (2010, Tzadik): A collaboration with Klezmer Conservatory Band directory Hankus Netsky -- not clear whether this should be co-credited, as some sources do, but most just list Ehrlich. Also only found one source for credits: Ehrlich (clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto sax, soprano sax), Marcus Rojas (tuba), Jerome Harris (acoustic bass guitar), Netsky (piano, accordion). That's about what I hear, although Ehrlich plays the clarinets much more than the saxes. Mostly klezmer, no idea how vintage; starts and ends strong, the latter's tuba-accordion oom-pah a hoot. B+(**) [Rhapsody]
Masada String Trio: Haborym: The Book of Angels, Volume 16 (2010, Tzadik): Mark Feldman (violin), Erik Friedlander (cello), Greg Cohen (bass). Group was originally assembled by John Zorn for his 50th birthday celebration, and returns here to take a whack at Zorn's klezmer-flavored Book of Angels series. Most pieces have intriguing grooves, moved along smartly by the bass, which keeps the violin from getting stuck in anything chamber-ish, and some even have a bit of mischievous noise. B+(***) [Rhapsody]
Mark O'Leary & Sunny Murray: Ode to Albert Ayler (2002 , Ayler): O'Leary is an Irish guitarist, from Cork, b. 1969. He's been a SFFR ever since I first ran across him in Anthony Braxton's 2003 standards quartet. He has nine records on Leo since 2000 (recording date; actual release dates start in 2005), a couple more scattered hither and yon. Murray, of course, is one of the great free jazz drummers to come of age in the 1960s, probably inspiring the title with his 1964-65 stint with Albert Ayler -- a stretch of 5-6 albums including Spiritual Unity. He was 65 when this was recorded, with his fine Perles Noires albums still in the future. O'Leary gets a range of sounds from his guitar, ranging from metallic to a dull synth sound, like he's still trying to work out his preferred sound. B+(**) [Rhapsody]
Catalyst: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 1 (1972 , Porter): Philadelphia group, recorded four albums for Joe Fields 1972-75, three of those on Muse and a fourth -- actually the eponymous first album -- on Cobblestone, a Buddah subsidiary Fields also ran. Joel Dorn's 32 Jazz label picked up the catalogue in 1996 and released all four albums on two CDs as The Funkiest Band You Never Heard. I'm a little unclear on details, but it looks like Porter is doing the same trick only on two separate CDs. Vol. 1 packs the two 1972 albums, Catalyst and Perception. The group's mainstays were Odean Pope (tenor sax, flute, oboe), Eddie Green (mostly electric piano), and Sherman Ferguson (drums), with Al Jackson playing bass on the first album and Tyrone Baker on the second -- maybe some extras here and there. Green's electric piano reminds me more of Jimmy Smith's organ than of the era's Hancock-Corea-Zawinul fashion, the main advance a slight uptick in funk quotient. Pope isn't quite the powerhouse he became, but you can tell he's been listening to Ayler and Coltrane without forgetting his roots in gutbucket blues. B+(***) [Rhapsody]
Catalyst: The Complete Recordings, Vol. 2 (1974-75 , Porter): Two more Muse albums, Unity from 1974, and A Tear and a Smile from 1975. The former is probably the funk peak, with saxophonist Odean Pope moving a bit ahead of electric pianist Eddie Green. Things fall apart on the second album: "The Demon, Pt. 1" crosses over into irritating, I think with electric guitar although I don't have the credits (Charles Ellerbe?), then after "Pt. 2" the title track goes into an atmospheric flute serenade. Then strings and vocals intrude into what until then was one of the more impressive funk-jazz quartets of the period. B [Rhapsody]
Odean Pope: Plant Life (2008, Porter): Luke Mosling started Porter Records hoping to reissue some favorite LPs, with Byard Lancaster a touchstone, which led him to another Philly group, Catalyst, and its saxophonist, a young Odean Pope. That in turn led to a couple of relatively recent Pope trios -- I sort of imagine that these were tapes on the shelf rather than new projects. First one out was two 1995-2000 trios, What Went Before: Volume 1, which is what I thought I was listening to -- even wrote a little review. Then I moved on to a second trio album, Plant Life, and found . . . that it had the exact same song lineup, including two written by "Murray." As it happens, the drummer here is Sunny Murray, with Lee Smith on bass. A formidable sax player, of course. But this is getting to be a sloppy music service. B+(**) [Rhapsody]
Henry Grimes/Rashied Ali: Spirits Aloft (2009 , Porter): Grimes' story should be fairly well known by now. B. 1935, he was a popular bassist from 1957-67, breaking in with Gerry Mulligan but from 1964-67 mostly playing with avant-gardists, including Albert Ayler, Frank Wright, Charles Tyler, Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, and Don Cherry -- for that matter, 1962-63 was transitional, credits there including Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Roy Haynes, and two exceptional avant albums: Perry Robinson's Funk Dumpling and Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd's School Days (the name inspiration for the Ken Vandermark group). Grimes dropped out in 1967, and wasn't heard from again until 2002 when someone tracked him down, and William Parker gave him a new bass -- at the time he reportedly hadn't realized that Ayler had died. He's been a semi-celebrity since 2002, working steadily, but I generally suspected that the world was cutting him a fair amount of slack. He had, for instance, one album under his own name back in 1965; he picked up a second album in 2005, Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival, but the Henry Grimes Trio there was supported by two much more famous players: Hamid Drake and David Murray. Still, this record forces me at least to make some adjustments. This is a duo and Ali -- who didn't disappear after Coltrane died but never got much recognition either -- was clearly secondary. Mostly bass-drums duets, but Grimes plays some violin as well, not very slick but the higher pitch projects him impressively. Begins and ends with short poems, the live set full of sharp edges as Grimes works his way around his tools, with drum interludes and comments -- less commanding but no less sharp. This is actually the second duo album with Grimes and Ali, so I need to check the first out too. A- [Rhapsody]
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.
Unpacking: Found in the mail this week:
Monday, September 27, 2010
A week's worth of useful links I didn't get around to commenting on previously:
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Since I started doing Weekend Roundup I've found myself with postless holes in the middle of the week. Thought I'd fill one with some topical today stuff.
Andrew Leonard: How to be a true (non-mosque fearing) American: No credit on the artwork, but if the message doesn't strike you as right, well, what kind of a lilly-livered American are you? Pace the title, I didn't think first of mosques or Muslims. I thought of what the Republicans like to call our "unelected self-appointed elites" -- the only people I'm sure that's meant to indict are those who came from the fringes of America and who busted their asses to work their way to the top of the establishment's most restrictive schools and into the corridors of power. This nation got as far as it did by accepting the contributions of everyone, and it seems damn stupid to stop now -- worse, an act of self-mutilation. The only thing I despise more than people who try to tear down their neighbors who achieve success are the ones who achieve it then try to slam the door behind them.
The only line on the image that gave me pause was "classes," but that's only because so many of the rich have been so brazen about using political power to serve their own greedy selves at the expense of everyone else. But the fact is that we treat the rich pretty well in this country, and that wouldn't change much even if you could imagine a Congress of 80-90% Democrats: at most the rich would wind up paying a bit more in taxes for the privilege of living in a country with a better safety net and more opportunity for everyone. You'd have to be a pretty greedy bastard not to see that as a decent deal. But maybe the artist was thinking of other classes -- the ones we don't treat anywhere near so well.
Today in Paul Krugman posts:
Maybe it's time for Michael Kinsley to update his "Big Babies" essay.
Alex Pareene: House GOP's Pledge to America: World's saddest to do list: I reckon I should read the thing at some point, but for now this is shorter and funnier. Besides, I'm still waiting for that term limits thing from 1994's "Contract with America":
Ezra Klein: The Democrats need a plan, too: Sounds sort of superficially right, but the Democrats not only aren't good at that vision thing, they don't think with one mind and don't march in lockstep to one drummer. The only thing Republicans disagree among themselves on is immigration, where one faction wants to hunt down and exterminate every last foreigner and the other is so enamored with cheap labor they've scarcely got over the end of slavery. Democrats, on the other hand, disagree about damn near everything -- even the moral degeneracy of Republicans. Klein offers a list of pretty easy stuff here but you can still find Democrats who'll shy away from it:
I've occasionally thought that if the Tea Party were truly independent and if the Republicans wanted both to curry favor with them and put the Democrats into an impossibly indelicate situation, they'd take charge at this moment to drive the moneychangers from the capitol by daring the Democrats to implement some serious campaign finance reform, but clearly they're no more serious about corruption in Washington than they are about balancing the budget.
On the other hand, I think the Republicans just gave the Democrats all the vision they need, by spelling out the horror of a Republican takeover of Congress. That's both a compelling message and a unifying one -- even Ben Nelson understands he better off in the majority caucus even when he disagrees with everyone else in the room.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Another batch of book notes. Last one was July 14, and I've accumulated quite a bit more than the forty I limit myself to for these posts, which means two things: these are somewhat select, and another similar post should be forthcoming rather soon.
I will note that I've read Andrew Bacevich's Washington Rules and Chalmers Johnson's Dismantling the Empire but haven't collected notes/quotes yet. Neither adds much to the authors' previous books -- Bacevich's is a new attempt at systematizing what he's learned, a more straightforward book than The Limits of Power, while Johnson's collects a bunch of his TomDispatch essays making it a good deal more scattered than his Blowback trilogy books. More later on both books.
I've also read Nicholas von Hoffman's book on Saul Alinsky (extensive notes linked), and have John Dower and David Harvey on my to-be-read shelf. Sooner or later I want to get to the Hacker/Pierson book. Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns looks like a major contribution to American history.
Andrew Bacevich: Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War (2010, Metropolitan Books): America's bestselling anti-militarism author, possibly because he set his roots down in the military, academia, and the conservative press before he turned against the perpetual war machine, but also because he's open to ideas from all over the map. Bush set such a low bar that Obama thinks he can play the same game and come out on top, a conceit that Bacevich is singularly skilled at debunking.
Alain Badiou: The Communist Hypothesis (2010, Verso): A manifesto for a new way following the self-destructions of soviet communism and neo-liberalism. Probably not the best PR strategy to package this as yet another communism, but it makes sense to me to project some sort of "third way" out of the current dead end ideologies. Badiou has a stack of books, most recently The Meaning of Sarkozy.
Mitchell Bard: The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America's Interests in the Middle East (2010, Harper): Looks like Bard counted the pages in Walt and Mearsheimer's The Israel Lobby and kept writing until he topped them. Even if you agree that the point of Arab political influence in America is "weakening our alliance with a democratic Israel" you have to conclude that it hasn't been very effective and therefore isn't very significant. Perhaps it has been more effective at keeping the US from criticizing human rights issues in places like Saudi Arabia, but then we don't seem to care much about Israeli human rights violations either.
Richard Beeman: Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (paperback, 2010, Random House): I never thought of them as being all that plain, but I suppose you can make that case. I still have a couple of Gordon S. Wood books to read on the subject, so they would take priority (especially The Radicalism of the American Revolution).
Ian Bremmer: The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations? (2010, Portfolio): This turns on the rise of "state capitalist" systems, ranging from state-controlled sovereign funds to the China juggernaut. Does seem to be the case that the states are gaining ground, but not clear what the problem with that is. That states are political? If that results in states directing their economies to service their people better, why is that such a bad thing? There are problems with either extreme, which is why most countries and regions move toward mixed systems. Personally, I would worry more about the corporations.
Will Bunch: The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama (2010, Harper): Glenn Beck, the tea baggers, the birthers, hard to keep up with all the nonsense. Bunch wrote a pretty good book on Reagan, Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future, but his subject here may be too unconstrained to capture in a book just now -- although Beck, in particular, is provoking some backlash: Alexander Zaitchik: Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ingorance (2010, Wiley); Dana Milbank: Tears of a Clown: Glenn Beck and the Tea Bagging of America (2010, Doubleday).
Judith Butler: Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (2009; paperback, 2010, Verso): Something on what we do (and do not) experience as grievous in war, specifically the US War in Iraq where we meticulously count our own dead while casually sloughing off wild-ass guesstimates of those we kill, directly or otherwise.
David Callahan: Fortunes of Change: The Rise of the Liberal Rich and the Remaking of America (2010, Wiley): Argues that new money is more liberal than old money, which even if it's true adds up to a very small point. Rather, what I see happening is that to the extent that these nouveau riches lean Democratic -- and they make sure they never lean far enough to fall over -- they flatter the Democrats into the vain hope that the path to success is to appease the rich. How much change you get out of that is hard to project, mostly because it's so intangible. The rich liberals of FDR's day worked to moderate capitalism to stave off revolution, a fear that today's rich liberals don't have -- unless you count the resurgence of fascism, and there's certainly some threat there.
Matthew J Costello: Secret Identity Crisis: Comic Books and the Unmasking of Cold War America (paperback, 2009, Continuum): Of superhero comics and cold war metaphors, not least the relationship between radioactivity and mutation, which somehow emerges as a public good. The model changed somewhat in the 1960s, but then didn't it all change?
Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (2009; paperback, 2010, Free Press): Back to his roots, writing about something he knows about. I might wonder how cluttered with anti-creationist preaching would be now that he's gotten a taste for evangelical atheism, but the evidence is so compelling and so wondrous it should sell itself. On the other hand, many other books do the trick, like Jerry A Coyne: Why Evolution Is True (2009, Viking; paperback, 2010, Penguin), or the collected works of the late, much lamented Stephen Jay Gould.
John W Dower: Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq (2010, WW Norton): A specialist on Japan during and after WWII -- his two books, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific and Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II offer extraordinary insights into the war and its aftermath -- extends his analysis past 9/11 and into Iraq. You may recall that before Bush invaded Iraq Dower wrote a prescient piece on how wrong the models of the US occupations of Germany and Japan were for the present day.
William R Freudenburg/Robert Gramling/Shirley Laska/Kai Erikson: Catastrophe in the Making: The Engineering of Katrina and the Disasters of Tomorrow (2009, Island Press): You may have noticed that the damages caused by natural disasters has risen in lock step with development in disaster-prone locales. If not, you will sooner or later, because we place few obstacles against such development.
Thomas Geoghegan: Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life (2010, New Press): Labor lawyer -- I read his memoir, Which Side Are You On? Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back when it came out in 1991; seemed like an accidental leftist at the time. Five books later, he's looking for a better way of living, and finding some answers in Europe, specifically in Germany.
Thomas Geoghegan: See You in Court: How the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation (2007; paperback, 2009, New Press): Somewhat surprising given how much the right likes to rail on trial lawyers, but "tort reform" is just a mop-up action. The damage to ordinary people's right is forcing them into court, where the well heeled have all sorts of advantages. Not sure how well this holds up, but the basic idea seems well founded.
Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer -- and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (2010, Simon & Schuster): A logical follow-up to Hacker's The Great Risk Shift: The Assault on American Jobs, Families, Health Care, and Retirement and How You Can Fight Back, looking if not so much for reasons at least for the mechanics behind the chasm of ever-greater inequality. The right is dedicated not just to making the rich richer but, perhaps more importantly, increasing the perceived value of being rich by making not being rich all the more dreadful. America's brief moment of middle class identity had just the opposite effect: it allowed workers the security to feel they were part and parcel of the nation. I used to think that middle-classness was just false consciousness -- and the fact that it surrendered to readily kind of proves the point -- but now that it's over it seems like a pleasantly naïve idea. Still, whenever I hear someone defending the middle class it sounds to me like a putdown of the working poor: the only way to save the middle class is to build up the working poor so they become it. Pierson has co-authored with Hacker before, on Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy.
David Harvey: The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism (2010, Oxford University Press): English Marxist, gives him a distinctive edge in sorting out the flows of capital at a time when the flow has been severely disrupted. Also wrote A Companion to Marx's Capital (paperback, 2010, Verso), based on forty-some years of teaching the book, its times, what it meant, what it might still mean today.
Michael Hiltzik: Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century (2010, Free Press): Although it's been told before, the building of Boulder Dam remains an amazing story: there's certainly no way now that anything as big can be built as fast and as cheaply as it was in the 1930s. This book explains how, and that should be interesting in its own right. How you get an American Century from that is yet something else.
Arianna Huffington: Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream (2010, Crown): I don't trust her, and I hate it when politicians like Obama whine on and on about what they're going to do for the middle class, but the basic thesis here is right. It's not so much that the present middle class is being attacked as that the basic economic relationships that made it possible working people to enjoy middle class comforts have been undermined and will keep getting torn down any chance the right gets. However, what is needed isn't aid to the present middle class but raising the floor under the working class to give them and their children and so forth new opportunities to grow.
Chalmers Johnson: Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope (2010, Metropolitan Books): Collection of essays from the past decade, mostly on the exorbitant costs of maintaining a global garrison that doesn't even work very well on its own terms. Can get redundant, especially compared to his more systematic trilogy: Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000; paperback, 2004, Holt); The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2004, Metropolitan Books); and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2007, Metropolitan Books).
Ann Jones: War Is Not Over When It's Over: Women and the Unseen Consequences of Conflict (2010, Metropolitan Books): Author has a couple of books on battered women, plus an old one recently reissued on the subset who strike back: Women Who Kill (1980; paperback, 2009, Feminist Press). Also a travel book in Africa and a memoir of NGO relief work in Afghanistan: Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan (paperback, 2007, Picador). The new book pulls all those threads together.
Laura Kalman: Right Star Rising: A New Politics, 1974-1980 (2010, WW Norton): Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan on the cover. Seems to have a low opinion of Carter, arguing that American voters rejected him personally rather than liberalism in general. Makes me wonder if that doesn't hit close to home with Obama, who like Carter came along at the end of an eight-year nightmare with a compromised agenda and a lot of poorly understood legacy problems.
Grady Klein/Yoram Bauman: The Cartoon Introduction to Economics: Volume One: Microeconomics (paperback, 2010, Hill and Wang): Introductory, although it offers an interesting, well-rounded range of topics -- probably good as a sanity check on what you do and do not understand. Amusing too, although Bauman doesn't have a lot of competition as a "stand-up economist."
Warren Kozak: LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay (2009, Regnery): A war criminal, at least in his own mind, which relished the role and repeatedly courted disaster. Given the publisher, this is presumably a flattering right-wing paean, but LeMay was so blunt I doubt that you can slant him much.
Andrew F Krepinevich: 7 Deadly Scenarios: A Military Futurist Explores War in the 21st Century (2009, Bantam): One of the geniuses who keeps plotting new ways to get us into senseless wars. Imagines global pandemics, black-market nukes, a Pakistani collapse, civil unrest in China, "the consequences of a timed withdrawal from Iraq"; not sure what else. Wonder if he's thought about the Armageddon-addled Jesus freaks in the US Air Force Academy?
David Kupelian: How Evil Works: Understanding and Overcoming the Destructive Forces That Are Transforming America (2010, Threshold Editions): Previously wrote The Marketing of Evil: How Radicals, Elitists, and Pseudo-Experts Sell Us Corruption Disguised as Freedom. I'd be more intrigued if he replaced "radicals" with "conservatives" (or if I thought that was what he meant by "elitists"). The list of "profoundly troubling questions" he takes a whack at don't strike me as all that profound, like "why are boys doing worse in school today than girls?"
Dylan Loewe: Permanently Blue: How Democrats Can End the Republian Party and Rule the Next Generation (paperback, 2010, Three Rivers Press): Not sure what he's smoking. Long-term political power depends on two things: institutional support, which the Republicans have in spades because they do the bidding of people rich and mean enough to bounce back from a setback and keep fighting even when their positions make them look stupid; and competency, a big problem for Republicans once they get into power. The Democrats don't have the former -- they don't even take their unions seriously -- and they haven't exactly mastered the latter. So how's this supposed to work?
Mark Mazower: No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations (2009, Princeton University Press): One of several new books on the founding of the UN. The idealism behind the UN is frequently touted, but one wonders about the range of thought going into it.
Markos Moulitsas: American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin, and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right (paperback, 2010, Polipoint Press): Easy to see the temptation, but strikes me that comparing the new right-wing fringe to the Taliban is going to result in some sort of cognitive mishmash that in the end won't do anyone any good.
Michael O'Brien: Rethinking Kennedy: An Interpretive Biography (2009, Ivan R Dee): Author previously wrote the 992 pp John F Kennedy: A Biography, which provides ample background for framing this rethinking. Where you wind up depends on where you start. I've long tended to view Kennedy as a Cold War monster, which may be too harsh, although he certainly had plenty on his staff.
William Pfaff: The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America's Foreign Policy (2010, Walker): Foreign policy expert, works for International Herald Tribune, which tends to keep him grounded in reality. I picked up his Barbarian Sentiments: America in the New Century, written in 1989 and reissued with a new afterword in 2000, immediately after 9/11; found the afterword to be an elegant and perceptive take on America's perch in the world, but thought the old material was hopelessly dated, the work of an unvarnished cold warrior. That he views US foreign policy as tragic credits better intentions than I have noticed.
Jonathan Schneer: The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (2010, Random House): Picks over the letter Lord Balfour addressed to Rothschild proposing Palestine as a Jewish Homeland, one of many strange presumptions Britain made during WWI, the intrigues in London scarcely tethered to the reality they wound up confounding.
Robin Shepherd: A State Beyond the Pale: Europe's Problem With Israel (2009, Orion): Strikes me as a self-hating European, arguing that his "bed-wetting generation" has lost their way compared to the Europeans of yore precisely because they've given up on the principles that still thrive in Israel: you know, racism, militarism, colonialism, the preening celebration of democracy built on the subjugation of others. Moreover, he argues that Europe's failure to embrace Israel is its own death-wish, as Europe is progressively swallowed up by immigrant Islamist hordes. Funny thing is, when I read the title I imagined a quite different book.
Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff: Black Culture and the New Deal: The Quest for Civil Rights in the Roosevelt Era (2009, University of North Carolina Press): Roosevelt's record on civil rights should be seen as disgraceful, although his general thrust toward greater economic equality did materially bring us closer to a viable civil rights movement. Not sure how much of that this book covers, but it does focus on Federal Arts Projects at a time when blacks increasingly distinguished themselves in the arts -- Duke Ellington and Richard Wright being well known examples.
Baylis Thomas: The Dark Side of Zionism: The Quest for Security Through Dominance (2010, Lexington Books): Another concise history of the Zionist takeover of Palestine -- author previously wrote How Israel Was Won: A Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
Nick Turse, ed: The Case for Withdrawal From Afghanistan (paperback, 2010, Verso): Essays by Andrew Bacevich, Anand Gopal, Chalmer Johnson, Ann Jones, Mike Davis, Dahr Jamal, not sure who else; basically a spinoff from TomDispatch, where Tom Engelhardt and guests have been writing about Afghanistan, Iraq, and the folly of empire ever since Bush got his gun on.
Justin Vaïsse: Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement (2010, Harvard University Press): I suppose there are technical differences between the Neocons as an intellectual movement and Bush's War Cabinet, but that's mostly because theories look sweeter before they are tested by reality.
Ed Viesturs/David Roberts: K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain (2009, Broadway): I've read quite a few mountaineering books, partly because Galen Rowell, who introduced me to K2 in In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods, and Jon Krakauer have turned out to be such striking writers. (I didn't know that Rowell died in a plane crash in 2002. His photography books are extraordinary: I haven't seen A Retrospective, but can plug Mountains of the Middle Kingdom, Galen Rowell's Vision, and Mountain Light.) Viesturs is one of the big names in mountain climbing, and K2 is nearly as high as Everest and a lot harder to get to, up, and down.
Nicholas von Hoffman: Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky (2010, Nation Books): Turns out the author, whose 2004 Iraq War book Hoax: Why Americans Are Suckered by White House Lies was uncommonly smart, spent a good chunk of his life working as an organizer for the community organizing guru -- he brags that he was hired on the same day as Cesar Chavez -- and remained a good friend and confidante until Alinsky's death. Part memoir, part manifesto. [link]
William Wiker: 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read (2010, Regnery): Aristotle's Politics; GK Chesterton: Orthodoxy; Eric Voegelin: The New Science of Politics; CS Lewis: The Abolution of Man; Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France; Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America; The Federalist Papers; The Anti-Federalists; Hilaire Belloc: The Servile State; FA Hayek: The Road to Serfdom. Also likes Shakespeare (The Tempest), Austen (Sense and Sensibility), Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), and The Jerusalem Bible, but not Atlas Shrugged. Author previously wrote 10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help (2008, Regnery), where he tried to distance himself from such traditional right-wing faves as Leviathan and Mein Kampf, as well as work out his heebie-jeebies over Margaret Mead and Alfred Kinsey.
Isabel Wilkerson: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (2010, Random House): Massive (640 pp) history of the black exodus from the Jim Crow South north and/or west. Not a feel-good story on either end, but an essential chronicle of the formation of modern America.
Previously mentioned books (book pages noted where available), new in paperback:
Mahmoud Mamdani: Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror (2009; paperback, 2010, Doubleday): A critical look at the poorly understood, frantically politicized violence in Darfur, the northwest corner of Sudan. Mamdani wrote one of the smartest books around about the war on terror: Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror, and has also written on the genocide in Rwanda. Probably the one book to read on Darfur -- the only reason I didn't jump all over it was that I had previously read Gérard Prunier: Darfur: A 21st Century Genocide which I figured covered all I really needed to know.
TR Reid: The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care (2009; paperback, 2010, Penguin Press): A quick trip around the world, finding that damn near every even moderately developed country manages to provide better healthcare cheaper than the US does -- mainland China seems to be the exception, although Taiwan's system is covered in some detail, partly because it is a relatively recent success story. Turns out that it matters little whether healthcare providers are private or public, but it makes all the difference in the world whether they are profit-seeking. [link]
Robert Scheer: The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street (paperback, 2010, Nation Books): I mentioned this before publication date back when I wrote up a lengthy survey of banking crisis books, but it finally came out on Sept. 7, and with a new subtitle, more specific than Greedy Bankers and the Politicians Who Loved Them. The callout on Clinton is significant: in the book he refers to the whole explosion of CDOs as the "Clinton bubble" -- an emphasis that doesn't let Obama off the hook, even though it may leave Bush feeling shorted.
Andrew Ross Sorkin: Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street Fought to Save the Financial System -- and Themselves (2009, Viking; paperback, 2010, Penguin): One of the first books out the gate on the 2007-08 banking crisis, short on explanation but long on details -- a good reporter with a lot of inside contacts mostly because he buys into Wall Street's worldview. Some updates. Some other first wave books are getting second lives in paperback: William D Cohan: House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street (2009, Doubleday; paperback, 2010, Anchor); Barry Ritholtz: Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World's Economy (2009; paperback, 2010, Wiley); Gillian Tett: Fool's Gold: How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J.P. Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe (2009; paperback, 2010, Free Press); David Wessel: In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke's War on the Great Panic (2009; paperback, 2010, Crown Business). All those listed are widely regarded as fine books, so the main question is how much you can stomach. Given the quantity and quality of reporting on what kicked off this huge recession, it's a tribute to the blinders of self-interest that so many people remain so ignorant.
Notes on all the past books in this series are collected here (warning: big file).
Monday, September 20, 2010
Music: Current count 17137  rated (+37), 851  unrated (+10). Big chunk of Jazz Prospecting, plus a few Rhapsody records combine for the big rated bump. Two weeks' worth of mail puts me even further behind.
Jazz Prospecting (CG #25, Part 2)
Main thing I tried to do this week was to take a bite out of the middle-priority queue: mostly artists I don't know but who look serious, or artists I do know but don't expect exceptional things from. Got a lot of promising mail the last two weeks -- Andrew Card's line about not launching new products in August seems to apply to jazz as well as imperialist wars -- so I'll start to take a closer look at them next week. No news on when Jazz CG will run, but I don't expect to hear anything until the week before, and that's at least another week away.
Grades in brackets are tentative, on records I'm holding back for further play, either because I didn't get a good enough take on them, or suspect they might have some upside potential. I mention that here because I haven't been holding much back recently, but there is one such record below. I've gotten into a habit of forcing myself to finish grades just to move things along, especially on low-B+ records that have no chance of moving up enough to count.
Owen Howard: Drum Lore (2009 , Bju'ecords): Drummer, b. 1965 Edmonton; moved to New York around 1988; fourth record since 1993; not much of a side credit list -- none of the 11 household names he lists as "performed or recorded with" on his website show up in his AMG credits list, although Joe Lovano has something nice to say on the inside cover. One original and ten covers of songs by drummers, counting "Stompin' at the Savoy" for Chick Webb (listed ahead of Benny Goodman and Edgar Sampson); the others are worth listing: Denzil Best, Shelly Manne, Ed Blackwell, Al Foster, Billy Hart, Tony Williams, Paul Motian, Jack DeJohnette, Peter Erskine. Frank Carlberg plays piano, Johannes Weidenmueller bass, but the music is dominated by a rich range of horns: John O'Gallagher (alto), Andy Middleton (tenor, soprano), Adam Kolker (tenor, soprano, bass clarinet), and Alan Ferber (trombone on 4 cuts). B+(**)
Robert Sadin: Art of Love: Music of Machaut (2009, Deutsche Grammophon): Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor, got a taste of jazz when he arranged and produced Herbie Hancock's Gershwin's World, which here he uses mostly for networking. The music is medieval, from French composer Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300-1377), done with modern instruments and enough guests to clutter up a Herbie Hancock record, although they're not exactly clutter here. Actually, they're very circumspect, which makes this package rather static, hard to hear and hard to get into -- it really matters very little whether the singer is Milton Nascimento, Hassan Hakmoun, Madeleine Peyroux, Natalie Merchant, Jasmine Thomas, Celena Shafer, or Sadin himself. Same for a long list of instrumentalists, from the reeds (Seamus Blake, John Ellis) to the guitars (Lionel Loueke, Romero Lubambo) to the beatless percussionists (Dan Weiss, Cyro Baptista). My package is dubbed a "press kit" -- a box with a fat booklet and red wrapping paper around a thin foldout card with a button for the CD. Don't know about the actual product. B- [advance]
Taylor Haskins: American Dream (2009 , Sunnyside): Trumpet player, b. 1971, third album since 2004, the first two on Fresh Sound New Talent. Quartet with Ben Monder (guitar), Ben Street (bass), and Jef Hirshfield (drums). Ponderous titles plumbing an American dream that comes off menacingly gloomy ("the farmer has nothing to sow/the cowboy has nowhere to roam/the heroes have no one to save/the misfits find it hard to behave/the merchants have little to sell/the establishment has secrets to tell/the people have started to yell/the dreamers are nowhere but hell"); the music even more so. B
Roberto Cipelli/Paolo Fresu/Philippe Garcia/Gianmaria Testa/Attilio Zanchi: F. à Léo (2007 , Justin Time): Tribute to French chansonnier Léo Ferré (1916-93); not sure how to parse the title, a large abbreviated initial and a small dedication, followed even smaller by "progetto di roberto cipelli." The artists are listed alphabetically. Pianist Cipelli has a couple previous albums dating back to 1988, but most of his credits are on albums led by trumpeter Fresu. Testa sings Ferré's French texts, with Zanchi on bass and Garcia on drums; Garcia also has a couple vocal credits, and Garcia and Testa have one each on guitar (chitarra). The vocals are appropriately smoky, the trumpet poignant, and Cipelli adds connective tissue between the songs. Recording date not given, but AMG lists two previous editions, one in 2007 on Bonsaï, one in 2008 on Radiofandango -- labels I've never heard of otherwise. B+(**)
Jessica Williams: Touch (2010, Origin): Another solo piano album -- I've lost count of how many she has, but a half-dozen would be a conservative guess, and ten hardly an outer bound. She comments in the liner notes that she no longer pounds "the piano like it was a set of drums"; good chance I liked those albums better than these, but that's me. Live set, half originals plus "I Loves You Porgy," "I Cover the Waterfront," "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," and one from Coltrane. B+(*)
Alex Brown: Pianist (2009 , Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1987, studied at New England Conservatory, based in Boston. First album. Cover says "Paquito D'Rivera presents"; D'Rivera plays alto sax on two cuts, clarinet on one more, as the album builds on a piano trio base -- Vivek Patel plays flugelhorn on four tracks, Warren Wolf marimba on two, Pedro Martinez percussion on four and vocals on one. Patel has a few good moments, but in general the extras are not all that substantial or interesting. The trio work shows some promise, but Brown hasn't broken out of the pack yet. B
Capathia Jenkins/Louis Rosen: The Ache of Possibility (2009, Di-tone): Rosen plays guitar, writes the songs -- borrowing lyrics from Nikki Giovanni for four of twelve -- and is a sly singer when he gets the chance, as on "The Middle-Class (Used to Be) Blues": the sharpest political song here in an album that carries a lot of political message. Jenkins is a church-schooled soul belter -- more impressive vocally but not in Aretha Franklin's league, and less interesting as a result. No strong reason to treat this as jazz -- as the hype sheet suggests -- other than the occasional horns and congas, which don't add up to much. Two previous albums, one full of Nikki Giovanni songs, the other called South Side Stories. B+(*)
Al Basile: Soul Blue 7 (2009, Sweetspot): Cornet player, blues singer, gave up theoretical physics for a slot in Duke Robillard's Roomful of Blues band. Robillard produces and plays guitar here, on Basile's seventh album since 2001. I count eight musicians here, with two saxes, trombone, piano or organ. Basile's a credible blues vocalist, too busy singing here to show off much of his cornet. Robillard keeps the band swinging -- he's been straddling blues and jazz effectively for a while now. Bonus includes a couple of pictures -- one in the clear case back and one in the booklet -- of someone's CD shelves: probably Basile's, since the bottom shelf of one is wall-to-wall Louis Armstrong -- even a few discs I don't have (and I have a lot). Everything else is blues, unless you want to quibble about the Fats Domino box. B+(**)
George Brooks Summit: Spirit and Spice (2010, Earth Brother Music): Saxophonist, picture shows him playing tenor but credit is plural, and he has alto and soprano credits elsewhere (e.g., with John McLaughlin; AMG also gives him composer credits going back to Bessie Smith, but I think those can be discounted). AMG lists four albums since 1996, not counting this one. His main interest is in Indo-Jazz fusion, the basis of his 2002 album Summit -- another album title recycled into a group name -- and the new Raga Bop Trio (with drummer Steve Smith and guitarist Prasanna, with Smith listed first). This is a quartet with Fareed Haque on guitar, Kai Eckhardt on bass, and Smith on drums, supplmentet by eight mostly-Indian guests -- Zakir Hussain (tabla), Nildari Kumar (sitar), Kala Ramnath (violin), Ronu Majumdar (bansuri), Swapan Chaudhuri (tabla), Sridar Parthasarathy (mrdangam, ghatam, kanjira, vocals). Moves smoothly through the jungle, with a sweet scent I don't find especially appealing. B
Jamie Ousley: Back Home (2010, Tie): Worst packaging idea of the year: dark green print on black background. I can't read half the song credits, most of the musicians, or any of the lyrics. Bassist, studied at University of Miami, is based in southern Florida. Second album, after O Sorriso Dela (2008). Musicians listed on front cover are Ira Sullivan (soprano sax, alto flute), Ed Calle (soprano sax), Phillip Strange (piano), Larry Marshall (drums); some others appear here and there, including three singers I've never heard of, and a splash of strings. Trends toward lushness, which isn't a compliment. I generally like Sullivan but his alto flute lead on "My Favorite Things" is my least favorite thing here. C+
Johnny Butler: Solo (2009 , Johnny Butler Jazz): Saxophonist, from Seattle, based in Brooklyn, first album. Also plays in an avant-rock/classical chamber group called Scurvy, and has some sort of connection to Tune-Yards. Album here consists of four fairly short pieces built using an Echoplex looper -- he makes a big deal in the album notes about doing this with no overdubs, but I don't really get the distinction, or what he's trying to do. Short (24:21), can be tedious but also has some interesting bits. B
Michael Zilber: The Billy Collins Project: Eleven on Turning Ten (2007 , OA2): Saxophonist (soprano, tenor), web bio pretty much useless, seems to have grown up in Vancouver, moved to Boston to study at New England Conservatory and Tufts, on to New York, winding up in California -- this record was recorded in San Jose. Seventh album since 1986, counting one with Steve Smith and another with Dave Liebman listed first. Billy Collins was US Poet Laureate 2001-03; has fifteen volumes since 1977, but I can't say I've ever heard of him, much less read him. Zilber's project was to take eleven Collins poems and set them to music. As is so often the case, constructing melodies for cadences winds up feeling awkward, and Andy Kirshner's dry voice doesn't help matters. With John R. Burr on piano, John Schifflett on bass, and Jason Lewis on drums/percussion. B
Andrew Oliver Sextet: 82% Chance of Rain (2009 , OA2): Pianist, based in Portland, OR. Has a previous Sextet album from 2008; also an Andrew Oliver Kora Band from 2009. Don't recognize anyone on this album, but three members wrote six of ten songs (to Oliver's four): guitarist Dan Duvall (3), drummer Kevin Van Geem (2), tenor/soprano saxophonist Willie Matheis (1). Also playing are Mary-Sue Tobin (soprano/alto sax, clarinet) and Eric Gruber (bass). Oliver plays some electric (Fender Rhodes and Wurlitzer). Intricate postbop, shows a lot of ingenuity, quite listenable over the long haul. B+(**)
Eric Felten: Seize the Night (2007 , Melotone): Trombonist lately turned vocalist, b. 1964, cut a couple albums for Soul Note in the early 1990s, then not much until he emerged as a crooner on Eric Felten Meets the Dek-tette in 2005. Wrote six of eleven songs, none up to "Dancing in the Dark" or "Blue Skies" but they hold up well enough. Band should be superb -- Kenny Barron, Dennis Irwin, Jimmy Cobb, and Don Braden -- but neither they nor the singer break out of the straight-laced propriety characterized by, for instance, the conservative black-and-white cover art. B+(**)
Benny Sharoni: Eternal Elixir (2008 , Papaya): Tenor saxophonist, from Israel, parents from Yemen and Chile (which he credits for a little Latin tinge), moved to US in 1986 to study at Berklee; based in Boston. First album. a mainstream affair with trumpet, piano, guitar, bass and drums. Wrote 4 of 10 cuts -- the only cover I instantly recognize is "Sunny." Big sound, swings hard. B+(**)
Sándor Szabó/Kevin Kastning: Returning (2008 , Greydisc): Hungarian guitar duo; no bio on Kastning other than that he lives in Budapest, has a 1988 album as The Kevin Kastning Unit, several more as Kastning Siegfried, and four now with Szabó. Szabó was born in 1956, has a healthy discography starting with an album on Leo in 1986. Both play 12-string guitars: Szabó a baritone, Kastning switching between an extended baritone, an alto in G, and a 6-string bass-baritone. They work carefully, getting a subtly metallic picked note sound. Could be major subjects for further research if I was that much into guitar. B+(*)
Bobby Avey: A New Face (2009 , JayDell): Young pianist, no b. date given but got his BA in 2007 and moved to Brooklyn. First album under his own name, but previously appeared in a duo with Dave Liebman, Vienna Dialogues, which I didn't much care for. This is much better: half trio where he leans hard on the keys, half with Liebman guesting, also blowing hard. B+(***)
Peggy Duquesnel: Summertime Lullaby (2009 , Joyspring Music): Pianist-vocalist, writes some (4 of 11 "jazz standards and love songs" here). Seventh album since 2003. Evidently based in southern California ("served as stadium keyboardist for the Anaheim Angels baseball team"). Band includes guitar, bass, and drums, but seems to vanish mid-album. Has some charm as a singer, and her instrumental (solo) takes of "Satin Doll" and "Take the 'A' Train" sparkle, but the lullaby/love song angle doesn't do much (nor does her "Mack the Knife," which doesn't exactly fit any of these concepts. B
Rob Wagner/Hamid Drake/Nobu Ozaki: Trio (2005 , Valid): Can't find any bio for Wagner -- empty page on his website, empty section on MySpace -- but he plays clarinet, tenor and soprano sax, is based in New Orleans, has four trio records since 2001, only this one with Drake and Ozaki. Needless to say, Drake is a huge pickup, his frame drums providing a soft rumble that blends especially well with Wagner's clarinet. The sax stretches, and the drum kit, are louder, less exceptional, but still invigorating free jazz. A-
Gaida: Levantine Indulgence (2009 , Palymra): Singer, born in Germany, raised in Damascus, also lived in Kuwait and Paris; moved to Detroit to study biology, got into music singing in Lebanese restaurants, eventually wound up in New York, where she taps into a mix of Middle Eastern and jazz musicians -- drummer Eric McPherson, bassist François Moutin, or both in the case of Iraqi trumpeter Amir ElSaffar. Mix is more Arab folk/pop than anything else, but I can't swear that's what it really is. B+(***)
Chie Imaizumi: A Time of New Beginnings (2010, Capri): From Japan, studied at Berklee from 2001, based in Los Angeles, but recorded this in New York. Third album since 2005, composing and arranging for a large group with a John Clayton-Jeff Hamilton-Tamir Hendelman rhythm section and a lot of big name horns (Steve Wilson, Scott Robinson, Gary Smulyan, Greg Gisbert, Terrell Stafford, Steve Davis, and a guest spot for Randy Brecker). Has its ups and downs, but the ensemble work is often amazing. B+(**)
Jacky Terrasson: Push (2009 , Concord): Pianist, b. 1966 in Berlin, Germany; mother American, father French; studied at Berklee, based now in New York. Twelfth album since 1994, when he debuted as one of Blue Note's big piano finds. He's one of those pianists I haven't paid much attention to, and haven't gotten much out of when I did, but he's pretty upbeat here, and the trio pieces are bright and lively. The guests are less of a blessing, not that there's anything wrong with Jacques Schwarz-Bart's tenor sax piece, or the two with Gregoire Maret's harmonica -- they sort of fall off the table as odds and ends. Terrasson sings a bit, and that's forgettable too. B+(*)
Guillermo Klein: Domador de Huellas: Music of "Chuchi" Leguizamon (2009 , Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1970 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, studied at Berklee, based in New York, eighth album since 1997, most with a large band he calls Los Gauchos. This one is a tribute to Argentine songwriter Gustavo "Cuchi" Leguizamón, who wrote/co-wrote all but Klein's title track. Most songs have vocals, mostly sung by Klein who doesn't give them a very felicitous airing, although guests Liliana Herrero and Carme Canela do little better. B-
Hadley Caliman/Pete Christlieb: Reunion (2009 , Origin): Two tenor saxophonists. Caliman, b. 1932, had a few albums in the 1970s, then vanished (at least as a leader) until Origin picked him up in 2008. He titled his comeback album Gratitude and its follow-up Straight Ahead, and that's about all you need to know about him. Christlieb is a bit younger, b. 1945, evidently played some with Caliman in the late 1960s. He has a slightly more continuous career, but only one record between 1983-98, and only one other album post-2000. He is probably best known for a pair of duo albums with Warne Marsh in 1978 -- at least that's where I know him from -- which, of course, don't quite compete with Marsh's Lee Konitz duos. Presumably Caliman's the one who wants to swing and Christlieb's the one who's into more intricate postbop. Pretty enjoyable mix either way. With label stalwarts Bill Anschell, Chuck Deardorf, and John Bishop. B+(**)
Charito Meets Michel Legrand: Watch What Happens (2008 , CT Music): Wikipedia: "Charito was the Empress consort of Jovian, Roman Emperor." OK, let's try again. Singer. B. June 15, no year given, probably in the Philippines; MySpace bases her in New York, but her own website starts: "Distinctively a most prominent jazz vocalist in Japan with multi-awarded albums recorded and released internationally" -- website also available in Japanese. Has seven albums since 1991 (AMG) or thirteen since 1990 (own website), the latest Heal the World: Charito Sings Michael Jackson. No credits -- not a big problem with Legrand's generally anonymous orchestra, but I'd like to know who to blame for the duets (possibly Legrand). She has a nice voice, good diction, takes one song in French, the others in impeccable English. Looked pretty scruffy on her first album cover; better than ever twenty years later, so she must be doing something right. B
Makoto Ozone/No Name Horses: Jungle (2009 , Verve): Pianist, b. 1961 in Kobe, Japan; studied at Berklee 1980-83 before returning to Japan, where he is something of a star. Looks like he has 25-30 albums, starting with an eponymous one in 1981 and including at least three with his big band No Name Horses. The band is efficient and effective here, with solid section work, a few standout solos, and a fair amount of space for Ozone to remind you of his affection for Oscar Peterson, although the single thing that I like best about it is the extra dose of percussion, evidently the work of the only non-Japanese name I see on the roster: Pernell Saturnino. B+(*) [advance]
Sheryl Bailey: A New Promise (2008 , MCG Jazz): Guitarist, b. 1966, grew up in Pittsburgh, PA; based in New York; sixth album since 1993. Cites Wes Montgomery as an inspiration, and seems to fit into his family, although we can add Emily Remler to that list -- three Remler songs here, including "East to Wes." Recorded in Pittsburgh with the Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra, co-directed by Mike Tomaro and Steve Hawk. I imagine most musicians love the idea of having a full big band backing them up. Helps here, even if it seems a little extravagant. B+(**)
Mike Marshall/Caterina Lichtenberg: Caterina Lichtenberg and Mike Marshall (2009 , Adventure Music): Mandolin duets. Marshall, like most American mandolinists, started in bluegrass, but then he took a turn into Brazilian choro and his discography and especially his label now tilt that way. Lichtenberg was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, is based in Germany; she specializes in baroque classical music, and that's where they start here: with J.S. Bach, then Jean-Marie Leclair; they mix in Jose Antonio Zambrano's "Suite Venezuelana," two pieces by Jacob do Bandolim, one from Zequendo de Abrel, a Bulgarian trad tune, a couple of Marshall's pieces -- all sounding, to me at least, pretty baroque. B+(*)
Nils Petter Molvaer: Hamada (2009 , Thirsty Ear): No dates, but came out last fall on his own Sula label, possibly picked up by Universal, a company so huge that its American and European arms don't much care what the other is doing. Chilled trumpet over Eivind Aarset's frigid guitar, Jan Bang's sampling, and/or scattered electronics. I like it more when the percussion picks up, especially when the guitar goes heavy metal on "Cruel Altitude," but the ambient surfaces aren't noodling. B+(***)
Marc Ribot: Silent Movies (2009 , Pi): Solo guitar, with Ribot switching to vibes on one track, and Keefus Ciancia credited with "soundscapes" on 5 (of 13). In the liner notes Ribot says that Blind Movies would have been a better title "but that wasn't as catchy" -- maybe someone should have added "or clichéd"? The music isn't clichéd, but it does fall into the ambient rut that swallows up so many soundtracks. B+(**) [Sept. 28]
Gwilym Simcock: Blues Vignette (2009 , Basho, 2CD): Pianist, b. 1981 in Bangor, Gwynedd (northwest Wales), UK. Second album, a big one divided into "Solo/Duo" and "Trio" discs: the duo is a 21-minute "Suite for Cello and Piano" with Cara Berridge on cello, following 48 minutes of solo; the trio adds Yuri Goloboubev (bass) and James Maddren (drums). A lot to swallow here, and I don't really feel up to it. As if often the case, the few covers are easier to figure out than the originals. In particular, the solo disc includes a very interesting deconstruction of "On Broadway" which barely hints at a melody so catchy it invariably sticks with you for hours. B+(*)
John McNeil/Bill McHenry: Chill Morn He Climb Jenny (2009 , Sunnyside): Trumpet, tenor sax, respectively; McNeil b. 1948, a veteran of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra with a bunch of albums on Steeplechase I haven't heard. McHenry is much younger, b. 1972, his 1998 debut on Fresh Sound New Talent. Both are mainstream players, although their pianoless quartet's effort at rediscovering lost bop gems -- three Russ Freeman pieces here, one each from Thad Jones and Wilbur Harden (and another trumpet player named Miles Davis), the other three minor standards -- has its own root-seeking radicalism. With Joe Martin on bass, Jochen Rueckert on drums. Recorded live. After three plays still has some upside potential. [B+(***)]
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further listening the first time around.
Unpacking: Found in the mail the last two weeks:
Sunday, September 19, 2010
A week's worth of useful links I didn't get around to commenting on previously:
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Poverty and the Erosion of Trust
Front cover of Wichita Eagle today was dominated by Wednesday's storms -- nine tornados in the area, a picture of a clump of ice 7.75 inches across, possibly the largest hail recorded in Kansas. We got some 2-inch hail, a lot more in the 1-inch range, some wind and heavy rain. I haven't looked around very carefully, but don't see any obvious damage here.
But two smaller articles, both picked up from news services, in the paper caught my eye:
Tony Pugh: Poverty numbers are highest in decades: Actually, the recordkeeping only goes back 51 years to 1959. The raw number of 43.6 million Americans under the poverty line is the largest ever, and the percentage rate is the highest since 1994 -- also two years after a Democrat was elected president ending a long Republican period. Median income is also down 4.2 percent; unemployment is up. Much of this can be attributed to the worst recession we've had since the 1930s, but the long-term trend is deep and dismal. The only time America's poverty rates dropped more than can be accounted for by short-term growth was during the New Deal, especially following the passage of Social Security, and following LBJ's Great Society push in the late 1960s. In both cases, successes were subsequently eroded by business efforts to drive wages down and profits up, leading to major increases in inequality.
Inequality is a fairly abstract concept, shrouded in the fact that some inequality is inevitable -- some people are just smarter, some work harder, some save more, some are just luckier -- and to some extent that inequality can be harmless. It doesn't really harm you if your neighbor has a fancier car or eats more often in ritzy restaurants or takes extra vacations you can't afford, and it may even work to your benefit if he pays more taxes and that results in better schools for your children. But the more inequality you permit, the uglier it gets, especially when the rich band together to promote their interests at the expense of everyone else's. And that's what's happened, to an extent that we should find shocking, in America over the past 30-40 years.
You can measure this inequality lots of ways. For instance, median real wages have stagnant or worse since 1970, despite huge productivity gains which in an earlier period -- one with much stronger labor unions -- would have been shared but now accrue exclusively to capital. Another way is to watch the poverty line swallow up more and more people. That's tragic, not only for the people immediately affected but also for the general waste -- what those people and their families far on down the line could have contributed if only they had basic support and real opportunities. As the article points out, today's grim situation could have been even worse if the right had been more successful at choking off Obama's meager economic programs:
Trust is the one thing that no modern society can function without. It's impossible to overstate that point, but if you have any doubts try imagining going through your day if you had to constantly guard against everyone you meet unpredictably lashing out at you and everything you encounter fraught with hidden dangers. Indeed, trust is so basic and so essential that people who lose their ability to trust are routinely diagnosed with mental illnesses, ranging from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) to schizophrenic paranoia.
Trust is something that builds gradually but can crack and crash overnight, after which it is extremely difficult to put back together again. Some societies become so untrustworthy that we can't even imagine what it would be like to live in them. Two obvious examples are war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan, where US occupation forces and Quisling regimes are unlikely to ever gain much trust among populations they intentionally divide and play off against each other, nor can locals trust insurgents who act in their name but resort to ruthlessness that matches or exceeds the occupiers.
We still live in a relatively trustworthy society, but as this poll indicates that trust is unraveling, and the more it unravels the more reasons we have to trust each other less. One problem is that while our wars leave their destruction abroad they return distrust here: most obviously in the high rates of PTSD suffered by returning soldiers, but also in the whole political struggle over the war, and in the fear that the wars will elicit further terror attacks. Still, war doesn't inevitably destroy trust: in some cases, the shared experience of war makes trust so essential that we work hard to build it up. This is easiest to do when we sense that we share the same fate -- that we are in this together, and we therefore have to depend on each other. On the other hand, the more we sense that everyone has to fend for him-or-herself, the quicker trust erodes.
That distrust is increasing in America is the result of deeply seated trends and lots of political opportunism. The trends include things that we pretty much have to live with -- capitalism is intrinsically directed by self-interest, which is something we have every reason to distrust -- and things that we could change if we had the political will to do so, like reversing a 40-year trend toward greater inequality. The political opportunism is less excusable. Congress fares especially poorly because both sides pick at the chinks and pour on the loathing, but also because the influence of money is so pervasive that it's pretty much impossible to get into Congress without being guilty of something. The military, on the other hand, rates relatively highly because neither side picks on it at all, even though objectively it is as least as corrupt and self-serving as any other organization -- maybe more given that so much of what it does is done in secret.
That both sides do it doesn't make both sides equally culpable. Conservatives, rather perversely, have set out to undermine trust in democratic institutions, especially ones like government that could be popularly used to limit the private power of corporations and the accumulation of extraordinary wealth by privileged individuals. Sometimes they do this by appealing to individualist principle, but more often they exploit fears -- everything from terrorism to tax audits -- and frequently they engage in outright falsehoods, like the nonstop slander campaigns that met the Clinton and Obama presidencies. What's perverse is that they're tearing at the very fabric of society. For some reason, the rich -- and that's who conservatives are in the employ of -- think they can save themselves from the rot around them by isolating themselves in their gated neighborhoods and private clubs and schools with their servants and lackies. They even see some virtue in their ability to thrive in a society that is tearing itself up with distrust -- figuring that if the masses don't honor them for love of God or Mammon they will at least fear the police and jail.
On the other hand, there is a lot of evidence that more equitable societies are healthier, more productive, simply more trustworthy -- e.g., see Richard Wilkinson/Kate Pickett: The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. If we've learned anything at all over the last 250 years it is that people working together -- in an army, a church, a corporation, a labor union, a bureaucracy, even a scattered group of software developers connected only by the internet -- can do much more than any individual can. And while traditional forms of motivating such groups -- slavery, impressment, wages -- are somewhat effective, nothing works like voluntary personal commitment to shared goals. The key to getting this commitment is trust that the outcome will be fair and just. And that sort of agreement is much easier to achieve in a society that aims for equality than in one that splits into each person pursuing its own personal interest.
Obviously, there are many cases today where one is justified in not trusting those in power, but we need to be careful to qualify those cases: to insist that facts determine judgment, and to insist on systematically making facts easier to find -- for politicians we need both to make finances more transparent and to make financial transactions rare so that the exceptions will stand out.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Went to a nice dinner last night: good food, old lefties talking on and on. As usual, I don't feel I made myself adequately clear, so would like to use my soapbox to add a few words.
One topic floating about but never handled directly was the old third party impulse. All present had plenty of gripes over Obama's conservatism, and we pretty much all agreed that if Raj Goyle wins the local congressional seat he will become one of the bluest dogs in the Democratic Party, his only saving grace saving us from Koch crony Mike Pompeo. Still, I have no desire to work for a party of the left. The one thing the left can do these days is to come up with a proper critique of the state of affairs. Wrapping that up in a party inevitably compromises the message, for all sorts of reasons. One of those is that the media simply won't allow a third party to discuss any real issues. Ralph Nader's 2000 campaign is a good example: Nader had more substantial issues against Gore than Gore thought he had against Bush, yet the only thing the media focused on was Nader's role as a spoiler in the two-party contest. The soapbox that Nader should have had by force of his distinctive command of the issues was nullified by a system that can't cope with real issues.
Of course, lots of people find electoral politics seductive, and since the Republicans have gone off the deep end, there is a need to block them that hasn't been felt so urgently since the common front struggle against the fascists in the 1930s. I don't disagree with the latter point, and will dutifully cast votes against Pompeo, Jerry Moran, and Sam Brownback come November, but that's about it. I don't want to feel obligated to defend people I disagree with on many important things just because someone else would likely be worse.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Music: Current count 17100  rated (+11), 841  unrated (-4).
No Jazz Prospecting
Did a lot of driving last week, including a quick trip to Mountain Home, Arkansas. Didn't figure I'd have much time or access, so didn't even bother to schlep the computer along with me, or for that matter the boom box and my homework. (Did load up a case of country music -- Lefty Frizzell was a big hit, if you can imagine ostensible country music fans who've never heard him before, a sense of marvel that I recall passing through my own life thirty years ago.)
Back now, and starting to catch up, as I delve back into the also-rans and think about culling the surplus. Haven't catalogued the mail yet: got very little before I left, but got a huge haul today, so I'm probably falling behind again. (What was it Andrew Card said about not launching major product roll-outs in August?) No further news on Jazz CG, which will probably run last week of September or first week of October.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
A week's worth of useful links I didn't get around to commenting on previously -- actually, less, since I was traveling without my computer for most of the week:
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Tea and Guns
Laura Tillem has a letter in the Wichita Eagle today, titled "Tea and Guns":
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
Rhapsody Streamnotes: September 2010
Pick up text here.
Monday, September 06, 2010
Found this in the scratch file. Never did anything with it, but as a fragment it's better off here.
Movie: No Country for Old Men. Cormac McCarthy novel, adapted and directed by Ethan and Noel Coen. Features Josh Brolin as a worker/hunter who stumbles onto a satchel of money, Javier Bardem as the mob killer who hunts him down, Tommy Lee Jones as the county sheriff who waxes philosophical over the whole mess (or what will do, as he puts it, until a real mess comes along). American movies have always celebrated fortunates coming into money, even if some didn't fare well with their fortune. Stealing from drug dealers became a cliché back in the Reagan administration, which was doing something along those lines to fund its wars in Nicaragua. Set in south Texas in 1980, this fits the model, but avoids the worst of the genre: it's still bad-things-happen-to-stupid-people, but Brolin knows full well what he's doing is stupid, and that self-consciousness gives him a fatalism and an edge that still proves insufficient. (Maybe there's a Vietnam Vet angle to him, but it's not developed.) Barden ranks as one of the more extraordinary monsters ever. His grim efficiency is monotonous, ultimately snuffing the whole film. That, on top of Jones' ineffectualness, was probably an intended effect, maybe even the big artistic point. Along the way I lost interest. B+
Movie: American Gangster. Denzel Washington plays Frank Lucas, who puts his family to work pushing heroin in Harlem, rising to the top of the racket by cutting out the middlemen and protecting his brand name. True story, set in the 1970s, reminder of the drug trade in and around the Vietnam War -- some of Lucas' heroin was smuggled in the coffins of dead GIs, but it looks to me that the movie jiggered the timing for dramatic effect. Russell Crowe plays a NJ narc who brings Lucas down, a messy performance that fails to reconcile such a peculiar mix of manners and ethics. (Josh Brolin appears as a far more credible corrupt narc.) Some well-turned details, but the rise and fall arc offers little to care about. After the bust, there is some payoff, as the two leads collaborate to clean out the police corruption as well as the drug dealers. Sounds like the War on Drugs was victorious after all. Wonder why no one noticed? B
Movie: Charlie Wilson's War. A/k/a/, The Idiot's Guide to the Afghani Holy War; or It Was Fun While It Lasted. B
Movie: Juno. A-
Movie: There Will Be Blood. A-
Movie: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. A-
Movie: The Savages. B+
Movie: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. A-
Movie: Indiana Jones ... B-
Movie: Wall-E. B
Movie: Iron Man. B+
Movie: Vicky Christina Barcelona. B+
Movie: Rachel Getting Married B+
Movie: Appaloosa A-
Movie: Australia B-
Movie: Happy Go Lucky B+
Movie: Cadillac Records A-
Movie: Milk A-
Movie: The Reader A-
Movie: Slumdog Millionaire A
Movie: The Wrestler A-
Movie: State of Play B+
Movie: The Soloist A-
Movie: Up A-
Movie: Cheri A-
Another old fragment. No idea when I wrote this:
It seems to me that Democrats are missing a golden opportunity to offer a tax plan that significantly rewards savings and wealth-building while reinforcing progressive tax rates that are necessary as a limit on growing inequality. The way this would work is simple. Divide income into two categories: earned (wages, small busines profits), and unearned (interest, dividends, capital gains, ifts, inheritance). Tax earned income much as we do now, year by year, with progressive tax brackets, perhaps a bit steeper than they are now. Tax unearned income separately, also progressively, but with brackets calculated according to the total unearned income (minus losses) over the taxpayer's lifetime.
Music: Current count 17089  rated (+37), 845  unrated (-13). Post-JCG bounce. Pretty light mail week.
Jazz Prospecting (CG #25, Part 1)
I figured I'd continue to do some mop up after finishing my Jazz CG column, but took the week rather easy, mostly pulling out well aged discs from my middle-priority bin, things that I had neglected in closing out. The high points below were exceptions, of course: the long lead times on the AUM Fidelity records convinced me to hold them back, although they will be out by the time the column actually appears. Still, most records wait through several cycles, so that's only fair. I finally got a copy of the Vandermark 5's Annular Gift, nearly a year old, this week, so it, too, will wait.
The Rhapsody section is just curiosity on my part. The old records I'm not seriously considering for Jazz CG, but thought they made more sense here than shuttled off to Recycled Goods. (Some of the old Billy Jenkins sets appear to be recent reissues, at least in digital download form.)
Gamelan Madu Sari: Hive (2005-07 , Songlines): Vancouver group, plays classical (or maybe not so classical) Javanese music, lots of gongs, some strings, more percussion, waves of voices. Second album. It doesn't grab me, but listening in a dark quiet room suggests there are plenty of subtle details. Has a very informative booklet, too, trots and historical details. One could learn a lot if one had better eyes than I do. B+(*)
Marc Courtney Johnson: Dream of Sunny Days (2004-08 , Dreamy Jazz): Vocalist, b. 1967, studied at Norther Illinois University and University of Chicago. Based in Chicago (MySpace page says Skokie). Second album. Wrote 6 of 13 songs, including one to celebrate Obama's election. Smooth voice, not quite slick. Don't see much credits info, but Geof Bradfield is the saxophonist, a good one. B+(**)
Eric Vloeimans' Gatecrash: Heavensabove! (2008 , Challenge Jazz): Dutch trumpet player, a steady producer with over a dozen albums since 1996. Postbop player, increasingly given to electronics, here in a quartet with electric keyboards (Jeroen Van Vliet) and basses (Gulli Gudmundsson) and effects everywhere except for drummer Jasper Van Hulten, who could use a boost. B
Steve Raegele: Last Century (2009 , Songlines): Canadian guitarist, b. 1975 in Ottawa, based in Montreal. First album, a trio with Miles Perkin on bass and Thom Gossage on drums and kalimba. Prickly, abstract, even though one song is named "Janet Jackson" ("some fairly pandiatonic stuff around D"), feels improv (although only one joint title) with no special interest in line building. Intriguing when I manage to tune in. B+(*)
Ralph Alessi: Cognitive Dissonance (2004-05 , CAM Jazz): Trumpet player, father also played trumpet; from San Rafael, CA, based in New York since 1991. Seventh album since 2002, plus an impressive list of side-credits going back to 1992 -- he is one of those musicians who always brightens up someone else's album. No idea why this has been sitting around five years, but its coming out now coincides with a flurry of Jason Moran credits. Moran has some sparkling moments here, along with his usual drummer, Nasheet Waits. Drew Gress, always dependable, plays bass. Alessi doesn't produce enough dissonance to grab your ear, but he's a sharp player and his leads grow on you. B+(***)
Kenny Burrell: Be Yourself (2008 , High Note): Live at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola -- looks like I'm supposed to use the fancy logo for the last two words. Born 1931, cut his first record in 1956 and has rarely missed a year since, one of the few survivors of the bumper crop of bop-oriented guitarists that emerged in the 1950s. (Jim Hall is the only other one I can think of who's still active.) Has a couple of exceptional records -- Guitar Forms (1964-65), Ellington Is Forever (1975, Vol. 1 much better than Vol. 2) -- and a lot of pretty nice ones. I flagged his 75th Birthday Bash Live! (2006) as a dud, but this one is a delight, with Tivon Pennicott blowing some warm sax, Benny Green on the ivories, the great Peter Washington humming along on bass, and Clayton Cameron on drums. In this company, Burrell doesn't have to offer much more than tasty, which is just his thing. B+(***)
Los Angeles Jazz Collective: Sampler Vol. 1 (2006-08 , Jazz Collective): Young mainstream Los Angeles-based jazz musicians, not an integral group. Website lists 13 members, each on 1-5 cuts here, and has a second list of 20 "other members," most not here. The latter list has some people I recall running across, but none on this sampler. The only one on the record that I'm sure I recognize is drummer Mark Ferber, on 4 cuts but not neither list. Less sure about saxophonists Matt Otto and Robby Marshall -- Otto, with 5 cuts and about that many records seems to be the dean here. Not much info with the package. I couldn't track down all of the referenced albums, and one cut doesn't seem to have come from anywhere, but what I could find fits the dates above. The groups range from 3 to 6 members, skewed toward fewer (median 4). Most have guitar and sax; 2 of 13 have trumpet and trombone; Joe Bagg's organ is more common than piano. Only interesting thing is that so many scattered groups sound so consistent lined up like this, but that could be taken as proof of their ordinariness. B
Federico Britos: Voyage (2010, Sunnyside): Violinist, originally from Uruguay, now based in Miami; AMG only lists two albums since 2002, a couple dozen credits since 1992, but he's evidently been around a lot longer -- back cover inset has rave quotes about Britos dating from 1955-60 (by Josephine Baker, Jascha Heifetz, Astor Piazzolla, Nat "King" Cole, and Vinicius de Moraes; also one from Dizzy Gillespie dated 1982). No recording dates here, but the sites and lineups jump all over, and the long list of guests include at least one dead guy (legendary Cuban bassist Israel "Cachao" Lopez, who passed in 2008). Numerous guests come and go: five pianists (best known: Kenny Barron, Michel Camilo), four guitarist (Bucky Pizzarelli, Tomatito), six bassists (Eddie Gomez, Cachao), four drummers (Ignacio Berroa, Francisco Mela), percussion; two cuts have extra strings; no horns anywhere. Some things sound like Grappelli, some are harder to place. Especially nice is "Micro Suite Cubana" with its bubbling percussion. B+(**)
Debbie Poryes Quartet: Catch Your Breath (2009 , OA2): Pianist, from Berkeley, CA, spent the 1980s in the Netherlands with one record on a Dutch label (Timeless) from 1982; has a second record in 2007, and now this one. Wrote 4 of 9 songs, covering Berlin, Rodgers/Hart, Cahn, Sonny Clark, and Lennon/McCartney (an exceptionally nice "Here, There & Everywhere"). Quartet includes Bruce Williamson on sax (alto and soprano), Bill Douglass bass, and David Rokeach drums. Very pleasant little album. B+(*)
Peppe Merolla: Stick With Me (2009 , PJ Productions): Drummer, b. 1969 Naples, Italy, based in New York (and/or Philadelphia?), has two previous albums, sings at least on Sogno Italiano (Italian Dream), but not here. The central figure here isn't the drummer, who wrote 1 of 9 songs, but tenor saxophonist and co-producer John Farnsworth, who wrote 5. Unfortunately, he doesn't make much of an impression, the album falling into fairly ordinary postbop. Also with Steve Turre (trombone, shells), Jim Rotondi (trumpet, flugelhorn), Mike LeDonne (piano), and Lee Smith (bass). B
Richard Sussman Quintet: Live at Sweet Rhythm (2003 , Origin): Pianist, b. 1946, cut two albums 1978-80, now this one; meanwhile has taught at Manhattan School of Music since 1986. The quintet here is also called the Free Fall Reunion Band: Free Fall was Sussman's 1978 album. This album reunites the band (minus Larry Schneider): Tom Harrell (trumpet), Jerry Bergonzi (tenor sax), Mike Richmond (bass), and Jeff Williams (drums). Fairly mainstream postbop, with sharp horn players not all that well heard. B+(*)
Jacob Duncan/John Goldsby/Jason Tiemann: The Innkeeper's Gun (2009 , Bass Lion Music): Sax trio, with Duncan on alto, Goldsby double bass, Tiemann drums. Recorded in Germany (Cologne as the credits put it, or Köln as it's better known here). Duncan's MySpace page bases him in "Hills of Kentucky," but other evidence suggests Louisville, also for Tiemann. Goldsby was born in Louisville, but moved to New York in 1980 and on to Köln in 1994, where he plays in the Westdeutscher Rundfunk Big Band. He also wrote 3 of 8 songs, with Duncan adding 4; the remainder isn't a standard I recognize. Narrow postbop, the sax a little thin, but it sustains interest and closes strong with riff-based vamps like Goldsby's "Juan in the Basement." B+(**)
Hilario Duran Trio: Motion (2010, Alma): Cuban pianist, b. 1953 in Havana, moved to Toronto in 1995. Cut three records for Justin Time in late 1990s, four now for Alma. Haven't heard any before this one, but Killer Tumbao is quite a title. Piano trio, with Roberto Occhipinti on bass and Mark Kelso on drums. Jumps right at you, and the percussion is pretty Cuban for my ears. B+(***)
Roberto Occhipinti: A Bend in the River (2010, Alma): Bassist, b. 1955 in Toronto; fourth album since 2006; nominally a quartet with Luis Deniz on alto sax, David Virelles on piano, and Dafnis Prieto on drums, but three of seven cuts pile on a string quartet, flute, bass clarinet, and trumpet, while three more swim in a full-fledged string orchestra. The sax paints bright colors but doesn't stand out, and while Prieto's presence promises some hot Cuban percussion none actually emerges. B-
William Parker: I Plan to Stay a Believer: The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield (2001-08 , AUM Fidelity, 2CD): I've been hearing about Parker's Curtis Mayfield project for the better part of a decade now, and indeed picking through Rick Lopez's marvelous Parker sessionography I see bootlegs (label-less CDRs, anyway) from France in 2001 and Boston in 2002, a 2004 radio shot from Rome released as The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield: Live in Rome on Rai Trade in 2007, with the pace picking up in 2007, most with the same basic group: Lewis Barnes (trumpet), Darryl Foster (tenor and soprano sax), Sabir Mateen (alto and tenor sax), Dave Burrell (piano), Parker (bass), and Hamid Drake (drums), with Leena Conquest singing and Amiri Baraka poeticizing, with occasional subs along the way (Guillermo Brown for Drake, Lafayette Gilchrist for Burrell), and various ad hoc choirs to lift up the vocals. AUM Fidelity finally rounded up 11 cuts from 6 performances, two 2001-02, the other four 2007-08. Parker's attraction to Mayfield is easy enough to see: born in 1952, he would have known the Impressions when he was growing up and followed Mayfield's solo career from the moment he started to get serious. Mayfield, in turn, was the most politically conscious, in the most didactic terms, of his contemporaries, and Parker has always tended to wear his politics literally on his sleeve. His literalness tends to win out here -- he has this "inside songs" concept but he keeps the surface pretty much intact; occasionally the horns mash up, but more often he just builds on the joyous bounce of the music and the voices, and salutes the lyrics like some people salute the flag. In the hands of a less remarkable musician that may grow tiring, but here it never does. A- [Sept. 14]
David S. Ware: Onecept (2009 , AUM Fidelity): Given a new lease on life thanks to a kidney transplant, Ware's comeback was a solo concert album cut in October 2009. A couple of months later he got back to the studio, with the stritch and saxello he added to his tenor sax arsenal. The addition of bass (William Parker) and drums (Warren Smith) fleshes out a sound that was pretty impressive solo. At this stage he's pretty close to automatic. I recall a while back praising Edwin Bayard as sounding like a young David S. Ware. This record makes that comparison seem silly, and makes me nervous having put Bayard's record near the top of my year-in-progress list. Only one play, so consider this grade the floor. A- [Sept. 14]
Amabutho: Sikelela (2010, Alma): South African group, mbube vocals and relatively spare percussion, first album. Looking around, I see that the group name is the title of the first Ladysmith Black Mambazo album -- translates as warriors or regiment, so probably not that significant. The percussion is identified as marimba, the scales working for melody and the deadened sound keeping the voices out front. First disc didn't play; evidently it's a DVD. B+(**)
Adam Schroeder: A Handful of Stars (2010, Capri): Baritone saxophonist, b. 1978 in Sioux City, IA; based in LA. I'm pretty sure he's not the Hollywood producer/exec producer of the same name, although AMG credits him with producing some of the producer's soundtracks. Credits with Clark Terry, Benny Wallace, Anthony Wilson, and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra are more credible, especially the latter since John Clayton (bass) and Jeff Hamilton (drums) anchor the quartet here. First album, two originals to nine covers, impeccable standards with Quincy Jones the newest composer. Quartet is rounded out with guitarist Graham Dechter, whose sweet tone contrasts nicely to the big horn, and who slides right into the dominant swing idiom. Nice and simple album, the bari a little awkward but perfect when the notes match. So down my alley I may not be grading it below my true feelings. B+(***)
These are some even quicker notes based on downloading or streaming records. I don't have the packaging here, don't have the official hype, often don't have much information to go on. I have a couple of extra rules here: everything gets reviewed/graded in one shot (sometimes with a second play), even when I'm still guessing on a grade; the records go into my flush file (i.e., no Jazz CG entry, unless I make an exception for an obvious dud). If/when I get an actual copy I'll reconsider the record.
Billy Jenkins: I Am a Man From Lewisham (2010, VOTP): British guitarist, has recorded a lot since the early 1980s but hardly anyone have heard him, or heard of him. I haven't heard much myself, especially of his early stuff; his later stuff is idiosyncratic, with True Love Collection -- a psychedelic reworking of cutesy 1960s (or early 1970s) pop songs -- a personal favorite. This one starts and ends with blues, the title song and "Throw Them Blues in the Recycling Bin," both with hoarse Jenkins vocals, but the music gets pretty slippery even there, even more so in the instrumentals in between. B+(***) [Rhapsody]
Billy Jenkins: Uncommerciality: Volume One (1986, VOTP): One of those early albums, seems like it might be a comp but all six tracks date from Jan-Feb 1986, a sextet with two saxes (one switching to bass clarinet), electric bass and guitar, drums and percussion. Titles are certainly uncommercial -- "Spastics Dancing," "Sade's Lips," "Margaret's Menstural Problems" -- but the music is within grasp, the guitar mostly hot and bluesy fusion, Iain Ballamy's tenor sax on "Pharoah Sanders" a good deal more contained -- amusingly so -- than the model, although in general he's one of the more powerful saxophonists of the 1980s. Couldn't play first track, one reason for hedging. B+(***) [Rhapsody]
Billy Jenkins: Uncommerciality: Volume Two (1988, VOTP): Now, this is more like uncommercial, with a circusy sound indicated by Iain Ballamy spending more time on soprano than tenor sax, and Jenkins more time hacking at the strings instead of blues or fusion riffing. "Isn't It a Great World We Live In" features the VOGC Junior League Vocal Chorus -- VOGC stands for Voice of God Collective. "Girl Getting Knocked Over" descends into nursery rhymes. "Black Magic" breaks the kiddie spell for some expansive space mystery. "Blue Broadway" is a boogie woogie, with chorus and romping street horns that sound more New York than New Orleans, not that they do that sort of thing in New York. Again, first track "temporarily unavailable," and a couple of others failed intermittently, the only thing that dimmed my smile. B+(***) [Rhapsody]
Billy Jenkins: Uncommerciality: Volume Three (1991, VOTP): Not commercial either, but the populism here is so big-hearted the masses are missing out on a lot of fun. First cut opens with organ, horn section, the VOGS Male Voice Choir, and Harriet Jenkins spoken word -- why not just call it rap? Jenkins plays keyboards, violin, and electric bass as well as his usual guitar, by turns fast, heavy, psychedelic. "Dancing in Ornette Coleman's Head" is a great title. Indeed, everything here dances, although "Land of the Free" slows it down to a waltz. A- [Rhapsody]
Billy Jenkins with the Voice of God Collective: Sounds Like Bromley (1982, VOTP): A little unpreposessing for the Voice of God, at least until the last track when they finally do shake the earth. Three horns -- trumpet, trombone, tenor sax -- more oompah band than bebop, with an extra guitar, bass, drums and percussion, but no human voices. I keep shying away from calling what he does surreal or dada because it's too corny, and too populist, with just enough stray noise and weirdness to keep it from ever going popular. B+(***) [Rhapsody]
Billy Jenkins with the Voice of God Collective: Greenwich (1985, VOTP): A big step toward the avant-garde, most likely due to the two new saxophonists replacing the trumped on Sounds Like Bromley. I have no idea who Skid Solo is -- name comes from a comic strip about a Formula 1 driver, but you can see how it might relate -- but Iain Ballamy is well known and a major pickup here. Not that the guitarist's cartoonish populism doesn't poke through here and there, nor that the slow ones can get wobbly, but this is a pretty amazing band when they're skittering about, and Ballamy adds some real stature. A- [Rhapsody]
Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio Featuring Billy Bang: Big M: A Tribute to Malachi Favors (2004 , Delmark): Never got this from Delmark, which now seems like a big mistake (although I gather it was originally packaged with a DVD). The late Art Ensemble of Chicago bassist (d. 2004) was also a founding pillar of El'Zabar's Ritual Trio, capably replaced here by Yosen Ben Israel. Ari Brown is strong on tenor sax and switches to piano on a couple of cuts, surprisingly engaging. El'Zabar's percussion is savvy, and his vocal isn't dreadful. Bang doesn't blow everyone else away, but his edge adds to everything he touches. A- [Rhapsody]
And these are final grades/notes on records I put back for further listening the first time around.
Bill Carrothers: Joy Spring (2009 , Pirouet): Good mainstream pianist, not as well known as he should be, but aside from his tricked up Shine Ball I've found him real hard to latch onto. Played this promising album two more times and it just sort of slipped by me. B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail this week:
Sunday, September 05, 2010
A week's worth of useful links I didn't get around to commenting on previously:
Saturday, September 04, 2010
Movie: Winter's Bone: A-
Movie: Get Low: A-
Friday, September 03, 2010
Recycled Goods (77): August 2010
Insert text from here.
Thursday, September 02, 2010
Josh Marshall: More on 9/11 Books: I got a little carried away here, because 9/11 is a linch pin for a couple of main themes I want someday to write up in book form. Marshall polled his readers (who unlike mine evidently do write back) for recommendations on books about 9/11, but he didn't get much feedback (maybe response is just proportional to readership size): mostly Lawrence Wright's neatly focused The Looming Tower and The 9/11 Commission Report, with Terry McDermott's Perfect Soldiers, on the hijackers, and William Langeswiesche's American Ground, on the rubble, getting occasional mention. Marshall writes:
This set me off on my own search, and the first thing I noticed is that searching for 9/11 doesn't get you much that really matters. I found some picture books, some on the scene memoirs, and a lot of rants pushing their own theories of what it all meant or even what actually happened and who actually did it. You have to broaden your search to start to pick up the main threads that were woven into 9/11: Al-Qaeda and its background -- the anti-imperialist backlash in the Middle East and the turn to fundamentalism; the US global security system, how it impacted the Middle East, and how it works within the contexts of conservative and neoliberal politics in the US; the cultural shock of being attacked, and the political opportunities that opened up. Without those threads converging, 9/11 wouldn't have been such a big deal -- even if it had happened as a freak event, which most certainly it wouldn't have.
There are many more books on each of these threads, but 9/11 is often little more than a blip in each, unless it serves some particular political purpose to highlight it. It is commonly believed that Bush went to war because of 9/11, but there is much evidence and logic that even before he craved a shot at Iraq, and that his administration was moving toward supporting the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, and his attitude toward Sharon's counter-intifada in Palestine amounted to nothing short of cheerleading. With Donald Rumsfeld, he had already started the "transformation" to the lightweight preemptive attack units he would need for those wars. 9/11 may have driven some people crazy, but it fell right into the ready lap of Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al.
So I've added some books to the list below that work these threads forward and back. I've avoided specialist books on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bush, although there are some here and there. The one thing I think is missing is a detailed account of how the media trumped up the case for war and beat down any chance of responding any differently.
The primary books (many have links to my book pages, where I have comments and, usually, lots of representative quotes):
The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Authorized Edition (2004, WW Norton): The consensus view, seems to be fairly well regarded, at least for the narrow range of topics. There's also a new 2010 paperback published by CreateSpace, much more expensive, no inkling why.
Tariq Ali: The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity (2002; paperback, 2003, Verso): With its cover photo of Bush morphed into Bin Laden, the first response to 9/11 to see both sides as fully -- equally is hardly an issue -- deranged in their fundamentalism. Starts by recounting his atheist childhood in Pakistan before moving to England and editing New Left Review -- a background which has given him a uniquely clear and fearless view of the madness. [link]
Larry Beinhart: Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin (2005; paperback, 2006, Nation Books): One of the better short books around on the media and manipulation of consensus thinking that made it so easy for Bush to parlay 9/11 into war against Iraq. [link]
Peter L Bergen: Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama Bin Laden (paperback, 2002, Free Press): First book out to provide much background on Bin Laden, whom Bergen interviewed in 1997. Bergen also wrote The Osama bin Laden I Know (paperback, 2006, Free Press).
Kristina Borjesson, ed: Feet to the Fire: The Media After 9/11: The Journalists Speak Out (2005, Prometheus): Interviews with 21 journalists on the pressures to support the Bush terror wars. Includes some war critics like Juan Cole and Chris Hedges, bigwigs like Ted Koppel, and others I'm not so sure of.
Steve Coll: Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (2004; paperback, 2004, Penguin): The standard history of the Soviet- and post-Soviet-era Afghan civil war, with the CIA feeding guns and money to jihadists to slaughter foreign occupiers, then watching thoughtlessly as the war lords turned on each other, opening up an asylum for al-Qaeda, and setting the stage for yet another decade-plus of internecine fighting against yet another foreign occupier. [link]
Joan Didion: Fixed Ideas: America Since 9.11 (paperback, 2003, New York Review Books): Just a pamphlet (56 pp.), but one of the few books to dig into the effect 9/11 has had on our thinking and discourse, especially how "fixed ideas, or national pieties" were marshalled "to stake new ground in old domestic wars."
Tom Engelhardt: The American Way of War: How the Empire Brought Itself to Ruin (paperback, 2010, Haymarket): Mostly later, but the first chapter, "Shock and Awe: How We Got Hit" looks back at the immediate impact of 9/11 is useful ways.
Susan Faludi: The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America (2007, Metropolitan Books): Brings 9/11 back home to America, in the context of American mythology going back to Indian abductions of white women. [link]
John Farmer: The Ground Truth: The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11 (2009, Penguin): Pretty detailed chronology of the attack itself, by one of the guys who worked on The 9/11 Commission Report. Also includes a similar treatment of Katrina that is less interesting and less relevant. [link]
Kenneth R Feinberg: What Is Life Worth? The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11 (2005; paperback, 2006, Public Affairs): Attorney and mediator involved in the fund payouts. The compensation fund was one of the oddest things to come out of the 9/11 attacks -- I'm tempted to call it hush money to deflect any suggestion that the US was to blame for the terror attacks (even though the effect is just the opposite), but also blood money as it cleared a foundation for the wars to come. I doubt that Feinberg gets into any of this.
Paul Goldberger: Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York (2004; paperback, 2005, Random House): A book on the machinations to rebuild something where the World Trade Center used to stand. This might provide some insight into the cultural and psychic impact of 9/11, or maybe just into internecine New York city/state politics and the ego of architects. Don't know. But it is curious that they don't seem to have built much.
Seymour Hersh: Chain of Command: The Road From 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (2004, Harper Collins): More on the latter, which was a breaking story for Hersh, but the road started back on 9/11.
Fred Kaplan: Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power (paperback, 2008, Wiley): More on Rumsfeld's "transformation" fetish, the notion that the US could fight fast, light wars of shock and awe -- the enabling concept behind the chosen path. [link]
Gilles Kepel: Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam (2002; paperback, 2003, Harvard University Press): By far the broadest book written on Islamism up to 9/11 -- the book came out in France before 9/11 and actually saw Islamism in decline, with 9/11 as much as anything else a desperate bid to provoke. Kepel later wrote The War for Muslim Minds: Islam and the West (2004; paperback, 2006, Harvard University Press). [link]
William Langewiesche: American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center (2002; paperback, 2003, North Point Press): Detailed account on the physical destruction at the World Trade Center, from how the buildings collapsed to the process of sorting out and trucking off the rubble.
James Mann: Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet (2004; paperback, 2004, Penguin): The key people who turned 9/11 into a Global War on Terror, where they came from, how they got into positions of power.
Terry McDermott: Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers: Who They Were, Why They Did It (2005; paperback, 2006, Harper): Background check on the hijackers, a rare attempt to put personal stories behind the attacks.
John Powers: Sore Winners: American Idols, Patriotic Shoppers, and Other Strange Species in George Bush's America (2004; paperback, 2005, Anchor Books): A cultural history, hence way too much on American Idol and O.J. Simpson, but 9/11 lies at the ugly heart of it. [link]
Frank Rich: The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth From 9/11 to Katrina (2006, Penguin Press): Follows the political machinations, mostly the selling of the Iraq War, but it all starts back on 9/11. [link]
Ron Suskind: The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 (2006, Simon & Schuster): Draws heavily on George Tenet is laying out the progress of the war on terror, with especially unsettling glances at Dick Cheney, deep in his bunker, beset by all kinds of fantasies. [link]
Bob Woodward: Bush at War (2002; paperback, 2003, Simon & Schuster): The first -- and most adulatory, at least as long as it seemed to be working -- of Woodward's insider guides to Bush's war plotting.
Lawrence Wright: The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (2006; paperback, 2007, Vintage): Well-written general history; background bios of Sayyid Qutb, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden; Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan; the al-Qaeda attacks in Nairobi, Dar Es Salaam, Aden, and, of course, New York. [link]
Much more in the extended text . . .
Digging around I found many more books, ranging from quick memorials, especially picture books, and memoirs to all sorts of tangents, most of which I cut off before they extended too far. A few books here I've read, some I even have book pages on, but they've slipped below the fold either because they're tangential or not that good. I've collected some of the "9/11 truther" material below, by no means all, but enough to give you a taste. One thread which curiously didn't show up at all was the 2001 anthrax attacks, which were huge in heating up the fever for war.
I could have kept picking at this even longer, and dug up even more stuff, but ultimately quit due to exhaustion.
Geneive Abdo: Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11 (2006; paperback, 2007, Oxford University Press): General survey of Muslims in America -- some six million, tend to be professionals, have a slightly higher than average median income, suddenly find themselves surrounded by jittery bigots.
Gilbert Achcar: The Clash of Barbarisms: The Making of the New World Disorder (paperback, 2006, Paradigm): Echoes Tariq Ali's Clash of Fundamentalisms, both turning on Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations.
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed: The War on Freedom: How and Why America Was Attacked on September 11, 2001 (paperback, 2002, Progressive Press): London-based analyst, leans toward conspiracy theories. Also wrote Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq (paperback, 2003, Clairview); The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism (paperback, 2005, Olive Branch Press); The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry (paperback, 2006, Overlook TP).
David L Altheide: Terror Post-9/11 and the Media (paperback, 2009, Peter Lang)
Anthea Appel: The First Responders: The Untold Story of the New York City Police Department & September 11th, 2001 (paperback, 2009, Inner Circle): Hard to imagine what's been left untold eight years after the fact, least of all by the NYPD.
Asad AbuKhalil: Bin Laden, Islam & America's New "War on Terrorism" (paperback, 2002, Open Media)
Reza Aslan: How to Win a Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror (2009, Random House); reprinted as: Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalism (paperback, 2010, Random House): Author previously wrote No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam (2005, Random House), a pretty good Islam for Dummies book. Aslan views Al-Qaeda's war as cosmic, which is to say not something that can or will be resolved in this world. The Americans turn out to be a little loony too. [link]
Stephen E Atkins: The 9/11 Encyclopedia (2008, Greenwood): Hefty (648 pp), expensive ($199.95). "Look Inside" suggests it's actually pretty good in that dry, authoritative way encyclopedias aim for. The annotated bibliography helped a bit here.
Abdel Bari Atwan: The Secret History of al Qaeda (2006; paperback, 2008, University of California Press): Editor of London's al-Quds al-Arabi, spent time with Bin Laden in 1996 providing the basis for this "insider" account.
David W Ausmus: In the Midst of Chaos: My 30 Days at Ground Zero (2004, Trafford): A construction safety official called to work on the debris pile.
Stefan Aust/et al: Inside 9-11: What Really Happened (paperback, 2002, St Martin's): From the German magazine Der Spiegel. Rave quote from John Le Carré on the front cover.
Mohammed Ayoob: The Many Faces of Political Islam: Religion and Politics in the Muslim World (paperback, 2007, University of Michigan Press): A broad comparative study of Islamist political movements, going beyond the terror-friendly strains in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to include dreaded Iran and relatively benign movements in Turkey and Indonesia.
Ulrich Baer, ed: 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11 (paperback, 2004, NYU Press): Short story collection.
James Bamford: A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies (paperback, 2005, Knopf): Written post-Iraq, once you could see where it was all going. Author later wrote: The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (paperback, 2008, Knopf).
Tom Barbash: On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick & 9/11: A Story of Loss & Renewal (paperback, 2003, Harper): Business study of Cantor Fitzgerald, the brokeage firm that lost 658 of 1000 employees.
Wayne Barrett/Dan Collins: Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11 (2006; paperback, 2007, Harper): A less flattering look at the mayor. Barrett previously wrote, with Adam Fifield: Rudy! An Investigative Biography of Rudolph Giuliani (2000, Basic Books).
Nona Kilgore Bauer: Dog Heroes of September 11th: A Tribute to America's Search and Rescue Dogs (reprint, 2006, Kennel Club Books): Not many juicy quotes, but color photos on every page.
J Bowyer Bell: Murders on the Nile: The World Trade Center and Global Terror (2003, Encounter): Focuses on Egypt as a source for jihadism (Sayyid Qutb, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, Ayman al-Zawahiri).
Daniel Benjamin/Steven Simon: The Age of Sacred Terror: Radical Islam's War Against America (2002; paperback, 2003, Random House): Anti-terrorism officials under Clinton in the 1990s, ready to emerge as experts when demand picked up. Followed this book up with The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting It Right (2005; paperback, 2006, Holt).
Phyllis Bennis: Before & After: US Foreign Policy and the September 11th Crisis (paperback, 2002, Olive Branch Press): Critical historical background, most likely a sharp analysis of Bush's warpath as well.
Paul Berman: Terror and Liberalism (2003; paperback, 2004, WW Norton): A self-identified leftist works up a sweat over Islamofascism and goes over the neocon side, making him a catalyst for liberal hawks -- George Packer lionized Berman in his The Assassins Gate: America in Iraq (2005, Farrar Straus Giroux).
Richard Bernstein: Out of the Blue: A Narrative of September 11, 2001 (2002, Times Books): New York Times reporter assembles a quickie book on what he saw and heard.
Brian Birdwell/Mel Birdwell: Refined by Fire: A Family's Triumph of Love and Faith: A Soldier's Story of 9-11 (paperback, 2004, Tyndale House): Brian Birdwell was severely burned in the Pentagon, requiring 30-plus operations on his way to recovery. Lot of prayer, too.
Jeff Birkenstein/Karen Randell/Anna Froula: Reframing 9/11: Film, Popular Culture and the War on Terror (paperback, 2010, Continuum)
David N Bossie: Intelligence Failure: How Clinton's National Security Policy Sat the Stage for 9/11 (2004, Thomas Nelson): Of course, one could make a case that Clinton failed to clean up the mess Bush left him in Iraq -- and for that matter Afghanistan, plus the poison pill war in Somalia Bush stuck him with -- and that his fumbling of the Oslo Accords and his Camp David fiasco had more than a little to do with 9/11, but that's probably not Bossie's point.
John Botte: Aftermath: Unseen 9/11 Photos by a New York City Cop (2006, Collins Design): If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Kristen Breitweiser: Wake-Up Call: The Political Education of a 9/11 Widow (2006, Grand Central Publishing): Memoir, one of the widows who agitated to establish the 9/11 Commission that Bush didn't see any need for.
Chris Bull/Sam Erman, eds: At Ground Zero: 25 Stories from Young Reporters Who Were There (2002, Thunder's Mouth Press): Another oral history.
Gregory A Butler: Lost Towers: Inside the World Trade Center Cleanup (2006, iUniverse)
Peter Caran: The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing: Foresight and Warning (2001, Janus): One of the investigators of the 1993 WTC bombing.
Rodney P Carlisle: One Day in History: September 11, 2001 (2007, Harper): Part of a date-specific series, by design narrowly focused, although author has also written on Iraq war.
Craig Calhoun/Paul Price/Ashley Timmer, eds: Understanding September 11 (paperback, 2002, New Press): 24 wide ranging essays.
Caleb Carr: The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians: Why It Has Always Failed and Why It Will Fail Again (2002; paperback, 2003, Random House): Historical novelist, reacts to 9/11 by reflecting on the futile history of war against civilians going back to Rome.
James Carroll: Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War (2004, Metropolitan; paperback, 2005, Holt): A collection of columns, which makes it a little jumpy, but it takes off from Bush's "crusade" announcement and explores the ramifications of that worldview. [link]
Derek Chollet/James Goldgeier: America Between the Wars: From 11/9 to 9/11: The Misunderstood Years Between the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the Start of the War on Terror (2008; paperback, 2009, Public Affairs): The post-Cold War posturing that kept America's military-industrial complex intact while searching for new opponents, even trying humanitarian arguments on for size.
Noam Chomsky: 9-11 (paperback, 2003, Open Media): A short summary reaction, which kicked off a decade as one of the most trenchant and persistent critics of American abuse of power. Further books: Power and Terror: Post-9/11 Talks and Interviews (paperback, 2003, Seven Stories Press); Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance (2003; paperback, 2004, Holt); Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World (paperback, 2005, Metropolitan); Perlious Power: The Middle East and US Foreign Policy (with Gilbert Achcar; 2006; paperback, 2008, Paradigm); Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (2006; paperback, 2007, Holt); What We Say Goes: Conversations on U.S. Power in a Changing World (paperback, 2007, Metropolitan); Hopes and Prospects (paperback, 2010, Haymarket); as well as numerous reprints and revisions. I've found him increasingly difficult to read -- cf. his Middle East Illusions (paperback, 2004, Rowman & Littlefield), revised in 2003 but mostly dating from 1979 -- but way more often than not right.
Richard A Clarke: Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror (2004; paperback, 2004, Free Press): Bush's beleaguered Counterterrorism Czar's got a lot of notoriety at the time for its naked revelations of Bush's indifference to al-Qaeda before 9/11 and obsession with Saddam Hussein afterwards.
David Cole/James X Dempsey: Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing Civil Liberties in the Name of National Security (2002; revised, paperback, 2006, New Press): One of the first books on this theme; too many to try to list, but Cole himself went on to write or co-write: Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism (2003; paperback, 2005, New Press); Justice at War: The Men and Ideas That Shaped America's War on Terror (paperback, 2008, New York Review of Books); w/Jules Lobel: Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War on Terror (2007; paperback, 2009, New Press); ed: The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable (paperback, 2009, New Press).
Steve Coll: The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century (2008; paperback, 2009, Penguin): The family portrait.
Lamont Colucci: Crusading Realism: The Bush Doctrine and American Core Values After 9/11 (paperback, 2008, University Press of America): Title seems like a conceptual mish-mash, but maybe that's what it takes to come up with an approving review of Bush's doctrine(s).
John Cooley: Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism (paperback, 2002, Pluto Press): Looks at how the jihad the US bankrolled in Afghanistan spread throughout the Middle East in the 1990s leading up to 9/11, garrishly depicted on the cover.
Jane Corbin: Al-Qaeda: The Terror Network That Threatens the World (2002, Thunder's Mouth Press): BBC reporter, had previously interviewed Osama bin Laden.
Hugh Cort III: Saddam's Attacks on America: 1993; September 11, 2001; and the Anthrax Attacks (paperback, 2004, iUniverse): Short (68 pp), easy to do when untroubled by facts, published a little late for Colin Powell at the UN.
Patrick Creed/Rick Newman: Firefight: Inside the Batle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11 (2008, Presidio Press): The poor cousin of the WTC attack; still, when you read the details about the impact, explosion and ensuing fires it turns into an impressive ordeal in its own right.
Yael Danieli/Robert L Dingman, eds: On the Ground After September 11: Mental Health Responses and Practical Knowledge Gained (2005, Haworth Maltreatment and Trauma Press)
Robert J Darling: 24 Hours Inside the President's Bunker: 9-11-01: The White House (paperback, 2010, iUniverse)
Mike Davis: Buda's Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb (2007, Verso): The full history, including the 1993 WTC truck bomb, but probably not the 9/11 airplanes.
Walter A Davis: Death's Dream Kingdom: The American Psyche Since 9-11 (paperback, 2006, Pluto Press): Psychological and philosophical profile of the country, focusing on three key concents: terror, evil, fundamentalism.
Jim Defede: The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland (2002; paperback, 2003, Harper): A lot of transatlantic flight traffic dumped in Newfoundland that day (6,500 air travellers in a town of 10,000).
Anthony DePalma: City of Dust: Illness, Arogance, and 9/11 (2010, FT Press): On the environmental effects of the attack on the World Trade Center, and the legal tussle that followed as rescue workers increasingly took sick.
Damon DiMarco: Tower Stories: An Oral History of 9/11 (2007, Santa Monica Press): Forty-six interviews, inside the towers, outside, cleaning up the mess, a few subsequent viewpoints (Fawaz Gerges is the only name I recognize there).
Wheeler Winston Dixon, ed: Film and Television After 9/11 (paperback, 2004, Southern Illinois University Press): Scattered views; seems premature.
John W Dower: Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq (2010, WW Norton): Historian of Japan, which gave him unique insights into the fashionable Iraq War talk about how smoothly post-WWII occupations went -- he argued not only that Iraq is nothing like Japan, but also the US under Bush had damn little in common with the US under Roosevelt and Truman. His 9-11/Pearl Harbor analysis is likely to be equally discerning.
Tyler Drumheller/Elaine Monaghan: On the Brink: An Insider's Account of How the White House Compromised American Intelligence (2006, Carroll and Graf): CIA officer for 25 years up to retiring in 2005.
Dinesh D'Souza: The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11 (2007; paperback, 2008, Broadway): Here's one I bet you didn't realize: "The cultural Left in the U.S., by pressing for sexual freedom for women and gays through birth control, no-fault divorce, and support for gay marriage, has not only undermined American culture but also provoked the ire of religious conservatives in other nations, most prominently Islamic fundamentalists." In other words, the real reason Al-Qaeda attacked America was to show American conservatives how real men handle their women (and sissies). Guess they really do hate our freedoms.
Mary L Dudziak, ed: September 11 in History: A Watershed Moment (2003, Duke University Press)
David Dunbar/Brad Reagan [The Editors of Popular Mechanics]: Debunking 9/11 Myths: Why Conspiracy Theories Can't Stand Up to the Facts (paperback, 2006, Hearst): Engineering analysis on building collapse vs. competing theories. David Ray Griffin responded with Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory, at twice the length (392 pp. vs. 192).
Jim Dwyer/Kevin Flynn: 102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive inside the Twin Towers (2004; paperback, 2006, Times Books): New York Times writers piece together a minute-by-minute chronology. Dwyer, by the way, was previously the lead author (with David Kocieniewski, Deidre Murphy, and Peg Tyre) of a book on the 1993 WTC bombing, Two Seconds Under the World: Terror Comes to America -- The Conspiracy Behind the World Trade Center Bombing (1994, Crown).
Will Eisner, ed: 9-11: Emergency Relief (paperback, 2002, Alternative Comics): 208-page comic book, out fast to honor the heroism of the moment -- firefighters and cops on the cover -- with pieces by Eisner, Harvey Pekar, Ted Rall, Jessica Abel, and others. Seems like there was a huge bubble of hero-worship at the time, but there's little evidence of that now.
Steve Emerson: American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us (2002; paperback, 2003, Free Press): Scaremongering, detailing things like Hamas's "extensive network in the United States." Followed up with Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the US (2006, Prometheus).
John L Esposito: Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam (2002; paperback, 2003, Oxford University Press): Short primer on Islam by Georgetown University director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding; tends to relegate holy war terror to the Wahhabi sect, which may still be too broad. Esposito later co-wrote, with Dalia Mogahed: Who Speaks for Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think (2008, Gallup Press).
Mick Faren: CIA: Secrets of "The Company" (2004, Barnes and Noble): Critical history of CIA leading up to 9/11.
John Feffer, ed: Power Trip: US Unilateralism and Global Stragegy After September 11 (paperback, 2003, Seven Stories Press)
Mitchell Fink/Lois Mathias: Never Forget: An Oral History of September 11 (2002, William Morrow; paperback, 2003, Harper): More first-person accounts, collected by a former New York Daily News gossip columnist and his wife.
Nancy Foner, ed: Wounded City: The Social Impact of 9/11 (paperback, 2005, Russell Sage Foundation)
Marian Fontana: A Widow's Walk: A Memoir of 9/11 (2005; paperback, 2006, Simon & Schuster): Wife of a firefighter who died in WTC.
Yosri Fouda/Nick Fielding: Masterminds of Terror: The Truth Behind the Most Devastating Terrorist Attack the World Has Ever Seen (2003, Arcade): Fouda is an al-Jazeera journalist who interviewed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh in 2002, admitting to their roles in the 9/11 attacks.
Max Frankel, ed: September 11, 2001: A Colection of Newspaper Front Pages Selected by the Poynter Institute (paperback, 2001, Andrews McMeel Publishing): 160 pages, rushed out on Nov. 15, the headlines as horrifying as the events.
Louis J Freeh/Howard Means: My FBI: Bringing Down the Mafia, Investigating Bill Clinton, and Fighting the War on Terror (2005, St Martin's Press): FBI chief, blames others for 9/11.
David Friend: Watching the World Change: The Stories Behind the Images of 9/11 (2006; paperbck, 2007, Picador): Directory of documentary 9/11 analyzes iconic images of the attack. How these images were used to push us to war is a matter of considerable interest.
Jim Geraghty: Voting to Kill: How 9/11 Launched the Era of Republican Leadership (paperback, 2006, Touchstone): Something the National Review blogger approves of, by the way.
Emilio Gentile: God's Democracy: American Religion After September 11 (2008, Greenwood): How Bush invoked God (or what it how God annointed Bush?) not just to sell his war agenda but to polarize the partisan split, denying the Democrats any chance of joining the heavenly kingdom.
Fawaz Gerges: The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global (2005; 2nd ed, paperback, 2009, Cambridge University Press): Explores Bin Laden's logic in attacking the US homeland.
Bill Gertz: Breakdown: The Failure of American Intelligence to Defeat Global Terror (revised, 2003, Plume)
Allison Gilbert/Phil Hirshkorn/Melinda Murphy/Robyn Walensky/Mitchell Stephens, eds: Covering Catastrophe: Broadcast Journalists Report September 11 (2002, Bonus Books): A collection of quotes from the day, interesting as a superficial reaction, and of course for what that portended.
Rudolph W. Giuliani: Leadership (2002; paperback, 2005, Miramax): New York's soon-to-be-ex-mayer at the time. About his 2008 presidential campaign, some wag pointed out that you can diagram all of Giuliani's sentences as noun-verb-9/11. Actually, watching him on TV those first days after 9/11 was refreshing: he was at the time the only politician in America who actually had something meaningful to do, and that kept him focused, modest, informative, even gave you the sense that he cared. A bit later he started reading his polling data and became insufferable, as I'm sure you've noted from the title here.
James Glanz/Eric Lipton: City in the Sky: The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center (2003, Times Books): Written after the fall, but gives the building its history, and retraces old arguments about fire and airplane collisions that would prove fateful.
Alfred Goldberg/et al: Pentagon 9/11 (2007, Office of the Secretary of Defense): The official inside review, based on some 1300 interviews.
John Gray: Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern (2003; paperback, 2005, New Press): Short philosophical essay on the intrusion of Al Qaeda into the modern world. Later wrote: Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia (2007; paperback, 2008, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
Judith Greenberg, ed: Trauma at Home: After 9/11 (paperback, 2003, Bison Books): Raw reactions.
David Ray Griffin: The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 (paperback, 2004, Interlink): A theologian by trade, aided by a Richard Falk foreword, uncorks the first of a slew of 9/11 conspiracy books: The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions (paperback, 2004, Olive Branch Press); Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action (paperback, 2006, Westminster John Knox Press); Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory (revised, paperback, 2007, Olive Branch Press); 9/11 Contradictions: An Open Letter to Congress and the Press (paperback, 2008, Interlink); The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-Up, and the Exposé (paperback, 2008, Olive Branch Press); Osama Bin Laden: Dead or Alive? (paperback, 2009, Olive Branch Press); The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7: Why the Final Official Report about 9/11 Is Unscientific and False (paperback, 2009, Olive Branch Press); Cognitive Infiltration: An Obama Appointee's Plan to Undermine the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory (paperback, 2010, Olive Branch Press); also: Griffin/Peter Dale Scott, eds.: 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out, Vol. 1 (paperback, 2006, Olive Branch Press); and: Griffin/John B Cobb Jr/Richard A Falk/Catherine Keller: The American Empire and the Commonwealth of God: A Political, Economic, Religious Statement (paperback, 2006, Westminster John Knox Press). He wrote the foreword to Mark H Gaffney: The 9/11 Mystery Plane and the Vanishing of America (paperback, 2008, Trine Day), and he's featured on the DVD: 9/11: The Myth and the Reality, directed by Ken Jenkins.
Roy Gutman: How We Missed the Story: Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and the Hijacking of Afghanistan (2007, Potomac Books): Press mea culpa, although it's by no means clear that he cops to failure enough.
Victor Davis Hanson: An Autumn of War: What America Learned From September 11 and the War on Terrorism (paperback, 2002, Anchor): Historian of ancient Greek wars, idiot about the modern world ("Liberals beware: Hanson has no patience for those who believe the condition of the world can be ameliorated"), all around warmonger. He followed this up with the equally inane Between War and Peace: Lessons from Afghanistan to Iraq (paperback, 2004, Random House).
Stephen F Hayes: The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collobration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America (2004, Harper Collins): Weekly Standard writer does his bit shilling for the Iraq War.
Dana Heller, ed: The Selling of 9/11: How a National Tragedy Became a Commodity (2005, Palgrave Macmillan): Well, start with all those flags.
Harry Helms: 40 Lingering Questions About the 9/11 Attacks (paperback, 2008, Create Space): Evidently not a "truther" book, but author does have some more questions. Previously wrote Top Secret Tourism: Your Travel Guide to Germ Warfare Laboratories, Clandestine Aircraft Bases and Other Places in the United States (paperback, 2007, Feral House).
T Walter Herbert: Faith-Based War: From 9/11 to Catastrophic Success in Iraq (paperback, 2009, Equinox)
Eric Hershberg/Kevin W Moore: Critical Views of September 11: Analyses from Around the World (paperback, 2002, New Press): Thirteen essays, not sure who or about what.
Sander Hicks, ed: The Big Wedding: 9/11, the Whistle Blowers, and the Cover-Up (paperback, 2005, Vox Pop): More conspiracies.
Robert Higgs: Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11 (paperback, 2005, Independent Institute): Essays on the industry that really profitted from 9/11.
James R Holbein, ed: The 9/11 Commission: Proceedings and Analysis (2005, Oxford University Press): Four volumes, 4079 pages, $600.
David Holloway: Cultures of the War on Terror: Empire, Ideology, and the Remaking of 9/11 (2008, McGill-Queens University Press): Hollywood film, novels, mass media, visual art, photography, political discourse, the growing cultural sense of empire and crisis.
Stephen Holmes: The Matador's Cape: America's Reckless Response to Terror (2007, Cambridge University Press): Constructed as a series of book reviews, picking on major neocon works by Robert Kagan, Samuel Huntington, and Francis Fukuyama; Paul Berman's liberal hawk manifesto; historical works on the rise of the neocons and genocide as an excuse for intervention, Michael Mann's critique Incoherent Empire, Geoffrey Stone's Perilous Times, works by a couple of Bush officials -- John Eikenberry and John Yoo.
Daniel Hopsicker: Welcome to Terrorland: Mohammed Atta & the 9-11 Cover-Up in Florida (2004; paperback, 2005, Trine Day): So, was the most famous of the hijackers a CIA double agent?
Raymond Ibrahim, ed: The Al Qaeda Reader (paperback, 2007, Broadway Books): The public documents, most likely the same ones as in Gilles Kepel/Jean-Piere Milelli: Al Qaeda in Its Own Words (2008; paperback, 2010, Harvard University Press), and the much shorter Bruce Lawrence, ed: Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden (paperback, 2005, Verso).
iUniverse, Inc: 27 Days: The President Responds to September 11, 2001 (paperback, 2002, iUniverse): Collects Bush's public statements over the first month after 9/11 (less a few days). As I recall, Bush's public statements were a good deal less rabid than his private ones, and his relative calm was one factor in building up his huge approval rating.
Sid Jacobson/Ernie Colon: The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation (paperback, 2006, Hill & Wang): Excerpts from the official report done up in comic book form. Authors followed up with a sequel: After 9/11: America's War on Terror (2001- ) (paperback, 2008, Hill & Wang). The books seem to be pitched to educators and young people, with a disciplined non-political tone, which means they are likely to reveal more than most Americans want to hear or can deal with.
Amaney Jamal/Nadine Naber, eds: Race and Arab Americans Before and After 9/11: From Invisible Citizens to Visible Subjects (paperback, 2007, Syracuse University Press): One of a bunch of studies of the effects of 9/11 politicization on Arab and/or Muslim Americans. Others include: Wayne Baker, et al: Citizenship and Critis: Arab Detroit After 9/11 (2009, Russell Sage Foundation); Louise A Cainkar: Homeland Insecurity: The Arab American and Muslim American Experience After 9/11 (2009, Russell Sage Foundation); Steven Salaita: Anti-Arab Racism in the USA (paperback, 2006, Pluto Press); Anny Bakalian/Medhi Bozorgmehr: Backlash 9/11: Middle Eastern and Muslim Americans Respond (paperback, 2009, University of California Press); Moustafa Bayoumi: How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America (2008; paperback, 2009, Penguin); Geneive Abdo, op cit.
Lisa Jefferson/Felicia Middlebrooks: Called: Hello, My Name Is Mrs Jefferson. I Understand Your Plane Is Being Hijacked. 9:45 AM, Flight 93, September 11, 2001 (2006, Northfield): The 9-1-1 operator who took a call from Todd Beamer on Flight 93, reporting the hijacking. Other Flight 93 stories include: Lisa Beamer: Let's Roll!: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage (2002; paperback, 2006, Tyndale House); Jon Barrett: Mark Bingham: Hero of Flight 93 (2002, Advocate Books); Deena Burnett/Anthony Giombetti: Fighting Back: Living Life Beyond Ourselves (2006, Advantage Books); Jere Longman: Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back (2010, Harper Collins).
Sut Jhally/Jeremy Earp: Hijacking Catastrophe: 9/11, Fear, and the Selling of American Empire (paperback, 2004, Interlink): Twenty-five interviews for a documentary, mostly left-leaning (Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Norman Mailer, but also Scott Ritter).
Dennis Loy Johnson, ed: Poetry After 9-11: An Anthology of New York Poets (paperback, 2002, Melville House)
Robert D Kaplan: The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post Cold War (2000; paperback, 2001, Vintage): Scatteed pieces about the collapse of civilization in odd corners of the world, one of which was the Afghan-Pakistan border lands. This was the first book I read after 9/11 that started to put it all into some semblance of shape. Unfortunately, Kaplan's response was to go over the deep end into militarism, first with his essay collection Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Requirse a Pagan Ethos (paperback, 2003, Vintage), then with two books sucking up to the US military: Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq (2005; paperback, 2006, Vintage), and Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground (2007; paperback, 2008, Vintage).
Thomas H Kean/Lee H Hamilton: Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission (2006; paperback, 2007, Vintage): The two co-chairs. Don't know what the title refers to -- there have been plenty of commissions before, so maybe they're the first chairs to have written a defensive.
William Keegan Jr/Bart Davis: Closure: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Recovery Mission (2006; paperback, 2007, Touchstone): By a police lieutenant involved in searching through the rubble for bits of bodies that could be DNA tested to identify the victims.
Colleen Elizabeth Kelley: Post-9/11 American Presidential Rhetoric: A Study of Protofascist Discourse (2007; paperback, 2008, Lexington): That is to say, mostly a study of George W Bush rhetoric.
Ann Keniston/Jeanne Follansbee Quinn, eds: Literature After 9/11 (2008; paperback, 2010, Routledge): Draws on "trauma theory, genre theory, political theory, and theories of postmodernity, space, and temporarily."
Ronald Kessler: The CIA at War: Inside the Secret Campaign Against Terror (2003, St Martin's Griffin)
Peter Lance: 1000 Years for Revenge: International Terrorism and the FBI: The Untold Story (2003; paperback, 2004, Harper): Highlights numerous FBI failures going back to the 1993 WTC attack and beyond to 1989.
Michael A Ledeen: The War Against the Terror Masters: Why It Happened, Where We Are Now, How We'll Win (2002, Truman Talley Books): Blames Clinton; vows to kick his ass. Ledeen, you may recall, was one of those "real men" eager to march on to Tehran.
Nancy Lee/Lonnie Schlein/Mitchel Levitas, eds: A Nation Challenged: A Visual History of 9/11 and Its Aftermath (2002, New York Times/Callaway): With 250 color photographs, introduced by Howell Raines.
Life Magazine: One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001 (2001, Little Brown): The canonical scrapbook, with an introduction by Mayor Giuliani.
Joseph Lovett: Bill Clinton Is Responsible for 9/11 (paperback, 2008, Rose Dog Books): Electrician. Figured it all out himself. Also has another book: The Good News: The World's One True Religion (paperback, 2007, Rose Dog Books). Was raised by missionary Baptists, but finally realized that Christianity is a pagan religion, so reverted to Judaism (as best I can figure it).
Roy Lunn: The World Crisis: It All Started With 9/11 (paperback, 2009, Peppertree Press): Actually goes back to Iran in 1979, but finds the roots of the 2007 recession in 9/11, and tracks the price of oil on the front cover.
Magnum Photographers: New York September 11 (2001, Power House Books): Quickie 144-page picture book, released Nov. 1, 2001.
Mahmoud Mamdani: Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (2004, Pantheon; paperback, 2005, Three Rivers): Traces those roots back home, to America's cynical attempts to manipulate muslims to do our cold war bidding. [link]
Jim Marrs: The Terror Conspiracy: Deception, 9/11 and the Loss of Liberty (paperback, 2006, The Disinformation Company): Conspiracy rehash. I won't bother with the author's many other titles, which range from JFK to extraterrestrials to The Rise of the Fourth Reich.
Philip Marshall: False Flag 911: How Bush, Cheney and the Saudis Created the Post-911 World (paperback, 2008, BookSurge): A pilot doesn't see how al-Qaeda could have done it.
Jane Mayer: The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals (2008; paperback, 2009, Anchor): Important book revealing the systematic desires of Bush, Cheney, et al. to discard American traditions to forcibly create their security state. [link]
Andrew C McCarthy: Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (2008, Encounter): Prosecutor of Sheikh Rahman for the 1993 WTC bombing, something which he tries to generalize into an indictment against all of Islam.
Bonnie McEneaney: Messages: Signs, Visits, and Premonitions from Loved Ones Lost on 9/11 (2010, Harper): Widow, takes comfort in communications from her husband's spirit, finds similar stories.
Jeffrey Melnick: 9/11 Culture (paperback, 2009, Wiley/Blackwell): Catalogs artefacts, no idea what he makes of them.
Christopher Meyer: DC Confidential: The Controversial Memoirs of Britain's Ambassador to the US at the Time of 9/11 and the Run-up to the Iraq War (paperback, 2006, Phoenix): Britain's role in providing international cover for Bush's war machinations is surely significant. Not clear that Meyer actually reveals anything.
Joel Meyerowitz: Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive (2006, Phaidon): Photography book, working the rubble pile at WTC.
John Miller/Michael Stone/Chris Mitchell: The Cell: Inside the 9/11 Plot, and Why the FBI and CIA Failed to Stop It (2002; paperback, 2003, Hyperion): Tries to sort out the prehistory of 9/11 by rumaging through various terror plots ranging from Lockerbie to Aden, all the while noting missteps and blunders by the FBI and CIA.
Greg Mitchell: So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits and the President Failed in Iraq (paperback, 2008, Union Square Press): Wish there was a comparable prequel to this on how the same cast made the same mistakes in leading the charge to war after 9/11.
Brian A Monahan: The Shock of the News: Media Coverage and the Making of 9/11 (paperback, 2010, New York University Press): Tightly focused on the 9/11 events, but far enough removed that the long terms effects of the sensational news coverage can be calibrated.
Matthew J Morgan, ed: The Impact of 9/11 on Politics and War: The Day That Changed Everything? (2009, Palgrave Macmillan): First of six similar volumes, followed by: The Impact of 9/11 on Psychology and Education; The Impact of 9/11 on the Media, Arts, and Entertainment; The Impact of 9/11 and the New Legal Landscape; The Impact of 9/11 on Business and Economics: The Business of Terror; The Impact of 9/11 on Religion and Philosophy; all subtitled The Day That Changed Everything?, all (2009, Palgrave Macmillan)
Rowland Morgan/Lou Henshall: 9/11 Revealed: The Unanswered Questions (paperback, 2005, DaCapo): Another "truth" book. Morgan also wrote Flight 93 Revealed: What Really Happened on the 9/11 "Let's Roll" Flight? (paperback, 2006, Carroll & Graf).
Abd Samad Moussaoui/Florence Bouquillat: Zacarias, My Brother: The Making of a Terrorist (2003, Seven Stories Press): On Zacarias Moussaoui.
Andrew R Murphy: Prodigal Nation: Moral Decline and Divine Punishment From New England to 9/11 (2008, Oxford University Press): One thing you can be sure of is that when something bad and unexpected happens in America some old testament fetishist is going to see the event as God punishing us for our sins. That fetishist was Pat Robertson after 9/11, who promptly got slapped down because, well, how could God possibly be mad at the US after He (admittedly through the hands of his agent Antonin Scalia) had just annointed George W Bush as our president. Hard to take this kind of mythology seriously, but this could be one of those deep thread books in US history, like Anti-Intellectualism in American Life.
Dean E Murphy: September 11: An Oral History (2002, Doubleday): Another New York Times reporter, jotting down stories left and right.
Tom Murphy: Reclaiming the Sky: 9/11 and the Untold Story of the Men and Women Who Kept America Flying (2006, AMACOM): Details on the shutdown, airports, resumption of normal flights, aftermath for the airline industry.
Timothy Naftali: Blind Spot: The Secret History of American Counterterrorism (2005, Basic Books): Goes back to 1945.
Benjamin Netanyahu: Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists (paperback, 2001, Farrar Straus and Giroux): One of the most indelible memories I have watching television in the day or two after 9/11 was watching Netanyahu gloat about how good the attack was for Israel -- how this will finally make America feel like Israel feels, and turn to Israel (the world's experts in fighting terrorism) for help.
The New York City Police Department: Above Hallowed Ground: A Photographic Record of September 11, 2001 (2002, Studio)
Michael Parenti: The Terrorism Trap: September 11 and Beyond (paperback, 2002, City Lights): Short (64 pp.) essay, seems to have been one of the first to see that the 9/11 attacks were setting a trap to drag the US into a debilitating ground war in Afghanistan.
Lori Peek: Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans After 9/11 (paperback, 2010, Temple University Press): I wouldn't say the backlash against Muslims was unprecedented -- there was a huge backlash against Japanese in WWII, less so against Germans who got theirs in the previous world war, and don't get us started on Indians. Still, the Justice Dept. did institute massive sweeps, there has been some vigilantism, and since Obama took office this has gotten much worse.
Charles Pellegrino: Ghosts of Vesuvius: A New Look at the Last Days of Pompeii, How Towers Fall, and Other Strange Connections (2004; paperback, 2006, Harper): Comparisons of ancient Rome and modern America, with a substantial section on the WTC destruction. I thought this looked interesting enough to buy a copy, but never got to it. Could also be nuts.
Norman Podhoretz: World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism (2007; paperback, 2008, Vintage): Perhaps the ultimate example of neocon war lust.
Portraits: 9/11/01: The Collected "Portraits of Grief" From the New York Times (paperback, 2002, Times Books): Short obits, more like lightly written vignettes, which nonetheless add up to 576 pages, surprising mostly in the variety and arbitrariness of the victims. Seemed like the thing to do, but also wholly inadequate.
Gerald Posner: Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11 (2003; paperback, 2004, Ballantine): The usual FBI-CIA bumbling, of course.
Thomas Pyszczynski/Sheldon Solomon/Jeff Greenberg: In the Wake of 9/11: The Psychology of Terror (2002, American Psychological Association)
Justin Raimondo: The Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection (paperback, 2003, iUniverse): Very short book (93 pp.), argues that Israel must have known about the 9/11 plot before it happened. Author is a credible antiwar libertarian, but that doesn't mean he has much evidence.
Marc Redfield: The Rhetoric of Terror: Reflections on 9/11 and the War on Terror (paperback, 2009, Fordham University Press): Applies Derrida.
Simon Reeve: The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, and the Future of Terrorism (1999; paperback, 2002, Northeastern): Early on the case -- so early that Bin Laden was only a secondary subject of interest.
Janette Reynolds: Where Were You on 9-11? (paperback, 2002, Umbrella Publishing): Twenty interviews. Introduction "with Donald J Trump."
James Ridgeway: The 5 Unanswered Questions About 9/11: What the 9/11 Commission Report Failed to Tell Us (paperback, 2005, Seven Stories Press): Reasonable questions, but not sure how much to make of them. This reminds me that similar questions could have been raised about Pearl Harbor, but Roosevelt thought war was inevitable and was almost goading Japan into attacking, so his seeming indifference to the details was a willful blindness. At this point I think it's clear that Bush wanted a path to war with Iraq. I don't think that he knew that ignoring Al-Qaeda would get him there, but it did work out that way.
Shiya Ribowsky/Tom Schachtman: Dead Center: Behind the Scenes at the World's Largest Medical Examiner's Office (2006, William Morrow; paperback, 2007, Harper): The grim view of 9/11 from the New York City Medical Examiner's office.
James Risen: State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration (paperback, 2006, Free Press): This raised some eyebrows, particularly about Bush's surveillance programs.
Jonathan Ritter/J Martin Daughtry, eds: Music in the Post-9/11 World (paperback, 2007, Routledge)
Barry Rubin/Judith Colp Rubin, eds: Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle East: A Documentary Reader (2002, Oxford University Press)
Malise Ruthven: A Fury for God: The Islamist Attack on America (2002; revised, paperback, 2004, Granta Books): BBC journalist, author of several books on Islam, probes "the aesthetics of martyrdom." Also wrote Fundamentalism: The Search for Meaning (2004; paperback, 2005, Oxford University Press), which spreads the concept around many religions.
Marc Sageman: Understanding Terror Networks (2004, University of Pennsylvania Press): Forensic psychiatrist, delves into how various Al-Qaeda cells were interconnected. Later wrote Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century (2008, University of Pennsylvania Press) as Al-Qaeda fragmented and franchised.
Salon.com, eds.: Afterwords: Stories and Reports From 9/11 and Beyond (paperback, 2002, Washington Square Press): Scattered notes from the moment.
Robert Scheer: The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America (2008, Twelve): The title allusions are pretty awful, but the basis thesis is sound. Not much on 9/11 except as a pretext for the hawks to do what they do. [link]
Michael Scheuer: Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror (2004; paperback, 2007, Potomac Books): Originally attributed to Anonymous back when Scheuer worked for the CIA -- as was his earlier book, Through Our Enemies Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America (2002; revised, paperback, 2007, Potomac Books).
William Schulz: Tainted Legacy: 9/11 and the Ruin of Human Rights (paperback, 2003, Nation Books): Executive director of Amnesty International USA.
Peter Dale Scott: The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire and the Future of America (2007; paperback, 2008, University of California Press): Longtime US foreign policy critic of a conspiratorial bent -- wrote The War Conspiracy in 1972 and recently revised it with the subtitle JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War (paperback, 2008, The Mary Ferrell Foundation), and has chased the CIA through books like Drugs, Oil, and War: The United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina (paperback, 2003, Rowman & Littlefield) and (with Jonathan Marshall) Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies and the CIA in Central America (updated, paperback, 1998, University of California Press).
Karen M Seeley: Therapy After Terror: 9/11, Psychotherapists, and Mental Health (2008, Cambridge University Press): A social worker and psychotherapist in New York.
Robert C Shaler: Who They Were: Inside the World Trade Center DNA Story: The Unprecedented Effort to Identify the Missing (2005; paperback, 2006, Free Press): DNA analysis and identification is often talked about like it's routine, but sifting through the WTC rubble for identifiable bits must have been a tough job. Says here that when the effort was suspended in April 2005 only 1,592 out of 2,749 probable deaths had been confirmed by DNA. I understand that they did find enough of my niece to identify her, which I guess is fortunate.
Philip Shenon: The Commission: What We Didn't Know About 9/11 (2008; paperback, 2009, Twelve): Seems to look more into the inside politics of the Commission, like the Bush administration's attempt to recruit the Commission into its Iraq war plans, rather than the broader range of conspiracist debunkery.
Daniel J Sherman/Terry Nardin, eds: Terror, Culture, Politics: Rethinking 9/11 (paperback, 2005, University of Indiana Press)
Sandra Silberstein: War of Words: Language, Politics and 9/11 (paperback, 2004, Routledge): Examines the language used in political speeches, by pundits, in eyewitness accounts, etc. Should be plenty to chew on there, especially given the Republicans' Luntz-tested lexicon.
David Simpson: 9/11: The Culture of Commemoration (paperback, 2006, University of Chicago Press): Short book on the public memory, specifically commemoration, of the events.
Dennis Smith: Report From Ground Zero (paperback, 2003, Plume): New York fireman, on the scene; had written previous books about firefighters.
JW Smith: Why?: The Deper History Behind the September 11th Terrorist Attack on America (3rd ed, 2005, Institute for Economic Democracy)
Philip Smucker: Al Qaeda's Great Escape: The Military and the Media on Terror's Trail (paperback, 2005, Potomac Books): Looking for easy game in Afghanistan, not bothering much over Bin Laden.
Steve Spak: Forgotten 9-11: Images of the Destruction of the World Trade Center (paperback, 2009, Create Space): Another short (148 pp.) photo book.
Lynn Spencer: Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama That Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11 (2008, Free Press): Author is commercial airline pilot, taking a close look at how civilian and military air controllers responded that day.
Art Spiegelman: In the Shadow of No Towers (board book, 2004, Pantheon): Short (42 pp.), heavy, from the author of Maus, a peculiar meditation on the Holocaust.
Steven Strasser, ed: The 9/11 Investigations: Staff Reports of the 9/11 Commission (paperback, 2004, Public Affairs): Testimony transcripts from Richard Clarke, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, other stuff which if it really mattered would have shown up in the final report, right?
Glenn Stout/Charles Vitchers/Robert Gray: Nine Months at Ground Zero (2006, Scribner): The story of the crew who were hired to clean up the mess -- Vitchers and Gray among them.
Marita Sturken: Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism From Oklahoma City to Ground Zero (paperback, 2007, Duke University Press): The comparisons should be interesting, the common denominator in kitsch unsurprising.
Judith Sylvester/Suzanne Huffman: Women Journalists at Ground Zero: Covering Crisis (2002, Rowman and Littlefield): Interviews with two dozen women journalists.
Matt Taibbi: The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire (2008; paperback, 2009, Spiegel & Grau): Mostly about the religious and/or militarist right, but for balance he takes on the "9/11 truthers" as an example that the left can be nutty too.
Webster Griffin Tarpley: 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA (2005; 4th ed, paperback, 2007, Progressive Press): Another leading light of the 9/11 "truth" seekers. Has since gone on to take pot shots at Obama, writing Barack H. Obama: The Unauthorized Biography (paperback, 2008, Progressive Press), and Obama: The Postmodern Coup (paperback, 2008, Progressive Press).
George Tenet/Bill Harlow: At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA (2007, Harper Collins): CIA head before and after 9/11.
Paul Thompson: The Terror Timeline: Year by Year, Day by Day, Minute by Minute: A Comprehensive Chronicle of the Road to 9/11 and America's Response (paperback, 2004, Harper): Painstakingly detailed chronology, before and after. A major source for Ray Nowosiekski's DVD, 9/11: Press for Truth.
Katrina Vanden Heuvel, ed: A Just Response: The Nation on Terrorism, Democracy, and September 11, 2001 (paperback, 2002, Nation Books): Articles from The Nation, thrown together in a quick fit and not as coherent and savvy as one would wish -- the title comes from a Richard Falk labor which tries to find one but fails.
Kristiaan Versluys: Out of the Blue: September 11 and the Novel (paperback, 2009, Columbia University Press)
Gore Vidal: Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated (paperback, 2002, Nation Books): First of several essays Vidal wrote as the country plunged into senseless war; more pointed is the quick follow-up: Dreaming War: Blood for Oil and the Cheney-Bush Junta (paperback, 2002, Nation Books).
Michael Walzer: Arguing About War (2004; paperback, 2006, Yale University Press): Considered some kind of oracle because he once wrote a book called Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations (1978; fourth edition, paperback, 2006, Basic Books), this includes his essay "After 9/11: Five Questions About Terrorism," and others where he weighs in on the morality of the Gulf War, Kosovo, four Israel/Palestine wars, and Iraq ("Just and Unjust Occupations"). Not every war satisfies him, but way too many do.
Murray Weiss: The Man Who Warned America: The Life and Death of John O'Neill, the FBI's Embattled Counterterror Warrior (2003; paperback, 2004, Harper): FBI agent, killed on 9/11 just as his life's work was coming to fruition.
Susan Willis: Portents of the Real: A Primer for Post 9/11 America (2005, Verso): Culture critique, quoting European Marxists -- not that you really have to go to Jean Baudrillard to get "what goes around comes around."
Paul Zarembka, ed: The Hidden History of 9-11 (paperback, 2008, Seven Stories Press): Scattered conspiracy theories attacking the 9/11 Commission.
I made no effort to collect DVD titles, but noted one anyway:
History Channel: 9/11 Commemorative Set 2008 (2008, The History Channel): Eight discs, 770 minutes. A whole show on the importance of tugboats.
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Ron Sylvester: Iraq vet: Wounds outlast combat: The Wichita Peace Center sponsored a video/talk at the library last night, where a local Iraq War vet, Ethan McCord, talked about the WikiLeaks "Collateral Murder" video. It basically shows a US helicopter mowing down a group of Iraqis on a street in Baghdad, one of whom was carrying a video camera (mistakenly identified as some sort of weapon). A van then pulls up, the driver trying to load up the wounded to take them to get help. The helicopter then destroys the van. McCord was one of the first soldiers on the ground in the video. He pulled two badly wounded children out of the van, and carried them to an Army vehicle nearby to be taken for treatment. (Not clear if that even happened, since at one point we hear orders countermanding use of the vehicle to help the civilians, let alone whether they survived.) McCord left Iraq disabled with wounds from an IED, and is currently working with Iraq Veterans Against the War. Another Iraq vet, Will Stewart-Starks, also appeared.
For me the most striking thing about the talk was the detail in how US soldiers are desensitized and brutalized to fulfill their combat roles, and how this is constantly reinforced through the ranks. When asked about fragging, which happened often enough in Vietnam to sour the officer core on the draft, McCord pointed out that today's soldiers are more likely to kill themselves. He then cited yet another case just a day or two ago.
There was much play on the "support the troops" meme, but what I took away is something different. The real atrocity isn't what happens when you put troops into action, regardless of the reasons for doing so; rather, it starts in basic training, when you start to turn normal people into soldiers. Once they are soldiers, their skillset and survival instincts are bound to produce atrocities, as we've seen continuously in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those atrocities raise serious questions as to whether there is any practical political use for the US military in foreign nations where the US wants to consolidate any sort of friendly popular alliance -- i.e., where the collateral damage intrinsic to the way US troops are trained and deployed makes it impossible to sway enough "hearts and minds" -- and that should be enough to convince us to shy away from those wars.
But the human cost of supporting this kind of military goes back further, all the way to basic training. If we really cared for the people who fall under the "support the troops" slogan we wouldn't turn them into soldiers in the first place. We'd work to give them education, jobs, a chance to build families and grow old without the scars of war.
One person at the meeting made the point that he voted for Obama in 2008 specifically to stop the war, then was shocked when Obama turned around and escalated the war in Afghanistan. He didn't seem to take this personally -- e.g., as an example of the perfidy we expect from politicians. Rather, he wondered what there is in the power structure in Washington that bends people who should know better to their will. Another person pointed out that as we were meeting Obama was speaking about the semi-withdrawal of US forces and semi-closure of the US war in Iraq. Reading about Obama's speech in the paper this morning was far more disappointing than imagining it last night. There was no need for Obama to hie off to an army base to frame the speech, or to make a big show of going around shaking hands with soldiers. And there was no excuse for saying this:
It's bad enough to continue some Bush policies because you can't move the federal bureaucracy around fast enough to realign it on a new set of principles. But it's something else completely to go out of your way to whitewash George W. Bush, a president who ended eight years of one miserable, cynical failure after another with public support polling around 22% -- Obama, despite being the victim of a well-financed, professionally-managed smear campaign, as well as the drag of two wars and a huge recession he didn't start, still polls better than 45%. If Obama was elected for any reason at all, it was to bury Bush. What he said isn't just false -- if Bush was truly committed to our security, he wouldn't have started wars to engender future attacks on us; if he loved our country, he wouldn't have bankrupted the government and filled it up with corporate cronies to pick over the remains; if he cared about our young people he wouldn't have turned so many of them into soldiers to be cracked in hopeless, pointless foreign wars. And it's not time to turn the page: there are still 50,000 troops in Iraq, more than double that in Afghanistan, plus unlimited air power and imperial embassies relentlessly poking and prodding their way in what should be the internal affairs of other countries; there are still strong efforts to resist our presence and dominance, and they will keep fighting as long as we are there; there are still millions of displaced people, with little hope of returning to any sort of normal life until we leave; and we are still burning up hundreds of billions of dollars every year we stay, while our own country rots and collapses. Just because Obama has surrendered to the pro-war forces in this country doesn't mean we should; all it really means is that Obama has become as much a part of the problem as the hawks he once ran against.
Then Obama goes on to say:
Uh, hullo! Some of us were dead set against "the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11" as of that very day. Obama may be asserting that we're not in the political spectrum, not even at the far fringes of it, which would be a pretty insulting position to take for someone so eager to forgive and cozy up to war criminals like Bush. But more importantly, it's a downright stupid position to take. One big reason so many people went along with the "use of force" idea after 9/11 is that they didn't have the faintest notion of what they were getting into. Had it been well understood that nine years later "use of force" would wind up meaning that 4,400 US soldiers would die, another 32,000 would be wounded (many gravely), that 20-25% of US soldiers would suffer from PTSD (leading to a rash of suicides), that we would have burned through $750 billion in direct expenses while incurring long-term debts and liabilities of several trillion dollars, that we would have vastly destabilized Iraq and Afghanistan (and less directly Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia and Lebanon, while pushing Iran much closer to developing nuclear weapons), that even after drawing down troops in Iraq we would still have more than 160,000 troops stationed in Asia, that we still wouldn't be able to lay our hands on the two supreme leaders of Al-Qaeda, would we still be talking about near-unanimous "use of force" support?
Some of the people who opposed that "use of force" did so for basic principles, but some were just a hell of a lot smarter than the conventional wisdom. But then conventional wisdom was pretty dumb to think that you could round up a small cell of religious fanatics on the far side of the world with a huge army and air force and navy that were built to reduce whole nations to stone age rubble. In fact, the only people, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who were in any way responsible for 9/11 who were captured were picked up by old-fashioned police work, by Pakistan -- we'll see about bringing them to justice when/if they ever get a trial, but we've so debased the concept of justice along the way it may not matter.
As if that wasn't enough, let's wind up with one more Obama quote:
First, the wars that Obama lines up here aren't equivalent, and to the extent that they form a trend line we should be disturbed. The American Revolution was a war to throw off an abusive foreign power, fought against their troops on our soil. The Civil War was a struggle between competing notions (ideals and interests) of what our nation should be, with one side defending their custom of holding most of their workforce in perpetual slavery. WWII was a war that we reluctantly entered after an aggressively imperial Japan attacked us, or more specifically our relatively benign imperial interests in the Pacific. Korea can still be painted as a defensive war, but only if you assume that our occupation of Korea is legitimate and a Korean invasion of our occupied zone isn't. Although Vietnam was superficially divided like Korea, it was us who invaded there, with over 500,000 troops to prop up a puppet government that even we had to overthrow several times before we got a stable combination. And Afghanistan didn't even offer us the fig leaf of a favorable invitation: from 1979 on we deliberately and perversly wrecked a country that meant nothing to us, promoting a religious fanaticism that ultimately turned back on us, leading us to further escalate the destruction.
There are three vectors to these wars: one is that each one is further removed from home; the second is that the ideals we use to justify these wars have become ever more debased; the third is that the soldiers have become more mercenary -- even before the draft was eliminated the balance of effective force shifted toward the professional air force and navy, but today's warrior caste is an unprecedented extreme.
The second big problem with this quote is the assertion that fighting these wars has made "the lives of our children better than our own." Independence removed an imperial burden, the Civil War cleared the stage for a vast industrial expansion, but those blessings were accomplished post-war. WWII is a bit anomalous in that it did significantly boost the domestic economy by proving the value of massive Keynesian spending and regulation, traits that we kept for the most universally prosperous decades of our history. On the other hand, all subsequent wars have drained our economy and sapped our resources for virtually no benefit. We haven't been threatened by a foreign power in over 200 years. Virtually everything that has made our lives better results from science and industry and trade, and those are blessings of peace.
As for "troops are the steel in our ship of state," it's hard to imagine a more brazenly imperialist line of crap. If Obama keeps spewing lines like that it's going to be awful hard to argue back when Glenn Beck accuses him of being a fascist.
Of course, what Obama's doing here is probably just pandering. Practically everybody panders to the troops -- probably more than half of the crowd in last night's antiwar meeting are guilty in some sense, even if what they really mean by "support" is that they want to salvage the human beings they presume the troops were before they were shipped off to war. But pandering to the troops isn't about salvaging people: it's about keeping the war machine grinding along. At least when Bush rambled on about "support the troops" you knew he didn't care how many were broken; all he really meant was "support my wars." Maybe what Obama really means by "support the troops" is "don't blame me for my wars." Fair enough, but what I don't see is how he gets to peace without cutting way back on the machinery of war, and the troops are a big part of that -- both because they serve and because they gravitate into cheerleading groups like VFW, which politicians like Obama wind up thinking they have to placate.
PS: Link for Obama speech here.
A Downloader's Diary (2): September 2010
This is the second installment of Michael Tatum's post-Christgau consumer guide. The debut came out a month ago, and I expect this to remain a monthly feature as long as he can stand the workload. I've built a nice little archive area for these columns -- first one is here and you can work out the rest from links there.
Pick up text from here.