Wednesday, January 29, 2003
A few disconnected thoughts here, things that have been turning over
in my head, with no particular context. (Certainly not Bush's "State
of the Union" speech, which I didn't have the stomach to witness.)
It's become something of a new dogma, at least among Democrats, that
the way to stimulate the economy is to provide more spending cash to
the poor. However, one problem with this is that almost all of the
manufactured goods that the poor might buy are in fact build abroad,
in which case they have practically no net effect on job creation in
the U.S. (Minor exceptions in the shipping and retail industries.)
Of course, this isn't any dumber than providing the rich with more
investment money, since any newfound capital is itself likely to be
invested abroad, similarly creating jobs there but not here. In both
cases the problem is that the U.S. economy leaks heat so pervasively
that the usual stimulus tricks just don't have much effect. (This
shouldn't be a new observation: in the wake of the first Bush war
against Iraq, the Fed fought the recession by dropping interest
rates, but the cheap capital this created almost all went into East
Asia and Mexico, creating bubbles that soon burst.)
Of course, this is backward thinking on my part: my brain is stuck
in the notion that there are national economies whereas we all know
that now there is just one global economy. This is presumably why
nobody worries anymore that the U.S. has been running trade deficits
for thirty-some consecutive years now. But I'm not the only backward
thinker here -- political discourse is meant to appeal to the national
polity: when a politican talks about stimulating the economy we think
first of what that stimulation means to our own livelihoods, and to
the livelihoods of those within our communities, states, and nation.
But if there's no way to concentrate this stimulus, in effect we're
not heating our homes but the great outdoors.
I suspect that the appeal of demand-based stimulus is largely based on
the fact that the previous investment-oriented dogma hasn't worked too
well: in particular, it has left the world with a surplus of capacity
but insufficient demand, so further push down that road tends to be
wasted. In such a world there is a basic need to elevate demand, but
that's hard to do without tackling the economic inequality problem --
which looms worse than most people recognize, since it has been masked
for so long by ever riskier loans. (Just one of many things that have
creeped up on us but could collapse catastrophically.)
The one obvious approach that hasn't yet come back in vogue is the
old-fashioned New Deal approach, which is for the government to spend
more money, to put people to work, in effect to create demand by fiat.
There are lots of reasons for this, not least of which is the fact
that the Bush Leaguers in Washington make Herbert Hoover look both
intelligent and concerned. (It's one thing to incur a deficit during
a recession -- that's pretty much to be expected -- but another to
make it worse by cutting taxes and focusing your spending on foreign
wars, both of which move money away from the domestic economy and
chill things further by instilling fear and exacerbating inequality
and injustice.) But when you think about it there are lots of things
that could really benefit from public funding -- pollution control,
development of less pollution energy sources, recycling, education,
internet access, free software, parks and recreation, urban renewal
and better housing, public art, maybe even a highway or two, the
list is practically endless.
A less obvious approach would be for the government to make strategic
investments in the private sector, where the strategy is to try to
bring prices down. Such investments rarely happen in the private sector,
since the private sector's investment strategy is to maximize profits,
and that rarely involves cutting prices. Yet almost every real gain in
living standards has come about not by people achieving enough income
to buy expensive products but by the products getting cheap enough to
be afforded by the masses. Just look around you: how many people would
have VCRs if they still cost $1300? Personal computers if they still
cost $5000? Further back you have to adjust for inflation, but consider
that cars in the 1900's cost thousands of dollars, but Henry Ford cut
the price of the Model T to less than $300. Just look around and you'll
find many places where prices can conceivably be cut significantly,
enough to vastly expand the market and add to people's real standard
of living. (Of course, given that I'm surrounded by thousands of
compact discs, one example is music; indeed, the very popularity
of file sharing shows that the latent demand is there, if only the
costs can be slashed -- which of course they can be.)
The election news from Israel is sad and pathetic. Sharon is, if
anything, an even worse disaster than Bush, yet the state of political
discourse in Israel has become so debased that it is impossible to see
any way out: even though reasonable solutions seem technically simple,
the Israeli electorate is so imprisoned in its own rhetoric that it
seems impossible to find a path whereby Israel might voluntarily back
away from their insane oppression of the Palestinians. Sharon's
program is cynically based on denying the Palestinians the right
to be recognized and to negotiate their status and grievances,
and anyone who can't see that anything else that he says is a lie
is way beyond deluded.
What's hard to fathom here is the breakdown of the Labor party under
Mitzna. I suspect that this breakdown in fact predates Mitzna's rise,
and that it is mostly due to the inability of Labor to make peace
when it had the chance (first under Peres and later under Barak),
and its willingness to collaborate with Sharon, which effectively
made Labor and Likud two peas in the same pod. If the break hurt
Labor in the short run, it's hard to see that Labor would have had
any long-run future anyway, since as long as you're conceding that
the government will run on war and repression, you're conceding the
right of the right to rule. (That this is also the problem that the
Democratic Party in the U.S. faces should be noted.)
Aside from their peace positions, the big difference (at least as far
as I can tell, admittedly from far away) is that Sharon was nothing
but lies and deception, while Mitzna was so blunt that he would've
made Barry Goldwater seem smarmy. This seems to say something about
what voters expect in politicking (something depressingly shared in
the U.S. and Israel), namely that voters don't trust ideologues, and
do trust crooks: the latter at least are maleable, they bend to say
what is expected of them even where they never act on it. (I reckon
one thing Bush had over Gore was that even though Gore had proven to
be hopelessly compromised, voters still suspected that he had hidden
principles that might spell trouble in the long run.)
It occurs to me that the only American wars that anyone has anything
good to say about were ones that were prosecuted in the name of greater
freedom and justice: World War II, the Civil War, the American Revolution.
Even in the case of World War I people remember Wilson's principles,
most importantly the right of self-determination. These wars were led
by people on the left side of America's political spectrum, and in the
aftermath of these wars there was a significant expansion of political
freedom. (In the case of WWII this accelerated the civil rights movement
and the end of segregation, although like WWI it was accompanied by a
red scare backlash against labor and socialist political movements.)
This isn't to say that these were "good wars" or even "just wars" --
they were horrible wars that we backed into, in part because we had
let the injustices that underlied them fester way too long. Once you
get past the primitive notion that war is about looting, all modern
wars are failures of policy, perception, and responsibility. The early
warning signs are injustices.
But back to my original point, which is that it is terrible policy to
allow right-wingers to prosecute a war.
Monday, January 27, 2003
John W. Dower, in Embracing Defeat (p. 461) has a quote which
sounds like an early iteration of the Bush Doctrine: "Peoples of all
the nations of the world absolutely should not abandon the right to
initiate wars of self-defense." The person quoted was Tojo, the prime
minister of wartime Japan, while he was facing war crime charges, for
which he was found guilty and executed. Dower doesn't go into this,
but my recollection is that Japan almost always justified its wars on
self-defense grounds, most obviously on the fear that European and
American imperialism was carving up Asia in a way that would leave
Japan isolated, without access to Asian markets and raw materials.
The Tojo Doctrine is fatally flawed: it turns out that as long as
Japan has fair access to the world market they don't need (and are
far better off without) war as an instrument of defensive policy.
It's hard to know what to say about the Bush Doctrine, other than
that it's just a sloppy piece of theorizing evidently intended as a
fig leaf for attacking Iraq, but like the "Axis of Evil" speech it
bites off a bit more than anyone wants to chew. (Like North Korea.)
But on the war crimes front, Bush has at least done due dilligence:
refusing to sign up for the World Court, in fact demanding a free
pass for all Americans. In doing so the U.S. is missing a critical
opportunity to put its behavior above board, and more importantly,
to provide a venue where aggrieved peoples can make a case against
injustice without having to kill people. The notion that conflicts
and injustices can be solved peacably is still as radical as it was
when Tojo was executed for retroactively violating it.
Sunday, January 26, 2003
Music: With the first "Recycled Goods" column in the can, and the unrated
list up over the 800 mark again, let's try to catch up this week.
- Ahmed Abdul-Malik: Jazz Sahara (1958, OJC). Originally
Sam Gill, an American but with roots in Sudan, he played bass with
Monk but mostly plays oud on this date. Middle-eastern rhythm and
tone, topped with the irrepressible Johnny Griffin on tenor sax. An
interesting piece of hybrid music. B+
- Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass: Classics, Vol. 1
(1962-70, A&M). For me he came to the fore just last year, with
the instrumental track wedded to a Public Enemy rap on The Best
Bootlegs in the World Ever. So, yeah, that softened me up a bit,
but this collection of mostly instrumental pop from his salad days
is mostly listenable, sometimes enjoyable. A bit long, perhaps.
- Franco Ambrosetti: Gin and Pentatonic (1983-85, Enja).
This is the sort of thing that reminds me of the otherwise meaningless
category "post-bop." With bop it shares the fast, showy horn runs
(Ambrosetti plays trumpet), and it has much the same rhythmic nuance,
but it seems sort of gussied up, like a night at the symphony. Not
the sort of thing I like, yet when Buster Williams takes a bass solo,
and Kenny Kirkland chimes in on piano (on the title cut), my ears
perk up. B
- Billy Bang: Vietnam: The Aftermath (2001, Justin Time).
Whether Bang exorcised any personal demons in this venture, he did
put a lot of thought and took a lot of care in the development. One
thing that helps is that Vietnamese music itself is full of strings
and flutes and percussion, so Bang could build on motifs that fit
his violin perfectly. He also tapped Butch Morris to conduct, which
kept this rather large (eight man) ensemble tight and orderly. The
result is music that is compelling and captivating, that runs the
gamut from fascination to fear to sorrow to terror to amusement.
Very impressive. A
- Bikini Kill: The C.D. Version of the First Two Records
(1992, Kill Rock Stars). Very rough, its construction and aura coming
closer to free jazz than punk rock. I like it enough to make me wonder
whether I haven't undergraded their other albums. B+
- Acker Bilk: The Collection (1973-78, Castle). Bilk was
a British trad jazz clarinetist -- a pretty good one, in fact. But
in 1961 he had a freak pop crossover hit, "Stranger on the Shore,"
a piece of elegant instrumental fluff that has haunted him ever
since -- not unlike, say, Gene Chandler: take "Duke of Earl" from
him and he's a totally different musician. "Stranger" leads off
this set of mid-'70s easy listening cuts, anchored with a string
orchestra that is neither trad nor jazz nor anything else you'd
ever want to listen to. C
- Art Blakey: Ken Burns Jazz (1954-81 Verve). Long before
I knew better I managed to come up with the opinion that everything
Art Blakey touches sounds just fine, while none of his records are
likely to be flat-out astonishing. Pretty good first approximation,
it turns out, although it's also true that Blakey had established
himself as perhaps the greatest of all jazz drummers even before he
formed the Jazz Messengers and started his program "to keep the mind
active" by cultivating young players. This not-quite-career-spanning
collection does cover a lot of bases, ranging from Clifford Brown to
Bobby Watson, with rampaging be-bop, funky hard-bop, and a dash of
Monk in between. One of the best entries in an easy but uneven series.
- Hamiet Bluiett & Concept: Live at Carlos I: Another Night
(1986, Just a Memory). I'm working backwards here -- according to the
Penguin Guide, the first night's the keeper. But this is pretty
incisive music, and while the piano player doesn't quite knock you on
your ass, he still reminds you that he's Don Pullen. B+
- Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham: The Concord Jazz Heritage Series
(1984-95, Concord). Jeannie sings and plays piano; Jimmy plays bass
trombone. The music is blues, which is predictable and comforting.
Much of the added value comes from the fine jazz musicians that Concord
supplements the Sweet Baby Blues Band with. B+
- Cyrus Chestnut: Soul Food (2001, Atlantic). Sounds like
superstar glut, but the obvious problem is that Stefon Harris' speed
vibes don't complement Chestnut's gospel piano. The unobvious problem
is that after five spins I can't even recall the saxophonists playing,
which is hardly what you'd expect from Gary Bartz or James Carter. I
can recall the trombone player (Wycliffe Gordon), and "Brother Hawky
Hawk" is what Chestnut does best. B
- Ken Colyer's Jazzmen: In Concert -- 1959 (Dine-a-Mite Jazz).
This is the only example I have of Colyer, who was a founder and mainstay
of Britain's trad jazz movement. Although trad doesn't seem to get
much respect outside of Britain, I've heard examples of oustanding
group interplay. This one, however, seems run-of-the-mill, with much
of the problem in getting a clear bead on the rhythm section, which
is buried in the mix like a metronome. B-
- The Rough Guide to Lucky Dube (1990-99, World Music
Network). Dube is a South African who plays reggae, and he seems to
be a star somewhere. (The blurb claims that "some of his albums have
sold in excess of half a million copies," but his U.S. distribution
thus far has been on Shanachie, which seems very unlikely to deal
in such quantities.) Musically, he follows very squarely in Bob
Marley's ruts, but he doesn't have whatever it was that made Marley
great -- charisma? Not sure what else is missing, but he's never
struck me as much more than secondhand, which is too bad. Reggae
outside Jamaica may be a received music, but it doesn't have to
be a received experience. B
- Art Farmer-Benny Golson Jazztet: Here and Now (1962,
Verve). I've yet to figure out how to make fine distinctions in the
Jazztet's works: this is nice, graceful, tasteful, pretty much
everything you'd expect. B+
- Hal Galper: Portrait (1989, Concord). A very bright,
sharp piano trio. I tend to bunch anything that's good in that format
into the B+ niche, but every time I play this one it surprises me.
- The Very Best of Stan Getz (1952-91, Verve). This 2002
showcase repeats two cuts from 1996's similar-minded A Life in Jazz:
A Musical Biography, and shares no less than five pieces with Verve's
other 2002 Getz sampler, The Definitive Stan Getz -- the latter
having the advantage of access to Getz's early Roost recordings. More
importantly, almost everything here comes from an album worth owning
in its own right, and the albums in question are remarkably diverse:
hard-charging be-bop with Dizzie Gillespie and J.J. Johnson, west coast
cool with Shelly Manne and Lou Levy, samba with Charlie Byrd and the
Gilbertos, Eddie Sauter's cubist strings (from Focus, the only
sax-with-strings record you actually have to hear), his latter-day
mainstream, and two cuts from People Time, his poignant duet
with Kenny Barron. It's a lot to digest, and I can't help but wonder
how well a neophyte might fare here, but what will immediately be
obvious is that you're in the presence of one of the all-time greats.
- Benny Golson: Free (1960-62, Chess/GRP). This combines
two albums with mainstream groups, providing a good taste of Golson's
sound, especially on ballad material. B+
- Benny Golson: That's Funky (2000, Arkadia). This makes
my third straight Benny Golson B+ record, and this is the most B+ of
the bunch. The Farmer record is subtle and a bit slippery, could in
truth go up or down, but probably not much. Free is a solid
tenor album, great tone, very warm and nice. This one is, if not
James Brown funky, at least Roots of Jazz Funk funky: two
takes on "Mack the Knife" and pieces from the Golson-vintage
Jazz Messengers, helped out by Nat Adderley and a crack rhythm
- Dexter Gordon: Settin' the Pace (1945-47, Savoy).
This is bebop-influenced, fast, jump pieces, including a session
with Fats Navarro, with a couple of ballads to show off Dexter's
tone and phrasing. Impressive throughout. A-
- Stéphane Grappelli / Baden Powell: La Grande Réunion
(1974, Musidisc). Half of this is a small group which mostly does
light Brazillian pieces, where Grappelli's violin adds flavor to
Powell's rhythm: very nice. The other half is backed by a cloying,
anonymous sounding orchestra, reworking pop material as overworked
as "Yesterday" and "You Are the Sunshine of My Life": dull and
dreary even as muzak. B-
- Grant Green: Born to Be Blue (1962, Blue Note). This
seems to be one of Green's finer albums, with his typical guitar
runs and Sonny Clark's piano propping up Ike Quebec's languid tenor
- The Roy Haynes Trio Featuring Danilo Perez & John
Patitucci (2000, Verve). Not your ordinary piano trio:
for one thing, the veteran drummer's name comes first, but even
more notably it's the drummer that your ears follow. A-
- Andrew Hill: Dusk (2000, Palmetto). This is the kind of
composed improvisation that never manages to take off, perhaps because
the big band just isn't big enough, or because something got missed
along the way. The horns sound tinny, the pieces feel unfinished, or
maybe just overwrought. This made year-end lists of most of the jazz
- Andrew Hill: A Beautiful Day (2002, Palmetto). Much the
same music/same band as Dusk, with many of the same difficulties,
but better executed, and definitely more fun in front of an appreciative
audience. Again, this swept the year-end lists. B
- Freddy King Sings (1960-61, Modern Blues). A short set
of prime electric blues. A-
- Freddy King: Just Pickin' (1960-64, Modern Blues). Two
albums of King's blues instrumentals. Amazingly cogent work. A-
- John Lewis & Svend Asmussen: European Encounter (1962,
Atlantic). This was a very nice match-up, with Asmussen's violin adding
rich tone and depth to Lewis's stately piano and delicate songbook.
I'd like to hear more of Asmussen. B+
- John Lewis: Evolution (1999, Atlantic). Solo piano,
thoughtful takes on standards and esteemed MJQ pieces. He's never
rocked, and certainly doesn't mean to start as he enteres his 80s.
- John Lewis: Evolution II (2000, Atlantic). This time
he gets help -- two sets of guitar/bass plus Lewis Nash -- but the
help doesn't add much, light comping behind Lewis' precise and
elegant pianism. Both of these records are very highly regarded
by critics who are much more attuned to Lewis than I am. Don't
know whether that means I'm hedging up, or dumbing down. B+
- Portrait of Marian McPartland (1979, Concord). Good
mainstream session, with her trio plus Jerry Dodgion on saxophone
and flute -- the latter put to particularly good effect. B+
- Jason Moran: Modernistic (2002, Blue Note). Solo piano,
except for some much appreciated trickery on "Planet Rock." The first
three pieces -- James P. Johnson, "Body and Soul", and "Planet Rock" --
progressively unveil the idea of modernism, setting the table for the
originals that follow. How the latter fit in is harder to say, but what
is clear is how solidly they fit together. People who get off on solo
piano are into the high-wire act, the freedom that comes from working
alone in the spotlight. This is different somehow: for one thing it's
listenable, satisfying even. A-
- Rizwan-Muazam Qawwali Group: Attish: The Hiden Fire
(1998, Womad/Asia). The first release of these nephews and fellow
travellers trailing behind Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, this has the
fundamentals solid but not the clarity or distinctiveness they
attained later on. B
- Kid Thomas-George Lewis Ragtime Stompers (1961, GHB).
This is a superb piece of old-fashioned dixieland jazz, done the
old-fashioned way, by old guys who grew up in the real thing. The
rhythm is banjo-driven, and the three horns (Jim Robinson is a
treat on trombone) fly off in different directions, somehow
complementing each other along the way, just like classic New
Orleans polyphony is supposed to. George Lewis's clarinet is
everywhere, comping behind the vocal in "Salty Dog" and leading
the "Easter Parade". A
Saturday, January 25, 2003
Movie: Adaptation. A bunch of pieces, none of which quite
fit together, but some are funny, and the history of life on earth is
remarkable. The film-within-the-film is also fine -- Meryl Streep and
Chris Cooper -- at least until the ending (not clear which
cheek that popped out of). But Charlie's twin Donald was one concept I
could do without, both in terms of Nicholas Cage's double-dose of ugly
but especially in the nagging suspicion that the whole second role is
some bogus dramatization of self-delusion, a la Beautiful Mind
or even Fight Club. I don't know whether it is or not, which I
suppose is a blessing compared to the two movies I named, but why was
it a necessary one? B+
Thursday, January 23, 2003
Bob Getz writes a twice-a-week column in The Wichita Eagle, about
whatever strikes his fancy -- usually nothing special. But a week ago he
jotted down a list of reasons why the Iraq war is stupid, and followed
it up by reporting on his mail, 20 out of 26 people agreeing with him.
I thought about writing when the first column came out, but didn't do
it until now. Thought I'd share:
I was unusually tempted to write you after your previous column
on the Bush plan to invade Iraq, but didn't get around to it until
after seeing your second column. So here it is: thanks for an
exceptionally clear-headed and cant-free statement. I really can't
see anything but woe coming out of this war, and I can't see any
reason for Kansans to accept or support it. Even if every vile
thing you hear about Saddam Hussein is true, I can't see Iraq as
a threat to anything in my life -- unlike war, which casts a pall
over the economy, sucking wealth out to be incinerated overseas.
And as for helping those poor Iraqis overthrow their tyrant, God
helps those who help themselves. But even short of that some sort
of negotiated end to the sanctions would do far more good, and
would no doubt be much more appreciated than occupation by an
But the thing that worries me most has nothing to do with the
Iraqis: I'm worried about what war, even in victory, will do
to us. An old Kansas named Dwight Eisenhower warned about the
growing threat of a "military-industrial complex," but rather
than heeding that warning John F. Kennedy concocted his "missile
gap" and Lyndon Johnson plunged us hopeless into Vietnam. And
while Johnson and his liberal ideologues may have thought that
they were bringing American democracy to Vietnam, their methods
so undermined them that they became lost, unable to fathom that
it's impossible to save a village by destroying it. On the other
hand, Nixon and his conservative realpolitiker saw that defeat
in Vietnam was inevitable, but tragically escalated the war to
remind the world to respect American power. Since then we've
been in denial about what the war did not only to Vietnam and
Cambodia (millions of dead) but what it did to America, which
was to strip away the innocence of our good intentions and to
cultivate a cynical, power-craving military/CIA establishment.
We had an opportunity to cut back with the collapse of the
Soviet Union, but the hawks were saved by Iraq, and propelled
forward by Al Qaeda. While the rest of the world has steadfastly
moved away from war as a solution to anything, Bush seems to be
intoxicated with America's status as the world's sole superpower
and the military prowess that dubious claim rests on. But that
power is hollow: the power to destroy, but not to build, nor
even to protect. And it's harder than ever to clothe that power
with anything resembling good intentions. And this seems to be
pretty clear to the whole world now, even if some politicians
and media moguls opt to play along.
Back in the 1960s there was a slogan in the antiwar movement:
"Suppose they gave a war and nobody came." At the time reeked
with irony, a flashback to the pro-war parades that launched
World War I. (Hardly a more distant past then than Vietnam is
now -- my grandfather fought in WWI.) Hopefully this old slogan
will lose its irony and become a plain statement of fact this
[PS: 2003-01-27: Got a nice reply back from Bob Getz:
Amen, amen, amen. What a great e-mail. What clear thinking, so well
expressed. I wish they could run your e-mail on the op-ed page.... Thanks
very much for sending it. I'll be doing another follow-up column for
Wednesday. I wish I had the space to do justice to your thoughts....
Looking forward to Wednesday's column (which, by the way, didn't quote
me, in part because almost everyone else who wrote in was antiwar).]
While at it, I knocked off a little letter to Molly Ivins regarding
her column today on the health care mess:
Regarding your Jan. 21 column, I'd like to add a couple of points:
I don't mean to knock what you're doing, but it would be nice to push
this topic a little further toward a real solution.
- How come whenever people talk about reforming the health care
system they get stuck on how much it costs and don't talk about the
quality of the system? It's not like the quality of the system, even
for people fortunate enough to have affordable access to it, is beyond
reproach. Nor that most people would balk at paying even more for
better treatment. And when we start talking about how much money could
be saved doing things differently, we automatically raise a red flag
that doing so might cost us some critical treatment. After all, this
is complicated stuff, and there's not a lot of room for error. Also,
the plain fact is as medicine progresses we just need a lot more of it
-- we have more chronic ailments and need more rehabilitative care and
so forth. So even if we manage to trim back excessive costs now, the
long term cost trend is up, up, up; just as the demand curve is more,
more, more. So we might as well face up to this and plan for it, and
most importantly push the question of what kind of health care system
do we want in the future? Only then can you go about figuring how to
pay for it.
- I'm convinced that malpractice issues have to be moved out of the
tort system. The reason for this is that the legal liabilities work to
shroud the system in secrecy, whereas the only way to improve quality
is to open it up and rigorously investigate everything that goes
wrong. (Atul Gawande describes this how some of this works in his
book, "Complications"; he also provides many examples of broad the
gray area is between trivial mistakes and culpable malpractice, and
makes the case that most doctors make mistakes from time to time,
and that repetitive malfeasance is very rare, although he writes
about that as well. Another example is the way the FAA examines
aircraft crashes.) I won't go into how to design a new system here,
but the current system really doesn't work and it's an unnecessary
burden on the system.
- The insurance companies: you know about them, and the problem with
lack of universal coverage. As profit-seeking private entities, the
only ways they can make money are by charging more and paying less,
which clearly they're well adapted at. Neither attribute serves us
well. But aside from inherent waste and duplicity, the thing that's
finally going to kill the insurance companies is that they're being
squeezed between greater liabilities and resistance or inability to
pay. The fallback is, of course, the government, who already picks up
the tab for health care for the elderly and poor, as well as disaster
aid, terrorism liability, etc. Also note that the government has
intrinsic advantages as an insurance provider. It seems to me that if
we don't kick the insurance companies out soon, they'll eventually
abdicate on their own. The big question is going to be how to pay for
the new system: I submit that payroll taxes are already too high.
- We need to seriously look at patent policy and how it supports
private monopolies. The patent system was supposed to promote the
general welfare, but in fact it guarantees maximal pricing of damn
near every pharmaceutical and medical technology in use today,
creating artificial barriers to the access of state-of-the-art
technology. Given that the actual researchers and inventors have
almost no stake in their patents, it's impossible to argue that
allowing them patents does anything to promote medical progress other
than to attract private investment (which is always more expensive
than public investment), a sensible long-term plan would be to move
research and development into publicly funded universities, which
would have the added advantage of sharing all knowledge.
- We need to look systematically at how the whole industry is
financed, and make public funds available for strategic development.
For example, we might want to build more local or mobile facilities
than the private sector would finance. We might want to train people
for particular skill-needs to meet long-term demand. We might want to
promote competition between vendors.
- We need to standardize and simplify procedures, such as the
transfer of medical records. (Indeed, anything you do with software
would benefit from the free software approach.) It would be a good
idea to cut through a lot of the marketing malarkey by setting up
buyers cooperatives to jointly evaluate and negotiate purchases --
i.e., to tip the power balance from supply to demand. Again, a key
thing here is openness, public review, and a common goal of improving
the quality of the whole system.
Monday, January 20, 2003
Movie: About Schmidt
Sunday, January 19, 2003
Music: I didn't really resolve much last week, in large part because I
made a trek to Oklahoma City and came back with about twenty new things
to listen to, some of which should start showing up here. But I'm also
starting to sort out my oldies column; not clear whether that will
accelerate or retard the grading here.
- Chris Barber: Copulatin Jazz (1993, Great Southern).
Another fine trad album. B+
- Joey Baron: Down Home (1997, Intuition). This is a
delightful quartet, with Ron Carter and Bill Frisell filling in
nicely behind and around Arthur Blythe's saxophone. A-
- A Cellarful of Motown! (1962-70, Motown, 2CD). Sure,
these songs sound like hits, but they weren't hits -- they
couldn't even pass Motown's Quality Control. Compare this to the real
thing and you won't have any trouble distinguishing real diamonds
from all this cubic zirconium. B
- Don Gibson: RCA Country Legends (1958-66, Buddha).
He played lonesome, blue, heartbroke, and parlayed that shtick into a
dozen or more country hits; yet he never conveyed the sort of pain or
pathos that came natural to Hank Williams and Otis Redding. In part
that's because he was successful in his modest ambitions ("if
loneliness meant world acclaim/then everyone would know my name/I'd be
a legend in my time"), but it's also his easy striding rhythms. The
only real problem with this comp is that I miss all eight songs it
drops from 1990's All-Time Greatest Hits without relishing any
of the four songs it adds. A-
- Billie Holiday + Lester Young: A Musical Romance
(1937-57, Columbia/Legacy). They were joined forever by a pair of
nicknames -- Lester, who had his own argot for everything, called
her Lady Day, and Billie annointed him as Prez -- but their romance
was never palpable. For one thing, she was so self-destructive;
for another, he was so vulnerable. But while they were two unwinding
tragedies, their encounters in the studio were magical. The standard
image of Lester is the one where his saxophone seems to be floating
off into space, like his music is transporting him to a zone of zero
gravity. Lester's levity lifts everyone, but especially Billie, who
has never sounded sweeter. A+
- Rahssan Roland Kirk: (I, Eye, Aye): Live at the Montreux Jazz
Festival, Switzerland, 1972 (Rhino). Pretty much Kirk's usual
thing -- flutes, sirens, showbiz flash, tricky playing, and he rocks
out on occasion, which is, of course, an amazing thing to behold.
- Leftfield: Leftism (1995, Hard Hands/Columbia). I
like the beats, the instrumentals, quite a lot -- layered mid-tempo
that moves you along without getting pushy. The vocals are another
matter, infrequent and mostly unobtrusive, except for the pushy one
from someone named John Lydon. B+
- Bill Monroe: RCA Country Legends (1940-41, RCA/BMG
Heritage). This duplicates 1991's Mule Skinner Blues exactly;
also matches the first 16 songs on 1997's The Essential Bill
Monroe and the Monroe Brothers [sic, the essential shit is on
Columbia]. It's a mixed bag, with a couple of gospel pieces, a couple
of hoedowns, some blues, a yodel, and a very funny novelty called
"The Coupon Song." I suppose I should grade it the same as I graded
its predecessors, but maybe I should give the others this grade.
- Dr. Michael White: New Year's at the Village Vanguard
(1992, Antilles). He's got a lively dixieland band, and plays fine
Johnny Dodds clarinet, while the guest trumpet superstar does what
he does best. B+
Sunday, January 12, 2003
- Ken Boothe: A Man and His Hits (1967-84, Heartbeat).
- Merle Haggard: Roots, Vol. 1 (2001, Epitaph). Honky
tonk heaven, of course. But hang onto those old Lefty records
- Rolling Stones: Goats Head Soup (1973, Virgin). This
feels cluttered and sloppy, hits and filler, the former not especially
compelling, the latter not particularly inspired. Big drop after
Exile on Main Street, which was so tight, so much of a piece
that it never separated into hits-and-filler even like its great
Saturday, January 11, 2003
Here's a quote from John W. Dower's Embracing Defeat, about the
post-WWII occupation and democratization of Japan:
The New Dealers--whose influence over domestic policy was waning as
the war entered its final stage--placed their faith in the universal
applicability of democratic ideals, aspirations, and policies. Such
"universalism" held that people everywhere were fundamentally the same
and that the ideal government was one in which all individuals were
equal before the law. At the same time, the bedrock principles of
democratization espoused by the New Dealers contained a strong
component of economic democracy, which in practical terms meant the
active encouragement of organized labor, opposition to excessive
concentrations of economic power, and policies aimed at ensuring a
more equitable distribution of wealth. In addition, of course, the New
Dealers had few compunctions about supporting interventionist
governmental policies to achieve their goals. [pp. 220-221]
The obvious thing here is that if you think Japan provides a model
for the U.S. reconstruction of Iraq, think first about who is doing
the reconstructing. While Bush gives verbal support for democracy,
he uses the word as American jingoism, reflexively. Indeed, the
conservative vogue for democracy seems to have followed the elections
in Nicaragua which through out the Sandinistas, a classic example of
democracy going to the highest bidder.
Wednesday, January 08, 2003
The BBWAA elected Eddie Murray and Gary Carter to the Baseball Hall of Fame
today. No quarrel on either count from me. Carter was a great catcher,
very similar to Johnny Bench -- maybe a bit less durable and picture
perfect, a lot more high strung, but if you consider the ballparks he
played in he may have been the better hitter. Murray was a textbook
hitter; low-key, very consistent. Bruce Sutter and Jim Rice missed,
hovering around 50%, which doesn't much bother me either. Sutter was as
unhittable as any pitcher I've ever seen, but it's hard to figure relief
pitchers, and I would've voted for Goose Gossage ahead of him. Rice was
also a bit of a problem -- did some HOF things, but had some weaknesses
as well that made him a rather frustrating player. Offensively I'd say
he was pretty comparable to Kirby Puckett (elected last year?), so you
could argue that the difference between the vote totals was attitude
and personality (probably the latter). I wouldn't mind if Rice made it,
but then I'd vote for Dick Allen ahead of him.
The one argument that I'd have is that I would've picked Jim Kaat --
who I gather has now lost his eligibility. Aside from a couple of
contemporaries (Tommy John, Bert Blyleven) Kaat had more wins than
anyone not in the HOF, but beyond that (even compared to John, who
was the definitive ground-ball pitcher, and Blyleven, who many thought
to have the best curve ball ever) Kaat had a very interesting career,
with two widely separated peak periods, and an incredible number of
Gold Gloves for his fielding prowess. He also had an interesting
stint toward the end of his career pitching relief, and wasn't too
shabby as an announcer. Fielding isn't something pitchers often get
evaluated on, but he was really amazing, his follow-through setting
him up like a hockey goalie, able to move either direction with
terrific reflexes. (John, by the way, was a terrible fielder, just
Laura volunteered for the task of assembling a set of Iraq war questions
for our ultra-slimy Senator, Sam Brownback. I thought about this a bit,
and came up with my own list:
After doing this I found a New York Times article with some details
on U.S. plans for post-war Iraq, which sort of answers some of these
questions. The plan is for something like an 18-month military occupation,
with a two-headed military/civilian administration, and the whole thing
(at least financially) dependent on securing the oil production areas
so that the occupation and reconstruction can be paid for out of Iraqi
oil production. There was nothing that I could see in the plan about
democracy, there was an emphasis on keeping Iraq whole, and there was
a plan to limit trials or executions of whatever to high government
officials, so the game plan appears to be to try to keep the Baathist
military dictatorship largely intact, while lopping off Saddam's head.
- If President Bush decides to send troops into Iraq, will Congress
be given a chance to review his reasons and judgment? Or do you
feel that Congress has already given up its constitutional right
and obligation to decide whether or not to declare war?
- If the U.S. invades Iraq and fails to find any Weapons of Mass
Destruction, will President Bush offer an apology and withdraw
American forces? Will the U.S. offer any reparations for the
damage it causes?
- If Iraq does have any Weapons of Mass Destruction, won't they be
much more likely to sell them to terrorist organizations as the
Iraqi government order breaks down under U.S. attack? Doesn't
this actually pose more danger to U.S. civilians than under the
present containment situation?
- The U.S. has recently liberalized its policies regarding when
it would use tactical nuclear weapons. Are there scenarios (such
as in response to Iraqi use of poisonous gas) where the U.S.
would respond with nuclear weapons?
- In 1991 Iraq attempted to defend itself by attacking Israel, in
the evident hope that doing so would turn Arab public opinion
against the U.S. and split the anti-Iraq coalition. At that time
the U.S. was able to dissuade Israel from attacking Iraq in
retribution, but recently Ariel Sharon has been adamant that
any Iraqi attack on Israel will result in an Israeli response
against Iraq. If the U.S. attacks Iraq, and Iraq attacks Israel,
and Israel responds by attacking Iraq, won't this interfere with
U.S. military activities? What about the nightmare scenario,
where Iraq attacks Israel with poison gas and Israel responds
with nuclear weapons? Wouldn't this make the U.S. complicit,
even if not directly responsible, in genocide against Iraq?
- The most likely scenario once the U.S. invades Iraq is that Iraq's
regular military forces will collapse, but that the Republican
Guards and other elite units will hide their weapons and seek
refuge in Iraq's large cities, from which they will be able to
wage a long-term guerrilla war of attrition against any occupying
force. (This may be combined with sabotage of oil fields and vital
facilities, as both of these would make it more expensive and
difficult to maintain an occupying force.) Does the U.S. have
realistic plans to counteract such strategies? (Note that guerrilla
wars, from Vietnam to Somalia, have historically been successful
against U.S. occupation.)
- President Bush has often stated his opposition to using U.S.
resources for "nation building". Given the amount of destruction
Iraq has already suffered, and the additional destruction that
will occur during another war, we will be facing an immense
humanitarian crisis that will call for hundreds of billions
of dollars to overcome and start to rebuild. Are Bush and the
U.S. prepared to stand up to this crisis? Or do they just plan
on blowing things up, searching for weapons, and leaving the
residual mess to the U.N., the NGOs, and a probable civil war?
- If the U.S. invades and occupies Iraq, there will be a whole
bunch of questions: Will the U.S. attempt to mold Iraq along
American lines, including minimal government and private sector
control of oil and other resources? (Iraq has had a socialist
government at least since the late 1950s.) If so, would the
government be able to raise enough taxes to build necessary
infrastructure? How will the government be organized? If it is
a democracy, how do we protect minorities from the majority?
What happens if Kurdistan wants to secede? What happens if a
democratic government wants to nationalize the oil industry?
How do we establish freedom of speech without endless criticism
of the occupation forces? What has to happen before we withdraw
the occupation forces? Who pays for the occupation? (If Iraq,
it is a hardship on an already suffering country; if the U.S.,
won't there be political pressure to prematurely withdraw?
Note that the U.S. occupation of Japan, which is generally
regarded as a success, lasted for over seven years.)
- If the U.S. invades but does not occupy Iraq, how long will
it be before Iraq rebuilds to the extent that again they will
be a threat to their neighbors and world peace? If the U.S.
leaves Iraq as a wasteland, won't this just reinforce the
perception (increasingly common in the world) that the U.S.
is a dangerous, immoral rogue state? Won't this invite not
just anti-U.S. terrorism but a general world-wide trend to
shun the U.S., which could, for instance, take the form of
a boycotting the U.S. aircraft industry?
- Thus far, Kansas workers have paid for the war against terrorism
to the tune of over 1,000 aircraft manufacturing jobs. Is the
long-term projection of American military power over the Persian
Gulf really worth the economic hardships that Kansas has had to
pay? In a peaceful world Arabs would sell us oil and in turn buy
airplanes and wheat, and we'd both be better off for that, would
- Will a successful U.S. war against Iraq be a stepping stone to
another war against Iran, already identified by President Bush
as part of the "axis of evil"? Or does Bush plan on waging war
against North Korea first?
- Doesn't the prospect of a never-ending war against terrorism,
taxing us to support an unprecedentedly huge military and police
state, cast a long-term pall over the economy and our quality of
life? After Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush offered the opinion
that the people who committed such awful acts of terrorism did
so because of their jealousy over our freedom and affluence.
Since then he has failed to capture Osama Bin Laden, but the
policies he has pursued have managed to make the rest of the
world less jealous over our freedom and affluence.
All things considered, this isn't a real dumb plan, although it is far
from certain that they can pull it off. In particular, they're still
hoping that someone inside Saddam's government will take him out, which
has been the basis for dozens of failed fantasies over the last 12 years.
How much further damage is done to Iraq, either by the U.S. or by Saddam
(or by Israel -- pointedly not part of the plan, but it's not like Bush
has much of a track record in throttling Sharon) is a very open question.
Even if the oil fields are captured intact, you then have the problem
of balancing Iraqi production against falling prices (which given Bush's
benefactors' interests is really hard to project). The other big unknown
is that happens if we "liberate" Iraq only to reimpose another Arab/Sunni
minority dictatorship -- what do the Kurds and Shiites do then? (Sounds
like Al Qaeda and Hezbollah will be calling, respectively.)
Again, the scary thing about this plan is not that it's crazy but that
it makes sense. This more than anything else convinces me that they'll
convince themselves that they can pull it off. That, of course, puts
a lot more faith in Rumsfeld, the military, and the CIA than they've
ever earned. (The article itself admitted that they'd have to do a lot
better job than they did in Afghanistan.) It also depends a lot on
whether the Iraqis wind up blaming Saddam for their defeat. Reading
Dower's book on Japan, it seems clear to me that the success of
democratization there had less to do with what the U.S. did than
with the changing consciousness of the Japanese -- the fact that
such a long period of war, with such extreme sacrifices, led to
such utter defeat. Until Iraq falls it will be hard to gauge that,
but I am very skeptical that most Iraqis will make that shift, and
if I'm right, that means that every little thing that the U.S. fucks
up (and you know that's going to happen, a lot) will just ratchet up
the resistance. Which also leads us to how long the American public,
mired in recession and war-hype and mounting debt will put up with
Bush's kind of adventurism.
BTW, Bush's "stimulus" program is a crock. The notion that tax cuts
will stimulate anything is pretty ludicrous -- the traditional approach
is for the government to spend more money, but if the only thing we
spend it for is blowing up Iraq that won't stimulate anything either.
And the notion that stock dividends should not be taxed at all is at
best the wrong way to do something that probably should be done: as
things stand, few companies actually pay dividends (even assuming that
they have profits), basically because the stockholders make their
money off appreciation, which benefits from hoarding cash and buying
up assets (including their own stock). Not taxing dividends on the
stockholders' end has no effect on this equation; rather, if you
exempted dividends from corporate income tax that would give companies
an incentive to pay dividends instead of hoarding. And that would in
general be a good thing, because it would cut back on corporate
empire building while giving investors cash that could be invested
in new ventures. But then why is double taxation such an issue in
the first place? After all, people who work for a living first pay
income and payroll taxes on their wages, then pay sales and excise
taxes on what they have left from the first round of taxation, not
to mention property taxes.
Personally, I don't see any difference between dividends, capital
gains, and interest income: they're all unearned income, which is
to say that they're tied not to work that one does but to money
that one has to invest. If you want to incentivize one versus the
other it seems like we as a society would want to incentivize the
one that produces useful work, as opposed to the one that merely
recycles excess money. Which is not to say that I don't think that
we should encourage people to save and invest. I do. However, I
think the way to do it would be to encourage people at the lower
income end of the scale, since the upper end are going to be doing
it anyway. The preferred tax plan for unearned income would be to
keep a running talley of how much an individual makes over their
lifetime: then tax the first, oh, $300K, real low at 2%, then
kick the next $300K up to 5%, then kick the next $400K up to 10%
(that's $61K on your first million), then kick the next million
up to 20%, then kick the next million up to 30%, and so forth up
to, oh, 50%. You'll wind up with a lot more millionaires that way,
and you'll still tax the people who can most afford it. And finally,
when they die, tax the whole fucking estate -- recycle the wealth,
give people more opportunity, and help weed out some of our silver
spoon morons. Especially those named Bush.
Sunday, January 05, 2003
- Ray Anderson: Blues Bred in the Bone (1988, Enja).
This is a relatively early, relatively simple showcase for Anderson's
trombone work, where the blues pieces set up the 'bone's growl.
- Ray Anderson/Mark Helias/Gerry Hemingway: BassDrumBone:
Wooferlo (1987, Soul Note). On the other hand, this trio with
a notable avant-garde rhythm duo gets nowhere at all: the 'bone
just toot-toots its notes, the spaces in the rhythm breaking any
chance at flow. The same trio met up ten years hence and produced
a great album, but this isn't it. B-
- Essential Blondie: Picture This Life (1978-80, EMI).
This came out in 1998, in a series of albums that debased the word
"Essential" even beyond the norms of the record industry. Actually,
this is cut live from 1980 and 1978, with the usual catalog songs
losing a bit of clarity but not much panache. And it picks up as
it goes, especially on the closer marrying "Bang a Gong" and "Fun
Time" -- not catalog songs at all -- where they reall kick ass.
- The Best of James Brown Volume 2: The '70s (20th Century
Masters: The Millennium Collection) (1970-76, Polydor).
In UniMoth's cheapo (10-song) series, this measures out a respectable
50+ minutes: singles and alternate versions of some of his greatest
romps. Largely redundant if you have the Star Time box (which
you should), but a great stocking stuffer to the uninitiated.
- We All Are One: The Best of Jimmy Cliff (1969-93,
Columbia/Legacy). He looked like a big star when The Harder They
Come came, but dwindled notably in the following years, his
Islam out of sync with the Rastafaris, his pop compromises out of
sync with everything that matters. This has lots of weak spots,
but is still a useful summation, redeeming a couple of good songs
in "Sitting in Limbo" and "Hanging Fire." B+
- Devo: Pioneers Who Got Scalped: The Anthology (1977-96,
Warner Archives/Rhino, 2CD). I liked their early work, which this does
not do a particularly good job of selecting, and ignored their later
work. Too ambitious to be an ordinary new wave band; too pretentious
to be a great novelty group. Which puts them belatedly in the Frank
Zappa tradition. B-
- Spacemonkeyz Vs. Gorillaz--Laika Come Home (2002, EMI).
This is a fairly anonymous dub album, befitting a group whose public
face is a cartoon. B
- Etta James: Blue Gardenia (2001, Private Music). Like
Mystery Lady, these are standards, but while the Billie
Holiday songbook is well represented the focus isn't so narrow,
nor does it beg such difficult comparisons. I like it much better;
the rich timbre of James's voice has never sounded better, the
phrasing is her own, and the jazz accompaniment just right. A-
- Niney and Friends: Blood and Fire (1971-72, Trojan).
The title song is such a classic that they can do three or more
variations on it and make it sound like a gift. But the filler is
uncommonly fulfilling: spare, slow, repetitive, haunting. None of
the clutter of great harmony groups, no soul stylizations, no dub
toasts. This is the bedrock of reggae, as simple as Jah. A
- Beth Orton: Central Reservation (1999, Arista).
This seems likely to take a long time to figure out -- she's a
singer-songwriter with a winning sound that to my ears fades
quickly into the background, where I like it. Don't know what
it means, though. B+
- Big Boi and Dre Present . . . OutKast (1994-2000,
La Face). Profit-taking and/or holding pattern, the cuts from
Stankonia are better contextualized there and unnecessary
here. I'm less sure of Aquemini, a good one that has
slipped from my consciousness. Don't know the first two albums,
which are sampled here and, by reputation, might benefit from
some reconfiguration. Docked a notch for inutility. B+
- Pretty Girls Make Graves: Good Heatlh (Lookout). Hard,
fast, short, angry. Good sound on the brief instrumental snatches.
But I can't get any traction on the vocals, and don't detect enough
of a melodic undertow to make me think they might be a Clash or
Husker Du in the making. B
- Jimmie Rodgers: RCA Country Legends (1927-33, RCA).
Here's something I've been waiting for a long time: a Jimmie Rodgers
sampler that's as consistently great as his reputation. And don't
worry that you'll miss the cut Louis Armstrong plays on: you won't.
- The Rough Guide to Bollywood (2002, World Music Network).
This isn't really exotica -- anyone who's frequented Indian restaurants
has heard lots of Indian film music, which like film music everywhere is
glitzy and melodramatic when it isn't being atmospheric or obscure. I
suppose it's reassuring to know that hackdom is the same the world
over. Just wish I could stroll down to my local cornershop and pick
up a decent samosa. B
- The Rough Guide to the Music of Greece (2001, World Music
Network). This does well by its regional concept, offering a lot of
interesting samples that could serve as a useful primer. Some of
which I'd like to hear more from. B+
- The Rough Guide to the Music of Wales (2000, World Music
Network). The least known of the celtic corners of Britain, yet the
music here offers few surprises -- the usual harps and pipes, jigs
and ballads. Some pieces are exceptionally pretty, but stately is
more typical. B
- Mark Shim: Mind Over Matter (1997, Blue Note). I've
been holding back on this record for quite a while now, not for
lack of pleasure but just a certain skepticism that anything this
finely crafted is really distinctive enough to get excited about.
But in the end sheer pleasure wins out. And anyone willing to
tackle "Remember Rockefeller at Attica" is worth getting excited
- Mark Shim: Turbulent Flow (1999, Blue Note). This,
too, is well crafted, just a tad less interesting. B+
- Dinah Shore: The Essential RCA Recordings (1940-57,
Taragon/BMG). A major pop singer of the post-big band period, she
had a clear voice and sang impeccably over modest string orchestras
and occasional latin beats, none of which (save the cute and cheesy
"Love and Marriage") has much lasting value. I don't know, but
rather doubt that there is a better collection of her work. B+
- Don Tosti: Pachuco Boogie (2002, Arhoolie). Mex-mex
jump blues, from East L.A., in the late 1940s I think. They party
hearty, and think mambo is just another lyric to recycle their
- Transplants (2002, Hellcat). Punk rock with synthesizers
and tape loops. Err, make that classic punk rock -- there's
nothing cute about the toys. This is a side project for Tim Armstrong
(Rancid), Travis Barker (Blink-182), and vocalist Rob Aston, and
sounds to me like the strongest, sharpest record any of them have ever
been associated with. A
- Waco Brothers: New Deal (2002, Bloodshot). Whereas the
Mekons celebrated 2002 by digging back into their Englishness, the
Wacos continue their trend of sounding more American each time out.
Such simple, unpretentious, straightforward country-influenced rock
and roll, they are the new pub rock -- true, functional. Twenty-five
years ago I thought that pub rock was the future, the salvation and
redemption of all things rock and roll. But then twenty-five years
ago I still went out drinking. B+
Saturday, January 04, 2003
The New Yorker came out with their 2002 CD "favorites" list
- Beck: Sea Change (Interscope).
- Solomon Burke: Don't Give Me Up (Anti).
- Manu Chao: Radio Bemba Sound System (Virgin).
- Missy Elliott: Under Construction (Elektra).
- The Flaming Lips: Yoshima Battles the Pink Robots (Warner).
- The Hives: Veni Vidi Vicious (Warner).
- N.E.R.D.: In Search of . . . (Virgin).
- Orchestra Baobab: Pirates Choice (Nonesuch).
- Queens of the Stone Age: Songs for the Deaf (Interscope).
- Sleater-Kinney: One Beat (Kill Rock Stars).
- Spoon: Kill the Moonlight (Merge).
- Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (Nonesuch).
Cody Chesnutt: The Headphone Masterpiece (Ready Set Go!);
James Luther Dickinson: Free Beer Tomorrow (Artemis);
Tift Merritt: Bramble Rose (Lost Highway);
Ron Sexsmith: Cobblestone Runway (Nettwerk);
This Is Where I Belong: The Songs of Ray Davies & the Kinks (Rykodisc).
Nothing terribly surprising here, at least in the big twelve. I've heard
seven, and was already aware that the other five are faves of other critics.
Friday, January 03, 2003
Jazz Times year-end list ("Top 50 CDs 2002"), only two of which I
own as of this writing (some jazz critic I am):
- Wayne Shorter: Footprints--Live! (Verve).
- Dave Holland: What Goes Around (ECM).
- Andrew Hill: A Beautiful Day (Palmetto).
- Joe Zawinul: Faces & Places (ESC).
- Keith Jarrett: Always Let Me Go (ECM).
- Brad Mehldau: Largo (Warner Bros.).
- Jason Moran: Modernistic (Blue Note).
- Tomasz Stanko: Soul of Things (ECM).
- Tom Harrell: Live at the Village Vanguard (Bluebird).
- Randy Sandke: Inside Out (Nagel-Heyer).
- Pat Metheny Group: Speaking of Now (Warner Bros.).
- Weather Report: Live and Unreleased (Columbia/Legacy).
- Billy Bang: Vietnam: The Aftermath (Justin Time).
- Branford Marsalis Quartet: Footsteps of Our Fathers (Marsalis Music)
- Dee Dee Bridgewater: This Is New (Verve).
- William Parker Quartet With Leena Conquest: Raining on the Moon (Thirsty Ear/Blue Series).
- David S. Ware: Freedom Suite (Aum Fidelity).
- Ron Miles: Heaven (Sterling Circle).
- Wadada Leo Smith: The Year of the Elephant (Pi).
- Diana Krall: Live in Paris (Verve).
- Dave Douglas: The Infinite (RCA/Bluebird).
- Hancock/Brecker/Hargrove: Directions in Music (Verve).
- Woody Shaw: Live, Vol. Two (HighNote).
- Mujician: Spacetime (Cuneiform).
- Tim Berne: Science Friction (Screwgun).
- Charles Lloyd: Lift Every Voice (ECM).
- Michael Camilo: Triangulo (Telarc).
- Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Star Big Band: Things to Come (Manchester Craftsmen's Guild).
- Matthew Shipp: Nu Bop (Thirsty Ear/Blue Series).
- Roscoe Mitchell: Song for My Sister (Pi).
- Yellowjackets: Mint Jam (Yellowjacket Enterprises).
- Omar Sosa: Sentir (Otá).
- Curtis Stigers: Secret Heart (Concord).
- Norah Jones: Come Away With Me (Blue Note).
- John Surman/Jack DeJohnette: Invisible Nature (ECM).
- Greg Osby: Inner Circle (Blue Note).
- Eddie Palmieri: La Perfecta II (Concord).
- Anthony Braxton Quartet: 8 Standards (Wesleyan) 2001 (Barking Hoop).
- Mingus Big Band: Tonight at Noon . . . (Dreyfus).
- Joshua Redman: Elastic (Warner Bros.).
- Claudia Acuña: Rhythm of Life (Verve).
- Buster Williams: Joined at the Hip (TCB).
- Chris Potter: Traveling Mercies (Verve).
- Cassandra Wilson: Belly of the Sun (Blue Note).
- Chano Dominguez: Hecho a Mano (Sunnyside).
- Verve Remixed (Verve).
- Bill Frisell: The Willies (Nonesuch).
- Paul Motian: Holiday for Strings (Winter & Winter).
- Wycliffe Gordon/Eric Reed: We (Nagel-Heyer).
- Brian Bromberg: Wood (A440).
More dependably, a year-end list from Gary Giddins:
- Jason Moran: Modernistic (Blue Note).
- Cecil Taylor: The Willisau Concert (Intakt).
- David S. Ware: Freedom Suite (Aum Fidelity).
- Dave Holland: What Goes Around (ECM).
- Arthur Blythe: Focus (Savant).
- Ruby Braff: Variety is the Spice of Braff (Arbors).
- Roscoe Mitchell: Song for My Sister (Pi).
- Matthew Shipp: Songs (Splasc[h]).
- Fieldwork: Your Life Flashes (Pi).
Wednesday, January 01, 2003
With the Village Voice's year-end movie poll out, here's a quick
checklist of what little I've seen:
11. Gangs of New York;
15. Bloody Sunday;
16. Minority Report;
22. Bowling for Columbine;
35. Sunshine State;
41. Monsoon Wedding;
43. Auto Focus;
64. The Cat's Meow;
68. The Good Girl;
77. About a Boy;
89. The Bourne Identity;
99. 8 Mile;
Road to Perdition;
I think only two of the top ten have even shown in Wichita at this point
(Y Tu Mamá También and Punch-Drunk Love), and very briefly
at that. Excepting Minority Report, everything on the list that
I've seen is pretty good, but nothing is really great.