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Monday, January 14, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 30949 [30913] rated (+36), 263 [260] unrated (+3).

Rated count remains healthy despite my various disabilities. The breakdown shifted rather dramatically toward "recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries" -- probably because I finally added a few rather deep compilation-oriented lists to my EOY Aggregate and its Old Music companion, including the complete Jazz Critics Poll: Reissues/Historical list. Some other late-breaking polls I picked up:

The James Brown compilation topped the Ye Wei list, and could have rated higher had I spent more time with it. The FOLC is one of those retro-rock things Phil Overeem especially loves. I was vaguely aware that a lot of Sun Ra had been reissued last year, so when my first two picks turned out to be especially good, I tried out a bunch more. Trying to figure out the lay of the land, I jotted down a list of 85 more Sun Ra albums on Napster that I haven't heard. I should return to them at some point.

There is a new XgauSez over on Robert Christgau's website, as well as the 2018 Dean's List. I wanted to get the reviews caught up, but in the end decided just to post the list. Still don't feel up to starting the planned site redesign, and probably shouldn't risk it until I do.

I gather there is a Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll in the works, so that will probably wrap up my EOY list madness. Christgau held back his point assignments for the poll, although I wouldn't expect them to post ballots this year after they failed last year. Christgau will be writing some kind of piece for the poll. For the first time in 15+ years I didn't get an invite, so I find myself losing interest. Much more info can be mined from my own EOY Aggregate anyway.

New records rated this week:

  • Art Brut: Wham! Bang! Pow! Let's Rock Out (2018, Alcopop!): [r]: B+(**)
  • David Binney: Here & Now (2018, Mythology): [r]: B-
  • Itamar Borochov: Blue Nights (2018 [2019], Laborie Jazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Peter Brotzmann & Fred Lonberg-Holm: Ouroboros (2011 [2018], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Chuck Deardorf: Perception (2017-18 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Delines: The Imperial (2019, El Cortez): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bryan Ferry and His Orchestra: Bitter-Sweet (2018, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joe Fiedler: Open Sesame (2018 [2019], Multiphonics Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Miho Hazama: Dancer in Nowhere (2018 [2019], Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Janczarski & McCraven Quintet: Liberator (2016 [2018], ForTune): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Brandon Lopez: Quoniam Facta Sum Vilis (2018, Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Loretta Lynn: Wouldn't It Be Great (2006-17 [2018], Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Quinsin Nachoff's Flux: Path of Totality (2016-17 [2019], Whirlwind, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • May Okita: Art of Life (2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ernie Watts Quartet: Home Light (2018, Flying Dolphin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Zeal and Ardor: Stranger Fruit (2018, MVKA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Denny Zeitlin/Buster Williams/Matt Wilson: Wishing on the Moon (2009 [2018], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Gordon Beck Quartet: When Sunny Gets Blue (1966-68 [2018], Another Planet): [r]: B+(*)
  • James Brown & the Famous Flames: The Federal & King Singles As and Bs 1956-61 (1956-61 [2018], Acrobat, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Feeling Kréyol: Las Palé (1988, Strut, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!! And Rights!! ([2018], FOLC): [bc]: A-
  • Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth-Boogie in 1980s South Africa (Soundway): [r]: B+(**)
  • Guy Lafitte: His Tenor Sax & Orchestra 1954-1959 (1954-59 [2018], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
  • Guy Lafitte: Quartet & Sextet Sessions 1956-1962 (1956-62 [2018], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave McKenna: In Madison (1991 [2018], Arbors): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Prine: Live in Asheville '86 (1986 [2016], Oh Boy): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Sun Ra With Pharoah Sanders & Black Harold: Judson Hall, New York, Dec. 31, 1964 (1964 [2018], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Sun Ra: Astro Black (1972 [2018], Modern Harmonic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sun Ra: The Cymbals/Symbols Sessions: New York City 1973 (1973 [2018], Modern Harmonic, 2CD): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Discipline 99 (Out Beyond the Kingdom Of) (1974 [2018], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Sun Ra: Of Abstract Dreams (1974-75 [2018], Strut): [r]: A-
  • Sun Ra and His Arkestra: Taking a Chance on Chances (1977 [2018], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sun Ra: God Is More Than Love Can Ever Be (1979 [2018], Cosmic Myth): [r]: A-
  • Sun Ra: Sun Ra Plays Gershwin (1951-89 [2018], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [r]: B
  • Jesse Sharps Quintet & P.A.P.A.: Sharps and Flats (2004 [2018], Nimbus West/Outernational Sounds): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra: We Travel the Space Ways (1960 [2012], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [r]: B+(*)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Joshua Redman/Ron Miles/Scott Colley/Brian Blade: Still Dreaming (2017 [2018], Nonesuch): [r]: [was B+(**)] B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Moppa Elliott: Jazz Band/Rock Band/Dance Band (Hot Cup, 2CD): February 14
  • Iro Haarla, Ulf Krokfors & Barry Altschul: Around Again (TUM)
  • Alexander Hawkins: Iron Into Wind: Piano Solo (Intakt)
  • Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions (Flat Langston's Arkeyes)
  • Human Feel [Chris Speed/Andrew D'Angelo/Kurt Rosenwinkel/Jim Black]: Gold (Intakt)
  • Greg Murphy Trio: Bright Idea (Whaling City Sound)
  • Tom Rainey Trio With Mary Halvorson and Ingrid Laubrock: Combobulated (Intakt)
  • Dave Rudolph Quintet: Resonance (self-released)
  • Wadada Leo Smith: Rosa Parks: Pure Love: An Oratorio of Seven Songs (TUM): February 15
  • Ernie Watts Quartet: Home Light (Flying Dolphin)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Weekend Roundup

For many years now, I've identified two major political problems in America. The most obvious one is the nation's habit and obsession with projection of military power as its leverage in dealing with other nations. As US economic power has waned, and as America shed its liberal ideals, it's become easier for others to challenge its supremacy. In turn, American power has hardened around its military and covert networks, placing the nation on a permanent war footing. This near-constant state of war, since 1945 but even more blatantly since 2001, has led to numerous social maladies, like domestic gun violence and the xenophobia leading to the current "border crisis."

The other big problem is increasing inequality. The statistics, which started in the 1970s but really took off in the "greed is good" 1980s, are clear and boring, but the consequences are numerous, both subtle and pernicious. It would take a long book to map out most of the ways the selfish pursuit and accumulation of riches has warped business, politics, and society. One small example is that when GW Bush arbitrarily commanded the world to follow his War on Terror lead ("you're either with us or against us"), he was assuming that as US President he was entitled to the same arbitrary powers (and lack of accountability) corporate CEOs enjoyed.

I used to wonder how Reagan was able to affect such a huge change in America despite relatively sparse legislative accomplishments -- mostly his big tax cut. The answer is that as president he could send signals to corporate and financial leaders that government would not interfere with their more aggressive pursuit of power and profit. Reagan's signals have been reiterated by every Republican president since, with ever less concern for scruples or ethics or even the slightest concern for consequences. All Trump has done has been to carry this logic to its absurdist extreme: his greed is shameless, even when it crosses into criminality.

Still, what the government lockout, now entering its fourth week, shows, is that we may need to formulate a third mega-ailment: we seem to have lost our commitment to basic competency. We should have seen this coming when politicians (mostly Republicans) decided that politics trumps all other considerations, so they could dispute (or ignore) any science or expertise or so-called facts they found inconvenient. (Is it ironical that the same people who decry "political correctness" when it impinges on their use of offensive rhetoric are so committed to imposing their political regimen on all discussions of what we once thought of as reality?)

A couple things about competency. One is that it's rarely noticed, except in the breech. You expect competency, even when you're engaging with someone whose qualifications you can properly judge -- a doctor, say, or a computer technician, or a mechanic. You also expect a degree of professional ethical standards. Trust depends on those things, and no matter how many time you're reminded caveat emptor, virtually everything you do in everyday life is built on trust. We can all point to examples of people who violated your trust, but until recently such people were in the minority. Now we have Donald Trump. And sure, lots of us distrusted him from the start of his campaign. He was, after all, vainglorious, corrupt, a habitual liar, totally lacking in empathy, his head full of mean-spirited rubbish.

On the other hand, even I am shocked at how incapable Trump has been at understanding the most basic rudiments of his job. There's nothing particularly wrong with him having policy views, or even an agenda, but the most basic requirement of his job is that he keep the government working, according to the constitution and the laws as established per that constitution -- you know, the one he had to swear to protect and follow when he took his oath of office. There have been shutdowns in the past -- basically ever since Newt Gingrich decided the threat would be a clever way to extort some policy concessions from Bill Clinton -- but this is the first one that was imposed by a president.

His reason? Well, obviously he's made a political calculation, where he thinks he can either bully the Democrats into giving him something they really hate ($5.7 billion so he can brag about how he's delivering that "big, beautiful wall" he campaigned on) and thereby restore his "art of the deal" mojo from the tarnish of losing the 2018 "midterms" so badly, or rouse the American people (his base, anyway) into blaming the Democrats for all the damage the shutdown causes. Either way, he feels that his second-term election in 2020 depends on this defense of political principle. Besides, he hates the federal government anyway -- possibly excepting the military and a few other groups currently exempt from the shutdown -- mostly because he's bought into the credo that "politics is everything, and everything is politics" (which makes most of the Democrat-leaning government enemy territory).

On the other hand, all he's really shown is that he's unfit to hold office, because he's forgotten that his main job is to keep the United States government working: implementing and enforcing the laws of the land, per the constitution. One might argue that using his office for such a political ploy is as significant a violation of his trust as anything else he's done. Indeed, one might argue that it is something he should be impeached for (although that would require a political consensus that has yet to form -- not that he isn't losing popularity during this charade).

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, January 07, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 30913 [30874] rated (+39), 260 [251] unrated (+9).

The 13th Annual Jazz Critics Poll results were published by NPR early Saturday morning, with two pieces by Francis Davis:

  • The 2018 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll: Top 50 new albums (blurbs by various authors on top ten), five additional blurbs on "Solitary No. 1s" (records that only received one vote, a 1st place, including one I wrote on The Music of Anders Garstedt), and one blurb and top ten (or less) standings for the other categories: Reissues/Historical, Debuts, Latin, Vocals.
  • Wayne Shorter Travels the Spaceways, with Davis's own year summary plus his own annotated ballot.

As has been the case since 2009, I tabulated all of the ballots and formatted them and complete totals here. Since I posted all that, I've had to update the files a few times. Most troubling were cases where I counted votes for the wrong record by an artist (one of the Esperanza Spalding votes should have been for her 2017 album; two of the Mingus votes should have gone to Live in Montreux 1975. Other problems were routine typos, but all (so far) have been easy to fix.

Bigger problem is that I never got copied on Richard Scheinin's ballot, so it didn't get counted. Still unresolved what to do about that, but I took the trouble to dig his top-25 list out of his Twitter feed and added it into my EOY Aggregate. I've also added the entire new and historical album lists, but thus far I haven't dipped into the individual ballots. I've started to pick up individual ballots from All About Jazz writers (only a few of whom voted in JCP), and before long I'll take a look at the JJA member lists (which I wasn't able to find until today). I'm also doing some mop-up on rock/pop lists, but I'm starting to skip lists of little/no interest (chiefly metal). Don't know how long I'll keep this up, as the EOY list season is basically done, and the 223 lists I currently have logged give a pretty fair picture, at least in rock/pop, hip-hop, and (somewhat less) electronica.

While most of the records below are 2018 releases I've noted on lists and am belatedly checking out, two of the new A- albums are 2019 releases (and another by Quinsin Nachoff will show up in next week's report). I'm also treating Eric Dolphy's Musical Prophet as a 2019 release: physical CDs don't hit the market until Jan. 26, although a digital release came out Nov. 23, and enough critics heard and voted for it to finish 3rd in JCP -- alas, not me, not that it would have cracked my ballot (even if I didn't follow my recent rule of only voting for historical records I have physical copies of).

So the only new A- this week from the 2018 lists turns out to be Spiritualized, which at 49 was the highest-rated album I hadn't heard yet. I once loved their 1997 album, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, but last time I checkec them out the record got a B-. Wound up playing the new one three times. Next few EOY Aggregate records I haven't heard don't seem more promising: Julia Holter, Iceage, Kurt Vile, Deafheaven, Anna Calvi, Cat Power, Drake, Troye Sivan, Ghost, Lump, MGMT, Daughters, Florence + the Machine, Jorja Smith, Elvis Costello, First Aid Kit. I'll probably play a few of those before end of January.

Among the top 50 JCP albums, I've managed to hear 47. The exceptions are numbers 50 (Elio Villafranca), 48 (Noah Preminger/Frank Carlberg), and 1 (Wayne Shorter). None of those are available on Napster or Bandcamp, nor do I recall any download offers. Shorter's Emanon is a 3-CD live set with a hard-cover graphic novel costing $53.82 on CD and $156.38 on vinyl. Not sure how well this was serviced -- I don't even get email from Blue Note these days, which hasn't been a problem given that everything else they release is available on Napster, and since they decided to bet on hip-hop fusion they haven't released much that's worth hearing. (This year: two ***, from Rosanne Cash and Charles Lloyd/Lucinda Williams; two **, from Kenny Barron and Dave McMurray; five *: Ambrose Akinmusire, Terence Blanchard, Nels Cline, GoGo Penguin, José James; five B or worse.)

On the other hand, I've only heard 5 of the top-ten historical, with Dolphy's Musical Prophet the only physical (too late). Francis Davis remarked to me that the new albums list seemed to be governed by "more is better": 3-CD Shorter (and Sorey); 2-CDs from Akinmusire, Coleman, Halvorson, Salvant, Washington, plus separates that could have been joined by Threadgill and Thumbscrew (we counted the former separately, but merged the latter), plus 6-CD monsters from Okazaki and Kimbrough -- all in the top-20. But the real home of gigantism is the historical list, where the top 8 were all 2-CD or more, topped by the 21-CD The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Associated Ensembles and the 11-CD Sextet Parker 1993. (I had naively assumed that the latter was just a repackaging of Braxton's brilliant Charlie Parker Project 1993, so didn't bother investigating further, but the full digital is available on Bandcamp. I should take a close look at the site and see what else is accessible.

I've been tempted to revisit several albums after seeing how they placed in various lists. The only one with a regrade so far is Tierra Whack's 15-minute EP Whack World. When Christgau placed it in his top-10, I thought it might overcome my prejudice against EPs. Even without the video, it feels remarkably full. I also gave Mitski's Be the Cowboy (last week's Christgau A-, number 2 in my EOY Aggregate) another chance, but didn't for a moment feel like moving my grade above B. I'm usually a sucker for a well-crafted pop album, but there are several this year that do precious little for me (Robyn, Ariana Grande; I like Sophie a bit more, but a recent retry didn't help it). Right now re-listening to Joshua Redman's Still Dreaming (number 2 for Francis Davis), which will probably get a small bump.

Just finished reading Suzy Hansen's Notes on a Foreign Country: An American Abroad in a Post-American World, which winds up with a thoroughly damning critique of US foreign policy, not least because it pains her so much to admit to it all. But the cinch for her seems to have been returning to the US (Brooklyn, Mississippi) and seeing first-hand how the imperialist bile rots the nation from the inside. At a more detail level, she illustrates without coming to any real conclusions the ambivalences she feels about Kemal and Erdogan and their respective cults with their peculiar ways of both dovetailing with and rebelling against American hegemony.

New records rated this week:

  • 6lack: East Atlanta Love Letter (2018, LoveRenaissance/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Christopher Ali Solidarity Quartet: To Those Who Walked Before Us (2018, Jazz Och Solidaritet): [r]: B+(**)
  • Atmosphere: Mi Vida Local (2018, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [r]: B+(**)
  • Baco Exu Do Blues: Bluesman (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Blue Standard: A Good Thing (2018 [2019], Big Time): [cd]: B
  • Benjamin Boone/Philip Levine: The Poetry of Jazz: Volume Two (2012-18 [2019], Origin): [cd]: A-
  • Sheldon Brown Group: Blood of the Air (2018, Edgetone): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Coathangers: Live (2018, Suicide Squeeze): [r]: B+(**)
  • CupcakKe: Eden (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kris Davis/Matt Mitchell/Aruán Ortiz/Matthew Shipp: New American Songbooks: Volume 2 (2018, Sound American): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Dos Santos: Logos (2018, International Anthem): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Douglas Quintet: Brazen Heart: Live at Jazz Standard: Saturday (2015 [2018], Greenleaf Music, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fire!: The Hands (2018, Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tim Hecker: Konoyo (2018, Kranky): [r]: B
  • Carlos Henriquez: Dizzy Con Clave: Live From Dizzy's Club Coca Cola (2018, RodBros Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Here's to Us: Animals, Wild and Tame (2018, Hoob Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rolf Kühn: Yellow + Blue (2018, Edel/MPS): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jon Lundbom Big Five Chord: Harder on the Outside (2018 [2019], Hot Cup): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mad Crush: Mad Crush (2018, Upon This Rock, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Adrianne Lenker: Abysskiss (2018, Saddle Creek): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jack Mouse Group: Intimate Adversary (2017 [2019], Tall Grass): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Grant Peeples & the Peeples Republik: Settling Scores Vol. II (2018, Gatorbone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rae Sremmurd: SR3MM (2018, Ear Drummer/Interscope, 3CD): [r]: B
  • Rejoicer: Energy Dreams (2018, ,Stones Throw): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Jay Rock: Redemption (2018, Top Dawg/Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jeff Rosenstock: Post- (2018, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Greg Saunier/Mary Halvorson/Ron Miles: New American Songbooks Volume 1 (2017, Sound American): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Boz Scaggs: Out of the Blues (2018, Concord): [r]: B+(*)
  • Serengeti: Dennis 6e (2018, People): [r]: B+(**)
  • Spiritualized: And Nothing Hurt (2018, Fat Possum): [r]: A-
  • Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar (2015-18 [2019], Moonjune): [cd]: A-
  • Martin Wind: Light Blue (2017 [2018], Laika): [r]: B-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions (1963 [2019], Resonance, 3CD)
  • Svein Finnerud Trio: Plastic Sun (1970 [2018], Odin): [r]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Chicago Farmer: Midwest Side Stories (2016, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Dolphy: In Europe Vol. 1 (1961 [1990], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Dolphy: In Europe, Vol. 2 (1961 [2006], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Dolphy: In Europe/Volume 3 (1961 [1990], Prestige/OJC): [r]; B+(***)
  • Eric Dolphy: Conversations (1963, FM/Vee Jay): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eric Dolphy: Iron Man (1963 [1990], West Wind): [r]: B+(***)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Tierra Whack: Whack World (2018, self-released, EP): [r]: [was: B+(***)] A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ran Blake/Clare Ritter: Eclipse Orange (Zoning): February 15
  • Itamar Borochov: Blue Nights (Laborie Jazz): February 1
  • Samantha Boshnack's Seismic Belt: Live in Santa Monica (Orenda): March 15
  • Sheldon Brown Group: Blood of the Air (Edgetone)
  • Chuck Deardorf: Perception (Origin): January 18
  • Joe Fiedler: Open Sesame (Multiphonics Music): February 25.
  • Miho Hazama: Dancer in Nowhere (Sunnyside): February 8
  • Christoph Irniger Pilgrim: Crosswinds (Intakt): January 18
  • Michael Kocour: East of the Sun (OA2): January 18
  • Dave Meder: Passage (Outside In Music): February 8
  • Quinsin Nachoff's Flux: Path of Totality (Whirlwind): February 8
  • May Okita: Art of Life (Origin): January 18
  • Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte: You Don't Know the Life (RareNoise): cdr, January 25
  • Wing Walker Orchestra: Hazel (Ears & Eyes): February 15

Names I had to add death dates for (*names I was aware of): Misha Alperin, Charles Aznavour, Robert Barry, Eddie Campbell, Eddie Clearwater, Vic Damone, Nathan Davis, Sonny Fortune, *Aretha Franklin, *Roy Hargrove, Fred Hess, Algia Mae Hinton, Morgana King, Denise LaSalle, Lazy Lester, Didier Lockwood, Kasse Mady [Diabaté], Geoffrey Oryema, Perry Robinson, Philip Tabane, Marlene VerPlanck, Bill Watrous, Tad Weed, Tony Joe White, Wesla Whitfield, *Nancy Wilson.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Another pretty awful week, followed by a few hours grabbing a few links in case I ever want to look back and see what was happening, other than my own misery.

One point I've been wanting to make is that over quite some number of presidential administrations, I've noticed a pattern. At first, presidents are overwhelmed and wary of screwing up, so they tend to defer to their staff, in many ways becoming prisoners of whoever they happened to install -- usually the choice of their staff plus the party's unelected Washington insiders. However, presidential staff are usually careful to flatter their boss, faking fealty, and over time all that deference (even if insincere) bolsters the ego of whoever's president. Meanwhile the president gets comfortable, even a bit cocky about his accomplishments, so starts to impose his opinions and instincts. There are often further stages, and two-term presidents tend to go to seed six years in (Eisenhower and Reagan are obvious examples; Nixon didn't get that far; Clinton, Bush II, and Obama were sidelines with enemy-controlled Congresses). But we've clearly made the transition from Trump being the front man to actually being in charge, running an administration and party that is increasingly deferential to his every whim. And while most of us thought Trump was pretty nuts to start with, he used to stay comfortably within the Republican Party playbook. But increasingly, his chaos and madness are becoming uniquely his own. Sure, he still has to walk back an occasional notion, like his decision to withdraw ground troops from Syria. He may even find he has to give up on his budget extortion ploy (aka, the shutdown).

Lots of bad things are likely to come from this, but one can hope that two recent trends will only take firmer and broader root. The first is the understanding that what's wrong with Trump and what's wrong with the Republican Party are the same things, all the way down to their shared contempt for democracy and the people. The second, an outgrowth of the first, is that the Democratic Party is changing rapidly from a party that opportunistically tries to pass itself off as a "kinder, gentler version" of conservative/neoliberal orthodoxy to one that is serious about solving the real problems of war and powerlessness and inequality that have hurt the vast majority of American voters so grievously since Reagan.

I didn't write much about these themes below, but there's plenty of evidence to back them up.

Some scattered links this week:

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Daily Log

Noted in my twitter feed yesterday, a quote from Donald J. Trump in 2013: "A shutdown falls on the President's lack of leadership. He can't even control his party and get people together in a room. A shutdown means the president is weak."

Possible 50-word piece for NPR:

Joakim Milder/Fredrik Ljungkvist/Mathias Landraeus/Filip Augustson/Fredrik Rundkvist: The Music of Anders Garstedt (Moserobie)

Swedish trumpeter Garstedt left a scant legacy when he died at age 31, but 18 years later five [former] bandmates revive his music brilliantly. The two saxophonists (Milder and [Fredrik] Ljungkvist bob and weave, while pianist [Mathias] Landraeus anchors a free-ranging rhythm section: tricky postbop as coherent as classic swing.

Added this in the cover letter (much more than 50 words):

You have several obvious options here. Cover only gives the last names, so you can save space by dropping the first names, but then you have to add them to the review. If you leave them in the credit, scratch the bracketed [Fredrik] and [Mathias] in the text. My normal practice in cases like this (and I mostly write super-terse reviews) is to spell them out up front, but you may want to budget your space differently. You can also save space by dropping the bassist (Auguston) and drummer (Rundkvist). They are much less recognized than the first three. You could drop Landraeus, in which case you could get rid of the parenthetical, since "two saxophonists" matches the two remaining names names are saxophonists (Ljunkvist also plays some clarinet, but I already skipped over that.) You could even reduce the credit to Joakim Milder. Ljungkvist is better known in US, but Milder is a couple years older and may have a better connection to Garstedt (really hard to tell).

I dropped [former] when trimming words, but it might help clarify. I originally had "vibrant" instead of "coherent" and don't have much of a preference. Maybe "as classic swing" should be changed to "as any classic"? Thought about adding "wax and wane" after "bob and weave," but didn't think I had the space.

Previously wrote:

Two tenor saxes (latter also credited with soprano and clarinet), plus piano-bass-drums. The composer was Swedish, played trumpet, died in 2000 at age 31, didn't leave any records under his own name, not many side credits either (one each with Fredrik Norén and Christian Falk). The musicians claim ties to him, and bring his music brilliantly to life.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30874 [30842] rated (+32), 251 [269] unrated (-18).

Surprised I accumulated so many records given how miserable I've been all week. I've only been able to sit at the computer for more than an hour at a time the last couple days. That cut down on how much I could stream, but I did make a considerable dent in my physical CD queue: as of this moment, I have zero pending 2018 albums, and not much looking on to 2019.

I added Robert Christgau's grades to my EOY Aggregate. I've only been adding my own grades as I've collected items from other lists, so there are a lot of things I will eventually add to the list but that aren't there now. Somewhat surprised that the following Christgau-rated albums hadn't appeared in any previously compiled list (his grades, then mine, where I have one):

  • Atmosphere: Mi Vida Local (Rhymesayers) [**, **]
  • Mandy Barnett: Strange Conversation (Dame Productions/Thirty Tigers) [A-, A-]
  • Born Ruffians: Uncle Duke & the Chief (Yep Roc) [*]
  • Chris Butler & Ralph Carney: Songs for Unsung Holidays (Smog Veil) [**]
  • Chicago Farmer: Quarter Past Tonight (self-released) [A-]
  • Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba: Routes (Twelve/Eight) [A-, A-]
  • The Coathangers: Live (Suicide Squeeze) [**, **]
  • Doctor Nativo: Guatemaya (Stonetree) [A-, A-]
  • E-40: The Gift of Gab (Heavy on the Grid) [**]
  • Robbie Fulks/Linda Gail Lewis: Wild! Wild! Wild! (Bloodshot) [***, A-]
  • Gift of Gab: Rejoice! Rappers Are Rapping Again! (Giftstribution Unlimited -EP) [***, A-]
  • Hamell on Trial: The Night Guy at the Apocalypse: Profiles of a Rushing Midnight (Saustex) [A, *]
  • Clay Harper: Bleak Beauty (self-released) [B+, *]
  • Homeboy Sandman & Edan: Humble Pi (Stones Throw -EP) [A-, **]
  • Joan Jett: Bad Reputation [Music From the Original Motion Picture] (Legacy) [A-, A-]
  • George Jones & the Jones Boys: Live in Texas 1965 (Ace) [***, ?]
  • Rich Krueger: Life Ain't That Long (Rockink) [A, **]
  • John Kruth & La Societŕ dei Musici: Forever Ago (Ars Spoletium) [A-, A-]
  • Jinx Lennon: Grow a Pair!!! (Septic Tiger) [A-, *]
  • Jeffrey Lewis: Works by Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010) (Don Giovanni) [B+, A-]
  • Mad Crush: Mad Crush (Upon This Rock -EP) [B+]
  • Wynton Marsalis Septet: United We Swing: Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas (2003-07, Blue Engine) [A-, *]
  • Walter Martin: Reminisce Bar & Grill (Family Jukebox) [*, B]
  • Mast: Thelonious Sphere Monk (World Galaxy) [A, ***]
  • Medhane: Ba Suba, Ak Jamm (Grand Closing) [*]
  • Molly Tigre: Molly Tigre (Very Special) [***, ***]
  • Maria Muldaur: Don't You Feel My Leg: The Naughty Bawdy Blues of Blue Lu Barker (The Last Music Company) [A, A]
  • Nas: Nasir (Mass Appeal/Def Jam -EP) [*, **]
  • Willie Nelson: My Way (Legacy) [*, **]
  • Grant Peeples and the Peeples Republik: Settling Scores Vol. II (Gatorbone) [***, **]
  • Primo!: Amici (Upset the Rhythm) [*]
  • Allen Ravenstine: Waiting for the Bomb (Morphius/ReR Megacorp) [*, *]
  • Ike Reilly: Crooked Love (Rock Ridge Music) [**]
  • Riton & Kah-Lo: Foreign Ororo (Riton Time) [A-, A-]
  • Derek Smalls: Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing) (BMG) [*]
  • Sidi Touré: Toubalbero (Thrill Jockey) [***, **]
  • The Chandler Travis Three-O: Backward Crooked From the Sunset (Iddy Biddy) [*]
  • Wreckless Eric: Construction Time & Demolition (Southern Domestic) [A-, ***]
  • I'm Not Here to Hunt Rabbits (Piranha) [A-, A-]
  • Outlaws & Armadillos: Country's Roaring '70s (Legacy) [B+, **]

Those are all 2018 releases. Christgau's Dean's List will no doubt include his usual slew of late finds, but they fall out of this page. List is pretty long, but would be longer had I not already counted lists from known Christgauvians like Chris Monsen (Mekons 77, Amy Rigby, Elza Soares) and John Smallwood (Rigby, Lyrics Born, Wussy: What Heaven Is Like). I'll get to more as I find them, and at some point add in my own thus-far missing grades. Also results from Jazz Critics Poll, once they become public (soon, I think).

I have 175 EOY lists compiled to date, totalling 1798 + 46 albums (latter are reissues; very few lists focus on them so far). Not sure how many more I will pick up before I give up. The effort came to a standstill ten or so days ago, and I doubt I'll ever pick up the slack. The top of the list is fairly stable at this point (not that I've been paying close attention). My main interest in the list is to identify records worth checking out, so my intention now is to focus more on lists that line up well with my own interests. That probably means I've seen enough metal already. On the other hand, the current jazz listings are only about one-third as deep as the Jazz Critics Poll standings (154 vs. 487 new albums) and one-fourth as deep as my own personal ratings (176 vs. 678 new + old albums).

New records rated this week:

  • The 14 Jazz Orchestra: The Future Ain't What It Used to Be (2018 [2019], Dabon Music): [cd]: B
  • The 1975: A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (2018, Dirty Hit/Polydor): [r]: B
  • Sam Broverman: A Jewish Boy's Christmas (2018, Brovermusic): [cd]: B
  • City Girls: Period (2018, Quality Control): [r]: B
  • City Girls: Girl Code (2018, Quality Control): [r]: B
  • Julien Desprez/Luís Lopes: Boa Tarde (2016 [2018], Shhpuma): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Kit Downes: Obsidian (2016 [2018], ECM): [r]: B
  • Jake Ehrenreich: A Treasury of Jewish Christmas Songs (2017 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Peter Evans/Agusti Fernandez/Barry Guy: Free Radicals at DOM (2017 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Lupe Fiasco: Drogas Light (2017, 1st & 15): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lupe Fiasco: Drogas Wave (2018, 1st & 15th): [r]: A-
  • Nils Frahm: All Melody (2018, Erased Tapes): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gaika: Basic Volume (2018, Warp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nabihah Iqbal: Weighing of the Heart (2017, Ninja Tune): [r]: B+(*)
  • Thomas Johansson: Home Alone (2016 [2018], Tammtz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jones Jones [Larry Ochs/Mark Dresser/Vladimir Tarasov]: A Jones in Time Saves Nine (2016 [2018], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Let's Eat Grandma: I'm All Ears (2018, Transgressive): [r]: B+(*)
  • Doug MacDonald Trio: View of the City (2016 [2018], Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Roberto Magris: World Gardens (2015 [2018], JMood): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mac Miller: Swimming (2018, REMember Music/Warner Bros.): [r]: B+(*)
  • Liudas Mockünas: Hydro 2 (2017 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Joel Moore/Nick Mizock/Paul Scherer/Michael Barton/Paul Townsend: Magnetic EP (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Mřster!: States of Minds (2018, Hubro, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Simon Nabatov/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Luminous (2015 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: A-
  • Judy Night Quintet: Sliding on Glass: Live at 210 (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kresten Osgood: Kresten Osgood Quintet Plays Jazz (2018, ILK, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • Otherworld Ensemble: Live at Malmitalo (2017 [2018], Edgetone): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Alister Spence and Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe: Imagine Meeting You Here (2017 [2019], Alister Spence Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Kristen Strom: Moving Day: The Music of John Shifflett (2018, OA2): [cd]: B
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: Best of the Jazz Heritage Series Volume 1 (2018, self-released): [cd]: B-

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Maria Muldaur: Don't You Feel My Leg: The Naughty, Bawdy Blues of Blue Lu Barker (2018, The Last Music Company): [cd]: [was A-] A

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jon Lundbom Big Five Chord: Harder on the Outside (Hot Cup): February 1


  • Bettye LaVette: Things Have Changed (Verve)
  • Lyrics Born: Quite a Life (Mobile Home)
  • Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer (Bad Boy)
  • Maria Muldaur: Don't You Feel My Leg: The Naughty, Bawdy Blues of Blue Lu Barker (The Last Music Company)
  • Pistol Annies: Interstate Gospel (RCA Nashville)
  • John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness (Oh Boy)

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Weekend Roundup

No Weekend Roundup last week, and I didn't have any intention of doing one this week either. But when I sat down at the computer today, I figured I'd copy a few links (without comments) into the notebook for future reference. Wound up with quite a few. I started with Matthew Yglesias, then decided to stick to the format I used there: boldfacing the author, linking the article. Normally I would group related articles, such as on the shutdown/wall, or the Syria withdrawal, but only in a couple instances did I do that -- mostly when an article by a unique writer adds or counters one I already had pegged. I wound up with a couple very brief comments, noted interviews, and added tag quotes or subheds under long articles, where the title didn't explain enough.

Still awful sore, but this was probably the first day in ten where I've been able to sit at the computer for more than an hour without really paying for it. Managed to listen to some music along the way, so Music Week tomorrow won't be a total wash.

Some scattered links this week:

Friday, December 28, 2018

Streamnotes (December 2018)

Pick up text here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30842 [30808] rated (+34), 269 [269] unrated (+0).

Surprised the count is this high. I was on a tear early in the week, especially between the time I compiled last week's results and when I finally posted them last Wednesday. However, that came to a screeching halt on Thursday or Friday (I can't remember which), when I woke up and found it very difficult and painful to sit up or stand. It doesn't seem like back pain; more in my hips, evenly distributed. I've had something like this happen a few widely scattered times in the past, but it's always cleared up in a couple of days. This doesn't seem to be getting better. Once I straighten up I can walk around without too much pain, but bending over or kneeling down is tough.

I had ambitious plans for fixing a Christmas Eve dinner, working mostly out of two Yotam Ottlenghi cookbooks, Ottolenghi and Jerusalem. I figured I should do some preliminary shopping on Friday, even though I hadn't fully sorted the menu out, and do a bit more on Sunday before starting to cook that evening. But with the pain and immobility, I started cutting back. I got my wife to drive me to Dillons for the Friday shopping, and made do with the single stop. Then I asked one of my guests to help out with the cooking. Linda Jordan joined me for several hours Saturday evening and from 1:30 through dinner on Sunday, and somehow we knocked out a decent menu of dishes (descriptions from memory):

  • Shawarma: a leg of lamb, marinated overnight in a spice paste, and roasted.
  • Sweet potato gratin: sliced into rounds, packed with garlic and sage, partly baked, then covered with cream and baked more to finish.
  • Eggplant: cut in half, roasted, topped with sauteed onions, spices, and feta cheese.
  • Eggplant: cut into cubes, roasted, in a saffron-yogurt sauce.
  • Endive: split, carmelized, stuffed with a mix (bread crumbs, parmesan, herbs, cream), topped with prosciutto, and baked.
  • Pearl barley and parsley salad: also with toasted cashews and spiced feta cheese.
  • Zucchini and tomato salad: also with walnuts, in a yogurt sauce.
  • Tomatoes: cut into chunks, with basil and dressing.
  • Mast va khiar: cucumber, scallions, golden raisins, walnuts, and mint in yogurt.
  • Amish Door's date pudding, topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream.

Saturday night Linda made the pudding and caramel sauce; we roasted the eggplants, cooked the barley, prepped the feta, mixed up the marinade and rubbed it into the lamb. After Linda left I did the mast va khiar and the whipped cream.

Sunday I had to get the lamb into the oven by 1:30. I sliced an onion, and started frying it. Linda arrived and took over. I mostly mixed sauces. I tried cutting the sweet potatoes with a mandoline, but gave up and used the food processor instead (harder to set up, but cut much faster). Two ovens were the key: while the lamb was roasting at 325F, the gratin and the endive needed 400F: 70 minutes for the sweet potatoes and 20 for the endive. We actually had all the side dishes and the latter ready for the oven by 4:30, so there was no last-minute drama. I hadn't really thought that through in the planning, but it worked out perfectly. Food was pretty good, too.

Pain wasn't too bad walking around, or sitting on a high bar stool doing prep. Linda did pretty much all of the stovetop cooking, as well as shuffling things in and out of the ovens. Got a good night's sleep, but this morning was the worst yet -- especially after sitting at the computer 15-20 minutes. This stretch on the computer has gone on for two hours. Not too bad crouched over working here, but I expect it will be tough getting up.

Plan is to come back and post this later tonight. I'm due to post December's Streamnotes sometime this week. I may go ahead and push it out without the usual indexing. Music count for the last 3-4 days has been close to zero. No idea when I'll be able to do more.

I should note that the Howard Riley album below (Live in the USA) would have topped my Reissues/Historical ballot in the Jazz Critics Poll had I gotten to it in time. I've said before that most years I find another A-list album within 2 days of filing my ballot, and a ballot-contender within two weeks. I'm usually thinking of new releases there, but note that Adam Forkelid's Reminiscence (also below) is up at number 12 in my Best Jazz Albums of 2018 list, so just barely below top ten.

New records rated this week:

  • Lynne Arriale Trio: Give Us These Days (2017 [2018], Challenge): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bob Baldori/Arthur Migliazza: The Boogie Kings: Disturbing the Peace (2018, Blujazz/Spirit): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Eraldo Bernocchi: Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It (2018, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • The Beths: Future Me Hates Me (2018, Carpark): [r]: B+(*)
  • Samuel Blaser: Early in the Mornin' (2017 [2018], Out Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bobby Bradford/Hafez Modirzadeh: Live at the Blue Whale (2017 [2018], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Brockhampton: Iridescence (2018, RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Marie Davidson: Working Class Woman (2018, Ninja Tune): [r]: A-
  • Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band: Presence (2018, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B
  • Adam Forkelid: Reminiscence (2017 [2018], Moserobie): [cd]: A-
  • John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble: All Can Work (2017 [2018], New Amsterdam): [bc]: B
  • Park Jiha: Communion (2016 [2018], Tak:til): [r]: B+(**)
  • JLin: Autobiography [Music From Wayne McGregor's Autobiography] (2018, Planet Mu): [r]: B+(***)
  • Phillip Johnston: The Adventuers of Prince Achmed (2013 [2018], Asychronous): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Phillip Johnston & the Coolerators: Diggin' Bones (2017 [2018], Asynchronous): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Martin Küchen/Rafal Mazur: Baza (2017 [2018], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Lotic: Power (2018, Tri Angle): [r]: B
  • François Moutin & Kavita Shah Duo: Interplay (2018, Dot Time): [r]: B+(***)
  • Now Vs Now: The Buffering Cocoon (2018, Jazzland): [r]: B
  • Jacob Sacks: Fishes (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Scheen Jazzorchester/Eyolf Dale: Commuter Report (2018, Losen): [cd]: B+(*)
  • SLUGish Ensemble: An Eight Out of Nine (2018, SLUGish): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Martial Solal: My One and Only Love: Live at Theater Gutersloh (2017 [2018], Intuition): [r]: B+(***)
  • Luciana Souza: The Book of Longing (2018, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Subtle Degrees: A Dance That Empties (2017 [2018], New Amsterdam): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Earl Sweatshirt: Some Rap Songs (2018, Tan Cressida/Columbia, EP): [r]: B
  • Trio HLK: Standard Time (2018, Ubuntu Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & Ole Morten Vĺgan: Happy Endings (2018, Odin): [r]: B+(**)
  • Yves Tumor: Safe in the Hands of Love (2018, Warp): [r]: B
  • Ben Wendel: The Seasons (2018, Motéma): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Marion Brown/Dave Burrell: Live at the Black Musicians' Conference, 1981 (1981 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: A-
  • Detail [Johnny Mbizo Dyani/Frode Gjerstad/Evin One Pedersen/John Stevens]: Detail at Club 7 (1982 [2017], Not Two): [r]: B+(***)
  • Howard Riley: Live in the USA (1976 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: A
  • Wadada Leo Smith/Sabu Toyozumi: Burning Meditation (1994 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: A-
  • Cecil Taylor: Poschiavo (1999 [2018], Black Sun): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ran Blake/Jeanne Lee: The Newest Sound You Never Heard (1966-67, A-Side, 2CD): January 25
  • Blue Standard: A Good Thing (Big Time): January 18
  • Benjamin Boone/Philip Levine: The Poetry of Jazz: Volume Two (Origin): January 18
  • Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions (Resonance, 3CD): January 26
  • Kresten Osgood: Kresten Osgood Quintet Plays Jazz (ILK, 2CD)
  • Alister Spence and Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe: Imagine Meeting You Here (Alister Spence Music): January 18
  • Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar (Moonjune): January 18

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30808 [30774] rated (+34), 269 [259] unrated (+10).

Collected the lists late Sunday night, after I wrapped up Weekend Roundup, but still didn't get started writing this until late Tuesday night. Francis Davis was supposed to hand in the 13th Annual Jazz Critics Poll results and analysis today. I assume that happened. At least, I have 139 ballots tabulated (including a couple days of stragglers, but safe to say it's too late to weigh in now). We went back over several contentious and/or confusing issues Monday, making minor adjustments to the votes in cases where some voters got the New and Reissue/Historical categories mixed up. We also carried 2017 votes forward in cases where a record got more votes (not just more points) this year than last.

The poll won't be published until January. Evidently NPR needs the extra lead time to line up sample music and such. I'll try to refrain from commenting until then. One thing the delay does is give me some time to do little bits of programming to clean things up. Probably the most annoying thing for me is that the sort beyond points/votes looks to be accidental. (I think it actually follows the order of albums in the table, which this year were entered as I encountered them on the ballots, mostly in submission order.) Whether I get around to that remains to be seen. Also whether I write up any real commentary on whatever I learned in the process. I've thought about that the last few days, and have a few scattershot notions, but I'm not being very productive.

Actually, I'm feeling pretty fucking depressed. The season may have something to do with it. My mother was a very big Christmas fan, and it's never been the same for me since she passed. And it diminished further when my brother and his family moved away. Then my sister died in March, so this year I'll be cooking Christmas Eve dinner for one nephew, and maybe a couple of friends who don't have their own family obligations. Still, that dinner is a project that give me some meaning. It's much of what I thought about today, and will be until the date. Doesn't seem like much else pressing to do.

We had a tough time organizing our annual latke dinner (Hannukah, but the point is potato pancakes). Did that on Sunday, and my nephew was the only guest who showed up. I grated five russet potatoes, two onions, added five eggs, salt, and pepper, and fried up a bunch of 6-inch discs. Salted some average-looking salmon, and sliced it up. Served sour cream and applesauce (actually the leftover pear-apple mix from the Peace Center desserts). In the past I've made various side dishes, but none of that this time. I did make an apple shalet for dessert: basically, bread pudding with baked sliced apples. It could have used some ice cream, but that's my usual reaction to fruit.

Weather bothers me too. Back in the summer I hated the heat so much I couldn't even recall what cold felt like, but it turns out that it hurts -- even more. I wanted to do some work on my nephew's house, but haven't felt like it (nor has he). Haven't done any projects here, at least beyond some minor leaf work. Nothing inside either. I keep talking about replacing the floor drain in the basement, and spent some money (bought the replacement drain, also a cement chisel since the hard part is busting up the old floor and mixing and pouring a new one), but have yet to start the work. (I did look into renting a small jack hammer, in case the hand tools aren't up to the job.)

And, of course, I'm running into various "confuser" problems. Since I set up an email list for technical advisors, I've been getting ten emails from my server every hour complaining about "excessive resource use" by the various Mailman scripts (none of which have delivered a single email as yet). I'm pretty sure they're false alarms -- e.g., the processes are sleeping, not using anything more than a little RAM -- but this means I find close to 200 new emails when I get up (obviously, not my only source of nuisance email, but a big one). I doubt the list itself will be any help for this particular problem: only two people have asked to join so far, both known to me and neither likely to be much technical help. If you can help on website tech issues, or just want to monitor and occasionally weigh in on user issues, please email me and ask to be signed up.

One tech problem I would have liked to throw open to the list had to do with the RSS Feed at Robert Christgau's website. When I checked it, after posting yesterday's XgauSez Q&A, my browser dropped all of the formatting I had seen from previous tests. I ran it through a validator, found and fixed a couple problems (mostly date/time format), and finally got it to validate. But I still get no format in Firefox. Since I've never used RSS feed clients, I'm having lots of trouble figuring out whether it's working. It could be that Firefox itself has changed: I know now that they've dropped their "Live Bookmarks" feature, but I'm not sure when (or aware of an update on my end). I need to do more research when I get some time, but it's one of those questions that someone probably knows much more about than I do.

I want to backport the RSS code to my own website, but should hold off until I understand it better. I thought I might try some experiments with my WordPress-based Notes on Everyday Life website, but I found it in a terrible mess -- itself a rabbit hole that would take me days (or weeks) to work back out of. Seemed easy when I originally built the site, but I don't seem to be able to get my mind around the tools this time (or have lost the patience for doing so). In fact, I still haven't fixed the boot problem on my new main working computer. Just did a software update this afternoon, so now it wants to be rebooted. Trouble is, it doesn't book cleanly since the last major update. I've been able to overcome this by switching into the BIOS and manually booting from there, but that always seems risky. So for now I think it would be a good idea to hold off until I post this and update everything else. Just a precaution, but as they keep telling us, we live in a dangerous world, where things we depend on can no longer be trusted to fucking work.

I should write something about progress with the EOY Aggregate file, but will have to save that for another day.

New records rated this week:

  • Andrew Barker/Daniel Carter: Polyhedron (2017 [2018], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Jon Batiste: Hollywood Africans (2018, Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Beak>: >>> (2018, Temporary Residence): [r]: B+(*)
  • Boygenius: Boygenius (2018, Matador, EP): [r]: B
  • Christine and the Queens: Chris (2018, Because Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Maria Da Rocha: Beetroot & Other Stories (2018, Shhpuma): [r]: B+(**)
  • El Eco With Guillermo Nojechowicz: Puerto de Buenos Aires 1933 (2017, Zoho): [r]: B+(*)
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Kikoeru: Tribute to Masaya Kimura (2018, Libra): [cd]: A-
  • Fernando Garcia: Guasabara Puerto Rico (2017 [2018], Zoho): [r]: B+(*)
  • Vinny Golia/Henry Kaiser/Bob Moses/Damon Smith/Weasel Walter: Astral Plane Crash (2018, Balance Point Acoustics): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hamar Trio: Yesterday Is Here (2016 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lonnie Holley: MITH (2018, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B
  • François Houle/Alexander Hawkins/Harris Eisenstadt: You Have Options (2016 [2018], Songlines): [r]: B+(***)
  • Quin Kirchner: The Other Side of Time (2018, Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Knalpot: Dierendag (2017 [2018], Shhpuma): [r]: B+(*)
  • Leikeli47: Wash & Set (2017, Hardcover/RCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Leikeli47: Acrylic (2018, Hardcover/RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Master Oogway: The Concert Koan (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Peter McEachern Trio: Bone-Code (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: A-
  • Música De Selvagem: Volume Único (2017 [2018], Shhpuma, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rico Nasty: Nasty (2018, Sugar Trap): [r]: B+(**)
  • Barre Phillips: End to End (2017 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Antonio Raia: Asylum (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mattias Risberg: Stamps (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bobby Sanabria Manhattan Big Band: West Side Story: Reimagined (2017 [2018], Jazzheads, 2CD): [r]: B
  • Travis Scott: Astroworld (2018, Epic/Grand Hustle): [r]: B+(**)
  • Thollem/DuRoche/Stjames Trio: Live in Our Time (2015 2018], ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • John Coltrane: 1963: New Directions (1963 [2018], Impulse!, 3CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Soul of a Nation: Jazz Is the Teacher/Funk Is the Preacher (1969-75 [2018], Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • John Coltrane: Newport '63 (1961-63 [1993], Impulse!): [r]: A-
  • Barre Phillips: For All It Is (1973, Japo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Barre Phillips: Journal Violone 9 (2001, Émouvance): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bob Baldori/Arthur Migliazza: The Boogie Kings: Disturbing the Peace (Blujazz)
  • Bobby Bradford/Hafez Modirzadeh: Live at the Blue Whale (NoBusiness): cdr (lp only)
  • Marion Brown/Dave Burrell: Live at the Black Musicians' Conference, 1981 (NoBusiness)
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Kikoeru: Tribute to Masaya Kimura (Libra)
  • Jones Jones [Larry Ochs/Mark Dresser/Vladimir Tarasov]: A Jones in Time Saves Nine (NoBusiness): cdr (lp only)
  • Martin Küchen/Rafal Mazur: Baza (NoBusiness): cdr (lp only)
  • Doug MacDonald Trio: View of the City (Blujazz)
  • Liudas Mockünas: Hydro 2 (NoBusiness)
  • Joel Moore/Nick Mizock/Paul Scherer/Michael Barton/Paul Townsend: Magnetic EP (Blujazz, EP)
  • Simon Nabatov/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Luminous (NoBusiness)
  • Judy Night Quintet: Sliding on Glass: Live at 210 (Blujazz)
  • Howard Riley: Live in the USA (1976, NoBusiness)
  • Wadada Leo Smith/Sabu Toyozumi: Burning Meditation (1994, NoBusiness)

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links this (or the previous) week:

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30774 [30736] rated (+38), 259 [264] unrated (-5).

No Weekend Roundup this week. Sunday was the deadline for ballots for the 13th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, and I spent pretty much every waking hour collecting and compiling mail, checking details on records, and occasionally kicking back requests for clarification or changes -- main problem is the arbitrary 10-year cutoff date between new and historical music categories. Still counted a couple of stragglers today, giving us 137 ballots -- same as in 2017. I expect results to be published at NPR sometime next week, but don't know anything for sure. Presumably they'll let me know in time for me to set up the complete totals and individual ballots on my website. I still have some annotation to do, but everything is pretty well set up on my end. That means I should get back to normal shortly -- it's just that aside from JCP, nothing I had planned to do last week got done, so I'm starting from a hole.

I did wind up making one minor change to my JCP ballot (see last week): I dropped Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Awase from 10th place on my new list and moved Martin Küchen & Landaeus Trio: Vinyl into its slot from the Reissues/Historical list (moving the following three records there up). Küchen's music dates from 2013-14, so doesn't qualify as historical given the 10-year rule. And I decided that it isn't really a reissue, even though the music was previously released on two vinyl LPs. This was their first appearance on CD, and it's not unusual for new records to go through changes from format to format. Seemed like the best answer for JCP, although I still have it Reissue/Historical in my own still-evolving EOY lists Jazz (also Non-Jazz). Both of those lists grew by 2 last week, so now are 55-49. Still, none of the new records came close to being ballot picks.

No incoming CDs last week, although I did get a couple packages this week, including new releases from NoBusiness in Lithuania. I don't think I've ever run the numbers before, but my impression has long been that close to half of my top-rated albums come from European artists (22/55 this year) and/or labels (25/55) -- not that I'm sure I'm counting either right. (Add one in both columns for Japan/Asia.)

I should also offer a link to the EOY Aggregate file. I was close to caught up a week ago, but since then I've fallen way behind -- lots of lists are coming out, and I've only counted a few. So I expect quite a bit of change as I catch up.

New records rated this week:

  • Albatre: The Fall of the Damned (2018, Shhpuma): [r]: B
  • Anguish: Anguish (2018, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Lotte Anker/Pat Thomas/Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten/Stĺle Liavik Solberg: His Flight's at Ten (2016 [2018], Iluso): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Kadhja Bonet: Childqueen (2018, Fat Possum): [r]: B-
  • Butcher Brown: Camden Session (2018, Gearbox): [r]: B+(*)
  • Carla Campopiano Trio: Chicago/Buenos Aires Connections (2018, self-released): [cd]: B
  • Guillermo Celano/Jachim Badenhorst/Marcos Baggiani: Lili & Marleen (2016 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Coyote Poets of the Universe: Strange Lullaby (2018, Square Shaped, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • Dystil: Dystil (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda: Mizu (2018, Long Song): [bc]: B+(***)
  • The Goon Sax: We're Not Talking (2018, Wichita): [r]: A-
  • Guillermo Gregorio/Rafal Mazur/Ramón López: Wandering the Sounds (2018, Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Barry Guy: Barry Guy @ 70: Blue Horizon: Live at Ad Libitum ()2017 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj, 3CD): [bc]: A-
  • Eric Harland: 13th Floor (2018, 13th Floor): [r]: B+(*)
  • Stefon Harris + Blackout: Sonic Creed (2017 [2018], Motéma): [r]: B-
  • Ingrid Jensen/Steve Treseler: Invisible Sounds: For Kenny Wheeler (2018, Whirlwind): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jessice Lurie: Long Haul (2017, Chant): [r]: B+(**)
  • Masta Ace & Marco Polo: A Breukelen Story (2018, Fat Beats): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet: Polka (2018, Whirlwind): [r]: A-
  • Onyx Collective: Lower East Suite Part One (2017, Big Dada, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Onyx Collective: Lower East Suite Part One (2017, Big Dada, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Onyx Collective: Lower East Suite Part Three (2018, Big Dada): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chris Pitsiokos/Susana Santos Silva/Torbjörn Zetterberg: Child of Illusion (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rosalía: El Mal Querer (2018, Sony Music): [r]: B
  • Akira Sakata & Chikamorachi With Masahiko Satoh: Proton Pump (2015 [2018], Family Vineyard): [r]: B+(***)
  • Akira Sakata/Simon Nabatov/Takashi Seo/Darren Moore: Not Seeing Is a Flower (2017 [2018], Leo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Josh Sinton's Predicate Trio: Making Bones, Taking Draughts, Bearing Unstable Millstones Pridefully, Idiotically, Prosaically (2018, Iluso): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Tirzah: Devotion (2018, Domino): [r]: B+(**)
  • Turbamulta: Turbamulta (2018, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chucho Valdés: Jazz Batá 2 (2018, Mack Avenue): [r]; B+(***)
  • Voicehandler: Light From Another Light (2017 [2018], Humbler): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Walking Distance: Freebird by Walking Distance feat. Jason Moran (2018, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(***)
  • Aida Bird Wolfe: Birdie (2018, self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Z-Country Paradise: Live in Lisbon (2016 [2018], Leo): [r]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Joan Jett: Bad Reputation [Music From the Original Motion Picture] (1976-2016 [2018], Legacy): [r]: A-
  • L7: Wireless (1992 [2016], Easy Action): [r]: B+(***)
  • L7: Fast and Frightening (1990-98 [2016], Easy Action, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • L7: Slap-Happy (1999, Bong Load): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week: no music albums, but let's list some recent music books:

  • Robert Christgau: Is It Still Good to Ya? Fifty Years of Rock Criticism 1967-2017 (paperback, 2018, Duke University Press)
  • John Corbett: Vinyl Freak: Love Letters to a Dying Medium (paperback, 2017, Duke University Press)
  • Tom Smucker: Why the Beachboys Matter (paperback, 2018, University of Texas Press)

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30736 [30692] rated (+44), 264 [271] unrated (-7).

Got so jammed up Monday I didn't get a word of this written on its appointed day, but I did manage to move the records from the scratch file and start on next week while I was falling behind. One task was to format Robert Christgau's latest XgauSez question and answer session, which came out in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. Another was counting ballots for the 13th Annual Jazz Critics Poll (56 in at present, deadline Sunday, December 9, 7pm). I can't show you any of that, but I've also been counting EOY lists for my EOY Aggregate, which you can track the progress of. Although lists started to appear before Thanksgiving, there wasn't much until December 1 (or the Monday after).

It occurs to me I should probably nail down my Jazz ballot now, rather than wait for the end of the week. Of course, my real list remains subject to change. If the past is any guide, I'll probably find a new A- record within 2-3 days, and something to nudge into the ballot territory in 10-15 days.

New Music:

  1. Joakim Milder/Fredrik Ljungkvist/Mathias Landraeus/Filip Augustson/Fredrik Rundkvist: The Music of Anders Garstedt (Moserobie)
  2. Peter Kuhn Trio: Intention (FMR)
  3. Kira Kira: Bright Force (Libra)
  4. Rich Halley 3: The Literature (Pine Eagle)
  5. Rodrigo Amado: A History of Nothing (Trost)
  6. James Brandon Lewis/Chad Taylor: Radiant Imprints (OFF) **
  7. Sons of Kemet: Your Queen Is a Reptile (Impulse!) **
  8. Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg: Dirt . . . and More Dirt (Pi)
  9. Kevin Sun: Trio (Ectomorph Music)
  10. Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Awase (ECM) **


  1. Martin Küchen & Landaeus Trio: Vinyl (2013-14, Moserobie)
  2. Alexander Von Schlippenbach/Aki Takase: Live at Café Amores (1995, NoBusiness)
  3. Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Pepper Vol. 10: Toronto (1977, Widow's Taste, 3CD)
  4. Fred Hersch: Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard (Palmetto)


  1. Benjamin Boone/Philip Levine: The Poetry of Jazz (Origin)


  1. Kevin Sun: Trio (Ectomorph Music)

Latin Jazz:

  1. David Virelles: Igbó Alákorin (The Singer's Groove) Vol I & II (Pi)

You may notice that the Reissues/Historical list doesn't match the EOY file. I decided to only include records that I have physical copies of -- partly to credit the few good publicist who actually still send me eligible records, and partly because some of the records on the current list (like the expanded Sonny Rollins Way Out West and the reduced Anthony Braxton Quartet (Willisau) 1991 Studio) are items I was already pretty familiar with. Also, note that only three Reissue/Historical albums will be counted. I went to four in case the judge decides that the Küchen album is too recent (although it is literally a reissue of recent vinyl releases).

[PS: I finally decided to treat Küchen/Landaeus as new and slot it at number 10, bumping Nik Bärtsch's Ronin from the top ten. So, turns out my blog-posted ballot didn't last 30 minutes before I had a change of heart/mind.]

I published Streamnotes (November 2018) last Friday, so most of this week's batch of newly rated records got written up there. I added one more jazz A- in the two days after Streamnotes (Flavio Zanuttini), and I've actually added one more in the two days between when I ended last week and as I'm writing now (Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet's Polka). My current division of A-lists is 53 Jazz vs. 47 Non-Jazz, so it's tilted a bit toward jazz over the last couple weeks.

I was hoping to get a couple of technical things set up so I could announce them this week, but didn't get around to doing the necessary work:

  • I plan on setting up an RSS feed, like I did for Robert Christgau's website. Same idea: manually manage a list of new/updated files (checking against a time-sorted list of files), and write a bit of code to format that list as RSS 2.0. This could just include the faux blog files -- that's certainly the piece that needs RSS exposure. Shouldn't take more than a couple hours to set up at this point.

  • I want to add a question-and-answer feature, like I did for Robert Christgau with XgauSez. It will take a couple hours to set up a special email account, add the captcha code, port the question form and the Q&A reader, and add some links. I'd also like to add some new features, like a keyword search.

  • I want to set up an email list (based on GNU Mailman) for people who would like to offer advice (technical but also user) on my various website projects (especially and, and a future music website, to be hosted at I've often found myself wishing I could tap into a pool of technical help, as well as to get comments on user design questions, especially as I undertake development projects, like the recent RSS feeds, and more importantly a redesign of the Christgau website. I expect this to be set up shortly after I post this, but it will (at least for the time being) be a private list, so if you want to join (to participate or maybe just to lurk) please send me email. Most likely I will subscribe you then, and you will receive email with an account password (which you can change). You can use your password to change your options (such as to elect to receive a daily digest instead of every email message as it's sent), or to unsubscribe. You may also at any time ask me to unsubscribe you.

So, one (mostly) down. The others shouldn't be too hard to get working in the next week. Also managed to get a stub set up over at Terminal Zone, so I can start hanging things there. Still, most of this coming week will go to tabulating ballots and collecting lists. I guess the latter qualifies as my favorite waste of time. At some point I need to stop and get onto other work, but for now, 'tis the season for it.

New records rated this week:

  • Juhani Aaltonen/Raoul Björkenheim: Awakening (2016 [2018], Eclipse): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tom Abbs & Frequency Response: Hawthorne (2018, Engine Studios): [r]: B+(***)
  • Anderson .Paak: Oxnard (2018, Aftermath/12 Tone Music): [r]: A-
  • Brom: Sunstroke (2017 [2018], Trost): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Peter Brötzmann/Heather Leigh: Sparrow Nights (2018, Trost): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Dustin Carlson: Air Ceremony (2017 [2018], Out of Your Head): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Neneh Cherry: Broken Politics (2018, Smalltown Supersound): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chicago Edge Ensemble: Insidious Anthem (2018, Trost): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Lando Chill: Black Ego (2018, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(*)
  • Zack Clarke: Mesophase (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Collective Order: Collective Order Vol. 3 (2018, self-released): [cd]: B
  • Francesco Cusa & the Assassins Meets Duccio Bertini: Black Poker (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Drone Trio [Evelyn Davis/Fred Frith/Phillip Greenlief]: Lantskap Logic (2013 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • James Francies: Flight (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B
  • Full Blast: Rio (2016 [2018], Trost): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Marquis Hill: Modern Flows Vol. 2 (2018, Black Unlimited Music Group): [r]: B
  • Khruangbin: Con Todo El Mundo (2018, Dead Oceans): [r]: B+(*)
  • Frank Kimbrough: Monk's Dreams: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk (2017 [2018], Sunnyside, 6CD): [r]: A-
  • Roy Kinsey: Blackie: A Story by Roy Kinsey (2018, Not Normal): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Simone Kopmajer: Spotlight on Jazz (2018, Lucky Mojo): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Andrew Lamb Trio: The Casbah of Love (2018, Birdwatcher): [r]: B+(**)
  • Low: Double Negative (2018, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kirk Knuffke/Steven Herring: Witness (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): [r]: B
  • Thomas Marriott: Romance Language (2017 [2018], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Joakim Milder/Fredrik Ljungkvist/Mathias Landraeus/Filip Augustson/Fredrik Rundkvist: The Music of Anders Garstedt (2016 [2018], Moserobie): [cd]: A
  • Father John Misty: God's Favorite Customer (2018, Sub Pop): [r]: B
  • Fredrik Nordström: Needs (2018, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Miles Okazaki: Work: The Complete Compositions of Thelonios Monk (2018, self-released, 6CD): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Caterina Palazzi/Sudoku Killer: Asperger (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Charlie Porter: Charlie Porter (2018, Porter House): [r]: B+(*)
  • Quoan [Brian Walsh/Daniel Rosenboom/Sam Minaie/Mark Ferber]: Fine Dining (2017 [2018], Orenda): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ernesto Rodrigues/Guilherme Rodrigues/Bruno Parrinha/Luís Lopes/Vasco Trillo: Lithos (2017 [2018], Creative Sources): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Renee Rosnes: Beloved of the Sky (2017 [2018], Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Scofield: Combo 66 (2018, Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sleep: The Sciences (2018, Third Man): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marcus Strickland Twi-Life: People of the Sun (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B
  • Trio Heinz Herbert: Yes (2018, Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
  • The Way Ahead: Bells Ghosts and Other Saints (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mars Williams: Mars Williams Presents an Ayler Xmas (2017, Soul What): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Mars Williams: Mars Williams Presents an Ayler Xmas: Volume 2 (2018, Soul What): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Yoko Yamaoka: Diary 2005-2015: Yuko Yamaoka Plays the Music of Satoko Fujii (2018, Libra, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Flavio Zanuttini Opacipapa: Born Baby Born (2018, Clean Feed): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Boneshaker: Unusual Words (2012 [2014], Soul What): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Billie Holiday: Songs for Distingué Lovers (1957 [1958], Verve): [r]: A-
  • Terry Pollard: Terry Pollard (1955, Bethlehem): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sam Broverman: A Jewish Boy's Christmas (Brovermusic)
  • Scheen Jazzorchester/Eyolf Dale: Commuter Report (Losen)

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Any week since Trump became president, spend a day or two and you'll come up with a fairly long list of pieces worth citing, and the sense that you're still missing much of what is going on. For instance, my usual sources on Israel/Palestine have yet to catch up with this: Josef Federman: Israeli Police Recommend Indicting Netanyahu on Bribery Charges. Seems like that should be at least as big a story as Putin and Saudi crown prince high-five at G20 summit. But this is all I came up with for the week.

I probably should have written standalone pieces on GWH Bush and on Jill Lepore's These Truths, but wound up squeezing some notes here for future reference. Under Bush, I wondered how many articles I'd have to read -- critical as well as polite or even adulatory -- before someone would bring up what I regard as the critical juncture in his period as president: his invasion of Panama. I lost track, but in 20-30 pieces I looked at, none broached the topic. I had to search specifically before I came up with this one: Greg Grandin: How the Iraq War Began in Panama. When Bush became president, people still talked about a "Vietnam syndrome" which inhibited American politicians and their generals from starting foreign wars. Bush is generally credited as having "kicked the Vietnam syndrome," with two aggressive wars, first in Panama, then in Iraq. Bush and the media conspired to paint those wars as glorious successes, the glow from which enabled Clinton, Bush II, and Obama to launch many more wars: Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq (again), Syria, as well as dozens of more marginal operations. Woodrow Wilson once claimed to be fighting "a war to end all wars." Bush's legacy was more modest: a war to kindle many more wars.

Oddly enough, the story below that links up most directly to Bush's legacy of war is the one about the increasing rate of premature deaths (suicides and overdoses). That's what you get from decades of nearly continuous war since Bush invaded Panama in 1989. The other contributing factor has been increasing income inequality, which has followed a straight line ever since 1981, when the Reagan/Bush administration slashed taxes on the rich.

Recently, we've seen many naive people praise Bush for, basically, not being as flat-out awful as his Republican successors. They've done this without giving the least thought to how we got to where we are now. The least they could do is check out Kevin Phillips' 2004 book: American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush.

Some scattered links this week:

Friday, November 30, 2018

Streamnotes (November 2018)

Pick up text here.

Daily Log

Thinking again about ripping out and replacing the floor drain in the basement.

Prices for tool rental at Home Depot (per day):

  • Makita HM0870C 11 LB Demolition Hammer, 11 lbs: $53. Retail $449.
  • Makita HM1203C 20 LB Demolition Hammer, 20.3 lbs: $60.
  • Makita HM1214C 27 LB Demolition Hammer, 27.1 lbs: $66. Retail $884.37.
  • Makita HM1307CB Small Breaker (35 LB): $69. Retail: $882.84
  • Makita HM1810 Breaker (70 LB), 71.3 lbs: $86. Retail $1499.
  • Hilti 3495262 PRO Breaker, 66 lbs: $102.
  • Makita 4114 Electric Concrete Saw 14": $53. Retail $649.99.

Some alternative hammers/breakers:

  • XtremepowerUS Heavy Duty Electric 2200 Watt Demolition Jac Hammer: $122.95

The guy in the store suggested using a 16lb sledge hammer. Home Depot has a Husky 16lb in stock for $44.98. Others can be ordered up to $68.39 (Nupla). Home Depot also has a 10lb Husy for $32.98. Amazon has 16lb sledge hammers from $40.99 (Jacson) to $64.63 (Urrea).

I've also been interested in a small circular saw. These mostly work with 4.5-inch blades:

  • Worx Worksaw 4.5" Compact Circular Saw WX429L: $53.82.
  • Rockwell RK3440K Versacut 4.0 Amp w/laser guide, 3-blade kit: $92.41.
  • Rockwell RK3441K 4.5" 5.0 Amps: $79.00.
  • Genesis GC5545SC 5.8 Amp 4.5" w/24T Carbide-Tipped Blade: $49.99.
  • Makita SH02R1 12V cordless 3.375" circular saw: $129.99.
  • Rotorazer Platinum Compact Circular Saw Set: $179.00.

There are similar saws intended for masonry work, which can probably cut concrete (but not very deep):

  • DeWalt DWC860W 4.375-inch Wet/Dry Masonry Saw: $136.87.
  • Alpha AWS-125 5" Stone Cutter: $223.02.
  • Skilsaw SPT79-00 15-Amp MEDUSAW Worm Drive Saw for Concrete, 7': $339.95. There's also a "walk behind" version for $535.97.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Daily Log

Stumbled across a link to a PDF of an early draft of my Recorded Jazz in the 20th Century, hosted by Zapdoc. I didn't put it there. Author is listed as Clementine Jones.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30692 [30635] rated (+57), 271 [293] unrated (-22).

Cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my nephew, his girlfriend, and a few scattered friends who didn't have other engagements. Figured I'd pick off a few French recipes I had missed on my birthday. I figured the roast bird could simply be a chicken, especially since I hadn't done any chicken on birthday. I repeated the potatoes (gratin dauphinois) and chopped chicken liver (but none of the other spreads). For new dishes, I had carrots (cooked with ginger and cardamom), green beans (with pancetta), tian (zucchini and tomato slices roasted on top of onion), and a salad (frisee aux lardons -- I had a nice-sized chunk of slab bacon left over, and mixed a little liver into the vinaigrette). For dessert, I made three pies: sweet potato, chocolate pecan, and key lime. Probably should have offered ice cream, but just whipped some cream. (In fact, had so much cream left over, I probably should have made ice cream.) Had a couple bake-it-yourself baguettes. Figured I needed them for the liver and croutons for the frisee, but turned out that butter on bread was popular. Had I realized that, I could have mixed up an herbed/spiced butter spread.

Thanksgiving probably cost me two days of listening, but I started the week strong, and finished it stronger. Still, that should have yielded something like 40 records. However, when I ran the numbers, the increase was less than the list, so I made a pass through the unrated albums list and a dozen more I had missed. And by the time I straightened that out, I had rated some more. In the end it seemed easier to get current than to respect yesterday's cutoff.

I've started collecting EOY lists. Thus far there's not a lot to go on: some long lists from UK record stores, UK pubs like Mojo and Uncut, a couple of metal-oriented lists, and Paste -- closer to what I expect from major US lists, although still pretty shy of hip-hop. I've retained some data from mid-year lists, which helps balance out the early skews. At the moment, the top five are Janelle Monáe, Courtney Barnett, Rolling Blackouts CF, Kamasi Washington, and Cardi B. Without the mid-year boost, Barnett would be leading Monáe, and Cardi B wouldn't be in the top 100.

I'm also tabulating Jazz Critics Poll ballots. Can't share any of that with you yet, but I have about 20 ballots counted at this point. That info is pushing me to check out lots of albums, although my priority this and next week will be to catch up with my own CD queue.

Meanwhile, I've done a preliminary sort on my own Best of 2018 lists, split for Jazz and Non-Jazz I'll keep adding to these well into the future.

Also, expect a Streamnotes by the end of the month. I guess that's like Friday. I have a pretty decent-sized draft file already.

New records rated this week:

  • Ambrose Akinmusire: Origami Harvest (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Big Bold Back Bone: Emerge (2015 [2018], Wide Ear): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Francesco Cafiso: We Play for Tips (2017 [2018], EFLAT/Incipit): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Chills: Snow Bound (2018, Fire): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Church: Desperate Man (2018, EMI Nashville): [r]: A-
  • Roxy Coss: The Future Is Female (2018, Posi-Tone): [r]: B
  • Mário Costa: Oxy Patina (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kaja Draksler/Petter Eldh/Christian Lillinger: Punkt. Vrt. Plastik (2016 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Open Mike Eagle: What Happens When I Try to Relax (2018, Auto Reverse, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Gil Evans Orchestra: Hidden Treasures Monday Nights: Volume One (2016-17 [2018], Bopper Spock Suns Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Marianne Faithfull: Negative Capability (2018, BMG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Alan Ferber Big Band: Jigsaw (2016 [2017], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Birgitta Flick Quartet: Color Studies (2018, Double Moon): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gabriela Friedli Trio: Areas (2015 [2018], Leo): [r]: B+(**)
  • David Friesen: My Faith, My Life (2017-18 [2018], Origin, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Claus Hřjensgĺrd/Emanuele Mariscalco/Nelide Bendello: Hřbama (2017 [2018], Gotta Let It Out): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Rocco John Iacovone/Jack DeSalvo/Mark Hagan/Phil Sirois/Tom Cabrera: Connoisseurs of Chaos IV (2018, Woodshedd): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Jentsch Group No Net: Topics in American History (2016 [2018], Blue Schist): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ingrid Laubrock: Contemporary Chaos Practices: Two Works for Orchestra With Soloists (2017 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Robbie Lee & Mary Halvorson: Seed Triangular (2018, New Amsterdam): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ravyn Lenae: Crush (2018, Atlantic, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • LFU: Lisbon Freedom Unit: Praise of Our Folly (2015 [2018], Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
  • Carol Liebowitz/Birgitta Flick: Malita-Malika (2017 [2018], Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Maisha: There Is a Place (2018, Brownswood): [r]: B+(*)
  • Christian McBride: Christian McBride's New Jawn (2017 [2018], Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jorge Nila: Tenor Time (Tribute to the Tenor Masters) (2018 [2019], Ninjazz): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Evan Parker/Eddie Prevost: Tools of Imagination (2017 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(*)
  • William Parker: Flower in a Stained-Glass Window/The Blinking of the Ear (2018, Centering/AUM Fidelity, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hanna Paulsberg Concept & Magnus Broo: Daughter of the Sun (2018, Odin): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Ken Peplowski Big Band: Sunrise (2017 [2018], Arbors): [r]: B
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Mark Feldman/Jason Hwang: Strings 1 (2018, Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Hank Roberts/Ned Rothenberg: Strings 2 (2018, Leo): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Rich Rosenthal/Jack DeSalvo/Tom Cabrera: Connoisseurs of Chaos (2018, Woodshedd): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Dave Sewelson: Music for a Free World (2017 [2018], FMR): [cd]: A-
  • Julian Siegel Quartet: Vista (2018, Whirlwind): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jay Thomas With the Oliver Groenewald Newnet: I Always Knew (2018, Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty (2018, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
  • The David Ullman Group: Sometime (2018, Little Sky): [cd]: B
  • Piet Verbist: Suite Réunion (2018, Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
  • David Virelles: Igbó Alákorin (The Singer's Groove) Vol I & II (2017 [2018], Pi): [cd]: A-
  • Trevor Watts & RGG: RAFA (2018, Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Fred Hersch: Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard (1997 [2018], Palmetto): [cd]: A-
  • Jazz at the Philharmonic [Oscar Peterson/Illinois Jacquet/Herb Ellis]: Blues in Chicago 1955 (Verve): [r]: A-
  • The Gene Krupa Quartet: Live 1966 (1966 [2018], Dot Time Legends): [r]: B+(*)
  • Thelonioous Monk: Mřnk (1963 [2018], Gearbox): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Louis Prima/Keely Smith With Sam Butera and the Witnesses: The Wildest Shoe at Tahoe (1957, Capitol): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kaja Draksler/Petter Eldh/Christian Lillinger: Punkt. Vrt. Plastik (Intakt)
  • Jentsch Group No Net: Topics in American History (Blue Schist): November 30
  • Ingrid Laubrock: Contemporary Chaos Practices: Two Works for Orchestra With Soloists (Intakt)
  • Roberto Magris: World Gardens (JMood): December 1
  • Dave Sewelson: Music for a Free World (FMR)
  • Trio Heinz Herbert: Yes (Intakt)
  • Voicehandler: Light From Another Light (Humbler)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Seems like it's been a slow news week, probably because the holiday both cut into the political world's capacity for misdeeds and my (and others') attention span. I'm also preoccupied with music poll matters. Still, figured I should at least briefly go through the motions, if only to keep the record reasonably intact.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: House Democrats don't need a leader, they need someone to represent them on TV: I see two basic knocks on Pelosi as Speaker: one is the sense of failure with the 2010 and subsequent losses; another is that in many parts of the country Republicans have been able to use her (so-called radical agenda) to scare voters. (This was painfully clear in my own district, which voted solidly Republican, despite an exceptional Democratic candidate.) As far as I can tell, Pelosi is moderate-left by national standards, but her district in San Francisco could easily support someone further left. I suspect that most Democrats would prefer for her to step aside and let someone else (younger and more charismatic) take over, but as it is the only challengers are coming from the right -- not because the caucus wants to move right but because some winners in close districts pledged to vote against her. Yglesias finds a third knock against her: that she's not very effective on TV either representing her party or parrying against Trump. He suggests designating someone else to take the publicity role, limiting her to in-house strategizing (which she's arguably good at). I'm reminded here that in Britain they have an interesting system where the opposition party designates a "shadow cabinet" -- one member for each cabinet position, so there's always a recognized point person for whatever issues crop up. A big advantage there is that it would open up more prominent roles for more people. Might even be . . . more democratic. Other Yglesias pieces:

    • There's nothing "America First" about Trump's Saudi policy: Worth including not just the links but the linked-to titles in this quote:

      President Donald Trump must be giving thanks this morning for press coverage of his extraordinarily inappropriate statement on the murder of dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi [ Zack Beauchamp: Trump's Khashoggi statement is a green light for murder].

      Trump has secretive sources of income and murky financial ties to Saudi interests [ America deserves to know how much money Trump is getting from the Saudi government], and keeps touting entirely bogus statistics about the jobs impact of arms sales to Saudi Arabia [ Trump says selling weapons to Saudi Arabia will create a lot of jobs. That's not true.]. Nevertheless, much of the coverage of his statement simply takes at face value his assertions that his handling of this issue is driven by American interests -- rather than by his own self-interest or the interests of his donors in the defense contracting industry.

      Yglesias argues that "America has a strong interest in curtailing murder." I agree that America should have such an interest, but can't think of many examples of pre-Trump US governments doing anything like that. The US continued to support Pinochet when his agents gunned down a Chilean dissenter in the streets of Washington -- probably the most similar incident, but far from unique. The US has long and lavishly supported Israel's targeted assassination programs -- the model for America's even more extensive "drone warfare" program. More generally, the US supported "death squads" in Latin America and elsewhere, as well as providing intelligence, training, and weapons to "security forces" -- Indonesia's slaughter of 500,000 "communists" is one of the more striking examples. Then there are arms sales in support of aggressive wars, such as the one Saudi Arabia is waging in Yemen. Or you can point to the US refusal to support the International Criminal Court. You can argue that Trump is even worse than past US presidents in this regard -- both for his tasteless embrace of flagrant killers like Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and for his slavish devotion to "allies" like Saudi Arabia and Israel -- but he's mostly just following past practices (even if he seems to be enjoying them too much).

      The more interesting question is why has the murder of Khashoggi different? I don't have time to trot my theories out there, but even if anti-Islam bigotry is part of the equation, the basic realization that governments shouldn't go around killing their dissidents is one more people should embrace more consistently.

    • The time Nancy Pelosi saved Social Security: Credits Pelosi with blocking the privatization scheme GW Bush claimed as his mandate after winning the 2004 election. I never thought the scheme had a chance, because I knew they could never afford to bridge the gap between pay-as-you-go and funded schemes (even a far-from-adequately funded one). But sure, give Pelosi credit for her blanket rejection of all Republican schemes. A big problem that Democrats had all through the Reagan-Bush-Bush years has been their callow willingness to accept (and legitimize) conservative talking points, so it's good to point to examples where they didn't, and saved themselves. Also on Pelosi: Ella Nilsen: Why House progressives have Nancy Pelosi's back.

    • The 2016 election really was dominated by a controversy over emails. Does a good job of summing up the view that media and ultimately voter perception of the 2016 election was decisively dominated by the "email scandal" -- the Gallup Daily Tracking word cloud shows this graphically, but there are many other telling details. Why is a question that remains unanswered. Is it really just as simple as the endless repetition -- by the partisan right-wing media, echoed by mainstream media that covered propaganda as news -- or was there such underlying dislike and distrust of Clinton that let such a trivial mistake (at worst) signify some kind of deeply disturbing character flaw? And if so, why didn't Trump's own obvious character flaws disqualify him? One thing well established by polling is that both candidates were viewed negatively by most people, yet when forced to choose, a decisive number of Americans opted to rid themselves of Clinton to tip the election to the equally (or more, but not more deeply) disliked Trump.

    • The Beto O'Rourke 2020 buzz, explained: "hey, losing a high-profile Senate race was good enough for Abraham Lincoln.".

  • Arthur C Brooks: How Loneliness Is Tearing America Apart: Head of American Enterprise Institute, pushing a Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other, blaming America's numerous woes on cultural factors. I think that may have some superficial validity, but only after taking a hard look at inequality, powerlessness, and perpetual war.

  • Matthew Choi: Trump hits back at Chief Justice Roberts, escalating an extraordinary exchange: Roberts is no hero for a judicial system and sense of justice that transcends party and respects all people, but he reminds us that many conservatives (and, by the way, most liberals) at least go through the motions of wanting to be seen in that light. Trump clearly sees no point in looking beyond political tags -- in part, no doubt, because his grasp of actual issues is so shallow, but but mostly because he's convinced that naked, blatant partisanship gives him an out from any charges of malfeasance (just blame "fake news" and your fans will rally behind you). Trump took the same tack in attacking Admiral Bill McRaven after McRaven had the temerity to note that Trump's ravings about the "fake news" media constitute a threat to American democracy. Trump's first thought was that he could dismiss McRaven by calling him a "Hillary supporter." Clearly, he relishes another presidential campaign against Clinton -- probably figuring she's the only Democrat he can still whip.

  • Aaron Gell: The Unbearable Rightness of Seth Abramson: On a blogger who has deeply investigated the whole Trump-Russia thing, publishing the book: Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America.

  • William D Hartung: America's Post-9/11 Wars Have Cost $5.9 Trillion: "Not to mention 240,000 civilian deaths and 21 million displaced. And yet a congressional commission is urging yet more money for a bloated Pentagon." Also: Murtaza Hussain: It's Time for America to Reckon With the Staggering Death Toll of the Post-9/11 Wars, which puts the death toll twice as high ("at least 480,000 people").

  • Rebecca Jennings: The death of small businesses in big cities, explained: Interview with Jeremiah Moss.

  • Jen Kirby: Theresa May and the EU have a Brexit deal. What's next?

  • Andrew Kragie: Trump's New Kavanaugh for the US Court of Appeals: Meet Neomi Rao.

  • Mark Landler: In Extraordinary Statement, Trump Stands With Saudis Despite Khashoggi Killing. Also: Karoun Demirjian: More Republicans challenge Trump on defense of Saudi crown prince.

  • Dara Lind: Trump's reportedly cutting a deal to force asylum seekers to wait in Mexico.

  • Bill McKibben: How Extreme Weather Is Shrinking the Planet. Also: Robinson Meyer: A Grave Climate Warning, Buried on Black Friday; and David Sirota: Big Oil v the planet is the fight of our lives. Democrats must choose a side.

  • Anna North: How Trump helped inspire a wave of strict new abortion laws.

  • Daniel Politi: US Agents Fire Tear Gas at Migrants Approaching the Border From Mexico.

  • Robert Reich: Break up Facebook (and while we're at it, Google, Apple and Amazon): The sheer size of these four companies, each built to dominate major niches on the internet, certainly suggests some sort of antitrust remedy. (I'm less concerned here with physical products -- still most of what Apple produces, but tightly interwoven with their network products, even more so for Google, Amazon, and we might as well include Microsoft in this list.) On the other hand, given how important network effects are to each of these businesses, they're more than a little like natural monopolies, which occur in markets that are never able to support healthy competition. The difference is that utilities and such are most efficient with common infrastructure shared by all customers, the winning vendor for services like Facebook (and Amazon) is inevitably the first one with the widest network. The problem with such monopolies is less the usual problem of restricting competition than abuse of power. Moreover, where product monopolies tend to abuse power by extorting high prices and/or delivering poor service, services like Facebook and Google make their profits by exploiting their user base (by capturing and reselling private information). It may not have been obvious before Facebook that there was a public interest in social media, and indeed one might never have developed had customers directly had to bear the full development costs, but by now it's pretty clear that: a) people want social media; b) that the market will be captured by a single vendor; and c) that the profit motive will lead that vendor to take advantage of and harm users. There is an obvious solution to problems like this, and it isn't antitrust (not that there aren't cases here for antitrust and/or other forms of regulation). The solution is to build publicly funded non-profit utilities to provide web services that are not subject to profit-seeking exploitation.

  • Dylan Scott: Bernie Sanders's new plan to bring down drug prices, briefly explained: Better than nothing, I suppose, but this still assumes the necessity of patents to incentivize profit-seeking companies to develop new drugs. The main thing it does is to provide some limits on how much drug companies can extort from customers and their insurers, and even then depends on generics based on patent licensing to introduce a bit of competition. A more immediately effective scheme would allow importation of drugs from a much wider range of countries, ideally including ones not beholden to US patent laws. (A compromise might be to allow a fixed import tax to be claimed by the patent holder.) Better still would be to eliminate patents altogether, and do research and development through publicly-funded "open source" institutions around the world.

  • Dylan Scott: The Mississippi Senate runoff, Dems' last chance for one more 2018 upset, explained: "Mike Espy could become the first black senator from Mississippi since Reconstruction." We, and for that matter, the long-suffering people of Mississippi, should be so lucky. Cindy Hyde-Smith tweet: "Did you know extremists like Cory Booker are campaigning for Mike Espy here in MS?" Isn't Booker the guy with all the big bank money behind him? Who's the real extremist here?

  • Somini Sengupta: The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard?

  • Emily Stewart: Ivanka Trump's personal email excuse shows she only wants to seem competent some of the time: "She violated the rule by using a personal email but wants you to believe she didn't know better."

  • Kaitlyn Tiffany: Wouldn't it be better if self-checkout just died? A personal pet peeve. I, for one, pretty much never use the systems, for lots of reasons, which start with I don't like machines lecturing me. But then I guess I've never been good with authority figures, let alone fascism.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30635 [30591] rated (+44), 293 [300] unrated (-7).

Finished Weekend Roundup at a decent (for me) hour Sunday evening, figuring I'd knock this out on time too. However, the end-of-the-year crunch hit me hard over the weekend, so I have quite a bit of material to cover here. I'll try to be brief (and will probably postpone whatever I can).

First thing is that Francis Davis will be running his annual Jazz Critics Poll again this year, with NPR picking up the tab (such as it is) and bragging rights. I've been hosting the ballots and providing complete results since 2009, and will do that again. But the difference this year is that I'll be doing the ongoing tabulation, so I need to get set up early this year (like right now) instead of waiting for Francis to dump everything in my lap a day or two after the voting deadline (December 9). Francis always urges early submission of ballots, and I have three waiting in my mailbox at the moment. Sometime over the next couple days I'll set up my framework and start counting ballots. Good news for me is that it will spread the work out, but ultimately that will add up to quite a bit more work. It certainly ruins any hopes I had of driving off to see family in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

At this point I have very little idea of the contenders -- not even much sense of my own list. But at least I've cobbled together two very tentative lists: as has been my custom, one for Jazz and one for Non-Jazz. First thing I must say is that I was very surprised to see that both lists have the exact same number of new A-list records: 46. Usually what happens is that when I first put these lists together (Nov. 16 in 2017, Nov. 19 this year) I get about a 60-40 split in favor of jazz (ratio, but I usually have about 100 A-list records at this point, so close to literally). Then as I get a chance to look at non-jazz EOY lists, I catch up on the non-jazz side so the split usually winds up close to 50-50 (in 2014: 69-76; in 2015: 81-83; in 2016: 75-67 -- a slight trend line toward more jazz, which seemed to finally tilt in 2017: 84-61). So while I was expecting that trend to hold, I was also thinking the split might be even more extreme this year, as (my impression at least) I've actually been streaming more jazz than non-jazz this year. So coming up 46-46 is a big surprise to me.

Actually, my perception isn't that far off base. Jazz has a 13-4 A-list edge in Reissues/Historic, which I mention because it's hard to factor those records out of the following grade break-downs (obtained by subtracting Music Tracking: Jazz from All:

GradeTotalJazzNon-JazzJazz %
A 3 1 2 33.3%
A- 102 55 47 53.9%
*** 154 118 44 71.4%
** 215 160 55 74.4%
* 176 118 58 67.8%
B 83 54 29 65.0%
B- 18 11 7 61.1%
C+ 5 4 1 80.0%
C 2 2 0 100.0%
C- 1 1 0 100.0%
D+ 1 1 0 100.0%
Total 760 517 243 68.0%
U 31 31 0 100.0%

So, basically, I'm listening to twice as many jazz as non-jazz records, but I'm a lot pickier about the non-jazz I play. I figure that the jazz percentage (currently 68%) will drop a bit before the year is over, more like last year's 62%. I should also note that the total number of rated records is down this year, from 1185 in 2017 to 760 now (assuming 10 weeks left, a pace that would reach 940 albums).

The jazz grade curve above looks pretty reasonable to me, although compared to past years it looks like A- is down and B+(***) up. I'm on a pace to hit 57 A-list jazz records this year, vs. 81-75-84 over the last three years: the A-list share of all rated records is 6.0% this year, vs. 7.0% last year (or three). I can't explain that. Maybe I'm less patient, or crankier.

As for non-jazz, my most reliable scout this year remains Robert Christgau (although I suspect that statistical analysis might show he's been less reliable this year than before). It's now pretty easy to check up on his grades for 2018 releases. Adding in last week's picks (Homeboy Sandman & Edan, Open Mike Eagle), he has 60 A/A- records among 2018 releases (excluding a dozen-plus belated grades for 2017 releases). I've heard 58 of those (playing Open Mike Eagle now; can't find Chicago Farmer), and my grades break as follows: A: 1, A-: 24, B+(***): 16, B+(**): 8, B+(*): 7, B: 2. That's pretty good correlation: more than half (52.1%) of my non-jazz A-list were rated A/A- by Christgau. (Christgau has two jazz albums on his list: John Hassell [my A-] and MAST [my ***].)

I did an update of the CG database last week -- my first since mid-January. I hadn't been able to work on it for several months, thanks to a major server meltdown, which forced me to rebuild my local copy of the website based on the public copy. That shouldn't have been too hard, but my new machine was running later software revisions, and the public server was also out of sync with my old server. I had more than a hundred files that I needed to revise, and actually still don't have all of that work done. I've been getting by with partial updates, but hadn't been able to change the database until I resolved a character set incompatibility. I made a breakthrough on that a week ago, and it took me until Thursday to catch up and prepare a database update.

I also settled down and wrote up a script to provide a RSS 2.0 feed. If you use a RSS feed reader (most browsers have one built in), you can add this feed to the list you're monitoring, and get notices when new files (or major edits) appear on the website. The current one has titles, links, and dates, but doesn't have article descriptions yet. I'll add those as we go forward. I don't have much experience with RSS, so there are details that I'm unsure of. For instance, should we add links to external websites, given that most of Christgau's new writings appear elsewhere (e.g., Noisey), exclusively for an initial period. (While the embargo is in effect, the RSS will link you to a stub article which includes a link to the current article, so the inconvenience is an extra click.)

I'll promise here to get the rest of the programming changes done by the end of the year. Beyond that, I'm planning on doing a fairly major website redesign next year. The current website was launched in 2001, and we've been hearing complaints about its "antique" design at least since 2004. Most never bothered us, but we keep getting bit by software changes, especially by the now nearly universal adoption of UTF-8. We need to adopt UTF-8, and bring the older pages up to HTML5. We need to add a viewport declaration to work better with phones (and I need to learn what else "phone-first design" entails). We don't use cookies, and there is virtually no javascript to the site -- good things, I've always thought, but I'm starting to wonder. I'm not particularly keen on moving all the articles to the database, but the directory organization has morphed into a sprawling, nonsensical mess -- such that I have little idea where to put many new files. It may be a good idea to come up with a different browsing scheme. There are also maintenance issues, especially as we've seen that the current webmaster can be pretty lax about his duties.

Back in 2001 when I built the site, I had figured that I'd have to rebuild it around 2004-05. In fact, there are dozens of pages scattered around the site with ideas for development -- few that have actually been revisited since 2005. At some point in the next few weeks I'm going to set up a mail exchange and invite interested (and hopefully expert) people to act as a consulting forum on this and similar projects. (My own "ocston" website dates back to 1999, surviving an effort back in 2002 at a major rewrite, so I can be even more lax on my own work.) Maybe we can also provide a sounding board for others who want to work on similar or related projects. (E.g., Chuck Eddy one suggested reviving "Pazz N Jop Product Report," so I wrote a very preliminary spec here, then never did anything about it.) I was thinking I'd announce the forum this week, but didn't get that done. Soon, I promise.

I also hoped to get the RSS feed code backported to my site. (Back when I was using Serendipity for my blog, I had people who publicized my links from its RSS feed -- I know this because I've seen broken links from a year ago.) Also I plan on adding a Q&A feature similar to Christgau's Xgau Sez (a new batch of which came out today). I solved one technical issue last week, and hoped to announce that today, but "real soon now" is the best I can do.

Another thing I didn't get set up this week is the 2018 EOY Aggregate file. Actually all I need to do there is to clean up and repurpose this file, which I had set up for mid-year lists (based on last year's EOY Aggregate framework). I think what I will do there is to turn all of the mid-year list mentions into 1-point miscellaneous references (so that Janelle Monae drops from 52 to 22 points), then replace those as actual lists appear. EOY lists usually start appearing around Thanksgiving. In fact, here is the top 75 from Mojo.

As for this week's music, before I got swamped I was variously intrigued and outraged by Downbeat's Readers Poll. I made an effort to track down the top-ranked albums I hadn't heard of. I also spent the better part of a day trying to check out the late guitarist Allan Holdsworth, who came in second (for the second straight year) in reader Hall of Fame voting. (He lost to Wynton Marsalis last year, and to Ray Charles this year.) I knew the name, and had several of his records listed (but not heard) in my database, filed under rock. After sampling eight (of not much more than a dozen) albums, I have to say I have no idea what fans hear in his guitar. I suppose I could have dug deeper -- he did early work with pianist Gordon Beck, whose Experiments With Pops was a star-making turn for John McLaughlin, and he appeared on two 1975-76 Tony Williams albums I don't know -- but I was pretty sure his 12-CD box set (The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever) was de trop, especially since most of it was also redundant.

Midweek I mostly played Christgau picks. I think I get the appeal of Rich Krueger, but something about his sound turns me off (I called his previous album, Life Ain't That Long, the one Christgau prefers, "Springsteenian.") I wound up reviewing Lithics based on an "abridged version" on Napster and Bandcamp. I usually don't bother with partials (6/12 cuts), but figured that was the only chance I'd get. When I do, I usually hedge, but this seemed like the sort of thing they could keep doing for hours (recommended if you not only like Wire but need more). A couple B+(***) records tempted me for extra plays in case they got better. The one that came closest was by Carol Liebowitz. Several albums this week were recommended by Alfred Soto in an "we're almost there" pre-EOY list. Eric Church's Desperate Man is the only one I'd call a find, but that was after the cutoff (so next week).

One bit of good news at Napster is that the HighNote/Savant back catalogue is now available. I checked out a new archival Frank Morgan release, then found a couple of old ones I had missed. I previously pegged A Night in the Life: Live at the Jazz Standard Vol. 3 at B+(***), so it's not a big surprise that Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 edge it. The other gem in Morgan's catalog is Twogether, a duo with John Hicks, released in 2010 after both died.

New records rated this week:

  • Ethan Ardelli: The Island of Form (2018, self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mandy Barnett: Strange Conversation (2018, Dame Productions/Thirty Tigers): [r]: A-
  • Pat Bianchi: In the Moment (2018, Savant): [r]: B
  • Magnus Broo Trio: Rules (2017 [2018], Moserobie): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Bobby Broom & the Organi-sation: Soul Fingers (2018, MRi): [cd]: B
  • Rosanne Cash: She Remembers Everything (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Annie Chen Octet: Secret Treetop (2018, Shanghai Audio & Video): [cd]: B
  • Randy Halberstadt: Open Heart (2018, Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Clay Harper: Bleak Beauty (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Christopher Hollyday: Telepathy (2018, Jazzbeat Productions): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Homeboy Sandman & Edan: Humble Pi (2018, Stones Throw, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Adam Hopkins: Crickets (2018, Out of Your Head): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jason Kao Hwang Burning Bridge: Blood (2018, True Sound): [cd]: A-
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Una Noche Con Rubén Blades (2014 [2018], Blue Engine): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Rich Krueger: NOWThen (2018, Rockin'K Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lawful Citizen: Internal Combustion (2018, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Carol Liebowitz/Birgitta Flick: Malita-Malika (2017 [2018], Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Lithics: Mating Surfaces (2018, Kill Rock Stars): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Roc Marciano: RR2: The Bitter Dose (2018, Marci): [r]: B+(***)
  • Rhett Miller: The Messenger (2018, ATO): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mr. Fingers: Cerebral Hemispheres (2018, Aleviated): [r]: B+(**)
  • Old Man Saxon: The Pursuit (2018, Pusher, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chris Pasin: Ornettiquette (2018, Planet Arts): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Lucas Pino's No Net Nonet: That's a Computer (2018, Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Paul Simon: In the Blue Light (2018, Legacy): [r]: B
  • Vince Staples: FM! (2018, Def Jam, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • David S. Ware Trio: The Balance (Vision Festival XV+) (2009-10 [2018], AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(***)
  • Way North: Fearless and Kind (2018, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Kenny Werner: The Space (2016 [2018], Pirouet): [cd]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Frank Morgan/George Cables: Montreal Memories (1989 [2018], High Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Outlaws & Armadillos: Country's Roaring '70s (1971-79 [2018], Legacy, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joe Strummer: 001 (1981-2002, Ignition, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ben Webster: Valentine's Day 1964 Live! (1964 [2018], Dot Time): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Mandy Barnett: The Original Nashville Cast Recordings of "Always . . . Patsy Cline": Live at the Ryman Auditorium (1995, Decca): [r]: B+(*)
  • Allan Holdsworth: I.O.U. (1982 [1985], Enigma): [r]: B
  • Allan Holdsworth With I.O.U.: Metal Fatigue (1985, Enigma): [r]: B-
  • Allan Holdsworth: Atavachron (1986, Enigma): [r]: C+
  • Allan Holdsworth: Sand (1987, Relativity): [r]: B-
  • Allan Holdsworth: Secrets (1989, Intima): [r]: C+
  • Allan Holdsworth: Wardenclyffe Tower (1992, Restless): [r]: B-
  • Allan Holdsworth: The Sixteen Men of Tain (2000, Gnarly Geezer): [r]: B-
  • Allan Holdsworth/Alan Pasqua/Jimmy Haslip/Chad Wackerman: Blues for Tony (2007 [2009], Moonjune, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Frank Morgan: City Nights: Live at the Jazz Standard (2003 [2004], High Note): [r]: A-
  • Frank Morgan: Raising the Standard: Live at the Jazz Standard Vol. 2 (2003 [2005], High Note): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Carla Campopiano Trio: Chicago/Buenos Aires Connections (self-released): December 7
  • Dustin Carlson: Air Ceremony (Out of Your Head)
  • Fred Hersch: Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard (Palmetto): December 7
  • Simone Kopmajer: Spotlight on Jazz (Lucy Mojo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Mark Feldman/Jason Hwang: Strings 1 (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Hank Roberts/Ned Rothenberg: Strings 2 (Leo)
  • Yoko Yamaoka: Diary 2005-2015: Yuko Yamaoka Plays the Music of Satoko Fujii (Libra, 2CD)

Daiy Log

Miscellaneous Album Notes:

  • Outlaws & Armadillos: Country's Roaring '70s (1971-79 [2018], Legacy, 2CD): B+(**)

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Weekend Roundup

No intro this week. A few updates but really not much on the elections, let alone political futures for 2020. I barely managed to work in notice of Israel's latest round of punitive bombings in Gaza. I'm sure there's much more to it, but most of the links I did notice have to do with cease fire negotiations (not going well, I gather) as opposed to why it happened when. (I will note that this isn't the first time Israel launched a wave of terror right after an American election.) I think there was also a story about how last week was the first time the US defended Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights, seized by Israel in the 1967 war. Another thing I wanted to write about was the NY Times piece claiming that North Korea has "snookered" Trump and is still developing missiles. I gather this has been debunked in various places -- my wife is on top of this and other stories I haven't had time for -- but I didn't land on a link that made sense of it all. Also, I have no real opinions on possible leadership contests for the Democrats in the new Congress. I've been pretty critical of both Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in the past, and no doubt will again in the future. (Whenever I think of Schumer I'm reminded of a story about how he greeted our friend Liz Fink on the street with his customary "how am I doing?" -- to which she answered, "you're evil, man.") Still, politics is a dirty business, and no one can afford to get too bent out of shape over it. Whoever wins, we'll support them when we can, and oppose them when we must. That much never changes.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias pieces this week:

    • HQ2 is a perfect opportunity to massively upgrade the DC area's commuter rail.

    • What the Amazon tax breaks really mean.

    • New Pew poll: the public prefers congressional Democrats to Trump on most issues: Oddly enough, the two questions Trump leads are "Jobs and econ growth" (44-33) and "Trade policy" (40-38), with "Taxes" near even (38-39). Strongest Democratic advantages: "The environment" (55-19), "Ethics in government" (48-22), "Medicare" (51-26), "Health care" (51-28), and "Social Security" (48-26).

    • Trump's latest interview shows a president who's in way over his head: "but what else is new?"

      In some ways, the friendliest Donald Trump interviews are the most revealing. Given the opportunity to ramble and free-associate without any pushback whatsoever, you can see what channels his mind naturally follows.

      His latest interview with the Daily Caller shows a president who's fundamentally out to sea. The sycophantic interviewers can't get Trump to answer a policy question of any kind, no matter how much of a softball they lob at him. The only subjects he is actually interested in talking about are his deranged belief in his incredible popularity and how that popularity is not reflected in actual vote totals because he's the victim of a vast voter fraud conspiracy.

      Actually a fairly long piece with a lot of excerpts backing up the summary.

    • Trump's incompetence and authoritarianism are both scary: Takes exception to a David Brooks tweet about Trump ("It's the incompetence, not the authoritarianism we should be worried about"), nothing that "autocrats are often incompetent." Indeed, you could argue that authoritarianism is Trump's crutch against his own incompetence, much like how people who cannot speak in the listener's language think that more volume will do the trick. Brooks' tweet refers to Jonathan V Last: The Vaporware Presidency, which sums Trump's approach as: "Step 1: Propose something ridiculous. Step 2: Cause chaos but don't deliver it. Lather, rinse, repeat." Yglesias offers the example of promoting Thomas Homan to replace Kirstjen Nielsen (Secretary of Homeland Security):

      This is both stupid and authoritarian at the same time and for the same reason.

      Trump's primary interest is in putting people in place who will aggressively support Trump rather than people who know what they are doing. Consequently, he'd rather have a DHS head who suggests arresting local politicians for disagreeing with Trump than a DHS head who advises Trump to avoid doing illegal stuff.

      This is simultaneously a recipe for vaporware and for autocracy. Homan, at the end of the day, probably won't actually go around arresting liberal mayors -- it's just something that sounded good to say. But when you fill your Cabinet with people who make these kinds of suggestions and make it clear that's what you want to hear from your top lieutenants, sooner or later, someone goes and does it.

      Even more inevitable is that those who don't follow through with their stupid/authoritarian sound bites will be taunted for failure, giving rise to ever more shameless opportunists.

    • What the 2018 results tell us about 2020: "Realistically, not much." Actually, the main difference between presidential elections and "mid-terms" (a term I've always hated) is turnout: about 60% vs. 40%. The big change in 2018 was that turnout jumped to almost 50%. While Republicans have been very effective at getting their base out to vote, that bump (relative to past "mid-terms") skewed Democratic. In fact, at this point both parties have come to believe that their fates will mostly be decided by voter turnout (hence the R's efforts at voter suppression). The election also revealed two regional trends. The Southwest from Texas to California has shifted toward the Democrats, flipping Senate seats in Arizona and Nevada. You can chalk that up to demography, further polarized by Trump's anti-immigrant policies. Also, Trump's gains in the belt from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin and Iowa have mostly evaporated. There's no reason to think that either of those shifts will reverse in 2020. I can think of a half-dozen more points to add in moving from 2018 to 2020, but should hold them back for a longer essay. My point is that a lot happened in 2018 that bodes well for Democrats looking forward, and there's very little on the other side of the ledger. Of course, Democrats could blow it by nominating another candidate with massive credibility issues.

      For another piece on shifting political grounds, see: Stanley B Greenberg: Trump Is Beginning to Lose His Grip.

    • Jim Acosta vs. the Trump White House, explained:

      This particular weird incident with Acosta and the staffer might be no more remembered than a dozen other bizarre moments from that press conference. (Trump openly mocked losing House Republican candidates, misstated the tipping point states in the Electoral College, threatened politically motivated investigations of House Democrats, blamed "Obama's regime" for Russian annexation of Crimea, claimed to be unable to understand foreign journalists' accents, wildly mischaracterized both DACA and the Affordable Care Act, and said some stuff about China that was so incoherent, it's hard to even call it lying.)

      Also note this:

      But more broadly, to cast the press as the real "opposition party" in America -- as Trump has -- offers some meaningful tactical advantages. Trump, in an unusual way, won the 2016 presidential election without being popular. Not only did he win fewer votes than Hillary Clinton on Election Day, but his favorability rating was lower than that of the losing candidates from the 2012, 2008, 2004, and 2000 presidential elections.

      The nonpartisan press can (and does) report facts that are unflattering to Trump. But a lack of unflattering facts or a failure by the public to appreciate their existence has never been the foundation of Trump's political success. And the press isn't going to do the work of an actual opposition party, which is to formulate a political alternative that an adequate number of people find to be sufficiently inspiring to go out and vote for.

      That's the job of the Democratic Party, an institution that's had considerable trouble attracting press attention to its own message and ideas ever since Trump exploded on the scene. And keeping the media focused on a self-referential feud between Trump and the media is a way to maintain his preferred approach of trying to suck up all the oxygen in the room.

      Meanwhile, what matters to Trump isn't any actual crushing of the media but simply driving the narrative in his core followers' heads that the media is at war with him. With that pretense in place, critical coverage and unflattering facts can be dismissed even as Trump selectively courts the press to inject his own preferred ideas into the mainstream.

      PS: Aaron Rupar: Trump-appointed judge orders White House to temporarily restore Acosta's credentials. "Even Fox News released a statement siding with CNN."

    • Republicans just lost a Senate seat in Arizona because Trump is an egomaniac.

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slams Amazon's imminent arrival in Queens. For a further critique, see: Alexia Fernández Campbell: The US economy doesn't need more Amazon jobs. It needs higher wages.

    • One chart that shows racism has everything and nothing to do with Republican election wins: The chart shows a fairly strong correlation between denial of racism and voting Republican. It's long been hard to get an accurate survey of racism in America because much of what amounts to racial prejudice is subconscious (or rarely conscious), and very few people admit to being racists, even those who often act and/or talk the part.

  • Michelle Alexander: The Newest Jim Crow: "Recent criminal justice reforms contain the seeds of a frightening system of 'e-carceration.'"

  • Zack Beauchamp: What's going on with Brexit, explained in under 500 words: Or, in under 30 words: Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated a "soft Brexit" deal that would retain UK access to Europe's common market and an "open border" in Ireland. Nobody likes it. Also see: John Cassidy: The Brexit Fantasy Goes Down in Tears; and Jane Mayer: New Evidence Emerges of Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica's Role in Brexit.

  • Tom Engelhardt: The Donald and the Fake News Media.

  • Kathy Gannon: After 17 years, many Afghans blame US for unending war.

  • Jeff Goodell: The President's Coal Warrior: All about EPA head (and former coal industry lobbyist) Andrew Wheeler, and his "highly effective campaign to sacrifice public health in favor of the fossil-fuel industry."

  • Glenn Greenwald: As the Obama DOJ Concluded, Prosecution of Julian Assange for Publishing Documents Poses Grave Threats to Press Freedom.

  • Michael Grunwald: How Everything Became the Culture War: I guess this is an important subject, but this could be treated better. One problem is the meticulously balanced centrism:

    At a time when Blue and Red America have split into two warring tribes inhabiting two separate realities, and "debate" has been redefined to evoke split-screen cable-news screamfests, this ferocious politicization of everything might seem obvious and unavoidable. . . . Democrats and Republicans are increasingly self-segregated and mutually disdainful, each camp deploying the furious language of victimhood to justify its fear and loathing of the gullible deplorables in the other.

    This is followed by a list of caricatures, evenly sorted between two camps, except that a strange asymmetry sets in: the terminology, not to mention the ominous overtones, comes almost exclusively from the right. For instance, there is nothing remotely like a Church of Global Warming Leftists. It's not that leftists cannot play culture war games, but the right uses them as proxies for policies never get aired out (like the promise to "repeal and replace" ACA with something "better and cheaper"). The reason culture war has increasingly swamped political discourse is that conservatives have little chance of convincing most Americans of the merits of their program, so they try to manipulate what they hope is a viable target base with appeals to their identity, and big lies and massive shots of fear and loathing. It's gotten much worse in the last couple years, but isn't that just Trump? I don't know whether he tries to turn everything into culture war because he has some shrewd insight into mass psychology or because he has no grasp of policy whatsoever -- he certainly never manages to say anything intelligible on whatever he's up to.

    I think it's safe to say Obama was never like that, even as he was subjected to repeated attempts to impugn his patriotism, his religion, his honesty, his dignity. It's true that not every Republican took that tack, but many did (not least Trump himself). I just ran across a meme in my Facebook feed today that is possibly the most offensive one I've seen: "The Obamas continue to linger, like the stench of human waste that fouls the air and assaults the nostrils." The comments just build on this.

  • Umair Irfan: Why the wildfire in Northern California was so severe: "Heat, wind, and drought -- and long-term climate trends -- conspired to create the deadly Camp Fire." Also: Brian Resnick: Northern California now has the worst air quality in the world, thanks to wildfire smoke; and Gabriel Thompson: As Toxic Smoke Blankets California, Who Has the Ability to Escape? Subhed ("while the wealthy can flee toward cleaner air, the poorest have no choice but to stay put") isn't exactly true on any count, not that the wealthy don't have more options. But the wealthy also need to note that they're the ones who own most of the property threatened by climate-driven disaster. Beachfront houses aren't owned by poor people, nor are most of the houses destroyed in California towns like Paradise and Malibu. Moreover, that "bad air" map covers a lot of wealthy towns, and air is about the only thing rich and poor still share alike. Maybe some ultra-rich folk hopped in their jets and went elsewhere, but most middling property owners are as stuck as everyone else.

  • Paul Krugman: Why Was Trump's Tax Cut a Fizzle? No surprises here. Just a review of the things Republicans say to get special favors for their donors, and how quickly they are forgotten.

    Last week's blue wave means that Donald Trump will go into the 2020 election with only one major legislative achievement: a big tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. Still, that tax cut was supposed to accomplish big things. Republicans thought it would give them a big electoral boost, and they predicted dramatic economic gains. What they got instead, however, was a big fizzle.

    The political payoff, of course, never arrived. And the economic results have been disappointing. True, we've had two quarters of fairly fast economic growth, but such growth spurts are fairly common -- there was a substantially bigger spurt in 2014, and hardly anyone noticed. And this growth was driven largely by consumer spending and, surprise, government spending, which wasn't what the tax cutters promised.

    Meanwhile, there's no sign of the vast investment boom the law's backers promised. Corporations have used the tax cut's proceeds largely to buy back their own stock rather than to add jobs and expand capacity.

    Also by Krugman: The Tax Cut and the Balance of Payments (Wonkish). Also: Jim Tankersley/Matt Phillips: Trump's Tax Cut Was Supposed to Change Corporate Behavior. Here's What Happened.

  • Caroline Orr: US joins Russia, North Korea in refusing to sign cybersecurity pact: This may not be the right deal -- one major plank is to protect "intellectual property" which often is meant to force an arbitrary division of the world into owners and renters -- but some sort of effort like this should be negotiated, and it needs to include Russia and the US, simply because those (along with China and Israel) are the nations with the worst track record of waging cyberwar. Take away the idea of cyberwar, and you could even start to crack down on everyday nuisance hacking, which would make all of our lives easier.

  • Sarah Smarsh: A Blue Wave in Kansas? Don't Be So Surprised: The only state which has elected three female governors, all Democrats (also a female three-term Senator, Republican Nancy Kassebaum).

  • Michael Robbins: Looking Busy: The Rise of Pointless Work: A review of David Graeber's latest book, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory.

  • Matt Taibbi: Trump's Defense Spending Is Out of Control, and Poised to Get Worse:

  • Sabrina Tavernise: These Americans Are Done With Politics: "The Exhausted Majority needs a break."

    A deep new study of the American electorate, "Hidden Tribes," concludes that two out of three Americans are far more practical than that narrative suggests. Most do not see their lives through a political lens, and when they have political views the views are far less rigid than those of the highly politically engaged, ideologically orthodox tribes.

    The study, an effort to understand the forces that drive political polarization, surveyed a representative group of 8,000 Americans. The nonpartisan organization that did it, More in Common, paints a picture of a society that is far more disengaged -- and despairing over divisions -- than it is divided. At its heart is a vast and often overlooked political middle that feels forgotten in the vitriol, as if the country has gone on without it. It calls that group the Exhausted Majority, a group that represented two-thirds of the survey.

    "It feels very lonely out here," said Jamie McDaniel, a 36-year-old home health care worker in Topeka, Kan., one of several people in the study who was interviewed for this article. "Everybody is so right or left, and you're just kind of standing there in the middle saying, "What happened?'"

  • Rachel Withers: CIA reportedly concludes that Jamal Khashoggi was killed on the Saudi crown prince's orders. Also: Alex Ward: Trump doesn't want to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi. His new sanctions prove it. I don't doubt Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's culpability here, even with the CIA attesting to it, but I also don't think the US should be unilaterally sanctioning Saudi Arabia or its citizens, except perhaps through an international process, perhaps based on the World Court or the International Criminal Court. On the other hand, the US does need to rethink its relationship to Saudi Arabia. The US should cut off all arms sales and support as long as Saudi Arabia is engaged in its war of aggression against Yemen. The US should also stop catering to Saudi hostility against Iran and seek to negotiate deals that would allow Iran to enjoy normal, mutually beneficial relationships with the US and its various neighbors. But the idea that the US should act as judge and jury in deciding to punish other states and people is arrogant and unfair, a force of injustice and destabilization which ultimately does more harm than good.

    Speaking of Saudi Arabia and the mischief MBS is up to: David Hearst: Bin Salman 'tried to persuade Netanyahu to go to war in Gaza' say sources. Note that Israel in fact launched a series of attacks on Gaza starting on November 11; also see Alex Ward: Israel and Gaza just saw their worst violence in years. It could get worse.

  • Rachel Withers: Weekend midterms update: Democrats concede Florida and Georgia but complete their Orange County sweep: "Plus, where the rest of the outstanding races stand." For an earlier rundown, see: All the House seats Democrats have flipped in the 2018 elections. Withers also wrote: Trump skipped Arlington Cemetery on Veterans Day because he was "extremely busy"; and Trump attacks retired Navy SEAL Admiral Bill McRaven, suggests he should have gotten bin Laden sooner.

   Mar 2001