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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, July archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31749 [31726] rated (+23), 262 [262] unrated (+0).

Slow getting this out, with Monday wiped out by a house emergency (water heater broke down). Had a nagging sore throat much of the week, but right now mostly feel exhausted. Relatively mild summer so far, but looks like triple digits coming soon and probably persisting. Next couple weeks will probably be worse.

Rated count cut off Sunday evening, but I've added unpacking since then, so the numbers are a little out of whack.

Second straight week with an unusually low rated count (24 last week). Again, spent some time on the Resonance anthologies without writing any reviews, and also found a higher-than-usual split of A- records, plus high B+ that merited extra plays. Most of the finds this week come from Chris Monsen's Jazz favorites list, plus a few more from Phil Overeem's Halfway to Listville. The easiest one was John McPhee's Nation Time: I skipped over it when I was catching up with Corbett vs. Dempsey's Bandcamp a few weeks back, as I had already given Corbett's 2000 reissue a full A, and hadn't noticed the extra cuts. No reason to repurchase if you have the Atavistic release, but the bonuses are just that.

Had a minor role in helping Joe Yanosik publish his magnum opus A Consumer Guide to FRANCO. I have a Guests section on my website, which I've used a few times but never really tried to promote. I've long thought that a better solution would be to set up guest areas on my Hullworks website, perhaps as sub-domains, which could be spun off should the guests decide to pony up for a domain name. I'm in a position where I can host those as well. I also considered hanging Joe's piece at Terminal Zone -- long my pet idea for a music-themed website (named for the zine Don Malcolm and I published back in 1977). In the end, I went with the path that involved the least thought and work.

When Joe first mentioned his Franco project to me, I glanced at Napster's Franco offerings, and spent a week digging around. My own (much more limited) set of Franco grades are here. You can also look up what Robert Christgau has written.

I might as well mention two projects that I've started but haven't gotten very far on. I've started to add recent reviews to the two large book manuscript files I have on jazz. Rather slow work, but I've added 99 pages up to January, 2019, pushing the 20th century jazz guide over 800, and the 21st over 1700. Files are backed up online, in ODT format.

I've also started collecting mid-year lists, as I did last year. This uses the EOY list aggregate format, and most likely will eventually evolve into a full EOY list aggregate later this year. Only have four lists compiled so far (about a third of those collected on AOTY). I'm surprised there aren't more, but haven't really looked yet. The current aggregate is way too sparse to draw any real conclusions from. One issue here is that I'm only awarding 1 point for each list mention. (Two reasons: one is that so far many of the lists are unranked; the other is that it makes it easier to clean up with I replace the midway lists with EOY lists.) The other point I should note here is that I'm factoring in my graces (A: 5, A-: 4, ***: 3, **: 2, *: 1), which currently results in quite a bit of skew. E.g., 6 of the top 8 records now are ones I've graded A- (Billy Eilish, Lizzo, Charly Bliss, Big Thief, Little Simz, Jamila Woods), and the other two (Carly Rae Jepsen and Vampire Weekend) were *** and ** respectively. Expect my picks to slip as I add further lists, while records I like less will make inroads (Solange is the surest shot; maybe also Tyler the Creator, Sharon Van Etten, Jenny Lewis). Record that I haven't heard with the most list mentions so far: Flying Lotus' Flamagra.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Maria Faust/Tim Dahl/Weasel Walter: Farm Fresh (2018 [2019], Gotta Let It Out): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fire! Orchestra: Arrival (2019, Rune Grammofon): [r]: B
  • Alex Fournier: Triio (2018 [2019], Furniture Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lafayette Gilchrist: Dark Matter (2016 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • GoldLink: Diaspora (2019, Squaaash Club/RCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bjřrn Marius Hegge: Ideas (2019, Particular): [r]: A-
  • Megan Thee Stallion: Fever (2019, 300 Entertainment): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nature Work: Nature Work (2018 [2019], Sunnyside): [r]: A-
  • Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity: To Whom Who Buys a Record (2019, Odin): [r]: A-
  • Pere Ubu: The Long Goodbye (2019, Cherry Red): [r]: B+(**)
  • Santana: Africa Speaks (2019, Concord): [r]: B
  • Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen on Broadway (2018, Columbia, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars (2019, Columbia): [r]: B-
  • Zhenya Strigalev/Federico Dannemann: The Change (2018 [2019], Rainy Days): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Gebhard Ullmann Basement Research: Impromptus and Other Short Works (2018 [2019], WhyPlayJazz): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Dexter Gordon: At the Subway Club 1973 (1965-73 [2019], Elemental Music, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Clifford Jordan Quartet: Glass Bead Games (1973 [1974], Strata East; [2019], Pure Pleasure): [r]: A-
  • Eero Koivistoinen: The Front Is Breaking (1976, Love; [2017], Svart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joe McPhee: Nation Time (1970 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: A
  • Harry Mosco: Peace & Harmony (1979 [2019], Isle of Jura): [r]: B+(*)
  • Woody Shaw Quintet: Basel 1980 (1980-81 [2019], Elemental Music, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Sonic Youth: Battery Park, NYC, July 4th 2008 (2008 [2019], Matador): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bruce Springsteen: The Live Series: Songs of the Road (1977-2013 [2018], Columbia): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • John Bacon/Michael McNeill/Danny Ziemann: Refractions (Jazz Dimensions): August 1
  • Mike Holober/The Gotham Jazz Orchestra: Hiding Out (Zoho): August 9
  • From Wolves to Whales: Strandwal (Aerophonic): August 26
  • Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Apsis (Aerophonic): August 26

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Fairly large (7.3) earthquake in Halmahera, Indonesia today. It's in a fairly isolated corner of the nation, an island with about 450,000 people, north of Ceram and midway between the outstretched peninsulas of New Guinea and Sulawesi. Probably not much news on this, unlike last week's similar-sized earthquakes near Ridgecrest, California.

On the other hand, quite a bit of news attention to Hurricane Barry, slowly moving today through north Louisiana and into Arkansas, dumping a lot of rain over already flooded terrain. Two things worth noting here. One is that this is still very early in the season (nominally June 1 to November 30). For a record fifth year in a row, the first named storm (Andrea) appeared before the season officially started. June was quiet, but it's still very rare to have hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico in July. Odder still, where most hurricanes start as low pressure zones over West Africa, then pick up strength crossing the width of the subtropical Atlantic Ocean, this one started in Tennessee, then curved in a clockwise motion through Georgia and Florida before intensifying over the Gulf. I've never seen a storm follow that trajectory, or for that matter one that spent so little time over water developing to hurricane level. Granted, it only briefly achieved level 1 strength, but that doesn't bode well for later storms that traverse much more of the still warming Gulf (currently 86°F). [PS: The Wikipedia page suggests several similar hurricanes, but the only one that comes close is 1940 Louisiana hurricane, which formed in early August off the coast of Georgia, crossed Florida and covered a much longer stretch of the Gulf before making landfall in southwest Louisiana. It is regarded as "the wettest tropical cyclone in state history," with a peak rainfall of 37.5 inches. Barry is forecast to produce up to 25 inches of rain. Actual rain so far appears to be much less -- see Barry downgraded to a depression but still brings risk of flooding from Louisiana to Arkansas. This article also notes that the average date for first hurricane of season is August 10, and that this is the first July hurricane in continental US since Arthur in 2014, and only the 4th in Louisiana history according to records going back to 1851.]

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, July 08, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, July archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31726 [31702] rated (+24), 262 [260] unrated (+2).

Rated count down this week. Maybe I didn't focus well while Laura was in Boston, but it's also likely that coming up with a relative bounty of A- records had an effect: they always take more time. Also, I didn't take any dives into old music (the VSOP Quintet shows up in Napster's featured new jazz list, but with digital reissues I usually just cite the original release label/date -- and it wasn't good enough to inspire me to check out their other albums).

This is my first Music Week since Robert Christgau posted his final Noisey Expert Witness column, so it's fitting that I looked a little harder than usual for recent non-jazz. In this I was helped by Phil Overeem's halfway through 2019 list (Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Peter Perrett, Billy Woods & Kenny Segal, Abdullah Ibrahim), and by Facebook comments from Dan Weiss (DaBaby, Open Mike Eagle, Gibbs again -- he's also big on Denzel Curry's Zuu, which I previously had at B+(**)). Most of the others were picked up by scrounging for new music on Napster.

The most controversial of these is probably Madonna's Madame X. Metacritic average is 70. Rob Sheffield wrote a 3-star pan at Rolling Stone, although it reads better than the rating. Spencer Kornhaber takes offense in The paradox of Madonna's gun-control music video. Took me a lot of plays before I recognized that the number of songs I was pleased to recognize exceeded the number of fingers I had available for counting. I have more doubts about the Peter Perrett album, but I gave How the West Was Won an A-, and this one hit the same pleasure spots. Makes me wonder if I underrated Special View (the 1979 Only Ones album), where I remembered his voice from.

I'll also note that I've given Wes's Best: The Best of Wes Montgomery on Resonance 3-4 plays with increasing pleasure. I'd like to review the albums it was selected from before doing the compilation, but the release schedule hasn't made that possible. Haven't played the Bill Evans compilation yet, but same considerations apply there. I've been wanting to hear those records ever since they came out, but probably wouldn't have bothered with the compilations had they not appeared in the mail. Also got a note in email today asking whether I've downloaded recent AUM Fidelity releases. I've looked for them on Napster, but didn't notice the email invites. I'll eventually dig them out, but if you want my attention, best way is still to send a CD.

There will be a new XgauSez out by Tuesday morning. I'm hope to get this post wrapped up before I take a good look at it, and I've been hobbled by Weekend Roundup running into overtime. Also in my input queue is a lengthy and quite extraordinary "Consumer Guide to Franco" that Joe Yanosik compiled and asked if I would publish. Expect that later this week.

New records reviewed this week:

  • 75 Dollar Bill: I Was Real (2019, Thin Wrist): [r]: B+(***)
  • JD Allen: Barracoon (2019, Savant): [r]: A-
  • Gretje Angell: In Any Key (2018 [2019], Grevlinto): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Blind Lemon Jazz: After Hours: New Pages in the American Songbook (2019, Ofeh): [cd]: B+(*)
  • DaBaby: Blank Blank (2018, South Coast Music Group, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • DaBaby: Baby on Baby (2019, South Coast Music Group): [r]: B+(**)
  • Open Mike Eagle: The New Negroes: Season 1 Soundtrack (2019, Comedy Central, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Bandana (2019, Keep Cool/RCA): [r]: A-
  • Jesca Hoop: Stonechild (2019, Memphis Industries): [r]: B+(*)
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance (2019, Gearbox): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mike LeDonne: Partners in Time (2019, Savant): [r]: B+(**)
  • Madonna: Madame X (2019, Interscope): [r]: A-
  • Buddy & Julie Miller: Breakdown on 20th Ave. South (2019, New West): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real: Turn Off the News (Build a Garden) (2019, Fantasy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Willie Nelson: Ride Me Back Home (2019, Legacy): [r]: A-
  • Peter Perrett: Humanworld (2019, Domino): [r]: A-
  • Mette Rasmussen/Julien Desprez: The Hatch (2016 [2019], Dark Tree): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Rebekah Victoria: Songs of the Decades (2018 [2019], Patois): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Billy Woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places (2019, Blackwoodz Studioz): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Stan Getz: Getz at the Gate: The Stan Getz Quartet Live at the Village Gate Nov. 26 1961 (1961 [2019], Verve, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Sourakata Koité: En Hollande (1984 [2019], Awesome Tapes From Africa): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Asnakech Worku: Asnakech (1975 [2018], Awesome Tapes From Africa): [bc]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • The V.S.O.P. Quintet: Five Stars (1979, CBS/Sony): [r]: B

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rodrigo Amado/Chris Corsano: No Place to Fall (Astral Spirits)
  • Peter Eldridge/Kenny Werner: Somewhere (Rosebud Music)
  • Augie Haas: Dream a Little Dream (Playtime Music): August 30
  • Rich Halley: Terra Incognita (Pine Eagle): August 9
  • Jelena Jovovic: Heartbeat (self-released)

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Donald Trump's big July 4 "celebration" was the week's big non-event, so naturally garnered plenty of press attention. We'll collect the links here, to try to keep the silliness of the event from infecting everything else:

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, July 01, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, July archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31702 [31671] rated (+31), 260 [264] unrated (-4).

Noisey has evidently decided to drop Robert Christgau's Expert Witness column, the last one running on Friday. Christgau tweeted:

I do this for money as well as love. So just in case this is the last Expert Witness not just at Noisey, which I'm sad to announce it is, but anywhere, it sticks to albums I'm way late on and albums I wanted to be sure to weigh in on. Enjoy. Consume, even.

Obviously, I should make it a priority to round up these latest Consumer Guide reviews and stuff them into the database. Christgau's first Consumer Guide column was published July 10, 1969, so he's ten days short of fifty years. The whole list is here.

Twice before, Michael Tatum responded to lapses in Christgau's review schedule, first by debuting then relaunching his A Downloader's Diary column. As it happens, he had a new column, his 50th, ready to roll last week when he read Christgau's news, and revised his introduction. (Christgau started the parenthetical numbering scheme, but gave it up after reaching 52 in 1975. I also used it for my Recycled Goods columns.)

I managed to check out a few of Tatum's picks this week, but had previously given A- grades to Big Thief, Coathangers, Control Top, Dave, Billie Eilish, Little Simz, and Jamila Woods -- also a B+(***) to Stella Donnelly, B+(**) to Vampire Weekend. I haven't, however, checked any of his Trash picks.

Streamnotes appeared last week, so this starts a new month.

Don't have anything more to add -- at least anything fit to print. Bad day for me.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Ilia Belorukov/Gabriel Ferrandini: Disquiet (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lewis Capaldi: Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent (2019, Capitol): [r]: B+(*)
  • Charly Bliss: Young Enough (2019, Barsuk): [r]: A-
  • Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman: Time Gone Out (2018 [2019], Intakt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Caroline Davis: Alula (2017 [2019], New Amsterdam): [r]: B+(*)
  • Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Drone Dream (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Sharman Duran: Questioning Reality (2019, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Be Known: Ancient/Future/Music (2019, Spiritmuse): [r]: B+(***)
  • Damon Locks/Black Monument Ensemble: Where Future Unfolds (2019, International Anthem): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Jan Maksimovic/Dimitrij Golovanov: Thousand Seconds of Our Life (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jenna McLean: Brighter Day (2018 [2019], Moddl): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Gabriele Mitelli/Rob Mazurek: Star Splitter (2019, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Monopiece/Jaap Blonk: Monopiece + Jaap Blonk (2019, Shhpuma): [r]: B
  • Angelika Niescier/Christopher Tordini/Gerald Cleaver: New York Trio Feat. Jonathan Finlayson (2018 [2019], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Evan Parker/Paul G. Smyth: Calenture and Light Leaks (2015 [2019], Weekertoft): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Evan Parker & Kinetics: Chiasm (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: A-
  • Caroline Spence: Mint Condition (2019, Rounder): [r]: A-
  • Aki Takase: Hokusai: Piano Solo (2018 [2019], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • AJ Tracey: AJ Tracey (2019, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: La Misteriosa Musica Della Regina Loana (2019, ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • G. Calvin Weston/The Phoenix Orchestra: Dust and Ash (2019, 577): [r]: B+(*)
  • Wschód: Wschód (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Chance the Rapper: 10 Day (2011 [2019], self-released): [r]: A-
  • Detail: Day Two (1982 [2019], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Kang Tae Hwan/Midori Takada: An Eternal Moment (1995 [2019], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Sunny Murray/Bob Dickie/Robert Andreano: Homework (1994 [2019], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and the Great Voice of UGMAA: Why Don't You Listen? Live at LACMA 1998 (1998 [2019], Dark Tree): [cd]: A-
  • David Wertman Sun Ensemble: Earthly Delights (1978 [2019], BBE)

Old music:

  • Peter Kowald/Kent Kessler/Fred Lonberg-Holm: Flats Fixed (1998 [2014], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ola Onabulé: Point Less (Rugged Ram): August 30
  • Mette Rasmussen/Julien Desprez: The Hatch (Dark Tree)
  • Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra and the Great Voice of UGMAA: Why Don't You Listen? Live at LACMA 1998 (Dark Tree)

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Weekend Roundup

I paid rather little attention to the Democratic Party presidential debates this week: Laura watched them, I overheard some bits, saw some more (not so fairly selected) on Colbert and Myers, and read a few odd things. Some links here, including a few non-debate ones that highlight various candidates, but no attempt at comprehensive:

  • Kate Aronoff: Jay Inslee just dropped the most ambitious climate plan from a presidential candidate. Here's who it targets.

  • Zack Beauchamp: 4 winners and 2 losers from the two nights of Democratic debates: For instance, he counts "Bernie Sanders' ideas" as a winner, but Sanders himself as a loser.

  • Robert L Borosage: The second Democratic debate proved that Bernie really has transformed the party.

  • Ryan Bort and others: A report card for every candidate from the first Democratic debates.

  • Laura Bronner and others at FiveThirtyEight: The first Democratic debate in five charts.

  • David Brooks: Dems, please don't drive me away. My gut reaction is that there's nothing I feel less interest in than mollifying the vain egos of "Never Trump" conservatives. I'd take his polling reports with a grain of salt ("35 percent of Americans call themselves conservative, 35 percent call themselves moderate and 26 percent call themselves liberal"), and also doubt his self-characterization as "moderate," but I'll quote his stab at articulating the "moderate" viewpoint:

    Finally, Democrats aren't making the most compelling moral case against Donald Trump. They are good at pointing to Trump's cruelties, especially toward immigrants. They are good at describing the ways he is homophobic and racist. But the rest of the moral case against Trump means hitting him from the right as well as the left.

    A decent society rests on a bed of manners, habits, traditions and institutions. Trump is a disrupter. He rips to shreds the codes of politeness, decency, honesty and fidelity, and so renders society a savage world of dog eat dog. Democrats spend very little time making this case because defending tradition, manners and civility sometimes cuts against the modern progressive temper.

    Actually, the further left you go the more sharply moralistic the critique of Trump becomes, but despite his "savage world of dog eat dog" line Brooks can't hear this because he only recognizes morality as the imposition of conservative order, where inequality is a given. Brooks' "moderates" are closet conservatives. While there are many Democrats (not just moderate- but also liberal-identified) who agree with most of Brooks' verities ("politeness, decency, honesty and fidelity"), Brooks' knee-jerk anti-left instincts prevent him from joining any democratic movement he can't dictate to. In particular, he cannot conceive of the need to lean a bit harder to the left than he'd like in order to get back to the center he so adores. [PS: Just found this, but not yet interested enough to read: Benjamin Wallace-Wells: David Brooks's conversion story.

  • Alexander Burns/Jonathan Martin: Liberal Democrats ruled the debates. Will moderates regain their voices? Pieces like this are annoying, and are only likely to become more so, and more strident, as the election approaches. A better question is: will "moderates" find anything constructive to say? Their most succinct declaration so far is Biden's assurance that "nothing would change" under a Biden presidency. I suppose that's more honest than the "hope and change" Obama campaigned on in 2008, let alone Bill ("Man from Hope" Clinton's populist spiel 1992, but at least Clinton and Obama waited until after the election to hand their administrations over to crony capitalists and sell out their partisan base. Left/liberals dominate the debates because: the voters recognize that most Americans face real and immediate problems; the left/liberals have put a lot of thought into how to deal with those problems, and the only credible solutions are coming from the left; having been burned before, the party base is looking not just for hope/change but for commitment. It's going to be hard for "moderates" to convince people to follow without promising to lead them somewhere better.

  • John Cassidy: Joe Biden's faltering debate performance raises big doubts about his campaign.

  • Alvin Chang: Kamala Harris got a huge number of people curious about Joe Biden's busing record.

  • Zak Cheney-Rice: Kamala Harris ends the era of coddling Joe Biden on race.

  • Maureen Dowd: Kamala shotguns Joe Sixpack. Favorite line here, and you can guess the context: "In my experience, candidates with advisers who belittle them on background do not win elections." I rarely read Dowd, finding her longer on snark than analysis, but you may enjoy (as I did) her Blowhard on the brink. Again, you can guess the context.

  • David Frum: The second debate gives Democrats three reasons to worry: The view of a Trump hater who hasn't really changed any other of his right-wing views: "the weakness of former Vice President Joe Biden"; "the weakness of the next tier of normal Democratic candidates -- especially Harris -- in the face of left-wing pressure"; "the unwillingness and inability of any of the candidates -- except, quietly, Biden -- to defend their party's most important domestic reform since the Lyndon Johnson administration: Obamacare."

  • Abby Goodnough/Thomas Kaplan: Democrat vs. Democrat: How health care is dividing the party: "An issue that united the party in 2018 has potential to fracture it in 2020." What united the party was the universally felt need to defend ACA against Republican attempts to degrade and destruct it. Looking forward, I think there are very few Democrats who don't see the main goal as comprehensive health care coverage, as a universal right. The differences arise over how to get there from where we are now. One way to do that would be to expand Medicaid and private insurance subsidies under the ACA, and one thing that would help with the latter would be to offer a non-profit "public option" to ensure that insurance markets are competitive. One way to provide that public option would be to let people buy into America's already-established public health insurance option: Medicare. Many candidates have proposals to allow some people to do that. I expect that a Democratic Congress and President to move quickly on implementing some of those proposals to shore up ACA. It's not the case that proponents of a true government-run single-payer system will cripple ACA to force us to take their preferred route (e.g., Bernie Sanders voted for ACA). But there is one major problem with ACA: the Supreme Court ruled that the government cannot force everyone to participate in a scheme that requires some people to buy private insurance. That's a bad ruling, but fixing the Supreme Court is likely to be a harder sell than Medicare-for-All -- especially given that the latter promises better coverage for less cost than any private/public mix of competing insurance plans. You may wonder why some Democrats are against Medicare-for-All. The main reason is they believe the insurance companies are too powerful to fight, but one thing you'll notice is that the people saying that (e.g., Ezekiel Emmanuel) are mostly beneficiaries of insurance industry payola. That preference for ACA over Medicare-for-All is seen as a sign of "moderation" only shows that "moderates" don't have the guts, the stamina, or even the imagination to fight for better solutions. Put Democrats who stand up for their principles and their people in the White House and Congress, and the "moderates" will start compromising in the direction of progress. Until then, why should we listen to anything they say? [PS: For some diagramming, see: Dylan Scott: The 2 big disagreements between 2020 Democratic candidates on Medicare-for-all.]

  • Jeet Heer: Elizabeth Warren's ideas dominated the debate more than her stage presence.

  • Umair Irfan: Climate change got just 15 minutes out of 4 hours of Democratic debates.

  • Caitlin Johnston: Kamala Harris is everything the establishment wants in a politician. Proof of point is no matter how hard the author tries to attack Harris, she only winds up making her look more formidable (which is something we desperately crave, isn't it?).

  • Sarah Jones: Elizabeth Warren thinks we need more diplomats.

  • Jen Kirby: Foreign policy was a loser in the Democratic debates.

  • Michael Kruse: The 2008 class that explains Elizabeth Warren's style.

  • Dylan Matthews and other Vox writers: 4 winners and 3 losers from the second night of the Democratic debates.

  • Anna North: Kirsten Gillibrand gave her opponents a history lesson on abortion politics at the debate.

  • Ilana Novick: Why are Democrats afraid to end private health insurance?

  • Andrew Prokop: This wasn't the way Joe Biden wanted the first debate to go.

  • Gabriel Resto-Montero: Democrats rally behind Kamala Harris following Donald Trump Jr.'s "birther-style" tweet.

  • Frank Rich: Kamala Harris's debate performance should scare Trump.

    There may be no word that Trump fears more than "prosecutor," and no professional expertise that the Democratic base is more eager to see inflicted on him. At a juncture when Trump defends himself against a charge of rape by sliming women who are not his "type," Harris's emergence could not be better timed. She is not his "type," heaven knows, and, not unlike her fellow San Franciscan Nancy Pelosi, she is not a "type" he knows how to deal with at any level, whether on Twitter or a debate stage.

  • David Rothkopf: Hey Dems, take it from this ex-centrist: We blew it. Author is one of the guy who made the Clinton Administration a money-making machine for Wall Street, so that's where he's come from.

    As the first round of debates among Democratic candidates for president clearly showed, the intellectual vitality of the Democratic Party right now is coming from progressives. On issue after issue, the vast majority of the candidates embraced views that have been seen as progressive priorities for years -- whether that may have been a pledge to provide healthcare for all or vows to repeal tax cuts benefiting the rich, whether it was prioritizing combating our climate crisis or seeking to combat economic, gender, and racial inequality in America.

    Indeed, as the uneven or faltering performance of its champions showed, it appears that the center is withering, offering only the formulations of the past that many see as having produced much of the inequality and many of the divisions and challenges of today.

    During the debates and indeed in recent years, it has been hard to identify one new "centrist" idea, one new proposal from the center that better deals with economic insecurity, climate, growth, equity, education, health, or inclusion. You won't find them in part because the ideas of the center are so based on compromise, and for most of the past decade it has been clear, there is no longer a functioning, constructive right of center group with which to compromise.

  • Aaron Rupar: The Democratic debates helped demonstrate the dubiousness of online polls: "Gabbard and Yang were the big winners -- on Drudge, at least."

  • Dylan Scott: Kamala Harris's raised hand reveals the fraught politics of Medicare-for-all. This refers to one of the more weaselly moments in the two debates, where the moderators asked for a show of hands of those who would "abolish private health insurance." The only candidates who raised their hands were Bill de Blasio, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. The framing was designed to split the ranks of Democrats who believe health care should be a universal right, but have different ideas about how to get that from where we are now: creating a public option under Obamacare would help, and/or allowing individuals or various groups to buy into Medicare, are approaches that have broad support. Moreover, nearly everyone who supports those schemes (and for that matter who opposes them) believes that a public insurance program would ultimately drive for-profit private insurance companies out of the arena, even if they were never explicitly prohibited. But the other thing that's confusing about the question is that many (if not most) of the current users of Medicare have private supplemental insurance policies, which pick up most of the co-payments and shortages that current Medicare sticks you with. Sanders' plan would fill in those holes, truly eliminating the need for supplemental insurance, but to most people the words "Medicare for all" leaves open a role for some kind of private supplemental insurance.

  • Danny Sjursen:

    • The Tulsi effect: forcing war onto the Democratic agenda. Misleading to say "she is the only candidate who has made ending the wars a centerpiece of her campaign," as several others are leaning more or less strongly in that direction, but her scrap with Tim Ryan is worth recounting. I don't give her military background anything like the special weight she claims. I'd rather people not have to learn lessons the hard way, but it says something when they do.

    • The Democratic Party can't escape its own militarism: Mostly on Beto O'Rourke, who seems to be hitting this theme hard. Sjursen, like Andrew Bacevich, is an ex-military anti-war conservative, which gives him some peculiar opinions (like favoring bringing back the draft) and no sympathy whatsoever for liberal Democrats. I think at least part of the reason so many of the latter feel so warm and cozy with veterans is that they're desperately trying to bring back a social ethic of public service and common good, and they think that the most undeniable example of that is the people who join the military. I doubt that's a general rule, but there are people who fit that bill, and Democrats have been eager to run them for office.

  • David Smith: No country for old white men: Kamala Harris heralds changing of the guard. Cute title, but unfair to group Biden and Sanders in the photo. Harris attacked the former, but held her hand up with Sanders on the public health care insurance question. I rarely get bent out of shape when people generalize about "old white men" (or "straight male Caucasian") but here it ignores the fact that Biden and Sanders have virtually nothing else in common, and that Sanders has had to work very hard and overcome a lot of adversity to earn a spot on that stage (wasn't Biden first inept run for president in 1988?). Even today he's more likely to be attacked for who he is than anyone else in the candidate roster (not that anyone makes a point of his being Jewish). The only reason he didn't make Smith's "standouts" list -- other than prejudice -- is that he's been outstanding for so long that reporters are starting to take him for granted.

  • Matthew Yglesias:

  • Li Zhou: 14 political experts on why the first Democratic debates were history-making.

You might also find these links useful:

One of my right-wing Facebook friends posted a meme from Fox News with a picture of Bill de Blasio and a quote: "There's plenty of money in this world. There's plenty of money in this country, it's just in the wrong hands. We Democrats have to fix that." Only thing my friend ever posted that I agreed with, and this time completely. The comments validated my suspicion that the poster expected readers to react with horror. I was tempted to comment, or to just give it a big love emoji, but lost the opportunity.

Beyond the candidates and debates, some scattered links this week:

Finally, some book reviews/notes:

Miscellaneous Notes

One of my right-wing Facebook friends posted an image from Fox News with a picture of Bill de Blasio and a quote: "There's plenty of money in this world. There's plenty of money in this country, it's just in the wrong hands. We Democrats have to fix that." Nothing more, as if that's self-evidently absurd or insane. But I agree with de Blasio, completely.

Greg Magarian, on Facebook, along with this link:

Alabama (1) imposes excessive criminal liability on (2) an African-American woman for (3) the death of her fetus from (4) shooting by a "law-abiding gun owner" whom the state isn't charging due to (5) its stand-your-ground law. Congratulations, Alabama -- you've hit right-wing lunatic bingo.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive.

Music: current count 31677 [31641] rated (+36), 264 [256] unrated (+8).

Spent most of the week exploring the Corbett vs. Dempsey catalogue, newly available on Bandcamp. I've been wanting to do that for a while now -- even wrote them an unanswered letter after Amarcord Nino Rota and others placed strong in last year's Jazz Critics Poll. I even bought a couple of John Corbett's recent books (although not yet Pick Up the Pieces: Excursions in Seventies Music, which looks like it parallels my own 1970s experience -- except that he covers a lot of jazz I only got to 20-30 years later). Corbett previously compiled the Unheard Music Series that Atavistic ran in the early 2000s, which brought 50-60 avant-jazz albums out from deep obscurity. Atavistic started in the 1990s as an avant-rock label (big names there were Swans and Lydia Lunch) before they picked up the Vandermark 5, which pulled them more into jazz. Not sure what happened to them, but most of their records are on Napster, so I complemented my CvD dive with a few Unheard titles (Tom Prehn, with one title on each and nothing else anywhere, got me going that way).

The result is a week which is very slanted toward avant-jazz, and mostly old music at that. I went with the CD release dates to decide which CvD records qualified as recent (2018 or later releases, with 2008 the dividing line between new and old music). I went ahead and included records I got to on Monday after my initial freeze Sunday night, figuring it's a short (4-week) month, and it would be nice to keep all this avant-jazz together. That added one more A- record, by Rodrigo Amado. I noted that Amado has another new record out, a duo on Astral Spirits. Their records are on Bandcamp, and I've reviewed a fair number of them there, but recently they've cut them back to 2 cuts each, so I usually don't bother with them, as they're not really reviewable as such. I made an exception here, hedging a bit based on 2/5 cuts. I decided to mark records like that "**?" in my annual list. When/if I get the chance to listen further, I'll revise.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Rodrigo Amado/Gonçalo Almeida/Onno Govaert [The Attic]: Summer Bummer (2018 [2019], NoBusiness): [cd]: A-
  • Rodrigo Amado/Chris Corsano: No Place to Fall (2014 [2019], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Albert Beger Quartet: The Gate (2017 [2019], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Hamid Drake/Joe McPhee: Keep Going (2018, Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Rosana Eckert: Sailing Home (2018 [2019], OA2): [cd]: B
  • Mats Gustafsson/Jason Adasiewicz: Timeless (2017 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Dom Minasi/Juampy Juarez: Freeland (2018, Cirko): [r]: B+(*)
  • Thurston Moore/Frank Rosaly: Marshmallow Moon Decorum (2012 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Matt Olson: 789 Miles (2018 [2019], OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Marlene Rosenberg: MLK Convergence (2016 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ken Vandermark/Mats Gustafsson: Verses (2013 [2019], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Amarcord Nino Rota (1981 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: A-
  • Steve Lacy: Stamps (1977-78 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2CD): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Joe McPhee/Mats Gustafsson: Brace for Impact (2007 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Fred Anderson Quartet: Dark Day + Live in Verona (1979 [2001], Atavistic Unheard Music Series, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Fred Anderson Quartet: The Milwaukee Tapes Vol. 1 (1980 [2000], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Beresford/Tristan Honsinger/David Toop/Toshinori Kondo: Double Indemnity/Imitation of Life (1980-81 [2001], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Peter Brötzmann Trio: For Adolphe Sax (1967 [2002], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Peter Brötzmann Sextet & Quartet: Nipples (1969 [2000], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Peter Brötzmann Sextet/Quartet: More Nipples (1969 [2003], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): [r]: B+(***)
  • Günter Christmann/Torsten Müller/LaDonna Smith/Davey Williams: White Earth Streak (1983 [2002], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): [r]: B
  • Guillermo Gregorio: Otra Musica: Tape Music, Fluxus & Free Improvisation in Buenos Aires 1963-70 (1963-70 [2000], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): [r]: B
  • Mats Gustafsson: Torturing the Saxophone (2008-13 [2014], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Staffan Harde: Staffan Harde (1968-71 [2015], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Steve Lacy/Steve Potts Featuring the Voice of Irčne Aebi: Tips (1979 [2015], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B-
  • Jimmy Lyons: Push Pull (1978 [2016], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: A-
  • Joe McPhee Quintet/Ernie Bostic Quartet: Live at Vassar 1970 (1970 [2011], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Joe McPhee: The Willisau Concert (1975 [2017], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: A-
  • Joe McPhee: Variations on a Blue Line/'Round Midnight (1977 [2012], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Joe McPhee: Glasses (1977 [2012], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Joe McPhee: Alone Together: The Solo Ensemble Recordings 1974 & 1979 (1974-79 [2015], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Joe McPhee & André Jaume: Nuclear Family (1979 [2016], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Louis Moholo/Larry Stabbins/Keith Tippett: Tern (1982 [2003], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): [r]: A-
  • Pipeline: Pipeline (2000 [2013], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: A-
  • Tom Prehn Quartet: Axiom (1963-66 [2015], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: A-
  • Tom Prehn Quartet: Prehn Kvartet (1967 [2001], Atavistic Unheard Music Series): [r]: B+(***)
  • Phillip Wilson: Esoteric (1977-78 [2016], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Gretje Angell: In Any Key (Grevlinto): July 25
  • Blind Lemon Jazz: After Hours: New Pages in the American Songbook (Ofeh): July 1
  • Mark Doyle: Watching the Detectives: Guitar Noir III (Free Will)
  • Pablo Embon: Reminiscent Moods (self-released): July 8
  • Bill Evans: Smile With Your Heart: The Best of Bill Evans on Resonance (Resonance)
  • Lafayette Gilchrist: Dark Matter (self-released): July 19
  • Jazz Piano Panorama: The Best of Piano Jazz on Resonance ([2019], Resonance)
  • Wes Montgomery: Wes's Best: The Best of Wes Montgomery on Resonance (Resonance)
  • Sing a Song of Jazz: The Best of Vocal Jazz on Resonance (Resonance)
  • Zhenya Strigalev/Federico Dannemann: The Change (Rainy Days)
  • Rebekah Victoria: Songs of the Decades (Patois)

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Weekend Roundup

The week's biggest, and most ominous, story was the Trump administration's decision to launch a "limited" missile attack on Iran, then the reversal of those orders minutes before execution. Here are some links:

Some scattered links this week:

Felt like making a rare political tweet today (tortured into fitting their character count limit, depending heavily on the reader's "cultural literacy"):

Another way Trump isn't Hitler: you can't imagine the latter announcing then postponing Kristallnacht two weeks. Real fascists made the trains run on time. Poseurs and wannabes flirt with evil, then make nice, like "good people on both sides." Vile, at least.

Other tweets I felt like saving:

  • @nycsouthpaw I wonder at Trump's dismal career. Assault after assault. Fraud piled upon fraud. An endless succession of victims churned up behind him like a ship's wake. Somehow cutting the web of consequence that ensnares and stops most bad men in time like a hull through so much blue water.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31641 [31614] rated (+27), 256 [251] unrated (+5).

Didn't expect to get to much music this week, but the planned project fell through. Responded to that by feeling listless and depressed, so not much of a recovery. Spent a lot of the time I did use on the Moserobie package, the extra plays merely confirming my first pass impressions. Finally started in on Weekend Roundup early Friday afternoon, and finally felt like I was getting something done -- wouldn't call it mindless, but the task posed enough structure to keep me going through the motions. The result was the most personally satisfying Weekend Roundup all year, plus I ticked off enough records to get close to my 30-per-week target.

The Jamila Woods album was recommended by Michael Tatum, who should have a new Downloader's Diary out this week. I gave it a spin when I first heard about it, and probably would have filed it as a mid-B+, but decided to hold off a while. Returned to it mid-week, and 3-4 plays got better and better. Followed up on some Downbeat jazz reviews -- nothing very good there -- and landed on a couple of Bandcamps that looked promising: Fundacja Sluchaj (François Carrier has been very good at sending me records, so I held off on his record there, but eventually couldn't wait), Unseen Rain (Dom Minasi sent me mail about his record there, and I found more), and Corbett vs. Dempsey (Jon Corbett's obscure reissue label, one I've long wanted to be able to cover). All typically offer the chance to listen to full albums, which makes them reviewable. (Many other Bandcamps have dropped down to a sample cut or two, which makes them unusable for reviews -- that's the main reason I miss more Ken Vandermark albums than I hear these days.) More on the CvD next week, and probably for several weeks to come.

Spoke too soon about NoBusiness dropping me, as I got a big package early last week. The Sam Rivers set was the one I had heard about, so I jumped on it first. Would have been a high B+ had I used their Bandcamp, but having the CD and booklet encouraged me to play it a few extra times.

I also looked up what I've been missing from Intakt -- two monthly packages so far, so four releases -- but nothing looked critical right now (with Fred Frith's 3-CD live set the most imposing). They have a Bandcamp as well, but recent releases only have a couple of cuts available. I think the full records are on Napster -- at least the old ones are -- so I'll catch up there, but no rush.

The Team Dresch reissues were all I got from looking at Pitchfork's Best New Music page -- something I rarely check, but Woods and Denzel Curry are also listed there, along with a Don Cherry reissue of an album (Brown Rice) I gave a B+ to long, long ago, and Slowthai's Nothing Great About Britain (a high B+ last week).

New batch of Robert Christgau's XgauSez questions and answers up tonight. Still hope to launch something like that myself.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Fabian Almazan Trio: This Land Abounds With Life (2018 [2019], Biophilia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Brad Barrett/Joe Morris/Tyshawn Sorey: Cowboy Transfiguration (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(***)
  • François Carrier/Alexander Hawkins/John Edwards/Michel Lambert: Nirguna (2017 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj, 2CD): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Trish Clowes: Ninety Degrees Gravity (2019, Basho): [r]: B+(**)
  • Anat Cohen Tentet: Triple Helix (2019, Anzic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Denzel Curry: Zuu (2019, Loma Vista): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fennesz: Agora (2019, Touch): [r]: B
  • Mark Guiliana: Beat Music! Beat Music! Beat Music! (2019, Motéma): [r]: B
  • Per 'Texas' Johansson/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Konrad Agnas: Orakel (2018 [2019], Moserobie): [cd]: A-
  • Angelique Kidjo: Celia (2019, Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • La La Lars: La La Lars II (2019, Headspin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Matt Lavelle Quartet: Hope (2019, Unseen Rain): [r]: B+(**)
  • Xavier Lecouturier: Carrier (2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B
  • Greta Matassa: Portrait (2019, Origin): [cd]: B
  • Dom Minasi: Remembering Cecil (2019, Unseen Rain): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Nobject [Martin Küchen/Rafal Mazur/Vasco Trilla]: X-Rayed (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • RPM: Just Like Falling (2019, Unseen Rain): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Erik Skov: Liminality (2018 [2019], OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Stĺhls Trio: Källtorp Sessions: Volume One (2017-18 [2019], Moserobie): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mary Stallings: Songs Were Made to Sing (2019, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy! (2019, Jagjaguwar): [r]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Agustí Fernández With William Parker & Susie Ibarra: One Night at the Joan Miró Foundation: July 16th 1998 (1998 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: A-
  • Beaver Harris-Don Pullen 360° Experience: A Well Kept Secret (1984 [2018], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Sam Rivers Trio: Emanation (1971 [2019], NoBusiness): [cd]: A-
  • Team Dresch: Personal Best (1994 [2019], Jealous Butcher, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Team Dresch: Choices, Chances, Changes: Singles & Comptracks 1994-2000 (1994-2000 [2019], Jealous Butcher): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Attic: Summer Bummer (NoBusiness)
  • Albert Beger Quartet: The Gate (NoBusiness)
  • Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Drone Dream (NoBusiness): cdr
  • Kang Tae Hwan/Midori Takada: An Eternal Moment (1995, NoBusiness)
  • Jan Maksimovic/Dimitrij Golovanov: Thousand Seconds of Our Life (NoBusiness)
  • Jenna McLean: Brighter Day (Moddl)
  • Sunny Murray/Bob Dickie/Robert Andreano: Homework (1994, NoBusiness)
  • Sam Rivers Trio: Emanation (1971, NoBusiness)

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Quite a bit below. After a very depressing/blasé week, I got an early start on Friday, and started feeling better -- not for the nation or the world, but pleased to be occupied with some straightforward, tangible work. One thing I can enjoy some optimism about is the Democratic presidential campaign. I expected it to be swallowed whole with the sort of vacant, pious clichés that Obama and the Clintons have been campaigning on for decades now, but what we're actually seeing is a lot of serious concern for policy. The clear leader in that regard is Elizabeth Warren, and of course Bernie Sanders has a complete matching set with if anything a little more courage and conviction, but I've run across distinct and refreshing ideas from another half-dozen candidates. I haven't noticed Biden rising to that challenge yet. He remains the main beneficiary of as fairly widespread faction that would be quite satisfied with their lives if only the Republican threat would subside in favor of the quiet competency Obama brought to government. Personally, I wouldn't mind that either, but I recognize that has a lot to do with my age. Young people inhabit a very different world, one with less opportunity and much graver risks, so platitudes from America's liberal past don't do them much good, or offer much hope. They face real and growing problems, and not just from Republicans (although those are perhaps the hoariest). Talking about policy actually offers them some prospect that faith alone can never fill. And sooner or later, even Biden's going to have to talk about policy, because that's where the campaign is heading.

This could hardly offer a starker contrast to the 2016 Republican presidential primary, where there was virtually no difference regarding policy -- just minor tweaks to each candidate's plan to steer more of the nation's wealth to the already rich, along with a slight range of hues on how hawkish one can be on the forever wars and how racist one can be when dealing with immigrants and the underclass. The real price of entry wasn't ideas or commitment. It was just the necessity to line up one or more billionaire sponsors -- turf that credibly favored Trump as his billionaire/candidate were one. The fact that Cruz and Kasich folded when they still had primaries they could plausibly have won is all the proof you need that the financiers pulled the strings, and as soon as they understood that Trump would win the nomination, they understood that he was as good for their purposes as anyone else, so they got on board.

Democrats may have a harder time finding unity in 2020, because their candidates are actually divided on issues that matter. On the other hand, they are learning to discuss those issues rationally, especially the candidates who are pushing the Overton Window left. Even if they wind up nominating some kind of centrist, that person is going to be more open to solutions from the left, and that's a good thing because that's where the real solutions are. Franklin Roosevelt wasn't any kind of leftist when he was elected in 1932, and his famous 100 days were all over the map, but he was open to trying things, and quickly found out that left solutions worked better than conservative ones. We're not quite as mired in crisis as America was in 1932, but it's pretty clear that catastrophe is coming if Trump and the Republicans stay in power. The option for 2020 is whether to face our problems calmly and rationally with deliberate policy choices or to continue to thrash reflexively and chaotically. There's no need to imagine how bad the latter may be, because Trump's illustrating it perfectly day by day.

Some scattered links this week:

Friday, June 14, 2019

Daily Log

My tweet on Trump's boast to the president of Poland that "much of the media unfortunately in this country is corrupt":

So Trump tells president of Poland that the media in this country is corrupt. Would have been smarter to add "that's why we don't have to censor them." Or that he's built his career by exploiting that corruption. But he's so vain he'd like to censor anyway.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31614 [31587] rated (+27), 251 [248] unrated (+3).

Ran the numbers late Sunday evening, but added Monday's unpacking, so the numbers have a slight skew from reality. I'm especially pleased to get a copy of Orakel, the Swedish label Moserobie. It's currently ranked number two on Chris Monsen's Favorites list, and follows a Moserobie release that topped my own 2018 list. It's gotten very expensive to mail CDs from Europe to the US recently, and several of the last few labels I've been getting service from seem to have dropped out (the ones I've felt the worst about are Intakt and NoBusiness, plus Clean Feed a couple years back). With labels like that, I try to find streaming sources, but it's not always easy.

Joe Yanosik wrote to tell me he's working up a Franco discography, and asked whether I've considered doing a deep dive, especially into his numerous Sonodisc recordings. I had, in fact, picked up a couple of them in my shopping days, and have generally enjoyed everything I picked up. Napster has a few of them I hadn't heard, so before long I started working my way through them -- limiting myself to ones I could figure out dates for. The grades below split 3 A-, 4 B+(***), but there wasn't all that much to separate best from worst.

Notable music links this week:

  • Hank Shteamer: Anthony Braxton's Big Ideas.

  • New York City Jazz Record: I've never managed to see this before, although it seems like most of the Jazz Critics Poll voters write for it. I was first struck by Kurt Gottschalk's label spotlight on Fundacja Sluchaj -- a Polish label I follow fairly closely because they put whole records up on Bandcamp.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Akiko Hamilton Dechter: Equal Time (2018 [2019], Capri): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Angles 9: Beyond Us (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Big Thief: U.F.O.F. (2019, 4AD): [r]: A-
  • Alan Broadbent Trio: New York Notes (2019, Savant): [r]: A-
  • Avishai Cohen: Arvoles (2019, Razdaz/Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Confluence (2018 [2019], Libra): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Injury Reserve: Injury Reserve (2019, Senaca Village): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kedr Livanskiy: Your Need (2019, 2MR): [r]: B
  • Rosie Lowe: Yu (2019, Wolf Tone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kelsey Lu: Blood (2019, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Martha: Love Keeps Kicking (2019, Dirtnap): [r]: B+(**)
  • Orville Peck: Pony (2019, Sub Pop): [r]: B-
  • Red Kite: Red Kite (2019, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Chanda Rule: Sapphire Dreams (2016 [2019], PAO): [cd]: B
  • The Jamie Saft Quartet: Hidden Corners (2019, RareNoise): [r]: [cdr]: B+(**)
  • The Twilight Sad: It Won/t Be Like This All the Time (2019, Rock Action): [r]: B
  • Federico Ughi: Transoceanico (2016 [2019], 577): [r]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Paul Bley/Gary Peacock/Paul Motian: When Will the Blues Leave (1999 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alex Chilton: Songs From Robin Hood Lane (1991-94 [2019], Bar/None): [r]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Franco Et TP OK Jazz: 1966/1968 (1966-68 [1992], Sonodisc): [r]: B+(***)
  • Franco Et TP OK Jazz: 1967/1968 (1967-68 [1992], Sonodisc): [r]: A-
  • Franco & Le TP OK Jazz: 1971/1972: Likambo Ya Ngana (1971-72 [1994], Sonodisc): [r]: A-
  • Franco, Vicky Et L'OK Jazz: Marceline Oh! Oh! (1972 [1998], Sonodisc): [r]: B+(***)
  • Franco Et Le T.P. OK Jazz: 79/80/81 Live: Kinshasa Makambo (1979-81 [1994], Sonodisc): [r]: B+(***)
  • Franco Et Le TP OK Jazz: Makambo Ezali Bourreau: 1982/1984/1985 (1982-85 [1994], Sonodisc): [r]: B+(***)
  • Franco/Simaro/Jolie Detta Et Le T.P. O.K. Jazz: 1986-1987-1988 (1986-88 [1994], Sonodisc): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sharman Duran: Questioning Reality (self-released)
  • Rosana Eckert: Sailing Home (OA2): June 21
  • Per 'Texas' Johansson/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Konrad Agnas: Orakel (Moserobie)
  • La La Lars: La La Lars II (Headspin)
  • Xavier Lecouturier: Carrier (Origin): June 21
  • Greta Matassa: Portrait (Origin): June 21
  • Moutin Factory Quintet: Mythical River (Laborie Jazz)
  • Matt Olson: 789 Miles (OA2): June 21
  • Marlene Rosenberg: MLK Convergence (Origin): June 21
  • Chanda Rule: Sapphire Dreams (PAO)
  • Erik Skov: Liminality (OA2): June 21
  • Stĺhls Trio: Källtorp Sessions: Volume One (Moserobie)

Friday, June 07, 2019

Weekend Roundup

No introduction. Cut my finger while cooking, and can't type worth a damn. Getting late, too.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Riley Beggin:

  • Peter Beinart: 13 Democrats recorded messages about Israel. Only one spoke with courage. Bernie Sanders.

  • Ronald Brownstein: Democrats learned the wrong lesson from Clinton's impeachment: "It didn't actually cost the GOP all that much."

  • Alexia Fernández Campbell: The May jobs report is a big disappointment for workers and bad news for Trump.

  • Juliet Eilperin/Josh Dawsey/Brady Dennis: White House blocked intelligence agency's written testimony calling climate change 'possibly catastrophic'.

  • Masha Gessen:

    • The persistent ghost of Ayn Rand, the forebear of zombie neoliberalism. Review of Lisa Duggan's Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed. After mentioning various political figures, like Paul Ryan and Mike Pompeo, infatuated with Rand, Gessen finishes:

      Their version of Randism is stripped of all the elements that might account for my inability to throw out those books: the pretense of intellectualism, the militant atheism, and the explicit advocacy of sexual freedom. From all that Rand offered, these men have taken only the worst: the cruelty. They are not even optimistic. They are just plain mean.

    • What HBO's "Chernobyl" got right, and what it got terribly wrong: We watched all five episodes this week, and I thought they did a remarkable job of explaining the causes and consequences of one of the devastating man-made disasters of our time. Gessen compliments the series whenever it sheds a harsh light on the Soviet bureaucracy, then attacks it for not being harsh enough. Her critique is most effective regarding Ulyana Khomyuk (Emily Watson), a single character invented to represent the hundreds of scientists assigned to figure out what went wrong, what more could go wrong, and how best to deal with all that. Gessen faults Khomyuk as a stock Hollywood hero, but what bothers me more is the reduction of a large group effort, with all the complex interaction of major scientific endeavors, to small acts of individual heroism. I've made the same complaint about the series Manhattan, which reduced nearly all of the high-level technical decision to just two characters -- both American, losing any recognition that most of the major scientists working on the project were Europeans (who, aside from some Brits and a celebrity visit by Niels Bohr, were totally written out of the story). The other conspicuous omission/error I found was when the lead scientist attributed the critical "design flaw" and the lack of a containment chamber to the Soviets' tendency to do things on the cheap. As I understand it, the main consideration for the RBMK reactor design was its use for producing bomb fuel as well as electricity, which required frequent access to extract plutonium from the core. Still, I think the writer here, Craig Mazin, makes a good case for telling the story this way. See: Emily Todd VanDerWerff: HBO's Chernobyl is a terrific miniseries. Its writer hopes you don't think it's the whole truth. I haven't yet followed the link to Mazin's podcasts, which reportedly go into more detail about what's true and what's been fictionalized in the series. VanDerWerff also wrote: Chernobyl's stellar finale makes a case for the show as science fiction. Also: Peter Maass: What the horror of "Chernobyl" reveals about the deceit of the Trump era.

  • John Hudson/Loveday Morris: Pompeo delivers unfiltered view of Trump's Middle East peace plan in off-the-record meeting: What he told "a closed-door meeting with Jewish leaders."

  • Murtaza Hussain: An Iranian activist wrote dozens of articles for right-wing outlets. But is he a real person? "Heshamat Alavi is a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK. This is not and has never been a real person."

  • Sean Illing: Why conservatives are winning the internet: Interview with Jen Schradie, author of The Revolution That Wasn't: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives. "Ultimately, it's not about the tool; it's about the inequalities in our society that give certain people advantages over others."

  • Quinta Jurecic: 4 disturbing details you may have missed in the Mueller report: "and none of them are favorable to the president."

  • Fred Kaplan: How Trump could restart the nuclear arms race. And how this dovetails with Putin's interests in the same: Reese Erlich: Nuclear disarmament: the view from Moscow.

  • Rashid Khalidi: Manifest destinies: "The tangled history of American and Israeli exceptionalism." Review of Amy Kaplan's book, Our American Israel: The Story of an Entangled Alliance.

  • Jen Kirby: Trump tightens Cuba travel rules: "The US bans cruises and restricts certain travel in a move meant to pressure Cuba. . . . All of these policy moves reflect the administration's Cold War-esque approach to Latin America that has emerged since Bolton arrived as National Security Advisor."

  • Paul Krugman:

  • Farhad Manjoo: I want to live in Elizabeth Warren's America: "The Massachusetts senator is proposing something radical: a country in which adults discuss serious ideas seriously."

    I'm impressed instead by something more simple and elemental: Warren actually has ideas. She has grand, detailed and daring ideas, and through these ideas she is single-handedly elevating the already endless slog of the 2020 presidential campaign into something weightier and more interesting than what it might otherwise have been: a frivolous contest about who hates Donald Trump most.

  • Michael E Mann: Trump is giving Americans dirty water, dirty air, and a very dirty climate: Alternate title by Paul Woodward -- Newsweek's is "Trump lied to Prince Charles's face -- and to the world."

    To say that Donald Trump's jaw-dropping display of environmental ignorance while in the United Kingdom is an embarrassment to all Americans would be an understatement. But the worst part of his ramblings about how we have "among the cleanest climates there are based on all statistics" isn't that it sounds like the ramblings of a Fox News addict. It's that his administration is doing everything it can to work towards the opposite: dirty water, dirty air, and, well, a very dirty climate.

    Found a link there to another article which people who regard Trump as Putin's stooge might pick up and run with: Hannah Osborne: Climate change could make Russia's frozen Siberia far more habitable by the 2080s.

  • Dylan Matthews/Byrd Pinkerton: The incredible influence of the Federalist Society, explained.

  • Rani Molla:

  • Samuel Moyn: The nudgeocrat: "Navigating freedom with Cass Sunstein." Review of Sunstein's recent short book, On Freedom, although he's been rehashing those same ideas for a long time now, most notoriously in Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (co-authored by Richard H. Thaler). He pushes "libertarian paternalism," where technocratic elites rig default choices to help guide the minions to better choices without making them feel like they're being run.

  • Ella Nilsen:

  • Anna North: Joe Biden's evolution on abortion, explained.

  • John Quiggin: America needs to reexamine its wartime relationships: "The lessons of the 1920s have been painfully relearned." Evidently not the author's title, as the main thrust of the article is that Keynes was right about the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and is still right today. Quiggin also pointed me to this report: Advertising as a major source of human dissatisfaction: Cross-national evidence on one million Europeans.

  • Nathan J Robinson: The best they've got: "Examining the National Review's 'Against Socialism' issue" -- an article-by-article answer, which mostly suggests that the writers are blithering idiots, with most authors understanding nothing more than that socialism is bad, bad, bad.

  • Aaron Rupar:

  • Sigal Samuel: Forget GDP -- New Zealand is prioritizing gross national well-being.

  • Dylan Scott:

    • Why Joe Biden is holding on to such a strong lead in the 2020 primary polls: "Biden has one big advantage in the 2020 Democratic primary polls: older voters." Some numbers: with voters over age 45, Biden leads sanders 45-10%; under 45, Sanders leads Biden 26-19%. Older dividing lines increase the break for Biden. I'd guess that the world looks very different as you move away from the 45 dividing line: older voters have their lives relatively set and secure, as long as moderate Democrats can protect Social Security/Medicare against further Republican depredation; on the other hand, younger voters have bleaker job prospects, lots of debt (their children's prospects looking even worse), and longer range fears over the environment and war. They see Biden as representative of the generation of mainstream Democrats whose accommodation to business and the Republicans have let their prospects decline.

    • Trump is really unpopular in the most important 2020 battleground states: "Trump is deep underwater in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other key 2020 states.

  • Tim Starks/Laurens Cerulus/Mark Scott: Russia's manipulation of Twitter was far vaster than believed. Of course, not just Russia funds trolls. See: Jason Rezaian: The State Department has been funding trolls. I'm one of their targets.

  • Joseph Stiglitz: The climate crisis is our third world war. It needs a bold response. I get his point, but when he brings up this particular analogy he wanders into all sorts of conceptual minefields. War and climate change both cause vast devastation, but the agencies are different, and so are most of the effects. Even more specious is the notion that we need a war to work up the courage and will to tackle difficult problems -- as phony wars on poverty and drugs and so forth have repeatedly shown. Moreover, you can never measure the true cost of wars in dollars -- as Stiglitz tried to do in The Three Trillion Dollar War: The Truth Cost of the Iraq Conflict (2008, so by now probably a couple trillion short).

    When the US was attacked during the second world war no one asked, "Can we afford to fight the war?" It was an existential matter. We could not afford not to fight it. The same goes for the climate crisis. Here, we are already experiencing the direct costs of ignoring the issue -- in recent years the country has lost almost 2% of GDP in weather-related disasters, which include floods, hurricanes, and forest fires. The cost to our health from climate-related diseases is just being tabulated, but it, too, will run into the tens of billions of dollars -- not to mention the as-yet-uncounted number of lives lost. We will pay for climate breakdown one way or another, so it makes sense to spend money now to reduce emissions rather than wait until later to pay a lot more for the consequences -- not just from weather but also from rising sea levels. It's a cliche, but it's true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    The war on the climate emergency, if correctly waged, would actually be good for the economy -- just as the second world war set the stage for America's golden economic era, with the fastest rate of growth in its history amidst shared prosperity. The Green New Deal would stimulate demand, ensuring that all available resources were used; and the transition to the green economy would likely usher in a new boom.

    Lots of other analogies bother me here. I can't imagine that any amount of climate change will end human habitation or civilization, and even if it did the earth will carry on, oblivious to evolution of its surface chemistry. The great risk from climate change is that it will cause destabilization and disruption, and that those things will impose pain and loss and, most likely, greater strife. It may be hard to convince people that such threats matter, but reasonable people recognize that they do.

  • Matt Taibbi: Michael Wolff's 'Siege' is like his last book -- but worse.

  • Nick Utzig: Bowe Bergdahl's story lays bare the tragedy of our forever wars: review of American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Tragedy in Afghanistan, a book by Matt Farwell and Michael Ames.

  • Alex Ward:

    • Trump's D-Day speech was great. He was the wrong man to give it. If all I knew was the title, I'd guess that someone wrote him a fairly decent speech, but it felt off because Trump is incapable of delivering the emotions the speech intended to convey. Aside from his peculiar form of malicious humor, which he manages to deliver with unthinking grace, he may be the worst speaker I've ever seen among major political figures. Even when he's reading lines, he's so obviously out of character it's disconcerting to try to follow him. But Ward doesn't say any of that. He genuinely praises the speech, quoting sections which reveal nothing more than the sanctimonious pablum of high school orators. Then he denies that Trump is entitled to be valedictorian, because he dodged the draft to avoid Vietnam, and because he's said various impolitic things about NATO, America's anointed allies, and Robert Mueller -- reminding us that Mueller is a veteran as well as a patriot. Final line: "If Trump really wants to honor D-Day's heroes, he should live and work by their values from here on out." Sometimes it's hard to sort out who confuses Ward the most, but given their demographics (male, 93+ years old) those surviving "D-day heroes" probably voted overwhelmingly for Trump. They were no more than typical Americans at the time, and 75 years of cynical, self-serving militarism later their view of the world is unlikely to be less warped than that of anyone else today.

      Oh, by the way, isn't the celebration of D-Day anniversaries a bit chauvinistic (for America, of course, but also for France, which bequeathed us the term)? The turning point of WWII in Europe was the Battle of Stalingrad, where the Soviet Union, at enormous cost, halted and started to reverse the German advance. Even after D-Day the war was overwhelmingly fought in the East, where the suffering was immense. Not that D-Day was a picnic. For something realistic, see: David Chrisinger: The man who told America the truth about D-Day, a profile of famed journalist Ernie Pyle.

    • Trump escalates feud with London mayor by calling him a "stone cold loser": "Trump's spat with Sadiq Khan has lasted years."

  • Emily Wax-Thibodeaux: In Alabama -- where lawmakers banned abortion for rape victims -- rapists' parental rights are protected.

  • Lauren Wolfe: Human rights in the US are worse than you think: "From police shootings to voter suppression to arrests of asylum seekers, a new report finds US human rights are abysmal."

  • Paul Woodward: Trump's obfuscation on the climate crisis.

  • Matthew Yglesias:

    • Public support for left-wing policymaking has reached a 60-year high: "Just slightly higher than the previous high point of 1961." The study specifically looks at public attitudes to "big government," although that's a right-wing scare term. The more basic question is how many people think government should take a more active role in addressing general problems, and consequently look to progressive politicians for help. One thing I find interesting about this is that this shift in opinion hasn't been led by Democratic politicians advocating a larger role for government. Rather, it seems to be a groundswell, as more and more people realize that the Republican "small government" obsession has lost credibility. I'd also add that popular belief in liberal and progressive ideals, so dominant in the New Deal/Great Society era, never changed. Rather, people lost faith in the Democrats' ability to defend and extend those ideals, which gave Reagan and his ilk a chance to argue that their conservative ideas might do a better job of securing the American Dream. They succeeded to a remarkable degree, but only used their power to increase inequality and injustice. As their effects have become more manifest, their rationalizations have become more threadbare and disingenuous, to the point where fewer and fewer people believe anything they say. The last to realize this seem to be the mainstream media and centrist Democrats, but even they are losing their blinders. Eric Levitz also writes about this study: America's political mood is now the 'most liberal ever recorded'.

    • Why Trump's Mexico tariffs are producing a revolt when China tariffs didn't. Trump's China trade war is (mostly) pro-business, while Trump's Mexico trade war is about immigration. Opposing immigration may still be good politics for Trump, but restricting trade makes it bad for business, and that's the one thing Republicans are willing to break with Trump on.

      What makes this standoff interesting is that Trump is asking, in a small way, for a sacrifice the business wing of the GOP is never asked to make. . . . The way the deal is supposed to work is that cultural conservatives provide the votes, and they get their way on issues the business community doesn't care about (until cultural conservatives' views become an unpopular embarrassment the way opposition to same-sex marriages and military service is), but business isn't supposed to actually sacrifice its interests for the sake of cultural conservative causes. With the tariff gambit on Mexico, Trump is overturning that logic in a way that his other trade shenanigans haven't. And that's why congressional Republicans are resisting in an unusual way.

    • The Joe Biden climate plan plagiarism "scandal," explained: "A reminder of some bad history, but far and away the least important part of his climate plan." Reviews the "bad history" of plagiarism charges against Biden in 1987 for cribbing from a speech by a British politician, which led to his withdrawal from the 1988 presidential race. Neither case bothers me as plagiarism -- admittedly, not much does -- but the charges reinforce the notion that Biden isn't a very original thinker. But so does his climate plan. Indeed, his embrace of received opinion is the foundation of his campaign.

    • Judy Shelton's potential nomination to a Federal Reserve Board seat, explained.

    • Elizabeth Warren's latest big idea is "economic patriotism": "The plan is to marry industrial policy to environmentalism and transform the economy." Robert Reich applauds: Elizabeth Warren's economic nationalism vision shows there's a better way.

    • Jared Kushner's telling indifference on refugees.

    • Banning former members of Congress from lobbying won't fix the revolving door: "Congress needs more staff money and public financing, not tighter rules." Yglesias previously argued members of Congress themselves should be paid more, so he's extending that logic to staff members: maybe if they're paid more as public servants better people would seek these jobs, and be less likely to sell out to lobbyists later. I rather doubt this. On the other hand, while a lifetime ban strikes me as excessive, I can imagine some regulations helping. One could, for instance, limit pay by lobbying firms, which would have put a severe cramp into Billy Tauzin's move from the House to head up PHARMA just after Tauzin managed the passage of the Medicare D bill (which kept insurers from negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies). Still, it's hard to think of things that couldn't be worked around. The core problem is that we live in a very inequal society, which rewards (and therefore drives) everyone to maximize income, and rarely (if ever) enforces taboos (let alone laws) against graft. That may seem like too tall an order, but some little steps would help: much higher tax rates for high incomes, making lobbying expenses taxable, and most important of all, cutting off the main flow of corruption by public funding of campaigns.

  • Gary Younge: How bad can Brexit get? "Theresa May is out, but the crisis that made her premiership both possible and untenable has intensified."

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Daily Log

Scraped from Kathleen Geier's Facebook post:

If I am Donald Trump, the Democrat I most want to run against in 2020 is definitely Joe Biden.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • I can tell working class voters of all races about Biden has fucked them over by supporting NAFTA and championing the slimiest practices of the credit card industry and other corporate predators. This should help me hold on to some of the support I got from white working class voters in the Midwest and it will depress voter turnout among the working class voters who normally vote Democrat.

  • If I once again get accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault, I can neutralize these charges by pointing to Hairsniffer Joe's history of touching women inappropriately, a behavior that continue into the present, as well as his treatment of Anita Hill.

  • I will be sure to have my people place targeted ads that remind African-American voters of Biden's crime bill and his history as a white backlash anti-busing candidate. Do I think this will win me their votes? No, but it will cause a lot of them to stay home.

  • When people raise concerns about my cognitive decline and my being too old to be president, I can point the finger at Biden, who at 76 is four years older than me, and whose affect and campaign is noticeably low-energy.

  • Best of all, even if I lose, Biden has made it clear that, unlike Warren or Sanders, he's not going to make any structural changes to the system that made me so powerful in the first place. Biden has pledged that things will go "back to normal," which means that white collar elites like me, who have committed fraud and abuse in the private sector and high crimes and misdemeanors in office, won't be held accountable for them. Not only do I and my peeps get off the hook, but Biden's approach will breed the kind of apathy and cynicism that discourages left-wing activism and empowers the right and the GOP.

No other Democrat is anywhere near as vulnerable on a whole range of issues as Joe Biden is. He is clearly the weakest top-tier candidate in the race and the one that Trump, and the rest of the Republican party, would give their collective right arm to run against.

I am praying that my fellow Democrats don't make their dream come true.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31587 [31558] rated (+29), 248 [251] unrated (-3).

So, 29 again. Ran the counter this afternoon, after I found a missed grade and added a "remembered LP" grade -- an LP I distinctly remember having but which didn't get picked up when I jotted down my first grade list (mid-1990s, I think). I may have cut it some slack -- main thing I remember was being disappointed by it.

Once again, surprised that I bagged that many -- after a very slow start, one that kept the Salamon Freequestra album in the changer for close to three days. Finished with Alfred Soto's top 20 list, checking out Mountain Goats, National, Tyler, and Weyes Blood, leaving me with only 5 A- records from his 20 (Control Top's Covert Contracts, Billie Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Robert Forster's Inferno, Lizzo's Cuz I Love You, and Nilüfer Yanya's Miss Universe). Only one Christgau pick in those five (Eilish), and only one more in Soto's other 15 (Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow, a low B+ for me).

Speaking of Eilish, Phil Freeman dissed her album in the course of making a Facebook rant:

I will never stop griping about "Best Albums of [Year]" lists that should be called "Best *Pop and Indie Rock* Albums of [Year]". Billie fucking Eilish's album (to pick but one example: sub in Tyler, the Creator if you're worried about sexism) is not better than the Art Ensemble of Chicago's, so own your ignorance or just fuck off, OK? And no, I'm not saying all jazz > all pop. I hear shitty jazz records every day. I'm just saying that if you're simply ignoring the possibility that a jazz album could even be one of the best records of the year, especially given what's been happening in the genre in the last 4-5 years, that's *fucked up*, and major publications are fucking up by doing it.

I commented, taking exception to his examples: Eilish is currently 12 on my Music Year 2019 list, behind 7 jazz albums (counting my top-rated Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions, which admittedly has vocals, although the other 6 don't) and 4 other non-jazz. Of course, Freeman isn't complaining about me ignoring jazz albums in my annual lists. And I'm not much bothered that who spends most of his non-jazz time listening to metal should have trouble appreciating a lo-fi girl singer-songwriter. Or even that he offers Tyler, a hip-hop artist who buries himself in soft off-kilter tones, as another option in hype. (I agree that he is overrated, but I also find Igor to be his most pleasing and interesting album yet.) Where I disagree is in positing that the Art Ensemble of Chicago survivors reunion album is this year's flagship jazz hope. I played it (both CDs) until I gave up all hope, then let if off easy with a B+(**), which is to say that I currently have at least 50 jazz records this year that I like better.

On the other hand, if I had to handicap the 2019 Jazz Critics Poll, I doubt I'd find more than a couple of my A- records in the top ten: James Brandon Lewis's An Unruly Manifesto seems most likely, then maybe Matthew Shipp's Signature, Moppa Elliott's Jazz Band/Rock Band/Dance Band, Quinssin Nachoff's Path of Totality, or David Berkman's Six of One -- hunches based as much on labels and publicists as on the records themselves. But none of those artists have fared well in past polls, which is a much stronger indicator. Some albums you're more likely to find on JCP ballots (my grades in brackets):

  • Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Pi, 2CD) [**]
  • Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Epistrophy (ECM) [*]
  • Vijay Iyer/Craig Taborn: The Transitory Poems (ECM) [**]
  • Julian Lage: Love Hurts (Mack Avenue) [***]
  • Joe Lovano: Trio Tapestry (ECM) [***]
  • Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (Okeh) [***]
  • Matt Mitchell: Phalanx Ambassadors (Pi) [**]
  • Joshua Redman Quartet: Come What May (Nonesuch) [***]
  • Wadada Leo Smith: Rosa Parks: Pure Love: An Oratorio of Seven Songs (TUM) [*]
  • David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith: Sun of Goldfinger (ECM) [***]

AEC looks pretty imposing on this list: it's big (last year was dominated by 2-CD releases and won by Wayne Shorter's 3-CD monstrosity), has historic cachet that reconciles the avant-garde with the tradition; it augments what's left of a legendary group augmented with lots of guest stars, and is on a label which always places records high in EOY polls (that same label is the reason Mitchell is on this list). None of the other records have that sort of cred, so maybe Freeman is right to pick it. My only complaint is that it isn't good enough. If I wanted to broaden the horizons of non-jazz critics, I'd start by recommending better records.

Christgau remarked recently that EOY list-building has more to do with brand identification than diligent sorting and ranking. I know that to be true of my own lists, where my brand is somone who listens to all kinds of things and doesn't give a fuck about what anyone else thinks. As the Dean, I figure Christgau is more focused on building a pantheon, but individual lists tend to be idiosyncratically personal (and his certainly is). Freeman's referring to corporate lists, which are carefully crafted to cater to a target audience. There's no place for jazz in most, not because their writers dislike jazz (although many do, or simply don't get the exposure -- hardly anyone hears much outside of their niche these days), but because their editors don't expect their readers to be interested in such things. So what you see is what you'd expect when people of limited knowledge try to write down to appeal/appease people who know even less.

Nonethless, as someone who has compiled literally thousands of EOY lists in recent years, I believe that there is actually a tiny trend toward more crossover jazz in predominantly indie/pop lists (although more so in UK than US). Last year the major breakthroughs were Kamasi Washington, Makaya McCraven, and Sons of Kemet (two A- records among those three, the other a high B+, so those picks were much more respectable as jazz than, say, Bad Bad Not Good from a few years back).

I could write volumes more on EOY lists (for data, see last year's EOY aggregate and Jazz Critics Poll). But my bottom line is learn what you can from the data, don't begrudge other people's pleasures, and don't rag on people for not liking what you like.

Back to my original thread about what I reviewed this week: beyond Soto's list, I looked at AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2019 and picked out a few records that seemed promising. Three sounded good enough to warrant multiple plays before I settled on B+(***): Fontaines D.C.'s Dogrel (1), Slowthai's Nothing Great About Britain (22), and Craig Finn's I Need a New War. Two previously graded A- in top 25: Dave's Psychodrama (2), and Little Simz's Grey Area (6), and a bunch more I haven't heard. By the way, the Lee Perry dive started with Christgau's review of Rainford. I couldn't find it on Napster, so went to Bandcamp. Obviously, a lot more Perry I haven't heard. I've always recommended the 3-CD compilation, Arkology, but that only gets you 4 prime years (expect overlap with Super Ape). I also really like the recent (2014) Back at the Controls.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Melissa Aldana: Visions (2019, Motéma): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bruce Barth: Sunday (2017 [2018], Blau): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: The Seven Rays (2019, Savant): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Douglas/Uri Caine/Andrew Cyrille: Devotion (2018 [2019], Greenleaf Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ezra Collective: You Can't Steal My Joy (2019, Enter the Jungle): [r]: B
  • Craig Finn: I Need a New War (2019, Partisan): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fontaines D.C.: Dogrel (2019, Partisan): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: The Hope I Hold (2018 [2019], Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Maren Morris: Girl (2019, Columbia Nashville): [r]: B
  • The Mountain Goats: In League With Dragons (2019, Merge): [r]: B+(**)
  • The National: I Am Easy to Find (2019, 4AD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford (2019, On-U Sound): [r]: A-
  • Rotten Girlz: Punk You (2018 [2019], Sazas): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Samo Salamon & Freequestra: Free Sessions, Vol. 2: Freequestra (2016 [2019], Klopotec): [cd]: A-
  • Samo Salamon/Szilárd Mezei/Jaka Berger: Swirling Blind Unstilled (2018 [2019], Klopotec): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Slowthai: Nothing Great About Britain (2019, Method): [r]: B+(***)
  • Peter Stampfel and the Atomic Meta Pagans: The Ordovician Era (2019, Don Giovanni): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mavis Staples: We Get By (2019, Anti-): [r]: A-
  • Tyler, the Creator: Igor (2019, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Vampire Weekend: Father of the Bride (2019, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising (2019, Sub Pop): [r]: B-

Old music:

  • Jerry Bergonzi Trio: Lost in the Shuffle (1998, Double Time): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Spotlight on Standards (2016, Savant): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lee Perry: Africa's Blood (1971, Trojan): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lee Perry and the Upsetters: Some of the Best (1968-79 [1985], Heartbeat): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Upsetters: Super Ape (1976, Mango): [r]: A-
  • The Upsetters: Return of the Super Ape (1978, Upsetter): [r]: B+(**)

Added grades for remembered lps from way back when:

  • Lee "Scratch" Perry: The Return of Pipecock Jackxon (1980, Black Star Liner): B

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Akiko Hamilton Dechter: Equal Time (Capri): June 21
  • Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Confluence (Libra): July 29

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Weekend Roundup

No time for an intro, but let's credit Bernie Sanders for this tweet:

Soon we will send soldiers to Afghanistan who weren't even born yet on September 11, 2001.

We've spent $5 trillion dollars on wars since 9/11.

And now some of the same people that got us into Iraq are trying to start a war with Iran.

We must end our endless wars.

Some scattered links this week:

Daily Log

I started to include this link, because it fits into a discussion several friends have been having about creating a game that would make a case against nominating Joe Biden. I have mixed feelings about this, partially explained below. On the other hand, I didn't get around to presenting the other hand, so decided to drop it from the post.

  • Mehdi Hassan/Rebecca Traister: Joe Biden would be a disaster: Podcast with transcript. I don't agree that Biden would be a disaster, although I do think that nominating him would be a missed opportunity. As I've noted, I think that 2020 may be a pivotal, era-founding election. (There's no ironclad law at work here, but we can identify four eras, each founded by a legendary president, each ending with a notoriously bad president: Jefferson-Buchanan, Lincoln-Hoover, Roosevelt-Carter, and Reagan-Trump; one might have included Washington-Adams, but 12 years doesn't make for much of an era. The latest era is anomalous in several respects, especially in that it represents a turn away from the progressive expansion of democratic rights.) Biden's total experience and instincts are totally rooted in the compromises Democrats made to compete in the Reagan-Trump era. That doesn't mean that if elected in 2020 he would continue to practice the same submissive triangulation that marred the Clinton and Obama presidencies. The party base today is going to pull him to the left, because it's increasingly clear that the solutions to pressing problems are on the left, and because we now know that centering impulses weaken the party.

After the post, I noticed an open tab with a multi-part tweet by Jared Yates Sexton that someone had pointed my way. I rather hate these things, so I may not have linked to it if I had noticed it in time, but thought I might copy it here to see how much sense it makes:

I've written about this extensively in my new book The Man They Wanted Me To Be, but it's really important to get this out: Trump's behavior with Pelosi completely reflects the cycle of abuse that myself and other survivors have endured. 1/

It's a really unpleasant thing to endure and it brings up some very awful memories from my childhood, where I was systematically physically and emotionally abused by insecure and unwell men. Unfortunately, the president is an insecure and unwell man, the Abuser-in-Chief. 2/

The cycle is very simple. When an insecure man is threatened, he'll lash out. This can be verbally or physically. It can be a dressing down, a verbal tirade, the throwing of things, or a beating. Then, after it's over, he'll try and make good or question the abusee's reality. 3/

Trump calling Pelosi "crazy" yesterday was really, really triggering. I've seen, time and again, abusive men calling the women they abuse crazy, calling into question what they endured, what I watched happen. It's almost as bad as the actual abuse because it fractures reality. 4/

Trump having his staff corroborate his version of events is something that happens all the time. I've been made to corroborate events I knew to be false simply because I was a frightened and intimidated child. It was . . . jarring to watch it happen on the national stage 5/

How this happens is pretty complicated and a lot to process. It begins with childhood, where men are systematically abused themselves in an effort to "toughen them up." By telling boys they can't have emotions they're actually being emotionally abused in the process. 6/

The message that's being sent though is that anyone who has emotions, in this case women, are irrational. That means that men own rationality and reality and that anytime a woman questions your reality she's being "crazy" or irrational, which is what happened with Pelosi. 7/

As I chronicle in THE MAN THEY WANTED ME TO BE, traditional masculinity is a lie. Nobody can repress their emotions. But they can pretend and pretend until eventually men develop what's called alexithymia, which is a terrible emotional condition where they lose ability. 8/

With alexithymia men lose the ability to understand their own emotions, they lose the ability to understand other's emotions, which leads to them being "crazy" or "irrational." They often lose the frame for their own emotional outbursts and ability to understand their actions. 9/

Watching Donald Trump, it's not hard to imagine he suffers from alexithymia. Obviously he doesn't understand his own outbursts and has no frame for the things he says and does. When he's questioned he lashes out. In this case, maybe he believed he was calm, but he's lost. 10/

When men behave this way, those around them only have a few options. You either submit to their worldview or face vicious abuse. You see men around Trump who kowtow in fear constantly. That's part of this cycle. With Pelosi, unfortunately, Trump isn't going to stop. 11/

As part of socialization men are taught the only acceptable expressions are anger and violence. What we're seeing with Trump is all his range of emotions. Pelosi challenged him and so he lashed out. He questioned her sanity and has even promoted fake videos to prove his point 12/

To anyone who's been abused, Trump is the embodiment of this cycle. He brags incessantly while he's obviously pathetically insecure. Anyone who even dares question him is ostracized and attacked, belittled because he's afraid. He's really, really pathetic. 13/

It makes me sad to see the country resemble the abusive households of my youth. Every day we worry what mood the president will be in, whether it's a bad day or if we'll just be left alone. I've talked to other survivors and the memories are visceral, palpable. 14/

Yesterday, as I heard him line up staff to back up his twisted memories, I felt like I was four years old all over again, an angry and dangerous man lording over me and demanding loyalty or else promising violence. You don't shake that, and unfortunately that's where we are. 15/

The truth is, Trump is unwell. Mentally, yes, but emotionally it's undeniable. He's the embodiment of toxic masculinity and is so far gone there's no reaching him. This is an abusive relationship, an abusive situation we're living through, and he simply knows no other way 16/

We're going to keep seeing this cycle repeat itself until he's out of office and we're going to be living with the ghosts of it. Survivors of abuse carry their abuse with them the rest of their lives. I certainly do, and to get better you have to recognize the abuse as abuse. 17/

Listening to shows last night call it maneuvering just hid the true nature of this. It isn't politics, it's personal, one-on-one abuse, and if we don't recognize it we're not going to escape it or understand it. There are many, many layers to this and simplifying worsens it. 18/

A large reason why Trump enjoys the devotion he does is because the people supporting him are locked into unhealthy cycles of abuse. They've been victims too and they become locked in with his abuse. It happens all the time. And to get past it we must recognize it. 19/

In the meantime, as a survivor of abuse, I can tell you this: reach out to anyone you know who is a survivor. These are really, really trying times that reawaken the scars of abuse. Everyday the president perpetuates a new dose of abuse and it takes a powerful toll. 20/20

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Book Roundup

When I posted my latest Book Roundup on March 15 -- eleven months after my only 2018 compilation, after two in 2017, four in 2016, and five in 2015 -- I figured another one would be eminent. I got distracted, but here's a second batch of 40+ books, and I'm pretty certain that a third will be ready in a few weeks. These surveys are useful to me as a means of keeping track of what the world knows and is thinking about. I've been trying to track "the coming dark age" for some time now, but while lots of people seem to be getting dumber (or at least more certain of their ignorance), a lot of smart thinking is still being developed and preserved in books.

As I've started doing recently, I'm including various related books in bullet lists following a leading one. There's also a supplemental list at the end, of books worth noting but not (as far as I'm concerned) at much length.

Jill Abramson: Merchants of Truth: The Business and the Fight for Facts (2019, Simon & Schuster): Tries to update David Halberstam's The Powers That Be (1979) by profiling four major media corporation (The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and VICE) as they make business out of the public's appetite for news. That, of course, raises the question of how the selection and reporting of news is filtered and often distorted by each of their business and cultural models. That's an intrinsically interesting question, but not necessarily one that can be answered -- for one thing the author adds her own limited vantage point. I can't say anything about charges that sections of the book were plagiarized. Related:

  • Alan Rusbridger: Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now (2018, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Carol Anderson: One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy (2018, Bloomsbury USA): At some point in recent history, Republicans came to realize that it was easier to win by suppressing the vote among Democratic constituencies than it was to convince those voters of a political program which actually promises little more than to make the rich richer at the expense of everyone else. Of course, this isn't new: all republics have struggled over who counts and who doesn't, but the core idea of democracy -- each and every person is entitled to the same vote -- has been hard to argue with, until very recently. Even now, even among Republicans, the arguments tend to be disguised, and much of the mischief avoids the spotlight. Also wrote, with Tonya Bolden, We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide (2018, Bloomsbury). Previously wrote: White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (2016). Also on voting rights:

  • Allan J Lichtman: The Embattled Vote in America: From the Founding to the Present (2018, Harvard University Press).

Max Blumenthal: The Management of Savagery: How America's National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump (2019, Verso): For the most part, a basic primer on how the US fed and nurtured its eventual enemies in the Middle East, in a long series of events that ultimately show how arrogant and self-centered the architects of American policy have been. That general book has been written a half-dozen times already, with dozens of other tomes treating one aspect or another of the big picture. However, by dropping Trump into the title, he's adding another dimension: not just what American plots and wars have done to the Middle East, but what such persistent warmaking has done to the psyches of ignorant and oblivious Americans-- Trump being an example.

Steven Brill: Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America's Fifty-Year Fall -- and Those Fighting to Reverse It (2018, Knopf): Journalist, wrote a book on Obamacare called America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healtcare System (2015), looks for a bigger picture and finds it in "an erosion of responsibility and accountability, an epidemic of shortsightedness, an increasingly hollow economic and political center, and millions of Americans gripped by apathy and hopelessness." That sounds a bit like a backgrounder for Trump's "Make American Great Again" campaign slogan, but it appears that the culprit Brill identifies is Trump's own billionaire class.

Arthur C Brooks: Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt (2019, Broadside Books): Someone might be able to write a decent book on this theme, but I doubt that the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative propagandist who revels in his sense of moral superiority, is up to the task. Previous feel-good books include: Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (2006); Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America -- and How We Can Get More of It (2008); The Battle: How the Fight Between Big Government and Free Enterprise Will Shape America's Future (2010); The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise (2012), and The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America (2015). Turns out that it's easy to "love your enemies" once you've ground them under heel, which is the author's real mission. More recent efforts to make the conservatives seem like they think and care:

  • Noah Rothman: Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America (2019, Gateway).
  • Ben Shapiro: The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great (2019, Broadside Books).

Contrast these with the right's more pedestrian hackwork, designed to rile up hatred (and otherwise confuse you):

  • Dinesh D'Souza: The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left (2017, Regnery).
  • Jonah Goldberg: Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy (2018, Crown Forum).
  • Mary Katherine Ham/Guy Benson: End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun) (2015; paperback, 2017, Crown Forum).
  • Derek Hunter: Outrage, Inc.: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood (2018, Broadside Books).
  • Mark R Levin: Rediscovering Americanism: And the Tyranny of Progressivism (2017, Threshold Editions).
  • Ben Shapiro: Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth (2004; paperback, 2010, Thomas Nelson).

Paul Buhle/Steve Max: Eugene V Debs: A Graphic Biography (paperback, 2019, Verso): Buhle was editor of Radical America, a major historian of American radical movements (co-editor of Encyclopedia of the American Let), and a long-time of the graphic book form, so the only thing surprising here is that it took so long to come together. Art by Noah Van Sciver, with additional help by Dave Nance. Actually, I've noted several of Buhle's graphic histories in the past. Here's a longer list (credits aren't always clear):

  • Paul Buhle/Nicole Schulman: Wobblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World (paperback, 2005, Verso).
  • Paul Buhle: The Beats: A Graphic History (2009; paperback, 2010, Hill & Wang).
  • Paul Buhle/Sabrina Jones: FDR and the New Deal for Beginners (paperback, 2010, For Beginners).
  • Paul Buhle: Radical Jesus: A Graphic History of Faith (paperback, 2013, Herald Press).
  • Paul Buhle/Noah Van Sciver: Johnny Appleseed (2017, Fantagraphics).
  • Kate Evans: Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg (paperback, 2015, Verso): ed, Paul Buhle.
  • Harvey Pekar/Paul Buhle: Studs Terkel's Working: A Graphic Adaptation (paperback, 2009, New Press).
  • Harvey Pekar: Students for a Democratic Society (paperback, 2009, Hill & Wang): ed, Paul Buhle.
  • Harvey Pekar/Paul Buhle: Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land (2011, Harry N Abrams).
  • Spain Rodriguez: Che: A Graphic Biography (paperback, 2017, Verso): ed, Paul Buhle.
  • Sharon Rudahl: Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman (paperback, 2007, New Press): ed, Paul Buhle.
  • Gilbert Shelton/Paul Buhle: Radical America Komiks (paperback, 2019, PM Press): reprint of Radical America "underground comix" edition from 1969.
  • Nick Thorkelson/Paul Buhle/Andrew Lamas: Herbert Marcuse: Philosophy of Utopia: A Graphic Biography (paperback, 2019, City Lights).
  • Howard Zinn/Mike Konopacki/Paul Buhle: A People's History of American Empire: A Graphic Adaptation (paperback, 2008, Metropolitan Books).

Chapo Trap House: The Chapo Guide to Revolution: A Manifesto Against Logic, Facts, and Reason (2018, Atria Books): I went through a kneejerk period in the 1960s when I rebelled so hard against the liberal warmongers of the Democratic Party that I was willing to throw away all appeals to "logic, facts, and reason," and embrace its opposite (arts, irrationality, mysticism). I changed my tune when I found that one could arrive at right conclusions through reason, and I wound up more dedicated to rationality than ever before. So at first glance I took this book to be complete, reactionary bullshit. But it turns out this is meant to be funny, and it's aimed at young people today who feel the same incoherent rage and disgust over the powers that be as I felt back in the 1960s. The authors are comedians who run some kind of podcast. And while there are some lame jokes and outright bullshit here, their core claim harbors a kernel of truth: "Capitalism, and the politics it spawns, is not working for anyone under thirty who is not a sociopath." Once you understand that, you can look elsewhere for better-reasoned explanations and proposals, but that insight is a good place to start.

Sarah Churchwell: Behold, America: The Entangled History of "America First" and "the American Dream" (2018, Basic Books): Two iconic notions, offered as sweeping generalizations about America's role in the world, adopted by various political movements for varying ends depending on the time and place. The contemporary interest angle is that both played large roles in the 2016 election, perhaps even more so than in their long and storied past. On the other hand, they're basically bullshit, at once able to flatter and mislead their political targets, and there's something rather hollow about stretching a book around them.

Kimberly Clausing: Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital (2019, Harvard University Press): Theory tells us that free trade and unrestricted mobility of capital and labor increases wealth all around. The reality is something else, as global capital has exploited economic theory to effectively escape nation-state regulation, leading to ever more extreme inequality, stripping most people of most nations of their political standing. That has in turn produced a backlash, both on the reactionary right and on the left, which sees things like "free trade agreements" as little more than a power- and wealth-grab. Causing attempts to save theory from practice, by advancing political schemes to make open borders work for everyone.

Anna Clark: The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy (2018, Metropolitan Books): We routinely receive warnings about America's crumbling infrastructure, but usually assume those threats are things that could happen in the future, not things already happening today. But the water system in Flint, Michigan has already turned toxic, killing and irreparably harming people who merely happened to live in the wrong place.

Michael D'Antonio/Peter Eisner: The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence (2018, Thomas Dunne Books): Two key questions here: How bad is Pence? And how powerful is he? Trump had promised to give his vice president unprecedented day-to-day power -- the first evidence of that was that Pence had the leading role in staffing the administration, which is how Trump got surrounded by so many orthodox extreme conservatives. But beyond his immediate influence, I can't recall a moment of disharmony between Trump and Pence -- indeed, hard to think of anyone else in the administration one can say that about. Part of this is that Pence has been eager and willing to support Trump's Kulturkampf fetishes, no matter how loony (e.g., his stunt leaving a NFL game after players took the knee during the national anthem, or his ridiculous task of holding the official press conference announcing the Space Force). The import of this is how Pence has set an example for even the most hopelessly ideological Republicans to line up behind and join forces with Trump.

Jared Diamond: Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis (2019, Little Brown): An anthropologist who since his famous Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1997) has used his license to practice macrohistory, taking a view that straddles vast stretches of time and space to wrap big questions up into tidy boxes. He picks on six countries for his turning points this time: Japan (forced opening by US in 1860s), Finland (attacked by Soviet Union in 1939 following their "non-aggression" pact with Nazi Germany), Germany and Austria (post-WWII), Indonesia and Chile (victims of US-backed coups in 1965 and 1973). He draws lessons for Americans today. I doubt he has much to say about karma.

William Egginton: The Splintering of the American Mind: Identity Politics, Inequality, and Community on Today's College Campuses (2018, Bloomsbury): "Egginton argues that our colleges and universities have become exclusive, expensive clubs for the cultural and economic elite instead of a national, publicly funded project for the betterment of the country. Only a return to the goals of community, and the egalitarian values underlying a liberal arts education, can head off the further fracturing of the body politic and the splintering of the American mind." Lots of gripes about higher education these days, many from the right. Hard for me to sort these book out, probably because my own stake in academia is so tenuous:

  • Greg Lukianoff/Jonathan Haidt: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018, Penguin Books).
  • Heather MacDonald: The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermined Our Culture (2018, St Martin's Press).

David Graeber: Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (2018, Simon & Schuster): It's long been obvious -- I first picked up this insight from a book by Paul Sweezy written in the 1950s -- that we have a lot of jobs that don't really produce anything of value, that are effectively pointless and parasitical, what Graeber has finally called bullshit. He's an anthropologist and anarchist, the writer of a major tome Debt: The First 5,000 Years, and a book of his experience and theory of Occupy Wall Street, The Democracy Project:A History, a Crisis, a Movement.

Greg Grandin: The End of Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America (2019, Metropolitan Books): Author of a number of first-rate books on America's impact on Latin America -- e.g., Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism (2006) -- easily sees the links between two centuries of US aggression and the militarization of the US-Mexico border. Timely enough to include Trump's border wall fixation, though not the latest blow up in Venezuela.

Bradley W Hart: Hitler's American Friends: The Third Reich's Supporters in the United States (2018, Thomas Dunne Books): Some were well known, like Charles Coughlin and Charles Lindbergh, the Bund and the America First Committee. I wouldn't be surprised to hear names like Koch and Trump pop up, although neither appear in what I've read. Still, I'd guess that actual supporters were fewer in number than sympathizers and apologists, especially those with home-grown racist and/or anti-labor agendas. On the other hand I really doubt that every isolationist was anti-semitic. Before WWII, Americans had a long history of believing that we should stay away from foreign entanglements, and the war schemes they lead to.

Daniel Immerwahr: How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States (2019, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Beyond the 48 continental states, the US managed to pick up various far-flung lands, and has actually managed to keep more of them than any European rival: Alaska and Hawaii have become full-fledged states, Puerto Rico and various smaller islands are in limbo, the Philippines were let go but only losing them to Japan, the Panama Canal Zone was returned to Panama (which was itself a US creation), Cuba was never officially on the books but treated like a colony until its revolution. This surveys most of that list, stopping short of the coups and incursions and a globe-straddling archipelago of bases and even more pervasive property claims by private Americans and friendly investors.

Stephen Kinzer: The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire (2017; paperback, 2018, St Martin's Griffin): To be clear, Roosevelt was for and Twain was against in this particular political debate (c. 1898, what we've dubbed the Spanish-American War) over whether America should impose itself on others as an empire -- arguably not the first such debate, and most certainly not the last. Evan Thomas covered the pro-empire side (mostly) in The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire (2010); also Kinzer has previously written about the 1898 annexation of Hawaii in Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq (2006). Still, would be good to pay more attention to the anti-war/empire arguments.

Eric Klinenberg: Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life (2018, Crown): Sociologist, writes about the value of shared spaces -- examples given include libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks -- for building social bonds and a sense of common interests, as opposed to the fragmentation and isolation that has lately taken hold almost everywhere.

Kevin M Kruse/Julian E Zelizer: Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974 (2019, WW Norton): A broad history of what I've started calling the Reagan-to-Trump era, backing up a couple years (the falls of Nixon and Saigon, OPEC embargoes, desegregation riots in Boston) to get a running start. Jill Lepore says this details how "Americans abandoned a search for common ground in favor of a political culture of endless, vicious, and -- very often -- mindless division." Kruse previously wrote White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (2005), and One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (2015). Zelizer has written The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society (2015, Penguin Press), and a few more, including books on the presidencies of Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

Milton Lodge/Charles S Taber: The Rationalizing Voter (paperback, 2013, Cambridge University Press): Argues that "political behavior is the result of innumerable unnoticed forces and conscious deliberation is often a rationalization of automatically triggered feelings and thoughts," testing five basic hypotheses: "hot cognition, automaticity, affect transfer, affect contagion, and motivated reasoning." Yglesias used this book to explain Kanye West's embrace of Trump.

Michael Mandelbaum: The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth (2019, Oxford University Press): Argues that "in the twenty-five years after 1989, the world enjoyed the deepest peace in history." Further asserts that this blissful state ended "because three major countries -- Vladimir Putin's Russia in Europe, Xi Jinping's China in East Asia, and the Shia clerics' Iran in the Middle East -- put an end to end to it With aggressive nationalist policies aimed at overturning the prevailing political arrangements in their respective regions." Pretty amazing that anyone can look at the last 25-30 years and fail to identify the one nation that has been almost constantly at war, attacking "enemies" in more than a dozen countries scattered all around the world. Also that the author overlooked a number of other wars that broke out during the period, including the period's most deadly wars (in and around Congo).

Bill McKibben: Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? (2019, Henry Holt): Wrote one of the early books on global warming, The End of Nature (1989). I read it during a mid-summer trip to Florida, where my initial skepticism was overcome by seeing and feeling how much heat could be absorbed into the atmosphere. Still, I hated his metaphor, and he has a knack for coming up with new irritating ways to say the same thing ever since. (Eaarth was the worst.) This is his latest, probably even more impassioned as he's made his career move from critic to activist. I'd probably find his 2013 memoir, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist, more to my taste than this doomsday screed. But despite the hyperbole, he's been basically right all along. You have to respect that.

John J Mearsheimer: The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities (2018, Yale University Press): Foreign policy mandarin, subscribes to the realist wing like his sometime co-author Stephen M Walt, has developed a healthy skepticism about how American foreign policy is practiced. Problem here is likely to be his choice of "Liberal Dreams" as his evil strawman. Although political liberals, especially in the anti-communist 1950s, readily supported America's originally bipartisan, military-first foreign policy, this policy has never advanced "liberal dreams." For the last 30-40 years, "liberal hegemony" has never been more than a neocon ruse, an attempt to dress up old-fashioned imperial power projection with a patina of nice words. Meanwhile, Walt has his own new book:

  • Stephen M Walt: The Hell of Good Intentions: America's Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of US Primacy (2018, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Steve Pearlstein: Can American Capitalism Survive? Why Greed Is Not Good, Opportunity Is Not Equal, and Fairness Won't Make Us Poor (2018, St Martin's Press): Reminded me first of Robert Kuttner's 2018 book Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism (still unread on my shelf), but the questions are slightly different. Pearlstein seems to assume democracy will have the final say, and asks instead whether capitalism can be reformed in ways that will make it palatable to most people. Clearly, its current practices like "squeezing workers, cheating customers, avoiding taxes, and leaving communities in the lurch" tend to undermine public trust and confidence.

Nomi Prins: Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World (2018, Nation Books): Former bond trader, found her calling writing about the banking racket in the Bush years -- Other People's Money: The Corporate Mugging of America (2004), Jacked: How "Conservatives" Are Picking Your Pocket (Whether You Voted for Them or Not) (2006), It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals From Washington to Wall Street (2009) -- looks at how "the open door between private and central banking has ensured endless opportunities for market manipulation and asset bubbles." I'm not a big fan of the titles per sé, but few people have written more lucidly about how theirs racket works.

John Quiggin: Economics in Two Lessons: Why Markets Work So Well, and Why They Can Fail So Badly (2019, Princeton University Press): Author of Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us, an important effort to clear out much of the dead wood, takes up Henry Hazlitt's 1946 classic, Economics in One Lesson, which he summarizes as "leave markets alone, and all will be well." But all isn't well, as there are many cases of market failures, so Quiggin adds "Lesson Two: Market prices don't reflect all the opportunity costs we face as a society." He gives 400 pages of examples and explanations, in what may be one of the essential texts of modern economics.

Eric Rauchway: Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal (2018, Basic Books): After an overwhelming majority of Americans voted to free themselves from President Herbert Hoover, they faced a four-month delay until the new president could be sworn in -- a period so grueling that the US Constitution was changed to move future inaugurations up from March to January. This book covers those four months, a kind of pre-history to the famous "100 days" that followed Franklin Roosevelt's inauguration. In terms of anticipatory obstructionism, Hoover probably holds the record -- although John Adams in 1800-01 raised the bar, and Donald Trump will no doubt try to top them all in the shorter 2020-21 transition period.

Richard Rhodes: Energy: A Human History (2018, Simon & Schuster): Recaps the history of mankind as the story of claiming and taming sources of energy, possibly starting with human and domesticated animal muscle, but wood, coal, oil, and nuclear play larger roles in this story -- Rhodes seems to be especially fond of nuclear, although the four major books he's written on nuclear bombs can be read as cautionary tales. I've read those four books, plus a couple more, and don't doubt that he is capable of synthesizing such a large and important story.

Nathaniel Rich: Losing Earth: A Recent History (2019, MCD): A history, pointing out that by 1979 "we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change -- including how to stop it," which goes on to show how supposedly responsible people failed to act on that knowledge, letting us slide into the ever-increasing crisis we face today. The Reagan administration's determination to promote coal and cripple the EPA and drive science from the policy process -- I'd say "echoes of Trump" but it's the other way around -- were key, but the thing you keep running into is human reluctance to deal with a catastrophe that seems to merely loom in the future, because the worst hasn't struck yet.

Sam Rosenfeld: The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era (2017, University of Chicago Press): Assumes that the problem with politics today is partisan polarization, and seeks to find where that came from by examining the political period from 1945 through 1980, moving from "The Idea of Responsible Partisanship" to "The Making of a Vanguard Party" and "Liberal Alliance-Building for Lean Times." Winds up with a chapter on 1980-2000 and a "Conclusion: Polarization without Responsibility, 2000-2016." Rosenfeld attributes the idea that the two parties should be realigned on a liberal-conservative axis to Franklin Roosevelt. What actually forced the realignment was a single issue -- civil rights -- which straddled the 1980 divide (what we might call the tipping point). Whether this was a good or bad thing depends a lot on how important you think that issue is. But more generally, polarization always occurs when issues become more serious and less amenable to compromise -- and we see that happening now, on race (of course) but also on the more general principles of equality, fairness, justice, and whether government will serve or oppress the vast majority of the people. I don't mean to argue that polarization has no down side. The main one is that it's led one party in particular to view politics as a zero-sum game, even worse as it's blinded that party to recognizing common problems (most obviously, climate change, which Republicans furiously deny because it's inconvenient for some of their major donors).

Joseph E Stiglitz: People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent (2019, WW Norton): Major liberal economist, advised Clinton in the 1990s and bragged about it in The Roaring Nineties: A New History of the World's Most Prosperous Decade (2003), warned about Bush in the 2000s and reminded us in Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy (2010), wrote an important book on The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future (2012), and several books on trade, starting with Globalization and Its Discontents (2002). I've read (and admired) most of his books, but overlooked an earlier book, Whither Socialism?, which claimed that "market socialism" couldn't work. His analysis back then probably has much to do with his decision now to push for what he calls "progressive capitalism" as the alternative to the burgeoning movement for socialism. I'm sure he's very smart about it, but I always find it a bit sad that the only occasions when the left gains enough power to do something, they first have to spend all their energy saving capitalism's sorry ass.

Bhaskar Sunkara: The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality (2019, Basic Books). Editor of Jacobin offers a primer on the history of socialism since the mid-1800s and "a realistic vision for its future" -- well short of the Soviet-era ideals, but carefully, cautiously tailored to provide universal, fair and equitable solutions to economic problems. Related:

  • Bhaskar Sunkara: The ABCs of Socialism (paperback, 2016, Verso).
  • Cinzia Arruzza/Tithi Bhattacharya/Nancy Fraser: Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto (paperback, 2019, Verso).
  • Rutger Bregman: Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World (2017, Little Brown; paperback, 2018, Back Bay Books).
  • Nancy Fraser: The Old Is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born (paperback, 2019, Verso).
  • Nancy Fraser/Rahel Jaeggi: Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical Theory (paperback, 2018, Polity).
  • Kristen R Ghodsee: Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence (2018, Bold Type Books).
  • Avel Honneth: The Idea of Socialism: Towards a Renewal (2017; paperback, 2018, Polity).
  • Danny Katch: Socialism . . . Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation (paperback, 2015, Haymarket Books).
  • Leigh Phillips: Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts: A Defence of Growth, Progress, Industry and Stuff (paperback, 2015, Zero Books).
  • Leigh Phillips/Michal Rozworski: The People's Republic of Walmart: How the World's Biggest Corporations Are Laying the Foundation for Socialism (paperback, Verso).
  • Chantal Mouffe: For a Left Populism (2018, Verso).

Michael W Twitty: The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South (2017, Amistad): A family history back to its roots, focusing on the food that made each generation, and crossed in various ways from black to white and back. Also on food and the South: John T Edge: The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South (2017, Penguin).

Craig Unger: House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia (2018, Dutton): A journalist with a nose for corrupt relationships, previously wrote House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties (2004), seems to have a ripe subject digging into Trump's various deals with Russian mobsters and oligarchs.

Jose Antonio Vargas: Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen (2018, Dey Street Books): Author spent 25 years as an "undocumented" American, "living illegally in a country that does not consider me one of its own," before outing himself to write about the experience in the New York Times -- becoming a spokesman for the millions of "undocumented" Americans. Less about immigration either as policy or practice than about what it feels like to live in a country you have to hide from. Other recent books on immigration:

  • Francisco Cantú: The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches From the Border (2018; paperback, 2019, Riverhead Books).
  • Abdi Nor Iftin: Call Me American: A Memoir (2018, Knopf).
  • Viet Tranh Nguyen, ed: The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives (2018, Harry N Abrams).
  • Peter Schrag: The World of Aufbau: Hitler's Refugees in America (2019, University of Wisconsin Press).
  • Matthew Soerens/Jenny Yang: Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (paperback, 2018, IVP Books).

William T Vollmann: Carbon Ideologies: Volume One: No Immediate Danger/Volume Two: No Good Alternative (2018, Viking): Mostly a novelist, occasionally writes non-fiction and has been known to get carried away, like his Imperial (1306 pp). This "almanac of global energy use" is similar-sized, but published in two volumes.

Jon Ward: Camelot's End: Kennedy vs. Carter and the Fight That Broke the Democratic Party (2019, Twelve): This suggests that Reagan's triumph in 1980 had more to do with a breakdown caused by Ted Kenndy's almost unprecedented primary challenge against a president of his own party. The closest analogy I can think of was Teddy Roosevelt's rebuke of William Howard Taft in 1912, which wound up with his Bull Moose third party and both losing to Woodrow Wilson. Lots of parallels there, not least the challengers' sense of entitlement. Looking back now it's clear that Carter was a forerunner of many of Reagan's issues, and as such helped to legitimize someone who had previously been viewed as a far-right fringe candidate. One wonders whether the clearer choice that Kennedy might have presented would have faired better.

Alan Wolfe: The Politics of Petulance: America in an Age of Immaturity (2018, University of Chicago Press). More like senescence, which has less to do with age than the popular choice 38 years ago to turn away from facing reality and pretend we're fine in Ronald Reagan's fantasy world. Wolfe is a political science prof (emeritus) with a long list of books, including The Seamy Side of Democracy: Repression in America (1973), Marginalized in the Middle (1996), Does American Democracy Still Work? (2006), and At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews (2014). I last noticed him when he published The Future of Liberalism (2009), a spirited defense that this must contrast with.

Shoshana Zuboff: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (2019 PublicAffairs): Seems to focus on the new information businesses, specifically the ones that track your every step in navigating the Internet, and analyze and market that information to others hoping to manipulate you. I'm not sure how far you can push this model: is it really that important? I suspect it may even be self-limiting.

Other recent books also noted without comment:

Ben S Bernanke/Timothy F Geithner/Henry M Paulson Jr: Firefighting: The Financial Crisis and Its Lessons (paperback, 2019, Penguin Books).

William J Burns: The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal (2019, Random House).

Tucker Carlson: Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution (2018, Free Press).

Robert A Caro: Working (2019, Knopf).

Susan Faludi: In the Darkroom (2016, Metropolitan Books; paperback, 2017, Picador).

Henry Louis Gates Jr: Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (2019, Penguin Press).

Gary Giddins: Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star: The War Years 1940-1946 (2018, Little Brown).

Jonah Goldberg: Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy (2018, Crown Forum).

Max Hastings: Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975 (2018, Harper).

Steven Johnson: Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most (2018, Riverhead Books).

Dan Kaufman: The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics (2018, WW Norton).

Yasmin Khan: India at War: The Subcontinent and the Second World War (2015, Oxford University Press).

Lawrence Lessig: America, Compromised (2018, University of Chicago Press).

Steve Luxenberg: Separate: The Story of Plessy V. Ferguson, and America's Journey From Slavery to Segregation (2019, WW Norton).

Anna Merlan: Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power (2019, Metropolitan Books).

Ashoka Mody: Euro Tragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts (2018, Oxford University Press).

Raghuram Rajan: The Third Pillar: How Markets and the State Leave the Community Behind (2019, Penguin Press).

Jeffrey D Sachs: A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism (2018, Columbia University Press).

Darrel M West: Divided Politics, Divided Nation: Hyperconflict in the Trump Era (2019, Brookings Institution Press).

Joan C Williams: White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America (2017, Harvard Business Review Press).

Monday, May 27, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, May archive.

Music: current count 31558 [31518] rated (+40), 251 [252] unrated (-1).

Last Monday in May, so extra work today doing my paperwork for the May Streamnotes archive. Rated count was 34 when I first checked on Sunday, but I've kept this open to see what fits into the month. Still, much of the bulk, both this week and for the month, has come from diving into back catalog. With new albums from George Cables and Jerry Bergonzi out, I thought they might be fun. When time ran out, I still had more Bergonzi to go, not least the new one.

The week's finds are scattered. The latest Christgau Expert Witness picked a Youssou N'Dour album I had noticed from publicist email but hadn't tracked down (not on Napster, but I was able to stream from Rock Paper Scissors). Also Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba's Miri, a previous A- here (also according to Michael Tatum). Phil Overeem's latest list pointed me at Beyoncé's Homecoming and A Day in the Life, but the album I liked most was an exceptionally genteel trad jazz quartet he had down at 23. I got some more ideas from Alfred Soto's The best albums of 2019, first draft: specifically Nilüfer Yanya's Miss Universe -- although I'll note that I had heard his six higher-rated albums and didn't A-list any of them. (Further down his list, I did pick Control Top: Covert Contracts; Robert Forster: Inferno; Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?; and Lizzo: Cuz I Love You; still unheard: The Mountain Goats, Vampire Weekend, The National; Tyler, the Creator; and Weyes Blood.) Lucas Fagen provided the tip on L7 (also one I did't follow up on yet: Gary Clark Jr.). First L7 play didn't convince me, so I went back and played the Best Of. Gave the new one an extra play later, but didn't move it. They have one of the all-time great band sounds, but at this point I'd guess it's more likely to drop a notch than to rise one. Opposite is true of their eponymous debut, which Christgau missed and I'd never heard. They get something out of youth there that they'll never get back to again.

It occurred to me that Ray Charles and Betty Carter might be on YouTube, and indeed it was. Someone wrote me a while back to point out that several albums I couldn't find on Napster were on YouTube (usually with nothing but the static album cover for video). I haven't followed that tip often, but with big chunks of backlist from both artists this month, seemed like good due dilligence. Disappointing album.

David Cantwell has written an exceptionally thorough review of Robert Christgau's two recent essay compilations, Book Reports and Is It Still Good to Ya? (Duke University Press): Robert Christgau's big-hearted theory of pop. I managed to screw up Cantwell's name when I initially posted the link, confusing him with a mediocre pitcher from 1927-37 (W-L record 76-108, mostly with the doormat Boston Braves, although he looked better before going 4-25 in 1936). Turns out David Cantwell has been cranking out country music list-articles for Rolling Stone. It might be fun to follow up on them in June.

I am posting tonight a new installment of XgauSez, Christgau's question-and-answer session.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Beyoncé: Homecoming: The Live Album (2018 [2019], Columbia, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Carlos Bica/Daniel Erdmann/DJ Illvibe: I Am the Escaped One (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Brooks & Dunn: Reboot (2019, Arista Nashville): [r]: B
  • George Cables: I'm All Smiles (2019, HighNote): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Davis: Correlations (2019, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elder Ones: From Untruth (2019, Northern Spy): [r]: B
  • Luke Gillespie: Moving Mists (2018 [2019], Patois): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated (2019, 604/School Boy/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Norah Jones: Begin Again (2019, Blue Note, EP): [r]: B
  • Kehlani: While We Wait (2019, Atlantic/TSNMI): [r]: B+(**)
  • L7: Scatter the Rats (2019, Blackheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Doug MacDonald: Califournia Quartet (2018 [2019], Dmacmusic): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Matt Mitchell: Phalanx Ambassadors (2018 [2019], Pi): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Youssou N'Dour: History (2019, Naďve/Believe): [os]: A-
  • Phicus + Martin Küchen: Sumpflegende (2017 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Matthias Spillmann Trio: Live at the Bird's Eye Jazz Club (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Spring Roll: Episodes (2017-18 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B
  • Ben Stapp/Joe Morris: Mind Creature Sound Dasein (2017 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Oli Steidle & the Killing Popes: Ego Pills (2017 [2019], Shhpuma): [r]: B-
  • Norbert Susemihl/Chloe Feoranzo/Harry Mayronne/Barnaby Gold: The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17, October (2018 [2019], Sumi): [r]: A-
  • Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer (2019, Six Shooter, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Dave Wilson Quartet: One Night at Chris' (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Nilüfer Yanya: Miss Universe (2019, ATO): [r]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper (2018, Impulse!): [r]: B+(*)
  • L7: Pretend We're Dead: Best of L7 (1992-97 [2019], Warner Music Group): [r]: A

Old music:

  • Jerry Bergonzi: Intersecting Lines (2012 [2014], Savant): [r]: A-
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Dog Star (2017, Savant): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Cables: Cables Vision (1979 [1992], Contemporary/OJC): [r]: B
  • George Cables Trio: Beyond Forever (1991 [1992], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Cables: Quiet Fire (1994 [1995], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Cables: Person to Person (1995, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Cables Trio: Skylark (1995 [1996], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Cables Trio: Dark Side, Light Side (1996 [1997], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Cables Trio: Bluesology (1998, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Cables: One for My Baby (2000, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ray Charles/Betty Carter: Ray Charles and Betty Carter (1961, ABC): [yt]: B
  • Carly Rae Jepsen: Tug of War (2008, Maple Music/Fontana North): [r]: B+(***)
  • L7: L7 (1988, Epitaph): [r]: B+(***)
  • Art Pepper/George Cables: Tęte-Ă-Tęte (1982 [1983], Galaxy): [r]: A-
  • Art Pepper/George Cables: Goin' Home (1982, Galaxy): [r]: B+(***)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Assif Tsahar/William Parker/Hamid Drake: In Between the Tumbling a Stillness (2015 [2018], Hopscotch): [cd]: [was: A-] A

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Avishai Cohen: Arvoles (Razdaz/Sunnyside): June 14
  • Red Kite: Red Kite (RareNoise): advance, June 28
  • The Jamie Saft Quartet: Hidden Corners (RareNoise): advance, June 28

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Here in Wichita it's rained every day for a week with more coming tonight, tomorrow, the day after. We're up to 11.96 inches this month (2nd wettest May ever; annual average is 34 inches). Many rivers in southeastern Kansas have flooded -- my recent trip to Oklahoma was detoured when the Kansas State Turnpike went under water. Wichita used to flood regularly, and my home would surely be under water but for "the big ditch" -- a flood control project built in 1950-59. (See Beccy Tanner: 'Big Ditch Mitch' saved Wichita many times; also, David Guilliams: The Big Ditch: The Wichita-Valley Center Flood Control Project [PDF].) I've been reading up on this, not least because I haven't seen the rivers this high since 1966, when the Ditch spared Wichita (barely) an epochal flood that wiped out the Arkansas River dam in Lamar, CO, and flooded every other town on the river's path into Oklahoma and Arkansas. Reading Guilliams' history reminds me that we had politicians in the 1940s who were as short-sighted as the ones we have today, but I'll always be thankful they got outvoted. That Ditch was the best investment Wichita ever made. Without it I wouldn't be able to get around to this week's other stories.

Some scattered links this week:

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Daily Log

From Greg Tate, on Facebook, comment reply to Allen Lowe question about Gary Davis:

A friend who speaks six languages fluently (including Arabic and Polish) told that in her mind its all one language. The Black American creative tradition is by necessity that of the auto-didact but on a deeper level its also one of people who couldn't afford to only be great at one thing or the luxury of compartmentalizing the world. The major innovators seem to be more inter-dimensional than the rest of us in mind body and spirit--You get the sense that All of Life is one language to them. Which is to say they are more West African than Cartesian how they integrate the world outside with the world inside. Nothing exemplifies this more to me than Davis saying he thought he heard a brass band the first time he heard a guitar. Which suggests his artistic high bar when he started playing wasn't mere competency but to make people feel like they too were experiencing a marching band projecting out of a guitar. Methinks we do a disservice to these innovative artists when we think they were only trying to work out mechanics--they were acquiring complex technique to reproduce MAGIC.

Susan Brown posted this on Facebook, crediting Gary Moss. It may be the single most horrific thing I've read all year:

i wish everyone would read this

94 yr old Kissinger takes on Trump

Recently, Henry Kissinger did an interview and said vary amazing things regarding President Trump. He starts with: "Donald Trump is a phenomenon that foreign countries haven't seen before"! The former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gives us a new understanding of President Donald Trump's foreign policy and predicts its success:

"Liberals and all those who favor (Hillary) Clinton will never admit it. They will never admit that he is the one true leader. The man is doing changes like never before and does all of it for the sake of this nation's people. After eight years of tyranny, we finally see a difference."

Kissinger knows it and he continues with:

."Every country now has to consider two things: One, their perception that the previous president, or the outgoing president, basically withdrew America from international politics, so that they had to make their own assessments of their necessities.

And secondly, that there is a new president who's asking a lot of unfamiliar questions. And because of the combination of the partial vacuum and the new questions, one could imagine that something remarkable and new emerges out of it.

Then Kissinger puts it bluntly:

"Trump puts America and its people first. This is why people love him and this is why he will remain in charge for so long. There is not a single thing wrong with him and people need to open their eyes." When he boasts that he has a "bigger red button" than Kim Jung Un does, he so transcends the mealy-mouthed rhetoric of the past, thereby forcing a new recognition of American power.

Kissinger once wrote:

"The weak grow strong by effrontery - The strong grow weak through inhibition!" No sentence better captures the U.S.-North Korea relationship.

Trump is discarding the inhibitions and calling the bluff on North Korea's effrontery: His point is that the contrast of American retreat under Obama and its new assertion of power under Trump creates a new dynamic that every one of our allies and of our enemies must consider.

Our allies grew complacent with Obama's passivity and now are fearful due to Trump's activism. And they must balance the two in developing their policies:

They realize that the old assumptions, catalyzed by Bush 43's preoccupation with Iraq and Obama's refusal to lead are obsolete. So, Trump is forcing a new calculus with a new power behind American interests. Those - here and abroad - who rode the old apple cart worry about its being toppled.

But, as Kissinger so boldly stated: "Trump is the one true leader in world affairs and he is forcing policy changes that put America first!"

This is the most accurate statement of what the American Citizens who live outside of the swamp want and expect from their government.

I like the list of 13 things that I, as a senior American citizen, want. Trump is at least talking about issues that most Americans are concerned about.

My mantra about Trump is this: Truthfully, We are in agreement with most of what he says. We are getting older and our tickers aren't what they used to be, but what matters is that he covers most of the 13 things we as seniors want, at least I do for sure

  1. Hillary: held accountable for her previous wrongs!
  2. Put "GOD" back in America!
  3. Borders: Closed or tightly guarded!
  4. Congress: On the same retirement & healthcare plans as everybody else
  5. Congress: Obey its own laws NOW!
  6. Language: English!
  7. Culture: Constitution and the Bill of Rights!
  8. Drug-Free: Mandatory Drug Screening before & during Welfare!
  9. Freebies: NONE to Non-Citizens
  10. Budget: Balanced
  11. Foreign Countries: Stop giving them our money! Charge them for our help! We need it here.
  12. Term limits for congress
  13. "RESPECT OUR MILITARY AND OUR FLAG!" And our law enforcement. DRAIN THE SWAMP!

Further down, Susan offered this meme:

First Lady Melania Trump has sent out a request for prayers for our president. Let us be a shield for him as he fights for us.

Further down, she links to an AP News piece on Alabama's "near-total abortion ban," presumably favorably. But a commenter picked up another tweet, from Stephanie Wittels Wachs, which is on target:

Make no mistake - a state that criminalizes abortion but ranks 50th in public education doesn't give a shit about children.

   Mar 2001