Monday, May 20, 2013
Music Week/Jazz Prospecting
Music: Current count 21440  rated (+34), 629  unrated (+7).
Lost some ground last week, after a good start which picked up some
stragglers, finding some honorable mentions but nothing to add to the
A-list. Rated count is up because I've adding things to the Rhapsody
Streamnotes file -- including a fair amount of jazz I didn't receive.
(Including three new AUM Fidelity releases that finally make me feel
not so bad about being jilted and dumped from their mailing list.) No
Clean Feed package yet -- probably time to complain. Did get a package
from Lithuania with tantalizing obscurities, including a 1974 item
with a very young William Parker on bass (Melodic Art-Tet).
Streamnotes will run after A Downloader's Diary, whenever that's
ready, certainly by the end of the month. Trying to keep up with the
incoming jazz, but not worried about it. More bothered by everything
else that's slipping, including a way overdue update to the Christgau
website, and lots of seemingly imaginary projects of my own. I did
manage to finish my "stone moat" around the back of the house --
just in time for it to get roughed up by yesterday's tornado. We
didn't suffer any building damage, so whatever it was wasn't a real
ground-touching tornado but it stripped a lot of leaves and twigs
and deposited them in swirling patterns on our roof -- something
I've never seen before.
Perry Beekman: So in Love: Perry Beekman Sings and Plays
Cole Porter (2013, self-released): Guitarist-vocalist, based
in Woodstock, NY; first album as far as I can tell, although he's
"been playing in jazz clubs, and at private and corporate events
throughout New York City for the past 25 years." Fifteen Cole Porter
songs, backed by piano and bass. Hard to go wrong.
Marc Bernstein & Good People: Hymn for Life
(2012 , Origin): Saxophonist, from New York but based in
Denmark, lead instrument here is bass clarinet. Fourth album since
1999, quartet with Jacob Anderskov (piano), Jonas Westergaard (bass),
and Rakalam Bob Moses (drums), plus featured singer Sinne Eeg. She
has a remarkable voice, dark and smoky.
Blue Cranes: Swim (2013, Cuneiform): Group, quintet
with two saxes (Reed Walsmith and Joe Cunningham), keyboards (Rebecca
Sanborn), bass (Keith Brush) and drums (Ji Tanzer); based in Portland,
OR; handful of albums since 2007, including a remix of the last one
(not counting an intervening EP). Long guest list this time, including
strings on 5 (of 9) cuts. Big slabs of sound, nothing but volume to
make you think they need more than one horn.
Freddy Cole: This and That (2012 , High Note):
Nat's little brother, 14 years junior which makes him 81 now, finally
found his mature voice a few years back and has been on a steady roll.
Backed by pianist John Di Martino, with tasty guitar by arranger Randy
Napoleon, and select sax and trombone spots. Scrounging a bit for songs
he hasn't done before, but he even makes something of "Everybody's
The Jay D'Amico Quintet: Tango Caliente (2012 ,
Consolidated Artists Productions): Pianist, sixth album since 1983,
the last three subtitled "Jazz Under Glass." First tango themed album,
although he's done classical- and opera-themes. Expanded his trio to
include Andrew Sterman on tenor sax and flute, and Richie Vitale on
trumpet and flugelhorn -- nothing that will be mistaken as authentic.
Nothing caliente here; don't know the Spanish for "lukewarm," but
it's not even that.
Marko Djordjevic & Sveti: Something Beautiful 1709-2110
(2013, Goalkeeper): Drummer, from Serbia, studied at Berklee. Recorded
first album as Sveti in 1995. Group now is a piano trio (Bobby Avey and
Desmond White) with tenor sax added on half the tracks (Eli Degibri and
Tivon Pennicott, three cuts each). All originals.
Satoko Fujii Ma-Do: Time Stands Still (2011 ,
Not Two): One of pianist Fujii's many groups, with Natsuki Tamura on
trumpet, Norikatsu Koreyasu on bass, and Akira Horikoshi on drums:
their third and final album together -- Koreyasu died of a heart
attack shortly after. Some typically fine moments from Fujii and
(especially) Tamura, but overall a bit subdued, almost poignant in
Satoko Fujii New Trio: Spring Storm (2013, Libra):
Japanese pianist, has a lot of albums but not many conventional piano
trios. This one has Todd Nicholson on bass and Takashi Itani on drums.
Some fine examples of her impressive block chording and much more in
a more melodic vein.
Laszlo Gardony: Clarity (2012 , Sunnyside):
Pianist, b. 1956 in Hungary, came to US in 1983 to study at Berklee.
Tenth album since 1986, a solo, all original material, inching up
to a strong rhythmic vamp at the end.
I Compani: Extended (2013, Icdisc): Dutch group,
founded by saxophonist Bo van de Graaf around 1985, ten or so
albums since then, their favorite subject the film music of Nino
Rota, although another is Sun Ra, who provides the only non-Rota
cover here, plus a song title. As the title suggests, the band
has been beefed up here, to as many as 24 members, which can
mean massive or mayhem but is usually slyly amusing. Weak spot
is the vocals, a mix of art song and opera that easily rubs me
the wrong way.
Richard Lanham: Thou Swell (1998 , RL Productions):
Singer, started out with his brothers in a doo-wop group called the Tempo
Tones -- YouTube has a video dated 1957, and Discogs lists one song on an
obscure, undated compilation -- and went on to sing with King Curtis, did
something with Wynton Kelly, joined another group called the Boateneers --
can't find any evidence of them -- and so forth, eventually recording this
debut album, which in turn was shelved for fifteen years. Tenor saxophonist
Jerry Weldon arranged, the songs notably checking Ray Charles and Nat Cole,
with some gospel and calypso worked in, all of which are to his taste.
Ivan Lins: Cornucopia (2012 , Sunnyside):
Brazilian singer-songwriter, b. 1945, scored his first hit in 1970
and has been a major figure ever since, with over 35 albums. This
one is a major production, backed by the SWR Big Band, singer Paula
Morelenbaum, Themba Mkhize's South African Choir, bassist Nilson
Matta, and lots of extra percussionists.
Miki Purnell: Swingin' to the Sea (2013, Sweet and
Lovely Music): Standards singer, one original on this her debut album.
From San Diego, where she maintains a day job as a family practice
physician. Likes vocalese (titles like "Bluesette" and "A Night in
Tunisia"), doesn't scat much, has a slightly girlish voice that grows
on you. Guests Tamir Hendelman (piano) and Lori Bell (flute) produce.
Nice, delicate reading of "The Nearness of You," and her "Swinging
on a Star" is utterly delightful.
Sherri Roberts: Lovely Days (2011-12 , Blue
House/Pacific Coast Jazz): Standards singer, fourth album, backed by
pianist Bliss Rodriguez and nothing more -- she handles it well, but
it doesn't feel like much, especially when the pace turns glacial on
Wallace Roney: Understanding (2013, High Note):
Trumpeter, has at least 16 albums since 1987, basically a mainstream
hard bop guy although he's been dabbling with electronics the last
few albums. No such electronics here: back to basics, and crank it
up a bit. He'a also replaced his brother, saxophonist Antoine Roney,
with Arnold Lee on alto and Ben Solomon on tenor. Mostly covers
from the hard bop years, including two each from McCoy Tyner and
Duke Pearson. One original each by Roney and Solomon. Nothing new
here, but it does smoke.
Anna Webber: Percussive Mechanics (2012 , Pirouet):
Plays flute and tenor sax, originally from British Columbia, studied at
McGill and moved to New York. Second (or third) album, recorded in Germany,
with clarinet/alto sax, piano, vibes/marimba, bass, two drummers -- no
names I recognize -- the emphasis on jangly, off-center percussion. All
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Susanne Abbuehl: The Gift (ECM): advance, June 11
- Laura Ainsworth: Necessary Evil (Eclectus): June 25
- David Ake: Bridges (Posi-Tone)
- Kenny Barron: Kenny Barron & the Brazilian Knights (Sunnyside)
- Ketil Bjørnstad: La Notte (ECM): advance, June 11
- Michel Camilo: What's Up? (Okeh)
- The Convergence Quartet: Slow and Steady (No Business)
- Correction With Mats Gustafsson: Shift (No Business): advance
- Roger Davidson: Journey to Rio (Soundbrush, 2CD)
- Gene Ess: Fractal Attraction (SIMP)
- Joel Harrison 19: Infinite Possibility (Sunnyside)
- Julia Hülsmann Quartet: In Full View (ECM): advance, June 11
- Yoron Israel & High Standards: Visions: The Music of Stevie Wonder (Ronja Music)
- Bob James & David Sanborn: Quartette Humaine (Okeh)
- Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Somewhere (ECM)
- Eugenie Jones: Black Lace Blue Tears (self-released)
- Annie Kozuch: Mostly Jobim (self-released): June 25
- Brian Landrus Kaleidoscope: Mirage (Blueland)
- Aaron Lebos: Reality (self-released)
- Steven Lugerner: For We Have Heard (NoBusiness/Primary): advance
- Melodic Art-Tet (1974, No Business)
- Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton: Live at Maya Recordings Festival (No Business)
- Gary Peacock/Marilyn Crispell: Azure (ECM): advance, June 11
- Carline Ray: Vocal Sides (Carlcat)
- Cécile McLorin Salvant: WomanChild (Mack Avenue)
- Vandeweyer/Van Hove/Lovens/Blume: Quat: Live at Hasselt (No Business)
Changed previous grades:
- Rilo Kiley: Under the Blacklight (2007, Warner
Brothers): If Rkives are outtakes to this, I must have
underestimated it -- not that there still isn't room for the
outtakes to be better.
[was: B+(***)] A-
Sunday, May 19, 2013
After a lazy week, some more links to ponder:
Igor Bobic: Obama Promises to Hold IRS Accountable on 'Outrageous'
Targeting: Given the history of the federal government harrassing
left-wing political organizations, "outrageous" isn't the first word
that pops into my mind regarding the revelations that some IRS personnel
singled out "tea party" group applications for review of 501(C) status.
My reaction was more like a giggle, but then I found out that none of
the "targeted" organizations were actually denied. I'm not expert in
the relevant law, but I do know that a
peace organization I'm close to
has both a 501(C) fund that is strictly non-political ("educational")
and another funding stream that isn't tax exempt but can be used for
more political activities (although in practice it isn't used for
anything partisan or electoral). So it doesn't exactly surprise me
that "tea party" groups would skirt that law: they are primarily
political propaganda outlets, funded by rich right-wingers who can
use the tax-exempt feature to stretch their self-interested bucks.
Unlike most of the people who donate to our little peace group. (We
haven't itemized deductions in many years, so our donations don't
save us a dime on our taxes.) Obama is right that the IRS should be
non-partisan, but his reaction shouldn't be an outrage that feeds
into enemy talking points. (For instance, I see
Glenn Beck now claiming that the "IRS scandal" is "all connected"
with the Benghazi attack and the Boston bombings. On the Republicans'
ability to keep these pseudo-scandals in the news cycle, crowding out
real issues, see
Julian Rayfield: Sunday Shows Round-Up: All About the IRS and
Benghazi. As for real but ignored issues, see
Conor Friedersdorff: The Biggest Obama Scandals Are Proven and Ignored --
a list Republicans don't care about or even applaud.)
Connie Cass: A Look at Why the Bengazi Issue Keeps Coming Back for
a useful review of what happened there and who said what when. Of the
various facts, the one that jumps out at me was that the "US consulate"
in Benghazi was actually a CIA station, and aside from Ambassador
Stevens the people involved were CIA agents and contractors, so the
instinct to lie and cover up is deeply ingrained. The other key point
is that the real political issue here was Obama's decision to intervene
in Libya's civil war and help ouster Moammar Gaddafi. Obama promised
not to put US military forces on the ground in Libya, but it seems
inevitable that the CIA were active, routing guns and information to
anti-Gaddafi forces -- some of which were bound to be anti-American
Islamists (proving again how little the CIA learned from Afghanistan,
where US clients included future leaders of the Taliban and indeed
Osama Bin Laden himself).
Of course, intervention in Libya isn't on the Republican's own
"talking points": they'd rather attack the administration for trying
to substitute "extremists" for "terrorists," mostly in the belief
that their language is a more potent stimulus to further US-backed
wars in the region. Even there, what they loathe Obama for isn't
that he hasn't been belligerent enough for their taste -- excepting
McCain and Graham, of course, who never met a war they didn't want
to plunge into -- but that Obama isn't jingoistic enough.
Paul Krugman: How the Case for Austerity Has Crumbled: Book
review of: Neil Irwin: The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers
and a World on Fire (Penguin); Mark Blyth: Austerity: The
History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford University Press); and
David A. Stockman: The Great Deformation: The Corruption of
Capitalism in America (Public Affairs). But starts off with
the Reinhart-Rogoff fiasco -- the paper that claimed that when
a nation's debt/GDP ratio crosses the 90% mark the economy sinks
into catastrophe, but turned out to be wrong in so many ways:
The real mystery, however, was why Reinhart-Rogoff was ever taken
seriously, let alone canonized, in the first place. Right from the
beginning, critics raised strong concerns about the paper's methodology
and conclusions, concerns that should have been enough to give everyone
pause. Moreover, Reinhart-Rogoff was actually the second example of a
paper seized on as decisive evidence in favor of austerity economics,
only to fall apart on careful scrutiny. Much the same thing happened,
albeit less spectacularly, after austerians became infatuated with a
paper by Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna purporting to show that
slashing government spending would have little adverse impact on
economic growth and might even be expansionary. Surely that experience
should have inspired some caution.
So why wasn't there more caution? The answer, as documented by some
of the books reviewed here and unintentionally illustrated by others,
lies in both politics and psychology: the case for austerity was and
is one that many powerful people want to believe, leading them to seize
on anything that looks like a justification.
Here's a very good explanation of how recessions (depressions)
happen, especially following a prolonged expansion of debt:
All that was needed to collapse these houses of cards was some kind
of adverse shock, and in the end the implosion of US subprime-based
securities did the deed. By the fall of 2008 the housing bubbles on
both sides of the Atlantic had burst, and the whole North Atlantic
economy was caught up in "deleveraging," a process in which many
debtors try -- or are forced -- to pay down their debts at the same
Why is this a problem? Because of interdependence: your spending
is my income, and my spending is your income. If both of us try to
reduce our debt by slashing spending, both of our incomes plunge --
and plunging incomes can actually make our indebtedness worse even
as they also produce mass unemployment.
Krugman could have extended these paragraphs into a tutorial on
how [Keynesian] macroeconomics has learned how to ameliorate and
reverse recessions, but he wound up illustrating the principles
negatively, by showing how actual central bankers ignored standard
prescriptions and made their economies worse. The key insight is
that if my income is someone else's spending, and others in the
private sector aren't spending, that deficit can be made up by
having government spend more. In other words, all it takes to
avoid disaster is the political will to deliberately do something
constructive about it. That will power was undone by a coalition of
bankers and conservative politicians, partly because they fixated
on threats (to them, anyway) that were mostly imaginary, and mostly
because they didn't give a damn about the hardships their welfare
forced on everyone else.
Krugman notes how many advocates of austerity see it as a morality
play -- as Andrew Mellon put it "to purge the rottenness" from the
system (nor is this view limited to curmudgeonly bankers; see
Alex Pareene: Kinsley Loves Austerity Because It Is "Spinach") --
and he finds examples in Stockman's book (a tirade against one "spree"
after another). Krugman then adds:
So is the austerian impulse all a matter of psychology? No, there's
also a fair bit of self-interest involved. As many observers have noted,
the turn away from fiscal and monetary stimulus can be interpreted, if
you like, as giving creditors priority over workers. Inflation and low
interest rates are bad for creditors even if they promote job creation;
slashing government deficits in the face of mass unemployment may deepen
a depression, but it increases the certainty of bondholders that they'll
be repaid in full. I don't think someone like Trichet was consciously,
cynically serving class interests at the expense of overall welfare; but
it certainly didn't hurt that his sense of economic morality dovetailed
so perfectly with the priorities of creditors.
It's also worth noting that while economic policy since the financial
crisis looks like a dismal failure by most measures, it hasn't been so
bad for the wealthy. Profits have recovered strongly even as unprecedented
long-term unemployment persists; stock indices on both sides of the Atlantic
have rebounded to pre-crisis highs even as median income languishes. It
might be too much to say that those in the top 1 percent actually benefit
from a continuing depression, but they certainly aren't feeling much pain,
and that probably has something to do with policymakers' willingness to
stay the austerity course. [ . . . ]
I'd argue that what happened next -- the way policymakers turned their
back on practically everything economists had learned about how to deal
with depressions, the way elite opinion seized on anything that could be
used to justify austerity -- was a much greater sin. The financial crisis
of 2008 was a surprise, and happened very fast; but we've been stuck in
a regime of slow growth and desperately high unemployment for years now.
And during all that time policymakers have been ignoring the lessons of
theory and history.
It's a terrible story, mainly because of the immense suffering that
has resulted from these policy errors. It's also deeply worrying for
those who like to believe that knowledge can make a positive difference
in the world. To the extent that policymakers and elite opinion in general
have made use of economic analysis at all, they have, as the saying goes,
done so the way a drunkard uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.
Papers and economists who told the elite what it wanted to hear were
celebrated, despite plenty of evidence that they were wrong; critics
were ignored, no matter how often they got it right.
It would take a much longer piece, but at some point it would be
worth breaking out the things that constitute "immense suffering":
the unfairness of so much unemployment; discrimination against all
sorts of marginalized workers, especially the old (who policymakers
expect to work longer and longer) and the young (who face extra
difficulties in starting careers, and in many cases start with
unprecedented debt burdens); and much more. Nor is public spending
only needed to counterbalance the drop in private spending -- the
need for infrastructure and public goods has never been greater,
and the austerity fixation is crippling us (physically, mentally,
Monday, May 13, 2013
Music Week/Jazz Prospecting
Music: Current count 21406  rated (+23), 622  unrated (+5).
Not sure what accounts for the fall off, but then don't remember much of
A-list records continue to accumulate at a dizzying pace, a far cry
from a couple months ago when they were scarce as hen's teeth -- clever
triangulators will note that in addition to the two featured in this
rather short week there are two more in the unpacking list that were
first uncovered on Rhapsody. Thus far I have 41 A-list records this
year, so we're still not quite on track to getting to last year's 125,
but not so far behind either.
Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio + Jeb Bishop: The Flame Alphabet
(2011 , Not Two): Bishop is the Chicago-based trombone player
who left the Vandermark Five about five years ago, and has kept busy
since then mostly guesting on projects where he easily adds to the
noise level -- his tour with Cactus Truck is fresh on my mind -- but
here he takes the lead without the least bit of slop in a showcase
of avant-trombone that would turn the heads of Steve Swell, or for
that matter Roswell Rudd: a huge improvement over Bishop's previous
album with Portuguese tenor saxophonist Amado's trio, Burning
Live at Jazz ao Centro. And Amado is sharp as ever, ably backed
by Miguel Mira on cello and Gabriel Ferrandini on drums.
Jerry Bergonzi: By Any Other Name (2012 , Savant):
Tenor saxophonist, from Boston, has a long list of records since 1983
but has never sounded better than in his recent streak -- I have four
of his last six albums at A-, the other two just a hair under. So I was
surprised when this didn't kick in, but I blame Phil Grenadier's trumpet,
which ties the sax up in unison work and takes solos that add up to very
little. In his own spots the saxphonist is as brusque as ever -- there
just aren't enough of them. Songs are all originals, but parenthetically
refer to standards.
Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense: Moment & the
Message (2012 , Pi): Trumpet player, first album after
quality side credits with Steve Lehman, Steve Coleman, Tomas Fujiwara,
and -- most likely; still haven't heard the album -- Mary Halvorson.
Quintet with Miles Okazaki (guitar), David Virelles (piano), Keith
Witty (bass), and Damion Reid (drums). No second horn keeps his out
front, while the guitar and piano players are rising stars, sparkling
soloists with an intriguingly complex interplay.
Hush Point: Hush Point (2013, Sunnyside): Postbop
pianoless quartet, the two horns John McNeil's trumpet and Jeremy
Udden's alto sax, with Aryeh Kobrinsky on bass and Vinnie Sperrazza
on drums. I initially assumed this would be McNeil's show -- he's
about 30 years senior -- but Udden outwrote him 4-to-3, Kobrinsky
pitched in, and they picked up two Jimmy Giuffre tunes that seem
like a shared connection. The hornwork is tight and sly, the rhythm
slippery. Nothing spectacular, but could well grow on you.
Steven Lugerner: For We Have Heard (2013,
NoBusiness/Primary): Plays double reeds, clarinets, flutes, saxes.
Second album, after his ambitious 2-CD debut (also has a group
record, Dads, by Chives). Quartet with Darren Johnston on
trumpet, Myra Melford on piano, and Matt Wilson on drums. Strong
soloists in their rare spots, but the compositions come first, with
most of the album is woven around the leader's intricate reeds.
Jackie Ryan: Listen Here (2012 , Open Art):
Standards singer, six or seven records since 2000; has a deep,
flexible voice that over an album gains stature and authority.
Arranged by bassist John Clayton, features pianist Gerald Clayton,
with Graham Dechter on guitar and selected horn spots -- haven't
heard much from him lately, but Rickey Woodard sounds splendid.
Alex Snydman: Fortunate Action (2012 ,
self-released): Drummer, lives in Los Angeles, debut album,
mostly piano trio with two cuts adding tenor/soprano sax (Cari
Clements). He uses three pianists -- Doug Abrams (4 cuts), Chris
Pattinshall (3), and Miro Sprague (2) -- and two bassists, with
the pianists writing a bare majority of the songs; Snydman has
3.5 credits, plus covers of Ellington/Strayhorn and Herbie
Hancock. Despite the credits jumble, it all sounds remarkably
Al Thompson Jr.: City Mainstream (2012 , Alcalgar):
Plays piano/keyboards, sings a bit, based in Connecticut. First album,
a high energy groove thing, the horns stronger than anything the smooth
jazz crowd favors -- gives it some appeal.
Jacob Varmus: Terminal Stillness (2012 ,
Crows Kin): Trumpet player, from San Francisco, studied at University
of Iowa, based in Brooklyn. Second album, six tracks cut with guitar
(Nate Radley), piano (Kris Davis), bass (Ike Sturm), drums (Brian
Woodruff); two with accordion (Jacob Garchik), bass (Gil Smuskowitz),
and drums; the closer Varmus himself on piano.
Renée Yoxon/Mark Ferguson: Here We Go Again (2012 ,
self-released): Singer and her pianist, based in Ottawa up in Canada,
second album; original songs, slight edge to Yoxon with about half
credited to both. Band selectively adds trumpet, trombone, sax, and/or
guitar, and they flesh out the sound nicely. She likes to scat, and
isn't bad at it.
Some corrections on a recent Jazz Prospecting review:
Clipper Anderson: Ballad of the Sad Young Men (2008-10
, Origin): Bassist, originally from Montana, based in Seattle
since 1992. Third album, if you count an Xmas with Greta Matassa's
name first, plus a lot of side credits going back to 1984. Anderson
sings as well as plays bass, moldy standards done in the old Sinatra
mold, except that he's not Sinatra, and Darin Clendenin's piano trio
doesn't pack much punch.
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Chris Amemiya & Jazz Coalescence: In the Rain Shadow (OA2)
- David Arnay: 8 (Studio N)
- Lynn Baker Quartet: LectroCoustic (OA2)
- Diego Barber/Hugo Cipres: 411 (Origin)
- Black Host: Life in the Sugar Candle Mines (Northern Spy)
- Will Calhoun: Life in This World (Motéma)
- Ceramic Dog: Your Turn (Northern Spy)
- Etienne Charles: Creole Soul (Culture Shock Music): advance, July 23
- Corey Christiansen: Lone Prairie (Origin)
- Amos Garrett Jazz Trio: Jazzblues (Stony Plain)
- Christian McBride & Inside Straight: People Music (Mack Avenue)
- Bernie Mora & Tangent: Dandelion (Rhombus)
- The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Phalanx (Aerophonic)
- The Rosenthals: Fly Away (American Melody)
- Colin Stetson: New History Warfare, Vol. 3: To See More Light (Constellation)
- Wheelhouse: Boss of the Plains (Aerophonic)
- Zs: Grain (Northern Spy)
Someone asked about Hugh Masekela:
Hugh Masekela: seven albums makes me far from an expert, but the
best I've heard is Home Is Where the Heart Is (1972), followed
by Live at the Market Theatre (2006). Both are on Rhapsody, as
is one or two anthologies of "The Chisa Years (the 1972 album
was originally on Chisa). The Penguin Guide's top pick is
Stimela (1994, VSOP, but the music dates from those same Chisa
years, 1966-72; I've never seen it).
By the way, as far as South African jazz goes, my longtime favorite
is Dudu Pukwana's In the Townships (1973, later on Earthworks
By the way, Jazz Prospecting up. Jonathan Finlayson has probably
cinched "debut of the year," although Peter Evans' Zebulon is
still the year's most imposing trumpet album (unless Slippery
Rock is). Just found out that one label has been trying to send me
stuff ever since their founding via the Village Voice. Only record the
Voice ever (well, since 1980) forwarded to me was a Fall Out Boy
advance. Impatiently awaiting the new batch of Clean Feeds. At least
I'm still on Rodrigo Amado's mailing list.
Before I finished, Milo Miles posted his answer:
Actually, that's a pretty good starting-place album [The Lasting
Impressions of Ooga Booga]. Vintage others I also like a lot are
Home Is Where the Music Is and Time. Pretty fond of the
recent one Jabulani, too. The only one to avoid outright is
Grazin' the the Grass greatest hits, which are inferior
I finally got around to reading Gregg Allman's autobio Ain't My
Cross to Bear, co-written with Alan Light. This isn't the great
Allman Brothers history, although it contains some of that -- you
won't get the details of Duane's accident, just the awkwardness of the
survivors playing over Duane's body at his funeral (as far as I can
tell, the last funeral Gregory has attended to this day, although
death abides throughout), but you'll find out the personal
relationships that brought the band together in the first place in a
way no biographer could ever conjure. (First out of town gig that
Gregg Allman ever played: the Stork Club in Mobile Alabama, which I
can point you to today even though it's long gone.) And if this book
isn't written well in the way that the Richard Hell book leads you to
think about how that southern boy thought his way out of the narrow
Kentucky box he grew up in, it's well written in the sense that it
totally nails Gregg's conversational mannerisms. And it's equally
naked in its honesty -- the author may not always be right, but I
don't think he's lying about anything either.
The big problem, right away, is women. I'm not sure that Gregg
Allman has had a satisfactory relationship with a female other than
his mom in his whole life. He's respectful to his second-to-last (and
longest at not quite 10 years) wife Stacey, who I know a bit. And Cher
gets her turn, without any acrimony and with sacks of honesty on the
author's part. (And the slightly awkward but incredibly generous
shout-out to Chaz Bono makes you love both of them.) But most of the
rest of his wives (they are numerous) are addicts, porn stars, or
worse. And the remainder of the women mentioned are nameless and
Contrasting with this is Gregg's (and Duane's) unreflective,
effortless anti-war and anti-racist behavior. I guess their dad being
a vet who was senselessly murdered may have seeded the first, but the
inclusiveness of the Allmans is natural and honest and not usual for
the time. There is no rationalization at all, and the Allman family
clearly wasn't an inherent bastion of racial tolerance. But slipping
through the cracks of the awful geographical attitudes of the time
permitted an awesome opportunity for the Allman brothers (small "b")
to expand beyond both the chitlin circuit and the lily-white
Beatles/Byrds cover band syndrome that they played against.
So, as I said, I think that Gregg is being honest here, but the
truth is a difficult metric. Does he dis the Grateful Dead (who he
played with) because he doesn't get their music or their fans, or
because Jerry Garcia famously called him a narc? And speaking of
which, would Scooter Herring (who never met face to face with Gregg
after his 18 months of incarceration) have written about his trial in
the same way? Did Gregg really not turn anyone else (other than his
bandmates, which he fesses to, and which would have definitely
happened anyway) onto King H?
At the end of the day, that's what the book is about anyway, a
12-step journey that few who have sunk to Gregg's depths rise from. He
got his new liver and he deserves the chance to be honest (and notably
unselfrightious) about how he never got his act together until the
very end, and then you wonder.
There are a couple of grace notes here. One is when Derek Trucks
makes an appearance. The second is the extended denouement, which is
long and rambling and contrasts with the fey coda that Hell tacked
onto his own book. Gregg probably wrote this himself, and it's like
what happens in "Layla" when the original song stops and the piano
riff takes over, Skydog fluttering overheard. Long, jazzy, too long,
and gorgeous, that's what it is.
"I would imagine that Lynyrd Skynyrd had more hits than anyone
else, but they sure ended up appealing to a real redneck bunch of
When questioned about that "inspirational quote" Patterson added:
I've always had more Lynyrd Skynyrd albums than Allman Brothers
albums, and I feel like LS has an impact like Hank Williams that the
Allmans lack. But that impact comes at a price, and there is nothing
about LS that is ecumenical. At the end of the day, we all need to
look out for each other. The Allman Brothers, through hook and crook,
did that, and LS did not. As someone who was born in the south,
although I don't consider myself a capital-S Southerner, I feel like
Lynyrd Skynyrd was a glorious dead end, as much of a dead end as Gram
Parsons (who toured with a Dixie flag too). I'm just tired of that,
tired of defending it, tired of trying to understand it.
What LS are up to now is something I don't care anymore to think
about. I've got my journey and they've got theirs. What they did in
the past is fabulous and immediate. That they recoiled to regional
jingoism undermines what regional pride I might have.
From Matt Rice, on Facebook (adding my grades in brackets):
My 21 Favorite Albums of 2013
- Yo La Tengo: Fade [**]
- Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City [-]
- Rilo Kiley: RKives [U]
- Kacey Musgraves: Same Trailer Different Park [A-]
- The Uncluded: Hokey Fright [A-]
- Bettie Serveert: Oh, Mayhem! [***]
- Ashley Monroe: Like a Rose [A-]
- They Might Be Giants: Nanobots [***]
- Dawn Richard: Goldenheart [*]
- Pistol Annies: Annie Up [A-]
- Paramore: Paramore [B]
- Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold [A-]
- Jonny Fritz: Dad Country [**]
- Low: The Invisible Way [-]
- A$AP Rocky: LONG.LIVE.A$AP [**]
- Brad Paisley: Wheelhouse [B]
- Wussy: Duo [-]
- Tyler, the Creator: Wolf [-]
- Waxahatchee: Cerulean Salt [A-]
- Bombino: Nomad [***]
- Skrillex: Leaving [B]
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Another last-minute link grab:
Nicholas Blanford: Hizballah and Israel Spar as Syria's Conflict Threatens
to Spin Out of Control: Israel's 2006 war against Hezbollah (effectively
Lebanon) should have yielded several clearcut lessons. One is that Hezbollah
is a very effective defensive fighting force against Israeli land assaults.
Another is that Hezbollah's cache of Iranian or Syrian rockets aren't worth
a thing, either as a deterrent against Israeli attack -- if anything, their
existence provoked that attack -- or as an offensive weapon. Yet Hezbollah
is evidently so concerned about maintaining their Syrian weapons pipeline
that they've joined Assad's Syrian army in fighting against the rebels.
Hezbollah's presence in Syria, in turn, gives Israel all the excuse they
think they need to fly into Syria and bomb targets they think are related
to Hezbollah -- presumably pro-Assad forces, although they've also claimed
to be neutral in the Syrian Civil War, and some Israelis have argued they
would prefer Assad (you know, "the devil you know"; see
Israel has no desire for Assad to fall) to stay in power, so they
may not care who they bomb. Needless to say, both Israel and Hezbollah
are making the mess in Syria worse, adding dangerous factors that make
it very likely to spill over into Lebanon, while Israel is just stirring
the pot in Syria, giving all sides more reason to hate it and plot
Robert Fisk talk about Syria, attesting to the extreme brutality of
the war, also questioning the logic of Israel's intervention:
Are they really bombing missiles going to the Hezbollah, the so-called
Fateh-110 missile, which was first test-fired by Iran, what, 11 years
ago? Conceivable. But when you consider the Syrians have also used these
missiles, according to the Americans, last December against rebel forces,
why would they use armaments, which they use against -- in this ferocious
life-and-death battle against the rebels, why should they be shipping
them out of Syria en route to Lebanon, where the Hezbollah don't appear
at the moment to have any need for them, since they have thousands of
other weapons, a weapon which I would have thought the government would
want to keep in Damascus?
Fisk also says something about the state of journalism:
And I think one of the problems is, as I say, this parasitic, osmotic
relationship between journalists and power, our ever-growing ability,
our wish, to -- you know, to rely on these utterly bankrupt comments
from various unnamed, anonymous intelligence sources. And I'm just
looking at a copy of the Toronto Globe and Mail, February 1st,
2013. It's a story about al-Qaeda in Algeria. And what is the sourcing?
"U.S. intelligence officials said," "a senior U.S. intelligence official
said," "U.S. officials said," "the intelligence official said," "Algerian
officials say," "national security sources considered," "European security
sources said," "the U.S. official said," "the officials acknowledged."
I went -- boy, I've got another even worse example here from The Boston
Globe and Mail [ sic ], November 2nd, 2012. But, you know, we might
as well name our newspapers "Officials Say." This is the cancer at the
bottom of modern journalism, that we do not challenge power anymore. Why
are Americans tolerating these garbage stories with no real sourcing
except for very dodgy characters indeed, who won't give their names?
E Douglas Kihn: The Political Roots of American Obesity:
It was during Reagan's first term that the phrase bean counter came into
prominent usage. These were the efficiency experts whose job it was to
increase profits for the major corporations, mainly by introducing
speedups, job consolidations, forced overtime, the hiring of part-time
workers -- along with artful and ruthless union-busting.
This was also the beginning of the "War on Iran," the "War on Drugs,"
the war against the people of Nicaragua and El Salvador (all of them
Marxists doubtless bent on rampaging through the streets of US cities)
and a dangerous escalation of threats against the Soviet Union/Evil
As social fear and insecurity rise, mental health declines.
Apparently, so does physical health. According to a new study from
Rice University and the University Colorado at Boulder in Social Science
Quarterly, despite modest gains in lifespan over the past century, the
United States still trails many of the world's countries when it comes
to life expectancy, and its poorest citizens live approximately five
years less than more affluent people. The United States, which spends
far more money on medical care than other advanced industrialized
countries, has the sickest residents in every category of unwellness.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Fuzzy Red Lines
A little over two years ago the "Arab Spring" pro-democracy movement
broke out in Syria, a nation that nearly everyone agreed could benefit
from more political freedom, seeing as how it's been ruled by the Assad
family since the 1960s and by one military clique or another even further
back. Similar dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt fell quickly; struggles
against the dictators of Yemen and Bahrein dragged out inconclusively;
but in Libya and Syria demonstrators were met with violence and some
fraction of the military establishment broke against the regime, plunging
those nations into civil war. Demonstrations in Jordan faded quickly with
a few token reforms. And nothing much happened in Saudi Arabia, probably
the one nation in the region most in need of a democratic overhaul.
One prism into understanding how these movements played out is to
map them against US influence in the region. US interests and actions
in the Middle East have been schizophrenic since the late 1940s when
US administrations found themselves not just allied but in love with
two conflicting suitors: Israel, and Saudi-Arabian oil (although any
oil would do, especially Iran's from 1953-79). One problem was that
those paramours came with a lot of baggage: Israel was constantly at
war with its Arab neighbors and its own [Palestinian] people, forging
an elite militarist culture that thrives on conflict, foments hatred
against everything Arab, and has turned most of world opinion against
them -- the major exception America's own fundamentalist Christians
and militarists. The Saudi ruling family, on the other hand, is joined
at the hip to the most extremely reactionary Salafist Muslim clergy,
and has spent billions of dollars attempting to export their religious
orthodoxy throughout the Middle East and into Afghanistan and Pakistan,
where it turned virulently anti-American. But America's true obsession
was the Cold War, in service of which no tyrant or ideologue could be
found too unsavory. The Israelis and Saudis became expert at camouflaging
their own obsessions as anti-communist fervor, so the US could embrace
But another facet of America's Cold War obsession was promotion of
democracy, not so much for allies as for countries on the other (or no)
side, but as a contrast to the "unfree" Soviet-style regimes. So when
masses of people demand democracy, our natural tendency is to applaud.
In the cases of Tunisia and Egypt -- secure military allies with tired
and unsavory leaders -- Obama had little reason to resist, so the US
subtly nudged their power structure to go with the flow. In Yemen, one
of Obama's favorite drone-shooting ranges, and Bahrein, with its Shiite
majority possibly tilting toward Iran, the US was more reserved. But
Libya and Syria were rarely US allies, and most of the "brains" behind
US policy in the region -- especially the "neocons" -- have spent most
of their careers bashing their leaders, so the US had no interests in
maintaining them, but also no influence or leverage that could be used
to democratize them. Consequently, the more the US leaned against them,
the less then had to lose by suppressing their revolts violently. In
hindsight, the best way the US could have helped to democratize those
nations would have been to develop normal relations with them. (It is
worth noting that the only Soviet bloc states that didn't democratize
are the ones the US fought wars against, followed by long, grudge-filled
periods of isolation: China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba.)
As soon as Libya and Syria broke into civil war, the neocons -- most
vociferously, Senators McCain and Graham, who never miss an opportunity
to plunge us deeper into hell -- and their "liberal hawk" cronies started
crying for the US to intervene. How anyone could think that inserting the
US military into a conflict would save lives is beyond me. (The historical
basis for that idea was probably the NATO intervention in Bosnia. After
just two weeks of bombing, the Serbs accepted a ceasefire and signed the
Dayton Accords ending a war between Serbia and Bosnia that had dragged on
for more than two years. That intervention surely did save lives, at least
if you don't factor in the subsequent Kosovo War, which was made all the
more likely by the expectation that NATO would again intervene against
Serbia -- as it did.) But you can't judge interventions by simply balancing
deaths on one side versus the other. US intervention means that people who
wouldn't have been killed otherwise are now being killed by the US -- a
fact that won't be easily rationalized by the people the US attacked.
Obama did finally agree to intervene in Libya, but only after France
and the UK had committed to do so. US firepower quickly degraded Libya's
military power, and the civil war turned against Gaddafi, ending after
about three months. Obama was careful not to land US troops, or to put
the US into a position where the US would have any responsibility for
postwar administration and reconstruction. Nonetheless, last September
a group of Islamic jihadists attacked the US consulate in Benghazi --
the center of the anti-Gaddafi resistance, presumably the most grateful
city for the US intervention -- killing four Americans, the sort of
blowback that should always be expected. The Benghazi attack has since
become a cause celebre for the Republicans, who have gone so far as to
argue that Obama should be impeached for his "cover up" of the attack.
(As far as I can tell, that "cover up" consisted of nothing more than
Susan Rice making some erroneous statements the day after, confusing
the violent attack in Benghazi with non-violent anti-American protests
elsewhere. I would write more about this if I could make any sense out
of it, but I can't. The one thing I can say is that attacking Obama
for something bad happening after he intervened in Libya isn't likely
to be the most effective way to convince him to intervene in Syria,
where the number of bad things that can happen is much greater.)
Dexter Filkins has a long article,
The Thin Red Line, on Syria, the pressures put on Obama to intervene
there, and some of the risks. Filkins is one of those reporters for whom
war is just business -- booming, as his book,
The Forever War, shows.
He recounts much of what I wrote above on Yugoslavia and Libya, while
only glancingly mentioning less "successful" US interventions like Iraq
and Afghanistan. The title refers to Obama's casual warning to Assad
that Syrian use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line" leading
to US intervention. ("Red lines" have been much in the news lately,
especially regarding Iran's "nuclear program" -- what degree of offense
would "justify" Israel and/or the US to preemptively attack Iran.)
Consequently, advocates of going to war with Syria are scouring the
data for any evidence of poison gas use, under the theory that having
drawn a red line there, Obama will have no choice but to intervene --
the entire credibility of the US is put at stake by Obama's careless
use of jargon.
The Syrian Civil War has resulted in, to pick two recent estimates,
between 70 and 120 thousand deaths, with more than a million refugees,
and many more internally displaced. Those are substantial numbers,
even if they are still less than the death-and-refugee toll of the
Civil War in Iraq that was triggered and abetted by the US invasion
and occupation. (At least no one was so stupid as to urge anyone to
intervene to "save lives" in Iraq. Of course, enforcing a "no fly"
zone against the US would have been difficult, but we are talking
about genocide here, something the world has committed to tolerate
Filkins reports on three options for US intervention: establishing
a "no fly" zone; arming the rebels; and somehow securing Syria's
chemical weapon sites. The "no fly" zone is regarded as more difficult
than it was in Libya because Syria has more sophisticated anti-aircraft
defenses, although they don't seem to cause Israel much trouble. The
bigger problem is that in itself it's unlikely to have much effect --
e.g., on artillery and missiles. One suggestion is to use the "Patriot
anti-missile system" to intercept Syrian SCUD missiles. (Is this the
source of the adage that "Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels"?)
So it's very likely that a "no fly" zone will be a stepping stone to
deeper involvement, as indeed it was in Libya.
Arming the rebels is relatively easy to do, and is already being done
by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and possibly others. However, this gets
real tricky real fast. There are multiple groups of rebels, and some of
them are friendlier to the US than others, and the last thing you want
is to send arms to Al-Qaeda-types in Syria -- which are a formidable part
of the resistance -- who might wind up using the arms against American
targets, so you want to pick and choose who gets what, but in doing so
you're not only arming the rebels against Syria, you're arming them
against each other. And while you might argue that a "no fly" zone is
a neutral way to level the battlefield, arming select groups of the
rebels ends any pretense at neutrality or disinterest. You now have a
"dog in the fight": which is not only bad news for Assad, it's a
challenge for anyone who is wary of American power in the region --
a short list which includes Iran and Russia, even before this revolt
provided Syria with arms. The result is surely an arms race, escalating
even further the level of violence.
Arming the rebels also means forgoing the alternative, which is to
negotiate an arms embargo with Syria's suppliers, and enforce comparable
limits on the rebels' suppliers. The desired effect would be to let the
conflict degrade into a stalemate, which would give both sides reason
to negotiate a power-sharing agreement and move toward a democratic
scheme which protects interests allied with both sides. If the US goes
in and arms the rebels, that option disappears. The rebels become more
convinced in their eventual triumph, cementing their resolve to fight
on. From that point the only way to long-term suffering is to shorten
the war by increasing the rebels' firepower and leverage, which not
only helps them defeat Assad, it also allows them to more completely
dominate the social, ethnic, and tribal groups that had favored Assad.
And it also makes more likely an internecine war between rebel groups --
as happened when the Russians finally quit Afghanistan.
Even Filkins admits that the third option -- securing Syria's chemical
weapons -- is a fool's errand. Nobody knows how many sites there are, how
many munitions there are, where they all are, or much of anything else
about them. What you really need is a UN disarmament team to set up camp
in Syria and track them all down, but for that to happen you have to stop
the shooting, in which case you might as well solve the conflict. As for
the US doing it directly, Filkins reports an estimate that it would take
75,000 troops: the basic scheme there is to conquer the country, then
look for the illicit weapons -- for lessons on how this "works," see
Iraq. Even if you could magically wipe the country clean of chemical
weapons, it's unlikely that the conflit would be less deadly. They wind
up being nothing more than a side-thought: a problem people should have
thought of before starting a war that makes their use much more likely.
Obama has managed to frustrate virtually every side in the conflict.
He never offered any pretense of neutrality, and has gone out of his way
to offend Assad backers from Iran to Hezbollah. He's had better relations
with Russia, but not much. Saudi and Qatari arms shipments inevitably
smell of US approval, as does Israel's recent bombings of Syria -- one
thing the latter does is to test Syria's air defenses, useful research
for that "no fly" zone. The CIA is reportedly on the ground in Syria,
feeding intelligence info to the rebels. On the other hand, it's hard
to tell who's "winning" the war, and nothing Obama has done is likely
to tilt the balance, so he's not winning points with the neocon crowd --
nor should he, given the way they've lashed out at him over Libya, which
he finessed about as elegantly as any American president could.
As far as I'm concerned, Assad's extremely violent counterrevolt is
inexcusable, ensuring his future as an international pariah. However,
the more I read of the rebels, the less sympathetic I am to them, and
the more I fear their possible triumph.
Andrew Bacevich makes an interesting point:
Whatever Obama does or doesn't do about Syria won't affect the larger
trajectory of events. Except to Syrians, the fate of Syria per se doesn't
matter any more than the fate of Latvia or Laos. The context within which
the upheaval there is occurring -- what preceded it and what it portends --
matters a great deal. Yet on this score, Washington is manifestly clueless
History possesses a remarkable capacity to confound. Right when the
path ahead appears clear -- remember when the end of the Cold War seemed
to herald a new age of harmony? -- it makes a U-turn. The Syrian civil
war provides only the latest indication that one such radical reversal
is occurring before our very eyes. For Syria bears further witness to
the ongoing disintegration of the modern Middle East and the reemergence
of an assertive Islamic world, a development likely to define the 21st
Recall that the modern Middle East is a relatively recent creation.
It emerged from the wreckage of World War I, the handiwork of cynical
and devious European imperialists. As European (and especially British)
power declined after World War II, the United States, playing the role
of willing patsy, assumed responsibility for propping up this misbegotten
product of European venality -- a dubious inheritance, if there ever
Now it's all coming undone. Today, from the Maghreb to Pakistan,
the order created by the West to serve Western interests is succumbing
to an assault mounted from within. Who are the assailants? People intent
on exercising that right to self-determination that President Woodrow
Wilson bequeathed to the world nearly 100 years ago. What these multitudes
are seeking remains to be seen. But they don't want and won't countenance
If Assad falls, either democratically or by arms, the successor
state will very probably be more conservative, more devoutly Islamist,
and very likely more aggressively anti-American and anti-Israel --
in other words, it will be a state that most Americans who reflexively
clamored for Assad's ouster will find disappointing. And as such it
will ratchet America's frustration with the region even deeper. It
will also be a war-torn wreck, with few prospects of reconstruction
any time soon. Barring US occupation, it is unlikely to become as
corrupt as Iraq or Afghanistan, but like those two disaster areas,
its people has already fragmented into many conflicting identities,
which will continue to tear at the social fabric even after the war
ends. Moreover, as far as the US is concerned, Syria will always be
on the wrong side of Israel, and for that matter the wrong side of
Lebanon, and if those features fade it will revert to no meaning at
all. The only reason McCain and Graham and their ilk care at all
about Syria is that they smell war there, and they see in every war
an opportunity for the US to assert its omnipotence.
I too see war in Syria as a test for the US, and especially as a
test for Obama: the test is whether we can finally see clear to stay
out of a conflict where in the long run we can only hurt ourselves.
The US is so infatuated with itself that it is a sucker for the likes
of McCain and Graham, and Obama has repeatedly allowed himself to be
seduced by American power -- partly, no doubt, because the Republicans
so delight in trash talking to him, taunting him as an apologist,
impugning him for every irresolute doubt. Obama once said that he
wants to change how America thinks about war, but he seems unable
to even change how he himself thinks. Syria is a test of his ability
to pit sanity against jargon, for rarely has a course of action --
intervention -- loomed so temptingly yet been so clearly fraught
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Someone makes an Adorno joke, and suddenly an avalanche of
Adorno-bashing. I wrote:
Crawled out of bed this afternoon and found to my dismay . . . it's
Adorno-bashing time again. It's been a long while since I read him --
I got a little too close to the flame 40 years ago and pulled away
when the mojo became too, uh, automatic (a reaction Adorno himself
should have approved of). Still, it bears repeating that fascism was
(and is) nasty stuff, and searching for its roots and reverberations
in intellectual history and popular culture has not been fruitless --
indeed, as JM Keynes (a fellow spirit in more ways than most realize)
argued, what else is there? I'm more convinced than ever of the
rottenness of our mass culture -- not that I don't occasionally enjoy
it, and I certainly don't see any point in trying to escape it, but
even so I'm filled with dread.
What I have been reading is Tony Judt's "Thinking the Twentieth
Century" -- which provides plenty of opportunity to think about
fascism. The section on Hayek suggests it would be witty to argue that
both Hayek and Adorno took their anti-fascism to ridiculous extremes,
in the former claiming that all economic planning leads to doom, in
the latter that all popular culture does the same -- except, of
course, that in Adorno's case that's only a strawman argument, whereas
dangerous people actually believe in Hayek. I also finally realized
that Judt's antipathy to the individualism of the new left was deeply
rooted in his Trotskyist upbringing. Obviously, he was sheltered from
a whole tradition that I, for one, feel deep in my bones. Doesn't mean
he doesn't have a point about the political inefficacy of the new
left, but he does suffer from a fundamental misunderstanding -- a
blind spot even for a gifted historian. Take Adorno or Hayek out of
history and you get nothing. (Keynes too, although his history is less
I figured that's probably a dead end, but Jeff Hamilton wrote:
Yeah, I did an earlier post on Adorno, didn't like the tone it took
toward our host, but didn't have time then to make the changes, so
withdrew it. Xgau is, after all, welcome to his resistance, as is
But two points: one is that Adorno's writing lives, especially in a
volume like Minima Moralia which has launched many a philosophical
ship. Other is that we don't get feminism in its most bracing, radical
insight without a figure like Shulamith Firestone, about whom a recent
NYer reportorial biography by Susan Faludi was very interesting to me,
not least because I teach Ellen Willis and was aware that together
they led, for a short time in 1969, a NY feminist cadre called NY
Radical Women. I don't read much anymore in Adorno's Dialectics, but
Faludi's piece led me back to Firestone's Dialectics of Sex (1970),
where several crucial Willis' ideas get their first airing. No one
will doubt that Adorno had his critical effect on Brecht, Benjamin,
& Dwight Macdonald. But how about Firestone's effect on Willis? It
ought to be a subject of study, but instead Firestone was a hot-head
and was trashed in within radical feminist circles. I share Tom Hull's
"dread" of mass (or pop) culture -- not the first time I've said that
here. Nor am I in any way in a position to deny it as a crucial part
of what makes my life worth living. Critical negativity is something
Adorno does not dodge, though in the connoisseurship on this site, it
can be easy to resign oneself to sheepish cataloguing.
Looking at other posts, including a sheepish one from Joe Yanosik,
I also wrote:
Two more comments unrelated to my last one:
I think it was completely appropriate for Joe to question the math
on Bob's "30-40" assertion, even if there was no chance that Bob would
document it himself. Those are pretty incredible numbers, especially
relative to a pretty good benchmark album. Milo, Chris, and I all
checked and responded that the numbers do indeed make sense, and Bob
at least hasn't backed down. Moreover, while we may have minor
differences of opinion and haven't all heard everything, our lists are
pretty consistent. But that doesn't mean it's not worth asking the
One thing I do suggest is that since he is interested in pre-1970
music, Joe should broaden his list of gurus. "The Gramophone Jazz Good
CD Guides" are very reliable. And Tom Piazza's "Guide to Classic
Recorded Jazz" is very useful (over the top on Parker, but who isn't?)
But pre-1970 (actually, about 1967) there isn't a lot of disagreement
about what jazz records are most worthy of your attention -- later, of
course, is a different matter.
My other comment is: I like Milo's suggestion of more George
Coleman. One thing to keep an eye out for is Coleman's 1991 album, "My
Horns of Plenty."
Willis and Firestone met in NY Radical Women but led Redstockings,
insofar as "led" meant anything in those days. My memory is that for
the two of them (and third "leader" Kathie Sarachild, who now owns the
franchise--you could look it up--but according to Alice Echols's
Daring to Be Bad moved to Gainesville early in the game) it functioned
three-four months on the outside, conceivably six, but by then the
women who thought anyone smarter than them was guilty of "classism"
were on the rampage. That was the best thing about Faludi's piece as
far as I'm concerned. Faludi was criminally irresponsible about
schizophrenia, a mental disorder with a clear somatic cause that
afflcted Firestone at least as much as sexism--there used to be a
YouTube video about her hoarding you might check out. Having sat
listening to records in the living room while Ellen and Shulie talked
for hours on the phone in the bedroom, it's my guess that Shulie got
more from Willis than v[ice]v[ersa], but I am prejudiced. Shulie had
probably read more Marx and Engels. Ellen had no use for Adorno when I
knew her but could have changed her mind in her much longer Aronowitz
period. Probably not, though--Aronowitz reported at her funeral that
she didn't really read much theory, preferred Victorian novels. I
recently reread her Marcuse obituary in her first collection and
recommend it. It's a pan.
Thanks, Xgau, for that emendation of my radicals-comparison (btw, I
wouldn't trade Willis for Adorno, no way). I keep a time-line for
students of Willis' activities during the late 60s-late 70s period,
and this will inform it. I had wished that a Willis-planned book on
the radical Freudians Goodman/Marcuse/Reich had at least reached a
stage where we might see some of it, but Aronowitz's remarks don't
make that sound too hopeful.
My understanding, as I recall from public rather than private
sources, is that early chapters of Ellen's book were completed--maybe
she softened on HM, that obit was pre-Aronowitz as I calculate (I
don't really know when that relationship began) and it was Aronowitz
who introduced us both to Marcuse in 1966. Her daughter Nona's working
on an omnibus that I suppose may include some of that stuff. Nona
maintains an Ellen Willis website of some sort that I assume you're
Several things: I don't get Faludi's "criminal irresponsibility"
re Firestone's schizophrenia. Maybe he knows something clinical that
Faludi missed? He clearly knew Firestone, but mostly through Willis,
which means probably not much after 1973 or so. I've long been partial
to Bateson's "double-bind theory of schizophrenia," since that seemed
to explain me when I was so diagnosed, but if schizophrenia has to be
a long-term degenerative chemical imbalance then clearly I never was.
On the other hand, Firestone seems to have had more than her share
Willis and Christgau were lovers in the early 1970s, maybe a bit
earlier, and had a complicated intellectual relationship I don't know
much about, mostly because I've never found Willis very interesting.
(I've read little of her early writings on rock; mostly scattered
pieces in the Voice on feminism. I'm also familiar with an
exchange between Laura Tillem and Willis on Zionism, and I'm aware
that Willis was a post-9/11 hawk -- as was Christgau.)
Christgau married Carola Dibbell shortly before I started working
with him. Willis married Stanley Aronowitz, a lefty sociologist I met
once when Paul Piccone invited him to St. Louis for a lecture, probably
about the same time. (I met Willis once, in the Catskills, just a bare
introduction.) Could be that I underestimate Willis -- Hamilton no
doubt has read her more closely. I don't, by the way, have any real
commitment to Marcuse. I've read a lot of Adorno and Benjamin, but
not much Marcuse -- I blew off Piccone's assignment to read Reason
and Revolution, and never did more than skim One Dimensional
Man, nor did I ever pay much attention to what anyone had to say
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Recycled Goods (109): April, 2013
New Recycled Goods: pick up text
Total review count: 3616 (3179 + 437).
Christgau gave *** to the 1969 Miles Davis bootleg 3-CD box, the
same grade I originally wrote down before I had second thoughts and
nudged it up to A-, but he also noted, "There are probably 30-40
Miles albums I'd rather play." Joe Yanosik, predictably (Bob later
estimated the chances at 95-98%), asked for the list -- at least
for the pre-CG years, which would have to had provided 20 or so
albums on top of those in the CG reviews. Milo Miles compiled such
a list, hitting 20 by 1963's My Funny Valentine. I have a
bunch of those down in the B+ range, and don't even recognize some
(Blue Haze? Blue Moods? By any chance are those the
1952-54 Blue Notes I don't have? I know them simply as Volume
1 and Volume 2.) So I wound up writing:
I originally had the Miles Davis '69 bootleg at *** before nudging
it up to A- (in fact, just found the old grade still in my
database). It's very close to the line, and I gave it a bit of a bump
for historical interest: it's one of the most avant-oriented records
Davis ever did, and despite Holland they weren't really all that good
at it -- gives it an air of failure, not that there isn't an intrinsic
interest in listening to Shorter try to channel Ayler.
It's so close to the line I can take everything I have rated A- or
better as "albums I'd rather play" and count them up, in which case I
get 24 titles (with 32 cds) -- a lot of early stuff drops out from
Milo's list (and I don't have the Blackhawks) plus (and there's a lot
of redundancy here) I have eight boxes for another 47 cds. So Bob's
30-40 number is in the right ballpark.
BTW, average Jazz Prospecting yesterday; big Recycled Goods
tonight, plus if you follow the links more on that Spin 1960s list
feature. Not linked, but not that difficult to find, is a y1965 file
that isn't ranked but follows up on your last big poll -- had I had it
earlier, I might have voted.
I reviewed the Miles album above to the equivalent of an A- for a
Norwegian daily earlier this spring. I stand by that grade. I enjoy
following the tentative steps ahead as well as the ruckus (though the
poor sound on the last disc is no plus), and -- like our host -- have
rarely found Corea more tolerable.
As for my personal take on the 30-40 bracket, let's try an
Prestige period: Walkin', Cookin', Relaxin', Workin',
Steamin'. Maybe Quintet/Sextet. - That's 6
Columbia period: 'Round About Midnight, Milestones, Kind of Blue,
E.S.P., Miles Smiles, Sorcerer, Nefertiti, Filles de Kilimanjaro, In a
Silent Way, Bitches Brew, Jack Johnson, Live-Evil, On the Corner -
Live albums (not counting Live-Evil again): Newport '58, Miles &
Coltrane, At the Blackhawk, In Tokyo, Plugged Nickel, Black Beauty,
Agharta, Pangea, Dark Magus -- That's 9
I can't stand any of the Warner discs. Sue me!
28 in total, 'though my rough'n'tumble list above may miss one or
two (e.g. comps, boxes), so claiming there are 30 preferable MD's to
In Europe wouldn't be too far a stretch for me either.
Monday, May 06, 2013
Music Week/Jazz Prospecting
Music: Current count 21383  rated (+45), 617  unrated (+2).
Not sure how the huge rated bump happened, but the Rhapsody work
doesn't stop with this coming week's rather robust Recycled Goods.
Losing a bit of ground on Jazz Prospecting, but also pulled a couple
old things out of the queue: the Zingaro was literally under a pile
of papers on my desk, something I was vaguely aware of having missed.
The old Moffett album was in the wrong queue, and being an advance
with no spine was impossible to see without rifling through the
discs. Also note two high-B+ piano records (Caine and Taborn).
Clipper Anderson: Ballad of the Sad Young Men (2008-10
, Origin): Bassist, originally from Montana, looks like he's
based in Spokane after various stretches in Portland and Seattle.
Third album, if you count an Xmas with singer Greta Matassa's name
first, plus thirty or so side credits, notably with fellow Montanan
Jack Walrath. Anderson sings here, moldy standards done in the old
Sinatra mold, except that he's not Sinatra, and Darin Clendenon's
piano trio doesn't pack much punch.
Lary Barilleau & the Latin Jazz Collective: Carmen's
Mambo (2009-10 , OA2): Conga player, b. 1958 in
Seattle, still based there, first album as far as I can tell,
cut in two sessions, with trombonist Doug Beavers the only other
musicians straddling both.
Michael Bates/Samuel Blaser Quintet: One From None
(2011 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Bassist and trombone, leaders
because they do the writing, 5-3 in favor of Bates if you're counting.
Each as 3-5 records already, solid work, as is this. Band includes
Michael Blake (sax), Russ Lossing (keybs), and Jeff Davis (drums).
Geof Bradfield: Melba! (2012 , Origin): Tenor
saxophonist (also credited with soprano sax and bass clarinet here),
fourth album since 2003, a tribute to trombonist and big band arranger
Melba Liston (noting also that two songs are named after band leaders
she worked for: Dizzy Gillespie and Randy Weston). Septet includes
two brass (trumpet and trombone), Jeff Parker on guitar, and Ryan
Cohan on piano, with Bradfield the sole reed player. The arrangements
swing, the horns slide. Ends with a brief Maggie Burrell vocal.
Cactus Truck with Jeb Bishop and Roy Campbell: Live in USA
(2012 , Tractata): Dutch sax-guitar-drums trio, guitarist Jasper
Stadhouders also playing some bass; has a previous album, which got them
this US tour, attracting trombonist Bishop and trumpeter Campbell to join
in the mayhem. Three sets packed into one long CD, all but the tail end
flat-out noisy, something I've never enjoyed unless I managed to find
some coherent strand to organize the chaos around. No evidence of that
Uri Caine/Han Bennink: Sonic Boom (2010 , 816
Music): Piano-drums duet, going by the order on the spine instead of
the front cover. Recorded on the drummer's home ground -- "live at the
Bimhuis" -- with Bennink's artwork both inside and out. Looks like
joint improvs aside from "'Round Midnight," which isn't the only debt
to Monk. The drummer is especially superb, and Caine gets hotter and
harder as he learns the ropes.
Tommy Flanagan/Jaki Byard: The Magic of 2: Live at Keystone
Korner (1982 , Resonance): Two major pianists, live,
start out with duets on standards (first three: Charlie Parker, Cole
Porter, Duke Ellington), later on alternating solos. Bright and
tinkly, Flanagan seems more at home with the material.
Nick Fraser: Towns and Villages (2012 , Barnyard):
Drummer, based in Toronto, has at least one previous album under his own
name, several as Drumheller, a dozen or so side credits. Quartet, modeled
loosely on Ornette Coleman's recent two-bass quartet, this one with Rob
Clutton on double bass and Andrew Downing on cello. They provide an ever
shifting substrate for the horn: Tony Malaby on tenor (and soprano) sax
gives a bravo performance, one of his finest ever.
Noah Haidu: Momentum (2012 , Posi-Tone): Pianist,
second album, a trio with Ariel de la Portilla and McClenty Hunter. Wrote
4 (of 9) cuts, covering Keith Jarrett and Joe Henderson along with more
standard fare. Postbop, energetic, complex, hard to say more.
The Bill Horvitz Expanded Band: The Long Walk (2011
, Big Door Prize): Guitarist, has a handful of albums since 1997;
wrote this for his late brother Phil Horvitz (1960-2005), performed
by a 17-piece band including a lot of orchestral instruments (oboe,
bassoon, French horn, tuba, violin, cello) -- mostly musicians I
recognize. Interesting bits here and there. Can't find anything that
suggests that pianist Wayne Horvitz is related, but he's in the band
The Alex Levin Trio: Refraction (2012 ,
self-released): Pianist, from Philadelphia, based in New York, third
album, all standards, none remarkable but the appeal of hearing bits
of great songs floating up from the mainstream piano jazz matrix is
undeniable. Looks like they manage to make most of their living playing
private engagements (first time I've run across Gig Salad). That's a
niche they fit nicely.
María Márquez: Tonada (2012 , Adventure Music):
Singer, from Venezuela, studied at Berklee, moved to San Francisco area;
fifth album since 1985, second on this label. Folkish arrangements,
mostly guitar, some accordion, although there are more upbeat pieces,
even some brass. Has a distinctive voice, slowly grows on you.
Charnett Moffett: The Bridge: Solo Bass Works (2011
, Motéma): Bassist, has ten albums since 1987, many more side
credits. This is all solo, and rather than searching out the far out
sounds one can create with bass -- as, e.g., Peter Kowald and William
Parker have done on their solo albums -- Moffett sticks to basics,
picking and a little arco, and features a dozen proven melodies,
adds in eight originals, and keeps them all short and to the point.
Charnett Moffett: The Art of Improvisation (2009,
Motéma): Checking on his new record, I noticed that I had never
rated this old one, which I only got an advance promo of and file
it in a queue that I almost never look at -- a risk that wouldn't
have happened had they sent me a final copy. (Actually, this is
two records back; never got the intervening Treasure in
any shape or form.) Don't have the credits, so I don't know how
chores were split up between two guitarists and three drummers,
or which bass Moffett plays where -- my impression is that the
fretless bass guitar gets a workout here. All originals, except
for a Langston Hughes poem spoken by Angela Moffett and a warbly
"Star Spangled Banner"; one more vocal is by Yungchen Lhamo --
no clue what the language is. The bass is always prominent, driving
the groove, incorporating the world, and elaborating on it.
Craig Taborn Trio: Chants (2012 , ECM):
Pianist, from Minneapolis; cut an early album for DIW in 1994,
two "Blue Series" albums that established his reputation as one
of the few distinctive electric keyb players in jazz, a couple
avant exercises on European labels (Clean Feed and ILK), and a
very well received acoustic solo for ECM. This trio, with Thomas
Morgan and Gerald Cleaver, should be his crowning success, but
I keep coming up a bit short with it.
Rich Thompson: Less Is More (2012 , Origin):
Drummer, third album, basically a hard bop quintet, with Gary Versace
in piano and organ, the two horns Terrell Stafford and Doug Stone.
One original, the title cut (although bassist Jeff Campbell also
kicks in one), two Rodgers & Hart covers, most of the rest from
a who's who of jazz in the 1960s (Kenny Dorham, Ornette Coleman,
Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson).
Carlos Alves "Zingaro"/Jean Luc Cappozzo/Jerome Bourdellon/Nicolas
Lelievre: Live at Total Meeting (2010 , NoBusiness):
Violin, trumpet/bugle, flutes/bass clarinet, percussion, respectively,
a prickly combination. Zingaro, b. 1948 in Portugal, came out of the
postclassical avant-garde with a long discography. Cappozzo has a few
albums, including one with Herb Robertson called Passing the Torch.
Don't know the others, but the drummer is terrific, someone to watch
out for. Three long improv pieces, difficult but dazzling, kept a smile
on my face all the way through.
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio + Jeb Bishop: The Flame Alphabet (Not Two)
- Anomonous (Prom Night)
- Dieuf-Dieul de Thiès: Aw Sa Yone Vol. 1 (Teranga Beat)
- Marko Djordjevic & Sveti: Something Beautiful 1709-2110 (Goalkeeper)
- Satoko Fujii Ma-Do: Time Stands Still (Not Two)
- Satoko Fujii New Trio: Spring Storm (Libra)
- Trilok Gurtu: Spellbound (Sunnyside)
- Harifinso: Bollywood Inspired Film Music From Hausa Nigeria (Sahel Sounds)
- Lynn Jolicoeur and the Pulse: World Behind Your Eyes (self-released)
- Roger Kellaway & Eddie Daniels: Duke at the Roadhouse: Live in Santa Fe (IPO)
- Kenya Special: Selected East African Recordings From the 1970s & '80s (Soundway, 2CD)
- New York Art Quartet: Call It Art (1964-65, Triple Point, 5LP)
- Nick Sanders Trio: Nameless Neighbors (Sunnyside)
- Sedayeh Del (Pharaway Sounds)
- Sweet Talk: Glitterbomb (Prom Night): advance
- Frank Wess: Magic 101 (IPO)
- Steve Earle & the Dukes (& Duchesses): The Low Highway (New West)
- The Knife: Shaking the Habitual (Mute)
- Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Jama Ko (Out Here)
- Rilo Kiley: RKives (Little)
Added grades for remembered LPs from way back when:
- The Shocking Blue: The Shocking Blue (1970, Colossus):
Dutch group, fluke single but deeper and darker filler.
- Ian Whitcomb: You Turn Me On! (1965, Tower): Fluke
hit, decent filler, more notable for his book than for his music career,
which shouldn't be judged too harshly.
Sunday, May 05, 2013
Didn't squirrel away any links last week, but came up with a few
Ed Kilgore: America Haters: A recent
poll found that 29% of Americans agree with the statement, "In the next
few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect out
liberties." The poll also found that 25 percent of voters "believe the
American public is being lied to about the Sandy Hook elementary school
shooting 'in order to advance a political agenda.'" The NRA had a convention
last week where the incoming president called for a "culture war" but at
least they stopped short of adopting a new slogan like, "Guns: they're
not just for self-defense any more."
Why is revolutionary rhetoric becoming so routine these days? Some of it
stems from the kind of "constitutional conservatism" that raises every
political or policy dispute to a question of basic patriotism or even
obedience to Almighty God. But a big part of it can also be attributed
to cynical opportunists who manipulate those fearful (usually without
much cause) of tyranny for their own very conventional ends -- usually
power and money.
Wherever you think it's coming from, it needs to stop, and if it
can't stop, it must be made disreputable as part of ordinary partisan
At a minimum, those who toy with the idea of overthrowing our government
to stop Obamacare or prevent gun regulation need to stand up to the charge
that they hate America. It will make them crazy to hear it, but it's the
This puts several observations together. One is that nearly everything
conservatives put forward these days is objectively damaging to the lives
and welfare of large segments of the American public. Austerity is a good
example: it directly hurts everyone the government had previously attempted
to help, plus it drags down the economy weakening the labor market -- i.e.,
the job security and prospects of everyone who works for a living. Another
observation is that many of the people who support conservatives clearly
do hate large segments of the American people. Add those up and you have
to wonder whether conservative policies aren't just foolishly misguided
but deliberately malevolent. And since then intend to hurt some Americans,
how many targets does it take to add up to hating America?
Robert Kuttner: Austerity Never Works: Deficit Hawks Are Amoral -- and
Wrong: An excerpt from his new book, Debtor's Prison: The Politics
of Austerity Versus Possibility (Knopf):
In today's economy, which is dominated by high finance, small debtors
and small creditors are on the same side of a larger class divide. The
economic prospects of working families are sandbagged by the mortgage
debt overhang. Meanwhile, retirees can't get decent returns on their
investments because central banks have cut interest rates to historic
lows to prevent the crisis from deepening. Yet the paydays of hedge
fund managers and of executives of large banks that only yesterday
were given debt relief by the government are bigger than ever. And
corporate executives and their private equity affiliates can shed
debts using the bankruptcy code and then sail merrily on.
Exaggerated worries about public debt are a staple of conservative
rhetoric in good times and bad. Many misguided critics preached austerity
even during the Great Depression. As banks, factories and farms were
failing in a cumulative economic collapse, Andrew Mellon, one of
America's richest men and Treasury secretary from 1921 to 1932,
famously advised President Hoover to "liquidate labor, liquidate
stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate . . .
it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living
and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more
moral life." The sentiments, which today sound ludicrous against the
history of the Depression, are not so different from those being
solemnly expressed by the U.S. austerity lobby or the German Bundesbank.
[ . . . ]
The combination of these two trends -- declining real wages and
inflated asset prices -- led the American middle class to use debt as
a substitute for income. People lacked adequate earnings but felt
wealthier. A generation of Americans grew accustomed to borrowing
against their homes to finance consumption, and banks were more than
happy to be their enablers. In my generation, second mortgages were
considered highly risky for homeowners. The financial industry
rebranded them as home equity loans, and they became ubiquitous.
Third mortgages, even riskier, were marketed as "home equity lines
State legislatures, meanwhile, paid for tax cuts by reducing
funding for public universities. To make up the difference, they
raised tuition. Federal policy increasingly substituted loans for
grants. In 1980, federal Pell grants covered 77 percent of the cost
of attending a public university. By 2012, this was down to 36
percent. Nominally public state universities are now only 20 percent
funded by legislatures, and their tuition has trebled since 1989.
By the end of 2011, the average student debt was $25,250. In mid-2012,
total outstanding student loan debt passed a trillion dollars, leaving
recent graduates weighed down with debt before their economic lives
even began. This borrowing is anything but frivolous. Students without
affluent parents have little alternative to these debts if they want
college degrees. But as monthly payments crowd out other consumer
spending, the macroeconomic effect is to add one more drag to the
Had Congress faced the consequences head-on, it is hard to imagine
a deliberate policy decision to sandbag the life prospects of the next
generation. But this is what legislators at both the federal and state
levels, in effect, did by stealth. They cut taxes on well-off Americans
and increased student debts of the non-wealthy young to make up the
difference. The real debt crisis is precisely the opposite of the one
in the dominant narrative: efficient public investments were cut,
imposing inefficient private debts on those who could least afford
to carry them.
The 1929 and 2008 crashes are more similar than most people recognize:
if you look at charts of economic output, they start at almost the same
trajectory and spread equally fast throughout the world. The difference
is that the latter crash was arrested in early 2009, the result of three
things: a much larger public sector which was (at least initially) free
from the crash mentality; automatic stabilizers like unemployment
insurance and welfare; and extraordinary government intervention to
prop up failing banks. Perversely, since so much of the recovery was
pushed through the banking system, the rich were the first satisfied
by the recovery, and they celebrated by engineering an economic pogrom
against the middle class: they used the crisis to depress the labor
market, and they lobbied for more austere government to cut services
and put further pressure on wages. Consequently, the human costs of
the current recession rival the 1930s -- the big stories of the last
few weeks concern the number of long-term unemployed and the stigma
against them, and a sudden increase in the suicide rate of Boomers --
but there is scarcely any viable political effort to help out. To me,
the most striking difference between Obama and FDR was that the latter
was pre-occupied with keeping both wages and prices up, whereas Obama
doesn't seem to grasp that there is even an issue here.
Jordan Smith: The Real Reason Not to Intervene in Syria: Well,
one real reason:
More generally, a significant body of international-relations scholarship
suggests that not only can outside intervention in humanitarian emergencies
in places like Rwanda not ameliorate the situation -- it can actually make
things worse. Even simply dispensing aid can prolong suffering, in what the
former Doctors Without Borders leader Fiona Terry calls "the paradox of
Why are humanitarian interventions so difficult? Kuperman theorizes that
when rebels are assisted by outside forces, they are unintentionally
encouraged to become more reckless in fighting a regime or provoking it,
resist negotiations, and expand their ambitions. Intervention can thereby
produce a perverse situation of prolonging a conflict that results in more
deaths. He calls this the "moral hazard of humanitarian intervention."
Even the expectation or the mistaken belief of outside support can
encourage rebels to continue fighting or resist settlements.
Another real reason is that military interventions in other countries
is a bad habit that the United States sorely needs to break. The reason
is not just because it doesn't work out very well -- Afghanistan and Iraq
are recent examples, but you can go back to 1898 and find more examples
in Cuba and the Philippines, and most of the cases in between (especially
including CIA operations) are more/less as unambiguous. But even if we
(or, say, a more appropriate body, like the UN) could push a button and
magically bring the conflict to a close, ask yourself what that solution
would look like. It wouldn't be to tilt the arms balance so the rebels
could take over, since doing that would only create a new regime at war
attempting to suppress yet another segment of the Syrian public. No, such
a solution would be to arrange a ceasefire, an amnesty, and a democratic
path forward with sufficient minority protections. I don't know whether
Obama has tried to do that, but many decades of hostilities between the
US and Syria have resulted in the US having very little leverage there.
(Egypt, for instance, was a different case: the US had a longterm military
alliance there which helped to ease Mubarak from office.) Maybe Russia,
China, and Iran could have more influence on the Assad regime, but the
US doesn't have a lot of influence with them either.
Smith goes on to write:
The humanitarian impulse is a noble one, spurred by good intentions.
But good intentions, even if they don't pave the road to hell, can
sometimes take us a good way there.
I would caution, though, that not every "humanitarian impulse" is
a noble one. Individuals, perhaps, but nations rarely practice foreign
policy to attain nobility. They usually have some sort of interest or
agenda, and one should be especially suspicious of a nation that claims
to be the advocate and defender of free markets, since the only acts
expected in the market are ones that advance self-interests.
Ben White: Sidelining Palestinians in Israel Will Doom Prospects for
Peace: Headline's a bit off as there are no "prospects for peace,"
but the real point to draw here is that the longer Israel's occupation
of the West Bank and Gaza continues, the more the brutality Israelis --
both the IDF and settlers often acting on their own -- is reflected
back on the second-class citizens of Israel.
In mid-April, the United States state department published its annual
human rights review -- and the country report for Israel makes for
interesting reading. An ally praised in public as the embodiment of
liberal democratic values in a "tough neighbourhood" is described as
practising "institutional discrimination" against its own Palestinian
citizens (the so-called Israeli Arabs).
Even in a far-from-comprehensive summary of Israel's systematic
racism, the report notes discrimination in the education system, the
land regime and housing, and the legal restrictions on a Palestinian
from the West Bank or Gaza living with his or her spouse in Israel.
[ . . . ]
But it is not just discrimination and segregation that raise concerns.
There are those in Israel who would like to be rid of Palestinian citizens
altogether -- and see an opportunity to do so in the context of the "peace
Responding to recent protests by Palestinian citizens to mark their
expulsion in 1948, the former foreign minister and current chair of the
Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee, Avigdor Lieberman, called
the Nakba commemoration events proof that "any arrangement with the
Palestinians must include Israeli Arabs as well".
Monday, April 29, 2013
Music Week/No Jazz Prospecting
Music: Current count 21338  rated (+36), 615  unrated (-3).
Probably spent more time last week working on Rhapsody Streamnotes
(posted) and Recycled Goods (still in progress) than Jazz Prospecting,
but got off to a good start when two (of three) Ivo Perelman titles
came through, then two more albums got big lifts from their sax players.
Result is probably the best quality week of the year so far -- actually
even better if I count two Rhapsody A- albums (Allison Miller, already
posted, and Roscoe Mitchell, in the file for May). More promising
things in the mail, too.
JD Allen: Grace (2012 , Savant): Tenor saxophonist,
from Detroit; has a handful of albums since 1999. Originally a hard charger,
has backed off quite a bit lately, especially here. Quartet includes Eldar
Djangirov on piano, playing with exceptional delicacy.
Duo Baars-Henneman: Autumn Songs (2012 , Wig):
Ig Henneman on viola, Ab Baars on tenor sax, clarinet, shakuhachi.
Henneman tends to lead, pushing the limits of high lonesome. Baars
is complementary, especially on clarinet.
Michiel Braam: EBraam 3 (2012 , BBB): Dutch
avant pianist, just credited with "keys" here, his bassist Pieter
Douma on bass guitar, with Dirk-Peter Kölsch on drums, a group he
calls "eBraam (in which case the album is just 3). Closes
with a Hugh Hopper song -- not sure who does the vocal, but it
comes as a surprise.
Cristina Braga: Samba, Jazz and Love (2012 , Enja):
From Brazil, plays harp and sings, tenth album since 1998 (according to
AMG), some classical, but her 2010 Harpa Bossa started to recast
classic samba using harp instead of guitar, and this continues in that
quest. Group includes trumpet, bass, vibes, and percussion, the harp not
all that obvious until your clued in. Voice reminds one of Astrud
Kaylé Brecher: Spirals and Lines (2012, Penchant Four):
Singer, based in Philadelphia, fifth album since 1992. Don't see song
credits but most seem to be originals -- obvious covers are "When Johnny
Goes Marching Home" and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," but she segues
the latter into a corny patriotic anthem ("The House I Live In") and
updates a Mingus blues for the white collar world. Long list of
musicians, none I had heard of, shuttle in and out, including four
trumpet/flugelhorn players and three trombonists but her favorite
accompanist is Jimmy Parker on sousaphone -- mine too.
Boyd Lee Dunlop: The Lake Reflections (2012 ,
Mr. B Sharp): Pianist, b. 1926 in North Carolina and spent most of his
life in Buffalo, working in steel mills and railyards and playing piano
in clubs at night; a local Hall of Famer but only cut his first album
after turning 85. This is his second, solo piano improvisations; doesn't
try to dazzle you, but keeps the ideas flowing.
Ross Hammond Quartet: Cathedrals (2013, Prescott):
Guitarist, based in Sacramento, CA; has a handful of albums. Last
cut here is a duet with drummer Alex Cline, a good chance to hone
in on Hammond's attractive technique. But the rest of the album is
dominated by Vinny Golia (tenor and soprano sax, flute) in an amazing
tour de force that reduces Cline to keeping metronomic time. Steuart
Liebig plays bass.
Barbara Morrison: A Sunday Kind of Love (2010-12
, Savant): Singer, b. 1952 in Michigan, got her start opposite
Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson in 1974, toiled a couple decades in the
Johnny Otis Show, has a dozen records since 1995. I haven't heard
any of them, but would be real surprised if any hold a candle to
this one. The secret isn't a fine-but-who-are-they pianio trio --
Stuart Elster? Richard Simon? Lee Spath? -- so it must be Houston
Person, who is more than just featured here. But it's the singer
who hits one softball after another out of the park: "I'm Just a
Lucky So and So," "The Green Door," "A Sunday Kind of Love," "On
the Sunny Side of the Street," "Let's Stay Together" -- only "I
Cover the Waterfront" is out of her zone. Exquisite: the medley
of "Smile/Make Someone Happy." I dare anyone not to.
New York Voices: Live: With the WDR Big Band Cologne
(2008 , Palmetto): Long-running vocal group, down to a quartet
here -- Darmon Meader, Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan, Peter Eldridge --
with seven albums since 1989. This is a live shot backed by the WDR
Big Band Cologne -- a sharp group we've heard with damn near everyone,
and here they provide uniformly solid support, a big help for a group
where the voices slide all over the place.
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of the Duet, Volume
One (2012 , Leo): The Brazilian avant-saxophonist has
been releasing records at a furious pace recently, including two
batches of three each last year, and three more recently. All of
this batch include Shipp, who played piano in David S. Ware's
now-legendary quartet among much else, including a 1996 duet with
Perelman (Bendito of Santa Cruz). Over the last two years
no one has produced more top flight music than Perelman, but I'm
starting to wonder if we're getting too much of the same thing.
At least that's where I was stuck on the two new quartet albums,
but the duets here are clear and sparkling, both sides coherent
and connected. Not that the inevitable Volume Two won't
be too much . . . On to the quartets.
Ivo Perelman: The Edge (2012 , Leo): Tenor
sax quartet with Matthew Shipp (piano), Michael Bisio (bass), and
Whit Dickey (drums) -- Dickey goes way back with Shipp, and Bisio
is the current bassist in Shipp's piano trio. Perelman indeed seems
on edge early on, where the going is rougher than need be, but he
does finds himself by the end.
Ivo Perelman: Serendipity (2011 , Leo):
Another tenor sax quartet, reportedly accidental: session was
originally scheduled to be trio with Matthew Shipp (piano) and
Gerald Cleaver (drums) -- that trio was recorded a week later
as The Foreign Legion -- but when one was late they
called in bassist William Parker and wound up with a quartet.
Sometimes hard to judge exactly what Parker adds, but Perelman
is remarkably relaxed and fluid from the start, and builds up
to some of his most impressive blowing ever.
Jan Shapiro: Piano Bar After Hours (2012 ,
Singing Empress): Standards singer, came out of St. Louis and wound
up teaching at Berklee. Has at least three previous albums. This
one is almost only accompanied by piano, with five pianists in
rotation -- one cut has bass and drums. A very precise, disciplined
vocalist, she doesn't need much help, but great songs work better
than not-so-great ones.
Melvin Taylor: Taylor Made (2012 , Eleven East):
Guitarist, sings some -- one song here, with another sung by Bernell
Anderson, no better -- has a half-dozen albums going back as far as
1982. Band includes bass (a second Melvin Taylor), keyboard, and drums.
Six songs, one from Isaac Hayes. Nice little groove record.
Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet: Hustlin' for a Gig (2012,
Housekat): Ginny Carr, Robert McBride, André Enceneat, and Holly Shockey,
with all but one of the songs penned by Carr ("This Is the Life"). Third
group album, but they (Carr and McBride, at least) claim to have been
together for twenty-some years. The spirited interplay and cleverness
wears on you (or me, anyway).
John Vanore & Abstract Truth: Culture (2012 ,
Acoustical Concepts): Trumpet player, came up in Woody Herman's band,
should explain his taste in bright and brassy. Fourth album with his
unconventional big band Abstract Truth. Pieces include a 3-part suite
and an arrangement of "Footprints." Strong solos, some interesting
quirks in the arrangements.
Bob Wolfman: Transition (2012, self-released):
Guitarist-singer-songwriter, from New York, first album, produced by
Larry Coryell with piano, bass, and drums. Aside from the blues cover
("Born Under a Bad Sign") Wolfman's a truly awful singer. Some nifty
guitar work here and there -- until proven otherwise, I'd chalk that
up to Coryell.
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Lucian Ban/Mat Maneri: Transylvanian Concert (ECM): advance, May 28
- Perry Beekman: So in Love: Perry Beekman Sings and Plays Cole Porter (self-released)
- Jerry Bergonzi: By Any Other Name (Savant)
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/John Edwards/Steve Beresford: Overground to the Vortex (Not Two)
- Freddy Cole: This and That (High Note)
- Steven Lugerner: For We Have Heard (NoBusiness/Primary)
- Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom: No Morphine No Lillies (Foxhaven/Royal Potato Family)
- Sex Mob: Cinema, Circus & Spaghetti: Sex Mob Plays Fellini (The Royal Potato Family)
- Marlene Ver Planck: Ballads . . . Mostly (Audiophile)
- Yellowjackets: A Rise in the Road (Mack Avenue): advance, May 27
- Georg Graewe/Ernst Reijseger/Gerry Hemingway: Sonic Fiction (1989, Hatology)
- Theo Jörgensmann: Fellowship (1998, Hatology)
- Manuel Mengis Gruppe 6: Into the Barn (2005, Hatology)
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:
Eric Harvey: Writing the Record: Interview with Devon Powers, author of
Writing the Record: The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism,
which focuses on Richard Goldstein and Robert Christgau. Lots of stuff
here, and I should probably dig into the book. One comment I have, based
on this quote:
When Christgau talks about monoculture, he's talking about the idea
that there was a period before fragmentation. A period before audiences
were segmented, where all kinds of people were listening to the same
thing, some of it out of necessity just because there weren't other
options. When you have people who are listening to the same kind of
things, they have something in common to talk about that they simply
don't when there is more variance in the media landscape.
Two problems here. One is that monoculture means something else:
not a single all-encompassing culture but an isolated stripe of only
one thing -- as in agriculture: wheat, soybeans, oranges, etc. --
which may coexist independently with lots of other monocultures.
Music has never been that formally constrained, and never will be,
in large part because it's always being mediated and deconstructed,
and most often as a social activity. The other is that the idea of
integrating most musical strands into a common pool of experience
was new in the late 1960s, itself a political project rooted in
the newfound equal integration of all divisions in a relatively
classless society. It didn't exist earlier because people grew up
in a divided (segregated) world, and since then the right-wing
counterrevolution with its increasing inequality has done all it
could to strain the ideal.
Paul Krugman and others have made a big point recently about
"the great compression" which reduced income and wealth inequality
and culminated in the 1960s. I must say that it didn't feel like
much of a class-free utopia at the time, but the idea was present,
and there was a sense of it being progressively realized -- and
that sense of progress helped fuel the great upheavals of the
decade, including the civil rights and women's movements. Still,
that atmosphere of equality was propitious for critics inclined
to jump from genre to genre, to poke into music from all over the
world, and who believed that popular music could storm the citdels
of "high culture" -- the last refuge of the ancien regime.
Circa 1973, I dropped out of college, stopped reading critical
theory, and took up rock crit. Seemed like the way forward, and
was practical at the same time.
Alex Parrene: Bush Family Furiously Selling Itself to Americans Once
Again: As ever, Bush realizes the importance of timing when rolling
out a new "product" -- his library, of course, but that's the easy part
given that every ex-president (at least from Truman on) has one (and a
figure as insignficant as Gerald Ford has two). The harder part is
rehabilitating the entire family brand name, but polls indicate the
ignorance of the average American is hard to underestimate -- I very
much blame Obama and the Democrats for letting Bush off the hook.
More Bush links:
My vote for the single worst thing about George W. Bush goes to his
instinctive, visceral attrraction to violence as a way of solving problems.
Even before 9/11, Bush rejected the Saudi peace plan for Israel-Palestine
by saying (as
Ronald Suskind reported), "Sometimes a show of force can really
clarify things." His green light for Sharon destroyed eight years of
fitful progress toward resolving the most intractable conflict in the
Middle East. He reacted to 9/11 the same, only with more vigor and
ambition, going after Iraq as well as Afghanistan, and threatening
wars against Iran and North Korea. Then there was his encouragement
of Israel's brutal 2006 carpet-bombing of Lebanon, an act of war that
his secretary of state memorably described as "the birth-pangs of a
new Middle East."
MJ Rosenberg: Time to Admit US Policies Can Cause Terrorism:
To prevent something you have to have some concept of causation.
The Boston bombings again raise the question of terrorism, but we
are stuck within an officially sanctioned blind spot.
There is one change that the United States could make in response to
the terrorism threat that is never discussed. That is to consider the
part U.S. policies have played in creating and sustaining it.
I understand that we are not supposed to say this, as if discussing
why we are hated justifies the unjustifiable: the targeting of innocent
Americans because of the perceived sins of their government.
But nothing justifies terrorism. Period. That does not mean that
nothing causes it.
Acts of terror do not come at us out of the blue. Nor are they
directed at us, as President George W. Bush famously said, because
the terrorists "hate our freedom." If that was the case, terrorists
would be equally or more inclined to hit countries at least as free
as the U.S., those in northern Europe, for instance.
No, terrorists (in the case of the Boston Marathon bombings Muslim
terrorists) target the U.S. because they perceive us as their enemy.
One reason they perceive us as enemies is that we regard them as
enemies. Nor is this just a matter of opinion: the US has, ever since
FDR met with King Saud in 1945, backed the most repressive regimes in
the Middle East, training and arming their secret police, their armed
forces; we've backed wars, and in a pinch we've jumped in and invaded
countries ourselves; and we've fomented civil wars, creating massively
destructive contagions, such as the Sunni-Shiite divide in Iraq. (For
some of this history, see
Tom Engelhardt: Field of Nightmares, on Jeremy Scahill's new book,
Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield.) If we don't like this
"blowback," the place to start is in reconsidering our own actions.
But even if there was no terror blowback, the US record in the Middle
East has been an unmitigated mess. Most often we've backed forces based
on the shabby enemy-of-my-enemy principle: from the Saudi regime to
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in Afghanistan, we've repeatedly backed the most
extremely reactionary Islamists because they were anti-communist, only
to discover that their anti-communism was part of an anti-western agenda
bound to bite the hand that feeds them. We've backed Saddam Hussein's
war against Iran, then backed Iranian-backed militias against Hussein.
We've backed Israel against everyone, even against our own policies --
we even backed Israel when they attacked and sunk a US Navy ship in
1967. Presumably some arms and oil companies have profited along the
way, but what has the average American gotten out of this incoherency?
Nothing but the task of fighting a series of useless, hopeless wars.
Yet the right-wing still clamors for more -- see the recent
Cal Thomas rant: "How many more Americans must be killed and
wounded before we fight back, not just overseas, but here?" As Mort
Sahl said about someone else, "if he were more perceptive, he'd be
a happy man." Still, Thomas is as incoherent as anyone. He notes
the vast size of America's homeland security force, yet bemoans
their inability to stop two disaffected young men from "shutting
down a major city." Aside from calling for a more bigoted immigration
policy and a fevered, nativist witch hunt mentality, how exactly are
we supposed to "fight back"? And is it even justified in a democracy
to talk about enemies at home? The Tsarnaevs, after all, were US
citizens, Americans, entitled to dissenting opinions. When weren't
enemies, and when they set off those bombs, they didn't become our
enemies -- just criminals.
Tom Engelhardt: The Enemy-Industrial Complex: Or, "How to turn
a world lacking in enemies into the most threatening place in the
universe." Out of alpha order, but this follows up nicely on the
above entry. Consider 9/11 as a "Wizard of Oz" facade:
The U.S., in other words, is probably in less danger from external
enemies than at any moment in the last century. There is no other
imperial power on the planet capable of, or desirous of, taking on
American power directly, including China. It's true that, on September
11, 2001, 19 hijackers with box cutters produced a remarkable,
apocalyptic, and devastating TV show in which almost 3,000 people
died. When those giant towers in downtown New York collapsed, it
certainly had the look of nuclear disaster (and in those first days,
the media was filled was nuclear-style references), but it wasn't
actually an apocalyptic event.
The enemy was still nearly nonexistent. The act cost bin Laden
only an estimated $400,000-$500,000, though it would lead to a series
of trillion-dollar wars. It was a nightmarish event that had a malign
Wizard of Oz quality to it: a tiny man producing giant effects. It
in no way endangered the state. In fact, it would actually strengthen
many of its powers. It put a hit on the economy, but a passing one.
It was a spectacular and spectacularly gruesome act of terror by a
small, murderous organization then capable of mounting a major
operation somewhere on Earth only once every couple of years. It
was meant to spread fear, but nothing more.
When the towers came down and you could suddenly see to the horizon,
it was still, in historical terms, remarkably enemy-less. And yet 9/11
was experienced here as a Pearl Harbor moment -- a sneak attack by a
terrifying enemy meant to disable the country. The next day, newspaper
headlines were filled with variations on "A Pearl Harbor of the
Twenty-First Century." If it was a repeat of December 7, 1941, however,
it lacked an imperial Japan or any other state to declare war on,
although one of the weakest partial states on the planet, the Taliban's
Afghanistan, would end up filling the bill adequately enough for
Engelhardt then tries to put 9/11 into perspective by bringing
up stats for "suicide by gun and death by car" -- numbers which
annually dwarf even the 9/11 death toll. Actually, it would make
more sense to write off 9/11 as a fluke and look at more typical
terrorist tolls. You don't have to look hard. On the same day as
the Boston bombings, a fertilizer plant in West, Texas caught fire
and exploded, killing many more people. This doesn't mean that we
shouldn't pay attention to terrorist threats -- indeed, one reason
we should is that many could be avoided by policy changes that we
should implement anyway; but we should keep them in perspective.
Even the 9/11 death toll was ultimately topped two times over by
the number of US soldiers we sacrificed in post-9/11 wars -- wars
meant to do little more than restore the invincible lustre of US
imperial power, and perhaps blindly punish people only vaguely
related to those who actually planned 9/11.
Without an enemy of commensurate size and threat, so much that was done
in Washington in these years might have been unattainable. The vast
national security building and spending spree -- stretching from the
Virginia suburbs of Washington, where the National Geospatial-Intelligence
Agency erected its new $1.8 billion headquarters, to Bluffdale, Utah,
where the National Security Agency is still constructing a $2 billion,
one-million-square-foot data center for storing the world's intercepted
communications -- would have been unlikely.
Without the fear of an enemy capable of doing anything, money at ever
escalating levels would never have poured into homeland security, or the
Pentagon, or a growing complex of crony corporations associated with our
weaponized safety. The exponential growth of the national security
complex, as well as of the powers of the executive branch when it comes
to national security matters, would have far been less likely.
Without 9/11 and the perpetual "wartime" that followed, along with
the heavily promoted threat of terrorists ready to strike and potentially
capable of wielding biological, chemical, or even nuclear weapons, we
would have no Department of Homeland Security nor the lucrative
mini-homeland-security complex that surrounds it; the 17-outfit U.S.
Intelligence Community with its massive $75 billion official budget
would have been far less impressive; our endless drone wars and the
"drone lobby" that goes with them might never have developed; and the
U.S. military would not have an ever growing secret military, the Joint
Special Operations Command, gestating inside it -- effectively the
president's private army, air force, and navy -- and already conducting
largely secret operations across much of the planet.
So there is a lot of money at stake on convincing you that we have
to fight such unscrupulous enemies. But it also fits a political agenda:
conservatism, as Michael Tomasky explains below, depends on fear to
promote its political agenda.
Michael Tomasky: The Conservative Paranoid Mind:
The common thread through all of this is the conservative need to
instill and maintain a level of fear in the populace. They need to
make gun owners fear that Dianne Feinstein and her SWAT team are
going to come knocking on their doors, or, less amusingly, that
they have to be armed to the teeth for that inevitable day when
the government declares a police state. They need to whip up fear
of immigrants, because unless we do, it's going to be nothing but
terrorists coming through those portals, and for good measure,
because, as Ann Coulter and others have recently said, the proposed
law would create millions of voting Democrats (gee, I wonder why!).
And with regard to terrorism, they need people to live in fear
of the next attack, because fear makes people think about death,
and thinking about death makes people more likely to endorse tough-guy,
law-and-order, Constitution-shredding actions undertaken on their
behalf. This is how we lived under Bush and Cheney for years. This
fear is basically what enabled the Iraq War to take place. Public
opinion didn't support that war at first. But once they got the
public afraid with all that false talk of mushroom clouds, the
needle zoomed past 50 percent, and it was bombs away.
Conservatism, I fear (so to speak), can never be cleansed of
this need to instill fear. Whether it's of black people or of
street thugs or of immigrants or of terrorists or of jackbooted
government agents, it's how the conservative mind works.
Matthew Yglesias: The Koch Brothers Might Be Just What Conservative
Journalism Needs: Sometimes smart people can be pretty stupid,
especially when they let their logic run away from reality. The Koch
brothers are rumored to be in the market for the Tribune Company,
which would give them control over the largest newspapers in Los
Angeles and Chicago, among other cities. Yglesias writes:
Certain niches -- talk radio and cable television -- are very friendly
to a conservative editorial product but others are not. Which is exactly
why what conservative media needs is a couple of extremely rich people
to buy a newspaper company and lose a ton of money building a great
conservative media product.
After all, the big problem with right-leaning media in America isn't
that it doesn't exist. It's that it's terrible. There is a large
audience out there that's so frustrated with the vile MSM that it's happy
to lap up cheaply produced content from Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity,
and you can make lots of money serving that kind of thing up. By contrast,
to build a great media company that's top-to-bottom staffed with
conservatives is going to be very expensive. The possible talent pool
of great reporters is tilted toward liberals. The talent pool of great
photographers and graphic designers is probably even more tilted toward
liberals. Finding the great conservatives out there and hiring them is
going to be relatively costly, and there's no real economic point to
doing so. Is your much worse cost structure going to get you a larger
audience than Rush? No, it won't. It's a bad bet.
But the Kochs have plenty of money. If they want to see it happen,
they can make it happen. And America would be better off for it.
The obvious problem here is that there is no latent pool of "great
conservatives" ready to move into newspaper journalism at any price,
because they simply don't exist. Conservatives in media are hacks, not
because they're lazy but because their message is nothing more than a
crock of lies and distortions. The net effect won't be "a great conservative
media product" -- it will just reduce marginally decent newspapers into
ever-deeper hackdom. And America will be worse off on two counts: one
is that it increase our current trend toward shoddiness in all manner
of work; the other is that it will reinforce the notion that politics
is purely cynical -- a fixed game controlled by the rich (the Kochs a
particularly egregious example).
One cautionary note is that the Kochs have never gotten into a
business to lose money, which makes it unlikely they would jump on
such a losing proposition. On the other hand, they have shown a
deep commitment to undermine democracy, both through their political
spending and through their use of corporate control as a channel
for pushing their political beliefs. Major urban newspapers have a
huge "first mover" advantage -- it's impossible to capitalize new
competition, so they are effectively monopolies, and as such should
be subject to public trust. Allowing them to be taken over by
extremist political ideologues like the Kochs will irreparably
destroy that trust, and America would be worse off for that.
Also, a few links for further study:
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Over a Barrel
One thing about the gun debate is the lack of specific case examples,
especially for arguments that putting more guns into the hands of "good"
people will limit the amount of gun violence perpetrated by "bad" people.
The contrary argument, that reducing the number of legal guns -- which,
by the way, simplifies the task of enforcing prohibitions against illegal
guns -- reduces the overall amount of gun violence, can be argued with
gross statistics. That argument, by the way, seems convincing, but we
aren't just statistical aggregates. We're individuals, and even if more
guns in general endanger us, it seems at least possible that there are
some cases where a gun could save one's life or thwart a crime. So why
don't "second amendment rights" advocates give us more concrete examples?
(Aside, of course, from the fact that it's a lot easier to spout pieties,
a form of laziness and sloppiness you hear on all sides of virtually
Someone could (and should) do some actual research on shootings: map
out what kinds of confrontations happen -- e.g., home invasion where
perpetrator is shot by home resident (or vice versa, in which case was
resident armed or not?) -- and count them all up. (As I understand it,
the government is prohibited from undewriting any such study, thanks to
the NRA, which seems to fear any actual research into gun use or abuse.)
But not every confrontation has an obvious right and wrong side. For
example, consider the case of
Dustin Cheever, here in Wichita.
What happened was: Cheever suspected that the son of a neighbor,
Robert Gammon, had stolen a motorcycle. Cheever didn't take his
suspicions to the police. Instead, he and a friend (Steve Grose)
searched for the motorcycle in Gammons' backyard -- they entered
Gammons' property without his permission or knowledge. Gammons
confronted them, pointing a BB pistol (which plausibly appeared to
be a real gun) at them, and threatening them. Cheever, however, was
carrying a real gun. Rather than backing away, he decided that he
needed to defend himself and/or his friend, so he pulled his gun,
shot, and killed Gammons. Cheever is currently being tried for
second degree murder, which seems about right.
Had Cheever pulled his gun and Gammons killed him, Gammons would
have been in a stronger legal position. He was, after all, at home,
whereas Cheever and Grose were trespassing. Gammons misjudged twice
that his gun would protect him: first, as is so often the case, the
gunfight was determined not by right or wrong, good guy or bad guy,
but by who was quicker with more deadly aim (a fact which, by the
way, tends to favor the more experienced bad guys); but second, had
he not brandished the gun, had he instead just threatened to call
the police, Cheever would have had no excuse to defend himself with
his gun, and most likely the pair would have just left.
That Gammons' gun was actually a non-lethal BB pistol is pretty
much irrelevant here: it looked like a real gun and was given extra
credibility by Gammons' threats to kill with it, plus Cheever had
no reason to doubt that Gammons could have owned a real gun, since
guns are pretty much the norm here in Wichita. Also, Cheever may
well have belatedly understood that Kansas's Stand Your Ground law
gave Gammons a legal excuse to shoot first -- had Gammons realized
that Cheever was in fact armed (something he might reasonably have
suspected). It is often argued that the expectation that the other
person is armed leads to more moderate behavior -- that seems to
be a big part of the argument that all "good guys" should carry
guns -- in this case such expectations pretty clearly escalated the
So this case, at least, doesn't provide much support for the notion
that we are better off with more guns: one gun owner, attempting to
defend his property from trespass, is dead; another, intent on taking
the law into his own hand in searching for his stolen property, faces
second degree murder charges. Neither of those outcomes would have
happened had either (much less both) parties been unarmed, nor would
they have happened had either (again much less both) turned to the
police to settle their dispute.
There may be other gun confrontations where it's easier to tell
who is "good" or "bad," where it's clearer who's right and wrong,
but I suspect this sort of mess is more common. Moreover, it's more
reflective of the mentality of people who think guns are an answer
for their problems dealing with other people: they overestimate the
value and grossly underestimate the risks; and they almost never
have the skills and judgment they'd need to make the gun work for
them, and often lack the self-awareness to realize when they're
getting into trouble. Indeed, the police, who are trained both in
the law and the proper use of guns, often screw it up. Why would
a random individual expect to do better?
There are simple solutions here, but not practicable ones. The
statistics are clear, but no one wants to be a statistic. As long
as people think they need guns for self-protection, it's awfully
hard to take them away. Moreover, it's hard to say "trust in the
police" when the police aren't all that trustworthy, nor can one
say "have faith in our system of justice" when that system is far
from just. Those are, I'm tempted to argue, bigger and more urgent
problems than guns. On the other hand, so many of the reasons that
people give for insisting on arming themselves are so patently
false you have to argue with them just to attempt to open up a
space for public sanity.
No such argument is more ridiculous than the one that you need
guns to protect yourself from the government -- although the one
that the government needs guns to protect itself from you is every
bit as specious, not to mention the one -- which costs us about a
trillion dollars a year -- that the government needs armies and
navies and air forces to protect us from foreigners. War doesn't
protect us from war: war is war. Guns don't protect us from gun
violence: aside from a few museum pieces, they create gun violence.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Rhapsody Streamnotes (April 2013)
Pick up text here.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
A Downloader's Diary (29): April 2013
Insert text from here.
This is the 29th installment, (almost) monthly since August 2010,
totalling 715 albums. All columns are indexed and archived
here. You can follow A Downloader's
Facebook, and on
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Book Roundup, Part Drei
Still trying to unpack the overhang accumulated up to the
March 14 post, with a second installment on
March 16, although this one is delayed about as much as I should
normally do -- one result is that the queue isn't getting noticeably
shorter. So here's another batch of forty more/less recent book titles,
with more to follow relatively soon.
Nicholson Baker: The Way the World Works: Essays
(2012, Simon & Schuster): Fifteen years of short pieces by the
mostly novelist, including a couple I would certainly want to read
("The Charms of Wikipedia," and "Why I Am a Pacifist," the first
of three in the section on War). I haven't read his fiction, but
Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of
Civilization is a great book.
William J Baumol, et al: The Cost Disease: Why Computers Get
Cheaper and Health Care Doesn't (2012, Yale University Press):
An important subject, although it's not clear that Baumol has got the
answer right: health care is a dysfunctional market with a lot of
hidden (and frankly cancerous) monopolies. Other factors may add to
this, including some Baumol identifies (labor costs, lack of
William Blum: America's Deadliest Export: Democracy: The
Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else (paperback,
2013, Zed Books): Longtime critic of US foreign policy. Previous
books include: The CIA: A Forgotten History (1986); Rogue
State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower (2000); West-Bloc
Dissident: A Cold War Memoir (2002); Killing Hope: US Military
and CIA Interventions Since World War II (2000; revised 2003);
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
David Byrne: How Music Works (2012, McSweeney's):
Talking Heads frontman, Luaka Bop honcho, applies his experience
to a big topic, although I can imagine lots of different tangents
for "works" to take off in. Most likely: how music works for me.
Still, a topic of some interest.
Caitlin Carenen: The Fervent Embrace: Liberal Protestants,
Evangelicals, and Israel (2012, New York University Press):
The US has lots of reasons for being exceptionally sympathetic to
Israel, ranging from the founding bond of both being white settler
nations to the symbiosis of our overbloated arms industries, but
one of the most important is how Israel has played in protestant
thought -- both early on with liberal guilt over the Holocaust and
later with evangelicals pining for the apocalypse.
Victor Cha: The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and
Future (2012, Harper Collins): Former Bush admin NSC Korea
hand -- you know, the folks who concocted "the axis of evil" meme --
tries to explain North Korea, something I'm not sure anyone can do.
A couple years ago, when Barbara Demick wrote Nothing to Envy:
Ordinary Lives in North Korea (2009) there weren't many books,
but that's started to change. Relatively new: Andrei Lankov: The
Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia
(2013, Oxford University Press); BR Myers: The Cleanest Race: How
North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters (2010; paperback,
2011, Melville House); Bruce E Bechtol Jr: The Last Days of Kim
Jong-Il: The North Korean Threat in a Changing Era (2013, Potomac
Books). Still, I doubt if any on these shed much light on the latest
round of threats and condemnations.
Noam Chomsky: 9-11: Was There an Alternative? (2001;
revised paperback, 2011, Seven Stories Press): Right then, right now.
Wish he could write better, but decades of being right and ignored
have taken a toll on his patience.
Noam Chomsky: Occupy [Occupied Media Pamphlet Series]
(paperback, 2012, Zucotti Park Press): Short (128 pp.) pamphlet,
meant to advise the Occupy movement. Looks like there will be a
series of these things, with additional titles by Stuart Leonard
(Taking Brooklyn Bridge), Mumia Abu-Jamal (Message to
the Movement), and Marina Sitrin/Dario Azzellini (Occupying
Noam Chomsky: Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic
Uprisings and the New Challenges to US Empire (paperback, 2013,
Metropolitan Books): Continues a long series of interviews with David
Barsamian, a context which draws out his wisdom without cluttering up
Climate Central: Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly
Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas, and the Weather of
the Future (2012, Pantheon): Written by Emily Elert and
Michael D Lemonick but credited to their "nonprofit, nonpartisan
science and journalism organization"; with just-the-facts-style
reporting, not that they ignore the applicable science.
Susan P Crawford: Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry
and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age (2012, Yale
University Press): Argues that the 2011 merger of Comcast and NBC
Universal "create the biggest monopoly since the breakup of Standard
Oil a century ago." During much of that time AT&T monopolized
the telephone industry, but at least it was recognized as such and
tightly regulated -- so much so that it begged for breakup. The
new monopoly combines content as well as networking, which is what
makes it not just too expensive but far more dangerous.
Guy Debord: Comments on the Society of the Spectacle
(1987; third edition, paperback, 2011, Verso): Debord's original essay
was written in 1967. When I first read it (in Radical America,
1970) it illuminated all sorts of things, but the basic idea is simple
enough it requires little elaboration. The essay is short, as are the
comments (94 pp.); still, I've never figured out what you do with the
concept -- more likely than not it just leaves you awestruck.
John De Graaf/David K Batker: What's the Economy For, Anyway?:
Why It's Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness
(2011; paperback, 2012, Bloomsbury Press): Good question, one also
explored by Robert Skidelsky/Edward Skidelsky: How Much Is Enough?
Money and the Good Life (2012); Juliet B Schor: Plenitude: The
New Economics of True Wealth (2010); and Joseph E Stiglitz, et al.,
Mismeasuring Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn't Ad Up (2010).
Ross Douthat: Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of
Heretics (2012, Free Press): Conservative New York Times
columnist, tries to appear reasonable and rarely succeeds, wants
to bring back that old time religion, or something like that.
We would at long last do us a favor if he helps break the binds
between religion and partisanship, but the old time religion
never was much good at respecting others.
Peter Dreier: The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century:
A Social Justice Hall of Fame (paperback, 2012, Nation Books):
Thumbnail biographies, 4-6 pages each (adding up to 512 pp.), political
people you should know at least something about, even though one can
nitpick the roster coming and going. Only two are younger than me
(Michael Moore and Tony Kushner). Three of the last ten are musicians,
and two are athletes, so the spectacle seems to have won out, especially
over the writers who have provided so much insight and kept the flame
going (Chomsky and Ehrenreich are about it since C. Wright Mills).
Jeff Faux: The Servant Economy: Where America's Elite Is
Sending the Middle Class (2012, Wiley): Previous book was
The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our
Future -- and What It Will Take to Win It Back, so presumably
this returns to American specifics. Lots of recent books on the
destruction of the middle class, the ripe corrollary to the same
old, same old of rich-getting-richer and poor-getting-poorer.
Jonathan Fetter-Vorm: Trinity: A Graphic History of the First
Atomic Bomb (2012, Hill and Wang): Much shorter than Richard
Rhodes' epochal The Making of the Atomic Bomb, but they say a
picture is worth a thousand words. I've toyed with the idea of writing
graphic histories on the Cold War and the Arab-Israeli Conflict --
critical assumption here is that I can get my nephew to illustrate --
mostly because I wish to sharply focus on key understandings rather
than to just spew out a lot of narrative, and graphic histories seem
to offer a unique opportunity to state and reinforce basic points.
Robert K Fitts: Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage, and
Assassination During the 1934 Tour of Japan (2012, University
of Nebraska Press): Previously co-edited Remembering Japanese
Baseball: An Oral History of the Game and wrote Wally Yonamine:
The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball, reports on one of the most
famous exhibition tours in history: a key event in Japan's adoption
of America's pastime as its own favorite sport, but also cover for
Moe Berg's espionage. Not sure who got assassinated.
Stephen M Gardiner: A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical
Tragedy of Climate Change (2011, Oxford University Press):
A philospher's take on the problem, seeing ignorance and inaction
as a lapse in ethics, looking into geo-engineering, etc.
Brandon L Garrett: Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal
Prosecutions Go Wrong (2011; paperback, 2012, Harvard
University Press): DNA evidence has shown that quite a few innocent
people have been convicted of serious crimes. Analyzing those cases
should help identify how the justice system gets it wrong and winds
up creating injustice. Other recent books on this: Jim Petro/Nancy
Petro: False Justice: Eight Myths That Convict the Innocent
(2011, Kaplan); Daniel S Medwed: Prosecution Complex: America's
Race to Convict and Its Impact on the Innocent (2012, NYU
Wenonah Hauter: Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of
Food and Farming in America (2012, New Press): "Local food"
farmer, director of Food & Water Watch, explains how agricultural
policy has been designed to aid Cargill, Tyson, Kraft, and ConAgra.
Tim Kane: Bleeding Talent: How the US Military Mismanages
Great Leaders and Why It's Time for a Revolution (2012,
Macmillan Palgrave): Right-wing economist (Hudson Institute, John
McCain), former USAF "intelligence" officer, "startup maven" (to
quote Bush economist Glenn Hubbard). I suspect his thesis is right,
but I have my doubts that "great leaders" is something the we need
the military to have, right now, or just about ever. Bean counters
and shrinks, that's another story.
Frederick Kaufman: Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being
Food (2012, Wiley): Starting with Domino's Pizza, hits all
the usual stops surveying the contemporary food industry, how it's
all related and tied more to finance than to old-fashioned interests
like agriculture. Related: Kara Newman: The Secret Financial
Life of Food: From Commodities Markets to Supermarkets (2012,
Columbia University Press).
George Lakoff/Elisabeth Wehling: The Little Blue Book: The
Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic (paperback,
2012, Free Press): Lakoff thinks we can solve all our problems by
coming up with better terminology to frame our arguments -- i.e.,
something other than what Frank Luntz comes up with. Supposedly this
Chris Lamb: Conspiracy of Silence: Sportswriters and the
Long Campaign to Desegregate Baseball (2012, University of
Nebraska Press): Previously wrote Blackout: The Story of Jackie
Robinson's First Spring Training, digs deeper here into the
press attitudes that reinforced the color line in baseball, and
a few journalists -- mostly blacks and/or communists, by the way --
who thought differently.
Charlie LeDuff: Detroit: An American Autopsy (2013,
Penguin Press): Local journalist, has watched Detroit decline from
1.9 million people to fewer than 700,000, as people left the city
for the suburbs or beyond while industry crumbled. I recall that
when I was visiting Detroit it was hard to find books on the city,
but that at least is looking up. For example, another is Mark Binelli:
Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American
Metropolis (2012, Metropolitan).
Jonathan Lethem: The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions,
Etc. (2011, Doubleday): A novelist based in Brooklyn
dumps off scattered essays, mostly lit, some about music. Poking
around Amazon's "look inside" I can't get a sense of the whole,
but one fragment on "Disnial" is certainly sharp.
Jonathan Lethem: Talking Heads' Fear of Music
(paperback, 2012, Continuum): Part of their 33 1/3 series of
short books, where a writer picks out a single record and riffs
on it. This is number 86, a rare case with a celebrity author.
Audrea Lim, ed: The Case for Sanctions Against Israel
(paperback, 2012, Verso Books): Twenty essays here, including Omar
Barghouti, Naomi Klein, Ilan Pappe, Joel Beinin, John Berger, Neve
Gordon. Sanctions are a relatively non-belligerent way of expressing
concern over Israel's manifest unwillingness either to free occupied
Palestinians or to treat them equitably. Sanctions helped to tip the
balance in South Africa to end the apartheid regime. At some point I
fear they will be necessary to make any degree of progress toward
peace and justice in Israel-Palestine. Also see: Omar Barghouti:
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian
Rights (paperback, 2011, Haymarket Books).
William Marsden: Fools Rule: Inside the Failed Politics
of Climate Change (2011, Knopf Canada; paperback, 2012,
Vintage Canada): Canadian journalist, so good chance this focuses
more on Canadian politics than on riper targets in the US, not
that the anti-science opposition in both countries isn't driven
by the same oil and coal companies. Author previously wrote a
book on oil shale: Stupid to the Last Drop: How Alberta Is
Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada (and Doesn't Seem
GJ Meyer: The Borgias: The Hidden History (2013,
Bantam): Of interest mostly, I suspect, if you've followed Neil
Jordan's TV series and want to fill in some details, although it
looks like this book takes some unexpected turns. Also available,
and perhaps more conventional: Christopher Hibbert: The Borgias
and Their Enemies: 1431-1919 (2008; paperback, 2009, Mariner
Loretta Napoleoni: Maonomics: Why Chinese Communists Make
Better Capitalists Than We Do (2011; paperback, 2012, Seven
Stories Press): Previously wrote Rogue Economics: Capitalism's
New Reality (2008), and ups the snark quotient here. Certainly
is the case that China's economic growth has outpaced ever corner
of the capitalist world for at least the last decade.
Mark Owen/Kevin Maurer: No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of
the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden (2012, Dutton): Also
subtitled, The Autobiography of a Navy Seal. Second guy up the
stairs. First guy to cash in. Isn't that -- making a killing out of a
killing -- what America is really all about?
Joel Salatin: Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice
for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World (2011;
paperback, 2012, Center Street): The Virginia farmer who loomed so
large in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma speaks for
himself -- not for the first time, either: previous books include:
You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start and Succeed in
a Farming Enterprise (paperback, 1998, Polyface); Holy Cows
& Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer's Guide to Farm Friendly Food
(paperback, 2005, Polyface); Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal:
War Stories From the Local Food Front (paperback, 2007, Polyface);
The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer (paperback, 2010,
Josh Schonwald: The Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches From the
Future of Food (2012, Harper Collins): Enthusiastic survey
of speculations about how food will be engineered and manufactured
James Gustave Speth: America the Possible: Manifesto for
a New Economy (2012, Yale University Press): Environmentalist,
previously wrote The Bridge at the Edge of the World, which
questions growth for growth's sake. Should expand on that here.
John Swenson: New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Survival
of New Orleans (2011; paperback, 2012, Oxford University Press):
A rock critic of my generation goes to post-Katrina New Orleans and
finds inspiration in the music -- where else would one work?
Gary Wills: Why Priests? A Failed Tradition (2013,
Viking): Always an interesting writer, although his commitment to
Catholicism has always baffled me, the issue here seeming like
someone else's personal fight.
Bob Woodward: The Price of Politics (2012, Simon &
Schuster): Another inside-out first draft of history, his second on
Obama after four volumes on Bush, the first extolling his genius for
leadership and the last wondering where all that went. Focuses on
the budget battle with congressional Republicans, not anyone's best
hour. New Yorker review: "Woodward, who has here the elements
of a devastating study of Washingtonian pettiness, has instead
written a book that in many ways exemplifies it."
Luigi Zingales: A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the
Lost Genius of American Prosperity (2012, Basic Books): Chicago
economist, argues that American capitalism is dying as the market gets
ever more regulated not just by "anti-market pitchfork populism" but
by crony corruption he associates with "Europe and much of the rest of
the world." Quick fix: trust the markets.
Still don't have the paperback report together. Maybe next time.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Music Week/Jazz Prospecting
Music: Current count 21302  rated (+27), 618  unrated (+12).
Big week in that I have three -- count 'em, three -- A- records, but
the inside story is that two of them took an awful lot of plays (more
than a dozen each) before I set aside my usual rule-of-thumb ("if you
can't make up your mind, go with the lower grade"). The exception was
Halley, which clicked so fast I didn't get around to writing anything
substantial about it. His sax has nearly always been so my minor
reservations about past his quartet albums concerned the second horn,
but they play less in sync here, with the trombone most often either
comping or jumping out front, either of which helps.
Eskelin is doing more of a ballad thing this time, so he's not
as aggressive as usual, and Versace doesn't push him much, but the
record has some really gorgeous passages. Douglas is just being
Douglas: fantastic chops, really explosive at times, but his songs
can get strange and veer off in unsettling directions. Irabagon,
at least, is too much of a scrapper to get boxed up in a harmony
role, so this never goes splat like some Douglas albums have done.
I've had an advance (and only that) for a long time, so I was
tempted to wait and see if a final arrived.
More plays might help push Snidero over the edge. He's very
sharp here, as he was on 2009's Crossfire. The other HMs
are certainly just that. Wanted to work in the latest batch of
Ivo Perelman records, but it's hard to juggle three at once,
and thus far they're all sounding pretty much the same. Also
held back potentially good records by John Vanore and Craig
Should have a Downloader's Diary this week, followed by a
(currently short) Rhapsody Streamnotes -- latter may cut into
my jazz time, but got a lot of mail this week.
Berserk! (2013, Rare Noise): Collaboration between
singer Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari (aka LEF, has appeared in groups
Transgender, Litania, Ashes, Costituto, Somma, Owls, Obake) and
bassist Lorenzo Felicati. Extra musicians include some jazz names --
Gianluca Petrella (trombone), Jamie Saft (keybs), Eivind Aarset
(guitar) -- but record is rockish, veering toward doom near the
Jaimeo Brown: Transcendence (2012 , Motema):
Drummer, first album, has a few side-credits going back a decade.
Front cover shows an old black church, and features two additional
names: JD Allen (tenor sax) and Chris Sholar (guitar, electronics).
(Geri Allen might have been a better marketing pick, but she plays
on only one track, where Sholar is always there.) The sax is a huge
asset here, but everything else is swamped in gospel vocals -- Falu,
Marisha Brown, Selah Brown, samples from Gee's Bend Singers -- a
meditation on Afro-American history (including a side trip to Ghana)
that doesn't seem to resolve much.
Dave Douglas Quintet: Time Travel (2012 ,
Greenleaf Music): Same lineup as last year's Be Still -- Jon
Irabagon (tenor sax), Matt Mitchell (piano), Linda Oh (bass), Rudy
Royston (drums) -- minus the singer and the solemn tone, which gives
them space to repeatedly flare out, even if the compositional matrix
is the same fancy, slippery postbop Douglas has honed for years.
The main thing you get is chops: he remains in a class by himself,
so confident he's game to take on the hottest saxophonist he can
find -- Potter, McCaslin, Strickland, now Irabagon, who is having
one helluva year.
Ellery Eskelin: Trio New York II (2013, Prime Source):
Sax-organ trio, with Gary Versace on the B3 and Gerald Cleaver on drums;
second album together, the first dedicated to the tenor saxophonist's
organ-playing mother. Likewise, this one is all standards, with a Monk
piece, ohers like "Just One of Those Things," "After You've Gone," and
"Flamingo." Versace stays clear of the usual soul jazz moves, giving
this an odd delicacy, undercutting the spark but bringing out some of
Eskelin's most poignant ballad craft.
Ken Fowser/Behn Gillece: Top Shelf (2012 ,
Posi-Tone): Tenor sax and vibes, respectively; fourth album together,
songs split 7-3 for Gillece. Backed by a sextet, with trombone, piano,
bass, and drums. Postbop, runs fast and slick.
Rich Halley 4: Crossing the Passes (2012 ,
Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist, has recorded since the 1980s, more
so since he's approached retirement age. Quartet adds a second
horn -- Michael Vlatkovich's trombone -- to bass (Clyde Reed) and
drums (son Carson Halley).
Curtis Hasselbring: Number Stations (2012 ,
Cuneiform): Trombonist, studied at New England Conservatory and
played in Boston bands like Either/Orchestra, then moved to New
York, recorded in groups as disparate as Slavic Soul Party and
Ballin' the Jack, finally recording his own album as The New
Mellow Edwards. That band name is "featured" here, on his
third album, and they're a motley bunch: Chris Speed (tenor sax,
clarinet), Mary Halvorson (guitar), Trevor Dunn (bass), Matt
Moran (vibes, marimba), and two drummer/percussionists: Ches
Smith and Satoshi Takeishi. Compositions have something to do
with numeric codings read off shortwave radio broadcasts, but
what you get is a mish-mash studded with brilliant solos, much
as you'd expect if a band this talented just winged it.
Joe Locke: Lay Down My Heart: Blues & Ballads Vol 1
(2012 , Motéma): Vibraphonist, has close to 30 albums since 1983,
most paired off with pianists -- Ryan Cohan here, plus David Finck on
bass and Jaimeo Brown on drums. Two originals, seven covers, the most
immediately appealing the ones that skip around the edges of the familiar,
like "Ain't No Sunshine" (Bill Withers) or "Makin' Whoopee."
Chuck Owen & the Jazz Surge: River Runs (2011
, Summit): Composer/arranger, has three albums on Sea Breeze
(1995-2004), one on MAMA. Jazz Surge is his big band, introduced on
the 1995 album, so it's not like he's jumping on a bandwagon. He
subtitles this "A Concerto for Jazz Guitar, Saxophone, & Orchestra,"
and aside from the prominence of guitar (LaRue Nickerson) and tenor sax
(Jack Wilkins), this really is contemporary classical music more than
jazz, especially with the added orchestra (flutes, oboes, bassoon and
harp, three French horns, and a phalanx of strings, the violin solos
reserved Rob Thomas). Seems like I should hate it, and I started to,
then lots of little things won me over. Nice booklet.
Shamie Royston: Portraits (2011 , self-released):
Pianist, first record, piano trio, with Ivan Taylor on bass and her
father Rudy Royston on drums, plus a Camille Thurman vocal. Nice piano
work, with a gentle swing. Can't say the vocal is a plus.
Markus Schwartz/Monvelyno Alexis: Vo-Duo Nou La (2011
, Lakou Brooklyn): Drummer, b. in Copenhagen, Denmark, based for
the last twenty years "in the heart of Lakou Brooklyn," "learning the
wealth and complexity of traditional Haitian religious music." Alexis,
born and raised in Haiti, plays guitar, sings, and co-wrote most of the
Jim Snidero: Stream of Consciousness (2012 ,
Savant): Alto saxophonist, 17 albums since 1987, generally a
mainstream/postbop guy, but looking for "strong, free-spirited
younger players" this time, coming up with Paul Bollenback (guitar),
Linda Oh (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums). Actually, he winds up
running away from them more often than not.
Jacqui Sutton: Notes From the Frontier: A Musical Journey
(2012, Toy Blue Typewriter): Interpretive singer from Houston, second album,
some kind of concept on discovering America. Starts with an interesting
banjo-paced take on "Summertime," then segues to something unsingable.
Album continues to teeter like that, with some hot trumpet the high spot.
The Verve Jazz Ensemble: It's About Time (2012 ,
self-released): Five musicians are credited, but only four pictured:
Tatum Greenblatt (trumpet), Jon Blanck (tenor sax), Matt Oestreicher
(piano), and Josh Feldstein (drums) -- odd man out is bassist Chris
DeAngelis. First album, six bop-era standards plus three alternate
takes, nice job on each.
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- JD Allen: Grace (Savant)
- Michael Bates/Samuel Blaser Quintet: One From None (Fresh Sound New Talent)
- Han Bennink/Uri Caine: Sonic Boom (816 Music)
- Blue Cranes: Swim (Cuneiform): advance, May 21
- Marc Cary: For the Love of Abbey (Motéma): June 11
- Racquel Cepeda: I'm Confessin' (Peonia Music)
- Michael Dease: Coming Home (D Clef)
- Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense: Moment & the Message (Pi): May 28
- Ross Hammond Quartet: Cathedrals (Prescott)
- Deborah Latz: Fig Tree (June Moon Productions)
- Liberation Prophecy: Invisible House (self-released)
- Matt Parker: Worlds Put Together (Bynk)
- The Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra: Artistry: A Tribute to Stan Kenton (MAMA)
- Wallace Roney: Understanding (High Note)
- Alex Syndman: Fortunate Action (self-released)
- Craig Taborn Trio: Chants (ECM)
- Anna Webber: Percussive Mechanics (Pirouet)
- Mark Winkler: The Laura Nyro Project (Cafe Pacific)
- Jon Wirtz: Tourist (self-released)
I just got a notice that Richie Havens died. I can't mention his
name in my house without eliciting moans -- Laura still blames him for
her worst concert experience ever. (Same one that haunts Bob? I never
bothered to ask.) I went to update my database and see that I never
graded any of Havens' albums. I know that I've heard at least one, and
it was awful.
even Coyne never played for more then 45 minutes in open D without
a beer run.
Correction: Laura tells me that she never saw Havens perform, so her
intense distaste for him comes from elsewhere. (She just came into my
office-space and complained about all the love for Havens filling her
facebook feed.) I do recall Bob describing a concert he had just seen
(Smashing Pumpkins or Nick Cave, don't recall which since they were at
the same festival and evidently really bad) as the worst he's seen since
Jon LaFollette wrote me, asking for a list of 8-10 recommended albums
"which feature jazz from A) the New York / East Coast scene and B) the
1920s." I wrote back:
Mostly off the top of my head, although I looked up some
titles. What I know is mostly summed up here:
Really just New York, at least up to the 1940s when Philadelphia
starts to matter, and Boston in the 1950s, although neither ever come
close. The 1920s cutoff is pretty arbitrary, and I've gone beyond it
here. A better division would be around 1933, with the advancement of
stride piano and the introduction of swing. That's also about the
point when New York starts capturing the rest of the nation's jazz
First pick is the Fletcher Henderson 3-CD box, A Study in
Frustration (1923-28 , Legacy). Nearly everything that
mattered happened first in Henderson's band, including Louis
Armstrong's initial arrival (before he went back to Chicago to cut the
Hot Fives and Sevens) and Coleman Hawkins' invention of the jazz
saxophone. May be out of print, but looks like Essential Jazz Classics
has reissued it with some extras, and it's pretty cheap.
Next, you want some Duke Ellington, especially 1926-29, the
so-called "Bubber Miley Era." Ellington recorded many of his songs
three times, for Bluebird (RCA), Brunswick (Decca/MCA/Universal), and
Okeh (Columbia), and they are desirable in roughly that order, and
they look to all be out of print, for reasons I find not just
unfathomable but criminal. RCA had three Bluebird CDs, of which
Early Ellington is absolutely prime (slightly expanded from the
Flaming Youth LP which was a big Christgau favorite). The
Brunswicks were available in a 3-CD complete edition (Early
Ellington) and a single sampler (The Best of Early
Ellington), and they sound terrific. The Okehs were in 2-CD The
Okeh Ellington, and they're a lot rougher. Jazz Legends issued a
single called The Bubber Miley Era: 1924-1929 that is
near-perfect. JSP had a 4-CD box called Mrs. Clinkscales to the
Cotton Club that loses a bit, especially with the early
Washingtonians tracks, but is a bargain. Ellington's 1930s material is
generally less well regarded, which is probably unfair. Legacy never
reissued this material, so it's only been available on Classics (a
French label that issues everything chronologically), at least until
the expensive Mosaic 11-CD box set (that I don't have)
appeared. (There's also a second 4-CD JSP box, which I don't have and
don't know how far it goes.) Ellington's 1940-42 RCAs are his second
peak period, but that's beyond your time frame.
Next thing I'd recommend is a Don Redman compilation, Doin' What
I Please (1925-38 , ASV), if you can find it. This covers a
variety of groups Redman led or arranged for, notably McKinney's
Cotton Pickers. ASV is a British reissue label, with a huge number of
long (75-80 minute) single-CD compilations, generally good if the
subject holds up that long.
Another important group leader is Luis Russell: a good, pretty
comprehensive set is The Luis Russell Story 1929-1934
(Retrieval, 2CD), which seems to be in print.
The preeminent NY pianist of the 1920s was James P. Johnson. My
favorite there is Snowy Morning Blues (1930-44 , Decca),
a little late and out-of-print. In the 1930s the key pianist becomes
Fats Waller, followed by Art Tatum. A fine Waller intro is the 3-CD
box, If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It (1926-43 ,
Legacy), although The Joint Is Jumpin'  and The Very
Best of Fats Waller  try to reduce that to a single
CD. Tatum's best stuff wasn't cut until the 1950s, although ASV's
The Art of Tatum (1932-44) catches you up.
Coleman Hawkins is mostly covered by the Henderson set and to some
extent by the Redman, but there's more, especially after he goes to
Europe in 1934 and comes back and revolutionizes jazz improv. The
King of the Tenor Sax (1929-43 , Jazz Legends) is a good for
its focus. There's also an expensive Mosaic box, which largely
duplicates the old 6-CD Affinity box I own.
Henry "Red" Allen is a New Orleans-born trumpet player who was big
in New York from about 1929 on. He shows up on the Redman, Russell,
and (I'm pretty sure) Henderson boxes, and has some 1933 sessions with
Hawkins. The first three volumes of his work on Collectors' Classics
are real good.
Jimmie Lunceford (Stomp It Off, For Dancers Only) and
Chick Webb (Spinnin' the Web) are important bandleaders from
the early 1930s -- those three titles are from out-of-print Decca CDs,
all highly recommended. I think there's a Mosaic box of
Lunceford. There's a 4-CD Properbox of Webb.
Count Basie moved from KC to NY in 1936 and had a huge impact right
away. The 3-CD Decca box is monumental, the 1-CD "best of" a good
selection. The 3-CD Columbia box is mostly later, although it starts
off with the 1936 Jones-Smith sessions.
Louis Armstrong moved back to NY around 1930, with a big
band. Nothing in the 1930s is as important as his late 1920s
recordings, but the RCAs are still pretty great, and there's good
stuff for Decca if you bother to dig for it. (Again, don't have the
Mosaic box of the Deccas.) Sidney Bechet and Jelly Roll Morton
probably passed through NY. Both recorded a lot of fine music for
RCA. Benny Goodman started in Chicago, but probably wound up in NY,
and becomes hugely influential from 1935 on. Artie Shaw appears a
couple years later, and John Kirby's 1939-42 band is superb. Benny
Carter probably passed through. His most famous pre-WWII work was cut
in Europe, including the "Crazy Rhythm" session with Coleman Hawkins
and Django Reinhardt and a good album in England with Spike Hughes,
but he spent most of the 1940s working in LA on movie soundtracks, and
his best stuff came out in the 1950s-60s.
Not sure where to slot folks like Cab Calloway and Stuff
Smith. Billie Holiday appeared in the late 1930s, mostly in Teddy
Wilson's bands, but all of his tracks are under her name now. Wilson
was a very important pianist.
There was a Bluebird CD called The Jazz Age: New York in the
Twenties (Christgau liked it) with Red Nichols, Ben Pollack, Phil
Napoleon, Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang. The Lang/Venuti stuff is worth
pursuing (JSP's Volume 2 is my top pick -- guitar/violin jazz,
much like Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. Retrieval has a
good Red Nichols with Miff Mole 1925-1927 set.
Allen Lowe's That Devilin' Tune compilations collect an
extraordinary amount of early jazz, not limited to New York but NY
increasingly dominates the art, at least up to 1950 when LA and SF
start to matter, and he tends to focus earlier than most compilers.
I bought most of this stuff in the early CD era. I'm shocked at how
little of the major label stuff is still in print. There is a lot more
than is readily obvious from European labels, and I've barely
scratched those sources. For instance, Frog Records is regarded as
having good sounding transfers. I don't have any of their releases,
but they have a Miff Mole comparable to the one I cited, and three
volumes of McKinney's Cotton Pickers. Glancing through their catalog,
I noticed one called Thumpin' & Bumpin': New York Volume 2:
only one I was familiar with there was Bubber Miley -- Ellington's
first great trumpet player, died real young, but I never knew he led
his own groups -- so I guess I'm not that much of an expert.
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Some scattered links of special interest. Caught most of them today,
which shows it isn't all that hard to find trouble these days:
Joe Conason: Protecting the 'Second Amendment Rights' of Thugs and
Terrorists: The NRA used to push the mantra, "if guns are outlawed,
only outlaws will have guns." Now they seem to be saying, if criminals
are denied guns, no one will be permitted them.
As Will Saletan pointed out in Slate last January, the NRA has consistently
(and successfully) sought to kill the most basic efforts to keep guns away
from convicted criminals and other dangerous characters -- including abusive
spouses under court protection orders, drug dealers and even individuals
listed on the Justice Department's terrorist watch list.
In the wake of the Boston bombing, as the nation ponders how to bolster
its security, the gun lobby's tender concern for the Second Amendment
"rights" of terrorists and thugs ought to permanently discredit them and
their political servants.
Background checks and registration should not prevent people who have
legitimate reason for owning guns from doing so, nor establish a "slippery
slope" leading to gun confiscation (as is routinely asserted). They would,
however, do much to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not
have them, and they would help law enforcement track gun violence. There
is, after all, enough gun violence in America to warrant precautions,
and it should be clear that there are people who should not be entitled
to own or use guns. Reasonable people should be able to find some common
ground here, but the NRA has taken a position far beyond reason, and it's
time to start calling it what it is: their main purpose is to safeguard
the gun-owning rights of criminals, because if criminals can't own guns,
no one can.
As near as I can tell, the NRA is mostly a front for gun manufacturers,
and their business is booming because they're able to promote fear -- of
crime, of terrorists, and of the government -- into ever more gun sales.
For an example of his this works, here's a Wichita Eagle letter from
Hank Price, of Goddard, KS:
I need an AR-15. Furthermore, I need several 30-round magazines to go
Why, you ask? Well, let's put aside the fact that it is none of your
business or, for that matter, none of government's business to ask. (The
Second Amendment affirms my right to keep and bear arms.)
I need an AR-15 because the bad guys have them. I need an AR-15 because
the police, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of
Homeland Security, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives have them. If someone is attempting a home invasion with
semi-automatic or even automatic weapons, I don't want to wait the 15
to 20 minutes it takes for the police to arrive with their semi-automatic
I need an AR-15 because as long as I and other law-abiding citizens
have them, the government will think twice before infringing on the
other rights affirmed by the Constitution. That is the real reason we
have the Second Amendment. Not so we can hunt. Not so we can target
practice. Not so we can defend our home and family until the police
come to file their reports. But to protect our rights.
This is a good example of the NRA business plan: let the "bad guys"
have X and "good guys" like Price will have to buy the same thing --
an arms race, which certainly won't stop with AR-15s. Moreover, if
the "bad guys" include the US government, Price is already way down
the technology curve: they already have helicopters, tanks, snipers,
noxious gas, and enough firepower to obliterate your house -- no need
to merely "invade" it. Also, that bit about using guns to protect your
rights, how's that worked out over time? From the Whiskey Rebellion
in 1791 up until any recent example you can cite, not very well. To
pick one relatively recent example, Leonard Peltier is in jail for
life for allegedly defending himself against federal agents. Why
should Price expect to fare better? The fact is that the only way
to defend yourself against the government is through the courts --
your best friend there, by the way, is the ACLU. Better still, elect
a government that will respect your rights -- shouldn't be that big
of a problem, if you really are one of the "good guys." If not, at
least you have the NRA working for you.
By the way, here's today's Crowson:
David Graeber: There's No Need for All This Economic Sadomasochism:
More on austerity politics, piling on the Reinhart-Rogoff debacle:
The morality of debt has proved spectacularly good politics. It appears
to work just as well whatever form it takes: fiscal sadism (Dutch and
German voters really do believe that Greek, Spanish and Irish citizens
are all, collectively, as they put it, "debt sinners," and vow support
for politicians willing to punish them) or fiscal masochism (middle-class
Britons really will dutifully vote for candidates who tell them that
government has been on a binge, that they must tighten their belts,
it'll be hard, but it's something we can all do for the sake of our
grandchildren). Politicians locate economic theories that provide
flashy equations to justify the politics; their authors, like Rogoff,
are celebrated as oracles; no one bothers to check if the numbers
actually add up.
Also on Reinhart-Rogoff:
New Tools for Reproducible Results.
Glenn Greenwald: What Rights Should Dzokhar Tsarnaev Get and Why Does
It Matter?: When I heard Sen. Lindsey Graham insisting that the
Boston Marathon bomber should be declared an "enemy combatant" I thought
that was the dumbest thing I've heard him say in, well, weeks. As I
understand it, the main purpose of the "enemy combatant" designation
is to allow the Feds to hold people indefinitely they suspect but don't
have any evidence against, at least that wouldn't hold up in court.
Assuming they got the right person, the odds that they wouldn't be able
to secure a conviction are vanishingly small -- unless they did something
really stupid, like waterboarding him in Guantanamo. Tsarnaev is a US
citizen, captured in the US after (allegedly) committing a major crime
on US territory. Isn't that what the US justice system is about? Then I
read that Obama's DOJ decided not to "Mirandize" him, as if not reminding
him that he has rights under the constitution strips him of those rights.
To get on top of this, I consulted Glenn Greenwald, and he explains it
Now, the cheers for this erosion of Miranda are led not by right-wing
Supreme Court justices such as William Rehnquist (who wrote the opinion
in Quarles), but by MSNBC pundits like former Obama campaign media aide
Joy Reid, who -- immediately upon the DOJ's announcement -- instantly
became a newly minted Miranda expert in order to loudly defend the DOJ's
actions. MSNBC's featured "terrorism expert" Roger Cressey -- who,
unbeknownst to MSNBC viewers, is actually an executive with the
intelligence contractor Booz Allen -- also praised the DOJ's decision
not to Mirandize the accused bomber (if you want instant, reflexive
support for the US government's police and military powers, MSNBC is
the place to turn these days). [ . . . ]
Just 30 years ago, Quarles was viewed as William Rehnquist's
pernicious first blow against Miranda; now, it's heralded by MSNBC
Democrats as good, just and necessary for our safety, even in its
new extremist rendition. That's the process by which long-standing
liberal views of basic civil liberties, as well core Constitutional
guarantees, continue to be diluted under President Obama in the name
of terrorism. [ . . . ]
Needless to say, Tsarnaev is probably the single most hated figure
in America now. As a result, as Bazelon noted, not many people will
care what is done to him, just like few people care what happens to
the accused terrorists at Guantanamo, or Bagram, or in Yemen and
Pakistan. But that's always how rights are abridged: by targeting
the most marginalized group or most hated individual in the first
instance, based on the expectation that nobody will object because
of how marginalized or hated they are. Once those rights violations
are acquiesced to in the first instance, then they become institutionalized
forever, and there is no basis for objecting once they are applied to
others, as they inevitably will be (in the case of the War on Terror
powers: as they already are being applied to others).
Also see Greenwald's earlier post,
The Boston Bombing Produces Familiar and Revealing Reactions.
Greenwald also links to an interesting piece by Ali Abuninah:
Was the Boston Bombing Really a "Terrorist" Act? Aside from the
specialized legal aspects, I have no problem describing any bombing
as an act of terror (including those bombs released by US drones in
Pakistan and elsewhere), just because of its intrinsically indiscriminate
nature. But at this point there is very little that can be said about
the motivations and intentions of the perpetrators. But somewhere I
read that this was the first "terrorist attack" on US soil since the
November 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood by Major Nidal Hasan -- a
statement that overlooks dozens of mass shootings since, many (e.g.,
the recent murder of schoolchildren in Newtown, CT) truly terrorful.
At the very least, we've managed to muddle up the language here: the
9/11 attack were both terrorizing and a radical affront to the image
of US power as projected across the world. The Boston bombing and
the Newtown shootings were both terrorizing, but what they have to
do with US power is still mostly confined to the fevered imaginations
of US politicians, who, as always, are happy to use whatever tragedy
is at hand to further their own interests.
Glenn Greenwald: Margaret Thatcher and Misapplied Death Etiquette:
Missed this post from April 8, but still timely. The fact is, when you
hear that someone has died, you remember what they did. If what you say
then usually seems positive, that may be because we are predisposed to
forget or forgive the bad and cherish the good. Or perhaps one feels a
tinge of relief that the threat of the bad has passed. But the threat
of someone like Thatcher hasn't passed with her, and it would be grossly
unresponsible to gloss over much of what she actually did. As Greenwald
This demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure's
death is not just misguided but dangerous. That one should not speak
ill of the dead is arguably appropriate when a private person dies,
but it is wildly inappropriate for the death of a controversial public
figure, particularly one who wielded significant influence and political
power. "Respecting the grief" of Thatcher's family members is appropriate
if one is friends with them or attends a wake they organize, but the
protocols are fundamentally different when it comes to public discourse
about the person's life and political acts. I made this argument at
length last year when Christopher Hitchens died and a speak-no-ill rule
about him was instantly imposed (a rule he, more than anyone, viciously
violated), and I won't repeat that argument today; those interested can
my reasoning here.
But the key point is this: those who admire the deceased public figure
(and their politics) aren't silent at all. They are aggressively exploiting
the emotions generated by the person's death to create hagiography. Typifying
these highly dubious claims about Thatcher was this (appropriately diplomatic)
statement from President Obama: "The world has lost one of the great champions
of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend." Those gushing
depictions can be quite consequential, as it was for the week-long tidal
wave of unbroken reverence that was heaped on Ronald Reagan upon his death,
an episode that to this day shapes how Americans view him and the political
ideas he symbolized. Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that
hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of
bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue
of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death. When a political
leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise
be permitted but not criticisms.
Ed Kilgore: Fertilizer Explosion Update: Weak Inspections and Strong
Kolaches: While the nation's media was fixated on the bombings in
Boston, a far larger (and deadlier) explosion occurred in the place
where you might most expect it, a fertilizer plant in West, Texas,
but nobody was looking there:
The explosion shone a harsh light on the US fertilizer industry and
the weak, toothless regulation thereof. One problem Plumer notes is
that, "the Occupational Safety and Health Administration tends to be
understaffed and inspections are relatively infrequent. The Texas
fertilizer industry has only seen six inspections in the past five
years -- and the West Texas Fertilizer Co. facility was not one of
them." This was despite the West facility receiving a $2,300 fine
from the EPA in 2006 for poor risk-management planning. The last
time the facility had been inspected by the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration was in 1985. Think Progress reports that the
plant had been inspected in 2011 by the Pipeline and Hazardous
Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which resulted in a $10,100
fine for missing placards and lack of security plans. The fine was
reduced in 2012 after improvements were made at the plant.
Fertilizer explosions are relatively common in history. There
have been 17 unintended explosions of ammonium nitrate causing
casualties since 1921. The worst of these was the explosion of a
cargo ship in the Port of Texas City that killed 581 people and
Mike Konczal: Mapping Out the Arguments Against Chained CPI:
Konczal has been linked to by everyone commenting on Reinhart-Rogoff
Researchers Finally Replicated Reinhart-Rogoff and There Are Serious
Problems, followed up by
Andrindrajit Dube: Reinhart/Rogoff and Growth in a Time Before Debt).
Here he analyzes another real bad idea: Obama's budget proposal to cut
Social Security by fudging the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). (If you
were really paying attention, you'll recall that this has already been
done once before, by Clinton as a favor for Greenspan: in the 1990s, the
government changed how the consumer price index (CPI) was calculated,
nominally lowering inflation and thereby reducing Social Security COLA
increases.) With "friends" like Obama (and Clinton) you enemies are
already halfway home.
If you look into the data, the elderly spend a lot more of their limited
money on housing, utilities, and medical care. Health care costs have
been rising rapidly over the past several decades, and it is difficult
to substitute on other necessary, fixed-price goods like utilities. With
the notable exception of college costs, the things urban wage earners
spend money on haven't increased in price as quickly as what the elderly
purchase. As a result, the CPI-E (the index tailored to the elderly) has
increased 3.3 percent a year from 1982 to 2007, while the CPI-W (tailored
to wage earners) has only increased 3 percent a year.
[ . . . ]
You'll hear arguments that a Grand Bargain is necessary, so it's
better to bring Social Security into long-term balance now, with
Democrats at the helm, than in the future, when there will be less
time and an uncertain governance coalition. You can get fewer cuts
and more revenue than you would otherwise and take the issue off the
table for the foreseeable future to concentrate on other priorities.
But if that's your idea, then this is a terrible deal and sets a
terrible precedent, because this deal would accomplish none of your
goals. You'd cut Social Security without putting in any new revenue.
And it wouldn't be sufficient to close the long-term gap, so the issue
would stay on the table. Indeed, the deficit hawks would probably be
emboldened, viewing this as a "downpayment" on future cuts, and require
any future attempts to get more revenue for Social Security, say by
raising the payroll tax cap, to involve significant additional cuts.
Konczal also points out that the longer you live, the more "chained
CPI" eats into your check; also the more likely you are to have exhausted
your savings. The net result is to plunge the very elderly into poverty.
One thing he didn't mention is that some big expenses, like nursing home
care, are means-tested. The effect of this is to first confiscate all of
your savings before making you a ward of a state that has never been
known for generous welfare policies. Over the last twenty-some years,
we've done a lot to lighten estate taxes for the rich, never noticing
that for the poor the effective tax rate is 100%.
Matthew Yglesias: Banning Late-Term Abortions Reduces the Quality of
Late-Term Abortion Providers: Same for extra-legal bans, like
murder. Talks about the Kermit Gosnell case in Philadelphia, but he
starts with a more commonplace example:
I used to buy illegal drugs sometimes and in addition to me, personally,
not being a huge fan of said substances I really didn't enjoy the
purchasing process. The quality of customer service was just deplorable.
And the problem, roughly speaking, was that even though it was not in
practice all that difficult to obtain marijuana you still had to get
it from a drug dealer rather than, say, a highly efficient global
retailer operating with industry best practices and huge economies of
scale. And for better or for worse, that's one of the goals of drug
prohibition in the United States. It's not simply that making something
illegal deters some people from use. It inhibits the emergence of
above-board providers with strong franchises and brand value and
robust competition between multiple high quality providers.
It also opens up opportunities for police to profit through bribes
or other favors, and it makes it easier for criminals to rob drug
dealers, and it opens up drug dealers to further crime, etc. But back
to medicine: any operation is more likely to be performed competently
by someone who does it often, thereby developing skill and experience.
One reason universal health care is better even for the people who
can afford whatever you call our health care system is that doctors
learn from experience.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Wrote this to Jan, after she vented her displeasure with the decision
to ultimately bury Aunt Freda with her second husband, Ralph Bureman,
instead of with my uncle, Allen Brown. Freda Shelby was born near Moline,
KS in 1915. She dated Ralph before marrying Allen in 1938. They had three
children (Lou Jean, Jan, Ken) before Allen was killed in a car wreck in
1951. Meanwhile, Ralph vanished from her life. He got married, have five
children. Many years later, Freda and Ralph met through church contacts --
he was a minister in Disciples of Christ. His marriage had fallen apart.
After reuniting with Freda, he divorced and they married. They lived
together, first in Kinsley then in Newton (both KS), for ten years
before he died in 1987. Ken moved to Independence, KS after college.
He taught political science and tennis at Independence Community
College, retired there, but still runs the high school tennis program.
Freda moved from Newton to Independence about five years ago as she
started to suffer from dementia, which is currently rather severe.
I know Ken prefers Independence. He goes to the cemetery a lot to
remember Yona, and would be better able to take care of things
there. I don't relate to cemeteries like that. I don't think I've been
to my parents' graves in the last decade; probably only twice since
they were buried. I go to the cemetery in Arkansas because it's one of
those customary things we do down there, plus it has some deeper
family history. (Same for the cemetery in Spearville, although the
only time I've been there in many decades was to bury Zula Mae.) I've
been to a few other cemeteries -- where Lola and Melvin are buried in
Stroud, OK; my grandparents in Marquette, MS; Ruby and Bob in Lincoln,
KS; Rebecca in Vienna, OH -- but only once each. Rebecca is buried in
her family plot, next to her father, but no one suggested reserving a
spot for me and putting my name on the headstone. It would have seemed
awfully presumptuous to me at the time, and as it turned out I've been
with Laura much longer (and quite a bit happier; her preference, by
the way, is to be cremated and scattered; my own view is that when I
die my disposal will be someone else's problem).
I don't know why Freda decided to put her name on Allen's tombstone
-- I can imagine, but I've always found it to be a little unsettling
too. Maybe she felt pressured, or just that it was the normal thing to
do, but she certainly didn't make it knowing how the rest of her life
would unfold. I do recall her talking about Ralph even before they met
up, and also recall her talking about how she sent letters to each of
you, and you responding that you only had one question: whether
getting together with Ralph would affect her plans to be buried in
Arkansas with Allen. At the time she promised no. I hardly ever saw
them when they were married. They only time I recall meeting Ralph was
when they came to Wichita and he married Rebecca and me. Evidently
some time she changed her mind, because her name is on Ralph's
tombstone as well. When we talked about it later she said that
Independence would be close to Ken, that he would visit more often and
take better care of the plot, etc. -- didn't seem to have much to do
with Ralph vs. Allen, but she probably didn't want to think of it like
As my disinterest in my parents' graves suggests, I don't think of
them as being there, or anywhere else, except in memories and
imagination. The markers evoke those memories (or in the case of
ancestors I never met, imagination), and they'll do that regardless of
the contents of the dirt around them. Regardless of what you do with
the body or ashes, I'll still recall Freda every time I visit Flutey
Cemetery (or drive by the cemetery in Independence). Most likely, you
(and Lou Jean and Ken) think differently, so pay me no heed, but it is
ultimately your collective decision.
Didn't say this, but my preference would be to cremate the body and
not bury it either place -- maybe scatter the ashes, or split them up
and let the three widely scattered "kids" (Jan lives in Idaho; Lou Jean
in Buffalo) build their own little memorials. On the other hand, my
mother always assumed she would be buried, and we more/less automatically
just put her down next to dad, following other instructions like burying
her barefoot. Similarly, we buried Laura's father in a plot he had
purchased for that purpose. (On the other hand, we cremated Laura's
sister, and gave her ashes to a childhood friend. No idea whatever
ultimately happened there.)
I'd also add the missing dates to Freda's two gravestones. For most
people the disposition would remain uncertain, like Schrödinger's cat.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Some links and comments. Originally started last week, then postponed
to mid-week, then a bit later:
Gerry Adams: Thatcher's Legacy in Ireland: On the late UK prime
Margaret Thatcher was a hugely divisive figure in British politics.
Her right wing politics saw Thatcher align herself with some of the
most repressive and undemocratic regimes in the late 20th century --
including apartheid South Africa and Chile's Pinochet. Her description
of the ANC and Mandela as terrorists was evidence of her ultra
conservative view of the world.
She championed the deregulation of the financial institutions,
cuts in public services and was vehemently anti-trade union. She set
out to crush the trade union movement. The confrontation with the
miners and the brutality of the British police was played out on
television screens night after night for months. The current crisis
in the banking institutions and the economic recession owe much to
these policies. And she went to war in the Malvinas.
But for the people of Ireland, and especially the north, the
Thatcher years were among some of the worst of the conflict. For
longer than any other British Prime Minister her policy decisions
entrenched sectarian divisions, handed draconian military powers
over to the securocrats, and subverted basic human rights.
Her most immediate impact on the US came out of the Malvinas
(Falklands) War, which played so jolly well on British TV that
she got a big popularity boost. She later used it to convince
the first George Bush how he could use war in Kuwait to push up
his own ratings, a lesson Bush's idiot son not only learned but
refined, thus sparking the neverending War on Terror.
Thatcher has been all over the pundit-world recently. On two
succesive days, the Wichita Eagle had opinion pieces that doted
on her: one by the Kansas Republican chairman extolling Brownback
as a Thatcherite; and one by Cal Thomas on how the left is full
of hate for pointing out her supposed faults. One thing that I
haven't read about recently was how Thatcher was so extreme in
her reactionary views that she eventually became an embarrassment
to the Conservative Party, which replaced her with John Major.
Now the efforts to canonize her are reminiscent of the much more
organized efforts to name things after Ronald Reagan.
John Cassidy: The Crumbling Case for Austerity Economics:
Starts off with a nod to Thatcher, who put austerity into practice
back in 1979, a prescription for national impoverishment that the
current Conservative cabal running the UK has embraced, once again
disastrously. Cassidy then moves on to "glaring faults and omissions
in the widely cited research of Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff" --
turns out that their paper predicting doom when a national debt
exceeds 90% of GDP was severely fudged ("omitted relevant data,
weighted their calculations in an unusual manner, and made an
elementary coding blunder," slanting their results in favor of
their thesis). For more on Reinhart-Rogoff, see
Mike Konczal (wonkish), and
Paul Krugman (although if you rumage through his blog you'll find several
Maureen Dowd: Courting Cowardice:
Swing Justice Anthony Kennedy grumbled about "uncharted waters," and the
fuddy-duddies seemed to be looking for excuses not to make a sweeping
ruling. Their questions reflected a unanimous craven impulse: How do we
get out of this? This court is plenty bold imposing bad decisions on the
country, like anointing W. president or allowing unlimited money to flow
covertly into campaigns. But given a chance to make a bold decision
putting them on the right, and popular, side of history, they squirm.
"Same-sex couples have every other right," Chief Justice John Roberts
said, sounding inane for a big brain. "It's just about the label in this
case." He continued, "If you tell a child that somebody has to be their
friend, I suppose you can force the child to say, 'This is my friend,'
but it changes the definition of what it means to be a friend."
[ . . . ]
Charles Cooper, the lawyer for the proponents of Prop 8, which banned
same-sex marriage in California, was tied in knots, failing to articulate
any harm that could come from gay marriage and admitting that no other
form of discrimination against gay people was justified. His argument,
that marriage should be reserved for those who procreate, is ludicrous.
Sonia Sotomayor was married and didn't have kids. Clarence and Ginny
Thomas did not have kids. Chief Justice Roberts's two kids are adopted.
Should their marriages have been banned? What about George and Martha
Washington? They only procreated a country.
As Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out to Cooper, "Couples that aren't
gay but can't have children get married all the time."
Justice Elena Kagan wondered if Cooper thought couples over the age
of 55 wanting to get married should be refused licenses. Straining to
amuse, Justice Antonin Scalia chimed in: "I suppose we could have a
questionnaire at the marriage desk when people come in to get the
marriage -- you know, 'Are you fertile or are you not fertile?'"
Scalia didn't elaborate on his comment in December at Princeton:
"If we cannot have moral feeling against homosexuality, can we have
it against murder?"
Paul Krugman: Europe in Brief: A good basic summary of what's happened
to the Euro:
The first effect of the euro was an outbreak of europhoria: suddenly,
investors believed that all European debt was equally safe. Interest
rates dropped all around the European periphery, setting off huge
flows of capital to Spain and other economies; these capital flows
fed huge housing bubbles in many places, and in general created booms
in the countries receiving the inflows.
The booms, in turn, caused differential inflation: costs and prices
rose much more in the periphery than in the core. Peripheral economies
became increasingly uncompetitive, which wasn't a problem as long as
the inflow-fueled bubbles lasted, but would become a problem once the
capital inflows stopped.
And stop they did. The result was serious slumps in the periphery,
which lost a lot of internal demand but remained weak on the external
side thanks to the loss of competitiveness.
This exposed the deep problem with the single currency: there is no
easy way to adjust when you find your costs out of line. At best,
peripheral economies found themselves facing a prolonged period of
high unemployment while they achieved a slow, grinding, "internal
The problem was greatly exacerbated, however, when the combination
of slumping revenues and the prospect of protracted economic weakness
led to large budget deficits and concerns about solvency, even in
countries like Spain that entered the crisis with budget surpluses
and low debt. There was panic in the bond market -- and as a condition
for aid, the European core demanded harsh austerity programs.
Austerity, in turn, led to much deeper slumps in the periphery --
and because peripheral austerity was not offset by expansion in the
core, the result was in fact a slump for the European economy as a
whole. One consequence has been that austerity is failing even on its
own terms: key measures like debt/GDP ratios have gotten worse, not
One thing to note is that aside from his concern about the human
costs of austerity programs little in Krugman's critique of the euro
is political. The euro could easily be seen as a liberal project, and
as a failure of liberalism. And while one could argue that the failure
had less to do with its liberal intent than with an implementation
that was overly controlled by conservative bankers -- regulation of
those capital flows would have helped -- Krugman tends not to do so.
Brad DeLong: The Future of the Euro: Lessons From History:
How did this come about? Why didn't Maastricht set up a single Eurovia-wide
banking regulator and supervisor to align financial policy with monetary
policy? Why didn't Maastricht set up the fiscal-transfer funds that would
be needed when -- as would inevitably happen -- some chunk of the future
Eurovia went into recession while other chunks were in boom? Why did
Maastricht leave a good chunk of lender-of-last-resort authority in the
hands of national governments that could not print money and so fulfill
the lender-of-least-resort function rather than placing all of it in the
European Central Bank, which could? And why -- given that one country's
exports are another's imports -- does the adoption of policies in deficit
countries to reduce their imports and boost their export not automatically
trigger the adoption of policies in surplus countries to boost their
imports and reduce their exports?
Barry Ritholtz: 12 Rules of Goldbuggery: Mostly about gold as a
speculative investment, which is easy to see as a psychological disorder.
As for tying the economic system to the gold standard, that is the
all-time number one stupid idea in the history of economics.
MJ Rosenberg: Netanyahu to US: Drop Dead: What's the difference
between Binyamin Netanyahu and Yitzhak Shamir? Netanyahu will make
a bit of effort to string you along, whereas it was obvious even to
Americans that Shamir would never budge on anything. The first Bush
administration's displeasure with Shamir led to his downfall, replaced
by Yitzhak Rabin, which led to the ill-fated Oslo Accords. Lots of
things made them ill-fated, but pride of place went to Netanyahu, who
when pushed hard enough agreed to things he'd never get around to
implementing. Well, Netanyahu's back, but with Oslo dead and
Congress in his pocket, is reverting to his inner Shamir:
The good news is that Netanyahu has made everything so clear. He has no
interest in peace, negotiations, any kind of territorial withdrawal or
even freezing settlements. Like Shamir, he just wants to buy time until
it will be absolutely impossible to create a Palestinian state, if it
isn't already. As for the United States, Netanyahu is not interested
in what it wants.
The only question left is what the Obama administration will do in
response. It could follow Baker's example and take a walk. Even better,
it could tell Netanyahu that future aid from the U.S. will be linked
to its occasional compliance with U.S. wishes regarding the occupation.
Or it could say, it won't keep following Israel's dictates on sanctions
or Palestine's right to recognition by the United Nations. Or it could,
as Bush and Baker did, squeeze the Israeli prime minister until the
Israeli public dumps him.
It could do any of those.
Will it? I'm taking bets.
But here is a sure one. There is no possibility of serious negotiation
so long as Binyamin Netanyahu is prime minister of Israel.
I personally thought that was obvious when Netanyahu became prime
minister shortly after Obama won his first term. Netanyahu's victory
and coalition were so shaky that it wouldn't have taken much to nudge
them apart, but Obama did nothing and got nothing (but a second term
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Christgau gave Brad Paisley's Wheelhouse a B+, a pretty modest
grade given how hard he fell for Paisley's last two albums. Rod Taylor
on Brad Paisley's "Those Crazy Christians":
Both Jason and Robert have expressed admiration for "Those Crazy
Christians," a song which pissed me off when I first listened to
it. It came across more as a cynical sop to a core part of the country
audience rather than a thoughtful reflection of a nonbeliever. I think
what bugs me most is that I can see groups of evangelical Christians
singing along and walking away thinking how wonderful they are.
"'Those crazy Christians, I was gonna sleep in today
But the church bells woke me up and they're a half a mile away
Those crazy Christians, dressed up drivin' down my street
Get their weekly dose of guilt before they head to Applebee's"
So, Paisley's clearly not one of them, but what's the problem?
Church bells and guilt trips. The first is humorous, the second the
kind of thing that only seems compelling to outsiders.
"They pray before they eat and they pray before they snore
They pray before a football game and every time they score
Every untimely passing, every dear departed soul
Is just another good excuse to bake a casserole"
Paisley's having fun gently poking at their religiosity, but in the
end, with the casserole remark, he slyly pats the Christians in the
audience on the back for their good deeds, which sets up the next
"Those crazy Christians, go and jump on some airplane
And fly to Africa or Haiti, risk their lives in Jesus' name
No, they ain't the late night party kind
They curse the devil's whiskey while they drink the Savior's wine"
The first part of this one is the bit that angered me so. There's a
whole industry built around mission trips that do very little in terms
of humanitarian good and do almost nothing to place the lives of
people in danger. I've been on these trips. They are often little more
than opportunities to tell Bible stories to kids and give them
candy. Not all are like that. I went on one to Honduras where we
helped fix up a community school and did none of the evangelical stuff
all week. The others were glorified vacations, however. And my life
was never in danger. The people who plan these trips are meticulous in
making sure that doesn't happen. Yet Paisley makes it seem like you
have a bunch of evangelicals putting their lives on the line while
nonbelievers like him sit back and do nothing. And I'm pretty sure
that's how it will play out to a evangelical Christian audience
(again, a crucial part of his audience).
"A famous TV preacher has a big affair and then
One tearful confession and he's born again again
Someone yells hallelujah and they shout and clap and sing
It's like they can't wait to forgive someone for just about anything
Those crazy Christians"
Again, Paisley starts out gently mocking, but the second half turns
it around. Now it's admiration. But that "just about anything" is the
key. Because while they might forgive one of their own, God forbid you
be outside the Jesus camp and be gay or something, because then you
are an abomination.
"Instead of being outside on this sunny afternoon
They're by the bedside of a stranger in a cold hospital room
And every now and then they meet a poor lost soul like me
Who's not quite sure just who or what or how he ought to be
They march him down the aisle and then the next thing that you know
They dunk him in the water and here comes another one of those crazy Christians
They look to heaven their whole life
And I think what if they're wrong but what if they're right
You know it's funny, much as I'm baffled by it all
If I ever really needed help, well you know who I'd call
It's those crazy Christians"
The admiration continues, less infuriatingly, and builds to those
final words. Sure, he's not one of them, but if the whole world went
to hell, well, we know who he'd turn to. And his delivery of the last
line, the way his music drops out and the religious music comes in
. . . well, I'm pretty confident the evangelical element of his
audience will just smile, figuring it's just a matter of time until
Paisley has the come to Jesus moment.
What bothers me is the way the song plays into the
self-righteousness that does permeate so much evangelical
Christianity. Paisley grants them undeserved praise and ignores the
limits of their charity. And just to be clear, I'm not bashing
Christians. I'm bashing a song that lets them off the hook instead of
challenging them. The reason I think the song is cynical, is because
it lets Paisley state his difference in such an inoffensive way that
you would never guess someone might have more substantive criticisms
of evangelical Christianity than noisy bells, casserole brigades and a
zeal to convert. Paisley gets to proclaim his difference without ever
challenging that segment of his audience or threatening his record
sales to them. My two cents.
Some of what Rodney says about Those Crazy Christians has
merit--the "risk their lives" part is definitely overstated. On the
other hand, the idea that evangelicals all hate gays is a serious
oversimplification that's becoming moreso as more evangelicals have
children or friends who come out; the so-called Biblical prejudice is
still a major source of homophobia in this country, but there has been
real movement. But what I disagree most with is his characterization
of Paisley's motive as "cynical." Two problems: first, his assumption
that Paisley shares every detail of his analysis, and second, Taylor's
failure to acknowledge that in order to remain a mainstream country
artist Paisley has what I called a "God quotient," which I referred to
originally (not in that phrase) in my B&N piece on Paisley. The
idea that Paisley of all people has an additional obligation to
"challenge" his chosen audience is moralistic piffle--no mainstream
country artist I'm aware of has ever tried harder to do just that, not
even Bobby Bare or Tom T. Hall.
Actually, Robert, you are right to call me out on the cynicism
point. That's a crap argument on my part. I have no idea what's going
on in Paisley's head, so it's stupid to jump to a worst-case
interpretation. To use language appropriate to the topic, I
But I still think the song fails. Paisley has no obligation to
challenge his audience, but if he does, I think it's fair for me to
judge whether he does that well or not. If he's challenging his
Christian audience, it fails because he dances around why someone like
him (not literally just him, but the "him" we are invited to become in
the song) might not be on the "crazy" Christian bandwagon. Maybe --
and I didn't think of this earlier -- he's challenging the critics of
Christians by pointing out that those "crazy" people do wonderful
things. But if that's the case, it still fails because generosity
becomes sycophancy. You can challenge bigotry against Christians
without losing sight of why they might deserve some of those
The three key parts, for me, are those two verses I talked most
about and the way he closes off the song. I won't say more about the
mission trips (except to reiterate that they are not all bad). I
realize Christian attitudes toward gays and lesbians are complex and
changing, even among evangelicals. The generational divide is
significant on this topic in conservative Christianity as it is in
society as a whole. What bothers me is the way Paisley, as I hear it,
praises the Christians for mercy while acknowledging the limits of
that charity in a throwaway phrase "just about anything" that obscures
some serious moral questions. Referring to gays was just an obvious
(and perhaps clumsy and stereotypical) way of making that point. (And
every community, not just Christians, tends to be more generous to
insiders than to outsiders.)
And those final lines -- "If I ever really needed help, well you
know who I'd call/It's those crazy Christians" -- give way to the
church choir that closes the discussion sonically. Instead of
presenting "those crazy Christians" in their ambiguity, the breaking
in of the divine, via the choir, at the end tries to overwhelm any
My being pissed off is a personal response. I live, work and, yes,
go to church in this world. And the sentiments in this song are
exactly the kinds I wouldn't want my students to take on because --
and this isn't Paisley's fault -- I worry about how the song might
play out socio-politically in a context where people think they are
first century Christians being persecuted by the wider culture, while
failing to reckon with the reality that they are persecutors who are
in charge (maybe not in Seattle or NYC, but definitely still so in
plenty of places in the States). But I hope, beyond that, I've given
some decent reasons as to why I think the song doesn't work.
Me, but this didn't come together well enough to post:
I drove across northern Arkansas a few years ago, and only noticed
an endlessly repeating pattern of three kinds of churches: Baptist,
Pentecostal, and Church of Christ. My relatives belonged to the latter,
and somehow I never thought of them as being the crazy ones. Here in
Wichita we have many more varieties of both Christian and crazy, and
there's some intersection. . . .
One thing "Those Crazy Christians" made me wonder about was whether
"crazy" hasn't become a term of endearment these days. That seems to
be the gist of how my nephew and his friends use it, with just a hint
of surprise. Back when I was growing up it was more like deranged or
even insane -- "crazed" -- . . .
Jacob Bailis posted results of his 1965 albums poll [my grades in
- Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited 290 (Paul Albone, Jacob Bailis, Richard Cobeen, Peter Gorman, Jeff Hamilton, Paul Hayden, Mike Imes, Thomas Lane, Joe Lunday, Chris Monson, Greg Morton, Cam Patterson, Matt Rice, John Smallwood, Liam Smith, Bradley Sroka, Rodney Taylor, John Tiglias, Tom Walker, Aidan Wylde) [A]
- The Beatles, Rubber Soul [U.K.] 217 (Paul Albone, Jacob Bailis, Peter Gorman, Jeff Hamilton, Paul Hayden, Mike Imes, Chris Monson, Greg Morton, Cam Patterson, Matt Rice, John Smallwood, Liam Smith, Bradley Sroka, Rodney Taylor, Tom Walker) [A]
- Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home 169 (Paul Albone, Jacob Bailis, Richard Cobeen, Peter Gorman, Paul Hayden, Mike Imes, Thomas Lane, Chris Monson, Matt Rice, John Smallwood, Bradley Sroka, Rodney Taylor, John Tiglias, Tom Walker, Aidan Wylde) [A]
- John Coltrane, A Love Supreme 155 (Peter Gorman, Jeff Hamilton, Mike Imes, Thomas Lane, Chris Monson, Greg Morton, Cam Patterson, Matt Rice, John Smallwood, Liam Smith, Bradley Sroka, Rodney Taylor, John Tiglias, Tom Walker) [A+]
- The Rolling Stones, Now! 152 (Paul Albone, Jacob Bailis, Richard Cobeen, Peter Gorman, Paul Hayden, Mike Imes, Joe Lunday, Greg Morton, Cam Patterson, John Smallwood, Liam Smith, Bradley Sroka, Rodney Taylor, John Tiglias, Tom Walker, Aidan Wylde) [A-]
- Otis Redding, Otis Blue 132 (Paul Albone, Richard Cobeen, Peter Gorman, Paul Hayden, Mike Imes, Joe Lunday, Chris Monson, Matt Rice, John Smallwood, Liam Smith, Bradley Sroka, John Tiglias, Tom Walker, Aidan Wylde) [A+]
- The Beatles, Help! [U.K.] 114 (Paul Albone, Jacob Bailis, Richard Cobeen, Peter Gorman, Paul Hayden, Thomas Lane, Matt Rice, John Smallwood, Bradley Sroka, Rodney Taylor, Tom Walker, Joe Yanosik) [A+]
- The Rolling Stones, Out of Our Heads [U.S.] 110 (Jacob Bailis, Peter Gorman, Paul Hayden, Mike Imes, Thomas Lane, Joe Lunday, Matt Rice, John Smallwood, Bradley Sroka, John Tiglias, Tom Walker, Aidan Wylde) [A]
- The Beach Boys, Today! 67 (Jacob Bailis, Thomas Lane, Joe Lunday, Greg Morton, Matt Rice, Aidan Wylde, Joe Yanosik) [A-]
- The Beatles, Rubber Soul [U.S.] 66 (Richard Cobeen, Thomas Lane, Joe Lunday, John Tiglias) 
- The Who, My Generation 47 (Paul Albone, Peter Gorman, Paul Hayden, Matt Rice, Liam Smith, Joe Yanosik) 
- B.B. King, Live at the Regal 45 (Paul Albone, Richard Cobeen, Mike Imes, Thomas Lane, John Tiglias) [A-]
- The Miracles, Going to a Go-Go 43 (Liam Smith, Greg Morton, Cam Patterson Aidan Wylde, Joe Yanosik) 
- The Rolling Stones, December's Children 38 (Jacob Bailis, Paul Hayden, Rodney Taylor, Aidan Wylde, Joe Yanosik) [A-]
- Herbie Hancock, Maiden Voyage 37 (Jason Gubbels, Mike Imes, Thomas Lane, Joe Lunday) [A]
- The Beach Boys, Summer Days 33 (Jacob Bailis, Mike Imes, Joe Lunday, Joe Yanosik) [A-]
- The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man 32 (Paul Albone, Peter Gorman, Paul Hayden, Joe Lunday, John Smallwood, Rodney Taylor) [A-]
- Albert Ayler, Spiritual Unity 32 (Chris Monson, Tom Walker, John Tiglias) [A]
- Junior Wells, Hoodoo Man Blues 27 (Cam Patterson, Bradley Sroka, John Tiglias) 
- Beatles, VI 21 (Joe Lunday, Joe Yanosik) 
- John Coltrane, Ascension 18 (Jason Gubbels, Greg Morton) [B+]
- Archie Shepp, Fire Music 18 (Chris Monson, Tom Walker) [A-]
- Wayne Shorter, Speak No Evil 16 (Jeff Hamilton, Rodney Taylor) [B+]
- The Horace Silver Quintet, Song for My Father 15 (Paul Albone, Richard Cobeen, Matt Rice) [A-]
- Miles Davis, ESP 15 (Jason Gubbels, Jeff Hamilton) [A-]
- John Fahey, The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death 15 (Jeff Hamilton, Greg Morton) [A-]
- The Temptations, Sing Smokey 15 (Richard Cobeen, Joe Yanosik) 
- Them, The Angry Young Them 15 (Jeff Hamilton, Joe Yanosik) 
- Albert Ayler, Spirits Rejoice 10 (Jason Gubbels) [B+]
- James Brown, Papa's Got a Brand New Bag 10 (Aidan Wylde) 
- Marvin Gaye, Stubborn Kind of Fellow 10 (Aidan Wylde) 
- Bobby Hutcherson, Dialogue 10 (Jason Gubbels) [A-]
- Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Rip Rig and Panic 10 (Jason Gubbels) [A]
- Julie London: All Through The Night: Julie London Sings the Choicest Songs of Cole Porter 10 (Cam Patterson) 
- Loretta Lynn, Blue Kentucky Girl 10 (Cam Patterson) 
- Loretta Lynn, Hymns 10 (Cam Patterson) 
- Lee Morgan, Cornbread 10 (Joe Yanosik) [A-]
- Jackie McLean, Right Now! 10 (Jason Gubbels) [A-]
- Willie Nelson, Country Willie: His Own Songs 10 (Cam Patterson) [A]
- Sam Rivers, Contours 10 (Jason Gubbels) [B+]
- Wayne Shorter, The All-Seeing Eye 10 (Jason Gubbels) [B+]
Cam Patterson expanded his ballot:
All points equal:
1. The Beatles: Rubber Soul My parents bought me a cassette
player in the early 70s, an early handheld cheap-o, and the tapes that
came with it were a Petula Clark greatest hits and Rubber
Soul. I'd like to hear the Pet Clark again, but how lucky I was
that the Beatles' effortless amalgam of folk, soul, and pop (-art)
melted my mind. If there ever was a blueprint of all pop music from
then til hip hop, this is it.
2. Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited The title is the greatest
conceit in 20th century music, with lyrics that can suit any situation
that involves being fagged out from (political, sexual, social,
personal) oppression and getting hostile about it.
3. John Coltrane: A Love Supreme Such a disservice to this
one-day session when jazz naïfs like me heard A Love Supreme
inspired the Byrds and Television. Because those bands aren't even
close to a gateway drug for this ecstatic meditation. I listened to
this album for fifteen years before it fully engulfed me, and it's
been revealing ever more in the fifteen years since.
4. Loretta Lynn: Blue Kentucky Girl The title track is
(maybe) the one you know, but screw the lazy tripe that country music
albums are "hits plus filler." And Lynn's own "Night Girl" is the
story that sucks you in -- avoiding the easy rhyme "misery" for the
realer and tougher "poverty" in a narrative about a young girl
determined not to become a whore is what guts is all about. That this
brassy ma can swagger through covers as rich as "I Still Miss Someone"
and "The Race Is On" (actually, in her version, "The Race is ON"),
that she can pin a note to your heart with originals like "Love's Been
Here and Gone" -- in her own way, she did for some Nashville girls
what Cassius Clay did for African-Americans in the 60s.
5. Willie Nelson: Country Willie: His Own Songs Well, the
songwriter here is Willie freakin' Nelson for one thing, and this is
his first and maybe greatest showcase. Instead of ****-kicking honky
tonk, he makes his first real record the closing-time saga of our
dreams. Goes toe to toe with In the Wee Small Hours in certain
parts of the country.
6. The Rolling Stones Now! Of course this is punk rock. Only
the Allman Brothers among (mostly) white artists ever created such a
transcendentally, earthily Pagan, original permutation of the
7. The Miracles: Going to a Go-Go Yeah yeah yeah screw the
lazy tripe that Motown albums were "hits plus filler," since there is
no room for filler on albums like this. There is the sense here that
every note, every inflection, every beat is intentionally placed to
drive some emotional response, some moment of jejune drama, some
frisson, some gay bonhomie.
8. Loretta Lynn: Hymns The best country gospel album ever,
in part because it lacks the pseudo-reverential piety of Elvis's
religious albums. That the first (Lynn-penned) lines are "Everybody
wants to go to heaven/but nobody wants to die" just seals the
9. Julie London: All Through the Night: Julie London Sings the
Choicest Songs of Cole Porter Oh holy lord, please cuddle up with
me right now.
10. Junior Wells: Hoodoo Man Blues A swirling Leslie speaker
version of the Chicago blues, well-timed for things that are in the
air, like race riots.
Other ballots can be reconstructed from the above, except for the
occasional oddball choice. These include:
- The Beatles: The Early Beatles (Greg Morton) 
- The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (Greg Morton) [B+]
- Eddie Palmieri: Azucar Pa' Ti (Bradley Sroka) 
- Sun Ra: The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra (Volume One) (Jason Gubbels) [B-]
And the 1965 singles poll results:
- James Brown, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, Pt. 1" 170 (Richard Cobeen, Peter Gorman, Jeff Hamilton, Paul Hayden, Mike Imes, Thomas Lane, Chris Monson, Matt Rice, Rocambole2, John Smallwood, Bradley Sroka, Rodney Taylor, John Tiglias, Tom Walker, Joe Yanosik)
- The Rolling Stones, "Satisfaction" 116 (Paul Albone, Jeff Hamilton, Thomas Lane, Joe Lunday, Chris Monson, John Smallwood, Liam Smith, Rodney Taylor, John Tiglias, Joe Yanosik)
- Bob Dylan, "Like a Rolling Stone" 102 (Paul Albone, Richard Cobeen, Peter Gorman, Paul Hayden, Thomas Lane, Chris Monson, Greg Morton, Matt Rice, Rocambole2, John Smallwood, John Tiglias, Tom Walker, Joe Yanosik)
- The Miracles, "The Tracks of My Tears" 81 (Richard Cobeen, Paul Hayden, Chris Monson, Matt Rice, John Smallwood, Rodney Taylor, Tom Walker)
- The Temptations, "My Girl" 63 (Jeff Hamilton, Thomas Lane, Greg Morton, Liam Smith, Joe Yanosik)
- The Beatles, "Ticket to Ride" 58 (Paul Albone, Jeff Hamilton, Peter Gorman, Paul Hayden, Chris Monson, Rocambole2, John Smallwood)
- The Beatles, "We Can Work It Out" 56 (Paul Albone, Peter Gorman, Joe Lunday, Bradley Sroka, John Tiglias)
- The Impressions, "People Get Ready" 55 (Richard Cobeen, Paul Hayden, Greg Morton, Joe Lunday, John Smallwood, Rodney Taylor, John Tiglias)
- Sam Cooke, "A Change Is Gonna Come" 55 (Paul Albone, Jacob Bailis, Peter Gorman, Rodney Taylor, Tom Walker)
- Wilson Pickett, "In the Midnight Hour" 44 (Richard Cobeen, Thomas Lane, Rocambole2, Liam Smith, John Tiglias)
- The Beatles, "Day Tripper" 41 (Mike Imes, Joe Lunday, Liam Smith, Rodney Taylor, Joe Yanosik)
- The Lovin' Spoonful, "Do You Believe in Magic" 40 (Chris Monson, Greg Morton, Rocambole2, John Tiglias, Joe Yanosik)
- The Beatles, "Help" 40 (Paul Albone, Richard Cobeen, Chris Monson, Greg Morton)
- Stevie Wonder, "Uptight" 38 (Richard Cobeen, Peter Gorman, Joe Lunday, Tom Walker)
- Martha & the Vandellas, "Nowhere to Run" 36 (Peter Gorman, Jeff Hamilton, Rocambole2, Bradley Sroka)
- Bob Dylan, "Subterranean Homesick Blues" 35 (Paul Albone, Jacob Bailis, Chris Monson, John Smallwood, Tom Walker)
- The Who, "I Can't Explain" 35 (Jacob Bailis, Richard Cobeen, Joe Lunday, Rodney Taylor)
- The Supremes, "Stop! In the Name of Love" 35 (Jeff Hamilton, Liam Smith, Joe Yanosik)
- The Who, "My Generation" 34 (Chris Monson, John Smallwood, Rodney Taylor, Tom Walker)
- The Rolling Stones, "Get Off My Cloud" 31 (Richard Cobeen, Peter Gorman, Greg Morton)
- Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, "Wooly Booly" 30 (Richard Cobeen, Mike Imes, Rocambole2)
- The Beatles, "Yesterday" 27 (Paul Albone, Jacob Bailis, Thomas Lane)
- The Beach Boys, "California Girls" 26 (Mike Imes, Rodney Taylor, Joe Yanosik)
- The Mamas & the Papas, "California Dreamin'" 25 (Paul Albone, Thomas Lane, Tom Walker)
- James Brown, "I Got You" 25 (Bradley Sroka, Mike Imes)
- The Beach Boys, "Help Me, Rhonda" 23 (Jacob Bailis, Matt Rice, Tom Walker)
- Bob Dylan, "Positively 4th Street" 22 (Paul Albone, Peter Gorman, Joe Yanosik)
- Otis Redding, "I've Been Loving You Too Long" 22 (Peter Gorman, Chris Monson)
- The Beach Boys, "Kiss Me, Baby" 21 (Jacob Bailis, Joe Lunday)
- The Miracles, "Ooh Baby Baby" 20 (John Smallwood, John Tiglias, Joe Yanosik)
- Bobby Fuller Four, "Let Her Dance" 20 (Jason Gubbels, Paul Hayden)
- The Byrds, "Turn! Turn! Turn!" 20 (Jacob Bailis, Rodney Taylor)
- The Rolling Stones, "The Last Time" 20 (Paul Hayden, Joe Lunday)
- Them, "Here Comes the Night" 20 (Greg Morton, Matt Rice)
- Fontella Bass, "Rescue Me" 20 (Jeff Hamilton)
- The Righteous Brothers, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" 18 (Thomas Lane)
- The Four Tops, "It's The Same Old Song" 16 (Paul Hayden, Liam Smith)
- Jr. Walker & the All Stars, "Shotgun" 15 (Thomas Lane, John Tiglias)
- The Beatles, "You Won't See Me" 15 (Matt Rice)
- The Who, "The Kids Are Alright" 13 (Matt Rice)
- The Beach Boys, "Girl Don't Tell Me" 12 (Bradley Sroka)
- The Beatles, "I'm Down" 12 (Jacob Bailis)
- Bob Dylan, "Highway 61 Revisited" 12 (Rocambole2)
- The Kinks, "Tired of Waiting for You" 12 (Rocambole2)
- The Byrds, "Mr. Tambourine Man" 11 (Paul Hayden, John Smallwood)
- The Animals, "It's My Life" 10 (John Tiglias)
- The Beach Boys, "Please Let Me Wonder" 10 (Joe Lunday)
- Bobby Fuller Four, "I Fought the Law" 10 (Mike Imes)
- Cannibal & the Headhunters, "Land of a Thousand Dances" 10 (Tom Walker)
- The Castaways, "Liar, Liar" 10 (Jason Gubbels)
- Count 5, "Psychotic Reaction" 10 (Mike Imes)
- The Dovers, "What Am I Going to Do" 10 (Jason Gubbels)
- Bob Dylan, "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" 10 (Mike Imes)
- The Four Tops, "I Can't Help Myself" 10 (Jeff Hamilton)
- Kim Fowley, "The Trip" 10 (Jason Gubbels)
- The Fugs, "Nothing" 10 (Liam Smith)
- Marvin Gaye, "I'll Be Doggone" 10 (Jacob Bailis)
- Marvin Gaye, "Pretty Little Baby" 10 (Greg Morton)
- John Lee Hooker, "Boom Boom" 10 (Mike Imes)
- George Jones, "Take Me" 10 (Liam Smith)
- Barbara Lewis, "Baby, I'm Yours" 10 (Greg Morton)
- The Miracles, "Going to a Go-Go" 10 (Joe Lunday)
- The McCoys, "Hang On Sloopy" 10 (Mike Imes)
- The Nightcrawlers, "Little Black Egg" 10 (Jason Gubbels)
- Ognir & the Nite People, "I Found a New Love" 10 (Jason Gubbels)
- Otis Redding, "I Can't Turn You Loose" 10 (Liam Smith)
- Otis Redding, "That's How Strong My Love Is" 10 (Matt Rice)
- The Righteous Brothers, "Unchained Melody" 10 (Greg Morton)
- The Seeds, "I Can't Seem to Make You Mine" 10 (Jason Gubbels)
- The Sonics, "Strychnine" 10 (Jason Gubbels)
- The Standells, "Dirty Water" 10 (Jason Gubbels)
- The Wailers, "Out of Our Tree" 10 (Jason Gubbels)
- The Who, "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" 10 (Liam Smith)
- The Beach Boys, "Let Him Run Wild" 8 (Bradley Sroka)
- The Sonics, "Psycho" 7 (Paul Hayden)
- Shirley Bassey, "Goldfinger" 5 (Jeff Hamilton)
- The Beach Boys, "You're So Good to Me" 5 (Bradley Sroka)
- The Beatles, "I Feel Fine" 5 (Jacob Bailis)
- Lee Dorsey, "Ride Your Pony" 5 (Rocambole2)
- Marvin Gaye, "Ain't That Peculiar" 5 (Matt Rice)
- The Kinks, "All Day and All of the Night" 5 (Jeff Hamilton)
- Little Richard, "I Don't Know What You've Got but It's Got Me" 5 (Matt Rice)
- Roger Miller, "King of the Road" 5 (Thomas Lane)
- The Shangi-Las, "Out in the Street" 5 (Bradley Sroka)
- The Toys, "A Lover's Concerto" 5 (Bradley Sroka)
A Random Walk Through the 1960s
Started this post a couple weeks ago. Doesn't look like it's ever
gonna get wrapped up.
Paul Williams, the founder of Crawdaddy, died last week, at
64, evidently the delayed result of a 1995 bicycle accident that left
him with an increasingly grievous brain injury. He wrote a couple dozen
books but the only one I ever read was the first, Outlaw Blues: A
Book of Rock Music (1969). I picked it up 4-5 years later, when I
shelved my interest in critical theory and spent a couple years reading
nothing but rock crit. I read practically everyone at the time, but my
touchstones were Williams, Lester Bangs, and Robert Christgau. One thing
I liked about Williams' book was the thrill of discovery, and how such
surprises correct themselves over time: at one moment he's listening to
Hendrix and proclaiming he'll never listen to surf music again, then a
new Beach Boys album appears. It's all very subjective, which must have
felt liberating to me after hacking my way through Adorno and Benjamin,
even Althusser's webs of overdetermination. Bangs and Christgau were
hedonists in principle, but with moral and/or ideological streaks, but
Williams seemed to indulge his pleasures more immediately.
I had listened to a lot of pop radio in the mid-1960s, watched all
the music programs on TV, and even managed to buy a few records, but I
lost track of all that when I crawled into my shell a few years later.
When I emerged in the early 1970s, one thing I noticed was that everyone
liked music. Everyone had record collections, and I found the same music
everywhere I went: it was, after all, popular, and as such common, which
made it a common interest. So I started by getting into what everyone
else was into, then I read and wandered some, then a lot, and wound up
into a lot of shit hardly anyone else knew about. Still, my muse started
as a social bond, and if it wound up as something else, I never lost the
hope that other people would like what I like if only they knew about it.
So when Williams died I thought first on our shared experience of pop
music in the 1960s -- and early 1970s, although by the end of the decade
that had vanished, dissolved into what we called "adventures in diffusion."
But then came Spin's "Top 100 Alternative Albums of the 1960s" (link
here: some rock that wasn't very popular at the time (although a few
items did crack the Billboard 200 album list), other things further afield,
ranging from folk-rock to jazz to postclassical electronica to Kraut rock,
with a couple items from France and Brazil to represent world music. I
checked my database and found that I had rated only 42 of the records --
maybe 50 if I added in later compilations which more or less cover the
cited records. One can quibble with the list on many counts, but one
thing it does show is that not everyone was listening to the same things
even in the 1960s.
When I was in St. Louis (1972-74), I eventually ran into two guys
who significantly broadened my listening -- Don Malcolm and Paul Yamada,
founders of Terminal Zone -- but other friends, more casual music
consumers, had already turned me on to Fairport Convention, the Flying
Burrito Brothers, the Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart,
and other list staples. (I found Pink Floyd's debut after everyone got
into Dark Side of the Moon, reissued with its sequel as A Nice