December 2023 Notebook
Index
Latest

2024
  Feb
  Jan
2023
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2022
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2021
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2020
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2019
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2018
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2017
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2016
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2015
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2014
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2013
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2012
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2011
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2010
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2009
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2008
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2007
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2006
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2005
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2004
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2003
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2002
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2001
  Dec
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Music Week

Expanded blog post, December archive (final).

Tweet: Music Week: 57 albums, 10 A-list

Music: Current count 41531 [41474] rated (+57), 21 [21] unrated (+0).

This usually comes out on Monday, but since I wanted to end the month and year properly, it's backdated to Sunday, December 31. Actually, most weeks end the night before I post, this six-day week is pretty close to being a seven-day one. The rated count reflects that. I've been burning through EOY lists at a fast clip. Indeed, all December has been a speed blur, averaging more than 50 records per week for five straight weeks.

To help move this post up a day, I also posted Speaking of Which a day early. I threatened to add some late finds in an update today, and indeed have added a few (marked with a red right-border). Still, it's been impossible to write about recent news at much length. On the other hand, virtually everything I wrote about Israel and Gaza since Oct. 7 is still worth a read and thought.

The 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll will be published in ArtsFuse later this week. I expect to send them two short essays tomorrow, one written by Davis, presenting the results. We also have this year's In Memoriam list more or less ready to go. It's sort of traditional, really going back to Robert Christgau's annual Pazz & Jop essays, to try to come up with a detailed analysis that lends an air of coherency and completeness to the year as summed up in a poll. But this has been a very frustrating, and a very puzzling, year, so it's been hard to reach clear, firm conclusions. Maybe a few weeks (or months) down the line, I'll gain enough perspective to venture more than wild guesses.

But at least the website will make all of the totals available, and all of the 159 individual ballots that were submitted and compiled into the poll. One thing I do hope to do in the coming week is to add more explanation and more ways of viewing the data. I'll write more about that in coming days on the website, and in next week's Music Week, and possibly elsewhere. One more thing I hope is that many of the people who contributed to the poll will take a little extra time and spread the word around, and generate some buzz and discussion. Same for the people who so far are merely innocent bystanders, but who appreciate that the poll continues to exist and thrive.

My lists are continually updated. I won't bother linking to them here (ok, here's an index), but they continue to grow the more I learn, and are invaluable tools in that learning.

I haven't done all of my usual bookkeeping, but have at least set up the framework so that the next record I play goes into the January 2024 file.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Lina Allemano: Canons (2022 [2023], Lumo): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Lina Allemano/Uwe Oberg/Matthias Bauer/Rudi Fischerlehner: SOG (2022 [2023], Creative Sources): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ray Anderson: Marching On (2022, Double Moon): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Ray Anderson & Bobby Previte: Double Trouble (2023, Double Moon): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Jim Campilongo/Steve Cardenas: New Year (2023, Sunnyside): [sp]: B
  • Laura Cantrell: Just Like a Rose: The Anniversary Sessions (2023, Propeller Sound): [sp]: A-
  • Ken Carson: A Great Chaos (2023, Opium/Interscope): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Cash Box Kings: Oscar's Motel (2023, Alligator): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Crosslegged: Another Blue (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Alabaster DePlume: Come With Fierce Grace (2023, International Anthem): [sp]: B+(**)
  • DJ Maphorisa/Tman Xpress: Chukela (2023, New Money Gang): [sp]: B+(***)
  • David Dove/Joe McPhee: Where's the Wine? (2023, C.I.A.): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Silke Eberhard/Céline Voccia: Wild Knots (2021 [2023], Relative Pitch): [sp]: B+(**)
  • The End: Why Do You Mourn (2021-22 [2023], Trost): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Gunna: A Gift & a Curse (2023, YSL/300 Entertainment): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Kevin Hays/Ben Street/Billy Hart: Bridges (2023, Smoke Sessions): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Headie One x K-Trap: Strength to Strength (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Eric Hofbauer/The Five Agents: Waking Up! (2023, Creative Nation Music): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Jasper Høiby's 3 Elements: Earthness (2023, Edition): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Hotline TNT: Cartwheel (2023, Third Man): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Mick Jenkins: The Patience (2023, BMG): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Arthur Kell Speculation Quartet: Live at Lunàtico (2022 [2023], Origin): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Karina Kozhevnikova & Krugly Band: Polyphonic Circle (2022 [2023], Leo): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Alexey Kruglov: Synchronization of Time (2022, Leo): [bc]: B
  • Lambrini Girls: You're Welcome (2023, Big Scary Monsters, EP): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Janel Leppin: The Brink (2023, Shiny Boy Press): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Joe Locke: Makram (2021-22 [2023], Circle 9): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Lage Lund: Most Peculiar (2022 [2023], Criss Cross): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Maps: Counter Melodies (2023, Mute): [sp]: B+(*)
  • MC Yallah: Yallah Beibe (2023, Hakuna Kulala): [sp]: A-
  • Lubomyr Melnyk: The Sacred Thousand (2022 [2023], Jeriska): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Roscoe Mitchell Orchestra and Space Trio: At the Fault Zone Festival (2022 [2023], Wide Hive): [sp]: C+
  • Paul Mottram: Seven Ages of Man (2023, Ubuntu Music): [sp]: A-
  • Tisziji Muñoz: Burning Down Hades (2023, Ra Kalam): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Marius Neset: Geyser: Live at Royal Albert Hall - BBC Proms (2022 [2023], ACT Music): [sp]: A-
  • Sam Newsome/Dave Liebman: Soprano-Logues (2021 [2023], Some New Music): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Sam Newsome & Jean-Michel Pilc: Cosmic Unconsciousness Unplugged (2022 [2023], Some New Music): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Pangaea: Changing Channels (2023, Hessle Audio): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Pizza Hotline: Level Select (2022 [2023], We Release Whatever the Fuck We Want): [sp]: A-
  • Polobi & the Gwo Ka Masters: Abri Cyclonique (2023, Real World): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Amy Ray: If It All Goes South (2022, Daemon): [sp]: B+(**)
  • André Roligheten: Marbles (2022 [2023], Odin): [sp]: A-
  • Kurt Rosenwinkel: Undercover: Live at the Village Vanguard (2023, Heartcore): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Scree: Jasmine on a Night in July (2023, Ruination): [sp]: B
  • Titanic: Vidrio (2023, Unheard of Hope): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Lucinda Williams: Stories From a Rock N Roll Heart (2023, Highway 20): [yt]: A-
  • WILSN: Those Days Are Over (2023, Ivy League): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Libby York: Dreamland (2021 [2023], OA2): [sp]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Albert Ayler Trio: 1964 Prophecy Revisited (1964 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Albert Ayler: Summertime to Spiritual Unity Revisited (1964 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: A-
  • Albert Ayler: Quartets 1964: Spirits to Ghosts Revisited (1964 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Albert Ayler: 1965: Spirits Rejoice & Bells Revisited (1965 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Albert Ayler Quintet: Lost Performances 1966 Revisited (1966 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): A-
  • Albert Ayler: More Lost Performances Revisited (1962-67 [2023], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: A-
  • Miles Davis: Turnaround: Rare Miles From the Complete On the Corner Sessions (1972-73 [2023], Columbia/Legacy): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Phineas Newborn Jr.: A World of Piano! (1961 [2023], Craft): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Stanley Turrentine: Mr. Natural (1964 [2023], Blue Note Tone Poet): [sp]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • André Roligheten: Homegrown (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [sp]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

None.

 

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

Several things have nudged me toward shifting my usual posting schedule this week. The first is that I usually do Music Week on Monday, but I also like to finish the last Music Week of the calendar year on the 31st, which this year is Sunday. Delaying last Monday's post seemed like too much, but moving this week's up one day makes enough sense. But then, I normally do Speaking of Which on Sunday. I could post both on the same day, but I like separate days, which suggests moving this one up a day, too. Besides, my big job this weekend is to get the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll ready to go up next week, so it would be nice to get this out of the way.

Besides, not much happens on holiday weekends, although there seems to be no letting up in the unfolding genocide in Gaza. At least Congress and the Supreme Court are safely home with their families (or sugar daddies). Meanwhile, the usual media sources are chock full of lookbacks at 2023, projections for 2024, and occasional (but rare) cross-checking. I can't ever recall feeling less enthusiasm for such fare. Very few made my first pass here.

Of course, if I notice anything that should be added to this week's list, I can always add it later, flagged with the bit of red right border. [PS: Some were added when I posted Music Week, and some more on Jan. 1 -- mostly ones I had open but hadn't gotten to in the rush to post. Also some more on Jan. 4, although the articles themselves are still in bounds.]

Paywalls are the bane of my existence, but this one strikes me as especially pernicious: all of a sudden, I can't read a single article on AlterNet without paying them money? I rarely cite them, unless I'm looking to reinforce a political point I've already made. Paywalls make sense for media that caters to specialized business interests, but are suicidal as political outreach.


Top story threads:

Israel: The genocide, and there's really no other word for it, continues, with the Biden administration, to its eternal shame, deeply complicit.

Israel and America: And Iran, which Israel doesn't care that much about, but finds useful to goad America into reckless conflict.

Trump, and other Republicans: With Maine joining Colorado in banning Trump from Republican primary ballots -- see Maine declares Trump ineligible under disqualification clause -- that story is going to take a while to play out, though I haven't seen anyone yet who thinks the Supreme Court will let the bans stand. The lawyers will deal with that in due course. Meanwhile:

Other stories on Trump and/or other Republicans:

  • Ed Kilgore: [12-30] The real reason MAGA-World is trying to rehabilitate Nixon.

  • Josh Kovensky: [12-26] Dictator on day one: The executive orders that Trump would issue from the start: "Ending birthright citizenship and politicizing the civil service rank high among Trump's planned first acts in office."

  • Amanda Marcotte: [12-29] GOP's biggest losers of 2023: George "it's a witch hunt" Santos. Actually, for a nobody two years ago, he seems to have done pretty well for himself -- even though he only came in fourth in this series, behind Kevin McCarthy, Moms for Liberty, and Lauren Boebert. PS: Last in this five-part series [12-30]: Donald "smells like a butt" Trump and his fellow insurrectionists.

  • Heather Digby Parton: [12-29] Nikki Haley deserves no grace for Civil War gaffe. Refers to her hesitancy to identify slavery as the "cause" of the Civil War. Her actual answer was far worse:

    I think the cause of the Civil War was basically how government was gonna run. The freedoms and what people could and couldn't do. . . . Government doesn't need to tell you how to live your life. They don't need to tell you what you can and can't do. They don't need to be a part of your life. They need to make sure that you have freedom. We need to have capitalism, we need to have economic freedom, we need to make sure that we do all things so that individuals have the liberties, so that they can have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom to do or be anything they want to be without government getting in the way.

    Clearly, no Republican actually believes this crap, because they're always trying to use government to force people to "behave themselves" (i.e., to conform to their political dictates). Freedom, for them, is reserved for the capitalists Haley says we "need." Most of us recognize slavery as the total abnegation of freedom, but Haley identifies with capitalists completely, understanding that their freedom is paid for by exploiting others. Perhaps "slavery" is too abstract to be the one-word cause of the Civil War. A more precise answer is "slaveholders." They are the ones who seceded to protect their "peculiar institution" with laws and arms they safely controlled. And when they lost, the first thing Americans did was to abolish slavery. After all, if freedom can't be enjoyed by everyone, it's really just a euphemism for tyranny. But, they stopped short of abolishing other forms of capitalism, allowing tyranny to return, dressed up as "freedom" for the rich.

    Also on the Haley "gaffe":

    I should also note that when I first saw the top headline here, I blanked out "Civil" and just registered "war gaffe." Haley's been making them all along. Kinsley's famous definition is: "a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth -- some obvious truth he isn't supposed to say." Of course, it needn't be true. It's just something that the politician thinks but should know better than say in public. Haley's worst gaffe in recent weeks was when she urged Israel to "finish it" in Gaza.

  • Maeve Reston/Hannah Knowles/Meryl Kornfield: [12-30] Led by Trump, GOP candidates take polarizing stances on race and history: It's not like Haley is the only one saying stupid things. It's more like a contest, a race to the bottom, which is ground Trump has clearly staked out.

  • Peter M Shane: [12-26] Trump's laughable claim of immunity.

  • Reis Thebault: [12-31] DeSantis, Haley pledge to pardon Trump if convicted: Angling for leadership of the pro-crime party. Aside for all you pundits arguing that Christie should drop out so the "anti-Trump" GOP can unite behind Haley, please start eating your hats now.

  • Li Zhou: [12-27] House Republicans' humiliating year, explained.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Climate and environment:

Ukraine War:


Other stories:

Ben Armbruster: [12-29] Mainstream media wasn't good for US foreign policy in 2023: "Major themes this year focused on feeding the Ukraine war, hyping the China threat, and avoiding context in Israel-Palestine." Some more general pieces relating to America's incoherent inability to understand the world needs and how to interact with others:

Dean Baker:

Dan Diamond: [12-28] America has a life expectancy crisis. But it's not a political priority.

EJ Dionne Jr: [12-31] Why 2024's vibes are so perplexing: 'Everybody thinks they're losing'. Well, they're right: pretty much all of them are losing. Even the super-rich, who've never looked wealthier on paper, are losing. Democrats need to ditch the campaign to convince people how much better off they are under Biden, and try to make people understand how much worse off they'd be with Republican denialism and dystopia. Crises are coming. Do you want a government that helps people cope, or one that just accelerates the dangers?

On the other hand, this piece is also true (mostly): Jennifer Rubin: [12-31] Get real and read some history. The past was worse. But she's mostly warning against the allure of nostalgia, as in "Make America Great Again." But I rather doubt that nostalgia's a serious concern on the right -- unlike rage and spite.

By the way, when people talk about good things that happened in any given year, they're mostly thinking of technology, whereas bad things tend to be politics and war (the so-called "other means"). Part of this is what you'd call structural. It's easy to see the upside of technology: it's literally designed to obtain that upside, so that much is conscious in mind even before you see it work. And then the marketing folk get involved. If someone can figure out a way to make money off it, there's no stopping them. On the other hand, there usually are trade-offs, and hope and spin do their best to obscure them. You often have no idea what it will cost you, until it already has.

Politics doesn't have to be so relentlessly negative, but our system is modeled on competing special interests, most pursuing zero-sum gains against everyone else, seeking leverage through power, clouded in myth and cliché. You'd think that the disasters that inevitably follow would trigger some rethinking, but special interests mostly they just recoil into ever deeper myths.

Connor Echols: [12-29] The 7 best foreign policy books of 2023: Worth listing:

  • Henry Farrell/Abraham Newman: Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World Economy
  • Steven Simon: Grand Delusion: The Rise and Fall of American Ambition in the Middle East
  • Keyu Jin: The New China Playbook: Beyond Socialism and Capitalism
  • Paul Kennedy: Victory at Sea: Naval Power and the Transformation of the Global Order in World War II
  • Nathan Thrall: A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy
  • Thomas Graham: Getting Russia Right
  • Paul R. Pillar: Beyond the Water's Edge: How Partisanship Corrupts U.S. Foreign Policy

Greg Grandin: [12-27] Arno Mayer has died. He leaves us an unorthodox Marxism. I noted his death last week, complained about the lack of obituaries much less of appreciation, but predicted they would come. This is a very useful review of one great historian by another.

Eric Levitz: [12-29] Are America's cities overpoliced? Podcast debate between Alex Vitale (author of the 2017 book The End of Policing, cited by many who argue to "defund the police," and Adaner Usmani, a Harvard sociology professor who "argues that America is suffering from a crisis of mass incarceration but not one of overpolicing." Levitz's concept is to set up debates on issues that divide folks on the left, but I suspect that there's pretty common agreement here on the core fact, which is that a lot of police work is being done very badly (see St Clair, below, for hundreds of examples).

Raina Lipsitz: [10-13] Why haven't the protest movements of our times succeeded? Review of Vincent Bevins' book: If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution.

Eric Lipton: [12-30] New spin on a revolving door: Pentagon officials turned venture capitalists: "Retired officers and departing defense officials are flocking to investment firms that are pushing the government to provide more money to defense-technology startups."

Brian Merchant: [12-28] The 10 best tech books of 2023: Surprise pick here is Naomi Klein's Doppelganger, with Cory Doctorow's The Internet Con at the bottom of the list:

  1. Naomi Klein, Doppelganger
  2. Malcolm Harris, Palo Alto
  3. Kashmir Hill, Your Face Belongs to Us
  4. Joy Buolamwini, Unmasking AI
  5. Zeke Faux, Number Go Up: first of a cluster on crypto
  6. Rachel O'Dwyer, Tokens
  7. Jacob Silverman/Ben McKenzie, Easy Money
  8. Lee McGuigan, Selling the American People
  9. Taylor Lorenz, Extremely Online
  10. Cory Doctorow, The Internet Con

Andrew Prokop: [12-26] The weird, true story of the most successful third-party presidential candidate in the past century: "Why did Ross Perot do so well in 1992? And could something like that happen again in 2024?"

Nathan J Robinson:

Areeba Shah: [12-30] The worst right-wing influencers of 2023: Pictured and profiled: Nick Fuentes, Alex Jones, Andrew Tate.

Jeffrey St Clair: [12-29] From taser face to the goon squad: The year in police crime. A staple of his most-weekly "Roaming Charges" reports, still the sheer length of this post is striking.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Daily Log

I write this Facebook comment:

I recall a DownBeat Blindfold Test with Matt Wilson, who went to remarkable lengths to understand and appreciate literally everything he was presented with. My first thought was that he'd make a really useless critic. My second what that his skill and selfless dedication probably serves him well as a session drummer. But as a critic, and that is both identity and mindset, I've found that most people have good reasons for liking what they like, and that it helps me to approach their views with cautious respect, but that doesn't (and shouldn't) diminish my own considered views.

This was in response to Matt Merewitz's:

I am really trying to embrace all of the music that people who don't know anything about music are saying is the greatest music because I desperately want to understand what they are relating to. Is that lame?

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Daily Log

Village Voice Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll: ballot, I guess:

  1. Olivia Rodrigo: Guts (Geffen) 16
  2. Rodrigo Amado/The Bridge: Beyond the Margins (Trost) 14
  3. Buck 65: Punk Rock B-Boy (self-released) 12
  4. Irreversible Entanglements: Protect Your Light (Impulse!) 10
  5. Steve Lehman/Orchestre National de Jazz: Ex Machina (Pi) 10
  6. James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: For Mahalia, With Love (Tao Forms) 8
  7. Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Maps (Backwoodz Studioz) 8
  8. The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Harvesters (Aerophonic, 2CD) 8
  9. George Coleman: Live at Smalls Jazz Club (Cellar) 7
  10. Aluna: Mycelium (Mad Decent) 7

Link is here.

Economist TV list:

  • Barry
  • The Bear
  • Beef
  • Colin from Accounts
  • The Crown
  • Dead Ringers
  • The Diplomat
  • Fargo
  • The Gold
  • The Good Mothers
  • Happy Valley
  • The Last of Us
  • Poker Face
  • Succession

Clifford Ocheltree commented, endorsinng The Gold and The Last of Us, and adding Paalal Lok ("best thing I've watched all year").


I posted this day-after comment on Facebook (response to comment mentioning Grace Potter, Nicki Minaj, and Baby Queen):

Mostly very quick impressions these days, but I rarely see much movement on second plays. Only Minaj got (or should I say took?) more. Man on Man got a second play, and stayed close (same for Malcolm Holcombe; Priya Ragu's second play slipped a bit). Michel Pastre didn't get a second play, but perhaps should have (should appeal to Scott Hamilton fans, of which I am one; but it broke a streak of five straight ** albums, and I was eager to move on). Baby Queen and AlunaGeorge had previous A- albums, so shouldn't have been surprises, but I had forgotten about them (same for Third Mind). I admire those of you who stick with records and write up well-considered opinions. I fear my own "reviews" these days are little more than diary notes.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Music Week

Expanded blog post, December archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 52 albums, 10 A-list

Music: Current count 41474 [41422] rated (+52), 21 [21] unrated (+0).

The final number of voters in the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll is 159. It took quite a bit of last-minute hustling to reverse what initially looked like a small decline and turn it into a record turnout. Next thing I have to do is to write an essay to introduce that data, and try to make some sense out of it. As usual, I keep stewing on it, leaving me little option but to panic tonight or (more likely, and more panicky) tomorrow. I do have last year's essay, which looks like it might be reusable as a template.

I also have last year's other piece, with tables of past winners and a memoir/history of the Poll. We also usually do an In Memoriam, which I've barely started, but Andrey Henkin's Jazz Passings website already has much more than I need.

I need to get all the writing done by the end of the week, plus clean up some details on the Poll website, so ArtsFuse can publish the results the following week (January 1-5). Results and ballots won't be available there until ArtsFuse is set to go, but the rest of the material is available for anyone who wants to take a peek. I'd appreciate the extra eyes, especially if you catch mistakes or have suggestions to make things clearer or more useful.

I started collecting a few notes on EOY lists, before realizing that I don't have time for such indulgences right now. (Maybe after the 1st?) But here's what I had:

Tim Niland, who (sad to say) shut down his long-running "Music & More" blog mid-last year, posted this 2023 Music Rewind list on Facebook, soon to disappear forever. [PS: more permanent link.]

Some more EOY lists you won't find in AOTY's 2023 Music Year End Lists (which is the main, but not the only, source for my aggregate):

For my lists, I'll just refer you to the index. I'm continuing to update them as I find and hear more. This week's haul is, for once, mostly non-jazz. But I started off the week by exploring Joe Bebco's jazz ballot. Bebco is editor of The Syncopated Times, which is about the only outlet covering trad and swing jazz these days (or "real jazz," as I like to call it). Two of his records hit my A-list, and many more came close.

Despite everything, I managed to scratch out another abbreviated Speaking of Which yesterday. It left me in a very bad mood, especially as I ponder the relationship between the year in jazz and the year in everything else. There is much to be said for listening -- to jazz, of course, or to pretty much any kind of music, which continues to evolve in humane ways that enhance thought, reflection, and/or body movement. One might also note that even if the business seems increasingly perilous, that isn't stopping people from making music and enjoying it.

I'm not sure how I'm going to handle this, but I while I usually end months on the last Monday, I like to extend the last week of December to the end of the month, so the year ends per the calendar. In this case, that means next Sunday (Dec. 31). I didn't want to hold this post back until then, so I'll probably just declare next week over a day early. At any rate, this week isn't end-of-month.


New records reviewed this week:

  • A.S.O.: A.S.O. (2023, Low Lying): [sp]: A-
  • Actress: LXXXVIII (2023, Ninja Tune): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Aluna: Mycelium (2023, Mad Decent): [sp]: A-
  • Avelino: God Save the Streets (2023, More Music/OddChild Music): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Baby Queen: Quarter Life Crisis (2023, Polydor): [sp]: A-
  • David Bandrowski & the Rhumba Defense: French Onion Superman (2021 [2022], self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
  • McKendrick Bearden: Bright as the Mines Out (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Benny Benack III: Third Time's the Charm (2023, La Reserve/Bandstand Presents): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Cigar Box Serenaders: Spasm (2022 [2023], self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Jessi Colter: Edge of Forever (2023, Appalachia): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Dan Ex Machina: Ex's Sexts (2023, self-released): [sp]: A-
  • Mick Flannery: Goodtime Charlie (2023, Oh Boy): [sp]: B
  • Frog & Henry: Italy & England: 2020-2022 (2020-22 [2022], self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • The Garden of Joy: Bouncin' Around (2022 [2023], self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Hannah Gill: Everybody Loves a Lover (2023, Turtle Bay): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Charlie Halloran and the Tropicales: Shake the Rum (2022, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Charlie & the Tropicales: Presents for Everyone! (2023, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Jaimee Harris: Boomerang Town (2023, Thirty Tigers): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr.: Congo Square Suite (2023, Truth Revolution): [sp]: B
  • Malcolm Holcombe: Bits & Pieces (2023, Singular): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Ice Spice: Like . . ? [Deluxe] (2023, 10K Projects/Capitol, EP): [sp]: A-
  • Wata Igarashi: Agartha (2023, Kompakt): [sp]: B+(**)
  • King Krule: Space Heavy (2023, XL/Matador): [sp]: B+(*)
  • MJ Lenderman and the Wind: Live and Loose! (2023, Anti-): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Man on Man: Provincetown (2023, Polyvinyl): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Rainy Miller/Space Afrika: A Grisaille Wedding (2023, Fixed Abode): [sp]: B
  • Nicki Minaj: Pink Friday 2 (2023, Young Money/Republic): [sp]: A-
  • The New Wonders: The New Wonders (2023, Turtle Bay): [bc]: B+(**)
  • NewJeans: Get Up (2023, ADOR, EP): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Michel Pastre/Louis Mazetier/Guillaume Nouaux: Fine Ideas (2023, Camille Productions): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra: Take Me to the Ragtime Dance (2023, Rivermont): [sp]: B
  • Maisie Peters: The Good Witch (2023, Gingerbread Man): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Grace Potter: Mother Road (2023, Fantasy): [sp]: A-
  • Priya Ragu: Santhosam (2023, Warner): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Regal86: La Onda: Groove In-Groove Out (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Logan Richardson: Holy Water (2023, Wax Industry): [sp]: B
  • Molly Ryan: Sweepin\' the Blues Away (2022, Turtle Bay): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Smoking Time Jazz Club: Six Blues, Five Joys & a Stomp (2023, self-released): [sp]: A-
  • Soggy Po Boys: It's Good to Laugh Again (2022, self-released): [sp]: B+(***)
  • The Streets: The Darker the Shadow the Brighter the Light (2023, 679/Warner Music UK): [sp]: B+(**)
  • The Third Mind: The Third Mind/2 (2023, Yep Roc): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Leon Thomas III: Electric Dusk (2023, Ezmny/Motown): [sp]: B+(***)/li>
  • Dlala Thukzin: Permanent Music 3 (2023, Dlala): [sp]: B+(***)
  • David Toop & Lawrence English: The Shell That Speaks the Sea (2023, Room40): [sp]: B
  • Tuba Skinny: Hot Town (2023, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Marta Warelis: A Piece of Earth (2021 [2022], Relative Pitch): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Westside Gunn: And Then You Pray for Me (2023, Griselda/Empire): [sp]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Baikida E.J. Carroll: Orange Fish Tears (1974 [2023], Souffle Continu): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Dick Hyman: One Step to Chicago: The Legacy of Frank Teschemacher and the Austin High Gang (1992 [2022], Rivermont): [sp]: A-

Old music:

  • Molly Ryan: Let's Fly Away (2014 [2015], Loup-Garous Productions): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Molly Ryan: Swing for Your Supper! (2013, Loup-Garous Productions): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Dlala Thukzin: Permanent Music (2020, Dlala): [sp]: A-
  • Dlala Thukzin: Permanent Music 2 (2021, Dlala): [sp]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • None.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

In a recent trawl through my Facebook feed, I came across a meme quoting Benjamin Franklin: "Life's biggest tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late." First thing I was reminded of was that documentary film about the five former Shin Bet chiefs, all of whom had, in their retirement, come to see their tenures as failures, as each had preserved and deepened conflict with Palestinians, instead of working to ameliorate injustice and secure a durable peace. But each in turn, in youthful vigor, had climbed the ranks of the security services by proving to be more aggressive than their predecessors.

The annals of Israeli history are filled with ambitious young men grabbing everything they could, only to turn into old men with regrets. Even Ariel Sharon ended his days with the admission that it's not good for Jews to rule over other people. Old David Ben-Gurion warned against launching the 1967 war, on grounds that have long seemed prescient -- not that he wasn't delighted with the way the war turned out.

My second thought is that this offers a prism for viewing Joe Biden. I quote Jeffrey St Clair below, placing Biden in the line of New Democrats from Clinton to Obama (and back again), which is certainly true of Biden when he was younger, but I can't dismiss the possibility that he's become wiser as he's aged. (Of course, he still has a long ways to go on foreign policy, which is the realm of American politics most completely wrapped up in myth and nonsense.) But also, he reminds us that a big problem with getting old is that you lose the ability to act on whatever wisdom you manage to garner. All the while, his declining polls remind us that the foolish young look for leaders with vigor, which Trump, despite his years and obvious incompetence, manages to fake with brash, reckless promises.


Again this week (no doubt next week as well), I'm mostly working on the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll, so have to limit my time here. I made a quick round of the usual sources, noted things that looked interesting, and mostly left it at that.


Top story threads:

Israel: Latest from New York Times, which can certainly be counted on to echo whatever Israeli leaders want it to say, is: Israel says it is intensifying its campaign against Hamas. That translates as "more genocide."

US, Israel, and a decaying empire:

Zionism, Antisemitism, and Palestinian rights:

Trump, and other Republicans:

The Colorado Supreme Court ruling: They held that Trump's name should be taken off the Republican primary ballot in Colorado, due to the 14th Amendment's prohibition against insurrectionist (i.e., secessionists) holding office. I've ridiculed that argument ever since it was first raised.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:


Other stories:

Bob Hennelly: [12-19] New York City is crumbling -- but officials don't "have enough oomph" to build it back up: "The least any city can do is make sure its buildings remain standing."

Hannah Natanson: [12-23] Half of challenged books return to shools. LGBTQ books are banned most.

Will Oremus: [12-23] Elon Musk promised an anti-'woke' chatbot. Grok is not going as planned.

Jonathan Shorman/Katie Bernard/Amy Renee Leiker/Katie Moore: [12-19] Across Kansas, police conduct illegal search and seizures 'all the time,' upending lives.

Jeffrey St Clair: [12-22] Roaming Charges: The sickness of symbolic things: Title from Fannie Lou Hamer: "I am sick of symbolic things. We are fighting for our lives." Pull quote:

Bill Clinton, Al Gore, HRC, Barack Obama & Biden all share the same New Democrat philosophy: hawkish on defense, pro-business & banks, punitive criminal justice policies and a desire to roll back Great Society social programs. Clinton and Obama had the rhetorical skills to sell symbolism to the base, to make people see what isn't there. The others don't and they paid the political price.

Rolling back "Great Society social programs" was less a desire than a chit they were happy to sacrifice to achieve their business goals. Biden seems less interested on that score, but that may just be because the Democratic base is getting more agitated, demanding not just defense but expansion of the safety net.

Jessi Jezewska Stevens: The relentless growth of degrowth economics.

Zephyr Teachout: [12-11] The big unfriendly tech giants: "We must ensure that corporations aren't able to pick and choose winners and losers in journnalism."

Siva Vaidhyanathan: [12-11] Elon Musk's real threat to democracy isn't what you think: "How the attention-starved CEO took over our communications infrastructure."

Selected obituaries:

I was surprised not to find an obituary for Arno J. Mayer, who died on Dec. 18 at 97. He was one of the very greatest historians of the last century, even since his landmark books Political Origins of the New Diplomacy, 1917-1918 (1959), and Politics and Diplomacy of Peacemaking: Containment and Counterrevolution at Versailles, 1918-1919 (1967). I especially recommend three later works: The Persistence of the Old Regime: Europe to the Great War (1981), Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? The "Final Solution" in History (1988), and Plowshares Into Swords: From Zionism to Israel (2008). He was the first I'm aware of to emphasize the continuity of the World Wars, referring to 1914-45 as "the 30-Years War of the 20th Century." Another item I recommend is Studs Terkel's interview with him in "The Good War". He was born in Luxembourg in 1926, his family reaching the US in 1941, and soon joined the US Army, where while still in his teens was assigned to babysit "high ranking German prisoners of war" (e.g., rocket scientists; Mayer was one of the Ritchie boys, as was Guy Stern, who also died last week). I expect we'll have more to link to next week. Meanwhile:

  • Enzo Traverso: [12-19] Arno J Mayer's 20th century.

  • Counterpunch: Articles by Arno J Mayer. E.g., Israel: The wages of hubris and violence. This was written in 2009, and posted in 2015, but remains insightful:

    Since Israel's foundation, the failure to pursue Arab-Jewish understanding and cooperation has been Zionism's "great sin of omission" (Judah Magnes). At every major turn since 1947-48 Israel has had the upper hand in the conflict with the Palestinians, its ascendancy at once military, diplomatic, and economic. This prepotency became especially pronounced after the Six Day War of 1967. Consider the annexations and settlements; occupation and martial law; settler pogroms and expropriations; border crossings and checkpoints; walls and segregated roads. No less mortifying for the Palestinians has been the disproportionately large number of civilians killed and injured, and the roughly 10,000 languishing in Israeli prisons.

    Despite the recent ingloriousness of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, Israel's ruling and governing class continues to stand imperious. . . . Israelis must ask themselves whether there is a point beyond which the Zionist quest becomes self-defeatingly perilous, corrupting, and degrading.

Monday, December 18, 2023

Music Week

Expanded blog post, December archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 52 albums, 5 A-list

Music: Current count 41422 [41370] rated (+52), 21 [17] unrated (+4).

I've been almost totally swamped in trying to compile the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll. Deadline for ballots was Friday, December 15. I'll admit I was pretty bummed when I went to bed with only 145 ballots counted: down 6 from 2023, down 11 from 2022, so my two years in the helm were beginning to look like a death spiral.

What made this worse is that for the first time ever, I started thinking about how to expand the poll a month before the I needed to send ballots out. I had a list of contacts from a prominent PR guy. I collected the names from the DownBeat Critics Poll. Then I started searching for jazz publications and blogs, and found many more -- some pretty far-flung. I accosted contacts for leads and contact info. I had contacted over 200 possible voters in 2022, and figured 250 this year wouldn't be too much of a stretch.

Then I stumbled. I barely got my initial invite mailing out in mid-November. And while I dashed off a few letters after that, all the way to deadline day, I never came close to my goal. In the end, I only got 25-30 new invites sent out, of which only half sent in ballots (as opposed to 75% from 2022's invite list). But that only came close to making up for the attrition, less than half of which I have any insight into (illness/death, job/career shifts, a lot of "no fucking time," a couple of snits).

One possibly big problem is that it's impossible to verify that an email address works, or rather that it's impossible to distinguish a non-working email address from one that's simply being ignored, or simply being too vigilantly monitored by spam assassin robots. In a few cases, I tried to track down alternative contact routes (I've even tried Facebook messaging). Another source of attrition was the demise of JazzTimes. We've long had 10-12 of their writers voting, and a third or more dropped out this year.

Along the way, my distaste for Substack has grown by leaps and bounds: I don't see any way to contact their users, even in the few cases where I currently subscribe. Ted Gioia is only the most prominent of several searches that dead-ended there. (He claims 84,000 followers there, a really extraordinary number. His top-100 list, which I've tracked for years in my EOY aggregates, is buried behind the wall there.) While a precious few are cashing in big time, and many more figure they have nothing to lose -- indeed, I can think of a few writers, like Christian Iszchak and Brad Luen, who have really blossomed with the platform -- the obvious result is atomization, breaking culture into tiny, isolated droplets. (Of course, this line got the engineer in me to thinking up different ways to structure it, to build collectives instead of tearing them apart, but the lure of money is hard to work around, perhaps even more so when there isn't any.)

Still, I'm feeling better about the Poll today than I was back on Friday. I've extended the deadline, at least for a select few, to Tuesday night (or -- what difference does a few hours make? -- to Wednesday morning). Current ballot count is 154, so there's still a slight chance we'll hit the all-time record. More importantly, some of the late ballots have been real doozies. Just to mention one, Joe Bebco (editor of New Orleans roots rag, The Syncopated Times), managed the rare feat of voting for 16 albums no one else has voted for -- good chance I'll review most of them next week. The album list is up to 743 at the moment, and that's +32 from last year's record number.

I figure I'll start writing my essay on Wednesday. As with last year's essay, I figure I'll start with some data crunching, then try to pick out what's most interesting in the various tables. Whether this will include a capsule summary of the top-ten and the minor list winners may depend on whether Francis Davis beats me to the punch. (He's suggested he might write such a piece, or maybe not, but if he does so, he's promised to do it early. Previous essays were structured that way, followed by his own list. In the past, I've usually been content to link to my list -- up to 75 jazz A/A- this week; the Max Koch album took over the Debut slot in my ballot.)

Almost everything new this week, especially up top, comes from the jazz ballots. My non-jazz list continues to flounder (51 A/A- records, way down from last year). One problem is that I've had virtually no time to work on the EOY aggregate, which is stuck at 94 lists. I need to find time to update the Christgau database with his latest Consumer Guide (my previous grades: Buck 65: A-/A; CMAT: ***; Feelies: **; Megan Moroney: ***; Azuka Moweta: ***; Piconema: A-; Homeboy Sandman: **; not graded yet: Barbie, Dolly Parton, Tele Novela). Then it'll be easier to factor his grades into the Aggregate.

I did manage to squeeze out a relatively cryptic Speaking of Which yesterday. I noticed a couple more things today that I should have noted, so I added them to the file, with some extra mark up (red border-right) to flag the changes. I may make a regular habit of this.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Ambrose Akinmusire: Owl Song (2023, Nonesuch): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Lina Allemano Four: Pipe Dream (2021 [2023], Lumo): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Biig Piig: Bubblegum (2023, RCA, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Vilhelm Bromander: In This Forever Unfolding Moment (2021 [2023], Thanatos): [sp]: A-
  • Filipe Catto: Belezas Sao Coisis Acesas Por Dentro (2023, Joia Moderna): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Ed Cherry: Are We There Yet? (2022 [2023], Cellar): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Avishai Cohen & Abraham Rodriguez Jr.: Iroko (2023, Naïve/Believe): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Ryan Davis & the Roadhouse Band: Dancing on the Edge (2023, Sophomore Lounge: [sp]: B+(**)
  • Marike van Dijk Nonet: Stranded (2022 [2023], Brooklyn Jazz Underground/ZenneZ): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Mike Dillon & Punkadelick: Inflorescence (2023, Royal Potato Family): [sp]: B+(*)
  • The Go! Team: Get Up Sequences Part Two (2023, Memphis Industries): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Laura Groves: Radio Red (2023, Bella Union): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Mats Gustafsson & Ensemble E: EE Opus One (2022 [2023], Trost): [r]: B
  • Mats Gustafsson: Hidros 9: Mirrors (2022 [2023], Trost): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Ron Horton: A Prayer for Andrew (2023, Newvelle): [sp]: A-
  • The Human Hearts: Viable (2023, Open Boat): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Terry Klein: Leave the Light On (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Max Koch: Ten Bulls (2021 [2023], Jazzwerkstatt): [sp]: A-
  • Koma Saxo: Post Koma (2021 [2023], We Jazz): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Marthe Lea Band: Herlighetens Vei (2023, Motvind): [sp]: A-
  • Helge Lien Trio/Tore Brunborg: Funeral Dance (2022 [2023], Ozella Music): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Antti Lötjönen Quintet East: Circus/Citadel (2023, We Jazz): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Tkay Maidza: Sweet Justice (2023, 4AD): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Robin McKelle: Impressions of Ella (2023, Doxie): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Joe McPhee/Mette Rasmussen/Dennis Tyfus: Oblique Strategies (2018 [2023], Black Truffle): [bc]: B
  • Joe McPhee & John Edwards: Tell Me How Long Has Trane Been Gone (For James Baldwin and John Coltrane) (2019 [2022], Klanggalerie): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Palle Mikkelborg/Jakob Bro/Marilyn Mazur: Strands: Live at the Danish Radio Concert Hall (2023, ECM): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Nils Petter Molvaer/Norwegian Radio Orchestra: Certainty of Tides (2023, Modern): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Roy Nathanson: 82 Days (2023, Enja/Yellowbird): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Nation of Language: Strange Disciple (2023, PIAS): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Augusto Pirodda Septet: The Monkey and the Monk (2021 [2022], El Negocito): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Anthony Pirog: The Nepenthe Series Vol. 1 (2023, Otherly Love): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Adam Rudolph/Tyshawn Sorey: Archaisms 1 (2023, Defkaz): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Thollem/Terry Riley/Nels Cline: The Light Is Real (2021-22 [2023], Other Minds): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Micah Thomas: Reveal (2022 [2023], Artwork): [sp]: B+(**)
  • U SCO: Catchin' Heat (2019 [2023], New Atlantis): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Brad Walker + Extended: Side by Side (2021 [2023], self-released): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Web Web x Mar Herre: Web Max II (2023, Compost): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Hailey Whitters: I'm in Love (2023, Big Loud/Pigasus, EP): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Mareike Wiening: Reveal (2023, Greenleaf Music): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Jack Wright: What Is What (2023, Relative Pitch): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Neil Young: Before and After (2023, Reprise): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Zorn: Parrhesiastes (2023, Tzadik): [sp]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Hasaan Ibn Ali: Reaching for the Stars: Trios/Duos/Solos (1962-65 [2023], Omnivore): [sp]: B+(**)
  • As-Shams Archive Vol. 1: South African Jazz, Funk & Soul 1975-1982 (1975-82 [2023], As-Shams Music): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Derek Bailey & Paul Motian: Duo in Concert (1990-91 [2023], Frozen Reeds): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Steve Davis: Meets Hank Jones, Vol. 1 (2008 [2023], Smoke Sessions): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Bill Evans: Tales: Live in Copenhagen (1964) (1964 [2023], Elemental Music): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Joy: Joy (1976 [2023], Cadillac): B+(*)
  • Roland Kirk: Live at Ronnie Scott's 1963 (1963 [2022], Gearbox): [sp]: A-
  • Malombo Jazz Makers: Malompo Jazz (1966 [2023], Strut): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Malombo Jazz Makers: Malombo Jazz Makers Volume 2 (1967 [2023], Strut): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Amina Claudine Myers: Song for Mother E (1979 [2023], Leo): [sp]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • John Zorn: Nove Cantici Per Francesco D'Assisi (2019, Tzadik): [r]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Steven Kamperman: Maison Moderne (Trytone) [09-29]
  • Lothar Ohlmeier/Tobias Klein: Left Side Right (Trytone) [02-16]
  • Reggie Quinerly: The Thousandth Scholar (Redefinition) [01-19]
  • Jim Snidero: For All We Know (Savant) [02-16]

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

I'm extremely preoccupied with other work, so don't expect anything more than the occasional for-future-reference link here. Of course, if I did have time, I could write much about these pieces (but, especially re Gaze, refer to recent weeks. Meanwhile, look for links to Sarah Jones below.

PS: I've added a couple more links and/or comments since this was originally published Sunday afternoon. They are marked with a red right-border, like this one:


Top story threads:

Israel:

Also note that the New York Times has run a collection of articles under the title What is the path to peace in Gaza? The dumbest is "Let NATO nations send troops," by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, although not by a huge margin over Bernard Avishai and Ezzedine Fishere's "The answer lies with Biden." The closest to my thinking is Jerome M Segal's "Grant Gaza statehood." He's much more tentative than my proposals (from recent weeks, shouldn't be hard to look them up), as he misses one key component: that Israel should have absolutely no say in or direction over the territory of Gaza and its people. Israel has proven, beyond any doubt, its incompetence as well as its inhumanity as what used to be called a "mandate" power. The other key point of my plan is that it separates Gaza off from Israel's more general, deeper, and intractable problem with the Palestinians still under its power. While a more general solution is still desirable, the case for separating Gaza off has become extraordinarily more urgent, not just for the people suffering there but also for those who realize the grave peril Israel and the United States are causing to their reputation and standing in the world.

US, Israel, and a decaying empire:

Zionism, Antisemitism, and Palestinian rights:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes: Also see the Sarah Jones article in the main section, which relates to the Kate Cox abortion case but goes much deeper. I've moved other pieces on Cox down there.

Climate, environment, and COP28: Isn't the latter supposed to do something about the former?

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:


Other stories:

David Atkins: [12-13] Conservatives have lost the culture war: Which is why it works for them: it gives them an endless source of complaints, a fount of anger to ride to power on, with nothing they can actually do.

Kyle Chayka: [12-07] The terrible twenties? The assholocene? What to call our chaotic era.

Elise Craig: [12-10] Resilience is invaluable in tough times. Here's how to build it.

Tom Engelhardt: [12-13] Keeping TomDispatch alive: In deeply troubled times: Bills itself as "A regular antidote to the mainstream media." For 23 years, one of the world's most important sources of critical thought and fine writing on the world's really big issues. Only thing I can think of to make it better would be if they took an interest in publishing little old me.

Trip Gabriel: [12-16] Paul Chevigny, early voice on police brutality, dies at 88: "An eminent civil rights lawyer, he was one of the nation's foremost experts on abusive policing. He also successfully challenged New York's Cabaret Law." I remember his book, Police Power: Police Abuses in New York City (published in 1969).

Masha Gessen: [12-09] In the shadow of the Holocaust: I cited this article last week. It has since become news controversy in its own right.

Jeet Heer: [12-15] The 2 Murrays and the age of pretend anarchy: "The strange global influence of anarcho-capitalism." Bookchin and Rothbard: I've noted the name they share before, as I've been fascinated with both.

Jordan Heller: [12-14] An oral history of the George W Bush shoe throwing, 15 years later.

Sarah Jones: [12-14] The anti-abortion movement is anti-human: Read this one:

Abortion opponents try to hide their authoritarian tendencies. In victory, though, their motives are clear, and so is the movement's true character. Forced birth is not an accidental outcome of the end of Roe v. Wade, but rather the primary goal -- no matter the consequences. A woman's needs become secondary to fetal requirements. The viability of a fetus does not seem to matter, nor does the woman's health. Just ask Kate Cox. . . .

These women have revealed a crucial truth: Abortion bans weren't written for human beings. As written, they strip women of their humanity and reimagine them as vessels. A vessel is not a person. A vessel has no rights. A vessel is only useful as long as it is functional. When it is no longer fit for purpose, it is cast aside; there are plenty more where it came from.

Also on abortion and the Cox case:

Inkoo Kang: [12-10] The best TV shows of 2023: Having almost totally lost my appetite for movies, and having given up reading fiction decades ago (never any time), streaming TV series has become my only respite from the long work day. Still, I've only seen four of these: Reservation Dogs; Somebody Somewhere; Barry; and Succession (of course). More TV links:

  • Inkoo Kang: [11-21] Why can't we quit The Morning Show?

  • Inkoo Kang: [12-14] The Crown ends with a whimper. "Without a living protagonist fit to carry it, The Crown is increasingly populated by ghosts."

  • Matthew Gilbert: [12-01] The 10 best TV shows of 2023: Boston Globe piece, so no way I can read the details, but add Bear and Poker Face to the list we've watched, and Fargo from the HMs (which we're in the middle of, same for Slow Horses, and Shetland -- which has taken a very Fargo-ish turn this year). Year End Lists have more lists I should check out, like this one from Playlist, where numbers 20-16 are Full Circle, Slow Horses, Shrinking (which I didn't like, but there's something to it), Justified: City Primeval, and Fargo.

  • Vikram Murthi: [11-21] How Reservation Dogs changed the TV landscape.

Josh Katz/Aatish Bhatia: [12-17] Seven things we learned analyzing 515 million Wordles.

Joshua Keating: [12-13] Why we still underestimate what groups like Hamas are capable of: "Two decades after 9/11l, extremist groups continue to pull off surprise attacks. Why?" Article quotes Erik Dahl: "We have too much information and not enough understanding of what's going on in the world."

Matt McManus: [12-12] It's time to break up with our exploitative political and economic system: Review of Malaika Jabali's book, It's Not You, It's Capitalism: Why It's Time to Break Up and How to Move On.

Charles P Pierce: [12-14] Andre Braugher was one of the greatest actors of his generation.

David Remnick: [12-10] Are we sleepwalking into dictatorship? Liz Cheney has a book to sell you.

Norman Solomon:

Jeffrey St Clair/Alexander Cockburn: [12-15] The sinister career of Ariel Sharon: From Sabra and Shatila to Gaza: Old piece from 2001, when Sharon had just become Prime Minister, so this misses his most politically toxic years, as he systematically demolished the Oslo Accords and the Palestinian Authority. Baruch Kimmerling wrote a good book about Sharon's rule, for which he coined the term Politicide. That's still a pretty accurate term for Israel's plan, although it never fully masked a hope for genocide. Despite the title, the piece does go back before 1982, mentioning the 1951 massacre at Qibya that did so much to establish Sharon's reputation as a war criminal.

Rick Sterling: [12-15] From Dallas to Gaza: How JFK's assassination was good for Zionist Israel.

George Varga: [12-13] Lester Bangs at 75: Legacy of 'America's greatest rock critic' endures 4 decades after his death.

Joan Walsh: [12-14] I finally left Xitter because of Alex Jones. Lots of complicated reasoning can go into deciding whether or not to engage in a social media platform, but the marginal difference of Alex Jones being on or off it is infinitesimally small. Of course, the point could simply be that Jones and Musk are each so bad they deserve each other, but if that were the point, why does Walsh make it about herself?

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Daily Log

Deadline has come for voting in the 18th Annual Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll. I started working on this a bit earlier than usual this year, with the explicit goal of growing the electorate from the 150 or so we've plateaued at in recent years: we hit 141 in 2012 (up from 122 in 2011), and since then: 137, 140, 147, 139, 137, 140, 140, 149, 156, 151. I sent out a little over 200 invites to get those 151, so I figured if I could find another 40-60 people to invite, we ought to be able to get the vote total up to 180, maybe even 200.

Despite the early start, I didn't come close to meeting those goals, and by deadline day I was worrying whether I'd match last year's 151, let alone 2022's record 156. While it's still possible that another ballot (or two or three) may surface, I ended Dec. 15 with 145, and collected three more the morning after, so 148.

Let's try to take stock of the changes:

New voters this time: Katchie Cartwright, Esteban Arizpe Castañeda, Jeff Cebulski, John Corbett, David Cristol, Chuck Eddy, Stephen Graham, Ludovico Granvassu, Jason Gross, James Koblin, Lance Liddle, Brad Luen, Fotis Nikolakopoulos, Kazue Yokoi.

People who were invited, indicated they would vote, but didn't send in ballots in time. I've sent reminders to them: Joe Bebco, Jordannah Elizabeth, Willard Jenkins, Bill Meyer (probably no), Ken Micallef, J.T. Ramsay, George Varga; Glenn Kenny.

Prospective voters who were contacted but declined: S. Victor Aaron, Steve Elman, Allen Lowe, Rick Lopez, Michael Steinman.

Prospective voters who were contacted (with formal invites) but who never replied: Matty Bannond, Robert Barahona, Antonio Branco, Aldo Del Noce, Hannah Edgar, John Eyles, Stef Gijssels, Ian Mann, Marcelo Morales, Keith Prosk, Steve Provizer, J.T. Ramsay, Martin Schray, Fabricio Vieira.

Others who were sent less formal queries asking if they'd be interested, but who never replied: Bruce Lee Galanter, Gary Giddins, Harmony Holiday, Mike Jurkovic, Chris May, Asia Pieczykolan. Seems like there were more but I must not have noted them at the time.

Previous voters who were invited but declined: Michael J. Agovino, Clifford Allen, Mirian Arbalejo, Duck Baker, Bob Blumenthal, Kevin Coultas, Steve Greenlee, David Hajdu (auto), Eugene Holley, Aidan Levy, Howard Mandel (late?), Matt Marshall (?), Allen Morrison (?), John Pietaro, Mac Randall, Bill Shoemaker, Jackson Sinnenberg, Kevin Whitehead (?). Post-deadline: T.R. Johnson.

Previous (mostly recent) voters who were contacted but never replied: Karl Ackermann, Andy Beta(s), Cisco Bradley, Marcela Breton, Richard Brody, Greg Bryant, Robert Bush, Aaron Cohen, Morgan Enos, Sascha Feinstein, Ted Gioia(s)-, Mike Greenblatt, Kira Grunenberg, Evan Haga, Robert Ham, Ed Hazell, Alex Henderson, David Brent Johnson, Matthew Kassel, Brian Kiwanuka, John Litweiler, Martin Longley, Kevin Lynch, Dan McClenaghan, Lee Mergner, Tom Moon, Brian Morton*, John Murph, Russ Musto, Sean J. O'Connell, Simon Rentner, Ronald Schepper, Michael Shanley, Jon Solomon, Alan Young.

Old, long-inactive voters. I tried contacting a few (no response except as noted): Bridget A. Arnwine, David Fricke, Lyn Horton (declined), Marc Myers, Doug Ramsey, Gio Russonello.

For most I lacked email addresses: A.D. Amorosi, Glenn Astarita, Bradley Bambarger, Angelika Beener, Nick Bewsey, Paul Blair, Michael Bourne, Nate Cavalieri, Alan Chase, Fred Cisterna, Sharonne Cohen, Owen Cordle, Donald Elfman, Brad Farberman, Sean Fitzell, Colin Fleming, David Franklin, Sasha Frere-Jones, Will Friedwald, Laurel Gross, Jason Gubbels, Don Heckman, Will Hermes, Patrick Jarenwattananon, Larry Kart, Mark Keresman, Joe Lang, John McDonough, Ted Panken, Thierry Pérémarti, Bob Porter, Craig Premo, Tom Reney, Joel Roberts, Chris Robinson, Alex W. Rodriguez, Michael Rosenstein, Karl Stark, Thomas Staudter, Chip Stern, Zan Stewart, Jeff Stockton, Perry Tannenbaum, Greg Thomas, Anastasia ?Tsiouclas, Mark F. Turner, Jon Wertheim, Jim Wilke, Carlo Wolff.

After all the above is said and done, I've also sent invites to: Mark Lomanno.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Music Week

Expanded blog post, December archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 49 albums, 5 A-list

Music: Current count 41370 [41321] rated (+49), 17 [6] unrated (+11).

Let's see how quickly I can knock this out.

Speaking of which yesterday. Abbreviated intro and pretty much the same old news, but still came to 5184 words (114 links).

Lots of records below, but fewer A-list than in the last couple weeks, so diminishing returns? Two came from jazz poll ballots, and two from Chuck Eddy's latest PJPR post.

Deadline for the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll is coming up fast: Friday, December 15. I have 77 ballots counted. Hopefully we'll add at least that many more. It will be dispiriting (and a personal embarrassment) if we don't. Right now New Releases is a very tight two-album race. Total number of albums with votes is over 500.

EOY Aggregate has grown slowly as I fall ever farther behind. Last I checked it was a dead heat between Boygenius and Olivia Rodrigo, with Caroline Polachek close in third.

I'm updating my other lists as I go along, but have nothing much to report there.

I filed the following as my Jazz ballot:

New Releases:

  1. Rodrigo Amado/The Bridge: Beyond the Margins (Trost)
  2. Irreversible Entanglements: Protect Your Light (Impulse!)
  3. Steve Lehman/Orchestre National de Jazz: Ex Machina (Pi)
  4. James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: For Mahalia, With Love (Tao Forms)
  5. The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Harvesters (Aerophonic)
  6. George Coleman: Live at Smalls Jazz Club (Cellar)
  7. Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Sixth Decade From Paris to Paris: Live at Sons D'Hiver (RogueArt)
  8. Jason Kao Hwang Critical Response: Book of Stories (True Sound)
  9. Emmet Cohen: Master Legacy Series Volume 5: Featuring Houston Person (Bandstand Presents)
  10. Farida Amadou/Jonas Cambien/Dave Rempis: On the Blink (Aerophonic)

Rara Avis (Reissues/Historical):

  1. Roy Hargrove: The Love Suite: In Mahogany (1993, Blue Engine)
  2. Steve Swell's Fire Into Music: For Jemeel: Fire From the Road (2003-04, RogueArt)
  3. François Carrier Ensemble: Openness (2006, Fundacja Sluchaj)

Vocal:

  1. Lisa Marie Simmons/Marco Cremaschini: NoteSpeak 12 (Ropeadope)

Debut:

  1. Dave Bayles Trio: Live at the Uptowner (Calligram)

Latin:

  1. Aruán Ortiz: Pastor's Paradox (Clean Feed)

I should probably just give up on trying to vote in the three specialist categories, as I have little sense of them anymore. Good chance my vote is the only one for each of the three (although Ortiz does have votes for Serranias, which seems to be regarded as more authentic or paradigmatic (or whatever the word is).


New records reviewed this week:

  • Bar Italia: The Twits (2023, Matador): [sp]: B+(***)
  • John Blum/David Murray/Chad Taylor: The Recursive Tree (2022 [2023], Relative Pitch): [sp]: A-
  • ML Buch: Suntub (2023, 15 Love): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Dave Burrell: Harlem Rhapsody (2023, Parco Della Musica): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Adriana Calcanhotto: Errante (2023, Modern/BMG): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Call Super: Eulo Cramps (2023, Can You Feel the Sun): [sp]: V+(**)
  • Chory Thicket [Christy Doran/Ronan Guilfoyle/Gerry Hemingway]: A Breath of Time (2023, Auricle): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Chouk Bwa & the Ängstromers: Somanti (2023, Bongo Joe): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Creation Rebel: Hostile Environment (2023, On-U Sound): [sp]: A-
  • Harold Danko: Trillium (2023, SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(**)
  • DJ +1: Aromáticas (2023, También): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Nick Dunston: Skultura (2022 [2023], Fun in the Church): [sp]: B
  • Hilario Duran and His Latin Jazz Big Band: Cry Me a River (2023, Alma): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Ekiti Sound: Drum Money (2023, Crammed Discs): [sp]: B+(*)
  • The Feelies: Some Kinda Love: Performing the Music of the Velvet Underground (2018 [2023], Bar/None): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Alan Ferber Nonet: Up High, Down Low (2022 [2023], Sunnyside): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Funkwrench Blues: Soundtrack for a Film Without Pictures (2023, Need to Know): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Muriel Grossmann: Devotion (2023, Third Man, 2CD): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Miho Hazama's M_unit: Beyond Orbits (2023, Edition): [sp]: A-
  • Lisa Hilton: Coincidental Moment (2023, Ruby Slippers): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Mary Lattimore: Goodbye, Hotel Arkada (2023, Ghostly International): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Ingrid Laubrock: Monochromes (2022 [2023], Intakt): [dl]: B+(*)
  • Lenhart Tapes: Dens (2023, Glitterbeat): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Gregory Lewis: Organ Monk Going Home (2022 [2023], Sunnyside): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Mat Maneri Quartet: Ash (2021 [2023], Sunnyside): [sp]: B+(***
  • Lesley Mok: The Living Collection (2021 [2023], American Dreams): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Mozart Estate: Pop-Up! Ker-Ching! and the Possibilities of Modern Shopping (2023, West Midlands/Cherry Red): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Nihiloxica: Source of Denial (2023, Crammed Discs): [sp]: A-
  • Maciej Obara Quartet: Frozen Silence (2022 [2023], ECM): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Endea Owens and the Cookout: Feel Good Music (2023, BassBae Music): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Jeb Patton: Preludes (2021 [2023], Cellar Music): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Eddie Prevost/NO Moore/James O'Sullivan/Ross Lambert: Chord (2022 [2023], Shrike): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Amy Rigby: Cut & Run (2022, Southern Domestic): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Amy Rigby: Cut Two (2023, Southern Domestic): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Say She She: Silver (2023, Colemine): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Slowdive: Everything Is Alive (2023, Dead Oceans): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Simon Spillett Big Band: Dear Tubby H (2023, Mister PC): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Elias Stemeseder/Christian Lillinger: Umbra (2022 [2023], Intakt): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Sultan Stevenson: Faithful One (2022 [2023], Whirlwind): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Loren Stillman: Time and Again (2022 [2023], Sunnyside): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Two Shell: Lil Spirits (2023, Mainframe Audio, EP): [sp]: A-
  • Martina Verhoeven Quintet: Driven: Live at Roadburn 2022 (2022, Klanggalerie): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Colin Webster Large Ensemble: First Meeting (2022 [2023], Raw Tonk): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Wilco: Cousin (2023, dBpm): [sp]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • John Butcher & Gerry Hemingway: Roulette - New York City (2005) (2005 [2023], Auricle): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Clairvoyance Is the Dance (2023, Huveshta Rituals): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Luis Russell: At the Swing Cats Ball: Newly Discovered Recordings From the Closet: Volume 1 1938-1940 (1938-40 [2023], Dot Time): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Bernie Worrell/Cindy Blackman Santana/John King: Spherical (1994 [2023], Infrequent Seams): [sp]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Lenart Tapes: Duets (2021, Novo Doba): [sp]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Alia Trio: Shaped by Sea Waves (Edgetone) [07-07]
  • Frank Carlberg Large Ensemble: Elegy for Thelonious (Sunnyside) [03-08]
  • The Rob Dixon/Steve Allee Quintet: Standards Deluxe (self-released) [02-01]
  • Anne Foucher & Jean-Marc Foussat: Chair Ça (Fou) []
  • Jean-Marc Foussat/Daunik Lazro: Trente-Cinq Minutes & Vingt-Trois Secondes (Fou) []
  • Amanda Gardier: Auteur: Music Inspired by the Films of Wes Anderson (self-released) [01-26]
  • Riley Mulherkar: Riley (Westerlies) [02-16]
  • Noertker's Moxie: In Flitters: 49 Bits From B*ck*tt (Edgetone) [11-07]
  • Bill Scorzari: Through These Waves (self-released '16)
  • Bill Scorzari: Now I'm Free (self-released '19)
  • Bill Scorzari: The Crosswinds of Kansas (self-released '22)/li>
  • Rob Sussman: Top Secret Lab (Sus4music) [12-12]

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

Woke up yesterday thinking of an introduction I might write in lieu of gathering links, a task I really don't have time for this week. But I gathered a few links instead. So I'm barely going to hint at an introduction here. Some of that is time, but there's also an element of "fuck it!" too. As Molly Ivins was known to say, "lie down with dogs, get up with fleas!" The government of Israel is committing genocide in Gaza (and slower but no less surely in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem), and the government in Washington is fully committed to helping and defending them (despite the occasional "tsk, tsk" -- surely I don't need to quote Moshe Dayan again on what Israelis think of American "opinions"?). Meanwhile, Washington is funding a hopeless war in Ukraine just to marginalize and alienate Russia, and, well, too many other things to list here.

And no matter how careful we are at distinguishing between the specific groups of people responsible for all this, we are all going to feel the effects of a generalized backlash, because, well, that's just how people operate. They may not be exacting at ferreting out root causes, but they understand when they've been wronged, and they can find the general direction those wrongs are coming from. And, really, the political leaders in Jerusalem and in Washington have no answer, since they're more guilty of such gross generalizations than anyone.

Anyhow, basta per ora! I have some real work to get to. And then, latkes and chopped liver on rye rolls for a midweek Hannukah dinner.


Top story threads:

Israel:

Related tweets (h/t to Means testing is divisive, wasteful and punitive for many of these):

  • Ryan Grim [refers to image on right]:
    Perfect distillation here: it might seem obvious but actually it's complicated and unclear

  • Joshua Leifer:
    Two months into the war, Israel still has no plan--not now, now for the day afterward. Listening to interviews with former security officials, it's clear the strategy is one of gruesome improvisation: inflict maximum carnage, see what happens next. 1/

    It's the old Israel mindset--it'll work out--but with an unimaginable human toll. From their perspective, any number of scenarios might still occur: Humanitarian catastrophe and refugee crisis that spills into Egypt; loss of Hamas legitimacy that precipitates surrender 2/

    But that means it is unlikely Israeli defense officials will set a clearer goal other than the expressive "take down Hamas." 3/

    The untold civilian casualties, the horrific images of detainees stripped naked--these are intentional decisions by IDF, operating under the logic that through enough force and suffering and dehumanizing, Hamas will give up. 4/

    In some interviews, officials boast about this operational "flexibility," unlike the US operational culture where everything gets a PowerPoint 5/

  • Doo B. Doo:
    Evidence on the ground indicate policies of extermination & forcible transfer. By making Gaza uninhabitable and imposing siege, Israel creates a "fact on the ground" that will put maximum pressure on int'l community to accommodate transfer. There is no shelter for Gazans.

  • Yousef Munayyer [responding to Tony Blinken tweet celebrating "75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights"]:
    If I had to sit down and try to formulate a strategy for spreading anti-Americanism around the globe, I don't think I could come up with something more effective than what the Biden administration has been doing for the last two months.

  • Jeff Melnick:
    Probably unnecessary reminder: every college administrator issuing a statement that centers concerns around antisemitism on their campus is actively working to call your attention away from the genocide happening right in front of our eyes.
    Don't believe the hype--it's a sequel.

  • Nathan J Robinson:
    Israel is operating on a quite simple theory. Make Gaza entirely unlivable, and then the choice facing the international community will be to either let Gazans all die or agree to "resettle" them elsewhere. This is said openly among Israeli officials ("second Nakba").

  • Tony Karon:
    Israeli apartheid is rooted in the nationalist ideology of Zionism. Most of the world is appalled by Zionist violence vs Palestinians. To brand anti-Zionism anti-Semitism literally promotes anti-Semitism, because it holds Jews collectively responsible for Israel's outrages

  • Jeff Melnick:
    If you want to understand the cooked-up "campus antisemitism" crisis, it's really simple: the Zionist project simply cannot exist without regular infusions of "antisemitism"--real or imagined. It is literally the lifeblood of this political, cultural, and military formation.

There's also this video of an Israeli soldier happily vandalizing a gift shop "after destroying the area and killing or expelling residents."

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

  • Kevin T Dugan: [12-04] Wall Street has decided it's time to get greedy again: Actually, they never decided not, but are hoping you're not paying attention this time.

  • Paul Krugman: [12-07] The progressive case for Bidenomics: "Don't let the perfect get in the way of the coulda been worse." Basically the same line he used to convince me that Obamacare was the best we could do under the circumstances. Maybe this will be the Democratic Party's 2024 slogan: "Aim for imperfect, but settle for 'coulda been worse.'"

Ukraine War:

  • Blaise Malley: [12-08] Diplomacy Watch: New Ukraine aid not likely this year: "Biden tried his hardest to make it a matter of war or peace this week."

  • Benjamin Hart: [12-04] Why Russia could win the Ukraine War next November: Interview with war guru John Nagl. Next November is, of course, when Americans could decide to throw in the towel and return Donald Trump to office, screwing Ukraine. He admits that even if Ukrainians "are killing ten Russians for every one they lose," it's not decisive, or "even particularly important." But he continues to look on the bright side: "at some point, Putin is in fact going to die." After all, he's only ten years younger than Biden.

  • Fred Kaplan: [12-08] Republicans are on the verge of delivering Putin a big Christmas gift.

  • Fredrick Kunkle/Serhii Korolchuk: [12-08] Ukraine cracks down on draft-dodging as it struggles to find troops. I thought that one of the lessons of Vietnam was that you can't fight a modern war with slave labor (uh, drafted troops). Ukrainians fought brilliantly for the first six months of this war: they were highly motivated to defend their people, were relatively unencumbered by problems of logistics and advanced weaponry, and faced an invading army mostly composed of poorly motivated draftees. They even posted some gains in late 2022, but nothing but death and drudgery since then.

  • Anatol Lieven: [11-29] Biden's role in Ukraine peace is clear now: "It's not enough for Washington to urge talks from behind the scenes, while insisting in public that only Kyiv can negotiate."

  • Branko Marcetic: [12-04] Did the West deliberately prolong the Ukraine war?: "Mounting evidence proves that we cannot believe anything our officials say about the futility of negotiations."

  • Washington Post: [12-04] Miscalculations, divisions marked offensive planning by U.S., Ukraine. Looking at the map here, I find myself thinking that ending the war there wouldn't be such a bad idea. They're still using the June 7 frontline because so little has changed since then -- latest I heard was that the much touted Ukrainian counteroffensive has netted minus-four square miles of territory, at which rate the reconquista will take . . . well, much longer than Ukraine, even if American support doesn't fade away, can afford. Most of the territory was ethnically Russian before 2014, and it's more so now. The rest of Ukraine would be free to join Europe, and start to rebuild, with virtually no sympathy for Russia. And Putin would still have to negotiate with the US and Europe over sanctions, so there would be plenty of leverage left.

Around the world (and America's crumbling empire):


Other stories:

David Barnett: [12-10] Groundbreaking graphic novel on Gaza rushed back into print 20 years on: Joe Sacco's Palestine. You might also be interested in Harvey Pekar's Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me (2012).

Rhoda Feng: [12-08] The work of black life: A conversation with Christina Sharpe: Author of the recent book, Ordinary Notes.

David Friedlander: [12-08] Why does no one trust No Labels? "The group says it doesn't want to elect Trump. The problem is everything else it says."

Masha Gessen: [12-09] In the shadow of the Holocaust.

Melvin Goodman: [12-07] The Washington Post gratuitously and wronglyh trashes Jimmy Carter: In favor of Henry Kissinger? There are lots of things I didn't like about Carter's foreign policy, but they were mostly Cold War stances extending from Nixon-Kissinger to Reagan. It is interesting that while Reagan slammed Carter for "giving away" the Panama Canal, he never made the slightest effort to reverse Carter's treaty (nor did Bush, when he actually invaded Panama for other reasons). One thing not mentioned here is how Carter backed Israel down from intervening in Lebanon in 1978. Four years later, Reagan turned Israel loose, starting a war that lasted 18 years (plus later flare-ups), which did more than anything pre-9/11 to turn Arabs against the US.

David C Hendrickson: [12-05] The morality of ending war short of 'total victory': "'Just and Unjust Wars' author Michael Walzer seems to believe there is a humane way to destroy Hamas in Gaza. That's not true." This may be meant to be part of the Israel/Palestine debate, but I thought we should give it a wide berth. Walzer is a philosopher who seeks the high ground on morality but more often than not winds up deeply complicit in mass murder. This is hard to read and parse because at this point I really don't care what Walzer thinks any more. What might help would be to realize, as many Israelis do, that Hamas is inextricable from the Palestinian people; that as long as Israel treats Palestinians as they do, some will be driven to fight back, and they will ally in groups like Hamas. As long as key Americans buy the notion that evil Hamas can be surgically excised from ordinary Palestinians, they compliantly support Israel's indiscriminate campaign, and as such as complicit in Israel's genocide. Which is exactly what so many Israelis wanted all along.

Nathan J Robinson: [11-26] The rise and fall of crypto lunacy: Interview with Zeke Faux, author of Number Go Up: Inside Crypto's Wild Rise and Staggering Fall.

Michael Slager: [12-07] The trouble with evil.

Paul Starr: [12-08] The life-and-death cost of conservative power: "New research shows widening gaps between red and blue states in life expectancy." The chart specifically contrasts Connecticut and Oklahoma.

Jeffrey St Clair: [12-08] Roaming Charges: Leave it to the men in charge.

Peter Taylor: [11-20] Brazil's Tropicália movement was the soundtrack to resistance to the military. I'll just note that my one big disappointment with Mark Kurlansky's 1968: The Year That Rocked the World was the absence of a chapter on Brazil. This is why.

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Daily Log

Time to settle on my ballot for the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll.

New Releases:

  1. Rodrigo Amado/The Bridge: Beyond the Margins (Trost)
  2. Irreversible Entanglements: Protect Your Light (Impulse!)
  3. Steve Lehman/Orchestre National de Jazz: Ex Machina (Pi)
  4. James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: For Mahalia, With Love (Tao Forms)
  5. The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Harvesters (Aerophonic)
  6. George Coleman: Live at Smalls Jazz Club (Cellar)
  7. Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Sixth Decade From Paris to Paris: Live at Sons D'Hiver (RogueArt)
  8. Jason Kao Hwang Critical Response: Book of Stories (True Sound)
  9. Emmet Cohen: Master Legacy Series Volume 5: Featuring Houston Person (Bandstand Presents)
  10. Farida Amadou/Jonas Cambien/Dave Rempis: On the Blink (Aerophonic)

Rara Avis (Reissues/Historical):

  1. Roy Hargrove: The Love Suite: In Mahogany (1993, Blue Engine)
  2. Steve Swell's Fire Into Music: For Jemeel: Fire From the Road (2003-04, RogueArt)
  3. François Carrier Ensemble: Openness (2006, Fundacja Sluchaj)

Vocal:

  1. Lisa Marie Simmons/Marco Cremaschini: NoteSpeak 12 (Ropeadope)

Debut:

  1. Dave Bayles Trio: Live at the Uptowner (Calligram)

Latin:

  1. Aruán Ortiz: Pastor's Paradox (Clean Feed)


Finally looked at Spotify's "unwrapped" presentation. Overall stats are probably indicative of something: 13,190 songs; 69,325 minutes (565 on April 4); 2,941 artists. Probably got my money's worth.

More dubious is: listened to 6 genres (only 6?), the top three stacked up as: rap, jazz saxophone, alternative hip-hop. Surely at that level of granularity, the actual number must be 30+ (maybe much plus). This suggests they threw out everything under a cutoff (say, 1%).

Less useful is the ranking of my top artists: Barb Jungr, John Zorn, Billy Woods, Corook, Margaret Glaspy. The first two can be traced back to "dives," where I checked out ten or so albums in fairly quick succession. That included most of Jungr, but barely scratched the recent Zorns. The others are no more than 3 titles, with some replays because I had trouble sorting them. Top songs were by Glaspy and Noname (same explanation). To call these "favorites" shows zero understanding of my methodology.

They did note that "you like to play albums all the way through, from opening track to the final note." We have a word for that: "work."

I summed this up in a Facebook comment:

I took a look at my Spotify "unwrapped" for 2023. Stats seem reasonable: 13,190 songs, 69,325 minutes (565 on April 4), 2,941 artists. 6 genres seems low given the granularity (top 3: rap, jazz saxophone, alternative hip-hop). "Favorites" are useless: two songs each by Margaret Glaspy and Noname (I doubt I played any of them more than 5 times, and only that because I was struggling with the albums). Favorite artists? Barb Jungr, John Zorn, Billy Woods, Corook, Glaspy. The first two were moderately deep dives. The others were problem cases that required 3-5 plays, on records I have yet to return to. They also noted: "Your concentration is absolute, friend. You like to play albums all the way through." I wouldn't rate my concentration at more than 3%, and I'd take the fact of letting albums play out as evidence of that. No doubt there are algorithms at play here, but dwim is still a long ways off. (In case you don't recognize the term, "dwim" is an old hacker joke from the 1980s, from "do what I mean" -- as opposed to the bad code I actually wrote -- although it also worked as a telos for primitive artificial intelligence efforts.)

Monday, December 04, 2023

Music Week

Expanded blog post, December archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 59 albums, 9 A-list

Music: Current count 41321 [41262] rated (+59), 6 [2] unrated (+4).

Running late, so let's make this quick.

Massive Speaking of Which yesterday (7422 words, 173 links), mostly on the genocide Israel is committing, and not just in Gaza, but the death of Henry Kissinger occasioned many glances back into the many atrocities he helped along.

There is also a Q&A related to Hamas, to which I've added a postscript, where everyone doubles down. There's a music review question there, too.

The Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll is coming along nicely, with 48 ballots submitted and counted so far. Deadline is December 15, so a bit less than two weeks away. I meant to send out a reminder to the voters today, but got distracted by other work. Maybe tonight, for sure by tomorrow.

One piece of work is that I wrote up a script to list out the albums that have received votes so far. As the guy counting the ballots, I've been in the enviable position of seeing all this prospecting work, so I thought I should share it. Albums are sorted alphabetically by artist, so you can't tell standings from the lists, but you are certain to discover things you weren't aware of. (At least, I certainly have. All four of this week's A-list jazz albums were unknown to me before the Poll started -- although two of them were recent promos sent to me, that haven't yet received any votes. Two non-jazz albums first came to my attention on Phil Overeem's latest list, which I still have a lot of catching up on.)

I did create my EOY aggregate list file(s), to which I've added 35 lists so far. I usually wind up with more than 300 lists (last year 565), but there is no guarantee I'm going to go that crazy this year.

My own EOY lists for Jazz and Non-Jazz continue to grow (currently 69 and 47 new A/A- albums, respectively). I meant to firm up my Jazz ballot for today's post, but didn't make it on time. Still, the top dozen-plus have been pretty stable recently, with additions landing well down.

I'm probably missing some stuff, especially on indexing. I know I meant to do more maintenance work on the Poll website, yet I've done very little.

Almost done with Viet Tranh Nguyen's Nothing Ever Dies, and I'm getting tired of it. I've long understood how memories of war are orchestrated to promote more wars, not least because I grew up with a counterexample: my father had no fond memories of his "service" in WWII, and while he had no quarrel with the mission, he was quite certain that his role in it was utterly superfluous (unlike the years before and after when he helped build the B-29s, B-47s, and B-52). Next up is the final chapter on "forgetting," which is long overdue.

Not sure what's next to read, but I'm checking Norman Finkelstein's Gaza for reference. I've read a vast amount of material on every aspect of the conflict, so lots of things are instantly clear to me that seem to hopelessly befuddle others. One thing I will say is that the recent books I've read on 1848 impressed on me that we're not very far removed from an age where revolutionary change was only possible through violence -- in large part because it was always resisted with violence. The latter is often still the case today, which is a big problem for the world.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Aesop Rock: Integrated Tech Solutions (2023, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [sp]: B+(**)
  • André 3000: New Blue Sun (2023, Epic): [sp]: B
  • Artchipel Orchestra With Jonathan Coe: Suspended Moment: The Music of Jonathan Coe (2021 [2023], British Progressive Jazz): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Assiko Golden Band de Grand Yoff: Magg Tekki (2023, Mississippi): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Richard Baratta: Off the Charts (2023, Savant): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Michael Bates: Metamorphoses: Variations on Lutoslawski (2022 [2023], Anaklasis): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Antonio Borghini: Banquet of Consequences (2023, We Insist!): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bounaly: Dimanche à Bamako (2023, Sahel Sounds): [sp]: A-
  • Danny Brown: Quaranta (2023, Warp): [sp]: A-
  • VV Brown: Am I British Yet? (2023, YOY): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Buck 65/Doseone/Jel: North American Adonis (2023, Handsmade): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Butcher Brown: Solar Music (2023, Concord Jazz): [sp]: B
  • Chicago Edge Ensemble: The Individualists (2023, Lizard Breath): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Michael Dease: Swing Low (2023, Posi-Tone): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Hannah Diamond: Perfect Picture (2023, PC Music): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Aaron Diehl & the Knights: Zodiac Suite (2023, Mack Avenue): [sp]: B-
  • Marcelo Dos Reis & Luís Vicente: (Un)prepared Pieces for Guitar and Trumpet (2022 [2023], Cipsela): [cd]: A-
  • Marcelo Dos Reis: Flora (2023, JACC): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Shuteen Erdenebaatar Quartet: Rising Sun (2021 [2023], Motéma Music): [sp]: B+(***)
  • My World (2023, Arbors): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Don Fiorino/Andy Haas: Accidentals (2023, Resonant Music): [cd]: A-
  • Five-Way Split: All the Way (2023, Ubuntu Music): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet: As Things Do (2022 [2023], Intakt): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Sullivan Fortner: Solo Game (2023, Artwork): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Ghost Train Orchestra and Kronos Quartet: Songs and Symphoniques: The Music of Moondog (2023, Cantaloupe): [sp]: A-
  • Hamell on Trial: Bring the Kids (2023, Saustex): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Lafayette Harris Jr.: Swingin' Up in Harlem (2023, Savant): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Benjamin Herman: Nostalgia Blitz (2023, Dox): [sp]: A-
  • Nitai Hershkovits: Call on the Old Wise (2022 [2023], ECM): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Anthony Hervey: Words From My Horn (2023, Outside In Music): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Jungle: Volcano (2023, Caiola/AWAL): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Sean Mason: The Southern Suite (2023, Blue Engine): [sp]: B+(*)
  • MIKE: Burning Desire (2023, 10K): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Lisa O'Neill: All of This Is Chance (2023, Rough Trade): [sp]: B+(**)
  • OMD [Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark]: Bauhaus Staircase (2023, 100%): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Ryoko Ono/Satoko Fujii: Hakuro (2023, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • PinkPantheress: Heaven Knows (2023, Warner UK): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Tineke Postma: Aria (2022 [2023], Edition): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Mette Rasmussen/Paul Flaherty/Zach Rowden/Chris Corsano: Crying in Space (2019 [2023], Relative Pitch): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Ernesto Rodrigues/Dirk Serries/Joao Madeira/Jose Oliveira: Dripping (2023, Creative Sources): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Aksel Røed's Other Aspects: Do You Dream in Colours? (2023, Is It Jazz?): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Alex Sipiagin: Mel's Vision (2022 [2023], Criss Cross): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Guido Spannocchi: Live at Porgy & Bess Vienna (2022 [2023], Audioguido): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Haralabos [Harry] Stafylakis: Calibrating Friction (2023, New Amsterdam): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Chris Stapleton: Higher (2023, Mercury Nashville): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Earl Sweatshirt & the Alchemist: Voir Dire (2023, ALC/Tan Cressida): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Isaiah J. Thompson: The Power of the Spirit (2023, Blue Engine): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Tyvek: Overground (2023, Ginkgo): [sp]: A-
  • VHS Head: Phocus (2023, Skam): [sp]: B+(*)
  • J.D. Walter: The Last Muse (2023, Arkadia): [sp]: B-
  • Jeppe Zeeberg: Occasionally, Good Things Do Happen (2023, self-released): [sp]: B-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Geri Allen/Kurt Rosenwinkel: A Lovesome Thing (2012 [2023], Motéma Music): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Axolotl: Abrasive (1981 [2023], Souffle Continu: [bc]: B+(*)
  • Graham Collier Music: Smoke-Blackened Walls & Curlews (1970 [2023], British Progressive Jazz): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Don Ellis: How Time Passes (1960 [2023], Candid): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Jean-Marc Foussat: Abattage (1973-81, Fou): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ibrahim Hesnawi: The Father of Libyan Reggae ([2023], Habibi Funk): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Wynton Marsalis: Plays Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens (2006 [2023], Blue Engine) **
  • Mike Osborne: Starting Fires: Live at the 100 Club 1970 (1970 [2023], British Progressive Jazz): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Pet Shop Boys: Smash: The Singles 1985-2020 (1985-2020 [2023], Parlophone, 3CD): [r]: A-
  • Todd Snider: Crank It, We're Doomed (2007 [2023], Aimless): [sp]: A-

Old music:

  • Don Fiorino/Andy Haas: American Nocturne (2018, Resonant Music): [bc]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Marcelo Dos Reis: Flora (JACC) [09-01]
  • Marcelo Dos Reis & Luís Vicente: (Un)prepared Pieces for Guitar and Trumpet (Cispela) [10-01]
  • Don Fiorino/Andy Haas: Accidentals (self-released)
  • Jean-Marc Foussat: Abattage (1973-81, Fou)
  • Satoko Fujii Tokyo Trio: Jet Black (Libra) [01-24]
  • Adam Schroeder/Mark Masters: CT! Adam Schroeder & Mark Masters Celebrate Clark Terry (Capri) [01-19]
  • Josh Sinton: Couloir & Book of Practitioners Vol. 2 (Form Is Possibility, 2CD) [01-12]

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

I spent some time today crafting a Q&A on "two fundamental flaws in your thinking" about Hamas, Palestine, and Israel. It draws on my comment to the De Luca/Cavazuti piece on Hamas, below. There is, of course, zero chance that Biden's going to tell Netanyahu: hey, maybe Hamas has a point after all, so let's talk about it a bit, before we get too carried away with this war thing.

Like I said, zero chance. Which leads me to ask an even deeper question: what's the use of having all this wealth and power if it just locks you into doing senseless things that are stupid and cruel? I can see where Hamas might use their power to do something so self-destructive, because they don't have enough power to get noticed otherwise. But Israel and the United States have so much wealth and power, they could actually put it to some good, and people would love it. Instead, they just blow things up and kill and starve people. And maybe they wonder a bit why so many people despise them, but not so much really, because no one else has the power (or the death wish) to stop them.


Top story threads:

Israel: The "pause" for exchanging prisoners (aka hostages) ended on Friday, with Israel immediately resuming its bombardment of Gaza. The number of Palestinians confirmed killed and the number of displaced passed the total levels of the 1948-50 war (aka Nakba) -- although the displaced are still locked in besieged Gaza, instead of scattered in the exile Israel is working so hard to promote. The euphemism "ethnic cleansing" has become a common term for the forced expulsion of people from their homes (in Gaza, many of which were already refugee encampments, set up as temporary during the 1948-50 war). But the more formal legal term is "genocide," which is still the most accurate description of the war Israel is waging, and of the professed intentions behind this war. The whole world should find this alarming, especially those in the democracies that have long given Israel their support, even in its project to turn a haven for oppressed Jews into a fortress of ethnic supremacy.

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Henry Kissinger: He died, a nice round 100 years old, elites sucking up to him to the very end. Which raises the question: who is the new worst person in the world? (Here's a reddit thread, which still needs some work -- although I'd keep Murdoch and Netanyahu for the short list, maybe Putin too. More fun is who Kissinger succeeded? If not his partner-in-crime, Nixon, I'd nominate Winston Churchill, who exceeded Kissinger not only in the amount of damage he caused, but also in the amount of praise -- if not necessarily money -- he collected along the way. One difference was that people kept forgetting Churchill's disasters, allowing him more chances, whereas Kissinger's crimes were studiously documented (as will be evident below), even though people in power never seemed to care.


Other stories:

Tim Alberta: [12-01] The bogus historians who teach evangelicals they live in a theocracy: "A new book on the Christian right reveals how a series of unscrupulous leaders turned politics in to a powerful and lucrative gospel." That would be Alberta's own book: The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism.

Jeremy Barr: [11-30] MSNBC draws backlash for canceling Mehdi Hasan show. Also:

Ryan Cooper:

Chas Danner/Nia Prater: [12-01] George Santos has been expelled from Congress: Live updates. The House vote was 311-114: Democrats voted 206-2 (2 present) to expel; Republicans 112-105 to not expel. The measure required a two-thirds supermajority (282 votes). Five Republicans (including Kevin McCarthy) and three Democrats (including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) did not vote.

Silvia Foster-Frau/N Kirkpatrick/Arelia R Hernández: [11-16] Terror on Repeat: "A rare look at the devastation caused by AR-15 shootings."

Penelope Green: [11-30] Larry Fink, whose photographs were 'political, not polemical,' dies at 82. I noted Larry's death last week, and complained that the New York Times didn't have an obituary up. (When his sister, Elizabeth Fink, died a few years back, her obituary appeared, at least briefly, above that of Yogi Berra.) Here it is, complete with a nice selection of his photographs ("the chilly anomie of Manhattan's haute monde, the strangeness of Hollywood royalty and the lively warmth of rural America").

Jeet Heer: [11-26] Garry Wills and the real Kennedy curse: Unfortunately, this is a 1:43:30 podcast with no transcript, so I can't imagine myself slogging through it, but I want to at least note that my interest was piqued by "our shared love for Garry Wills's The Kennedy Imprisonment, a revelatory book about not just the Kennedy family but also the nature of 'great man politics.'" I've read a number of Wills's books, starting (long ago) with Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man, which at the time I saw as a brilliant dissection.

Anita Jain: [12-01] How Franklin Roosevelt tamed Wall Street: Review of Diana B Henriques: Taming the Street: The Old Guard, the New Deal, and FDR's Fight to Regulate American Capitalism. Over the course of American history, there have been few cases where presidential leadership actually meant something, but the most brilliant of all was Roosevelt's handling of the banking panic in the first weeks of his administration. He ordered a "banking holiday" to stop the withdrawals, and addressed the nation via radio, where he explained in authoritative detail how banking worked, why it was vulnerable to panics, and how they can be avoided with a little patience. When he reopened the banks, the panic had subsided, but he still moved quickly to pass a new law to make sure such panics wouldn't happen again (as they had regularly throughout American history). This law was the Carter-Glass Act, which worked brilliantly -- especially federal deposit insurance -- for 65 years, until Citibank got the Republican Congress and Clinton to repeal it, a mere ten years before the biggest banking crisis since 1933. This was the cornerstone of Roosevelt's famous "100 days," which remains the "gold standard" for what Democratic government can do with a large majority in Congress and business back on their heels. (And yes, one of the most important things they did was get rid of the gold standard, which had become a dead weight on the world economy.)

A good book to read on this is Adam Cohen: Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America. As someone who was born in 1950, I grew up with little sense of what Roosevelt accomplished, even though it was all around me. Democrats were way too modest. This contrasts starkly with the Republicans' systematic efforts to memorialize Lincoln and Reagan.

Sarah Jones: [11-29] The infidel turned Christian: "When Ayaan Hirsi Ali renounced Islam for atheism, her conversion made her a global star." Now, she's reinventing herself.

Ezra Klein: [12-03] The books that explain where we are in 2023. A noble undertaking, but a hard one for anyone to read enough to undertake. None here that I've read, but half or so I've reported on. Still, isn't it a bit strange that when he looks for a book on Israel, all he comes up with is Ari Shavit's 10-year-old My Promised Land? I did read a substantial extract from that book, where he describes in considerable detail the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians from Lydda and Ramle -- we'd call that "ethnic cleansing" these days -- and rationalizes it as essential to the founding and glory of his beloved Israel.

I could complain that much more has been written on Israel/Palestine since then, but the book I still most recommend came out in 2004: Richard Ben Cramer's How Israel Lost: The Four Questions. The most enduring of those questions is why Israel keeps pushing the parameters of a peace settlement beyond what Palestinians are willing to accept. But he also has some insights as to why Palestinian leaders have proven so inept at negotiating with Israel.

More book lists/reviews:

Keren Landman: [11-29] US life expectancy no longer catastrophic, now merely bad.

Clay Risen: [11-30] Pablo Guzmán, Puerto Rican activist turned TV newsman, dies at 73: A name I recognize from back in the 1970s, involved with a group called the Young Lords.

Nathan J Robinson: [11-28] Why you should primarily focus on your own country's crimes: "Why don't U.S. activists focus on the crimes of the Chinese government? Because we're responsible for what is done in our name, and what we can most affect." Well, also because echoing a moral critique by Americans in power is taken to ratify and promote hostile foreign policies that often only make the problems worse, and in any case are beyond what the US should be doing abroad. And also because, regardless of how pure your intentions are, you're not likely to be heard beyond the din of American saber-rattling. As for other countries that are allied with America (like Israel and Saudi Arabia), you have no business interfering with them, but you can certainly question why the US helps them oppress their own people.

Aja Romano: [11-17] The Crown increasingly becomes a fantastical apologetic for the royal family.

Jeffrey St Clair: [12-01] Roaming Charges: The Dr. Caligari of American Empire: Title refers to Kissinger, the opening subject here, with much more to follow.

Washington Monthly: [11-28] Remembering Charlie Peters: A useful compendium of articles and other tributes occasioned by the death of Washington Monthly's founder and long-time editor. I cited James Fallows: Why Charlile Peters matters last week. No need to list them all here, since that's what this article is for, but let me point out:

Clinton Williamson: [11-23] You have "the right to be lazy": "Paul Lafargue's anti-work manifesto is newly relevant in a time when the very idea of labor is changing." Lafargue (1842-1911) published his book in 1883.


Scattered tweets:

Ryan Grim:

The irony of conflating anti-zionism with antisemitism is that in the beginning, zionism's most essential backers, the British government, supported zionism because they were actively antisemitic and wanted to make sure Jewish refugees from Russian pogroms didn't come to Britain

Richard Yeselson:

Eye for an eye is now twenty eyes for one eye. And ever trending up. Gotta stop. Hamas' taking of the first eye was horrific. How much more horror will Israel and the US now inflict in response? Gaza is being vaporized. For what?


Nov 2023