October 2013 Notebook


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rhapsody Streamnotes (October 2013)

Pick up text here.

Daily Log

Went to lunch at Anna Murdoc's Cafe, where Ram has his exhibit still up. Menu seems to be limited to burritos, tacos, and enchilladas. Had the latter, stuffed with peas and potatoes and ground beef like a Mexican samosa. Pretty lousy place, actually. Went to the Peace House afterwards, and got caught up in a downpour.

Music today (RS): Thomas Anderson, Sam Baker, Omar Souleyman, Chvrches.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lydda 1948

From the start of hostilities in 1947 through the declaration of a borderless Israel's independence in mid-1948 and the subsequent war between Israeli militias and various Arab armies up to the signing of the armistices which established Israel's unhappy "green line" borders in early 1950, over 700,000 Palestinians fled their ancestral homes and/or were driven into an exile. Following the armistices, Israel's Knesset passed a series of laws determined to make the exile permanent: Palestinians who escaped the expulsions were granted what turned out to be second-class citizenship -- they lived under military law until 1967, and even today are denied opportunities afforded to Israel's Jewish citizens -- while those who left had their property expropriated and were denied any chance of returning to their homeland. Sixty-five years later millions of their descendants still wait in refugee camps, a stubborn obstacle to ending the conflict.

Many years later, Serbian military commanders in Bosnia coined an euphemism for genocide which has turned out to be a fair description of many historical events: ethnic cleansing. One way to effect ethnic cleansing was to kill everyone you wanted to get rid of. That was, for instance, Germany's response to the Herero rebellion in its Southwest Africa territory (1904-07, in what is now Namibia), and there have been many more examples, most famously the mass slaughter of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during WWI and of Jews by Nazi Germany in WWII. But the words "ethnic cleansing" also describe a case just short of genocide -- as a norm, not that murder is not a substantial part of the story -- namely, the forced exile of one ethnic group leaving a piece of territory more completely in control of some other group.

A classic example came out of the Greco-Turkish War (1919-22), which resulted in a "population exchange" as Greeks fled Asia Minor and Turks repatriated from Greece. Some examples were notoriously bloody, such as the British partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 (especially but not limited to Punjab and Bengal). Some were more efficiently managed, such as the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia after WWII, but they've never been done without bloodshed and great hardship. An example from American history, the forced transfer of Cherokee and other Indian tribes to Oklahoma Territory in the 1830s, is remembered as Trail of Tears.

For a long time Israel denied responsibility for and evaded discussion of the expulsions. Benny Morris, in his 1988 book The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, was the first Israeli historian to systematically document what happened, including more than a hundred massacres which set up a pattern of orchestrated terror. (Morris, by the way, has lamented that Israel didn't drive out even more Palestinians. For a more recent summary, see Ilan Pappé: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.) Morris took pains to deny that the Israeli leadership had any "centralized expulsion policy as such," but there were at least two cases where David Ben-Gurion personally directed mass expulsions: the centrally located towns of Ramle and Lydda (population 50,000 or more in 1948).

Lydda and Ramle were Arab towns on the road between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and the main airport in Israel-Palestine was adjacent to Lydda. After Ben-Gurion lobbied for UN approval of a plan to partition Palestine in November 1947, he began plotting how to expand Israel's allotment of the territory. In particular, the UN had kept Jerusalem as an internationally administered region rather than attempt to split it up, but he plotted to seize at least the western half of the city, and that meant he had to capture the corridor between his partition area and Jerusalem. (Israeli forces were only partly successful in this: they captured the cities in the valley but failed to claim the Latrun heights, which like their inability to capture the Old City in Jerusalem remained as a spur to future expansionist wars, an itch not satisfied until 1967, when Israel immediately annexed its most coveted territories.)

The reason I'm dredging up all this history is because I was struck by a passage in a new article on "Lydda, 1948" by Ari Shavitt in The New Yorker (behind their paywall). The article covers the Israeli military campaign to take Lydda -- Yigal Allon and Yitzhak Rabin were leading officers there -- and the expulsion, with some background suggesting that Jewish-Arab relations in and around Lydda were relatively benign before the war. No real news there, but after noting that: "By evening, approximately thirty-five thousand Palestinian Arabs had left Lydda in a long column, marching past the Ben Shemen youth village and disappearing into the east," Shavit adds:

Zionism had obliterated the city of Lydda.

Lydda is the black box of Zionism. The truth is that Zionism could not bear the Arab city of Lydda. From the very beginning, there was a substantial contradiction between Zionism and Lydda. If Zionism was to exist, Lydda could not exist. If Lydda was to exist, Zionism could not exist. In retrospect, it's all too clear. When Siegfried Lehmann arrived in the Lydda Valley, in 1927, he should have seen that if a Jewish state was to exist in Palestine an Arab Lydda could not exist at its center. He should have known that Lydda was an obstacle blocking the road to a Jewish state, and that one day Zionism would have to remove it. But Dr. Lehmann did not see, and Zionism chose not to know. For decades, Jews succeeded in hiding from themselves the contradiction between their national movement and Lydda. For forty-five years, Zionism pretended to be the Atid factory and the olive groves and the Ben Shemen youth village living in peace with Lydda. Then, in three days in the cataclysmic summer of 1948, Lydda was no more.

This whole paragraph is sort of a black box about Zionism -- what you get out of it is a reflection of what you put into it. It's easy enough to understand Ben-Gurion's tactical thinking in emptying Lydda and Ramle. He was in the midst of a war where the survival of the Israeli state was at great risk. He had to claim at least half of Jerusalem, and therefore he had to secure the path connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. On that path were close to 70,000 Arabs, and in the hills above that path was the British-led army of Transjordan, his most formidable adversary. Expulsion was an alternative to occupation, and a relatively cheap one under the circumstances -- assuming, of course, that one doesn't have moral qualms about such things.

Ben-Gurion certainly didn't have any such qualms. When Britain's Peel Commission, in 1937, first proposed partitioning Palestine, they also proposed forced transfer of a small number of Jews and a much larger number of Arabs to create two ethnically cleansed states, Ben-Gurion was among the first to stand up and applaud. (The Arabs staged a revolt for independence from Britain and majority rule. When they were finally suppressed in 1939, the British tore up the Peel proposal and never brought it up again. It was Ben-Gurion pushing for partition in 1947, then going to war to secure and to expand his territories, and while no one spoke much of transfer, at least in public, it was deep in their minds -- and I might add it was all too common in fact, as can be seen by the mass violence in partitioning India and Pakistan, by the eviction of Germans from Eastern Europe, by the shift westward of the Polish border, by the massive displacements of the recently ended WWII.

But while it's easy to see the tactical value of emptying Lydda in 1948, and in retrospect it does look like Israel got away both with ethnic cleansing and with its persistent resistance against any return of its refugees -- a combination that shows that justice doesn't always prevail. Still, it's a rather deep and dark statement to see Lydda as something intrinsic to Zionism -- especially looking back from now, when the Jewish State has never been more secure. It's worth recalling that in the 1940s Zionism comprised a range of opinion, ranging from Jabotinsky's "revisionism" on the right -- Netanyahu's father was Jabotinsky's secretary, in case you've ever wondered about his bona fides -- to "cultural" Zionists like Martin Buber and Joseph Magnes whose vision for Israel included an accommodation that would allow Jews and Arabs to live within one state together. The idea that Zionism excludes the possibility of Arab-majority towns like Lydda and Ramle reflects the fact that cultural Zionists have been systematically excluded from popular memory in Israel. That forgetting is ultimately as poisonous as the insistence on drumming into every schoolkid a legacy of fatalistic Jewish heroes from Masada to the Warsaw Ghetto.

Ben-Gurion wasn't a moderate on this scale. He differed from Jabotinsky in his commitment to building the social institutions of the Yishuv, using them as his power base and recognizing that they provided a form for Jewish solidarity before a Jewish state became possible. But his commitment to "Jewish labor" was every bit as exclusionarily racist as Jabotinsky's terrorist militias. Ben-Gurion's great claim to fame was his pragmatism, which let him act ruthlessly while appearing to be reasonable -- in large part due to his remarkable insight into other folks' prejudices. Those skills helped him to use the British colonial administration to destroy his Arab enemies while undermining British rule. They helped him negotiate emigration from Nazi Germany. They helped him gained arms support at critical times from the USSR, France, and the US. They helped him negotiate reparations from Germany. But his compromises with the religious parties precluded development of a broader secular society, and his obsession with maintaining Israel's warrior spirit prevented him (and especially his successor, Moshe Sharrett) from gaining Israel legitimacy as a normal country.

So the view that Israel depends on an Arab-free Lydda (or Lod, as they call it now) should be viewed as a consequence of endless struggle, defined now (as ever) around ethnic cleansing. And if Lydda is key, what's to stop the call for an Arab-free Bersheba, Nazareth, or even Jerusalem? And Shavit, by celebrating Lydda as an essential event in the founding of his beloved Jewish state, leaves himself little defense against even more ethnic cleansing, ever more strife and struggle. It may be pointless to condemn past atrocities, but consecrating them is even worse: it's just a way of surrendering the future to a fate as dismal as the past.

Let me reiterate a bit. Shavit writes:

Do I wash my hands of Zionism? Do I turn my back on the Jewish national movement that carried out the destruction of Lydda? No. Like the brigade commander, I am faced with something too immense to deal with. Like the military governor, I see a reality I cannot contain. When one opens the black box, one understands that whereas the massacre at the mosque could have been triggered by a misunderstanding brought about by a tragic chain of accidental events, the conquest of Lydda and the expulsion of Lydda's population were no accident. Those events were a crucial phase of the Zionist revolution, and they laid the foundation for the Jewish state. Lydda is an integral and essential part of the story. And when I try to be honest about it, I see that the choice is stark: either reject Zionism because of Lydda or accept Zionism along with Lydda.

Or one can search for a different flavor of Zionism that would allow different peoples to live together in peace, or one could shift the import of Zionism into the past (the "post-Zionism" approach), or one could recognize that the mainstream of Zionism was profoundly racist and, given sufficient power, unjust, and try to chuck its dead weight off. By not doing any of these things, Shavit dooms himself to repeat history even though he is aware enough to know better.

Daily Log

Watched NCIS, Nashville, Elementary.

Music today (JP): George Bouchard, Eric DiVito; (RS): Heidi Feek, Lindi Ortega, AFI, Ghostpoet, Boards of Canada, Serengeti.

Laura's UPS (Ativa AT-BU1200) needs new battery. Batteries Plus recommenda WKA12-9F2 Werker 12V 9Ah Battery with F2 Terminal: $41.99. Amazon has an Ativa AT-BU1200 12V 9Ah battery (AJC Brand Replacement) for $17.18 + $11.53 shipping ($28.71). Ativa is a store brand name for OfficeMax, and they no longer sell Ativa UPS units (just APC and TripLite), so hard to get doc on the unit (e.g., don't know whether it requires 1 or 2 batteries).

Cheapest APC 1300VA UPS at Newegg is $159.99. 1000VA unit costs $129.99. The BR1300G uses replacement battery APCRBC124 (looks like 2 cells in one case; Newegg sells for $66.99).

Monday, October 28, 2013

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 22254 [22226] rated (+28), 569 [580] unrated (-11).

Rated count is down this week because I spent a couple days listening to old music and not writing anything. Still managed 16 records below, with three complete surprises edging over the A- line, and very different records at that: one trad, one avant, one of those fancy orchestral big band albums I never like (except this one). Dave Bennett's two albums on Arbors don't come close to new one on Mack Avenue -- I checked the second after writing the review below. Rent Romus is a guy who's been under my radar for a long time: turns out he's been on a couple records I've heard, but they weren't very good records (and that probably wasn't his fault). Then there's Idan Santhaus' debut record, which I fully expected to dismiss with one play and a one-liner and wound up getting six spins. None are year-end list contenders, but they are real good records that opened my ears up.

Only two records in the unpacking list, by far the most barren week since I started writing Jazz CG. (Nor are those two records things I have the slightest desire for -- not that the unknown Abu Dhabi chanteuse is the certain dud that the Xmas album is.) Also note that one of those is the first 2014 release I've received, so it carries with it the extra burden of opening up next year's list file. So there's probably a seasonal aspect here, but as the year is closing I'm looking back to see what I missed, and that's a lot. I'll post Rhapsody Streamnotes later this week, and I should have close to ten jazz albums there. But there's hundreds more inaccessible through Rhapsody. I just caught up with adding records from the Free Jazz blog to my metacritic file and noticed, for instance: two new Adam Lane albums on CIMP, one on Okkadisk from Ken Vandermark/Joe McPhee, Anthony Braxton on Victo, Dennis González on Ayler, Paul Dunmall on FMR, Mary Halvorson/Kirk Knuffke on Relative Pitch, Evan Parker/Matthew Shipp on RogueArt, Lisa Mezzacappa on Not Two, a self-released Chris Kelsey project, a dozen or so records on Tzadik (most but not all by John Zorn), and much more.

Some reminders: still looking for people who want to take part in this year's Turkey Shoot (see link here). Deadline for requests is November 10 and for finished reviews is November 24, but earlier would be better. Still plenty of fat game out there, and if you want to kick around some ideas write me. Also, we have even fewer commitments to the Black Friday Special, so if you have a favorite new release this year which hardly anyone knows about, this is your opportunity to get the word out.

The monthly Jazz Prospecting rollup for October is here. This month's total is 59 records, up slightly from the previous two months, well below the 85 in July and 78 in June. The monthly rollup archive goes back to February 2012, roughly when it became clear that the Village Voice was no longer interested in publishing Jazz Consumer Guide. (Before that Jazz Prospecting was collected in column cycles. At some point I may bring them forward, and I'm also thinking about folding Rhapsody Streamnotes reviews of jazz records in here.)

Dave Bennett: Don't Be That Way (2013, Mack Avenue): Clarinet player, from Michigan, an unabashed Benny Goodman fan -- his two previous albums are Dave Bennett Salutes 100 Years of Benny and Clarinet Is King: Songs of Great Clarinetists. Mostly stays with the classics here: "Slipped Disc," "Begin the Beguine," "Sing, Sing, Sing," "Woodchopper's Ball," and reaches back even further for "St. James Infirmary" (with a vocal) and the closing "When the Saints Go Marching In." Even the one faux pas ("Yesterday," normally a kiss of death) is flat out gorgeous. With Tad Weed on piano, and Reg Schwager on guitar. A-

Randy Brecker: The Brecker Brothers Band Reunion (2011 [2013], Piloo, CD+DVD): The Brecker Brothers were a popular band 1975-81, with Heavy Metal Be-Bop their conceptual coup although I never heard them as more than a middling funk band. They reunited for two 1992-94 albums, and dissolved irreparably when saxophonist Michael Brecker died in 2007. He's replaced by Ada Rovatti here. Only bassist Will Lee returns from the original band, but Mike Stern (guitar), George Whitty (keyboards), and Dave Weckl (drums) were on The Return of the Brecker Brothers and possibly older records. They and Oli Rockberger play on the DVD. The CD shuttles some other musicians in, with more emphasis on vocals. Some fine trumpet here, and some of the funk grooves start to win me over, but the CD ends on a down streak. B

George Cotsirilos Trio: Variations (2013, OA2): Guitarist, originally from Chicago, based in/near San Francisco, was in a group called the San Francisco Nighthawks; fifth album under his own name, third Trio, backed by Robb Fisher on bass and Ron Marabuto on drums. Seven originals, one of the covers from Ivan Lins. B+(**)

Shauli Einav: Generations (2012 [2013], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1982 in Israel, studied at Jerusalem Academy of Music & Dance, then moved to US to Eastman School of Music, landing in New York for seven years before eventually relocating to Paris. Third album, cut in New York with a group that includes Don Friedman on piano and Itai Kriss on flute, plus bass and drums. Two Einav originals, one from Friedman, covers favor saxophonists and include two pieces by Harold Land. The tenor sax has some zip and depth, and Friedman has occasion to remind you what a fine pianist he is. A fourth album, recorded in France, is due any day now. B+(**)

Sérgio Galvão: Phantom Fish (2013, Pimenta): Tenor/soprano saxophonist, b. 1965 in Brasilia, Brazil. Debut, piano split between Leo Genovese and Aruán Ortiz, guitar between Leni Stern and Alex Nolan. Upbeat, exhuberant even, reminds one of Gato Barbieri long ago but less willing to rough it. B+(***)

Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio: Dream a Little Dream (2012 [2013], Whaling City Sound): Drummer, son of vibraphonist Terry Gibbs, released an album called The Thrasher in 1996 and has kept the handle through various group projects (Thrasher Band, ELectric Thrasher Orchestra, etc.) His Dream Trio is Kenny Barron on piano and Ron Carter on bass, and it's hard to quibble over that. Four Gibbs originals, including dedications to McCoy Tyner and Don Pullen. One song each from the others, and a long list of covers including one Monk, two Hancocks, and a bit of Stevie Wonder. B+(***) [October 29]

Todd Londagin: Look Out for Love (2013, self-released): Standards singer, also plays trombone; second album after one in 2003. Band includes Pete Smith (guitar), Matt Ray (piano), Jennifer Vincent (bass), David Berger (drums). Songs like "Pennies From Heaven" and "I Concentrate on You" have seen better days, and the genre twist on Jazmine Sullivan's "Bust Your Windows" is exactly wrong. B-

Justin Morell Dectet: Subjects and Compliments (2012 [2013], Sonic Frenzy): Guitarist, studied at UCLA and got his Ph.D. at University of Oregon; currently teaches in Atlanta. Don't know how many records he has released -- a Quartet in 1999, The Music of Steely Dan in 2002, several others possibly lapping into classical music (at at least "smaller chamber works"). Dectet has four reeds (including Bob Sheppard and Ben Wendel), three brass (trumpeter John Daversa and two trombones), guitar, piano, bass, and drums. Titles are like "Fugue in B-flat, in three voices" and "Fugue in E, in four voices" -- but the voicings are often remarkable, and the guitar adds some silk to the rhythmic flow. B+(***) [October 29]

Project Them (2013, Miles High): Bob Franceschini (tenor sax, flute) and Mark Sherman (vibes) are the leaders, with Mitchell Forman or Paolo Di Sabatino (piano), Martin Gjakonovski (bass), Adam Nussbaum (drums). Everyone in the group (save Forman) contributes songs, plus one Johnny Mandel cover. Upbeat, more hard bop than postbop, especially impressed with Franceschini -- b. 1961, nothing under his name but makes a strong impression. B+(*)

Howard Riley: Live With Repertoire (2011 [2013], NoBusiness): Pianist, b. 1943 in England, cut some remarkable albums 1969-70 (Angle, the Penguin crowned The Day Will Come). He has a large pile of records since then -- AMG shows a gap 1971-88 but my database shows six albums in that gap and I doubt that it's anywhere near complete. (The Penguin Guide authors are huge fans, but I hadn't heard anything from Riley except the early albums.) This is solo, three original pieces with most of the others Monk tunes. B+(*)

Rent Romus' Life's Blood: Truth Teller (2013, Edgetone): Avant-saxophonist (alto/soprano), from San Francisco, studied at UC Santa Cruz in the late 1980s, drifted through various Bay Area groups (e.g., the Lords of Outland); at least eight albums since 1995. Mostly trio, with bass (Kim Cass and/or Markus Hunt) and drums (Timothy Orr), plus Rhodes on one cut. The rough stuff is sharp, engaging, and the softer spots draw you in. Hadn't recognized him before: seems like a potential SFFR. A-

Adam Rongo: Tell Your Story (2013, D Clef): Alto saxophonist, from Michigan, studied at MSU and has a couple of his professors on board for his debut album -- Etienne Charles (trumpet), Rodney Whitaker (bass) -- as well as Michael Dease (trombone), Emmet Cohen (piano), Behn Gillece (vibes), Ulysses Owens Jr. (drums), and various guests. Three originals, two pieces from the band (Dease, Gillece), a couple standards and pieces by other saxophonists (Jimmy Heath, Johnny Griffin, Steve Wilson). Upbeat, a little busy but closer in spirit to original bebop than to academically fashionable postbop. B+(*) [October 29]

Idan Santhaus: There You Are (2008-11 [2013], Posi-Tone): Big band arranger, born and raised in Israel, moved to New York in 2001. First album under his own name, but has a couple of arranger credits, including A Different Porgy & Another Bess for Brussels Jazz Orchestra. His instrument is flute, but he only plays on one cut here. Recorded in two sets with a minority of overlapping musicians. The solos feel composed through, but he has a remarkable knack of drawing them out. A-

Nicky Schrire: Space and Time (2013, self-released): Singer, second album, wrote 4 of 12 songs, covers about half standards and half less standard (not sure where "Here Comes the Sun" goes); does them with the barest of piano accompaniment, rotating Fabian Almazan, Gerald Clayton, and Gil Goldstein. Back cover looks like it was printed in invisible ink, another example of how she shies away from contrast. Not bad, but strains my ability to discern. B

Ricardo Silveira/Vinicius Cantuária: RSVC (2013, Adventure Music): Two Brazilian guitarists, Cantuária also provides percussion and sings. This edges a bit back into Cantuária's MPB turf as opposed to the more jazz-centric Silveira; still, lovely within its limits. B+(*)

Ben Wanicur: The Excluded Middle (2012 [2013], Middle Path): Bassist, based in San Diego, first album, with Ian Tordella on sax, Peter Sprague on guitar, and Charlie Weller on drums. Wanicur wrote five originals, added five covers including two from Wayne Shorter. Mainstream postbop, nothing you haven't heard before, but it's very nicely done. Tordella has a couple recent albums I haven't heard. Sprague cut his first in 1979 and has a lot of records I haven't heard, although I run into him often enough to recognize the name. B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Nnenna Freelon/John Brown Big Band: Christmas (Brown Boulevard): November 12
  • Manika Kaur: Satnam Waheguru: The True Name (self-released): January 21

Daily Log

Posted Jazz Prospecting. Indexed the columns for October.

Watched The Mentalist and Homeland.

Music today (JP): Howard Riley, Kidd Jordan; (RS): Hera, Jim Black, Chucho Valdés, Rokia Traoré, Joe Fiedler. Only have a couple days in October to wrap up Rhapsody Streamnotes. Moved two records from the draft file back into November's file: Oneohtrix Point Never and Sleigh Bells -- both are A-listed in Tatum's file, and I'm less impressed, but have also spent less time with them. Kept Janelle Monáe and Moby, which I like much more than Tatum does.

Started giving some thought to making a new year's resolution to stop writing about music. It wouldn't preclude me from putting a music website together, and there may be some minor list of things I would continue to do (keep my own year-end list, participate in Downbeat's poll). But it isn't much fun, and I'm not very happy with my writing, and I'm getting old and decrepit (eyes are bothering me a lot), and I got better things to do with what time I got left. Also looks like this is the year where the income hits $0.

Short comment in EW:

Was rather surprised to see a quarter page, with a headline spanning all columns, on Lou Reed today in the Wichita Eagle.

Truth be told, some of the article was on Chris Brown's assault bust.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links this week:

  • John Cassidy: What's Wrong With Fining JPMorgan Chase $13 Billion? Still true that none of the bankers who caused the Great Recession back in 2007-08 have gone to jail, but the fines are adding up into the sort of numbers that Sen. Everett Dirksen once termed "serious money" ("a billion here, a billion there"):

    In 2010, Goldman Sachs paid $550 million to settle the Fabrice (Fabulous Fab) Tourre case with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The case included claims that the firm had conspired with John Paulson, the hedge-fund titan, to mislead investors in a C.D.O. offering. Goldman didn't admit to any violation, and today it looks like it got a bargain. Neither Lloyd Blankfein, the chairman and chief executive, nor an of his colleagues at the top of the firm faced any real sanction. Certainly, other banks have ended up laying out a lot more cash. For example, in June, 2011, Bank of American agreed to pay $8.5 billion to a group of investors, including the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who had purchased subprime securities constructed from home loans issued by Countrywide Financial, which Bank of America purchased in 2008.

    There have also been some huge group settlements. In February, 2012, five of the biggest mortgage-service firms in the country -- Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, and Ally Bank/GMAC -- agreed to a $25 billion settlement with state and federal regulators arising from charges that they inflated fees, robo-signed foreclosure documents, and carried out multiple other improprieties during the housing boom and bust. About two-thirds of this huge sum was supposed to go toward mortgage relief for struggling homeowners. Roughly $2.5 billion was reserved for the states. Then, earlier this year, thirteen banks and mortgage-service providers -- Bank of America and JPMorgan were again on the list -- agreed to pay another $9.3 billion to settle cases brought by federal regulators.

    Not all of the fines have been mortgage related. Late last year, UBS agreed to pay $1.5 billion to settle charges from the Libor scandal, and HSBC agreed to pay $1.9 billion to settle money-laundering charges. And, in the past month or so, JPMorgan has agreed to pay more than a billion dollars to settle two cases arising from the London Whale trading scandal.

    Compared to the new settlement, which was reportedly raised from eleven billion dollars to thirteen billion during last-minute negotiations, the London Whale fines weren't much at all. As part of the deal between Attorney General Eric Holder and Dimon, federal prosecutors in Sacramento will be allowed to continue trying to make a criminal case against some current and former JPMorgan employees, who were reportedly involved in mortgage-related shenanigans. Holder, to his credit, refused to back down on this one. However, there remains little prospect of anybody very senior at the bank being indicted or, it seems, of Dimon losing his job.

  • Paul Krugman: Maybe Economics Is a Science, but Many Economists Are Not Scientists: Having more-or-less seriously studied political science and sociology I'm quite familiar with the ways researchers manage to impose their political prejudices on their data, and the skimpiness of their claims to scientific objectivity. I'm also aware of work by Kuhn and Feyerabend showing that even in "hard" sciences like physics researchers often are unable to break out of the initial paradigms they started with. If economics seems to be more scientific than other social sciences, that's mostly because it has more natural countable data. (Sociologists are more likely to generate their data through polling, which involves all sorts of construction issues.) Still, a lot of what goes on in economics isn't empirical, and that's especially true when it comes to making predictions. Krugman writes:

    But are such results actually being used to inform policy debate? Have conservative economists like Casey Mulligan said "OK, we were wrong to argue that extended unemployment benefits are the cause of high unemployment"? Have economists who oppose Obamacare said, "OK, we were wrong to say that Medicaid hurts its recipients?"

    You know the answer.

    And it's not just policy debates. Whole subfields of economics, notably but not only business-cycle macro, have spent decades chasing their own tails because too many economists refuse to accept empirical evidence that rejects their approach.

    The point is that while Chetty is right that economics can be and sometimes is a scientific field in the sense that theories are testable and there are researchers doing the testing, all too many economists treat their field as a form of theology instead.

    I wouldn't say theology, but I would say that economics is mostly an art of applied logic. For the most part, economists start with a model of how they expect the economy to work -- often based on metaphors like Adam Smith's "invisible hand" -- and then apply that logic to whatever problems interest them. And while that logic often leads to specific predictions about the future, they seem to be remarkably uninterested when the future comes to past and reveals something completely different. John Quiggin wrote a whole book on ideas that had completely failed to produce the expected results, but despite that failure haven't been discarded because so many economists are more committed to their models than they are to reality. He called that book Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us. There are sciences where such a record of empirical failure cannot be sustained, but that's because they are dominated by scientists who are willing to discard failed hypotheses.

  • Paul Krugman: Lies, Damned Lies, and Fox News:

    The other day Sean Hannity featured some Real Americans telling tales of how they have been hurt by Obamacare. So Eric Stern, who used to work for Brian Schweitzer, had a bright idea: he actually called Hannity's guests, to get the details.

    Sure enough, the businessman who claimed that Obamacare was driving up his costs, forcing him to lay off workers, only has four employees -- meaning that Obamacare has no effect whatsoever on his business. The two families complaining about soaring premiums haven't actually checked out what's on offer, and Stern estimates that they would in fact see major savings.

    You have to wonder about the mindset of people who go on national TV to complain about how they're suffering from a program based on nothing but what they think they heard somewhere. You might also wonder about what kind of alleged news show features such people without any check on their bona fides. But then again, consider the network.

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Juan Cole: The American Quagmire in Afghanistan by the Numbers (21,565 US Troops Dead or Wounded): Way down from the peak levels of Obama's "surge," but still 51,000 US troops in Afghanistan; 2,150 US military personnel killed; 19,415 wounded; various other items, including:

    Amount of money US has spent to rebuild Afghanistan: $100 billion

    Proportion of the $100 billion wasted or misspent or stolen or given to militants or not received by intended recipient: 85%

  • Paul Krugman: Why Is Obamacare Complicated?, and Mike Konczal: What Kind of Problem Is the ACA Rollout for Liberalism?: As someone with a long history of working on and in some cases managing complex software projects, I would love to find a really good analysis of the widely touted problems with the "healthcare.gov" website rollout -- e.g., something that splits out usability from scalability issues. All I've heard thus far is a mumbo jumble of technical terms wrapped up in political harangues. Konczal and Krugman point out the obvious: that the website complexity mirrors the features of the ACA that were inserted to keep the private insurance companies in business -- in other words, had Congress gone with a single-payer system the website issues would be moot (signing up would be no different from signing up for Medicare).

    Well, here's a partial exception: John Pavley: Why the Experts Are Probably Wrong About the Healthcare.gov Crack-Up, but the harangue there is one I can get behind: "That's the power of open source and open government: Other people are invested in fixing your problems for you!" The comments provide other clues. Even given the law's complexity, why is the code so large? And why is so much pushed down to the client?

  • Andrew Leonard: Crowdsource your salary! An economy built on love: Describes Gittip, a twist on crowdfunding intended to provide continuous income streams for people whose work appeals to the mass community. I could see joining something like this to try to fund the sort of work I do, although I'm skeptical that it would actually work, or that I really need it. When EW shut down, a number of commenters expressed a willingness to set up an income stream to entice Christgau into continuing to write Consumer Guide reviews. This, unlike better known forums like Kickstarter, might be a viable way to support that sort of thing.

  • Paul Rosenberg: Stop enabling the right: The media just makes dysfunction worse: a catalog of fallacies that function as loopholes crediting the far right with more legitimacy and respect than they deserve. Along these same lines, see Bill Moyers/Michael Winship: The Lies That Will Kill America.

Let me also point out:

  • Robert Christgau: Toesucker Blues: Robert Christgau's Farewell Salute to Lou Reed: Reed died today, age 71. He doesn't mention Reed's early 1970s albums, including his first actual hit ("Walk on the Wild Side"), the morbid concept album Berlin (my breakthrough with him), or the live Rock n Roll Animal (scaled his songbook to arena-metal strength), probably because they pale compared to his VU albums or to his 1982-84 comeback, but gives more credit to the later phase of his career (I'm still a fan of 2004's Animal Serenade). Let me also quote from my 1975 review of Metal Machine Music: Lou Reed's Strange Gifts:

    As background it's surely no worse than the normal roar of city life, sirens, machinery, airplanes, dog barks, screams, up against the wall motherfuckers. But then, many people find that, too, offensive. I mean, who all do you know hiding out in the suburbs? Or in their own heads? The sounds are uneasy, unsettled; they betray a life force, a will to survive which even when it appears as death fetishism is all the more determined, the force of a potential crying after its actualization. That, too, some may find offensive; in that I would find hope.

    Also see my piece on Reed for The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, which takes him up to 2004.

Daily Log

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Daily Log

Music today, continuing to raid the travel case: Johnny Cash, Yaala Ballin (played during dinner, another Israeli touch), Ellery Eskelin.

Had Rannfrid, Debbie and Tom, Kathy and Ram over for dinner. Took pictures of most of the dishes -- some amazing, most very good, the rice a little inconsequential. In retrospect, the hummus (with its lamb topping) wasn't a good idea: came out a little thick but tasty enough -- but is a very filling dish that was overshadowed by its competition (including the squash-tahini-yogurt dip, which was all of that sort of thing one needed). Good decision not to try to make pita bread. (Kathy brought some over and it was barely touched). I also didn't find time to frost the cake, and it really didn't need it -- especially since I had vanilla ice cream.

Should pull the pictures off the camera and do something with them. Back started hurting during cooking, and was exhausted after everyone left. Took a nap. Got up around midnight and cleaned up.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Daily Log

Birthday: 63 years old today. Or, as Merle Travis put it, "another day older and deeper in debt."

Music today (JP): Idan Santhaus. Didn't write that up, and gave up once I started cooking. Pulled out a travel case and listened to: Balkan Beat Box, Ehud Asherie, The Rough Guide to Highlife.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Daily Log

Went shopping. Picked up dinner at Cafe Asia. Came home, ate, and started cooking. Major steps (as best I recall):

  1. Put chickpeas (soaked over last night) on to boil.
  2. Peeled and cut up butternut squash. Put it in a baking dish with olive oil and cinnamon and baked it at 400F for 70 minutes.
  3. Cut up sweet potatoes into wedges. Baked them at 475F for 25 minutes.
  4. Put chickpeas into food processor. (Tried to remove skins, but that was hopeless.) Mashed, added tahini, salt, lemon juice, and ice water, and spun for a long time. Hummus done.
  5. Split three small-ish eggplants, placing them cut-side up in a baking pan. Mixed up chermoula, and spread over the eggplants. Baked at 400F for 40 minutes (well, more than that).
  6. Mixed up the Eretz Israel cake. Popped it into the over, 40 minutes at 350F.
  7. Sliced onions, peppers, and sauteed them for the fish sauce. Dumped in a can of tomatoes, a lot of curry powder, then eventually sugar and cider vinegar. Meanwhile, cut the cod into a half-dozen pieces, dipped it in a combination of gluten-free flour and potato starch, then in scrambled egg, then fried it. Moved the fish to the sauce pan, and popped it into a 375F oven for 12 minutes. Fish done.
  8. Cut up the fennel bulbs, and sliced five clementines (throwing away the ends). Mixed up the chicken marinade (forgetting some spices) and packed the eight chicken thighs, fennel, clementines, and marinade into a freezer bag. Belatedly mixed up the spices, figuring I'll add them in tomorrow rather than try to repack the bag.
  9. Put the squash into the food processor, some roasted garlic, tahini, and yogurt. Spun it up and mashed it all together.

This leaves me in pretty good shape for tomorrow. The lamb needs to marinate -- recipe says 30 minutes. Need to do the cucumber-yogurt on the early side since it takes a while in the fridge. Need some finishing touches to the sweet potatoes and eggplant; to roast the chicken and make the rice; to make the parsley-barley salad. Need to decide what to do about pita bread, and whether to ice the cake. I could do tomatoes and garlic at the last minute -- not much to it.

Finished the above a bit after 3AM. Not sure when I started -- 8PM, maybe a bit earlier. Will get up after noon tomorrow, and have dinner scheduled at 6:30PM.

Wrote this to Tatum about Ottolengthi's Jerusalem cookbook and my dinner plans:

Naomi Glauberman drove through here a couple weeks ago (LA-to-NJ). She said the Ottolenghi cookbooks were a big thing, and she had "Jerusalem" with her (maybe "Plenty" as well, but I didn't see it). I've made a lot of Turkish and Moroccan food, and a few Iranian dishes. I mostly use Paula Wolfert on Turkish and Moroccan, but have another 8-10 cookbooks from the region (counting trans-Mediterranean but not specifically Spanish, Italian, etc.) Haven't done much Arabic (Egypt-Lebanon-Iraq are sort of the corners there, without much else to speak of), although I've eaten pretty much everything they have to offer.

I was initially interested in the Maqloub recipe: a rice casserole with layers of tomatoes, eggplant, cauliflower, and chicken, cooked and then inverted onto a serving plate. We're hosting several events with Pamela Olson next week. She wrote a book, "Fast Times in Palestine," and mentions the dish several times, so I thought it would be fun to make it for the inevitable potluck dinner. I have a couple other recipes, but this one looked especially good. Made it last week. Think I'll use a different pot next time, more tomatoes and eggplant, but it basically worked.

Trying to figure out what I'd do for birthday dinner, and there were enough intriguing recipes there to fill up a menu. Looks like:

  • Roasted chicken with clementines and arak: also fennel bulbs.
  • Saffron rice with barberries, pistachio & mixed herbs: can't find barberries, so will substitute currants; basmati rice; herbs are dill, mint, chervil, and tarragon -- not sure whether I'll find the latter two, or whether it will matter.
  • Marinated sweet & sour fish: a variation on the Ashkenazi pickled fish with middle eastern spices, red and yellow bell peppers; I bought a piece of cod.
  • Chermoula eggplant with bulgur & yogurt: small eggplants, split, rubbed with spices, roasted, topped with bulgur, scallions, and yogurt; I'll probably leave the bulgur out for Laura.
  • Hummus kawarma with lemon sauce: lamb, marinated in spices and stir-fried, tops the hummus with pine nuts and parsley.
  • Butternut squash & tahini spread: hummus alternative, topped with squiggles of date syrup.
  • Parsley & barley salad: tabouleh with pearl barley instead of bulghur; also has feta cheese.
  • Roasted sweet potatoes & fresh figs: topped with scallions and a balsamic reduction; I only have dried figs, and might substitute some mejdol dates.
  • Yogurt with cucumber.

I figured I'd finish this off with Eretz Israel Cake (from Nathan's "Foods of Israel") and some store-bought vanilla ice cream (being too lazy to make my own; if I did I have a recipe for orange ice cream with mejdol dates but that would be tantamount to rebaking the cake): cake is made with almond paste, candied orange peel (and zest and juice), and mejdol dates. Made the orange peel yesterday. Cake doesn't call for frosting, and doesn't especially need it, but I may opt for an orange buttercream anyway (my upbringing, you know; I also have the leftover orange syrup).

Ottolenghi has a Clementine & almond syrup cake which is similar to the one I'm doing (and has an optional chocolate icing, so there's another idea).

Also thinking about trying to bake pita bread. Doesn't seem too hard or time consuming, but I don't do much bread, and it would be pretty easy to buy some. (Nathan has the recipe.)

Only the chicken and rice are served hot, and maybe the kawarma, so most of this can be done ahead of time -- quite a bit tonight.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Daily Log

Music today (JP): Randy Brecker, Todd Londagin, Project Them; (RS): Rossano Sportiello, Bryan Shaw, Marty Grosz.

Got email from Matt Merewitz recapping his promotions this past year, pushing for coverage in year end lists, etc.

Records I got:

  • Claudia Quintet: September (Cuneiform) [A-]
  • Dave Douglas Quintet: Time Travel (Greenleaf Music) [A-] [advance]
  • Harris Eisenstadt September Trio: The Destructive Element (Clean Feed) [A-]
  • Ross Hammond Quartet: Cathedrals (Prescott) [A-]
  • Chris Morrissey: North Hero (Sunnyside) [A-]
  • Linda Oh: Sun Pictures (Greenleaf Music) [A-]
  • The Aperturistic Trio: Truth and Actuality (Inner Circle Music) [***]
  • Uri Caine/Han Bennink: Sonic Boom (816 Music) [***]
  • Erik Friedlander: Claws and Wings (Skipstone) [***]
  • Jeff Lederer: Jeff Lederer's Swing n' Dix (Little(i) Music) [***]
  • Myra Melford: Life Carries Me This Way (Firehouse 12) [***]
  • Daniel Rosenboom: Daniel Rosenboom's Book of Omens (Nine Winds) [***]
  • Ches Smith & These Arches: Hammered (Clean Feed) [***]
  • Gavin Templeton: In Series (Nine Winds) [***]
  • Cacaw: Stellar Power (Skirl) [**]
  • Marco Cappelli Acoustic Trio: Le Stagioni del Commissario Ricciardi (Tzadik) [**] [advance]
  • Ryan Cohan: The River (Motéma Music) [**]
  • Drye & Drye: Open Letter (NCM East, 2CD) [**]
  • Harris Eisenstadt: Golden State (Songlines) [**]
  • Drew Gress: The Sky Inside (Pirouet) [**]
  • Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd: Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dreams Project (Pi) [**]
  • Mike McGinnis: Ängsudden Song Cycle (482 Music) [**]
  • Mike McGinnis + 9: Road Trip (RKM) [**]
  • Sean Moran Small Elephant Band: Tusk (NCM East) [**]
  • Bryn Roberts: Fables (Nineteen-Eight) [**]
  • Dylan Ryan/Sand: Sky Bleached (Cuneiform) [**]
  • Kristin Slipp + Dov Manski: A Thousand Julys (Sunnyside) [**]
  • Vana Gierig: Making Memories (Enja) [*]
  • Eric Hofbauer: American Grace (Creative Nation Music) [*]
  • Mary LaRose: Reincarnation (Little(i) Music) [*]
  • Anna Webber: Percussive Mechanics (Pirouet) [*]
  • The Jamie Baum Septet +: In This Life (Sunnyside) [B]
  • Blue Cranes: Swim (Cuneiform) [B]
  • Liberation Prophecy: Invisible House (self-released) [B]
  • Chris Schlarb: Psychic Temple II (Asthmatic Kitty) [B] [advance]
  • Ben Monder: Hydra (Sunnyside) [B-]
  • Dana Lyn: Aqualude (Ropeadope) [U] [advance]
  • Fay Victor Ensemble: Absinthe & Vermouth (Greene Avenue Music) [U]
  • Xiu Xiu: Nina (Graveface) [U]

Records I didn't get but found on Rhapsody (or some other source):

  • Dawn of Midi: Dysnomia (Thirsty Ear) [***]
  • Ben Goldberg: Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues (BAG) [***]
  • Miguel Zenón & the Rhythm Collective: Oye!!! Live in Puerto Rico (Miel Music) [***]
  • Ben Goldberg: Unfold Ordinary Mind (BAG) [**]
  • Zeena Parkins: The Adorables (Cryptogramophone) [**]
  • Alex Cline: For People in Sorrow (Cryptogramophopne) [*]

Records I neither got nor found:

  • Alasnoaxis [Jim Black]: Antiheroes (Winter & Winter) [-]
  • Theo Bleckmann/Fumio Yasuda: Mother Goose's Melodies (Winter & Winter) [-]
  • E Normous Trio: Love and Barbiturates (Little King) [-]
  • Uri Guvrich: BabEl (Tzadik) [-]
  • Gilad Hekselman: This Just In (Jazz Village) [-]
  • John Hollenbeck: Songs I Like a Lot (Sunnyside) [-]
  • Ryan Keberle + Catharsis: Music Is Emotion (Alternate Side) [-]
  • Vadim Neselovskyi: Music for September (Sunnyside) [-]
  • Aaron Parks: Arborescence (ECM) [-]
  • Reut Regev's R*Time: Exploring the Vibe (Enja) [-]
  • Mara Rosenbloom: Songs From the Ground (Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • Spyro Gyra: The Rhinebeck Sessions (self-released) [-]
  • Jeremy Udden: Folk Art (Fresh Sound) [-]
  • Matt Ulery's Loom: Wake an Echo (Greenleaf Music) [-]
  • Jacob Teichroew Quintet: Tableaux (Fresh Sound) [-]
  • Doug Wamble: Fast as Years, Slow as Days (Halcyonic) [-]
  • Ben Wendel/Dan Tepfer: Small Constructions (Sunnyside) [-]

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Cartoon Worlds

I ran across a couple cartoons that neatly sum up the last few weeks. This one is by Kevin Siers, The Charlotte Observer (Oct. 2, 2013):

The suicide vest is a little over-the-top. The GOP actually only intended to hurt everyone but itself, but that fine line was hard to maintain. But the relative levels of delusion and madness, and the eagerness of the GOP to inflict damage on the country and its people, are approximated fairly enough.

The second cartoon, from Jim Morin, Miami Herald (October 2, 2013), is more literally correct, although labeling the character with the gun pointed at Uncle Sam's head the "Tea Party" instead of the GOP cuts the latter too much slack:

After the Republicans' disastrous loss in the 2008 elections, the professional political strategists of the Republican Party were widely discredited, and as they backed off "talk radio" blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck with their scorched earth anti-Obama rhetoric picked the GOP up off the mat and gave them a renewed sense of purpose. The first signs of "grass roots" actively were quickly cultivated by Fox and fertilized by billionaire activists like the Koch brothers. That energy and faux-populism led to the Republican wins -- the House and a lot of key governorships and state houses -- in 2010, although the failure of Obama to inspire the Democratic base either by advancing popular policies or by showing any backbone in fighting obstructionism from Republicans, had at least as much to do with the results.

Since 2010 the "Tea Party" has increasingly been seen as more of a liability for Republicans -- often personally as they have targeted more mainstream conservatives like Richard Lugar whose ability to seem reasonable did so much to advance Republican aspirations after the 1970s -- but with their frequent challenges from the far right they've often managed to hold the GOP hostage. Indeed, the same is true of other fringe interests in the GOP's patchwork of malcontents, such as the gun nuts and the anti-abortion fanatics: it's hard to find a single Republican anywhere who'll challenge either, even when it comes to defending the rights of rapists to force their victims to bear their children, or training elementary school teachers to use assault weapons to deal with their disciplinary problems. The "Tea Party" isn't as narrowly focused -- it's harder to pin them down on issues, but they've taken anti-government nostrums (ranging from Grover Norquist to Ayn Rand to Friedrich Hayek to Ronald Reagan) to heart, they feel they're morally superior to many or most of their fellow citizens, they don't care who gets hurt as long as they get their way, and they are quick to attribute their own worst instincts to their supposed enemies. I can't tell you how many times I've seen them describe Obama as a dictator or tyrant, often claiming as his motto "my way or the highway" (one of those popped up in the Eagle this morning).

Of course, from my vantage point Obama is no such thing. He is a man with vaguely liberal ideals, impeccably conservative tastes, and a pathetic and almost pathological instinct to compromise his ideals to appease anyone he recognizes as high and mighty -- his corporate sponsors, of course, especially bankers and media moguls; the Republican leadership, the military brass, the spy agencies, Benyamin Netanyahu. I suppose you can credit the "Tea Party" with finally forcing him to stand firm for once, but only by making such outrageous demands and threats that they forced a split very ranks that Obama is so obsequious to: the GOP leadership, of course, fell under the "Tea Party" thumb, while everyone else recognized that the government is even more needed by the rich than by the poor, and that to function the government has to be able to borrow money (otherwise, like, it might be tempted to tax the rich).

David Frum had a pat explanation for all this, and it still bears fruit: "Repub pols fear the GOP base; Dem pols hate the Dem base." The asymmetries here run deep. Both parties seek money from the rich, who support both parties for favors and cultural reinforcement. And both parties seek votes from everyone else, but the Republicans have chosen to appeal to fears and prejudices whereas the Democrats, while often giving ground to legitimize their opponents, still offer a few tidbits to self-interest. The different approaches result in distinct forms of mental illness. The Democrats are schizophrenic, intending to favor both the rich and the poor at the same time but sometimes finding their commitments in conflict, in which case they almost invariably side with the rich -- the poor, after all, have nowhere else to go (except home, as in 2010), and if they object the party's enforcers are ever ready to lash out. The Dems hate their base because the base is in the way of them making their deals with the rich and powerful, and more viscerally because they themselves want to be rich, powerful, and not at all like their base.

The Republicans have less trouble reconciling their allegiance to the rich with their commitments to the prejudices of their base, except that much of what their base insists on is fucking insane. That didn't matter so much back in the Reagan era when Republicans said stupid things but rarely acted on them and the welfare state still had enough padding it could absorb the occasional cut. But as more Republicans seized power, their ability to inflict damage grew and the wear and tear accumulated. And when Thomas Frank explained to the Republican masses that their leaders were sandbagging them -- "vote against abortion and get tax cuts for the rich" -- they rose up in revolt, creating the "Tea Party" monstrosity. And what that did was to make the GOP manic-depressive. The Democrats could get away with loathing their base because the base didn't have anywhere else to go -- not even the beleaguered poor are so masochistic to vote for a party dedicated to stripping away the last shreds of a social safelty net. But the Republicans had to fear their base, not least because most of those people would be better off economically with the Democrats, and without prejudice and fury clouding their minds, with the middle class melting into the poor and the superrich becoming ever more rarefied, the Republicans had no other possible source of votes. So they feared their base, and the temperamental bullies in the base recognized that fear and took advantage of it.

Lots of Republican bigwigs had no problem with catering to their base instincts. Wave the flag and thump the bible all you want -- hard to see how that affects the profit margin on pork bellies or gasoline or depleted-uranium shells. Nor do the bigwigs have any problem with shrinking the government, as long as it isn't the parts of government that support their businesses and protect their money. Immigration is an issue that famously divides the bigwigs and the base: the former want anything that weakens the labor market, but the latter can't stand all those foreigners, even if and when they become Americans. The government shutdown and credit default are other issues where the base got out of hand, and we'll see more of this in the future. That may be why the "Tea Party" is getting such bad press these days: the media hope is that responsible Republicans will regain control, but there's no reason to expect that to happen. For one thing, just as the "Tea Party" found its faith in Obama's 2008 election, their takeaway from this defeat is that they have to double down and take over the rest of the Republican Party, so that next time the party will finally have the will to fight for its base's true principles. And if they lose a few elections to Democrats, they'll just recall how Barry Goldwater's historic loss led to Ronald Reagan and those "seven fat years" (while conveniently forgetting that it all led to George W. Bush).

The Democratic left has no symmetrical option, because no one there is going to sabotage the party and let the "Tea Party" destroy the country just to make conditions so bad that the only out will be revolution. It's not so much that it hasn't worked or wouldn't work as that it involves making unacceptable ethical choices. So we're stuck with establishment wannabes like Obama and Clinton itching to sell us out. But with the "Tea Party" ascendant in the Republican orb, the demands may be so crazy they don't get the chance. As long as you care about reality some ideas are safely out of bounds.

Not sure where the original Frum quote comes from. Digby cited this tweet, so that's what I quoted above, but Frum preceded it with "More proof of my longtime thesis," and I've variously seen "despise" and "loathe" instead of hate, as well as less abbreviation.

Daily Log

Music today (JP): Dave Bennett, Adam Rongo, Nicky Schrire, Sérgio Galvão; (RS): Dave Bennett, Harry Allen, Bob Wilber.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 22226 [22187] rated (+39), 580 [579] unrated (+1).

No new A- records this week. My covers scans have a little border because I originally picked them up from CDConnection.com although in practice I have to composite about half of the ones I use, laying a scaled scan image over their blank frame. I've found that I can bypass having to cache the image in cases where they have a scan, and I can use HTML height-and-width attributes to force them into a uniform form factor, so I've started to use that trick, especially for Downloader's Diary duds I don't feel like caching. Thought I'd look up the high HMs here and use that trick, but none of them currently exist. (Some may show up on Tuesday when they're officially released.)

The pecking order on the B+(***) HMs is probably (although I've stopped trying to sort this level out): Elton Dean, Myra Melford, Enrico Granafei, Tom Harrell, Amir ElSaffar, Diane Hubka, Scott Jeppesen. With the first two I at least entertained the idea of grading them A-, eventually hedging because a 28:29 bass-drums duet and a whole album of solo piano feel a bit undressed. The others never came close, but they are consistently enjoyable records -- as are, really, the next tier.

I have 98 A/A- records in the 2013 (plus 6 reissues/compilations -- how pathetic is that?), so I'm probably on a good pace to match (or, more likely, exceed) my 2012 list (128 + 16, with Allo Darlin's Europe the latest add).

To reiterate some old news, we're still looking for contributors for next month's Turkey Shoot and Black Friday Special -- for details, scroll back to October 16. Also, my Terminal Zone offer stands. I haven't shipped them out yet -- haven't even exhumed them from the basement, but I did pick up some envelopes and labels -- again, scroll or search until you find more details. The second "post-Christgau" piece that I had promised a couple of weeks ago is still unwritten, so stand by. My problem with ECM is still unresolved, and I'm rather shocked that I haven't even gotten the courtesy of a reply. I do know that Jason Gubbels likes the new Tim Berne's Snakeoil album -- you should be reading his reviews, as well as the extracts he pulls out like the Paul Bley Blindfold Test.

Comments remain open. One reader tells me that his inability to post comments ended when he switched from Chrome to Firefox. (I don't use Chrome and haven't investigated why.) Still, not netting much there. Also note that I'm tending to delete even favorable comments if they are vacuous and/or atrociously written, especially if I notice they're attached to spam links. Also, the website is still semi-broken. I notice this more in admin tasks than you do, but I haven't necessarily found (let alone fixed) all the breaks.

Jeri Brown: Echoes (2013, Jongleur Productions, CD+DVD): Singer, b. 1952 in St. Louis, wound up in Canada (Montreal, I think, but this label is based in Nova Scotia). Thirteen albums since 1991. This one was recorded live at Catalina Jazz Club in Los Angeles, backed by a piano trio with Mon David joining as a second singer on 6 (of 11) cuts. Standards -- aside from the title cut by Leon Thomas and two originals with "Echo" in the title -- most upbeat, with both singers slinging an awful lot of scat. DVD presumably the same show. B+(*)

David Buchbinder's Odessa/Havana: Walk to the Sea (2013, Tzadik): Trumpet player, joined with pianist Hilario Duran for a Cuban-Jewish fusion album in 2007, Odessa/Havana, returns for more here. Duran wrote one piece and adapted two trad. Ladino songs. With John Johnson on clarinet/sax/flute, Roberto Occhipinti on bass/guitar, Aleksandr Gajic on violin/viola, various oud and trés players, dumbeq and bata, one vocal by Michal Cohen, three by Maryem Hassan Tollar. B+(**) [advance]

Marco Cappelli Acoustic Trio: Le Stagioni del Commissario Ricciardi (2013, Tzadik): Guitarist, b. 1965 in Naples, Italy; has at least seven records since 2002. This is a string trio with Ken Filiano on bass and Satoshi Takeishi on percussion -- sort of a proto-soundtrack based on detective novels of Maurizio De Giovanni (collectively, "the four seasons of Detective Ricciardi"). B+(**) [advance, October 22]

Chaise Lounge: Dot Dot Dot (2013, Modern Songbook): Small swing band, fourth album, Charlie Barnet is the main force, writing most of the songs and playing guitar, piano, accordion, and tenor banjo, while Marilyn Older is the singer, Gary Gregg plays tenor sax and clarinet, Joe Jackson trombone, Pete Ostle bass, and Tommy Barrick drums. Covers like "Let's Face the Music and Dance" are most immediately appealing. B+(**)

Elton Dean/Paul Dunmall/Paul Rogers/Tony Bianco: Remembrance (2004 [2013], NoBusiness, 2CD): Alto saxophonist Dean died in 2006, after a career that started up in the 1960s with the prog rock group Soft Machine but moved ever further into avant-jazz. He plays on three (of four) long cuts here, the first in a trio with Rogers on bass and Bianco on drums; then in a quartet that adds Dunmall on tenor sax; and finally a second trio. The sax here, and Dunmall only adds to this, is relentlessly probing and engaging throughout. The other track is a 28:29 duet with Rogers and Bianco, starting the second disc off a bit obscurely but interesting in its own right. B+(***)

Amir ElSaffar: Alchemy (2013, Pi): Trumpet player, b. 1977 in Chicago, father Iraqi, studied classical music at DePaul and still tends to orchestrate his albums -- this is the fourth since 2007 -- as suites. Quintet with Ole Mathisen on tenor sax, John Escreet on piano, François Moutin on bass, and Dan Weiss on drums. B+(***) [October 22]

Enrico Granafei: Alone and Together (2012 [2013], CAP): Plays chromatic harmonica, DB guitar, and sings on two cuts -- very effectively, not that I follow. From Italy, studied classical guitar at Conservatory of l'Aquila, later got a masters at Mahnattan School of Music under Toots Thielemans; now owns a jazz club in Montclair, NJ. With Amina Figarova on piano and Billy Hart on drums, guest spots for Vitali Imereli on violin, Vic Juris and Dave Stryker on guitar, Wallace Roney on trumpet. The harmonica is rich and vibrant, Imereli's violin turns even "Yardbird Suite" into romantic fare, and, as I said, the vocals are touching. B+(***)

Tom Harrell: Colors of a Dream (2013, High Note): Postbop trumpeter, b. 1946, has about 35 albums since 1978, has impressive chops but in recent years I've had problems with his compositions and combos. Not so here -- even though it doesn't strike me as a good idea to have Esperanza Spalding sing and (mostly) scat along with most of this, the rhythm section of Ugonna Okegwo (bass) and Jonathan Blake (drums) hurries her along (looks like Spalding also plays bass on most of this), and saxophonists Jaleel Shaw and Wayne Escoffery give Harrell quite a run -- best moments are the ones without Spalding, but she actually does a marvelous job of filling in for the missing keyboard. B+(***) [October 22]

Diane Hubka: West Coast Strings (2012 [2013], SSJ): Standards singer, has a half-dozen previous albums since 1998. The strings here are guitarists, rotating with a couple cuts each (some overlap, including Hubka playing guitar on three tracks: Anthony Wilson, Ron Eschete, Mimi Fox, Larry Koonse, John Pisano, Peter Sprague, and Barry Zweig. Starts with Wes Montgomery's "West Coast Blues," with Wilson but it sets the tone for everyone who follows; then "Moondance," a Jobim, one from Horace Silver, on to "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" and ending with another blues. Voice is clear and fits the guitar especially well. B+(***)

Scott Jeppesen: El Guapo (2013, Creative Bottle Music): Saxophonist (credit plural plus bass clarinet, pictures show a tenor), based in Los Angeles, first album, with Larry Koonse (guitar), Josh Nelson (piano), bass, drums, and John Daversa (trumpet, flugelhorn) on two tracks. Wrote 8 (of 10) tracks -- one cover from Richie Beirach, the other a romp through "Don't Fence Me In." Has especially good feel for ballad tempo. B+(***)

Myra Melford: Life Carries Me This Way (2013, Firehouse 12): Pianist, very important, one I occasionally vote for in Downbeat polls over dozens of worthy competitors; AMG lists 16 albums since 1992, which for practical purposes is short as she often turns a side credit into a tour de force. But this is solo, so it only occasionally blows you away -- the rest is first-rate dancing around the melody or sneaking up on her next surprise. B+(***) [October 22]

Houston Person: Nice 'n' Easy (2013, High Note): Tenor sax legend, follows in the tradition of Ben Webster and Stanley Turrentine -- a progression which also means less vibrato, but no less soul -- approaching his 80th birthday next year. He takes this one exceptionally easy, a bit of Chuck Redd's vibes splashing over John di Martino's piano, with Ray Drummond and Lewis Nash barely needed to nudge things alone. Nice? Of course! B+(**) [October 22]

Ed Reed: I'm a Shy Guy (2013, Blue Shorts): B. 1929, grew up in Watts, joined the army, became a junkie, did four stints in San Quentin and Folsom, at one point singing in a combo with fellow inmate Art Pepper, got out in 1985 and finally decided to straighten up and fly right. Cut his first album at 77 in 2006, and this is his fourth, "A Tribute to the King Cole Trio & Their Music." Randy Porter plays piano, Jamie Fox guitar, Arkira Tana drums, and he's expanded the trio to include bass (John Wiitala) and tenor sax (Anton Schwartz). Reed sings those old songs about as well Freddy, and it's a delight to hear them. B+(**)

Gary Smulyan/Dominic Chianese: Bella Napoli (2013, Capri): I've always heard that the pizza on the cover is primarily an American invention, but the vintage Italian (or should I say Napolitano?) songs are old country, and Chianese -- best known for his role as Corrado Soprano -- sings them as classics. Can't find any instrument credits, but Smulyan plays baritone sax, the sturdy backbone of the songs, the nontraditional turn that holds everything else together. With Gary Versace, Matt Wilson, Jeff Lederer, and someone [Joe Brent] on violin. [Also Martin Wind on mandolin.] B+(**)

Phil Woods & the Festival Orchestra: New Celebration (2013, Chiaroscuro): Alto saxophonist, learned bebop at Bird's feet, but outgrew it and is still active at 82, often showing up as the featured soloist in gigs like this. The COTA Festival Orchestra started out as the Al Cohn Memorial Orchestra in 1988. Can't say as I recognize anyone here, nor does any instrument other than alto sax stand out. They do eight Woods tunes and close with two covers, the last an Al Cohn arrangement of "You Don't Know What Love Is" with a vocal by Najwa Parkins. B-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • David Bach: Otherworld (Integrity Music): October 29
  • Kevin Coelho: Turn It Up (Chicken Coup/Summit)
  • George Cotsirilos Trio: Variations (OA2)
  • Eric DiVito: The Second Time Around (rioneer Jazz Collection): November 12
  • Foreign Motion: In Flight (self-released)
  • Aaron Germain: Chance (Origin)
  • Ghost Train Orchestra: Book of Rhapsodies (Accurate)
  • Jon Hamar: Idyl Wild (Origin)
  • Harold López-Nussa: New Day (Jazz Village)
  • Ray Marchica: A Different View (Sons of Sound): November 19
  • Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Vol. VIII: Live at the Winery September 6, 1976 (1976, Widow's Taste): November 5
  • Ted Rosenthal Trio: Wonderland (Playscape)
  • Doug Webb: Another Scene (Posi-Tone)

Daily Log

Finally finished bringing Pitchfork up to date in the metacritic file. I had been about three months behind on both PopMatters and Pitchfork and they took days to catch up -- reminds me why I swore I'd never do this again. Jazz Prospecting was comparatively easy and uneventful.

Minor technological coup: I figured out a way to forward email from my main working machine to the Windows PC. I set up an account tpc at hullworks.net, downloaded Thunderbird to the PC, and pointed it to the POP account. Would have been better to configure the mail programs on the local server to handle local distribution, but that's always been a mind-boggling task for me. (Something about mail dulls my brain.) Surprised at how simple this turned out to be. Now I can forward download codes to the machine I might actually want to download shit onto, eliminating all sorts of overhead.

Later did the same thing for miles -- the Linux machine I've been using to monitor facebook (between crashes). Ftp'ed my address book over there, and used it to send some mail back here, which may lead to a post tomorrow.

Music today (JP): Scott Jeppesen, George Cotsirilos, Ricardo Silveira, Ben Wanicur, Shauli Einav; (RS): Homeboy Sandman, Jonwayne, Gary Numan.

Left this comment on Milo's blog in response to his post on the late Hilltop Steak House, in Saugus, MA:

I ate there once. For that matter I probably ate at every restaurant on that stretch of Rte. 1 (and usually just once). I remember the long lines and how efficiently they herded us into what must have been dozens of dining rooms. Remember that they had a reputation serving such large quantities that you could get a couple extra meals out of the leftovers, and that everyone there left with doggie bags -- a practice I recall as far more common in Boston than anywhere else I've lived, and especially endemic to Rte. 1. Don't remember the food at all.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links this week:

  • Max Ehrenfreud: Texas on My Mind: Cites pieces by Brad DeLong and Tyler Cowen on Texas, the former explaining how "the Texas miracle" has little if anything to do with the state's neanderthal politics, and the latter cheerfully resigning the entire country to emulating the worst aspects of Texas life:

    Meanwhile, Cowen describes how life in Texas is changing, and suggests that the rest of the country will gradually start to resemble Texas more and more: increasing disparities in wealth, a smaller and weaker middle class, people giving up on their ambitions, people living off nothing in 20-by-20 houses built out of scrap metal in the middle of the desert. Cowen doesn't seem particularly alarmed by these dystopian predictions, and in any case, he feels that our future will be shaped by inexorable economic forces, so he suggests we simply start preparing for it.

  • Rosie Gray: Democratic Congressman Blasts Republicans for Inviting Anti-Israel Witness to Terrorism Hearing: The Congressman was Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); the diabolical witness was Michael Scheuer, formerly of the CIA where in the 1990s he was the in-house expert on Al-Qaeda and published as "Anonymous" one of the first serious books on anti-American jihadism. He should be a hero of the "War on Terrorism" set, but along the way he noticed that one of the major reasons salafist-jihadis attack the United States is that the US has for many decades now been the principal supporter of Israel, its militarism, its periodic wars, and its systematic discrimination against the Palestinian people, and he's pointedly question whether this association is really in the national interest. The important thing here isn't whether Scheuer is right or wrong: his 2007 book, Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror, has plenty of examples of both. What's important is that AIPAC tools like Nadler don't want to discuss right-or-wrong; they'll do whatever they can to prevent any views critical of Israel from ever being spoken, at least within the halls of US power. Something similar happened when Obama nominated veteran US diplomat Chas Freeman for an advisory role. It's fine with them for Obama to be surrounded with hacks like Dennis Ross (who can always fall back on Israel's payroll when they're out of government), but anyone who doesn't support the "correct views" has to be cut off at the door.

  • Paul Krugman: The Worst Ex-Central Banker in the World: On Alan Greenspan's new book. I might have put this in the "further study" section but there is no need to read the book. This covers all you need:

    Steven Pearlstein reads Alan Greenspan's new book, and discovers that Greenspan believes that he bears no responsibility for all the bad things that happened on his watch -- and that the solution to financial crises is, you guessed it, less government.

    What Pearlstein doesn't mention, but I think is important, is Greenspan's amazing track record since leaving office -- a record of being wrong about everything, and learning nothing therefrom. It is, in particular, more than three years since he warned that we were going to become Greece any day now, and declared the failure of inflation and soaring rates to have arrived already "regrettable."

    The thing is, Greenspan isn't just being a bad economist here, he's being a bad person, refusing to accept responsibility for his errors in and out of office. And he's still out there, doing his best to make the world a worse place.

    If you do wish to pursue this further, start with Brad DeLong, who quotes Pearlstein at length, but only after exposing you to the turgid prose of another reviewer who takes great pains to suck up to Greenspan: Larry Summers.

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Ira Chernus: Uncovering the Tea Party's Radical Roots: Not a particularly apt title, since in his re-reading of Gordon Wood's important book, The Radicalism of the American Revolution he doesn't find any real roots for the Tea Party either in the federalists or anti-federalists, in Hamilton or in Jefferson. Rather, what the Tea Party is left with is a delusion of history, an invented past in the service of a current misunderstanding.

    Also see David Benjamin: The Strange Stalinization of the American Right. Again, not really right, but like Mike Taibbi's Stalin-baiting of Tom DeLay's ruthless discipline and opportunism, there's something there, mangled for sure.

  • Josh Eidelson: Tea Partyers' grave fear: Why they disdain young people -- even their own!: Interview with Theda Skocpol:

    And for the ideological forces, Freedomworks, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage Action -- you just have to go back to Bill Kristol's memo in 1993 on Clinton healthcare. They're worried about filling in one of the big holes in the American welfare state, and creating a positive relationship between the government and working-age people that will make it hard for Republicans to win elections or proceed with their preference: to roll back Social Security and Medicare, let alone another big piece of the American welfare state.

  • Alex Kane: Exposing the Dark Underbelly of Israel: The Horrors Your Tax Dollars Support: Interview with Max Blumenthal on his new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. While working on the book, Blumenthal filmed some street interviews in Jerusalem and, appropriately enough, titled them "Feeling the Hate":

    The second serious point we wanted to make is that this kind of incitement leads to physical action, and in Zion Square, where we filmed it, a year later, Jamal Julani, a teenage Palestinian kid, was beaten into a coma by dozens of Jewish youth who had heard he made a pass at a Jewish girl. It was like being in 1940s Alabama, being in central Jerusalem. And we had tried to warn the American public with this video, and warn the Jewish world, that this area of central Jerusalem, which they consider to be a spiritual home of the Jewish people, is also a mecca of racist incitement and nationalistic violence. We were ignored and our worst fears were realized.


    I show in my book how the Holocaust has been used as one of the central tools for establishing political support in Israeli society for the occupation and for the constant brinksmanship with Iran. And I explain it through my reporting on the education system, I write about how four-year-olds were lined up in a school in Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv, before a board that says, "who wants to kill us?" And it has lines pointing to Arabs, lines pointing to Nazis, and lines pointing to Persians, referring to the Iranians. The lines lead to a question -- "What do we need?" -- and finally to the answer: "We need a state."

    And I talk about the militarization of the education system and how at age 17, as Israeli high schoolers are preparing to go off to the army service, they are sent to Auschwitz, on the March of the Living, with their high school classes to be indoctrinated and to be cultivated to view the Holocaust in the light of their army experience. Polls on adolescent attitudes in Israel on the occupation and the army show that they're very conflicted about the whole thing before they go on these trips. But after going through this whole process, which ends with a candlelight ceremony in a gas chamber where they're asked to take on the personas of Jewish children who were slaughtered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, they come out with much more strongly nationalistic opinions and much stronger support for the army as an institution.

    Blumenthal concludes by talking about the 15,000 Israelis who have left "Netanyahu's doom and gloom" and moved to Berlin. This ties in nicely with Uri Avnery: Why Are So Many Jews Leaving Israel?.

    Eric Alterman, in The Nation, published an attack on Blumenthal's book: The 'I Hate Israel' Handbook. I thought this quote was revealing:

    Blumenthal evinces no interest in the larger context of Israel's actions. Potential threats that emanate from Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Syria, Iran, etc., receive virtually no mention in these pages. Israel's actions are attributed exclusively to the myopia of its citizens. Blumenthal blames "Israeli society's nationalistic impulses," its politicians who struggle "to outdo one another in a competition for the most convincing exaltation of violence against the Arab evildoers," its "fever swamps," its "unprovoked violence against the Arab outclass," and its textbooks that "indoctrinate Jewish children into the culture of militarism." It would have been easy for him to at least pretend to even-handedness here. Did it not occur to Blumenthal, for instance, that Palestinians have textbooks as well?

    For at least thirty years after the 1967 occupation began, as I understand it Palestinian textbooks were published by Israel and were frozen in whatever state existed under Jordan prior to 1967. If the PA managed to update the textbooks, that may be an interesting thing to study, but doing so would miss the most basic truth of all: that Israel isn't the passive, underpowered object of all those external forces. The fact is that Israel can do and has done almost exactly what it wanted ever since 1948, and that is to build a domineering nation-state at conflict with all its neighbors and approximately half of the people under its more or less direct control. I think it was David Ben-Gurion who proclaimed the motto "it only matters what the Jews do" (a paraphrase; what's the exact quote?). Well, if the only acts that matter are Israeli, why do Israel's apologists insist on talking about everyone and anything else? Why can't they take responsibility for the world they created?

    What I at least hope Blumenthal does in his book is to explore the mentality and culture of the people who run Israel -- and since they never tire of telling us what a democracy Israel is, of the people who elect those in power. They matter because they're the ones who perpetuate the conflict, and because they're the only ones who can resolve it. It's easy enough to understand why Palestinians who live as second-class citizens within the Green Line, or under occupation in East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank, or in open air prisons under constant threat of bombardment like Gaza, dislike Israel -- they hardly have any other option. What's far harder to understand is why Israelis today perpetuate this state of affairs, and evidently the answer isn't pretty.

    An excerpt from Blumenthal's book is here: Israel Cranks Up the PR Machine. Another article discussing its promotion and reception is Philip Weiss: Terry Gross aired Blumenthal when he went after Republicans, but Israel -- no thank you. There's also a long post by Corey Robin on Alterman v. Blumenthal.

  • Pamela Olson: Nakba in The New Yorker, BDS in Variety: Intro to a couple pieces, the first by Ari Shavit in The New Yorker (behind their paywall) on "Lydda, 1948" -- one of the major towns that Israeli forces expelled all Palestinian residents from, forcing them into exile, and a second piece in Variety on BDS.

Daily Log

Went out for groceries: took three stores, with no serious meals in mind, but I am thinking about birthday dinner this coming Saturday. Need to work out the menus and do more serious shipping this week.

Watched The Good Wife, The Mentalist, and Homeland. Latter finally turned the corner at the last minute, stealing its plot from The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. As I recall, that didn't end so well. Also still super-annoyed at the anti-Iran (as well as the spurious anti-Venezuela) intimations.

Didn't have much time to pull Weekend Update together. Turns out the style sheets/themes are still broken in the Admin menus. Thought I'd try going into "Manage Styles" and reset the correct theme, but it's spinning indefinitely.

Music today (JP): David Buchbinder; (RS): King DJ, Kelela.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Daily Log

Music today (JP): Elton Dean, Phil Woods; (RS): Willis Earle Beal, Civil Wars, Cults, Willie Nelson, Matana Roberts.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How the Wind Blows

I don't have time to write at any length on this, but I thought it was worth noting that the two front page articles in the Wichita Eagle this morning -- well, aside from two other articles about shootings, past and present -- were titled "Obama calls for end to partisan fake crises" and "Despite failed efforts, tea party hangs on." The former included a picture of the president next to a quote from him: "You don't like a particular policy or a particular president, then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election." Above that is the tag line, "Political climate must change."

The Eagle is a fairly moderate newspaper that tends to blow with the wind. Each year, for instance, they endorse more Republicans than Democrats, but that's partly because they overwhelmingly go with the incumbents: they like the establishment in large part because they are the establishment. So a big part of the takeaway here is that for now at least the Republican (or as they would put it the "Tea Party") efforts to shut down the federal government and to force a default on the federal debt were not only not appreciated but were regarded as downright dangerous. This makes sense, of course: there is nothing the establishment hates more than anything that disrupts business as normal. But they rarely come out and say that because they like to pretend that both parties are legitimate and sane, even though these days the Republicans show little evidence of it -- and in fact have used the respect accorded them by self-conscious moderates to move political language far to the right. At least today they're reminding us that the "Tea Party" has gone beyond the bounds of respectability.

One more thing I want to note on the "bipartisan" deal that solved the immediate crisis. Sen. Pat Roberts, who is up for reelection next year and is being challenged in the Republican primary from the right voted against the deal. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, whose primary opponent next year is critical of how hard she's turned to the right since winning in 2012, voted for the deal. Neither may think they have anything to worry about from the Democrats in 2012, but both are aware that the split within the Republican party could swallow them up.

Daily Log

Cooked today: made a Palestinian dish called maqluba: means "upside down" and is basically a chicken-rice casserole that is inverted onto a serving dish. Built up from layers, with tomato slices on the bottom, then fried eggplant slices, then pieces of chicken mixed with fried cauliflower florets, buried in basmati rice cooked in a rich chicken stock and topped with big chunks of garlic. Served it with cucumber-yogurt, spiced with garlic and mint. After all the prep, cooked it in a cast iron dutch oven with a piece of parchment in the bottom to help it drop out. Tricky part was turning it over, given how heavy (and hot) the pot was. Came out of Ottolenghi's Jerusalem cookbook, which Naomi tipped it to. The particular dish is mentioned several times in Pamela Olson's Fast Times in Palestine. She's coming here to speak in a couple weeks. I thought it might make a nice potluck dish, so this was sort of a dry run for that.

Music today (JP): Enrico Granafei; (RS): Danny Brown.

While putting the above post up, I noticed that the stylesheet info on the website was messed up. When I went to redisplay the website, I got an error that an unnamed file could not be found in a list of PHP include directories that included /usr42/thull/ as my home directory. After the recent outage, my home directory was moved to /usr/home332/t/h/thull/, and that is reflected in all variables shown by phpinfo(). This doesn't seem to have had any effect on the ocston website files, and has affected the blog primarily in that it isn't able to resolve the style template: the initial error pointed to a code line that attempted to open /blog/templates/th/layout.php. I was able to fix this by making the following edits to the s9y code:

  • In serendipity_genpage.inc.php: I changed the default CSS file path (line 21) from "serendipity.css.php" to "templates/th/style.css"; this default is triggered by $serendipity['serendipityHTTPPath'] not being set.
  • In serendipity_genpage.inc.php: The function serendipity_getTemplateFile('layout.php', 'serendipithPath') was returning an empty string. I replaced (lines 43-49) this with the hard-coded path "templates/th/layout.php".

It is currently unclear to me why either of these strings are misconfigured. This does happen either when I am logged in or when I am not. I tried poking other values in earlier in the configuration initialization, but nothing I tried had any effect. As best I recall, the theme choice can be user-specific but there is also a default selection. Without knowing how the theme selection is configured, it is hard to figure out what has broken. Hard-wiring my theme, as I've done, isn't going to cause me any problems, but it is an ugly solution to an unclear problem.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Daily Log

Rained yesterday, and the temperature dropped to 30F well before I went to bed. I didn't notice any snow, but evidently some fell. Bright and sunny today, high almost 70F. I went out in the back yard and tore out some small trees and some ivy, filling up a 30 gallon garbage bag (and then some).

Music today (JP): Elton Dean, Phil Woods.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Daily Log

Hanna came today for the annual furnace tune-up. Nothing eventful, but I did spend enough time in the basement to remind myself of how much work I've been wanting to do down there.

Ordered Max Blumenthal's new book on Israel, Goliath. To get up to the free shipping minimum, I added Bill Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words -- stuff I should know, written to someone I can bear reading. Was tempted by another cookbook, like Maricel E. Presila's Gran Cocina Latina.

Music today (JP): Amir ElSaffar, Chaise Lounge.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Turkey Shoot 2013

Throughout most of the history of Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide, he broke with his usual format and published a "Turkey Shoot" on or near Thanksgiving, where he dumped on 12-20 grade B or (most often) worse records: some just plain bad, but most distinguished by some level of critical or popular support which made them especially annoying. Christgau stopped writing Turkey Shoot columns once he left the Village Voice, explaining that listening to so much bad music so intensively was a miserable waste of time. Still, it's part of every critic's job to listen to bad music so you don't have to, so last year it occurred to me that we could gain valuable warnings and spread out the misery a bit if we got a bunch of people to take on one or two pet peeves each and collect them into a group-sourced Turkey Shoot.

Last year's Turkey Shoot Invitational (archived here) was received well enough that it's worth trying again. We had 13 contributors and they reviewed 19 records. That was quite adequate, but we might have done better had we started with more lead time -- last year's invitation was only posted on November 6, so we're a couple weeks ahead of that. (Also Thanksgiving falls later in the month this year.) Anyone who sees this can offer to contribute, but I'll also be sending out direct invites to past contributors and other select friends, and you should pass this link on to other possible critics.

One big change this year: in addition to running the Turkey Shoot on Thanksgiving Thursday (November 28 this year), I want to also run a second column on the day after Thanksgiving, the customary start of Xmas Shopping Season, where we will offer a second set of reviews of relatively unknown records you might actually want to buy. Let's call this the Black Friday Special, and search far and wide for rare gems most reviewers have missed. This was, of course, something Robert Christgau was exceptional at, and is all the more needed now that MSN has killed off his Expert Witness blog.

Rules and procedures are roughly the same as last year. Each reviewer can review up to 4 records in each column. The records have to be assigned. Send your requests in to me by Sunday, November 10. (My email address is on the Contact page) Once assigned, your reviews are due no later than Sunday, November 24. The reviews should be paragraph-sized, each with a letter grade at the end -- for the Turkey Shoot, B or less (E is the bottom of the barrel); for the Black Friday Special B+ (preferably A–) or higher. Like last year, if the review is long enough I will include a cover scan. If it is exceptionally short I'll omit the cover. Best not to write more than you really need to.

Turkey Shoot records should meet some standards of notability. In particular:

  • It must be a 2013 release (although an initial 2013 release of a record that was initially released abroad in 2012 is acceptable). It cannot be a reissue or a compilation of previously available music.
  • It should have a favorable review count (the number in braces) of 5 or more in my metacritic (or r-metacritic) file: this currently gives you 568 + 28 options, although for various reasons that's an imperfect guideline.
  • You are welcome to try to make an argument for some other record. The most persuasive evidence is likely to be: the record sold a lot of copies and/or it was undercounted by the metacritic file -- it came out late in the year, it got a lot of respectable 60-79 reviews that didn't count, it is a sizable cult/genre item that the surveyed publications don't adequately cover.
  • The record cannot be one that Christgau has written about.

For the Black Friday Special, the notability requirement is roughly reversed:

  • It must be a 2013 release, as above, except that obscure compilations are more likely to be of interest.
  • It should have a favorable metacritic count (the number in braces) of 7 or less (preferably less than 5), and should have been reviewed in less than 10 surveyed publications (see the denominator in the MC entry; the minimum for MC is 4, so no MC is preferred).
  • Again, you are welcome to argue for extenuating circumstances. You might, for example, try arguing that a UK electronica album only exceeded those limits because UK and/or electronica publications are overcounted.
  • The record cannot be one that Christgau has written about.

The Christgau exclusions are because I'm assuming that what he's written about is common knowledge among readers -- the world at large may have no clue who Sam Baker, Clay Harper, Fat Tony, and Young Fathers are, but let's face it, you do, so "me-too-ism" would be a lazy way to do the Black Friday Special, and far less useful as well. And I see the Turkey Shoot as filling a gap, and I'd rather not fill it up with snipes against his past writings.

I considered extending the exclusions to Tatum and myself, but in the end figured you don't take us nearly that seriously -- plus we do have our disagreements. Still, you might bear that in mind, especially for the Black Friday Special.

It's OK with me for reviewers to adapt their previously published writings. It's OK for reviewers to contribute to only one column -- a number of people I contacted last year were squeamish about turkeys but might have had a secret favorite.

Like last year, all reviewers will be given a chance to submit numerical grades (1-to-10) on all reviewed records, which will be added as a table.

Again, results will be published on my blog.

Again, there is no money to this (at least none that I'm handling). Copyrights are retained by the contributors. We assume that submission constitutes permission to publish. Any questions, ask me.

Mailed the above out to Tatum, Patterson, Sroka, Weiss, and Christgau to see if they (mostly Tatum) had any edit suggestions. Weiss wrote back with a suggested list (metacritic file points in braces, my grades added in brackets):

  • Dirty Beaches - Drifters/Love Is the Devil {10}
  • Tyler, the Creator - Wolf {12} [b]
  • Queens of the Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork {25} [b]
  • Phoenix - Bankrupt! {15} [b]
  • Miley Cyrus - Bangerz {3} [***]
  • The Haxan Cloak - Excavation {14} [*]
  • Youth Lagoon - Wondrous Bughouse {11}
  • Sebadoh - Defend Yourself {6}
  • Iceage - You're Nothing {25} [b]
  • Foxygen - We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic {16}
  • Autre Ne Veut - Anxiety {12} [***]
  • Phosphorescent - Muchacho {25} [**]
  • Kurt Vile - Wakin' on a Pretty Daze {29} [*]
  • Julia Holter - Loud City Song {25} [b]
  • I replied:

    Jumping the gun here, as I was only looking for advice on the announcement. I did send out a list of suggestions last year -- mostly from Tatum with a couple extras I thought of -- and I'm not sure it was helpful, so I wasn't planning on doing that this year. Two general reactions to this list. One is that I'm just remarkably indifferent to the half of this list I've heard (I've added the metacritic counts in braces, and where available my grades in brackets) -- don't really recall Autre Ne Veut (although I must have liked it at the time), can't get worked up about Kurt Vile, consider Julia Holter a challenge to my ability to remain conscious (something I assume is my problem although it's not one I worry about). I doubt I could draw up a list this long off the top of my head. I don't really have any axes to grind -- not that I wouldn't enjoy someone taking a whack at Nick Cave, given that he's currently tied with Kanye West for #5 on the list.

    But, yeah, these are mostly reasonable candidates. The one record that isn't eligible is Bangerz, and it's also by far my favorite. (I hedged my grade a bit, figuring I'd eventually pick up a copy and listen more, although it's no cinch that I'll bump it up later.) Thus far the only 80+ review is from Entertainment Weekly, and that's out of 19 reviews (the other two points are from me, and for getting noticed). It does have a MC average of 66, and 8 reviews in the 70-75 range, so it has been treated better than Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, French Montana, or Editors -- the latter seems to be the consensus pick as the worst piece of crap out there this year, with a 54 MC average and 8 reviews at 40 or less.

    Cyrus doesn't have much of a voice, but we aren't diva fetishists here. She needs all the help she can get from the mega-corporate production, but for once I love all the clutter -- sometimes capitalism lucks out. Two things I noted from my Arkansas trip: my cousin's grandkids (the teenage boys, anyway) kept playing that "Wrecking Ball" video on their phones but they refused to let me see anything more than the opening shot; and they all referred to her as "Billy Ray's daughter," a connection I never made (always figured he was a totally inconsequential one-hit wonder, and can't recall ever hearing that hit).

    I'll read through what I wrote, possibly tweak it a bit, and post it this afternoon. Sounds like we could use some BB software if I can find anything that works reasonably well. (Btw, my blog experiment with opening comments up has mostly been a bust -- not so bad that I'm closing them, but they haven't elicited much worthwhile and lately the flotsam factor has been creeping up.)

    Thought I might go on longer in defense of Cyrus, but got tired.

    Posted the above, then sent this off to the EW comment list:

    FYI, lead item on my blog is the general invite and rules for the 2013 Turkey Shoot/Black Friday Special -- the latter should be a special treat to kick off your Xmas shopping season. If you wish to participate, you know where to find me.

    Drawing up the invite mailing list: 2012 contributors: Chuck Eddy, Jason Gross, Jason Gubbels, Brad Luen, Ryan Maffei, Jeffrey Melnick, Greg Morton, Cam Patterson, Matt Rice, Nathan Smith, Michael Tatum, Dan Weiss; others invited last year: Larry Blumenfeld, Georgia Christgau, Robert Christgau, Carol Cooper, Joey Daniewicz, Francis Davis, Carola Dibbell, Gary Giddins, Christian Hoard, Mike Imes, Maura Johnston, Tom Lane, Joe Levy, George Lipsitz, Don Malcolm, Michaelangelo Matos, Milo Miles, Chris Monsen, John Morthland [NA], Tim Niland, John Piccarella, Ann Powers, Rob Sheffield, Hank Shteamer, Tom Smucker, Ken Tucker; others: Tom Carson, Julian Dibbell, Lucas Fagen, Tom Johnson, Alfred Soto, Bradley Sroka.

    Wrote this in EW in response to questions by Milo Miles:

    Not sure why so many people have problems with the anti-spam comment thing since it generally works for me, but I've heard a half-dozen complaints and that's probably not the half of it.

    OK to recycle material, but we need to go over what it is first.If I have your address right, you'll be contacted.

    The metacritic files are linked from the announcement post. Most of the data comes from metacritic.com, but I supplement it with other sources, and I count it differently -- I count grades from some threshold (usually 80) up. It gives me a coarse sort on what other people think, including people I follow. It's far from ideal, but as a first approximation, you can take the top 500 albums as being significant enough to be turkeys (no point in slamming a record no one has noticed), and the rest are obscure enough for the Black Friday Special. Not perfect, but without it I was having real trouble tracking the year.

    There's a legend file that explains the abbreviations. You can at least partly subselect by genre. There isn't much beyond that.

    Daily Log

    Posted the Turkey Shoot invite. Seems well received, at least so far. We passed around letters much of the day, with Dan Weiss the most pumped.

    My flagship website at ADDR.COM went off the air this afternoon. Looks now like some sort of DNS outage. I filed a report, called up, asked them to call back, tried chat -- no response. Website did come back in the evening.

    Went out and got some groceries. Got enough stuff to try to make maqluba -- the Palestinian chicken-rice upside-down dish Pamela Olsen raves about in her book. Recipe comes from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem Cookbook, which arrived today.

    Music today (JP): Ed Reed, Diane Hubka; (RS): King Krule, Dirty Beaches, Nelly, Deltron 3030.

    Tuesday, October 15, 2013

    Daily Log

    Got tired of eating the usual frozen food, so I thawed out a pound of shrimp, soaked some rice noodles, and made pad thai for dinner. Not much I can make around here without having to shop.

    Watched NCIS and Elementary. Former tried to argue that Afghan men are so dedicated to "honor killings" that they would track down Afghan women who escaped to America and were living under aliases. Latter did a rather disgusting twist on an Edward Snowden-like secret leeker, turning him into a murderer with no evidence or motive. Too much to expect network TV shows to actually have decent politics, but they usually aren't so bad.

    Music today (JP): Gary Smulyan, Jeri Brown; (RS): Janelle Monáe, Elizabeth Morris, Cornell Campbell. Also gave Sleigh Bells another spin after Tatum declared himself "in love" with it, and bumped it up a notch.

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    Music Week/No Jazz Prospecting

    Music: Current count 22187 [22145] rated (+42), 579 [579] unrated (-0).

    Wrapped up that Recycled Goods '60s special. Tom Lane wrote in to take exception to my (implicit) dis of Three Dog Night and Fifth Dimension -- "Good singles acts, I'd say" -- so, recalling that my brother was a fan once and that I could recall some singles I sorta liked, I went on to work as far through the former as I could stand. None of the albums hold up very well, but more surprisingly few of the 17 top-20 singles they scored 1968-74 are things you'd ever want to hear again. (Anyone else in that period comparable? Chicago? John Denver? Too early for Journey.) One thing that helped them then and not now was their knack for blowing up singer-songwriters that were too sketchy for AM: listeners today are more likely to hear Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson than Three Dog Night, some of us even know Thomas Jefferson Kaye better, and I found myself wanting to play some of those old Hoyt Axton albums my first wife loved so much. Fuller report next time. Fifth Dimension remains a SFFR: my vague recollection/expectation is that the singles are better but the albums are worse, but we'll see.

    Meanwhile, some Jazz Prospecting. The breakout records this week are avant, with Darius Jones and Rodrigo Amado doing most of the squawking but the controls are held by bassist Adam Lane and guitarist Luis Lopes -- two musicians who have regularly impressed me. The Lopes album is a good deal rougher, but also peaks higher. I should have written up a second album by Lopes here, but he sent me an LP and I've been to lazy to put it on. I have several other pieces of vinyl pending, including a huge, lovely box of 1960s New York Art Quartet sessions that cost someone a small fortune. Presumably the turntable still works, but it's been so long I may have forgot how to run it.

    Windows computer glitch is temporarily fixed, so I'm back on Rhapsody again, and way behind the curve for recent releases, so I may lean that direction instead of Jazz Prospecting the next week or so, especially as I don't seem to be that far behind my jazz backlog. Also, I am working on the promised post-Christgau piece -- it's just coming slow as it tumbles gently in my mind.

    Dave Askren/Jeff Benedict: It's All About the Groove (2013, DaWay Music): Guitar and alto sax, leading a quartet with John Belzaguy on bass and Ramon Banda on drums. Askren has three previous albums, starting with a guitar trio take on Bill Evans. Benedict has two previous albums. Forget the title's suggestion of pop jazz. This is mainstream, maybe even a little retro-swing, so yes there's a groove, just not standard groove music. Reminds me more than a little of the group Dave Stryker and Steve Slagle ran, and those are pleasant memories. B+(**)

    Jim Beard: Show of Hands (2012 [2013], Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1960 in Philadelphia, sixth album since 1990, side credits with Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, David Liebman, Mike Stern, Peter Erskine, Michael Brecker. Solo, 12 originals (several named after Haiku), 8 covers including "But Beautiful" and "Honeysuckle Rose." B+(*)

    Wilford Brimley With the Jeff Hamilton Trio (2012 [2013], Capri): Veteran character acter specializing on old West coots, b. 1934 in Salt Lake City, got into movies as a stunt man, had a recurring role in The Waltons, and has appeared in dozens of movies, most often in in roles "Sheriff" or "Grandpa." Cut a record in 1990 called I'm Old Fashioned, and another recently with Riders in the Sky, Home on the Range. This one is with a drummer-led piano trio -- Tamir Handelman is the pianist -- songbook standards with no country/western identity. Neither slick nor deep, but he's nimbler than you'd expect, even on a too-slow ballad like "This Love of Mine." B+(*)

    John Escreet: Sabotage and Celebration (2012 [2013], Whirlwind): Pianist, fifth album since 2009, seems to be an exceptional player and ambitious composer. This is a stellar quintet -- David Binney and Chris Potter on saxes, Matt Brewer on bass, Jim Black on drums -- plus guests plus, at least part of the time, a string section and/or a brass section. Starts off with a really dreadful string intro, and the strings never get better, but when they lay out the group is every bit the powerhouse you imagine. B+(*) [October 15]

    Brian Haas/Matt Chamberlain: Frames (2013, Royal Potato): Piano and drums, respectively. Third album under Haas' name, most of his work having appeared as the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Chamberlain has done a lot of (mostly rock) session work since Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians in 1990, including some things that lap over into jazz, like Bill Frisell's Floratone group. Repeating patterns, improvisations in riddim. B+(*) [October 15]

    Mike Jones Trio: Plays Well With Others (2012 [2013], Capri): Pianist, b. 1962, sixth album since 1993, trio with Mike Gurrola on bass and Jeff Hamilton on drums. Two originals, rest standards with "Besame Mucho" leading off and "Corcovado" midway, the rest songbook fare like "It's a Wonderful World" and "I'm Old Fashioned." Doesn't push any boundaries, but all rather delightful. B+(**)

    Adam Lane Trio: Absolute Horizon (2010 [2013], NoBusiness): Bassist, justly known for his compositions but decided to wing it here with a full set of spontaneous improv. Trio includes Darius Jones on alto sax and Vijay Anderson on drums. Jones is an imposing player in his own right -- still disappointed that AUM Fidelity stopped sending me new records, especially Jones' latest -- and does a nice job of threading the rhythm here. Seems too easy, but that's what talent does. A-

    Mary LaRose: Reincarnation (2011 [2013], Little(i) Music): Singer, based in Brooklyn, fifth album since 1995, one on avant label CIMP with Steve Swell, Jeff Lederer, and Dominic Duval. Lederer (clarinet, tenor sax) appears on three cuts here, with Kirk Knuffke (cornet) on three more, but the band is dominated by strings (2 violin, viola, cello, bass) for an arch chamber feel. Mostly jazz pieces by Coleman, Mingus, Dolphy, or Ayler with lyrics by LaRose -- the odd song out is Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." B+(*)

    Jeff Lederer: Jeff Lederer's Swing n' Dix (2012 [2013], Little(i) Music): Saxophonist (tenor, alto, plays some clarinet too), second album, side credits mostly with Ted Kooshian and Matt Wilson. Wilson is drummer here, with old-fashioned brass -- Kirk Knuffke on cornet and the redoubtable Bob Stewart on tuba. Starts with "Honeysuckle Rose," includes pieces by Duke Pearson and Pee Wee Russell, also a trad Shaker hymn, plus originals by Lederer, Knuffke, and Wilson. Mary LaRose sings the Shaker hymn, and the group semi-sings the closing title piece. But all through it's the tuba that keeps this moving. B+(***)

    Luis Lopes/Humanization 4tet: Live in Madison (2011 [2013], Ayler): Guitarist, from Portugal, has several albums with this quartet, mixing it up with tenor saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, backed by Texan brothers Aaron and Stefan González. Leads off with Arthur Blythe's "Bush Baby" where the see-saw leads are especially infectious. Rest are originals, three from Lopes, one from Amado, and a roughhousing blues from Aaron G. A-

    Bill Mays Inventions Trio: Life's a Movie (2012 [2013], Chiaroscuro): Pianist, b. 1944, AMG lists 18 albums since 1982; he has dabbled in classical, and done a lot of LA studio work. Trio adds Marvin Stamm on trumpet and Alisa Horn on cello, a small group that covers a lot of instrumental range without much harmonic depth. Starts with a "Homage to Bill Evans" and ends with a "Monk Tribute." In between there's a 4-part Mays original, "Life's a Movie: 4 Cues in Search of a Film," and short takes of "Concierto de Aranjuez" and Chick Corea's "Spain." B

    Mike McGinnis: Ängsudden Song Cycle (2012 [2013], 482 Music): Clarinet/bass clarinet player, two new albums out, a previous one from 2000 as well as membership in the Four Bags (four albums 1999-2012). This project started out as a set of paintings and poems in Tagalog by visual artist MuKha. They were translated into Swedish and English, and are sung here by Kyoko Kitamura to McGinnis' music, arranged for clarinet, bassoon, cavaquiño, guitar (Sean Moran), viola (Jason Kao Hwang), bass, and percussion (Harris Eisenstadt). Slow, abstract, arty, interesting. B+(**)

    Carol Morgan: Retroactive (2012 [2013], Blue Bamboo Music): Trumpet player, fifth album, mostly with guitar-bass-drums, Rhodes added on three cuts. The guitar, split between Chris Cortez and Mike Stern, is often striking. Four Morgan originals, plus one by Cortez, and give covers, ranging from "Jitterbug Waltz" to "Tea for Two" to "When the Levee Breaks -- the former especially enchanting. B+(**)

    Chris Parker: The Chris Parker Trio (2013, GPR): Drummer-led piano trio, with Kyoko Oyobe on piano and Ameen Saleem on bass. Parker has at least one previous album under his own name, a group called Toph-e & the Pussycats, plus many side credits going back to 1969 (Earl Hooker), more with rock singer-songwriters (Don McLean, Bonnie Raitt, Todd Rundgren, Phoebe Snow, Lou Rawls, Sinead O'Connor, Loudon Wainwright III, Natalie Cole) than in jazz contexts. Oyobe has a previous album, Cookin' at Smalls. She contributes two songs here, Parker three, plus six scattered covers. B+(**)

    RED Trio: Rebento (2012 [2013], NoBusiness): Piano trio from Portugal: Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano), Hernani Faustino (bass), and Gabriel Ferrandini (drums). Their eponymous debut (on Clean Feed) was one of the most exciting piano trios of 2010, and they've since recorded albums with John Butcher and Nate Wooley. Here they're back to trio form on an LP/download deal. First side is sharp as ever, but the slower second is harder to hear. B+(*) [CDR]

    Swing Fever Presents Clark Terry/Buddy DeFranco/Terry Gibbs and Guest Vocalist Jackie Ryan: Grand Masters of Jazz (1998-2001 [2013], Open Art, CD+2DVD): Swing Fever is a band led by trombonist Bryan Gould, usually five horns plus guitar, bass, and drums. Not sure if they have any albums on their own, but in the four concerts these cuts were selected from, they form the sturdy backup for guest stars Terry (trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals), DeFranco (clarinet), Gibbs (vibes), and Ryan (vocals). This comes from four sessions, two with Terry, one each with DeFranco and Gibbs -- Ryan appears in all four. The DVDs add some patter like Gibbs' story about Benny Goodman not being able to memorize any names, and it's worth watching Clark Terry work off a lyric sheet in his "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone" duet with Ryan. The audio CD hits the highlights -- about half vocal pieces -- with brief intros. The Gibbs set appears to be the same on both DVDs. B+(***) [October 15]

    Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

    • Tarun Balani Collective: Sacred World (self-released): October 22
    • Alan Blackman: The Coastal Suite (self-released)
    • Shauli Einav: Generations (Posi-Tone)
    • Marquis Hill: The Poet (Skiptone Music): October 22
    • Scott Jeppesen: El Guapo (Creative Bottle Music)
    • Todd Londagin: Look Out for Love (self-released): November 12
    • Project Them (Miles High)
    • Rent Romus' Life's Blood: Truth Teller (Edgetone)
    • Adam Rongo: Tell Your Story (D Clef): October 29
    • Idan Santhaus: There You Are (Posi-Tone)
    • Xiu Xiu: Nina (Frenchkiss): December 3

    Daily Log

    Watched Homeland, Nashville, The Mentalist, and the "catchup reel" of Scandal.

    Music today (JP): Myra Melford; (RS): Miley Cyrus, Icona Pop, Joan Jett, Drake, Julie Ruin.

    I feel rather stupid for this, but just realized that Christgau posted a set of Odds and Ends on Monday, September 30. I knew he had said that he had stuff through September 30, but he usualy posts on Tuesday and Friday, and after the Friday post on September 27, with its extra entry and the following run of comments, I assumed he was done. Indeed, the Odds and Ends are all old records (2010-11, with one from 2012), and none of them look all that interesting. (The two I've heard: a Toby Keith we agree on at [*], and an Ashton Shepherd I have at B-.) I only found it through a combination of accidents. I hadn't filed the usual weekly notice covering it, and no one bothered to point out my lapse. Moreover, I had added comments to the previous post and had commented on the lack of activity there both to Christgau and to Cam Patterson and neither mentioned it. One reason is matters is the 636 comments attached to it. Just starting to read through them, back to front, and will note what seems notable.


    A freebie, so to speak. Stuff I never managed to squeeze in that I thought of some kind of intrinsic interest. All way too old to be any kind of news, hence dates provided. Not even sure Expert Witness was extant when I wrote the Wailing Wall one. There's more, but it tends more recent plus a format is a format.

    As mentioned several times before, comments will be up for a while. This way of doing things may revive and may not--really don't know, although there are various stirrings and plans afoot. Certainly not for a while--I wouldn't mind taking some time off in any case.

    Thanks again for all the farewells--they are and will be treasured.

    Christgau on Turkey Shoots:

    I don't dismiss the Turkey Shoots. I just don't miss writing them--they put me in a bad mood. I could have done pans at MSN--Sam encouraged it. But I never found the stomach for it--or the conceptual rubric either.

    Christgau quoted some mail I forwarded from someone who wasn't able to post a comment. Didn't get his name so I added a comment: Pete Shanks.

    Greg Morton (don't know what "Go!Animate" refers to):

    Not sure what to make of Go!Animate, but over on Tom Hull's site, he has done pretty much the opposite -- in terms of content, skill, utility, humanity even. Run, don't walk.

    Jeff Hamilton added: "There's an important piece about Xgau on Hull's blog. Thanks!" As I recall, I announced the piece in a comment in the previous (no longer actively read) thread.

    Joe Yanosik posted his top albums of 1968. Seems like he mailed me something like that, but I'll grab it anyway (should have thought of it when I was scrounging up candidate '60s albums for RG):

    1. Otis Redding: The Immortal Otis Redding (Atco)
    2. Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland (Reprise)
    3. The Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet (London)
    4. The Byrds: Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Columbia)
    5. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles: Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (Tamla)
    6. The Byrds: The Notorious Byrd Brothers (Columbia)
    7. The Mamas and the Papas: Farewell to the First Golden Era (Dunhill)
    8. The Rascals: Time Peace/The Rascals' Greatest Hits (Atlantic)
    9. Big Brother and the Holding Company: Cheap Thrills (Columbia)
    10. The Velvet Underground: White Light White Heat (Verve)
    11. B.B. King: 16 Greatest Hits (Galaxy)
    12. The Everly Brothers: Roots (Warner Bros.)
    13. The Mothers of Invention: We're Only In It for the Money (Verve)
    14. The Grateful Dead: Anthem of the Sun (Warner Bros.)
    15. Aretha Franklin: Lady Soul (Atlantic)
    16. Randy Newman: Randy Newman (Reprise)
    17. Stevie Wonder: Stevie Wonder's Greatest Hits (Tamla)
    18. Gilberto Gil: Gilberto Gil (Philips import)
    19. Otis Redding: The Dock of the Bay (Volt)
    20. Aretha Franklin: Aretha Now (Atlantic)
    21. Leonard Cohen: Songs of Leonard Cohen (Columbia)
    22. The Zombies: Odessey & Oracle (Date)
    23. Loretta Lynn: Loretta Lynn's Greatest Hits (Decca)
    24. Taj Mahal: Taj Mahal (Columbia)
    25. Johnny Cash: Johnny Cash at Folson Prison (Columbia)
    26. Mother Earth: Living With the Animals (Mercury)
    27. The Beatles: The Beatles (Apple)
    28. J.B. Hutto & the Hawks: Hawk Squat! (Delmark)
    29. Jerry Butler: The Iceman Cometh (Mercury)
    30. James Brown: Live at the Apollo Volume 2 (King)
    31. Buffalo Springfield: Last Time Around (Atco)
    32. Jefferson Airplane: Crown of Creation (RCA Victor)
    33. Merle Haggard: The Best of Merle Haggard (Capitol)
    34. Van Dyke Parks: Song Cycle (Warner Bros.)
    35. James Brown: Sings Out of Sight (Smash)
    36. Ten Years After: Undead (Deram)

    Matt Crawford:

    FWIW I've been scouring metacritic to try to figure out which publications/reviewers are the best at "predicting" whether Christgau will recommend an album. It's all very statistical, for better or worse.

    Surprisingly it seems like Rolling Stone is the most reliable. A good rating there, or even a 3.5, goes a long way. After that, the Chicago Tribune is excellent, when he likes a record. The Observer, if it gives something 5 stars, is good and helps to pick up some African stuff.

    A few other places help: PopMatters, All Music Guide, Spin, & Uncut. A decent rating at those places, 4 stars or 8, is a bonus. But they just rate too many albums for it to be a definitive "buy" recommendation, so you have to use it in combination with the above-mentioned places. Pitchfork and the other dozen or so places I tried don't help at all.

    So far in the last week or two, the "recommended" albums using my system would be Drake, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Haim (possibly borderline because lots of people like it but no one loves it).

    That's my statistician's take, anyways.

    Were it not so late, I would have responded that Rolling Stone is much more likely to reflect than predict Christgau: there are people there who will follow up on Christgau recommendations like Wussy and Low Cut Connie but you almost never see those records reviewed there before in Expert Witness.

    Joe Yanosik noted: "Volume 3 of Tom Hull's excellent '60s Albums Project is available now at his site Recycled Goods. Note that you're able to add comments at Tom's site." Greg Morton replied that he had tried and failed to enter comments, ultimately getting a "comments have been disabled" message. I know some people have had problems, but hadn't heard about the message before.

    Ioannis Sotirchos has a list of things he's head on Spotify, including Clay Harper and Sam Baker (awol at Rhapsody last time I checked).

    That's going through very fast. More good memoirs; e.g. sappera, LB..., Semi Mike [Imes] (who also revealed himself to be Mongo Vauche).

    Finally, I wrote:

    For whatever it's worth, I totally missed this thread, discovering it only by accident after 637 comments. In the meantime, I posted a couple comments to the previous (what I assumed was the final) thread. I complained in email about comments being shut down to several people who should have corrected me, and neglected to produce my usual weekly notice -- and no one wondered about that. Also posted my own Christgau remembrance piece in my blog (nice there to have formatting and links and be able to write at more length without hacking). Also made an offer there (and here) to send out a copy of the original Terminal Zone on request. (Only got three requests, and haven't sent them out yet. It's mostly online so I'm not real surprised by scant interest.) Also posted a 1960s-themed Recycled Goods, two Jazz Prospectings, and A Downloader's Diary during the lifetime of this thread.

    One comment I did want to respond to is from Matt Crawford. I've looked at a lot of metacritic data and haven't crunched any numbers on this, but my strong impression is that Rolling Stone doesn't actually predict Christgau's grades -- much of the relatively strong correlation comes from RS following his grades. (Of course, you'd have to look at metacritic.com's date info to be sure.)

    Sunday, October 13, 2013

    Weekend Roundup

    Some scattered links this week, but first this from Richard Crowson in the Wichita Eagle today:

    Legend: "Mikey": Mike Pompeo (US Rep.); "Timmy": Tim Huelskamp (US Rep.); "Ray": Ray Merrick (KS House Speaker); "Suzie": Susan Wagle (KS Senate President); all Republicans.

    • Janet Allon: You Think You Knew Crazy? This week's "10 shockers from the increasingly hinged right wing":

      1. Michele Bachmann: 'Obama is part of Al Qaeda and end times are near.'
      2. Some of Antonin Scalia's best friends are gay -- and yeah, the devil exists.
      3. Arizona lawmaker: 'Obama is like Hitler.'
      4. Ted Cruz lollapalooza.
      5. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK): 'Defaulting on the debt doesn't mean debt default.'
      6. Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling: 'We don't have to fund laws we didn't pass.'
      7. Bryan Fischer: 'Good on Vladimir Putin for those anti-homosexual laws.'
      8. Elisabeth Hasselbeck and John Stossel agree: welfare queens should not have air conditioning
      9. Glenn Beck on parenting: 'Push your children into walls.'
      10. Fox's Ben Carson: 'Women need to be re-educated so they don't get all riled up about abortion.'

      Third week in a row I've cited Allon, but I'm starting to think this is a bit lazy: not only picking the low-hanging fruit but only the stuff within easy reach. For instance, in the Wichita Eagle today there's an article on Gov. Sam Brownback where he's explaining that he anticipated the government shutdown and has been working hard to mitigate its effects on Kansans. I can't tell you how or why because none of that made any sense, but the notion that a guy who can't even see that cutting income taxes on the rich will lead to a shortfall in revenues (about 20% so far this year) understands the intricacies of the federal government well enough to sort all of that out is, well, a bit far-fetched.

      Or there's this little item from TPM:

      Termination hearing for derp-spewing, militia-building, anti-"Libtard" police chief in Gliberton, PA cut short when apparent supporter accidentally drops his semi-automatic pistol on the hearing roomfloor.

    • Mike Konczal: The 'non-essential' parts of government that shut down are actually quite essential. For example, economic statistics:

      These functions are not happening. To give an example, the government acts as a broker and verifier of income for mortgages. This coordination of information is not functioning, and an ongoing shutdown will delay new home mortgages in a very fragile market.

      The government also provides public price data on a wide variety of commodities, facilitating trade across many people. As the Financial Times reported, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture down information on pig prices has disappeared, throwing the market into chaos.

      As they note, "[t]he situation underscores the commodity trade's reliance on the U.S. government for supply, demand and other fundamental data." It also has implications for fairness, as the shutdown's price opacity "may also empower meatpackers as they deal with farmers." (Or in other words, the shutdown means you are getting ripped off on your bacon.)

      Other examples include welfare and social service programs, public health ("the CDC is having trouble tracking food-borne illnesses under furloughs, it is no longer monitoring the spread of influenza and other infectious diseases"), various kinds of investments ("an extended shutdown would affect the reliability of the nation's electric grid"). One thing I've reported earlier is that for now it's essentially impossible to sell aircraft, either to the private sector or to the DoD. Today's Wichita Eagle highlighted another example: nuclear power plant safety regulators are furloughed. Of course, that only becomes a problem when one of the most dangerous things in the world blows up and/or melts down. A lot of things the shutdown affects don't show up immediately, which helps those responsible ignore the consequences of their actions.

      Another example: Salmonella and Hepatitis Outbreaks Start Up as Government Shuts Down.

      Also see Konczal's The Tea Party thinks it hates Wall Street. It doesn't.

    • Paul Krugman: Business and the GOP: There's some evidence that most business leaders (mostly Republicans) are none to happy with their home team's tactics in forcing a government shutdown and probable debt default, but they also seem to be having little effect on the people responsible for those debacles (Republicans in the House). For instance, Koch Industries' lobbyists have lately been trying to distance the company from the two Koch brothers who literally own the company, and who have personally spent millions of dollars getting those responsible elected.

      Now, it's true that Republicans are bad for business -- and they didn't start being bad for business when the latest hostage crisis erupted. Ever since Republicans retook the House, federal spending adjusted for inflation and population has been dropping fast:

      This is exactly the wrong thing to be doing in a still-depressed economy with interest rates at zero; my back of the envelope says that GDP would be at least 2 percent higher, and corporate profits at least 6 percent higher, if this wrong-headed austerity weren't taking place. So even before the current crisis Republican obstructionism was costing corporate America a lot of money.

      But here's the thing: while the modern GOP is bad for business, it's arguably good for wealthy business leaders. After all, it keeps their taxes low, so that their take-home pay is probably higher than it would be under better economic management.

      Also, when you make as much money as the 0.1 percent does, it's no longer about what you can buy -- it's about prestige, about receiving deference, about what Tom Wolfe (in an essay I haven't been able to find) called "seeing 'em jump." And there's clearly more of that kind of satisfaction under Republicans; under Democrats, as Aimai at No More Mister Nice Blog points out, tycoons suffer the agony of having to deal with people they can't fire.

      In a way, this is an inversion of the usual argument made by defenders of inequality. They're always saying that workers should be happy to accept a declining share of national income, because the incentives associated with inequality make the economic pie bigger, and they end up better off in the end. What's really going on with plutocrats right now, however, is that they're basically willing to accept lousy economic policies from right-wing politicians as long as they get a bigger share of the shrinking pie.

      This may sound very cynical -- but then, if you aren't cynical at this point, you aren't paying attention. And I suspect that the GOP would have to get a lot crazier before big business bails.

      The Aimai article linked to above is titled "The Punishers Want to Run the Country or We Are All Tipped Waitstaff Now." Aimai talks about evidence which shows that at least some restaurant customers feel it is their responsibility to punish waitstaff that fail to satisfy expectations.

      We've seen a lot of weird reactions on the right wing to the Government Shut down. These range from "it doesn't matter" to "it's terrible" but one thing that really strikes me is the rage and antipathy that has been displayed towards Federal Workers themselves. It doesn't strike me as unusual, but it does strike me as significant. Yesterday's on air rant by Stuart Varney makes it pretty explicit: Federal Workers and, indeed, the entire Government are failing Stuart Varney. They cost too much and they do too little. In fact: they are so awful they don't even deserve to be paid for the work they have already done. Contracts, agreements, and labor be damned. If Stuart Varney isn't happy then they deserve to be fired. [ . . . ]

      What does this have to do with the Republican Party? The Republican Party at this point in time is entirely made up of Punishers who think they are entitled to treat the government -- and especially the government of Barack Obama -- as waiters who need to be shown their place. This should surprise no one. At heart the entire Republican Party is made up of winners and losers and they are united in just one thing: they think that money is the only way to tell who is who. If you have money, you use that to distinguish yourself from the losers and to demonstrate your superiority by punishing them further. If you are a loser -- a worker, for example, or have no health insurance (say) your job as a Republican is to take your status as a given, accept it, and turn around and get your jollies kicking someone else farther down the line. [ . . . ]

      Why are Federal Workers a special case and a problem for Republicans? In the case of Federal Workers I'd argue that its not merely that they are workers (who are always despised) it's because they are workers who for the most part don't conform to Republican ideas of the right boundaries for workers. The right boundaries for workers are that they know their place, that they can be fired capriciously, and that they exist primarily to make the employer feel good about himself and, further, that like waiters in a restaurant and prostitutes with their johns their job is also to make the employer believe that he is receiving an extra good form of treatment not accorded to others diners or johns.

      The overarching goal of the right-wing is to get us to accept the current economic hierarchy as natural or God-given, inviolable, and ultimately just. Sometimes they try to argue that the hierarchy is best for everyone, but that's a tough sell and not just for the folks stuck at the bottom. So another approach is to get the at least some of the in-betweens to identify with the higher-ups by looking down on whoever they can: be a winner by hating the losers.

    • Nick Turse: For America, Life Was Cheap in Vietnam:

      Yet America's defeat was probably ordained, just as much, by the Vietnamese casualties we caused, not just in military cross-fire, but as a direct result of our policy and tactics. While nearly 60,000 American troops died, some two million Vietnamese civilians were killed, and millions more were wounded and displaced, during America's involvement in Vietnam, researchers and government sources have estimated.

      Enraged, disgusted and alienated by the abuse they suffered from troops who claimed to be their allies, even civilians who had no inclination to back our opponents did so.

      Now, four decades later, in distant lands like Pakistan and Afghanistan, civilians are again treating the United States as an enemy, because they have become the collateral damage of our "war on terror," largely unrecognized by the American public. [ . . . ]

      Soldiers and officers explained how rules of engagement permitted civilians to be shot for running away, which could be considered suspicious behavior, or for standing still when challenged, which could also be considered suspicious. Veterans I've interviewed, and soldiers who spoke to investigators, said they had received orders from commanders to "kill anything that moves."

      "The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as does the Westerner," Westmoreland famously said. "Life is plentiful, life is cheap in the Orient."

      That quote was blatantly racist, but it was also peculiarly true. The US was meticulous in its accounting of American deaths, going to great lengths to account for every scrap of dead GI -- when the war was over, they had no "unknown soldier" to honor, and they obsessed about MIA for decades, even today. Such concerns were a luxury that I don't think any previous US war had afforded, but they were also a political necessity, as the great threat to the US war effort was the reluctance of the American people to pay the cost, an assessment in which dead American soldiers loomed large. It was the first war in US history where it became clear that the American people, even many American soldiers, couldn't see stakes worth fighting for, and the military clique went mad trying first to avoid then to evade responsibility for failure. Turse's new book (Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam) is especially welcome because it helps counter the con job that allowed the US military to continue without accounting for its failures in Vietnam -- Andrew Bacevich has written about this (cf. The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War), with Lewis Sorley's A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam the most egregious example. Much as gone wrong in America since Vietnam, and much of that is due to our failure to recognize how profoundly wrong we were.

      Another quote:

      Despite revelations about the massacre at My Lai, the United States government was able to suppress the true scale of noncombatant casualties and to imply that those deaths that did occur were inadvertent and unavoidable. This left the American public with a counterfeit history of the conflict.

      Without a true account of our past military misdeeds, Americans have been unprepared to fully understand what has happened in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, where attacks on suspected terrorists have killed unknown numbers of innocent people. As in Vietnam, officials have effectively prevented the public from assessing this civilian toll.

      We need to abandon our double standards when it comes to human life. It is worth noting the atrocious toll born of an enemy general's decisions [Vo Nguyen Giap, who died last week at 102]. But, at the very least, equal time ought to be given to the tremendous toll borne by civilians as a result of America's wars, past and present.

    Also, a few links for further study:

    • Max Blumenthal: Expulsion and Revolusion in Israel: Most likely an excerpt from Blumenthal's new book: Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. This particular piece describes the "Prawer Plan" to round up 40,000 indigenous Bedouins from the Negev Desert in southern Israel -- nominally Israeli citizens, living well within the Green Line -- and relocate them to "American-Indian-style towns constructed by the Israeli government": a definition just a "security fence" short of being a concentration camp. Nor is what's happening today something unforseen in the past:

      In Ben Gurion's memoirs, he fantasized about evacuating Tel Aviv and settling five million Jews in small outposts across the Negev, where they would be weaned off the rootless cosmopolitanism they inherited from diaspora life. Just as he resented the worldly attitude of Jews from Tel Aviv and New York City, Ben Gurion was repelled by the sight of the open desert, describing it as a "criminal waste" and "occupied territory." Indeed, from his standpoint, the Arabs were the occupiers. As early as 1937, he had plans for their removal, writing in a letter to his son Amos, "We must expel Arabs and take their places."

      Also see Corey Robin: David Grossman v. Max Blumenthal for another slice of Goliath.

    • Sam Wang: What the Gerrymander giveth with one hand: House control in 2014 now a toss-up: With most voters inclined to blame the Republicans for the shutdown and credit risk debacles, some polls indicate Democrats may be able to overcome the gerrymander which gave the Republicans control of the House despite receiving 1.2% fewer votes in 2012. Makes sense to me, but Democrats have to get a "ground game" more like 2008 and 2012 than the massive slump of 2010, and wage a broad campaign like Howard Dean's "50-state campaign" -- something way beyond Obama's narrow focus on 270 electoral votes. Right now the stakes are relatively clear, but if Obama caves in on something major, turnout could suffer badly.

    Daily Log

    Watched The Good Wife. Laura watched the Detroit-Boston ALCS game, but I was preoccupied hacking out Weekend Update.

    Music today (JP): Chris Parker, Humanization 4tet, RED Trio; (RS): Moby, Oneohtrix Point Never, Sleigh Bells, Lorde, Haim.

    Saturday, October 12, 2013

    Daily Log

    Slipping here: missed a couple days and they weren't memorable enough to bother trying to reconstruct. Could've missed today as well. Went to the old homestead for Athene's 3rd birthday party bash. Walked over to Kathy's afterwards. Saw some of her new art -- mostly decorated tubes and boxes -- and met her new cat: big, scruffy male who could be Adolph Jr.

    Did some shopping afterwards. Went to Radio Shack at Town West to look for a new radio after Laura's bathroom one conked out. Didn't see much appealing, so went to Best Buy afterwards and didn't see anything there that wasn't complete crap. Picked up some socks at Sears, and Laura got a cheap pair of pants. Went to one Office Depot and got some envelopes and labels for sending out Terminal Zone. Looked several places for computer speaker switches, but the only one I saw was built into a KVM switch. I've been wanting to see if I can use the audio from a Linux box (e.g., for Rhapsody, especially as my Windows machine crumbles), so one approach would be to have the two boxes share the same speakers (especially since they are relatively nice speakers). Unable to do that, it occurs to me that I should connect the Windows machine to the main stereo system and move the computer speakers to the Linux box. Also Laura has a similar problem since I gave her a Linux box hooked up through a KVM switch alongside her Windows laptop. There I think the best approach is to give both boxes their own speaker systems.

    Music today (JP): Adam Lane.

    Thursday, October 10, 2013

    A Downloader's Diary (33): October 2013

    Insert text from here.

    This is the 33rd installment, (almost) monthly since August 2010, totalling 805 albums. All columns are indexed and archived here. You can follow A Downloader's Diary on Facebook, and on Twitter. Comments are open here.

    Daily Log

    Got up around noon but remained dog tired all day. Worked on Tatum's column, but had to take a break and go out to grocery store (three in a two-hour window). Brought back a pizza from Fresh Market -- pretty awful. Finally posted Tatum. Vista machine could only boot into safe mode last night -- very troublesome that Knoppix wouldn't boot either. Had run Windows System Restore before, but dialed the version back to the earliest one I had (about a month ago), and the system rebooted cleanly. I disabled Windows Update: my best theory is that something in the last month crapped out the system. The software is pretty aged at this point -- Windows 7 and 8 have come out since.

    Watched Nashville (2nd episode) and Low Winter Sun (two-hour season finale -- seems unlikely there will be another, but they left several angles open).

    Music today (JP): Jeff Lederer, Mary LaRose, Dave Askren/Jeff Benedict; (RG): Three Dog Night.

    Wednesday, October 09, 2013

    Recycled Goods (113): October, 2013

    New Recycled Goods: pick up text here. Total review count: 3949 (3505 + 444).

    Daily Log

    Music today (JP): Carol Morgan, Bill Mays, Mike Jones.

    Window shopping for a new Windows 8 computer (for my media stuff; no screen):

    • Lenovo Pentium G2020(2.9GHz)[PM:2800] 4GB 1TB Slim Tower W-8 [Newegg]: $349.99
    • Dell Inspiron 660s G2030(3.0GHz)[PM:3129] 4GB 500GB Slim Tower W-8 [Dell]: $349.99
    • Gateway Core(3 3240(3.4GHz))[PM:4339] 4GB 1TB Slim Tower W-8 [Newegg]: $379.99
    • Gateway DX4380-UR22 AMD A8-6500(3.5GHz)[PM:4536] 16GB 1TB W-8 [Gateway]: $499.99
    • Dell Inspiron 660 i5-3340[PM:4265] 8GB 1TB Mini Tower? W-8 [Dell]: $499.99
    • Asus A-10 APU A-10-6700(3.7GHz)[PM:4610] 16GB 3TB Mid Tower? W-8 [Newegg]: $679.99

    Tuesday, October 08, 2013

    Daily Log

    The fancy new Herman Miller chair I ordered a while back came today -- too early, woke me up in fact, leaving me pretty beat for the rest of the day. Worked mostly on RG, collecting a top-400 1960s albums list from Best Ever Albums.

    Music today (JP): Swing Fever; (RG): Bo Diddley, Joni Mitchell, Yardbirds.

    Monday, October 07, 2013

    Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

    Music: Current count 22145 [22093] rated (+52), 579 [572] unrated (+7). Attribute the high rated count to my use of Rhapsody as I've been working my way through relatively short 1960s albums for October's Recycled Goods project.

    An off week for Jazz Prospecting, not only in that nothing cracked the A- level, only Gavin Templeton came close. I doubt if I've had as high a percentage of B or worse albums in ages, and I didn't even reach into my "low priority" queue for them (although some probably belonged there). I wouldn't read to much into that, although loss of service from quality labels like ECM certainly hurts. I played a CD this morning that sounds real promising -- archival tapes with Clark Terry and Buddy DeFranco -- but it's not due out until next week, so no need to rush it.

    Recycled Goods for October will be another 1960s special. I've been looking for original LPs that I had missed, so no Beatles, Coltrane, Davis, Dylan, Hendrix, Rolling Stones or late-decade groups like the Band, Led Zeppelin, or Sly & the Family Stone; also none of the people I caught up with on previous rounds, like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, or Grateful Dead. That still leaves a lot, and I currently have 16 A- (or better) records in the draft file. Will post this later this week, not that I couldn't keep working on it all month.

    Also expect A Downloader's Diary out later this week. And sooner or later my outline for a post-Christgau review website. Already missing Expert Witness. In recognition of that, I'll leave comments open for a while. Would be a nice experiment to see how well this blog software handles comments -- depending, of course, on whether anyone feels like contributing. Questions welcome. Rants denouncing me for picking on flute players, less so. (By the way, when I picked David Murray's Creole as the best record of 1998, Christgau wrote me and complained about all the flutes -- something I hadn't given a second thought to, despite the presence of James Newton. So I don't think I'm doctrinaire about them, but I don't find many I like.) At least initially, I'm not requiring moderation for comments. I may change that later on, possibly just to get a feel for the overhead.

    The Jamie Baum Septet +: In This Life (2012 [2013], Sunnyside): Flute player, studied at Manhattan School of Music and New England Conservatory, fifth album since 1992. Septet offers a lot of options including French horn, with John Escreet on keyboards and, most valuably, Brad Shepik on guitar. The "+" adds a second trumpet on three tracks and percussion on four (Samuel Torres on congas, Dan Weiss on tabla). B [October 8]

    Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts: Hang Time (2013, Capri): No way I can do justice to this album, which seems to feature two groups of CCJA students, a Group Giz and a Group Gunn. I can't read the voluminous fine print, can't find much of use on the web, and the one spin I gave it didn't make me want to give it another. Soft, slippery postbop, for the most part, with some vocals, as best I recall. B

    Harris Eisenstadt: Golden State (2012 [2013], Songlines): Drummer, b. 1975 in Toronto, has been prolific with 15 albums since 2002, mostly original compositions with a wide range of lineups. This is an unusual two-horn pianoless quartet: the "horns" are bassoon (Sara Schoenbeck) and flute (Nicole Mitchell), and the bassist is Mark Dresser. One thing the weak horns do is to return focus to the drummer. B+(**) [October 8]

    The Elec Tet: Shiny Metal Objects (2013, Blujazz): Fusion group, or "a 70's fusion 'tribute' band" as drummer Ben Scholz puts it in his liner notes. Scholz is listed first in the credits, but Greg Spero (piano, keyboards) wrote most of the pieces, with two each from James Davis (trumpet) and Alex Beltran (tenor sax). The best known group member is guitarist Oz Noy, a reasonable choice for such a project. The horns can make an impression, at least when they don't get tripped up by the keybs. B

    Mike McGinnis + 9: Road Trip (2012 [2013], RKM): Clarinet player, b. 1973 in Maine, moved to New York in 1997; has two new albums out, three in total, plus group records with the Four Bags (four since 1999) and others. Near big band here -- four reeds, three brass, piano, bass, drums, nearly all names I recognize. Two long multi-part pieces (21:16, 23:27), a "Concerto" by Bill Smith and the title piece by McGinnis. Both feature clarinet, and McGinnis makes the most of that. B+(**) [October 8]

    Frank Potenza: For Joe (2012 [2013], Capri): Guitarist, b. 1950, studied at Berklee, 10th album since 1986. "Joe" is Joe Pass; bio describes Potenza as a Pass protégé, and this trio-plus-extra-guitarist (John Pisano) hits the mark. Three of the first four songs are Pass originals (the other is Pisano's "Blues for Joe"), then then go into standards: Ellington, Reinhardt, Gershwin, Hines, "Voce," "Beautiful Love." Pass died in 1994, but lives on. B+(**)

    Resonance: Introductions (2013, Mandala): San Francisco group, led by pianist Stephen McQuarry (also composer of the two originals here). First album. Group includes Georgianna Krieger (sp. Kreiger on back cover) on various saxes, Laura Austin Wiley on various flutes, a set of strings (violin, viola, cello, bass), and drums -- the strings the dominant motif. Starts with "Eleanor Rigby" -- never a good idea -- and gets worse, turning Ellington into moldy elevator music, and sometimes not even faring that well. C

    David Sills: Blue's the New Green (2013, Gut String): Tenor saxophonist, mainstreamer, has at least nine records since 1997. Group here is a quintet with Larry Koonse (guitar), Chris Dawson (piano), Darek Oles (bass), and Jake Reed (drums). Nice as long as he sticks to basics, and Koonse makes his usual fine contribution. Last track Sills switches to flute, not his strong suit. B+(*)

    Tierney Sutton: After Blue (2012-13 [2013], BFM Jazz): Singer, grew up in Milwaukee, studied at Boston University and at Wesleyan, based in Los Angeles; tenth album since 1998. Most of her recent albums emphasized the band, but this dive into the Joni Mitchell songbook emphasizes guest stars -- eight named on the front cover, counting Turtle Island String Quartet as one. There isn't much new or different here, some minor twists -- like the mash of "Free Man in Paris" with "April in Paris" -- that are nice enough but nothing to get worked up about. B

    Gavin Templeton: In Series (2013, Nine Winds): Alto saxophonist, grew up in Reno, NV, where he studied and wound up backing oldies acts like Wayne Newton and the Temptations; moved to Los Angeles in 2006 and got a Master's at California Institute for the Arts. Second album, side credits include Plotz!, Nels Cline, and Vinny Golia. This is a postbop quintet, both guitar and piano as well as bass and drums -- no one I recognize but that's probably because I hear so little from Golia. All Templeton originals. He can push the sax out front if need be, or fill in making good use of guitar or piano leads. B+(***) [October 8]

    The Ian Torres Big Band: January (2008-13 [2013], Blujazz): Chicago-based trumpeter, composes and arranges; album is subtitled "The Birth and Development of the Ian Torres Big Band" -- the "birth" a set of cuts from 2008, the "development" more from 2013. Latter adds a vocalist (Ledie Beukelman). Neither strike me as all that snappy. B

    Diego Urcola: Mates (2013, Sunnyside): Trumpet player (flugelhorn too, goes without saying), b. 1965 in Buenos Aires, Argentina; studied at Berklee and CUNY/City College-Queens, remaining based in New York. Fifth album since 2003. A cycle of duets, rotating between Avishai Cohen (bass), Dave Samuels (vibes & marimba), Edmar Castañeda (harp), and Juan Dargenton (bandoneón) -- the latter instruments he has some cultural affinity to, but the bassist is the most effective. B+(*) [October 8]

    Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

    • Chris Biesterfeldt: Urban Mandolin (self-released): November 5
    • Elton Dean/Paul Dunmall/Paul Rogers/Tony Bianco: Remembrance (2004, NoBusiness)
    • Fabric Trio: Murmurs (NoBusiness): CD-R of LP only
    • Phill Fest: Projeto B.F.C. (self-released): November 5
    • Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio: Dream a Little Dream (Whaling City Sound): October 29
    • Ricardo Grilli: If on a Winter's Night a Traveler (Dark House): October 15
    • Clarence Johnson III: Watch Him Work (Like Father Like Son Music): November 5
    • Wouter Kellerman: Mzansi (self-released)
    • Adam Lane Trio: Absolute Horizon (NoBusiness)
    • Luis Lopes/Humanization 4tet: Live in Madison (Ayler)
    • Luis Lopes: Noise Solo at ZDB Lisbon (self-released): LP
    • Outer Bridge Ensemble: Determined (self-released): October 29
    • RED Trio: Resento (NoBusiness): CD-R of LP-only
    • Howard Riley: Live With Repertoire (NoBusiness)
    • Roswell Rudd: Trombone for Lovers (Sunnyside): November 19
    • Gary Smulyan/Dominic Chianese: Bella Napoli (Capri): October 15
    • Colin Stranahan/Glenn Zaleski/Rick Rosato: Limitless (Capri): October 15
    • John Tchicai/Charlie Kohlhase/Garrison Fewell/Cecil McBee/Billy Hart: Tribal Ghost (2007, NoBusiness): CD-R of LP-only
    • Randy Weston/Billy Harper: The Roots of the Blues (Sunnyside): November 19

    Miscellaneous notes:

    • Jan & Dean's Golden Hits ([1962], Liberty): C+ [Rhapsody]

    Daily Log

    Music today (JP): .

    Sunday, October 06, 2013

    Weekend Roundup

    Hit the shutdown hard yesterday, and didn't have much time today, but still have a few scattered links to share:

    • Janet Allon: 10 of the Most Appalling Statements From America's Right-Wing Madhouse This Week: And just think: there were only seven last week:

      1. On Fox TV, it is assumed that the Nicaraguan meterologist knows all about tacos.
      2. Poor Ted Cruz: first a Republican "lynch mob" is after him, and then Democrats hurt his feelings.
      3. Rep. William O'Brien (R-NH): "Obamacare is as bad as Fugitive Slave Act."
      4. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN): Obamacare is the worst law known to man, pretty lady.
      5. Not to be outdone: Bill O'Reilly finally weighs in on Obamacare
      6. Rafael Cruz (Yep, Ted's Dad): Obama's on the side of the Muslims.
      7. Rick Joyner, Christian TV host: Time for God to impose martial law to save us from Obama's tyranny.
      8. Pat Robertson to elderly woman viewer: It's your fault your husband's health is suffering.
      9. PA officials continue thtie rich history of offensive same-sax marriage analogies: This week, it's pets and incest.
      10. Hatefulness prize-winner of the week: Fox News' Stuart Varney.
    • RJ Eskow: 7 Signs America Has Regressed Back to the Harsh, Cruel 19th Century:

      1. Wall Street can "send your man around to see my man" again.
      2. Workers aren't unionized.
      3. Our rights end at the workplace door.
      4. They're advocating child labor again.
      5. It's practically legal to shoot people down in the streets again.
      6. The rich have more of our national wealth than they did in colonial times.
      7. Political debates are getting rough again.

      I wonder how long it will be before a congressman from South Carolina assaults a senator from Massachusetts on the Capitol floor again. As Eskow writes:

      Fortunately, government leaders have yet to turn on one another physically. But that day may be coming. Michael Schwartz, Chief of Staff for Sen. Tom Coburn, said this: "I'm a radical! I'm a real extremist. I don't want to impeach judges. I want to impale them!"

    • Ann Jones: Americans Can't Remember, Afghans Will Never Forget: Remember Afghanistan?

      After 50 years of scheming behind the scenes, the U.S. put boots on the ground in 2001 and now, 12 years later, is still fighting there -- against some Afghans on behalf of other Afghans while training Afghan troops to take over and fight their countrymen, and others, on their own.

      Through it all, the U.S. has always claimed to have the best interests of Afghans at heart -- waving at various opportune moments the bright flags of modernization, democracy, education, or the rights of women. Yet today, how many Afghans would choose to roll back the clock to 1950, before the Americans ever dropped in? After 12 years of direct combat, after 35 years of arming and funding one faction or another, after 60 years of trying to remake Afghanistan to serve American aims, what has it all meant? If we ever knew, we've forgotten. Weary of official reports of progress, Americans tuned out long ago. [ . . . ]

      But even when the war "ends" and Americans have forgotten it altogether, it won't be over in Afghanistan. Obama and Karzai continue negotiations toward a bilateral security agreement to allow the U.S. to keep at least 9 of the biggest bases it built and several thousand "trainers" (and undoubtedly special operations forces) in Afghanistan seemingly forever.

      It won't be over in the U.S. either. For American soldiers who took part in it and returned with catastrophic physical and mental injuries, and for their families, the battles are just beginning.

      For American taxpayers, the war will continue at least until midcentury. Think of all the families of the dead soldiers to be compensated for their loss, all the wounded with their health care bills, all the brain damaged veterans at the VA. Think of the ongoing cost of their drugs and prosthetics and benefits. Medical and disability costs alone are projected to reach $754 billion. Not to mention the hefty retirement pay of all those generals who issued all those reports of progress as they so ambitiously fought more than one war leading nowhere.

      I saw a report in the Wichita Eagle that Afghanistan may reject the "status of forces" agreement that would allow the US to hang on -- see Impasse With Afghanistan Raises Prospect of Total U.S. Withdrawal in 2014. Can't happen soon enough, I'd say.

    • David D Kirkpatrick/Nicholas Kulish/Eric Schmitt: U.S. Raids in Libya and Somalia Strike Terror Targets: Obama had the good sense to ask Congress before attacking Syria, but has no such scruples regarding Somalia or Libya -- perhaps figuring he's done it so often nothing's different this time.

      Disclosure of the raid is likely to inflame anxieties among many Libyans about their national sovereignty, putting a new strain on the transitional government's fragile authority. Many Libyan Islamists already accuse their interim prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, who previously lived in Geneva as part of the exiled opposition to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, of collaborating too closely with the West. [ . . . ]

      Since the overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi, Tripoli has slid steadily into lawlessness, with no strong central government or police presence. It has become a safe haven for militants seeking to avoid detection elsewhere, and United States government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information, have acknowledged in recent months that Abu Anas and other wanted terrorists had been seen moving freely around the capital.

      So the US, once again, has added to the lawlessness, in no small part created by past US actions.

    Also, a few links for further study:

    • Andrew Bacevich: Thank You for Your Service: Review of David Finkel's new book, Thank You for Your Service, which looks at what has happened to American soldiers after they've returned home from the Bush (and Obama) wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which is to say there's a lot here on PTSD.

    • Lydia DePillis: Why big business failed to stop its worst nightmare in D.C.:

      One strategic reason that business groups haven't made much headway in this latest political conflagration is that even though Republicans have basically abandoned them, they've refused to defect to the Democrats, which might be the fastest way of breaking the deadlock. And urging both sides to just play nice increasingly just looks like wishful thinking.

      Paul Krugman: CEOs All at Sea comments more on this.

    • John Lanchester: The Snowden files: why the British public should be worried about GCHQ.

    • Trita Parsi: Pushing Peace: How Israel Can Help the United States Strike a Deal With Iran -- And Why It Should: Unconvincing to me as to why Israel will do any such thing, especially as long as Israel is able to keep Obama so uncomfortable that he misplays the opportunity Iran's recent elections has handed him. I've never felt that Netanyahu's obsession with Iran has been anything more than a way to distract Obama from the need to push for a resolution to the Palestinian conflict.

      Israel needs to show nimbleness now more that ever. With Egypt, Iraq, Libya, and Syria all in various states of chaos, Iran appears to be the most resolvable challenge that the United States faces in the Middle East, and Obama seems to know it. By personally taking ownership of reaching out to Iran by seeking a meeting with Rouhani and later calling him, he has demonstrated the political will to move things forward. And Rouhani seems ready to meet the challenge. By contrast, Netanyahu's knee-jerk rejection feeds the perception that Israel -- not Iran -- is the chief stumbling block. Ultimately, even short of a nuclear agreement, that impression can help Iran break out of its isolation and delegitimize the sanctions regime suffocating its economy.

      Note also that Robert Fisk, with less deference to Obama, converges with some of Parsi's insights -- see US cowardice will let Israel's isolated right off the hook. I saw a bit of Netanyahu on Charlie Rose the other night where he tried to liken Iran's leadership to suicide bombers. That's a rather extreme stretch, asking us to believe that Iran would do something no other nation has ever done.

    • Martha Rosenberg: Get Ready for Extra Helpings of Feces, Pus and Chlorine on Your Plate -- America Is Deregulating Its Meat Industry: Describes HACCP, a protocol for industry self-regulation -- i.e., less regulation. Concerns over food safety was one of the driving forces in the Progressive era, so this is another example of rolling America back to the 19th century robber baron era.

    Daily Log

    Laura and Naomi walked over to Cowtown. Seem to have had a fine time there. I could have used the walk, but stayed home and hacked out a Weekend Roundup instead. I made some Indonesian peanut sauce which provided some midday snacking, even though it came out a bit stiff. We then went to Red Beans for dinner: good food and very slow service. Came home and watched The Good Wife, Homeland, and The Mentalist. Homeland is one Naomi is interested in because her daughter is a childhood friend of Clare Danes. Two episodes into this season the show is still digging some kind of hole to try to come out of. It is annoying, especially now, that they're painting the villains as Iranian, not to mention that for evidence they're using things like the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia. (I see from Wikipedia that this is not the first time Iran has been accused, but most sources, and common sense, suggests Saudi salafists, possibly affiliated with Al-Qaeda. The show is based on an Israeli series, so it wouldn't be surprising that it can be used to spew out Israeli propaganda.)

    A bigger problem is the selective amnesia of the CIA bureaucracy -- they're playing along with the notion that Brody's suicide bomber tape proves culpability even though they new better, and they were able to use Brody's cooperation to kill archenemy Abu Nazir in the 2nd season. Moreover, they seem to be doing this just to torture Danes' character, for no better reason than they like to see her squirm (her out-of-control bipolar impression is indeed remarkable). Moreover, they're making a big deal out of a congressional witch hunt against the CIA that is really incredible -- I can't imagine any of the CIA's current minders in Congress doing anything but licking the agency's jackboots.

    Clearly, Carrie made a stupid move after the explosion in helping Brody escape. I can't remember why that happened, and I can't imagine what he might do on the run to vindicate himself -- indeed, there is always the possibility that that he played Carrie and remains a committed terrorist (although it's hard to imagine why, once Abu Nazir, and that Vice President, were killed. Laura was much more of a fan in the past, but we're both pretty dismayed so far. (Laura notes that while NCIS started the year with an Iranian enemy, that quickly turned out to be a false lead.)

    Music today (JP): David Sills; (RG): Simon & Garfunkel, Etta James, Sam Cooke.

    Saturday, October 05, 2013

    Slaves of a Defunct Joke

    The Republican wrecking crew has got their way and forced a federal government shutdown. I suppose there may be a silver lining there, in that this should postpone the date at which the Republican resolve not to raise the federal debt limit forces the government into theoretical bankruptcy. You might ask why they're doing this. Back in the 1990s, when Clinton was president and Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich ran the Republican-dominated Congress, they tried to shut down the government and it was generally regarded as a political disaster. Republicans did manage to get some concessions out of Obama is a previous debt limit crisis, so they may still figure he's a pushover, but insisting on wrecking the Affordable Care Act just when many people have begun to understand what an improvement it is may have finally stiffened his spine.

    There's a famous John Maynard Keynes line which goes:

    The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.

    So I suppose we could blame this on F.A. Hayek -- or, in the kiddie book version favored by "young guns" like Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand -- but I think the real source of Republican confusion here is a joke from Ronald Reagan:

    The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

    Now, as jokes go, that's good enough for a chuckle, but as a factual statement it's just plain wrong, and as a worldview it's dumb and blind. The fact is, whenever something bad happens, the first resource people look for help from is the government. When you get robbed, you call the police. When your garage catches fire, you look to the fire department. When a tornado or hurricane or earthquake strikes, everyone looks to the government to manage the damage and coordinate the recovery -- even if you deal with a private insurance company, that company depends on the government to backstop its losses. When there's a drought, farmers may pray for rain, but federal insurance is more tangible. And then there are disasters that never happen because the government is there. Your bank deposits are secure because the FDIC insures them, and since you don't have to worry about them bank runs are a thing of the past. One can come up with hundreds of examples, even in a country as corrupt as the United States of America.

    Reagan's joke was funny because it's true just often enough to get a nod of recognition. Sometimes government is self-serving -- Zaire under Mobuto was so much so it earned the label kleptocracy. Sometimes it is corrupt, so may work in someone else's favor at your expense. Some government workers are inept. Some follow rigid rules that don't really apply to the given situation. Some don't really understand the notions of public interest and public service. And sometimes when they do that they wind up siding against what you think of as your rights. So, in America at least, most people have had occasion to feel like the government has done them wrong. So they laugh along with Reagan's little joke. But they still look to the government for help when they need it. After all, they pay taxes and believe the government belongs to them -- not that some don't wonder when they see lobbyists paying off politicians, and not that some don't begrudge it when government helps people they don't much approve of.

    But it's a big conceptual leap from understanding that sometimes government isn't as helpful as it should be to the position Cal Thomas recently expressed: Government incapable of making lives better:

    It's Obamacare activation and government "shutdown" week in Washington, D.C., where the consequences of misplaced faith in government are everywhere. Still, "true believers" remain faithful that Obamacare will be the exception to government's past failures in achieving big goals.

    There are examples galore of government's inability to do things well and at reasonable cost, but that doesn't deter those who continue to believe government can solve every problem.

    Reading Thomas is likely to give you whiplash, as he counters strawman opponents who "believe government can solve every problem" with his insistence that government is not only incapable of solving any problem, that it cannot ever make lives better. His evidence? Mostly it comes from the Heritage Foundation, a "think thank" that sees everything through its peculiar ideological prism. So what if they've declared Head Start, food stamps, and social security failures? All that means is that those programs don't function to make the rich richer. If they don't make "lives better," that's because they're only concerned with the lives of the very rich.

    On the other hand, it's easy to construct a list of things government has done that have made most lives better. The single thing that has had the most dramatic effect on life expectancy has been the construction of safe water and sewerage systems -- virtually all the work of government. Malaria, smallpox, polio are once prevalent diseases that have been largely eradicated due to public efforts. Pharmaceutical companies are enormously profitable today, but influenza vaccine is a government project, something the profit-seekers have little interest in.

    Transportation infrastructure has largely been government work -- from subsidizing the railroads and building canals in the 19th century to the interstate highways and air traffic control today. Electric power from hydro and atomic energy has mostly been due to government support -- even if private companies profit, they stand on the shoulders of government investments. Fundamental research is mostly backed by public investment. The internet and most of its protocols came out of public research.

    Strip away everything that government does in America and you'll go a long way of reverting to a hunter-and-gatherer society, with an economy that would be hard pressed to support 1% of the people living here now. Thomas may not appreciate this, but his corporate sponsors must know that without the government-regulated money supply and without government-enforced contract law their sainted markets could not exist: people would be reduced to barter, with no recourse against fraud. Such a world would be unthinkable, except in the narrowly ideological minds of people like Thomas.

    This should be obvious, but we don't have to choose between government for everything and government for nothing: reasonable people will favor various mixed approaches for different things. The ACA -- supposedly the immediate target of the Republicans' extortion -- is in fact far short of a government takeover of the health care system. It doesn't nationalize the pharmaceutical industry nor the hospitals. It doesn't even eliminate private insurance companies. It just forces them to play by certain rules, the goal of which is to make sure that the insurance they sell effectively insures the people who buy it. Nor is such regulation of the insurance industry anything new: before ACA a number of laws already regulated insurance companies (without which the industry would be even more prone to fraud than it is). Still, ACA will help a lot: the key question being how effective it is at providing every American with health insurance. If everyone is covered, people will be freed from the fear of losing their coverage, of bankruptcy, of catastrophic losses, and hospitals and other "providers of last resort" won't need to charge paying customers for free riders. And full coverage will reinforce in people's minds the understanding that comprehensive health care for all is a right and not just a privilege of wealth. That, in the future, will lead toward reforming the system in democratic ways as opposed to the previous system of naked profit-taking.

    So you should be able to see by now why the Republicans have targeted ACA. Ideologues like Thomas are just the froth on top of the current struggle. True conservatives don't want to "drown the government in a bathtub" (as Grover Norquist put it); they want to run the government and use it for their own purposes, mostly to help the rich get richer by any means possible, and to prevent everyone else from being able to use democracy to improve their lot.

    Still, Reagan's joke has taken root among the small and bitter minds who habitually blame government for helping the downtrodden. Those are the people who applaud the shutdown, and are likely to keep applauding until they lose everything. They're a pitiful lot, and their shutdown gives us a taste of what happens when their wretched worldview becomes reality. (But only a taste: for now it's only the federal government they've shut down, and that only partially.)

    Some links, starting with two more pieces from the Wichita Eagle (cartoon from Truthdig).

    • Federal shutdown halts Wichita aviation sales: Front-page article in the Wichita Eagle. Aviation is the largest single employer, and the aircraft companies can't deliver product without FAA approval, nor can they deliver product to the Defense Department. Right-wingers may rail about government regulations, but the FAA has a lot to do with making sure US aircraft are safe, and cutthroat deregulation would probably wind up tarnishing the industry even more than they are inconvenienced now.

    • Davis Merritt: Radical right is creating its own train wreck. The former editor of the Eagle:

      But if red-state voters continue to send to Congress people who promise instant and drastic reform that they cannot deliver, over time the lack of effective governance will extract a much larger toll on the nation's economy and social compact.

      When you create a situation so damaging that you must frantically try to attach the blame to someone else, what have you accomplished? There was never a chance that the president would surrender to crude street-level extortion. It would have been wrong for him to do so.

      Had he given in, what about next time, which will surely come? The radical right could tie the next fiscal crisis to one of its other agenda items, be it privatizing Social Security or dismantling Medicare or even impinging on a president's foreign policy decisions. Government by extortion would become the norm.

      From the nation's founding, the appropriate role of government and the balance of responsibility between state and federal governments have been matters of constant debate and adjustment to changing circumstances. The world's biggest economy and most durable democracy were not developed and sustained by people wielding sledgehammers and axes, but by rational people who understood compromise as the mortar in any viable governing structure.

    • Ryan Koronowski: Tropical Storm Closes in on Louisiana: What Happens When a Hurricane Hits During a Government Shutdown? Article focuses mostly on forecasting as opposed to disaster relief. As I write this, Tropical Storm Karen is off the coast of Louisiana, expected to make landfall south of New Orleans around 7AM Sunday, and move northeast into Alabama in the following 24 hours. It's unlikely to produce anything like Katrina damage, but that's sheer luck. The National Hurricane Center does provide some information, but the web page starts with this advisory:

      Due to the Federal Government shutdown, NOAA.gov and most associated web sites are unavailable. However, because the information this site provides is necessary to protect life and property, it will be updated and maintained during the Federal Government shutdown.

    • Dean Baker: Shutting Down the Government Over Health Care:

      There are many grounds for complaining about aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. There is no public option, so people have no choice but to get care through private insurers. The cost controls are limited, which means that doctors, drug companies and medical-supply companies will likely continue to overcharge patients.

      But these are not the issues that trouble the Republicans. The lack of adequate cost controls and other problems like it are items that can be fixed once the program is in place. These problems would hardly justify a government shutdown.

      The reason the Republicans are prepared to go to the wall to stop Obamacare is simple: They are terrified that people will get it and like it. This would destroy the central political message of their party for the last four years. [ . . . ] But these tactics are desperation moves. The public is about to find out that the central theme of the Republican political agenda for the last four years is a lie. And that is not a pretty story.

      By the way, I have a nephew who just did the math and found out that the ACA will save him about 80% on health insurance. He's got freaky libertarian politics, but concluded: "way to go Obama." My own COBRA-mandated insurance runs out in January. Without the ACA, it's unlikely that I could get any kind of decent insurage coverage, so I have extra reason to take the Republican attacks on Obamacare personally.

    • Atul Gawande: States of Health:

      This week, the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act, which provides health-insurance coverage to millions of people like Sullivan, is slated to go into effect. Republican leaders have described the event in apocalyptic terms, as Republican leaders have described proposals to expand health coverage for three-quarters of a century. In 1946, Senator Robert Taft denounced President Harry Truman's plan for national health insurance as "the most socialistic measure this Congress has ever had before it." Fifteen years later, Ronald Reagan argued that, if Medicare were to be enacted, "one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America when men were free." And now comes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell describing the Affordable Care Act as a "monstrosity," "a disaster," and the "single worst piece of legislation passed in the last fifty years." Lacking the votes to repeal the law, Republican hard-liners want to shut down the federal government unless Democrats agree to halt its implementation. [ . . . ]

      Conservatives keep hoping that they can drive the system to collapse. That won't happen. Enough people, states, and health-care interests are committed to making it work, just as the Massachusetts version has for the past seven years. And people now have a straightforward way to resist the forces of obstruction: sign up for coverage, if they don't have it, and help others do so as well.

    • Paul Krugman: Hapless and Hopeless: By the way, found this after I wrote the comment on Cassidy below, which it's relevant to but more important up here:

      During the Bush years, I would often run into people mocking W for being stupid. I never thought he was -- incurious, anti-intellectual, but not stupid. And the people around him certainly weren't stupid -- cynical, dishonest, but not stupid, especially regarding matters political.

      The current situation is different. These guys are cynical and dishonest -- but they're also very, very stupid.

      If one thing has been clear for months, it is that Obama (a) won't give ground on health reform (b) won't let himself be extorted again over the debt ceiling; he knows that his cave in 2011 was the worst thing he's done in office, and is determined to set things right by establishing, once and for all, the precedent that you don't get to pull that trick.

      Yet here we are, with Republicans bleeding politically -- and knowing that they're bleeding -- and what do we have? Boehner repeating that Obama must concede on rolling back health reform, and Cantor assuring his colleagues that Obama's going to cave.

      It's true that they're in a box. Given everything they've told the base, facing reality is going to cost them a lot. But they put themselves into this box.

      Unfortunately, the whole country and maybe the world is going to pay part of the price of their stupidity.

      My emphasis: I'm less convinced than that Obama has learned his lesson, but even the Republicans are making it clear that his past willingness to give in to this kind of extortion is the main reason they're doing it again. But in attacking the ACA they're basically insisting that he surrender his one greatest accomplishment -- in effect, his legacy. And in 2011 he still had to worry about a tanked economy and an uphill reelection fight so he had things he wanted to trade for, but now he's a lame duck with the economy looking up (admittedly, not for everyone) and the deficit shrinking, so why not let the Republicans expose themselves as assholes?

      Nor has this scenario been in any way unpredictable. Republicans over in the Senate have been warning that stopping Obamacare was a lost cause, and many people expected cooler heads to prevail. I hadn't bothered with any links on the subject, not because I didn't expect it to happen so much as I don't like assuming the worst about people -- even those with a track record.

    • Krugman's earlier post, Aggressive Blunderers:

      Jonathan Chait argues that blame for what looks more and more like a shutdown merging with a debt ceiling crisis rests not with Tea Party radicals but with the Republican leadership: "The House leadership has evinced every tic of classic aggressive blunderers."

      Unfortunately, I think this is right. Just last week we had Paul Ryan blithely assuring National Review that "nobody believes" that Obama will refuse to make concessions over the debt ceiling, and citing examples from the past that anyone who has actually been following the issue knows have no relevance to what's happening now.

      In other words, GOP leaders fundamentally misjudged the situation (and Obama's incentives). And now they have backed themselves into a position where they don't know how to back down -- they have to extract concessions or they'll have been "disrespected," in a situation where Obama simply can't make any concessions without destroying his own credibility and betraying the fundamental norms of governance.

      For more relevant Krugman, see his columns The Crazy Party and Rebels Without a Clue. Both are completely quotable, and show that he's even more worried about the impending default than the current shutdown. The latter ends:

      This all sounds crazy, because it is. But the craziness, ultimately, resides not in the situation but in the minds of our politicians and the people who vote for them. Default is not in our stars, but in ourselves.

    • Richard Eskow: The GOP's Shutdown Tab: One Billion Dollars and Counting: Estimates that the costs of the shutdown are "a third of a billion every day. $1.6 billion every week." That's what happens when the government can't spend: people lose their jobs, businesses don't get paid and can't get loans, national parks shut down and tourist revenue suffers, lots of things stop happening.

      The bill has already come to roughly $1 billion as of today (Thursday), and it grows larger every moment the government stays shut down. Republicans in Congress recently voted to cut $4 billion per year from programs that feed the needy. In two-and-a-half weeks they'll have wasted more than that on their shutdown.

      Why? "We're not going to be disrespected," said one Republican House member. "We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."

      If you think that's worth billions of dollars and the paralysis of the federal government, the GOP's the party for you.

      This stunt isn't just costly and wasteful. It's endangering a fragile economy, and the jobs that go with it.

      And what are we getting for their billion-dollar boondoggle? Nothing. Literally: We get nothing. The GOP's federal shutdown is on the verge of becoming the most fiscally irresponsible gesture in modern political history.

    • Robert Parry: The White Man's Last Tantrum?

      American pundits are missing the bigger point about the Republican shutdown of the U.S. government and the GOP's threatened default on America's credit. The real question is not what policy concessions the Tea Partiers may extract, but rather can a determined right-wing white minority ensure continuation of white supremacy in the United States? [ . . . ]

      Instead of accepting the emergence of this more diverse and multi-cultural America, the Right -- through the Tea Party-controlled Republicans -- has decided to alter the constitutional framework of the United States to guarantee the perpetuation of white supremacy and the acceptance of right-wing policies.

      In effect, we are seeing the implementation of a principle enunciated by conservative thinker William F. Buckley in 1957: "The white community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically." Except now the Buckley rule is being applied nationally. [ . . . ]

      The Tea Party-induced government shutdown and the upcoming extortion demands over the debt ceiling may indeed turn out to be the white man's last tantrum -- but this extremist strategy of mayhem and extortion could also be the inauguration of a grim new era of Jim Crow.

      Also see: William Rivers Pitt: Half the Republicans You Know Are Insane, an assertion he backs up with polling information.

      Also: John Cassidy: G.O.P. Extremists Defy Description:

      Once an elected government is deemed illegitimate, in whatever sense, normal democratic politics, with its give and take, is difficult to sustain. And that, of course, is what we are now witnessing. On parts of the right, policies on issues such as immigration, gun control, and health-care reform are no longer viewed on their individual merits. They are all part of a Manichean struggle over the future of America. And with the first non-white President nine months into his second term, at least some G.O.P. activists and media incendiaries have infused the fight with a very personal and vindictive tone. (To be fair, liberals had a similar antipathy toward George W. Bush.)

      It is only in this context that the animus, language, and antics of the G.O.P. can be understood. Does Ted Cruz, an articulate Canadian-born graduate of Harvard Law School, really believe that Obamacare, which started out at the Heritage Foundation twenty years ago as a conservative alternative to Hillarycare, is a socialistic scheme that will destroy the American economy? Of course he doesn't. But he knows that describing it as such, and threatening to shut down the U.S. government, will play to the base and further his own ambitions.

      To be fair, liberals actually didn't treat Bush the same way, and they didn't inflict deliberate harm on the economy to try to embarrass Bush. They didn't try to shut down government under Bush. They never raised a peep about extending the debt limit, even though Clinton had left with a surplus. Most of them voted for the bank bailout, figuring that saving the undeserving rich was necessary in order to protect ordinary people. No matter how much liberals came to loathe Bush they didn't get vindictive against the whole country. The fact is that liberals have an inclusive view, believing that this is a nation for everyone who lives here. It's the right-wingers who believe that so many of their fellow Americans are unworthy, or worse.

      Kathleen Geier quotes research by Christopher Parker and Matt Barreto, in the book Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America, where they asked whether "Obama is destroying the country," and found that 71 percent of tea party conservatives believed that, vs. 6 percent of non-tea party conservatives. Geier blames racism, and she's probably right. But now that you ask the question that way, I admit that I did think Bush was destroying the country. But in my defense, I could cite some evidence: his wars, his antipathy for diplomacy, his tax cuts and budget blunders, increasing inequality, wholesale cronyism in government, his assault on privacy, his failure to enforce antitrust law, his encouragement of financial fraud, the colossal economic debacle toward the end of his second term. And he did indeed leave the nation poorer and meaner. But never once did I suggest he did those horrible things because he was white. I don't even think he did them because he wanted to hurt the country, or even (unlike so many tea partiers) because he was out to hurt the people here who weren't born rich like him. I think he did it because he held a lot of wrong-headed ideas, because he surrounded himself with people who were as wrong or worse, and because he was insensitive (almost oblivious) to the consequences.

    Closing thought from Andy Borowitz's twitter feed:

    I wasn't happy about the country being controlled by the richest 1 percent, but I really hate it being controlled by the dumbest 1 percent.

    And no, I don't follow Borowitz (or twitter), but now that I'm looking at it, I also see "Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I wish mental health care were as easy to get as, say, a gun"; "New Texas law requires voters to have ID with photo of white person"; and, combining those two thoughts, "Disturbed Man Slips Past Senate Security, Gives 21-Hour Speech." Sometimes it's easy to be funny; sometimes it's sad.

    Daily Log

    Spent most of the day piecing together today's shutdown post, as Laura and Naomi went out to the Art Museum. We stopped at the Chester Lewis Park downtown, then went for dinner at Hog Wild. Went to Best Buy to pick up a cable Naomi forgot to bring. Wandering around I noticed how obsolete my laptop computer has become. Naomi has an Apple, and works constantly with it on her lap -- something I've never been able to do.

    Music today (JP): Houston Person; (RG): Booker T. & the M.G.s, Ronettes, Shangri-Las.

    Friday, October 04, 2013

    Daily Log

    Naomi arrived today, driving in from Los Angeles with stops in South Pasadena, CA; Winslow, AZ; and Dalhart, TX. We went out to dinner at that Mexican place Laura likes (on Waco Street, can never remember the name, and frankly don't like it all that much). Came home and watched TV: Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Low Winter Sun.

    Music today (JP): Colorado Conservatory for the Jazz Arts, Tierney Sutton, Resonance; (RG): Paul Bley.

    Thursday, October 03, 2013

    Expert Witnesses

    Robert Christgau has been a mentor, a colleague, and a friend. I've known him since 1975, when he asked me to review a new Bachman-Turner Overdrive album for the Village Voice. He knew about me because Harold Karabell talked me into sending him some stuff I had written for Don Malcolm's Overdose: A Journal of the Beaux Arts, including a rather snotty review of Christgau's Any Old Way You Choose It. I asserted there that anyone could write rock criticism, and to prove my point I wrote some (start here). I never really knew why he invited me. (Maybe to prove I wasn't just anybody. Years later he said his rule-of-thumb was "IQ over 150.") I moved to New York in 1977. He put me up and helped me get settled. I wrote for him until I got frustrated around 1979 and the following year I moved to New Jersey for a software engineering job. We kept in touch, and after my wife died he introduced me to the woman I've lived with for more than 25 years now. I lobbied to build the Christgau website several years before he gave in and let me do it. Michael Tatum got me writing about music again, and in 2005 Christgau asked me to write a Jazz Consumer Guide column.

    I've already covered much of this history in A Rock & Roll Critic Is Something to Be, the piece I wrote for the Christgau Festschrift, Don't Stop Until You Get Enough. My file of Christgau clippings goes back to 1969 -- I subscribed to the Village Voice then and found my old copies in the attic a few years later. But while there have been many records I picked up on his recommendation, the most memorable moments of revelation for me are personal, as when he first played "Dancing in Your Head" and "Got to Give It Up" for me, or when I was in his apartment when he opened Marquee Moon and rushed to put it on the turntable. (I've never seen him so ecstatic.)

    On the other hand, my taste was largely informed independent of him. I got much of my start from friends like Karabell, Malcolm, and George Lipsitz. Early on I read pretty much everyone, and later I consulted all sorts of guides to fill in gaps, especially jazz but even African music. And aside from our decades-long differences over Charlie Parker, he's always respected my views and worked hard to let me say my own piece, often in better words than I originally came up with. Of course, it probably helped that we share so much common background and respond to all arts so similarly -- first time we met I recall we spent a lot of time going to museums and galleries -- and that we can go to exotic restaurants and Yankees games without conflict. I think this reveals one thing I got wrong about him in that 1974 book review: critics (myself included) tend to delve deep into their own opinions (which of course everyone has, him especially) but he has always styled himself as a journalist, and in that role he's been especially cognizant and respectful of other people's reactions.

    You find this throughout his writing -- the time he took his mother to see Tom Jones, his "designated teenager" (Perry Brandston), frequent comments on how Carola and later Nina responded to things. Over the years he's gauged my reactions to hundreds of records and dozens of concerts, and I don't doubt that he factors everyone he shares music with into his writing and ultimately his grades, even though that's all uniquely his. Over time he's refined his writing, but I'll always regard the late 1970s as his heyday, and not just because I was there and was a beneficiary of his patronage as music editor of the Village Voice. Rather, it's because that was the one time when he had both the power and the ambition to direct the course of rock criticism (and much more with Gary Giddins and Tom Johnson). And that was a conscious role: he had, after all, designated himself "the dean of American rock critics" even before it became obvious that he was. And in the 1970s CG book he avowed to find every B+ album released during the decade in the US, and took months away from the Voice to track them down.

    He never had that sort of ambition again, partly because he couldn't find the time to keep on top of the ever-expanding market, and partly because the Voice mirrored the decline of the American economy (and mentality) ever since 1980. He became less secure and focused more on his own writing -- good for the latter, but none of the Voice's later music editors ran the section with such skill or vision. As the market grew his coverage inevitably thinned, and he tried to compensate by limiting his interests -- jazz largely fell off the table, as did metal -- and by cutting short the amount of time spent on mediocre and downright bad albums. In 1990 he proposed doing an "A-list-only" Consumer Guide, but he wound up with long lists of near-misses and duds plus occasional "turkey shoot" reviews -- at least until Expert Witness, where he faced a different problem: not being able to find four A-list albums per week, a problem partially resolved by "Odds and Ends" -- the return of the near misses -- and by pulling old standards off the shelf.

    I know quite a bit about writing Consumer Guides, starting with a good sense of how much work such a large sort takes even before you write the first word. Christgau is very efficient at this phase. For one thing, he's remarkably adept at grasping lyrics (something I'm notoriously bad at). But he's also quick to reject records without much promise, and he doesn't make any sort of audit trail available. This has long bothered me, and I've tried to make my own work more transparent, so it's possible for others to discern the records I've ignored or silently discarded from the ones I never got.

    Nonetheless, Expert Witness has been a joy to behold. Christgau's reviews have stretched out a bit, literally as he's realized that bits are cheap -- he's known all along that writing tight is harder -- and in domain, both going back and searching wide. In all this he has exposed himself more generously. It's not that we need him to find Blind Lemon Jefferson or Lloyd Price (Lil Green, maybe) but that each canon figure he writes about helps fill out a picture that for long has been limited by contemporary time slices. (And note that his takes on Price and Green are not without reservations.) What will be missed more is his knack for finding obscurities: a quick check of my metacritic file shows that he's written about 22 records this year with a score ≤ 5, and another 25 ≤ 10. (The former gets you up to Rachid Taha's Zoom, which got to 5 by counting 4 Witnesses; the latter to Ceramic Dog, a niche item that has been noticed by a few other reviewers.) Some of those, by the way, aren't obscure -- they're records that have been widely panned, but Christgau found some merit in (Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, LL Cool J, Kate Nash, Brad Paisley) -- but it isn't clear who else is gonna find future analogues of Sam Baker, Clay Harper, Fat Tony, Dobie, Robert Sarazin Blake, David Greenberger, Serengeti, or even Wussy.

    Still, the most remarkable aspect of Expert Witness wasn't Christgau continuing to do what he's done for forty-some years: it's the flood of feedback that came with enabling comments on the blog posts. When Expert Witness launched, I took a look at the other music blogs on MSN Music, and they were averaging about 2 comments per post. Fewest Christgau elicited was about 100, with a peak over 500 and a median most likely somewhere in the low 200s. As in any group, there are activists and lurkers: I don't have any easy way to run the numbers, but I'd guess that two-thirds of the comments came from 25-30 people, but they were also the most passionate and best-informed followers of his work, often dating back to the 1970s. (I see that I posted 356 comments. Some people posted many more: Cam Patterson is surely near the top at 2,810, and Christgau himself primed the pump with 2,172 comments.) Most comments were forgettable, some only making sense as chat, but there were also stretches where the quality of discussion was remarkable. (I copied hundreds into my notebook for safekeeping, and reprinted Cam's survey of Brazilian music in toto.)

    I'm may be the person least surprised by the emergence of this virtual community. After I built Christgau's website in 2001 nearly half of the major commenters wrote to me, many offering to help -- transcribing articles, proofreading, fact checking, and/or offering tribute (one person sent a copy of the King Sunny Adé "orange cover" album). This went beyond work on the website -- e.g., we did year-end polls for 2002 and 2003. Some of the people who contacted me never became major commenters -- one correspondent simply explained, "I'm not that kind of fan" -- but most did, and uncounted others lurked. The voluminous comments of the last round reflected not just appreciation for Christgau but also a sense of community achievement.

    I plan on writing a second piece on what I see us doing beyond Expert Witness. It's not inconceivable that some other patron with deep pockets will come along and sponsor a revival. It's less likely, I think, that some sort of viable crowd-funded forum can be created. It's not even inconceivable that Christgau could decide to drop his long-stated insistence on writing-for-hire that decides that EW is something he wants to continue on his own. (I'm sure he denies that now, but I've been through that when the Voice dropped Jazz CG, and I've kept going even though prospects of a paying gig are nil.) But even if this setback is temporary sooner or later the end will come.

    Then we need to ask ourselves whether there's a need for something along the lines of what Christgau started to continue into the future, and whether it's important enough that we should make it happen. It's not likely to fall out of the advertising stream: the days when "free content" of any real quality could be produced as a side-effect of selling crap are dwindling if not already passed. Nor is this something one exceptional person can produce: in 1969, perhaps, one could imagine covering everything worthwhile in American popular music, but worldwide semi-popular music in 2013 is a whole different order of magnitude. Do the math and you'll see that not even Christgau is up to that task: with all the Odds and Ends he was on track to write about 300 albums this year (261 was the actual total; 792 in three years). My metacritic file is currently tracking 4596 records released this year. (I've rated 717 of them, so less than 16%.) The only way to sort such numbers out is to divide up the work. So let's amend my original proposition: it's no longer true that anyone could do it, but perhaps everyone together can.

    Still, you'll never again see the singular coherent viewpoint, the vast experience of witnessing so much critical history happen in real time, and odds are you won't find many critics paying such attention to their writing, focusing so broadly, or networking so widely. I don't have the exact quote handy, but many years ago, I think even before I moved to New York, Ed Ward wrote me a letter where he cautioned that some people "think Bob is kinda weird" (something to that effect). Turns out that he was right, and more importantly that's what it took.

    Daily Log

    Music today (JP): The Elec Tet; (RG): Smokey Robinson/Miracles, Fairport Convention.

    Tried posting this at Expert Witness:

    Sorry I didn't get around to writing something here back while people were paying attention, but it took me a long time to catch up and think it through, and the result is over on my blog (where the formatting and the links work). Expect the other shoe to drop in a couple days -- haven't started that piece yet, although it's been rolling around in my mind for years.

    Wednesday, October 02, 2013

    Daily Log

    Worked on the Christgau piece, which I'll probably post tomorrow.

    Fixed dinner. Tried to reproduce an old family recipe with a few new twists. Actually, I think Mom got the idea off a soup can, but the basic idea was to do her usual fried round steak, then put it in a casserole dish, top it with Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, cover, and bake an hour at 350F. I pounded the steak, then cut it up into 1.5-inch squares (or 1x1.5-inch rectangles); dipped it in buttermilk (Mom used regular milk), and dredged it in a mix of "gluten-free" flour and potato starch (about 3-to-1; Mom, of course, used regular wheat flour), and fried it in mild olive oil (Mom probably used Crisco at first, then eventually switched to a neutral oil like canola or corn), seasoned with salt and pepper. Moved the steak to the casserole, then dumped a can of Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom soup into the pan, followed by 3/4 of a can of milk. (I also added about six Chinese black mushrooms, soaked, stemmed, and coarsely chopped. Mom never added mushrooms.) Loosened up all the breading that stuck to the bottom of the pan -- there was virtually no oil left after frying the steak -- and mixed the soup, bringing it to a boil, then pouring it over the steak. Covered the casserole, and baked at 350F for one hour.

    Meanwhile, I made green beans. Tried using a one of those microwave steam bags, undercooking the green beans a bit. Then chopped up two strips of bacon and scattered in a frying pan. Coarsely chopped one-half onion, and added that. Had half of a green bell pepper left over, so I sliced it and added it. Covered the frying pan for a couple minutes, then added the green beans, stirred them around, then covered the pan again for a few minutes. Mom used to make green beans with bacon and onion. In the past I've always boiled the green beans, then finished as above, but the microwave beans work the same way. Mom's wound up with more liquid: she probably did it all in one step.

    Music today (JP): Frank Potenza, Marco Cappelli, Laurent Coq; (RG): The Kinks, the Left Banke, Sonny & Cher.

    Tuesday, October 01, 2013

    Daily Log

    Intent is to write two pieces today: a memoir for Cam's Expert Witness compilation, and a position piece on Terminal Zone. We'll see how that goes.

    Music today (JP): Justin Morell, Jamie Baum.

    Sep 2013