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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27287 [27272] rated (+15), 423 [418] unrated (+5).

Another light week. Spent Friday evening through Sunday working on an overly ambitious birthday dinner. I doubt I'll ever try that again -- at least at such scale. Wound up scratching five dishes from the menu -- a couple I'll finish up tonight to keep from wasting the ingredients, a couple more can wait indefinitely. Theme was Greek, with three main dishes, baked and fresh veggies, pita bread, dips, stuffed grape leaves, and various hot mezze, with walnut cake for dessert. The bread was disappointing, the dips mixed, the grape leaves tasty but mostly ignored, the mezze reduced to meatballs and sweetbreads (especially good). The main dishes -- fish, shrimp, rabbit, and briami were all spectacular. Cake was fine too.

Biggest problem was logistical, as I was unable to get the food out in proper order, and we ran out of table space -- we probably would have been better off setting it up as a buffet, but we don't really have room for that either. Smaller dinners for six or so still seem workable, and the main dishes were pretty simple preparations -- long bakes or slow braises. Thanks to Elias Vlanton, Greek was the first non-American cuisine I fell in love with, but aside from Garithes Yiouvetsi I've rarely cooked it, having moved on and made Turkish cuisine my specialty. So it was nice to get back to basics recently.


I posted October's Streamnotes on Saturday, just before I started cooking, so there's virtually nothing new listed below. I posted a notice on Facebook, and was surprised to find that nearly all of the commentary concerned my ACN background grades on Bruce Springsteen. I often use Streamnotes as a tool for going back and checking out records I had missed, but since I didn't bother with previously rated records I figured that at least listing them would provide some useful context. German avant-pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach was a case in point this past month, as I reviewed his latest plus six older ones, then listed 18 others (including Globe Unity and a couple of joint projects with wife Aki Takase).

I started doing Springsteen after watching his appearance on Stephen Colbert plugging his memoir and a tie-in CD of odds and sods. Next I moved on to Live 1975-85, his famed 5-LP/3-CD live archive, then figured I might as well mop up the rest. Can't say as I discovered anything -- certainly nothing I wish I had bought earlier. As is well documented (e.g., here and here and here) I developed an intense dislike for Springsteen c. his Time cover -- partly my rather instinctive leanings toward antihype, partly revulsion over the hyperbolic dramaturgy of Born to Run (e.g., "Jungleland") and Darkness at the Edge of Town, and partly because I had become partisan in my fondness for the era's British pub rock movement (e.g., see the numerous references to Ducks Deluxe, op. cit.).

One commenter wrote "a universe where BTR is a B+ is a chilly place indeed." Actually, my original Born to Run grade was B-. I certainly didn't feel chilly at the time. Lots of other things I loved at the time, and it's always been relative. I've mellowed considerably since then, acknowledging the title cut as magnificent (despite some terrible lyrics, like "And strap your hands 'cross my engines") although "Jungleland" still sucks. The album that started to turn me around was The River, where he cut out most of the crap and started to hone his sound down to something classically rock but still distinctive. Took me a while, but he eventually turned into someone I liked (took him a while too) -- e.g., I don't get the problem some commenters have with The Seeger Sessions.

Still, I'm not here to argue that you shouldn't like something you actually do. If you have your own considered views, God bless you. I figure I'm mostly useful because I write about so much stuff you've never heard of, or never taken seriously. (Black Bombaim is a good case in point, or 75 Dollar Bill -- although Jason Gubbels and Robert Christgau got to the latter way before I did.) And when I do touch on something familiar, maybe that will help you correlate, as well as providing my own sanity check. Wouldn't want to miss anything important, especially if it's a widespread pick (like Springsteen, unlike Schlippenbach).

More useful was Dan Weiss' complaint that I underrated Rae Sremmurd. One of those acts I always seem to come out low on. A comment that's more likely to trigger re-evaluation is Michael Tatum's on American Honey: "Genres that aren't supposed to mix, artists I don't care for, even songs I never liked . . . no one listens to all this stuff at the same time. But somehow it works." I could blame Spotify (Napster only has like seven cuts), but I heard all that and still couldn't decide whether it justified what's basically a mixtape.


New issue of Downbeat came in the mail today, featuring their 81st Annual Readers Poll results. I've rarely felt further isolated from the jazz fans represented by the magazine (looks like about 15000 voted). The HOF winner was the late Phil Woods, a worthy candidate who narrowly edged out Wynton Marsalis -- not a personal favorite, but over 35 years now he's probably produced as many A- albums as Woods, maybe more. Woods also won for alto saxophone, where he was trailed by (get this): Kenny Garrett, David Sanborn, and Grace Kelly. Marsalis won trumpet, followed by a guy I'd never heard of, Roger Ingram (he's mostly played in big bands, going back to Louie Bellson and Woody Herman).

Most disappointing for me was the album standings -- not so much that Maria Schneider won (most critics adore her) as that she was followed by Grace Kelly, Gregory Porter, Arturo Sandoval, and many others. I count two A-, two B+(***), and various lower grades. What the hell, let's list them:

  1. Maria Schneider Orchestra: The Thompson Fields (ArtistShare) [**]
  2. Grace Kelly: Trying to Figure It Out (Pazz) [*]
  3. Gregory Porter: Take Me to the Alley (Blue Note) [B-]
  4. Arturo Sandoval: Live at Yoshi's (ALFI) [*]
  5. Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison: In Movement (ECM) [A-]
  6. Christian McBride Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (Mack Avenue) [**]
  7. Tony Bennett & Bill Charlap: The Silver Lining (Columbia) [*]
  8. Pat Metheny: The Unity Sessions (Nonesuch) [B]
  9. Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Live in Cuba (Blue Engine) [**]
  10. Esperanza Spalding: Emily's D + Evolution (Concord) [B]
  11. Charles Lloyd & the Marvels: I Long to See You (Blue Note) [**]
  12. Chick Corea & Béla Fleck: Two (Concord) [B]
  13. Cécile McLorin Salvant: For One to Love (Mack Avenue) [*]
  14. Sonny Rollins: Holding the Stage: Road Shows Vol. 4 (Okeh) [A-]
  15. Snarky Puppy: Culcha Vulcha (Universal) [C+]
  16. Bill Charlap: Notes From New York (Impulse!) [*]
  17. John Scofield: Past Present (Impulse!) [***]
  18. Snarky Puppy: Family Dinner Volume Two (Decca) [B-]
  19. Kenny Barron: Book of Intuition (Impulse!) [**]
  20. Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra: Cuba: The Conversation Continues (Motéma) [***]

I haven't assembled my 2016 lists yet (working list here), but compare my Best Jazz Albums of 2015, which intersects the earlier (and larger) half of this list, and considers a lot more.


Hard to overstate how disgusted I am right now with the FBI over Hillary Clinton's emails -- easily the most boring subject in American politics for over a year now. (And while I don't doubt that Anthony Weiner is a creep, why the hell are they investigating him?) Before this broke I was actually thinking that both candidates had been treated unfairly. After all, the real primordial scum of American politics is Ted Cruz, but to go after him you'd have to talk about issues, and that's the real fear and dread of all sorts of media in America.

I minor exception to this is the Wichita Eagle, which has published detailed position charts on various candidates. Trump's isn't as awful as you'd expect, and Clinton's isn't as good as you'd hope, but that race at least is pretty clear cut. But I was saddened by how awful the Democratic congressional candidates are this time -- Patrick Wiesner for Senate and Dan Giroux for House. Given the Republican incumbents, I'll probably wind up voting or both (although I know a few people who prefer independent Miranda Allen over Giroux), but neither has much of a chance.

I'll be voting for Clinton too, although I fear my prediction that she'll be dogged by one stupid scandal after another for her entire term will turn out prescient. Very doubtful my wife will vote for her. Since the email thing broke open again, she's been hashtagging "itoldyouso" and heaping special scorn on those who claimed "she's been vetted" back in the primaries. Turns out none of the candidates were very well vetted, because the vanity and hubris presidential candidates all but require are endless generators of petty scandal.


New records rated this week:

  • Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker (2016, Columbia): [r]: A-
  • The Core Trio: Live Featuring Matthew Shipp (2014 [2016], Evil Rabbit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Andrew Cyrille Quartet: The Declaration of Musical Independence (2014 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Fond of Tigers: Uninhabit (2016, Offsesson/Drip Audio): [cd]: C+
  • Mike LeDonne & the Groover Quartet: That Feelin' (2016, Savant): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jacam Manricks: Chamber Jazz (2015 [2016], self-released): [cd]: A-
  • Grégoire Maret: Wanted (2016, Sunnyside): [r]: B-
  • John Prine: For Better or Worse (2016, Oh Boy): [r]: A-
  • Sleaford Mods: TCR (2016, Rough Trade, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kate Tempest: Let Them Eat Chaos (2016, Lex): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton/Schlippenbach Trio: 2X3=5 (1999 [2001], Leo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Schlippenbach Trio: Bauhaus Dessau (2009 [2010], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach: Payan (1972 [2014], Enja): [r]: B+(*)
  • Alex von Schlippenbach/Paul Dunmall/Paul Rogers/Tony Bianco: Vesuvius (2004 [2005], Slam): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach: Piano Solo: Twelve Tone Tales, Vol. 1 (2005 [2006], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach: Piano Solo: Twelve Tone Tales, Vol. 2 (2005 [2006], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sophie Agnel/Daunik Lazro: Marguerite d'Or Pâle (Fou)
  • Walter Kemp 3oh!: Dark Continent (Blujazz)
  • Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies: Yellow Red Blue (Paint Box): November 4
  • Thierry Maillard Trio: Ethnic Sounds (Blujazz)
  • Moutin Factory Quintet: Deep (Blujazz)
  • Snaggle: The Long Slog (Browntasaurus): November 4
  • Terell Stafford: Forgive and Forget (Herb Harris Music)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Streamnotes (October 2016)

Pick up text here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Golden Oldies (4)

More tidbits from my online notebook, which starting in 2005 became an archive and expansion of my blog.

On February 15, 2005, I wrote about North Korea's newly developed nuclear weapons, and the American response:

North Korea's announcement that they possess nuclear weapons was met first by some incoherent bluster by Condoleezza Rice, then by a marginally more thoughtful U.S. threat: let's see if they can eat their nukes. This is hardly America's first attempt to win hearts and minds through empty stomachs. During the Korean War the U.S. bombed dams to ravage Korean farmland. The many years of crippling economic sanctions that the U.S. has imposed on North Korea ever since then have resulted in chronic malnutrition and starvation. Now the idea is to tighten up the sanctions even more. It's not really clear how that can be done, but if it can be done one net effect will be to punish a people even more for their misfortune in leaders. Another will be to remind the world of how callous and cruel the U.S. can be.

Following WWII the U.S. established a reputation as being a gracious victor, but the stalemate at the end of the Korean War left a sour taste in the mouth of American triumphalism. Since then the U.S. has responded to each occasion where its will was rejected with the petty vindictiveness of a sore loser: Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq. After the shooting stopped in Korea the U.S. proceded to punish North Korea with every weapon short of invasion. North Korea's response was to internalize the threat, developing a defensive posture that makes invasion a very risky proposition and a deterence capability that could devastate the South Korean city of Seoul, while occasionally making aggressive, grimacing gestures. More recently, North Korea has made overtures to normalize relations, especially with South Korea -- that seems like the one way to escape America's death grip isolation. But the obstacle to normalization is the U.S., especially the factions in control of the Bush Administration -- for whom North Korea is most useful as a threatening enemy: especially as a rationale for their "missile defense" boondoggle, although one also suspects that they find North Korea's threat useful for keeping Japan in line.

On February 4, 2005, I wrote a letter in response to an editorial in the Eagle by a "Social Security reformer" named Jim Clark (you may recall that Bush tried to redeem his "mandate" by wrecking Social Security, a quest which didn't go over too well):

The big problem with the Social Security reform facts that Jim Clark wants to get straight is that they aren't facts yet: all he's done is speculate about the future. For instance, he assumes that Americans in the future won't have the moral backbone to increase taxes if necessary in order to fund the Social Security needs of the old and infirm, even though ever since the founding of Social Security they have done whatever needed to be done. Moreover, he asserts that the federal government of the future will default on its borrowing of the excess taxes that workers have paid into Social Security since the last time the politicians "fixed" it. If this is true we have much more serious things to worry about than pensions in the latter half of the 21st century. The only way Social Security can go bankrupt is if the U.S. government goes bankrupt first. Given Bush's tax cuts and exorbitant spending on war and corporate welfare, the trade imbalance and the sinking dollar -- that's the real threat we need to take seriously.

From a post on May 29, 2005, on a couple Kansas politicians:

Todd Tiahrt, whose congressional district includes Wichita, was one of twenty Republicans to vote against undoing the ethic rule changes that Tom DeLay had tried to cover his sorry ass with. Tiahrt has spoken repeatedly in defense of DeLay -- he even went so far as to reiterate DeLay's threats against "activist judges" on the same day DeLay was apologizing for them. Note the careful wording above to avoid saying that Tiahrt represents Wichita. Tiahrt represents Boeing, but because he occupies the district congressional seat, nobody represents Wichita. I maintain that he's the worst congressman in the country, but on the evidence of this vote he still has nineteen competitors.

Senator Sam Brownback has taken over the District of Columbia committee in the Senate. His first act there was to make sure that gay marriages performed in Massachusetts won't be recognized as legal in D.C. While most of what Brownback does is obnoxious, please excuse me if I take this one personally. I have a niece, born and raised here in Wichita, who went to college in Boston, met a nice girl and got married there. They've recently moved to D.C., where my niece is studying law. Most people look at political issues as something rather abstract, failing to recognize the real people impacted. This is one case where I can fill in a real person, and in that context Brownback is nothing but a priggish homewrecker.

In early May, 2005, I noted that I succumbed to my wife's entreaties and started watching television with her, specifically the Jack Bauer terrorism fantasy 24. Since then TV has become a nightly ritual. I reckon you can date my mental rot from that date.

On May 27, 2015, I noted:

The Democrats caved in on Bush's activist judges. From day one the Bush administration has sought to exempt itself from the rule of law -- first attacking convenient international targets like the World Court and treaties restricting their ability to proliferate weapons of mass destruction, then moving on to the PATRIOT ACT while trying to pack the court system with political cronies. There's a word commonly used to describe people who try so hard to evade the rule of law: criminals. However, in their demagogic slander campaign against "activist judges" -- most of whom meet any reasonable definition of conservative -- they're moving beyond mere criminality. We need a fresher word for this, but anyone who can recall history as far back as the 1920s will know what I mean by the old-fashioned term: fascists.

On May 31, 2015, I published a piece in the Village Voice on jazz labels. The notebook adds a note on business models that I promised to return to some day:

My first draft for the introduction sketched out an unconventional economic theory. I discarded it (the draft, not the theory) after my editor didn't understand it, but I hope to go back to it someday. I regard businesses as important and vital, but I'm not an ideological capitalist. I'm struck by the arbitrariness and inefficiency of most businesses, and those same traits are in play here. But a couple of things make jazz labels different from most widgetmakers: one is that there's not a lot of money in the market, so there's not a lot to be gained by being greedy; another is that success is mostly a matter of survival -- it's more important not to lose a lot than to make a lot when you can; a third is that most of the capitalists are in awe of their labor; finally, in many cases the music is its own reward. By and large, this sort of capitalism has served recorded jazz well. Other businesses might learn something from their example.

On September 1, 2005, I wrote this in a letter about Katrina and New Orleans:

I wouldn't say it was unnecessary, given that it was inevitable. Almost happened a year ago, you should recall, but the storm was smaller, later in the season, and turned north to hit the Florida panhandle instead. Could happen next year. There will probably be 3-5 more hurricanes this year, so it could even happen again this year. New Orleans wasn't designed to be a death trap, but that's mostly because it wasn't designed at all. It looked dry enough when the French set up camp there, but as the town grew it expanded into more dubious terrain, plus it finally dawned on people that the town was sinking. The levees and pumps and so forth were added to protect what they had blundered into, and the whole system is a stack of cards that at any moment could have been knocked down from many angles. John McPhee covers some of this in The Control of Nature, which is most of what I know, but not most of what there is to know. I wonder what's going to happen to all that rain in Tennessee and Kentucky when it drains down the Mississippi, but maybe that's manageable compared to the usual annual floods. One thing that will become obvious over the next few months is that flood in New Orleans is fundamentally different from flood almost everywhere else. Right now Mississippi is getting as much or more coverage, but they can start fixing things in Mississippi now. New Orleans will be under water for months, and there's no telling what will or won't be salvageable when they finally pump it dry. It will be tempting not to rebuild it at all. One thing that's already started is that everyone with an axe to grind is viewing this through their own prism. Same thing happened after 9/11: I knew people who saw that as a wake-up call to dismantle Israel's settlements or stop using foreign oil; Eric Raymond thought the answer would be to let all airplane passengers carry guns on board; dumber still, Bush invaded Iraq. No telling what all is going to come out of this. Racism, for sure. The all-idiots team on Fox news are already bitching about how federal disaster insurance lets people think they're safe building in dangerous places, and complaining about how people around the Great Lakes wind up paying for such stupidity. Global warming has something to do with this. Unchecked, badly planned development is another aspect. Long-term underinvestment in infrastructure is another, and of course bankrupting the federal government doesn't help in this regard -- and this shouldn't just include levees and roads and such, the social and educational and economic deficits are coming due, too. One thing this shows is that keeping 20% of America below the poverty line packs its own hidden costs. People have already pointed out that the helicopters and National Guard are all in Iraq -- don't you think that the liberal argument about how we have to help poor Iraq (cynical as it is) is going to wear thin pretty quick? The gasoline price stories seem to have the jump on all else, probably because they were already a story, so were easy to do. It's telling that Bush's first act was to suspend air quality standards for gasoline blends. Stock market went up yesterday, mostly people buying oil company stocks.

Several times this year I've written that one of the big issues of the coming decades will be how governments respond to disasters. The Indian Ocean tsunami was a distant example, but this (actually lesser) disaster will make a more immediate impression on people here. It should scare the hell out of us -- even if New Orleans is unique, much of the story translates elsewhere. Marc Reisner has a sketch of a very possible CA earthquake in A Dangerous Place, which makes for harrowing reading. To the best of my knowledge, no one sketched out what could happen in New Orleans, but that's no longer a question for the imagination.

On September 30, 2005, in the wake of Katrina, I wrote about the Republican embrace of small and/or incompetent government:

I don't know about Norquist, but the key issue for some Republican ideologues isn't the size of government so much as their wish to break the poor, and for that matter the middle class, of the habit of looking toward government to help solve their problems. Starving the government beast is one way to do this, but more effective still is to render government incompetent. Bush may have failed the straightforward task of shrinking government, but he's done a bang-up job of making it incompetent -- or at least making it useless to all but his political backers. For Bush, this is a multi-pronged attack, but the main thrusts are: 1) put political agents in charge everywhere, especially to maximize the patronage potential of the government; 2) undermine the civil service system and the unions; 3) muck up all regulatory processes; 4) start a few wars to suck up resources; 5) pile extra security responsibilities on top of all other government functions; 6) cut taxes on the rich, driving the government ever deeper in debt; 7) push as much unfunded work as possible onto state and local governments. In this framework, greater debt does double duty: it provides discretionary rationale for rejecting spending now, and it makes future spending more prohibitive. The resulting government will, for most people, become so useless that they won't mind drowning it in a bathtub. . . .

Ever since Ronald Reagan got elected in 1980, America has been in denial, and the Republicans have capitalized on that denial by feeding people fantasies. That worked because until lately it's never really been tested. First Reagan then Bush put together improbable coalitions of the rich and the foolish, and now that coalition is starting to show signs of fracture. Polls show that Bush is losing support among fringe groups like libertarians and racists. The more serious question is whether, or when, the rich will abandon him. The rich have more to lose than anyone -- do tax cuts matter so much that they're willing to countenance such thoroughgoing corruption and incompetence?

On October 17, 2005, I wrote about Bush's ill-fated nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court:

The Miers nomination is one more instance of David Ogilvy's old adage: "first rate people hire first rate people; second rate people hire third rate people." Bush not only hires them. Once they've proven their incompetence, he gives them medals and/or promotes them.

Also:

Saw a news story tonight on how Americans are feeling all tapped out donating for disaster relief lately. The death toll in Pakistan's earthquake has passed 50,000, but as Stalin might say, that's just a statistic. Hurricane Stan killed more than a thousand in Central America, but that's just a hurricane that missed the US -- someone else's problem. (Unlike the remnants of Tropical Storm Tammy, which have caused extensive flooding along the US East Coast. And while we're at it, note that Hurricane Vince, the first V-name storm ever in the Atlantic, was also the first hurricane on record to hit Spain. The world's disaster zones are spreading.) There are so many lessons buried in this story that it's hard even to list them. One is that disasters are not just nature -- they are compounded by human developments. One aspect of that is that disasters in areas of widespread poverty take a much higher toll in lives. (On the other hand, disasters in areas of wealth ring up higher insurance claims.) Another is that private charity doesn't work very well. Even in the best of circumstances it isn't very efficient, and over time generosity wanes. But even governments are hard pressed to respond to large disasters -- especially when they shunt much of their spending off into military adventures, as the US and Pakistan have done.

From October 22, 2005, I reminded readers I had opposed going to war in Afghanistan in the first place (well, in 2001, although had I given it any thought I would have opposed it in 1979 as well), then noted:

Still, every now and then the US manages to do something really stupid over there: bombing a caravan of tribal leaders, torturing and killing a stray taxi driver, scoring a decisive firefight with the Canadians, killing a NFL star wearing their own uniform. Last week they pulled off another doozy: they burned a couple of killed Taliban fighters, hoping to taunt their comrades into coming out to be slaughtered. Even if such an act wasn't sacrilege to Muslims, you'd think they'd remember how they felt when American contractors were strung up and burned in Fallujah. Maybe if the whole thing hadn't been videotaped they could have contained the outrage, but unlike all those good old wars it's hard to hide what you're doing these days. But the bigger problem lies in the mixed messages that emanate from Bush, Rumsfeld, et al. (You'll remember the concept of mixed messages from the 2004 presidential campaign -- it was what Bush accused Kerry of propagating.) On the one hand, they tell us that we're in Afghanistan and Iraq to help people achieve their legitimate democratic aspirations with freedom and prosperity and all the good things that go with it. On the other hand, they tell us that our goal there is to kill or capture the enemy, which is everyone who opposes us, an ever-increasing population. Soldiers have a tough time reconciling these contradictions, but many of them joined up out of blanket hatred of Arabs and Muslims, and most have come to realize that shooting first is a policy that the brass almost never comes down on -- even when it gets taped and broadcast, as is the case this time.

On November 11, 2005 I wrote about Veterans Day:

But the problem with gunshy military and the trigger-happy politicos in America isn't just about us. Most of the rest of the world has learned to live perfectly well without war. The best thing that ever happened to Germany and Japan was that they lost WWII, and that they lost it bad enough they never entertained the thought again. (As you'll recall, when Germany lost WWI a bunch of hotheads like Hitler wanted another round, which is what they got.) It's beginning to look like the worst thing that ever happened to America was that we thought we won. The truth is nobody wins wars, and while you may thankfully beat some country that was worse than you at the start, in the nasty brutality of war you become ever more like your enemies. But war isn't obsolescent just because it's gone out of fashion in places like once war-happy Europe. Even the soldiers in the world's one undoubted superpower have lost their taste for war. This even happened in the Soviet Union: the nation that almost single-handedly beat back Nazi Germany was unable to quell a bunch of goatherders and poppy-growers in Afghanistan. That should have been a powerful lesson but we misread it. Just as powerful states, like the Soviets in Afghanistan and the US in Vietnam and Iraq, are increasingly unwilling to sacrifice to conquer other people's lands, the people of those lands are still willing to sacrifice to drive the invaders out. These are the two sides of what Jonathan Schell has called "the unconquerable world" -- the world we live in today, the one that Bush ideologues cavalierly dismiss as "reality-based."

This would all be laughable if so many people didn't buy into the myths. The right has the most at stake: their view of human nature makes enemies inevitable, and their strategy for dealing with those enemies is to intimidate them -- one of their favorite maxims is Machiavelli's "it is better to be feared than loved," so you can see how that leads to the dream of firing lasers from space to instantly smite their foes. Insistence on military might makes them look tough and spends money that liberals might otherwise be tempted to waste on the poor. The military and their business partners appreciate the dole. The scam would end there, except that the right does indeed make enemies, and once in a while one takes a pot shot at us. That's when we finally wonder just how much defense all those billions have bought us. But when you're talking a tightly organized cell of fanatics with homemade bombs, you're talking something at a scale the military can't operate at. Imagine a gnat on a rhino. Imagine entering an Abrams tank in a Formula One race. Still not close. There are only a few things the military knows how to do. Incinerate a billion people in China? Hey, no problem. Flush Osama bin Laden out of a cave in Afghanistan? No way. A rational person would conclude that the military is useless for that task and any other thing we might reasonably want to do, and downright dangerous for all the things it can actually do. But how tough can a politician look arguing the common sense that $500 billion/year buys us nothing worthwhile? Especially when so many soldiers have sacrificed so much to keep us free. The problem with Veterans Day is that the veterans are the designated cheerleaders for this kind of nonsense.

The tragedy of Veterans Day is that many veterans do get run through the ringer. Something like 20% of the soldiers returning from Iraq bring home physical and/or mental wounds. The casualty rates for the brief and, from the American standpoint, almost bloodless Desert Storm war were even higher -- of course, the current war is likely to more than make up the difference as time passes. It's ironic that despite all the photo ops and propaganda ploys, despite the political instincts of many and perhaps most of the soldiers, the antiwar movement is far more concerned with their welfare than the people who cheered them into war. That is largely because the antiwar movement is far more concerned with everyone's welfare. But it's also a seductive concern, in that many of us are tempted to bask in the warm glow that the military and the politicos have spun around veterans. That seduction, for instance, led many Democrats to the foolish notion that a decorated veteran like John Kerry would be an unassailable candidate against Bush's own dubious service record. Kerry lost. So will the vets, unless we come to our senses and figure a way out of these rhetorical traps. Veterans are little different from anyone else, except that some have been put through circumstances that no one should have to experience. They don't need a day, and we don't do them justice by giving them one. Only an end to war corrects the course. And that can't happen as long as we glory in wars past, let alone present.

Might as well end this with my Pazz & Jop ballot, from December 27, 2005:

  1. Amy Rigby: Little Fugitive (Signature Sounds) [15]
  2. Kanye West: Late Registration (Roc-A-Fella) [13]
  3. William Parker Quartet: Sound Unity (AUM Fidelity) [12]
  4. The Perceptionists: Black Dialogue (Definitive Jux) [10]
  5. Amadou & Mariam: Dimanche ŕ Bamako (Nonesuch) [10]
  6. FME: Cuts (Okka Disk) [10]
  7. Rachid Taha: Tékitoi (Wrasse) [8]
  8. Buck 65: This Right Here Is Buck 65 (V2) [8]
  9. Blueprint: 1988 (Rhymesayers) [8]
  10. Jerry Granelli: Sandhills Reunion (Songlines) [6]

Monday, October 24, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27272 [27263] rated (+9), 418 [412] unrated (+6).

One of those weeks that was just blown to shreds, as I came down with a stomach bug on Wednesday, spent a couple days pretty much stuck in bed, and still feel exhausted and a bit unsettled. Before getting sick several records got a lot of plays without quite convincing me they're A- material (Cables, Schlippenbach, American Honey). The only Schlippenbach Trio album I've given an A- to was 2015's Features, which I don't recall as being a close decision, so I thought I should at least go back and replay 1972's Pakistani Pomade -- perhaps a little wilder than the new one, but not nearly as vividly recorded. I've been playing more old Schlippenbach today, but nothing that can't wait until next week.

Birthday tomorrow, will be 66. Spent some time today wading through the Social Security online form, so maybe I'll start drawing some income (and slow down the savings burn). Had planned on cooking tomorrow, but the illness forced a postponement -- maybe Saturday. I usually pick out a national cuisine and try to overdo it. I thought Greek would be fun this year: first non-American food I learned to cook, thanks to my dear college friend Elias Vlanton. I visited Elias back in June and we cooked up a pretty smashing dinner, using The Jerusalem Cookbook and a few other Mediterranean recipes, so he's been on my mind. Finally worked out a tentative menu last night: a delicate balance of feasible and awesome.

Made very little progress on the jazz book(s) last week. I'm up to October 2005 in the notebook. I've reached a point where nearly all the reviews I'm finding had been copied to the Jazz Prospecting and/or Recycled Goods archives. Not sure yet if that means I can skip the rest, but good chance I can. For now I have one more Golden Oldies column to post, so that series will probably end with 2005.

I should get around to a Streamnotes post later this week. Currently have 102 records, which isn't a huge amount, but if quantity doesn't force a post, the calendar will. Might give me some extra motivation to cherry pick the largest incoming queue I've had in several years.


Sad to note the death of Tom Hayden, a founder of the new left even before he became one of the leading opponents of the Vietnam War. As a teenager I read his book Rebellion in Newark, and of course rooted for him in the Chicago 8/7 trial. I was pleased to see him go into mainstream California politics, and can't say much about that. (Although I did roast him for endorsing Hillary over Bernie earlier this year: post here.) In 2012, he spoke to the annual meeting of the Peace and Social Justice Center here in Wichita, and did a nice job of tracing out the continuity from the New Left to today's progressive politics.


New records rated this week:

  • Stefan Aeby Trio: To the Light (2015 [2016], Intakt): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • John Butcher & Stĺle Liavik Solberg: So Beautiful, It Starts to Rain (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • George Cables: The George Cables Songbook (2016, HighNote): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Dreezy: No Hard Feelings (2016, Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mark Murphy: Slip Away (2016, Mini Movie): [cd]: B
  • Schlippenbach Trio: Warsaw Concert (2015 [2016], Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Travis Scott: Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (2016, Epic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wax Tailor: By Any Beats Necessary (2016, Le Plan): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • American Honey ([2016], UME): [sp]: B+(***)


Grade changes:

  • Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio: Pakistani Pomade (1972 [2003], Atavistic): [r]: [was: B+] B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • BassDrumBone: The Long Road (Auricle, 2CD): November 15
  • Eraldo Bernocchi/Prakash Sontakke: Invisible Strings (RareNoise): advance, November 18
  • Jeff Collins: The Keys to Christmas (Crossroads)
  • Fifth (Jinsy): advance, November 18
  • Frank Kimbrough: Solstice (Pirouet): November 25
  • Ingrid Laubrock: Serpentines (Intakt): advance: November
  • Jerry Leake: Crafty Hands (Rhombus Publishing)
  • Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: A Day in Brooklyn: At Ibeam (Constant Sorrow)
  • Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: A Day in Brooklyn [Recorded 10/18/15 at Ibeam] (Constant Sorrow)
  • Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell With an Ocean View (Constant Sorrow)
  • Tom Marko: Inner Light (Summit)
  • Bobby Previte: Mass (RareNoise): advance, November 18
  • Ken Schaphorst Big Band: How to Say Goodbye (JCA): December 2
  • Scott Whitfield: New Jazz Standards (Volume 2) (Summit)

Daily Log

Applied for Social Security retirement income today. Lots of confusing questions.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Golden Oldies (3)

Continuing my slog through the online notebook, picking up in mid-2004, just in time for another presidential election -- I think this was the one that Matt Taibbi called "The Stupid Season," fully aware that what he was describing was a periodic ritual, not a one-shot fluke. On August 19, with the anti-Kerry "swift boaters" in full attack, I wrote:

It looks like the Bush campaign from here on out is going to be nothing but lies and slander and terrorism. They're trying to work their own base into a frenzy of paranoia, and they're trying to swamp the media with ruses to crowd out any serious evaluation of Bush, his record, and the real issues. Already we've seen a series of terrorism alerts where they try to spook us with little more than leaks and innuendos. We've even seen a flare-up in Iraq hard on the heels of the latest economic debacle -- is this an indication of how desperate they are to change the subject?

The election is still more than two months away. I seriously doubt that anything much is going to change between now and then, but as their policies continue to sink in their own quicksand, we can expect the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy to become ever shriller and ever more desperate. All a straight-thinking person can do from here on out is to batten down the hatches and stay the course.

Also:

One of the evening news shows has a daily segment called "Fallen Heroes" -- all someone has to do to get into that show is be a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. By that logic I've known several Vietnam War heroes: my nextdoor neighbor, drafted, marched through the jungle, where he sat down on a mine; a cousin, killed inside a tank when his own gun accidentally discharged (the official story; some people suspect he was fragged). It is said that these people made the supreme sacrifice for their country, but the plain fact is that the country wasted their lives for no good purpose. So I couldn't care less if Kerry did or didn't do anything conventionally heroic in Vietnam. The real heroes from that war were the ones who opposed it, as Kerry himself dramatized when he threw away his medals or ribbons or whatever they were.

I probably should have added something like "too bad he no longer has the courage to remind us how right he was in opposing that war, as opposed to how dumb he was in signing up for it in the first place." Maybe even: "in retrospect, he's managed to make both stances look like nothing more than opportune political stunts as he tried to gauge which way the wind was blowing." But then we're talking about a guy who voted against the Gulf War in 1990 and for the Iraq War in 2003 and came to regret both votes.

On September 3, 2004, I wrote a fairly long post on Chechen separatism and terrorism -- the occasion was an attack on a school in nearby Beslan, which killed more than 300 people.

On September 13, 2004, I found myself looking back on 9/11:

Three years after the terrible attacks of 11 September 2001 I find myself wondering whether anyone ever is so shocked by an unexpected event that they reconsider and change course. The horror that we felt that morning watching the World Trade Center burn and collapse was not just for the victims. Every bit as horrifying was the expectation of what would come: not what further attacks might come, but what the U.S. would do in reaction. To call what happened afterwards revenge would be to give it more purpose and sense than history demonstrates. All Osama bin Laden actually did on that day was to poke a giant and stir it into fitful action. He soon went into hiding and has been irrelevant ever since, but the U.S. reaction has continued to rail blindly against the world. In the three years since, the U.S. has laid waste to two countries, killing at least ten times as many people as died on that fateful day, perhaps twenty times, sacrificing another thousand Americans in the process. The U.S. burned up over $200 billion prosecuting those wars, now just hopeless sinkholes, festering pools of hate. And three years out we're nowhere near closure.

That no good would come of America's reaction was clear from the first day. The problem was no doubt made worse because the President was a deceitful cynic who saw a ready chance to cover himself with the glory of war, and because his administration was chock full of liars and crooks and ideological megalomaniacs. But the U.S. had long been cocked for this sort of reaction, much as, say, the world of 1914 plunged into World War following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. . . .

The attacks of 11 September 2001 should have been a moment for sober reflection, but it wasn't. The collapse of the Soviet Union should have been a time for healing, but it wasn't. Throughout history there have been few cases where victors have been gracious, and fewer still where nations have changed their ways without having been forced to by catastrophe. That anyone believes that Bush has a clue how to proceed from here tells us both that we're not very smart about ourselves and the world and that, disastrous as the War on Terror has been, we still haven't fallen hard enough yet. Kerry's nomination and campaign are scarcely more encouraging: he has a bad record for rushing into wars, but at least has some capacity for learning from his mistakes. Bush's supporters are blind to those mistakes, otherwise they'd recognize that he is the necessary sacrifice in order to start to set things right.

On October 29, 2004, I wrote a piece about the Boston Red Sox and their curse, on occasion of their first World Series victory since 1918. Also wrote this:

Noted the cover this week of The Economist: Ariel Sharon with an olive branch in his mouth. Evidently it's supposed to represent him as a dove, but it looks to me like he's just ate the West Bank.

On October 21, I sent a letter to virtually everyone in my address book, titled "Vote for John Kerry (It's Important)." It was the first time I ever done something like that (and it will probably be the last). You can read the letter with a postscript here. The letter concluded:

Bush has a big problem this year: reality. In less than four years Bush has taken us from relative peace and prosperity to a disastrous war and an economy which exposes the fundamental problems of a government which favors the rich at the expense of everyone else. A good part of this problem is systemic -- the decline of real wages for the workers who built America has been going on for thirty years, as the gulf between rich and poor has been broadening, concentrating power for the rich and reducing opportunity and a sense of fairness for everyone else. But much of the problem is due to the arrogance, ignorance and incompetence of the Bush administration. . . .

If Bush does somehow manage to win it will be a sad time for America. Not only would it expose us to four more years of depredations and mismanagement, it plainly broadcasts to us and the world that the citizens of the United States just don't get how far their country has decayed from the ideals of freedom, equality, opportunity, and justice that we grew up believing in. A victory for Bush would show us to be extraordinarily gullible, or downright vile.

As we now know, Bush did win that election -- a very close one, with some taint in Ohio -- but it wasn't long before the gullible came to regret their choice: only Nixon sunk faster and further after a successful re-election bid. Still, twelve years later few people seem to recall what was at stake in 2004. And even though the second Bush term merely brought the disasters seeded in his first term to fruition, it seems like most people have forgotten his party's responsibility for so many calamities.

After Kerry failed, I wrote a long postmortem, including this prediction (November 3, 2004):

The most likely [scenario] is that Bush will make such a mess of his second term that his now-blind followers will give up in disgust. But that's been given a pretty severe trial by his first term, and he's emerged stronger than ever. Historically mid-term congressional elections (the next one is in 2006) have ran against the President's party, but the Republicans managed to escape that effect in 2002, mostly by treating each race as a separate forum (mostly not on Bush). The Democrats do have the experience of massive volunteer efforts this year, which if duplicated could make an impact in 2006.

My mood darkened later that week when Bush celebrated by destroying the defiant Iraqi city of Falluja. From my November 9, 2004 post:

John Kerry campaigned using the slogan, "help is on the way." George W. Bush's first act now that he's got his mandate was to launch a major ground assault on Falluja in Iraq, following a few months of intensive aerial bombardment. This has evidently been planned quite a while, but they delayed launching it until the votes had been counted and the voters safely put back to sleep. A more revealing campaign slogan for Bush would be, "hell is on the way."

I'm not aware of Kerry commenting on the siege of Fallujah, although I have to admit that I haven't been paying a lot of attention to him, including his concession speech. Had Kerry won the election he presumably would have something to say, as the assault on Falluja would have made his task of coming up with a somewhat positive resolution even harder than it is. But all I know about Kerry's concession speech is that it was lauded as gracious, which probably means he didn't take the opportunity to scold the electorate by pointing out that "help is not on the way." That is, of course, the difference between a politician trying to make nice and a leader who realizes how much was at stake, and now how much has been lost, in this election. Kerry may be a dedicated public servant, and he may have laudable personal principles, but he's not a guy who's going to fight for once you're down.

From November 17, 2004, as Bush was reloading his administration for a second term:

Colin Powell's resignation as Secretary of State is good riddance, even if his successor is likely to be even less principled and even more inept. My home town paper's editorial page toasted Powell today under the heading "Moderate": "His moderate, multinational, pragmatic views were routinely rejected in the Bush team's squabbles on nuclear nonproliferation, Iraq, the Middle East and other major challenges abroad." If this was Powell's strategy, the editorial writer (Randy Scholfield) would have been right to conclude that "his tenure can only be described as a failure." Yes, it's been a failure, maybe even in Powell's own limited terms. But it hasn't been a failure because Powell's moderation was rejected by hotter heads; it's been a failure because of Powell's willingness to support the hawks. And there's damn little evidence that Powell isn't one of the hawks. His disagreements have at most been tactical.

Theodore Roosevelt's used to say "speak softly and carry a big stick." Powell alone among Bush's War Cabinet seems to have taken that as a maxim. But Roosevelt's intent was to camouflage a whole administration. If only Powell speaks softly, he loses his voice. The bigger question is why did the others speak so loudly. And the evident answer is that Bush's foreign policy has first and foremost been a matter of domestic politics. Bush's bully tactics are meant to show his base that he's their strong leader; and the world be damned -- it's not like their votes count. Powell's most famous self-description was as the "bully on the block," so how much space does that leave between Bush and Powell? Damn little, at least in the realm of intentions. I don't discount that Powell has a stronger grip on reality and the limits of American power, but let's face it: for Bush that's off-message. Powell did nothing effective to bring such concerns to bear on administration policy. Maybe this too is just an act. . . . .

As the second term cabinet turns over, the most notable trend is that the new cabinet members are almost all current White House staff (e.g., Alberto Gonzalez for John Ashcroft). This bespeaks an administration that will be even more closeted and close-minded than the last one. You voted for it, America. This is just Bush's way of saying: fuck you.

On November 25, 2004 I wrote about an event where a panel of speakers held forth on "are we safer now?" (meaning safer from terrorism). I introduced that piece by noting that a school in Wichita had recently been blown up, not by terrorists but by construction incompetence (probably a gas leak). I went on to generate a long list of non-terrorist things that actually make our lives more dangerous, then added this paragraph, which goes a bit deeper:

All this might not matter much if the world were a well balanced static system, but it isn't. We live in a world where resources are shrinking while demand expands. We live in a world where expertise is becoming rarefied, putting us at the mercy of experts who may or may not have our interests at heart. We live in a world where a clever few can exploit the ignorant many, but even the clever few have to compete so ruthlessly that they lose their grip -- they've constructed a world of hair triggers that surrender control and amplify panic. We live in a world where the "movers and shakers" move and shake so fast that they've become incapable of recognizing the unexpected. We live in a world which continues to cling to the ideology that the pursuit of private advantages serves the common good, even though there are few if any cases where this is true. And we live in a nation that has promoted its misconceptions to such staggering heights that some sort of horrible crash seems inevitable.

On January 21, 2015, I wrote about natural disasters, starting with a local ice storm, then moving on to California mudslides and the big tsunami in the Indian Ocean:

What this means is that as disasters mount up government has not merely become the insurer-of-last-resort, it's increasingly becoming the only insurer of note. This should give us pause, especially as the political geniuses of the Republican party have set out on a program to systematically bankrupt government. In doing so they run the risk of leaving us in the rubble. The Bush administration's response to the tsunami crisis is a good example of how this is going to work: a tiny pittance, maybe a bit more after the media shames them, plus whatever the charitably inclined might pitch in; meanwhile the government's contribution gets delivered through the military -- the only U.S. government agency functioning beyond U.S. borders these days -- and only after they work out the payola angles.

On February 23 I wrote a good deal about Boeing's outsourcing of their plant in Wichita where my father and brother had worked for many decades. I also wrote a little note on Hillary Clinton and her presidential prospects (nearly four years ahead of the 2008 election):

Found in the Wichita Eagle "Opinion Line" (a good source of wise cracks and insane rants): "What a complete joke that Hillary Clinton is, quoting the Bible in her speeches." One reason I note this is that she has been getting a lot of flack on a local mail list I subscribe to for her murky position on abortion rights and her hawkishness on Iraq and any other potential cruise missile target you'd care to name. Juan Cole reports that she's also managed to tick off the presumptive next Prime Minister of Iraq. Clearly she's launched her campaign, but I have to wonder what her prospects are with an increasingly polarized public where both ends of the spectrum can't stand her. Maybe that would have worked to her advantage in the '90s when few cared about issues and most distrusted those who did.

I remember listening to a radio interview with her back in '93 or '94 when she was asked what her reaction would be if her health care reform was rejected, and she said that would be a shame. That might have been savvy had she been sure of winning, but when her plan went down is was just aloof. It was worse than a shame -- it was tragic, not so much what her lousy plan lost as that she blew a huge amount of political capital on something that wouldn't have solved the problem in the first place, that substituted for a serious plan, and that by failing cut the Republicans loose to do all the damage they've done since 1994. That health plan was the same sort of too clever straddle-the-middle tactic she's building her campaign on. I'm hoping that someone will take her to task in the NY Democratic primary in 2006 and knock her out.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27263 [27244] rated (+19), 412 [401] unrated (+11).

Rated count back way down again -- it was 15 two weeks ago, then jumped up to fairly normal 33 last week (not counting a bookkeeping windfall which made the posted total 46; September's weekly totals were 34, 38, 25, 30). Several obvious factors: good records get more spins than not-so-good ones, and that was especially true this week; I took a fair amount of time off for yardwork and cooking; and the machine I use to listen to Rhapsody has had some problems, so I've had it down for a couple days (hopefully a new power supply will help -- finally got it installed today and so far, so good).

Up to February 2005 in my trawl through the online notebook for lost reviews. I've started to find some of the Jazz Consumer Guide surplus (before I started posting them in meta-columns in December 2005), as well as quite a few reviews of older jazz albums. I'm saving the latter in a Recorded Jazz in the 20th Century book file, currently a bit over 260 pages long (recent PDF here). I haven't updated the Recorded Jazz in the Early 21st Century PDF recently (you can still download the 144-page first pass here).


New records rated this week:

  • Joey Alexander: Countdown (2016, Motema): [r]: B+(*)
  • JD Allen: Americana (2016, Savant): [cd]: A-
  • Bauer Baldych Duchnowski Konrad: Trans-Fuzja (2012 [2016], ForTune): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Black Bombaim & Peter Brötzmann (2016, Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
  • Orrin Evans: #Knowingishalfthebattle (2016, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense: Moving Still (2016, Pi): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Friends & Neighbors: What's Wrong? (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Robert Glasper Experiment: ArtScience (2016, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Luke Hendon: Silk & Steel (2016, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Dave Holland/Chris Potter/Lionel Loueke/Eric Harland: Aziza (2016, Dare2): [cdr]: A-
  • Manu Katché: Unstatic (2016, Anteprima): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Lindberg Raptor Trio: Western Edges (2012 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Nicholas Payton: Textures (2016, Paytone): [r]: B-
  • Houston Person & Ron Carter: Chemistry (2015 [2016], HighNote): [cd]: A
  • Punkt 3: Ordnung Herrscht (2016, Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Ears (2016, Western Vinyl): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani: Sunergy (2015 [2016], RVNG Intl.): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wadada Leo Smith: America's National Parks (2016, Cuneiform, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Black Bombaim: Titans (2012, Lovers & Lollypops): [r]: B+(***)
  • Black Bombaim/La La La Ressonance: Black Bombaim & La La La Ressonance (2013 [2014], PAD/Lovers & Lollypops): [r]: B+(**)
  • Black Bombaim: Far Out (2014, Lovers & Lollipops): [r]: A-


Added grades for old LPs:

  • The Freedom Sounds featuring Wayne Henderson: People Get Ready (1967, Atlantic): in twofer with Sonny Sharrock: Black Women ([2000], Collectables): B+


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Amendola vs. Blades: Greatest Hits (Sazi)
  • Martin Bejerano: Trio Miami (Figgland): November 4
  • Boi Akih: Liquid Songs (TryTone)
  • Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra: Basically Baker Vol. 2: The Big Band Music of David Baker (Patois, 2CD)
  • Oguz Buyukberber and Simon Nabatov: Wobbly Strata (TryTone)
  • Richie Cole: Plays Ballads & Love Songs (Mark Perna Music): October 21
  • The Core Trio: Live Featuring Matthew Shipp (Evil Rabbit)
  • The Delegation: Evergreen (Canceled World) (ESP-Disk, 2CD)
  • Earth Tongues: Ohio (Neither/Nor, 2CD)
  • Brent Gallaher: Moving Forward (V&B): January 6
  • Jason Hainsworth: Third Ward Stories (Origin): October 21
  • Nate Lepine Quartet: Vortices (Eyes & Ears)
  • Tom Marko: Inner Light (Summit)
  • Matt Mayhall: Tropes (Skirl)
  • John Moulder: Earthborn Tales of Soul and Spirit (Origin): October 21
  • Adam Schneit Band: Light Shines In (Fresh Sound New Talent): advance
  • Andrew Van Tassel: It's Where You Are (Tone Rogue): December 1
  • Anna Webber's Simple Trio: Binary (Skirl): October 25
  • Scott Whitfield: New Jazz Standards (Volume 2) (Summit)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Weekend Roundup

Realizing I wasn't going to find much time, I started this early in the week, and added things when I noticed them without making much in the way of a systematic search. Since my last Weekend Roundup, much as happened, including a debate of the vice-president candidates (which failed to convince me that Tim Kaine was the smart choice), a second presidential debate (which further cemented Trump's decline), and major exposés of both candidates' dirty laundry (where Trump's smelled much fouler).

At the moment, FiveThirtyEight gives Hillary a 86.2% chance of winning based on a 6.5% popular vote advantage, with Arizona tilting slightly toward Hillary (51.0%), and progressively better odds in Iowa (62.1%), Ohio (64.8%), North Carolina (69.2%), Nevada (74.4%), Florida (74.5%), and New Hampshire (the state which for most of this election was the one that would secure an electoral college win for either candidate, now 83.7% for Hillary). Trump still looks to be solid elsewhere, although a third party candidate named Evan McMullin is polling well enough in Utah that he's given a chance of picking up the state's electoral votes (Trump's chances there are 92.7%, Clinton 4.6%, so that could leave McMullin with 2.7%). Trump's weakest leads are currently: Alaska (68.4%), Georgia (73.7%), Missouri (77.8%), South Dakota (81.2%), South Carolina (83.6%), Texas (86.1%), Indiana (86.2%), Kansas (87.3%), and Montana (87.4%).

I work out much of the logic under the Christgau link below, but to cut to the chase, I plan on voting for Hillary Clinton in November, and urge you to do so too. More importantly, I plan on voting for Democrats down ballot (even though the ones in Kansas running against Moran and Pompeo have less chance than Gary Johnson does), and hope for big gains for the Democrats in Congress and elsewhere -- in many ways that's even more important than the presidency. One thing I was especially struck by this past week was interviews with Moran and Pompeo where they casually referred to "the disaster of the Obama administration." Do these guys have any fucking idea what they're talking about? Or do they just mean Obama's been bad for them personally, like by cutting into their graft and perks? Sure, Obama has been disappointing, but mostly because he's been crippled by Republicans -- who clearly live in their own fantasy world these days.


Some scattered links this week:

  • Russell Berman: What Bill Clinton Meant When He Called Obamacare 'Crazy': Actually, there's nothing in his specific critique that couldn't be fixed by rejiggering the subsidy tables to help people with a bit more income than the current schedules allow -- but that also rewards the insurance companies for pushing premiums up. The other approach that is commonly talked about is trying to drive premiums back down by providing a non-profit "public option" to compete with the private insurers. What was really crazy about Obamacare was thinking that you could solve the problem of a growing number of uninsured people while keeping the profits of all the parts of the industry propped up, and that problem isn't going to be countered until you find a way to blunt or eliminate those profit-seeking opportunities. And the truth is that the private insurance racket, which could easily be obsoleted by a single-payer system, is just the tip of that iceberg. We may not be as far away from coming to that realization as many pundits think -- in large part because we have the examples of so many other countries that have figured that out and made health care a public service and a universal right.

    On the other hand, just because Obamacare is crazy doesn't mean it wasn't a big improvement over the previous system. And while is hasn't succeeded in making sure everyone is insured, it reversed a longstanding trend that was stripping health insurance from millions of Americans. The Republicans never had an answer to that problem, and while they conceivably could make good on their promise to repeal Obamacare, they have no clue how to fix it. Berman talks a bit about various tinkerings that might help a bit -- the sort of things that Hillary Clinton is likely to push for. Still, I take Bill's "crazy" comment as good news: mostly, it shows he's moved beyond his own even lousier 1990s health care scheme.

  • Robert Christgau: Confessions of a Hillary Supporter: 'It's Not Like We Can Breathe Easy': Returns to the Voice with a political screed, much of it rehashing Nader's role in Gore's fateful 2000 loss to Bush, as well as his still snippy attitude toward Sanders:

    I know, you can't stand [Trump] either. For you, Hillary is the hard part. . . . Hillary lacks daring as well as grace, and from Libya to Honduras, her instinct in foreign policy has always been to fetishize "democracy" in an obtusely formalistic way. But she has a long personal history of doing good for people, an unmatched grasp of policy, thousands of exploitable relationships, and a platform where Sanders taught her plenty about the expanding limits of what's progressive and what's politic.

  • Best part of the piece is his recounting past efforts to dive into the political weeds and call on voters. He urges you to do the same this year: "we don't just want to win -- we want to win so big across the board that Clinton will feel obliged to activate her platform and that Trump's racist, xenophobic chauvinism will seem a perilous tack even to the saner Republicans who are right now scheming to deliver the U.S. to Big Capital in 2020."

    I don't want to relitigate Nader in 2000, but I find it odd that Christgau singles out Lieberman as the reason he voted for Nader over Gore. I've never been a Lieberman fan, but I don't think I gave Gore's VP pick any thought at the time. It was only later, after Sharon came to power in Israel and put an end to the Oslo Peace Process, and after 9/11 and Bush launched his Crusade (aka Global War on Terror) that Lieberman transformed into a conspicuously monstrous hawk. I don't doubt that he had long harbored that stance, just as I don't doubt that he had always been in the pocket of the insurance industry, but it's not like Gore saw those things as problems. I suspected that Gore would have tilted against peace in Israel/Palestine, and I never doubted that he would have gone to war in Afghanistan and elsewhere (including Iraq) in response to 9/11. He may have done so less crudely and less carelessly than Bush did, but those were pretty low bars. It's tempting to look back on this history and think that Gore would have avoided the many mistakes that Bush committed, but the whole DLC pitch in the 1990s (which Gore was as much a part of as Clinton) was to cut into the Republican alignment with oligarchy by showing that the Democrats could be even better for business, and they picked up a lot of conservative baggage along the way. That was Gore in 2000, and while we certainly underestimated how bad Bush would turn out, that was a pretty good reason to back Nader in 2000.

    On the other hand, I now think that Nader made a major mistake running as a third party candidate in 2000 (and 2004). We would have been much better served had he ran in primaries as a Democrat. He wouldn't have come close to beating Gore, but he would have been able to mobilize a larger protest vote, and he would have drawn the discussion (and maybe the party platform) toward the left. But then we don't get to choose our options, just choose among them. What persuaded me to give up interest in third party efforts was the fact that even in 2000, even with no campaign visibility, Gore outpolled Nader in Kansas by a factor of ten: 37.2-3.4%. I realized then that the people we wanted to appeal to were stuck in the Democratic Party. Sometimes part of that appeal means you have to vote for a poor excuse for a Democrat.

    The Nation recently ran a pair of articles on Stein vs. Clinton: Kshama Sawant: Don't Waste Your Vote on the Corporate Agenda -- Vote for Jill Stein and the Greens, and Joshua Holland: Your Vote for Jill Stein Is a Wasted Vote. I don't care for the thinking behind either of these articles, but only one has a clue what "waste" means and it isn't Sawant. If you want your vote to be effective, you should vote either for or against one of the two leading candidates, and it really doesn't make any difference whether you're positive or negative, just so you can tell the difference. On the other hand, sure, vote for a third party candidate if the following is the case: you can't distinguish a difference you really care about, and both leading candidates are objectionable on something you really do care about.

    Sawant may well be right if the one issue you really care about is "the corporate agenda" -- assuming you can define that in terms where Trump and Clinton are interchangeable, which I'm not sure you can do. (For instance, Trump wants less regulation of corporations but Clinton sometimes wants more; Trump wants the rich to pay less in taxes but Clinton wants the rich to pay more; Clinton favors a higher minimum wage but Trump doesn't.) But personally, I don't see "the corporate agenda" (or its more conceptual proxy, "capitalism") as something to get bent out of shape about. I don't have a problem with corporations as long as they are well regulated and we have countervailing mechanisms to balance off problems like inequality. Clinton doesn't go as far in that direction as I'd like, and she's much to comfy in the company of billionaires, but Trump is a billionaire (one of the worst of the breed), and he clearly has no concern for the vast majority of Americans. I can think of several issues I am so deeply concerned about that I might base a decision on them: war is a big one, racism another, inequality all-pervasive, and environmental degradation. Trump is clearly unacceptable on all four accounts (as is the political party for which he stands). Clinton is clearly better on all of those except war, and she's probably more temperate and sensible there than Trump is. Perhaps if Stein ran a campaign specifically against war and empire I might find her candidacy more compelling, but "corporate agenda" doesn't do the trick.

    Sawant's other argument is that you can only build an alternative to "the corporate agenda" by staying outside of the Democratic Party. I don't see that working for three reasons: almost all of the people who might be sympathetic are already invested as Democrats (and more all the time are being driven to the Democrats by the Republicans); your separatism demonstrates a lack of solidarity, and possibly even an antipathy to the people you're supposedly trying to help; and you're denying that reform is possible within the Democratic Party, which given the existence of primaries and such would seem to be false.

    But let's throw one more argument into the mix. Voting is at best a rare and limited option, whereas there are other forms of political action that are more direct, more focused, and more viable for people who don't start with majority consensus: demonstrations, speeches, boycotts. In these cases what may matter more isn't having politicians to lead your side but having politicians willing to listen and open to persuasion, especially based on traditionally shared values. One instance that made this clear to me was when organizers who were opposed to Israeli apartheid and occupation came to Wichita and urged us to talk to our representative and senators. They pointed out how they gained a receptive audience from longtime Israel supporters like Ted Kennedy, but all we had to work with was Sam Brownback and Todd Tiahrt -- bible-thumping end-of-times Zionists who regard us less as constituents than as intractable enemies. So while it may not be possible to turn Clinton against American imperialism and militarism in principle, at least her administration will see a need to talk to us -- if she's our leader, we're her people, and that's not something I can imagine with Trump and the Republicans. (Also not something that seems likely with today's crop of third parties, which are almost anti-political and anti-social by design.)

    Some other more or less leftish opinions:

  • Fred Kaplan: How Does Obama Respond to Russia's Cyberattacks? The Obama administration has gone on record not only declaring that Russia is responsible for recent hacks apparently meant to influence US elections, but that the US will retaliate against Russia somehow. Perhaps I'm being dense, but I've never understood what constitutes cyberwarfare, let alone what the point of it is. I was hoping Kaplan, who has written a recent book on the subject, might enlighten me, but about all I've gathered from this article is that a picking a fight here is only likely to hurt everyone. As Kaplan writes:

    If the cyberconflict escalated, it would play into their strengths and our weaknesses. Again, our cyberoffensive powers are superior to theirs, as President Obama recently boasted; but our society is more vulnerable to even inferior cyberoffensives. We have bigger and better rocks to throw at other houses, but our house is made of glass that shatters more easily.

    What's implied here but rarely spelled out is that the US does everything we've accused Russia of doing, and probably does it better (or at least does it on a much more massive scale). I don't know, for instance, to what extent the US has tried to influence Russian elections, but clearly we have a long history of doing things like that, from the CIA operations in post-WWII Italy to keep the Communist Party out of power to the recent toppling of a pro-Putin government in Ukraine.

  • Daniel Politi: Kansas Terrorists Wanted Anti-Muslim Attack to End in "Bloodbath":

    They called themselves the "Crusaders" and had a clear purpose: launch an attack against Muslims that would lead to a "bloodbath." With any luck that would help spark a religious war. But their plans were thwarted as three Kansas men were arrested on Friday for planning an attack on a Garden City, Kansas apartment complex filled with Somali immigrants that is also home to a mosque. They planned to carry out the attack one day after the November election. . . .

    The complaint also notes that during one conversation Stein said that "the only fucking way this country's ever going to get turned around is it will be a bloodbath and it will be a nasty, messy motherfucker. Unless a lot more people in this country wake up and smell the fucking coffee and decide they want this country back . . . we might be too late, if they do wake up . . . I think we can get it done. But it ain't going to be nothing nice about it." At one point Stein made it clear he was ready to kill babies: "When we go on operations there's no leaving anyone behind, even if it's a one-year old, I'm serious."

    Police say they found "close to a metric ton of ammunition in Allen's residence," which is what led authorities to believe the attack could be imminent. "These individuals had the desire, the means, the capability to carry out this act of domestic terrorism," an FBI official said.

    The article notes that "There has been an incredible increase in anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment over the past few years." The article didn't note the Donald Trump campaign, nor America's seemingly endless war in Somalia. On the latter, see Mark Mazzetti/hjeffrey Gettleman/Eric Schmidt: In Somalia, U.S. Escalates a Shadow War:

    The Pentagon has acknowledged only a small fraction of these operations. But even the information released publicly shows a marked increase this year. The Pentagon has announced 13 ground raids and airstrikes thus far in 2016 -- including three operations in September -- up from five in 2015, according to data compiled by New America, a Washington think tank. The strikes have killed about 25 civilians and 200 people suspected of being militants, the group found.

    The strikes have had a mixed record. In March, an American airstrike killed more than 150 Shabab fighters at what military officials called a "graduation ceremony," one of the single deadliest American airstrikes in any country in recent years. But an airstrike last month killed more than a dozen Somali government soldiers, who were American allies against the Shabab.

  • Derek Thompson: No, Not Gary Johnson: It's unfortunate that the Libertarian candidate isn't as articulate about foreign policy and war someone like Ron Paul. For one thing, that might spare us some gaffes like "what is a leppo?" or "when he failed to name a single world leader in a televised town hall" (actually, he was asked for the name of a foreign leader he admired, which frankly would have stumped me -- my response would have been that it's inappropriate for US politicians to render judgment on foreign politicians, as indeed it was for Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte to defame Obama). Thompson concludes that Johnson "suffers from an Aleppo mindset, a proud lack of curiosity about foreign affairs lurking behind an attractively simplistic rejection of military interventions." It never occurred to Thompson that if you reject in principle the whole idea of military interventions, you really don't need to know a lot of detail about places hawks want to intervene in, or the trumped up causes they think they're advancing. Still, it would have been better to have smarter answers handy -- it's not like candidates can assume that pundits won't ask stupid questions.

    Thankfully, Thompson moves past his dedication to preserving the American empire to grill Johnson over issues where his muddle-headedness is more glaring, such as the role of government in the economy, increasing the contrast by comparing Johnson to Sanders:

    But on policy, the two could not be more opposite. Sanders, a democratic socialist, proposed to raise taxes by historic sums and spend hundreds of billions of dollars to nationalize health insurance and make college free. Johnson's plans are the complete reverse: He has proposed to eliminate the federal income tax code, unwind 100 years of anti-poverty and health-insurance programs, and shutter the Department of Education. His plan would almost certainly raise the cost of college for many middle-class teenagers and 20somethings who rely on federal loans and grants, and his repeal of Obamacare would immediately boot tens of thousands of them off their parents' health plans.

    Beyond his jovial demeanor and admirably passionate anti-interventionist position, Johnson puts a likable face on a deeply troubling economic policy. Scrapping the Federal Reserve while cutting federal spending by 40 percent, while eliminating federal income taxes and trying to institute a new consumption tax would have a predictable effect: It would take hundreds of billions of dollars out of the economy, likely triggering a recession, while shifting the burden of paying for what's left of the federal government to the poor just as unemployment started to rise, all the while shutting off any possible monetary stimulus that could provide relief to the ailing economy.

    Thompson's numbers are probably understated -- certainly the number who would lose their insurance if Obamacare is repealed would be well into the millions, and the economic collapse is probably more like trillions. But these examples do help remind us how naďve and foolish libertarian economic theory is. Still, without their crackpot notions of economic freedom libertarians would just be liberals. On the other hand, if liberals gave up the war on drugs and their defense of empire, libertarians wouldn't have a prayer of siphoning off votes, as Johnson does this year.

    For a longer critique of Johnson, see Nick Tabor: Gary Johnson's Hard-Right Record.

  • Miscellaneous election links:


Also, a few links for further study (briefly noted:

  • Dean Baker: Apologies for Donald Trump:

    The white working class is right to feel that those in power are not acting in their interests. Of course they are not acting in the interests of the African American or Hispanic working classes either. Unfortunately, unless mainstream politicians stop doing the bidding of the wealthy, the white working class will continue to look to political figures who blame non-whites for their problems, since that will be the only answer they see.

  • Robert L Borosage: Inequality Is Still the Defining Issue of Our Time: Title is clearly right, worth repeating at every opportunity. Another way to make the case is to point out that the entire purpose of conservativism is to defend and secure the privileges of the rich and make them richer.

  • Patrick Cockburn: Talk of a No-fly Zone Distracts from Realistic Solutions for Aleppo

  • Jonathan Cohn: The Future of America Is Being Written in This Tiny Office: Long piece on Hillary Clinton's "policy team."

    When it came to formulating her own ideas, Clinton wasn't starting from scratch, obviously. But since her last run for the White House, the Democratic Party had undergone a minor metamorphosis -- and in ways that didn't seem like a natural fit for Clinton, at least as she was perceived by most voters. The progressive wing was clearly ascendant, with groups like Occupy Wall Street and Fight For 15 harnessing populist anger at the financial system, and Black Lives Matter turning an unrelenting spotlight on racial injustice. Minority voters had come to represent a larger proportion of both the party and the population, giving Democrats an electoral-college advantage whose influence was still unclear when Obama ran for office. And there was another trend at work -- one that was less obvious, but no less important: In just a few years, the Democratic elite had quietly gone through a once-in-a-generation shift on economic thinking.

  • Thomas Geoghegan: 3 Ways Hillary Clinton Can Inspire Americans Without a College Degree: Lots of good ideas here, like "co-determination" (giving workers a vote on corporate boards). Third point lumps a bunch of good things into one:

    Third, unlike Trump, Hillary can promise to use the welfare state to make us more competitive. How? Consider what would happen if we expanded Social Security. If we get more workers over age 65 to retire, instead of hanging on because they lack a decent private pension, we could employ more middle-aged and young workers now sitting at home, or promote them sooner. We need the government to assume more of the private sector's "non-wage" labor costs. There are yet other examples where the welfare state could make us more competitive: Expand Medicare to workers between ages 55 and 65, so employers can stop avoiding payment for working people who have higher skills. Or have a fair federal system of worker compensation, instead of states' using it to bid against each other. Or have the federal government offer to take over state Medicaid in those states that promise to use the savings for public education and worker training. And isn't publicly funded childcare a way of ensuring that we use human capital more efficiently instead of trapping highly educated women at home?

  • Mark Mazzetti/Ben Hubbard: Rise of Saudi Prince Shatters Decades of Royal Tradition: The new power in Saudi Arabia is 31-year-old Prince bin Salman, seen here as extravagant and reckless, especially with his war in Yemen which has lately dragged the US into missile exchanges.

  • Richard Silverstein: Israel's Stern Gang Mailed Letter Bomb to White House, President Truman: In 1947, when LEHI was commanded by future prime minister Yitzhak Shamir.

  • Cass R Sunstein: Five Books to Change Liberals' Minds: Tries to pick out books that liberals can take seriously, as opposed to, say, the partisan paranoid crap published by Regnery. The books are:

    1. James Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Conditions Have Failed
    2. Antonin Scalia, A Matter of Interpretation
    3. Casey Mulligan, Side Effects and Complications: The Economic Consequences of Health-Care Reform
    4. Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind
    5. Robert Ellickson, Order Without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes

    The Scalia book came out in 1997, when he still had a reputation as a serious (albeit flawed) thinker, as opposed to the partisan crank you remember him as. Scott and Ellickson would seem to be libertarians, perhaps even anarchists. Haidt's book is a respectful probe into how conservatives think (I bought a copy, but haven't read it.) Mulligan complains that Obamacare disincentivizes work, and as such is a drag on GDP. That makes sense but doesn't strike me as such a bad thing. Moreover, it's not like there aren't any countervaling incentives to work (though it doesn't help that so many jobs suck).

  • Matthew Yglesias: This is the best book to help you understand the wild 2016 campaign: The book is Democracy for Realists, by Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels, and it's a depressing slog if you've ever fancied the idea that rational arguments based on real interests might persuade voters to choose candidates and parties that actually advance those interests. One argument, for instance, is that party allegiance is based on some unknowably primordial force (probably identity), and that people pick up the views of their party rather than the other way around. Another is that fluctuations in voting results are due to factors beyond any party's control, ranging from economic performance to the shark attacks and football games. I'm not sure how much of this I buy, let alone care about. One of the problems with the social sciences is that every piece of insight they reveal about anonymous behavior becomes a lever for manipulation by some interest group. That's one reason why when I was majoring in sociology, I spent virtually all of my efforts trying to expose how research incorporates biases, and thereby to increase the doubt that findings could be usurped. That's also a reason why I quit sociology. Also why I have no interest in reading this particular book, or any of the other books on how voters think -- books that I'm sure both parties (if not necessarily both presidential candidates) have been diligently studying for whatever tricks they can find.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Daily Log

Jan Barnes (a fairly hard-core Trump supporter from Idaho) asked me what I thought of the election, so I wrote this:

Will be glad when the election is over. Too bad the framers of the 22nd Amendment (the one that limited presidents to two terms) didn't also prohibit spouses and children of previous presidents from running. That would have been consistent with the desire to prevent dynasties from being built, and saved us from Hillary (and more importantly from George W as well). Most of the problems I have with Hillary stem from her husband and things he did while in power during the 1990s. I could rattle off a long list, but there are two major themes: one is that his misdeeds were almost always supported by Republicans, most often at the expense of traditional Democratic Party constituencies (especially the working class), and the other is that he turned the Democratic Party into his own personal political machine (which clearly persists in that no mainstream Democrat dared to run against Hillary). He got away with all that because in 1993 the Republicans were so shocked to lose to him that they went crazy, which made him look like our sole protector, no matter how much he compromised with them. That's pretty much the story of this election as well. Hillary can't be expected to do much of anything to actually help out most of the people who will vote for her, nor do I think she will do anything significant to get out from the "War on Terror" that Bush started, but at least she isn't Donald Trump (or any of the other 15 Republican candidates, who may not be as personally obnoxious as Trump but who all subscribe to the same political principles and agenda, which in a nutshell is to let the rich and already too powerful run roughshod over everyone else).

Actually, aside from her husband and his network, I don't think Hillary is so bad. She is a very conventional thinker, too deferential to wealthy donors and the military, but not lacking in compassion and concern for those who are getting screwed over by the current system. I expect she will acknowledge and face up to real problems -- climate change is a clear example -- but will prefer to seek out compromises where no party really gets hurt. I expect that she will try to run a relatively honest administration (unlike Bush and Reagan, or Trump, who is probably the greediest individual to run for the office since Aaron Burr). And while her relationship to Bill has given her various advantages, I expect she will make a point of showing us that she's not any sort of figurehead for a third Bill Clinton term. She's campaigned in her own right, on her own credentials, and she's as well-prepared to become president as anyone in decades.

As for Trump, aside from his hideous personality, indeed a whole lifetime of stroking his own ego while grabbing everything he can get his hands on, he has nothing to offer but magic with occasional reference to standard-issue Republican schemes that have been proven time and again not to work for anyone but the ultra-rich (specifically, Trump himself -- for instance, he's made a big deal out of eliminating taxes on his estate and on passing anti-libel laws so rich people can sue anyone who criticizes them). One of the sad things about this election is that even if Trump gets beat badly it will be blamed on his bad character and not on the bad policies he espouses.

By the way, have you noticed how few American-born ancestors Trump, who's so famously anti-immigrant, actually has? One: his mother was born in Scotland, his father in the US, but his father's parents both immigrated to the US from Germany. Better known is that two of his three wives were foreign-born. I think five of the sixteen Republican candidates had at least one parent who was foreign-born (as was Cruz himself, though he claimed US citizenship). Not sure whether that's just some weird fluke or testimony to their political opportunism.

Anyhow, you asked. Laura's more down on Hillary and I am, and will probably vote for Jill Stein -- certainly not Trump.

By the way, that eggplant parmesan was really amazing. I had a very old, very hard wedge of parmesan reggiano -- took a lot of pounding to grate it -- and mixed it with some cotija (a similar cheese Mexican street vendors dredge grilled and buttered corn in) and some cheaper parmesan. Didn't make as much tomato sauce as the recipe called for, but what I had was very flavorful.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Golden Oldies (2)

Continuing along as I dig through my old notebooks for jazz reviews. Here's my post from April 11, 2003, noting what turned out to be the high point of American triumphalism for the entire Iraq misadventure:

There was a period back in the Afghanistan war when the Northern Alliance started reeling off a quick series of victories -- not so much that they were defeating the Taliban in confrontations as that the Taliban was high-tailing it out of the cities, allowing Herat, Kabul, and Kandahar to fall in quick succession. The hawks then made haste to trumpet their victory and to dump on anyone who had doubted the US in this war. Back then, I referred to those few weeks as "the feel good days of the war." Well, we had something like that in Iraq, too, except that use of the plural now seems unwarranted. So mark it on your calendar, Wednesday, April 9, 2003, was the feel good day of the Iraq war. The collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime has proceeded apace, but there seems to be much less to feel good about. One big thing was the killing of the bigwig shia collaborators that the US started to promote, combined with the unwillingness of other shia bigwigs to collaborate. One of the problems with this is that it suggests that the US, as always, is looking for religious leaders to control the people -- which in turn threatens to roll back the one thing Saddam had going for his regime, which was that it was strongly secular. The fact is, you want to introduce something resembling liberal democracy in Iraq, you have to promote secularism. (Of course, given the contempt that Bush has for liberal democracy in the US, it's hard to believe that he really wants that.)

Bigger still is the whole looting thing, as well as mob reprisals against Baath leaders, which threaten to turn into the much predicted Iraqi-on-Iraqi warfare. The looting itself basically means that what infrastructure the US somehow managed not to destroy will be taken down by Iraqi mobs. The likelihood that those mobs are anything other than just isolated hoodlums is small, but collectively the damage that they inflict is likely to be huge. And given how unlikely it is that the US, its allies, and the rest of the world who were so blatantly disregarded in this whole affair, are to actually pay for anything resembling real reconstruction, this is just digging an ever deeper hole. While right now, given that their is still armed (if not necessarily organized) resistance to the US, it's hard to see how the US could keep order even if it wants to (which is to say the least a mixed proposition), but failure to do so is already setting the US up as responsible for the looting, and adding to the already huge responsibility that the US bears for the current and future misery of the Iraqi people. And when the US does start to enforce order, what is bound to happen? More dead Iraqis. And who's responsible for that? The US. If this had just happened out of the blue, I might be a bit sympathetic, but this is exactly what we had predicted as the inevitable given the US course of action.

So happy last Wednesday. That's very likely to be the last one for a long time now.

Also found this letter from April 15, 2003, also on the looting of Baghdad:

The more I read about how archaeologists and other scholars warned the US military about the very real risks that invasion and occupation posed to the libraries and museums of Iraq, the more clear it is why those warnings were ignored: they came from people who disapproved of the war. One of the major problems with this war was that it wasn't something, like Pearl Harbor or even 9/11, that happened and panicked the US into action; it was a program that was concocted inside the government and hard-sold to the public. And one of the most telling effects of the hard-sell is that the people who were selling it, so convinced were they that it was the right thing to do, put blinders on themselves to any argument, no matter how reasoned, not to proceed with their program. And since warnings about dire consequences were reasons not to do it, they were ignored. This is, I think, what happens when someone falls so in love with their ideas that they are unwilling to subject them to critical analysis. And when they crack the whip so hard to force their dreams on a world that turned out to be very skeptical. It is worth noting that this simplistic hard-sell approach to what are often very complex problems has become endemic in US political discourse, and that it has largely driven open, consensus-building discussions underground. It has also led to a preoccupation with winning arguments over solving problems, and the especially insidious tactic of winning arguments by "creating facts on the ground." The libraries and museums of Baghdad are the tragic results of this deterioration of political discourse, and by no means the only ones. The Bush Administration seems to have realized that the only way they could proceed with their war would be to discount or ignore its probable consequences, just as they realized that they would have to lie about why they wanted this war. And now that they've succeeded, it will take all of the arrogance and blindness they can summon to deny what they have wrought. Unless we can manage to break out of their psychology, we're bound for a lot more tragedy.

Earlier in April I pulled out a terrific quote from Gerald Colby's Thy Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil, pointing out that back in the 1950s Rockefeller advocated an accelerated arms race in an attempt to bankrupt the Soviet Union. Rockefeller certainly knew a thing or two about the advantages businessmen with deep pockets have, and this alone pretty much explains the next 35 years of the Cold War. I also posted a note comparing America's experiences in Vietnam and Iraq, where I wrote:

The biggest difference between Vietnam and Iraq is that in Vietnam we were defending a fraud, whereas now we're attacking a phantom. The latter, of course, is easier: it's much easier to demonize Saddam Hussein than it was to make Ngo Dinh Diem, trained and deployed and propped up by the CIA, look like a patriot. . . . What they do have in common is the inevitable resistance of people against foreign occupiers, and the contempt that U.S. leaders have both for dealing honestly with their own citizens and for the people of the other countries that they try to bully and, in fits of rage, to destroy.

Back in summer 2003 before it all turned to shit, someone "in the Bush administration" coined the saying, "anyone can go to Baghdad; real men go to Tehran." Sen. Sam Brownback took the bait and introduced a bill to "destabilize" Iran. (Not that we didn't count him as a "real man" before -- you could tell from the way he treated women.) The Wichita Eagle explained: "Using the same philosophy that drove the war in Iraq, the Kansas senator is leading a drive for new leadership for its eastern neighbor." This prompted me to write a letter (June 23, 2003), again explaining the obvious:

Poor Senator Brownback. I hate to pick on someone so obviously suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder, but his Iran Democracy Act is nothing more than a rerun of the same mistakes that we made with Iraq. When Congress voted to make regime change in Iraq national policy, they started us down the road to the still smoldering war there. That road was paved with lies and fantasies, and anyone who's taken the time to notice has been struck by the growing chasm between reality and the hawks' expectations. But obviously Brownback hasn't noticed anything: he's off stalking bigger, more dangerous game.

The basic fact is that over the last fifty years the U.S. has done nothing at all right by Iran. We say we want to promote democracy in Iran today, but in the early '50s the CIA overthrew the democratically elected Mossadegh government, immediately resulting in U.S. oil companies getting control of most of Iran's oil. The U.S. then installed the megalomaniacal Shah Pahlevi, sold him arms, and trained his vicious security police; the Shah eventually became so unpopular that every segment of the Iranian people revolted against him, a tumultuous revolution that was in the end dominated by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Then the U.S. and its oil sheikh allies in the Persian Gulf encouraged Saddam Hussein to attack Iran, a horrendously bloody eight-year war leaving perhaps a million Iranian casualties. So what in this history makes Brownback think that Iran needs any more U.S. help?

The only people in Iran likely to benefit from a deluge of American propaganda are the ayatollahs, who are certain to use this to reinforce the case that only they can protect Iran from evil foreigners and the misguided citizens who inadvertently provide aid and comfort to the enemy. But then that's the same line used by Sharon in Israel and by Bush here: sabre-rattling is, after all, a time-tested recipe for keeping despots in power despite their incompetence. Maybe Brownback feels his own career needs a little sabre-rattling as well? (After all, while Wichita's economy has been collapsing, he's spent most of his time railing against cloning.) But if by chance he really does want to do something to undermine the ayatollahs in Iran, here's what he should do: support international programs to promote women's rights in Iran and throughout the world, including birth control and abortion. That is, after all, where the ayatollahs are most vulnerable. Too bad the same thing can be said about Brownback.

From November 12, 1963:

Quote from John McCain: "We lost in Vietnam because we lost the will to fight . . ." Come on! We lost the will to fight because we lost the fucking war. Throughout history, that's about the only thing that has ever stifled the will to fight. He goes on, ". . . because we did not understand the nature of the war we were fighting, and because we limited the tools at our disposal." Not sure what he thinks the "nature of the war" was, but the following clause suggests that we could have won if only we had used nuclear weapons. Was there anything else we didn't use in Vietnam? In Vietnam we destroyed villages in order to save them. Is McCain saying that our failure in Vietnam was that we didn't kill them all?

Vietnam was first and last a war about America's self-image as a world power. At first, it was about the US checking communist revolution and expansionism, which in the eyes of a great power was naturally attributed to the machinations of other great powers, e.g. the Soviet Union. In the end, it was about how the US might salvage, in the wake of defeat, its status as a world power, so that it might be able to check further communist revolutions and expansionism. In between, American politicians uttered a lot of hooey about freedom and helping the Vietnamese and so forth, but in cold hard fact that war was always about us.

The Iraq War, indeed the entire Global War on Terror, was about us too: specifically, America's self-conception of its superpowers. What bothered America's "leaders" about 9/11 had nothing to do with the death or destruction -- we willing suffer ten times as many gun deaths each year and far more damage in major hurricanes -- and everything to do with smacking down the impudence to test American power. After all, if we don't do so, today's loss will only be the first of many dominos to fall.

Tempted to quote the post from February 24, 2004, describing a Dick Cheney's fundraising appearance in Wichita, where he spent 30 minutes and raised $250k. The report noted that his security costs to the state of Kansas were $120k, not counting the disruptions from shutting down the airport and the main highway into town, nor his own travel costs and security detail. Sure makes it seem like public funding of elections would be more cost effective, not to mention that it would remove the aura of corruption that surrounds the entire process. Further down I reported:

U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, the village idiot of Goddard KS, managed to get an op-ed piece into the Eagle today. One line in particular dropped my jaw: "Tax relief, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, helped pull the economy out of the Clinton recession." Just try to tear that sentence apart: "tax relief" refers to Bush's tax cuts, which were proposed when the economy was booming and the rationale was to reduce the surplus. "Clinton's recession" must have been a diabolical scheme: what other politician has ever managed to create a recession that only started once his successor was ensconced in office? But have we really pulled out of that recession? One thing you can count on is that the moment Greenspan thinks that we're out of the recession woods is that he'll raise interest rates. But has that happened? Not that I've noticed.

I wish my subsequent analysis had been smarter, but I gave too much credit to the "logic" of tax cuts as stimulus and didn't yet fully realize that giving rich people more money to "invest" only increased their appetites for asset bubbles and other predatory practices. In hindsight, we now that's pretty much all that happened in the "boom years" under Bush. (OK, I suppose you could add deficit war spending and a huge run up in oil prices due to shortages caused by those wars, but the former mostly moved money abroad to be burned up, and the latter just enriched the oil barons, again mostly abroad.)

On March 21, 2004, I assessed the Iraq War a year after Bush launched it. As I noted, "Bush is still marching blithely into the unknown, and he's dragging us with him." I couldn't offer a comprehensive analysis, but did jot down a list of bullet points, including "It is clear now that the US/UK case for going to war against Iraq was founded on [little more than] arrogance and ignorance, and presented as [nothing more than] a blatant list of lies." (I'm tempted today to edit out the bracketed words.) Another point:

The US occupation of Iraq has been remarkably incompetent. Planning for the occupation was somewhere between non-existent and delusional. The initial chaos that allowed extensive looting shattered any prospect that the US might be powerful enough to conduct an orderly transformation of Iraq's political economy. For political reasons, the US also chose not to do the obvious thing, which was to keep existing Iraqi governmental agencies intact and rule through them. Abolishing the army and police forces fed the resistance, while belatedly forcing the US to reconstruct its own Iraqi army and police forces. The resistance itself soon attained a sufficient level of activity to force the US occupiers to hide behind their security barricades, disconnecting from the people they allegedly came to liberate. By failing to hold elections, the US never made an effort to establish a legitimate Iraqi political presence.

On March 12, 2004, I wrote a fair amount about the 1953 CIA coup in Iran -- the subject of Stephen Kinzer's All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror -- and concluded with this note on the leading Democratic candidate to challenge Bush in 2004 (although it would have been equally valid for virtually any possible Democratic nominee, especially the then-junior senator from New York):

The great worry that we have about Kerry as the next Democratic US President is that he is so wed to the past verities of US imperial foreign policy that he will -- like Clinton, Carter, Johnson, and Kennedy before him -- continue the same vicious policies, albeit just a shade less maniacally than G.W. Bush. That continuity has always happened because the rhetoric has always favored the tough guys -- the badass Republicans. (Reality is another thing: although Reagan based much of his 1980 campaign on attacking Carter for giving away the Canal Zone, when Bush finally did invade Panama he didn't make a move to reclaim the Canal Zone. Reagan's charges were merely that Carter was soft; Bush's non-action just shows us that Carter made a concession that realistically had to be made, and that no amount of obtuseness could reverse.) It seems obvious that Bush has finally proven just how bankrupt those policies are, but Kerry seems to feel that the real problem is not Bush's arrogance or ignorance, but his incompetence. After all, incompetence has long been the Achilles heel of Republican foreign policy, but if that's all you attack them for, you can never break out of their rhetorical straightjacket. It's clear that Kerry hasn't: instead of attacking the very idea of a "war on terrorism" he attacks Bush's bungling execution of it. Sure, there's lots to attack there, but if the very project is intrinsically flawed -- and it is -- no amount of competence can fix it. Only a new worldview can do that.

From April 24, 2004, following a note on Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, which identifies Bush and Ashcroft as not that far removed from the religious conceits of the book's killers:

One of my more/less constant themes has been how we've become prisoners of our rhetoric. What I've tried to do above is to sketch out the conceptual model of how this has happened. We live in a world where we as individuals are profoundly powerless, even in the cases where we are mostly free to direct our own personal lives. Such freedom usually depends on the tacit accepteance of powerlessness: people are free to mind their own business, because it doesn't make any real difference to others, least of all the elites (who are at most relatively powerful, by virtue of their ability to manipulate symbols that are broadly acquiesced to -- religion, patriotism, material wealth, ideologies like capitalism, abstract concepts like freedom and democracy, tyranny and terrorism, mere character traits like toughness, resolve, fortitude). And such freedom is for most people quite satisfying, as is the sense of belonging to a well-ordered society. But some people are unsatisfied with the status quo: they want to test the limits of their freedom, they start to question the ordering of society. Most such people were driven to want to change the world by perceived wrongs done them. But some are driven more by an exaggerated sense of their own self-importance: Ron and Dan Lafferty, believing that they were chosen by God to do his work, are simple and pathetic examples.

Where George W. Bush differs from the Laffertys is not so much in his self-conception as in his support network. Bush is a rare example of a self-possessed activist, a fanatic, raised to a position of extraordinary political power. Yet his possession of that power -- one built on the wealth of his political backers, on the cadres of the Republican party, on the institutional power of the U.S. presidency, on the symbols of American military might -- in no way changes the fact that he dwells within the limits of his personal universe. He can't see beyond those limits, which leaves him mostly at the mercy of his own mental baggage -- a world haunted by a God who metes out violence, and by a Karl Rove who vouchsafes that it is politically safe. With his support network, and with our acquiescence (or more likely out powerlessness), his mental paroxysms have can have immense impact. Never in American history has such a dangerous person been put into such a dangerous position.

At present, Donald Trump is vying for precisely this claim. And while he strikes one as a far less devout person, the entitlement he feels by virtue of his class, wealth, and celebrity (not to mention race and sex) seems to elevate him beyond any shred of self-doubt -- a common trait of mad would-be emperors throughout history.

From April 15, 2004, in response to Sharon's plan to unilaterally withdraw Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip (something flacks like Dennis Ross praised as a step toward peace):

But most importantly, Sharon's plan is unilateral: it in no way depends on agreement with any Palestinians; it doesn't acknowledge the Palestinians; it doesn't provide any framework for Palestine to go about the business of rebuilding and healing. The future status of Gaza is what? It is effectively separated from Israel, separated from the West Bank, separated from the Palestinian Authority, but in no way does it become an independent entity. In its assassinations of Sheikh Yassin and many others, Israel has shown that it has no qualms about firing at will. Will this in any way change? Without recognition and agreement, without a plan and process to turn Gaza into a viable, self-sustaining territory, Gaza will continue to be a security threat to Israel, and Israel will continue to treat Gaza as a mob-infested shooting gallery. All that Israel's removal of its outposts there does is to remove the weak spots in the containment and isolation, the strangulation, of Gaza. This is an eery reminder of the myth that Israel propagated to explain the refugee flight of 1947-49: that the Arabs had told the Palestinians to leave Israeli territory so that when the Arabs marched through an anihilated the Israelis, they wouldn't be caught in the crossfire. This is hard to conceive of, but the presence of Israeli settlers in Gaza has at least been one significant inhibition against Israel attacking Gaza with genocidal weapons.

In the months that followed, Israel made great sport out of flying at supersonic speeds over Gaza, rattling houses with sonic booms -- a practice they only gave up when nearby Israeli towns complained. In the years that followed, Israel launched one major military assault after another on Gaza, as well as hundreds of more limited bombing runs and cannon fire. Meanwhile, Gaza was bottled up, its borders frequently sealed, while the economy atrophied.

Found this forgotten item on May 13, 2004, reminding us that US confusion over and participation in Syria's civil war goes back well before Arab Spring:

The news got burried under the other scandals, but Bush picked another war this week, when the U.S. announced that it was unilaterally imposing a wide range of sanctions on Syria, including freezing Syrian assets held in U.S. banks. The reason given was inadequate vigilance by Syria in terms of preventing "foreign fighters" from infiltrating Iraq. (I still bet that more than 95% of the foreign fighters in Iraq come from the U.S./U.K.) But it is a clear escalation of the rhetoric of demonization that the U.S. lays in advance of hotter wars. There are prominent neocons who make no secret about their desire to take the war to Syria, so this is a victory for them. It also aids Sharon in that it is one more excuse (as if he needed any) to ignore the requirement that Israel withdraw from Syrian lands occupied since 1967. Cooperation between Bush and Israel over Syria was demonstrated most clearly when the U.S. applauded after Israel bombed Syria last summer, in alleged retalliation for a suicide bombing that had nothing whatsoever to do with Syria. . . .

Like all acts of war, sanctions are a failure of diplomacy. As the U.S. occupation of Iraq has soured, the U.S. finds itself driven to ever more desperate acts, and those acts can only serve to isolate, embitter, and impoverish us further.

I've run across several obituaries in the notebook so far, most memorably for my cousin Bob Burns and our friend Bob Ashley. On June 6, 2004, I wrote this one about people I didn't know personally:

A great man died yesterday: Steve Lacy pioneered and exemplified the avant-garde in jazz -- in particular, the notion that the new music doesn't evolve from the leading edge so much as it transcends all of the music that came before it. He was the first postmodernist in jazz, and he explored the music (Monk above all) and developed it in novel ways over 45 years of superb records. Ronald Reagan also died yesterday: he was a sack of shit who in his "what, me worry?" way destroyed far more than Lacy built. To describe Reagan as the intellectual forefather of George W. Bush is just sarcasm; for both ideas were nothing more than excuses for wielding power not just to vanquish the weak or to favor the strong but to bask in its own glory. Ideas, of course, did flower up around Reagan, as they do around Bush -- really bad ideas.

At the time my take on the Reagan administration was that they were responsible for [making] fraud the biggest growth industry in the U.S. By the end of Reagan's second term almost every department of the U.S. government was awash in corruption scandals: despite all of the talk, the administration's most evident real program was to steal everything in sight. But ultimately the talk did matter. At the time there was much talk about a "Reagan Revolution" -- oblivious to the fact that the only right-wing revolutions in memory led to the triumph of the Fascists and Nazis, to WWII and the Holocaust. Those are big boots to goosestep in, and it's taken a while to fill them.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27244 [27198] rated (+46), 401 [390] unrated (+11).

High rated count, partly inflated by finding some old grades in old notebooks that had never been registered in the database (see below). Still, most of the rated count comes from checking out a bunch of top-rated albums from this year, at least as tabulated by Album of the Year. Best album I found there was the new GOAT -- indeed, I'm not real sure Requiem isn't as good as 2014's A-listed Commune. As for the others, it's possible that more time might have put one or more of Savages, Angel Olsen, Kevin Morby, Future of the Left, or even Solange over the top.

Two A- records from Robert Christgau's Noisey column. I couldn't play the YouTube link for the Youssou N'Dour mystery album (or whatever it is -- not sure it's even a thing). Both are rather marginal finds, but distinctive in their narrow niches. I'm still undecided about Black Bombaim but will probably wind up saying the same thing about it.

Working fairly hard on the jazz book(s), although they're still in the very boring collection phase. (As I wrote that, I had a strange sense of deja vu, like I've tried to do this before.) I finished collecting reviews from Jazz Prospecting. Before moving on to Rhapsody Streamnotes, I thought I'd take a look at the old notebooks, and it's turned out that at least through 2004 there are quite a few reviews/notes there that didn't get worked into the various columns. (I hadn't broken out Jazz Prospecting Notes until JCG(7) in December 2005, so I was wondering whether I had bothered to write up anything on them later. I recall that at some point I started dumping the prospecting notes into the notebook, but those should be redundant with files I have already rummaged through.)

I'm collecting the post-2000 releases in a flat file which is currently 98625 lines long (8454 albums, although minus redundancies probably closer to 6000; 833903 words). I'm also formatting the pre-2000 album reviews/notes into book form, currently 210 pages. I'm rather surprised that the latter has grown so large, given that I picked up most of my 20th century jazz before I started writing so much. My guess has long been that the amount of work it would take to turn those writings into a fairly decent guide book would be prohibitive, but for now it certainly doesn't hurt to organize what I do have into something more accessible.

I haven't updated the 21st century book, and probably won't until I finish collecting Rhapsody Streamnotes, at which point I'll have collected virtually everything I've written on the subject. Then I figure I can go through the database and try to edit something coherent from all these widely scattered scraps. Scary what a huge job that's bound to be.


New records rated this week:

  • 75 Dollar Bill: Wooden Bag (2015, Other Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • 75 Dollar Bill: Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock (2013-15 [2016], Thin Wrist): [bc]: A-
  • Amber Arcades: Fading Lines (2016, Heavenly): [r]: B+(*)
  • Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Real Enemies (2016, New Amsterdam): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Bon Iver: 22, a Million (2016, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B+(*)
  • Neko Case/KD Lang/Laura Veirs: Case/Lang/Veirs (2016, Anti-): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nels Cline: Lovers (2013 [2016], Blue Note, 2CD): [r]: B-
  • Cymbals Eat Guitars: Pretty Years (2016, Sinderlyn): [r]: B
  • Damana (Dag Magnus Narvesen Octet): Cornua Copiae (2014 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
  • Future of the Left: The Peace & Truce of Future of the Left (Prescriptions): [r]: B+(***)
  • GOAT: Requiem (2016, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jenny Hval: Blood Bitch (2016, Sacred Bones): [r]: C+
  • Ital Tek: Hollowed (2016, Planet Mu): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nicolas Jaar: Sirens (2016, Other People): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kate Jackson: British Road Movies (2016, Hoo Ha): [r]: B+(*)
  • Michael Kiwanuka: Love & Hate (2016, Polydor): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam: I Had a Dream That You Were Mine (2016, Glassnote): [r]: B
  • Jřrgen Mathisen/Christian Meaas Svendsen/Andreas Wildhagen: Momentum (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Maxwell: blackSUMMERS'night (2016, Columbia): [r]: B
  • Anna Meredith: Varmints (2016, Moshi Moshi): [r]: B
  • Mudcrutch: 2 (2016, Reprise): [r]: B
  • Kevin Morby: Singing Saw (2016, Dead Oceans): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Mowgli's: Where'd Your Weekend Go? (2016, Photo Finish/Island): [r]: B
  • Naked Wolf: Ahum (2016, Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Steve Noble & Kristoffer Berre Alberts: Condest Second Yesterday (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Sean Noonan: Memorable Sticks (2015 [2016], ForTune): [bc]: B
  • Angel Olsen: My Woman (2016, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B+(***)
  • Huerco S: For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have) (2016, Proibito): [r]: B+(**)
  • Savages: Adore Life (2016, Matador): [r]: B+(***)
  • SBTRKT: Save Yourself (2016, self-released, EP): [r]: B-
  • Elliott Sharp Aggregat: Dialectrical (2016, Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Solange: A Seat at the Table (2016, Saint/Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Touché Amoré: Stage Four (2016, Epitaph): [r]: B+(*)
  • Whitney: Light Upon the Lake (2016, Secretly Canadian): [r]: B-
  • YG: Still Brazy (2016, Def Jam): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • Vieux Kanté: The Young Man's Harp (2005 [2016], Sterns): [r]: A-


Added grades for remembered LPs from way back when:

  • Borah Bergman: The River of Sounds (2001, Boxholder): B+
  • Roy Campbell: It's Krunch Time (2001, Thirsty Ear): B
  • The Cosmosamatics (2001, Boxholder): B
  • The Cosmosamatics: The Cosmosamatics II (2001, Boxholder): B
  • Joel Futterman/William Parker/Jimmy Williams: Authenticity (1998 [1999], Kali): B-
  • Mat Maneri & Randy Peterson: Light Trigger (2000, No More): B-
  • Mat Maneri: Blue Decco (2000, Thirsty Ear): B+
  • Jemeel Moondoc & William Parker With Hamid Drake: New World Pygmies, Vol. 2 (2000 [2002], Eremite, 2CD): B+
  • The Music Ensemble: The Music Ensemble (1974-75 [2001], Roaratorio): B
  • The Nommonsemble: Life Cycle (2000 [2001], AUM Fidelity): B
  • Matthew Shipp: Symbol Systems (1995, No More): B
  • Alan Silva/Kidd Jordan/William Parker: Emancipation Suite #1 (1999 [2002], Boxholder): C+


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • JD Allen: Americana (Savant)
  • George Cables: The George Cables Songbook (HighNote)
  • Andrew Downing: Otterville (self-released): October 14
  • Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band: ˇIntenso! (Clavo)
  • Fond of Tigers: Uninhabit (Offsesson/Drip Audio)
  • Eric Hofbauer Quintet: Prehistoric Jazz - Volume 3: Three Places in New England (Creative Nation Music): November 4
  • The Matthew Kaminski Quartet: Live at Churchill Grounds (Chicken Coup)
  • Brian Kastan: Roll the Dice on Life (Kastan): January 1
  • Mike LeDonne & the Groover Quartet: That Feelin' (Savant)
  • Houston Person & Ron Carter: Chemistry (HighNote)
  • Felix Peikli & Joe Doubleday: It's Showtime! (self-released): advance, October 4
  • Revolutionary Snake Ensemble: I Want That Sound! (Innova): October 28
  • Carol Robbins: Taylor Street (Jazzcats): January 6

Friday, October 07, 2016

Golden Oldies

Finished copying the Jazz Prospecting reviews into a work file that will eventually be folded into the Jazz Consumer Guide book(s). Next obvious step is to move on to Rhapsody Streamnotes -- a much larger task, with a fair amount of redundancy up through 2013 and new stuff thereafter. But instead I wondered whether I might find some old stuff in the Notebook, at least up to when I started collecting my Jazz Prospecting notes in the Jazz Consumer Guide directory. Indeed, I found a few things going back to 2001.

I also waded through a bunch of old writings, some of which I thought worth reprinting here. Like this letter I wrote to the Wichita Eagle back on December 30, 2001, in response to a "puff piece" called "Bush's rookie year a success."

Bush's rookie year a success? Well, he's certainly accomplished a lot: a war that is projected to be endless and that provides Israel and India an excuse to step up their own wars; an economy in the toilet, with rising unemployment; tax cuts to the rich, and bailouts to big business (although not enough to save his buddies at Enron); the end of the surplus that supposedly had been necessary to keep Social Security solvent; an assault on our legal system which has safeguarded our freedom for over 200 years; and not the least bit of attention to skyrocketing health care costs; and, of course, more damage to the environment. I'm just not sure how much Bush success we can really afford.

After quoting the letter, I added:

The list, of course, could have gone on and on, but in tallying it up so far I'm struck by how huge these calamities really are, and how hard it was less than a year ago to predict so much damage so soon. Equally amazing is how little attention people here seem to be paying.

From December 5, 2001 (I'm reading forward by months, but backwards within months, so please bear with this idiosyncrasy):

Old news, but it looks like the anthrax threat which so effectively pushed up US paranoia to grease the skids for Bush's Afghan adventure was done with US government-made anthrax. Without getting into the question of who mailed the anthrax, or why, one conclusion is obvious: the terror would not exist had the US military not developed the weapon. Which is to say that at least in this case terrorism could have been prevented by the simple, sensible policy of governments not developing terrorist weapons.

From December 4, 2001:

Israel's tactic of trying to "motivate" Arafat by bombing his habitual hangouts reminds me of nothing so much as one of those westerns where the sadistic outlaw shouts "dance!" as he shoots around the feet of some schlemiel. . . . Israel's targeting of Arafat comes on the heels of meetings between Sharon and the US government. Whereas the early post-9/11 hope was that the US would moderate Israel in the hopes of gaining much needed Islamic support against Al Qaeda, it now looks like the 9/11 glee evinced by the likes of Peres and Netanyahu has prevailed. Israel indeed has much to teach the US about terrorism: specifically, how terrorist threats provide cover and excuse for the most vicious and reactionary of political agendas.

From December 3, 2001, a point in time I later referred to as the "feel good" days of the American War in Afghanistan, from my comment on a New Yorker piece by Hendrik Hertzberg:

The campaign we're witnessing is the reflex of power provoked. But the methods do little more than remind us that the US's real power doesn't amount to much more than the ability to indiscriminately bomb and wreak havoc, to unleash terror at a pitch that Al Qaeda can only dream about.

In this, the US leadership has managed to reverse the plain truth of the 9/11 attacks, which is that the victims had no relationship to any plausible complaint about the US or how the US power has damaged any other part of the world, and that the terrorists had shown themselves to be utterly immoral in their slaughter of innocents. Hertzberg is right that no one disagrees with this judgment of the terrorists. Where he misses the boat is in not realizing that the same logic that lets the US leaders justify their bombing in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other quarters of the Islamic world, is the selfsame logic that leads terrorists, with their relatively crude weapons, to target US innocents. And while in the US people like Hertzberg are grinning over laundered news about US military success in Afghanistan, the even more hardened government/terrorist factions in Israel have viciously expanded their own power tryst.

Such views were pretty unusual at the time, but still right on the mark today. There are some earlier posts on 9/11 that I skipped over before I noticed the Bush letter. Also music, movies, and more than a few dinner notes.


On October 25, 2002 I lamented "feeling much more over the hill than seems to be the norm for [my age, 52]," and also bemoaned the sudden death of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone and the approaching elections, which would give Bush control of both houses of Congress:

The death of Paul Wellstone and his posse was sad enough, but what is especially sad is how quickly it submerges into our general nervousness over the impending elections. Bush and his administration have behaved so appallingly since their annointment by Antonin Scalia that one expects the Reichstag to catch fire any day now. Principled Democrat opposition is astonishingly hard to find -- I'm not even sure that Wellstone qualified, although it's easy to point to others with far fewer scruples. Yet the most thing that strikes me the strongest is how fragile our lives are, and how arbitrarily history wends around them.

From December 30, 2002, in the buildup to Bush's Iraq misadventure, I found myself arguing not just against "liberal hawks" but hardcore pro-war "leftists":

As for the comments, a special raspberry to Ellen Willis, who argues that the antiwar movement against the US/Vietnam war undermined the "radical democratic left" by turning into an "apolitical moral crusade." It sounds like her crowd won't make that mistake again; indeed, once they seize power their first task will be to purify American power from its present corruption and put it to good use righting the wrongs in the world.

If forced to choose between the leftists and the pacifists, I'd take the pacifists any day. For one thing they have principles that one can practice immediately and build on in everyday life, while the anti-pacifist left can only struggle for power, becoming what they first hated and losing their bearings.


On January 29, 2003, I wrote something about economic policy which I still mean to follow up on some day:

A less obvious approach would be for the government to make strategic investments in the private sector, where the strategy is to try to bring prices down. Such investments rarely happen in the private sector, since the private sector's investment strategy is to maximize profits, and that rarely involves cutting prices. Yet almost every real gain in living standards has come about not by people achieving enough income to buy expensive products but by the products getting cheap enough to be afforded by the masses. Just look around you: how many people would have VCRs if they still cost $1300? Personal computers if they still cost $5000? Further back you have to adjust for inflation, but consider that cars in the 1900's cost thousands of dollars, but Henry Ford cut the price of the Model T to less than $300. Just look around and you'll find many places where prices can conceivably be cut significantly, enough to vastly expand the market and add to people's real standard of living. (Of course, given that I'm surrounded by thousands of compact discs, one example is music; indeed, the very popularity of file sharing shows that the latent demand is there, if only the costs can be slashed -- which of course they can be.)

I contrasted this to more commonplace approaches from the left like stimulating demand by raising the wage floor, giving labor more clout to negotiate wages, and increasing government spending (to and beyond New Deal levels). Of course, I favor all of those things, but I'm offering this as something that's rarely discussed (and when it is, usually in negative terms like greater antitrust vigilance).

On January 23, 2003, I wrote a letter about the coming Iraq War (addressed to Wichita Eagle columnist Bob Getz).

I was unusually tempted to write you after your previous column on the Bush plan to invade Iraq, but didn't get around to it until after seeing your second column. So here it is: thanks for an exceptionally clear-headed and cant-free statement. I really can't see anything but woe coming out of this war, and I can't see any reason for Kansans to accept or support it. Even if every vile thing you hear about Saddam Hussein is true, I can't see Iraq as a threat to anything in my life -- unlike war, which casts a pall over the economy, sucking wealth out to be incinerated overseas. And as for helping those poor Iraqis overthrow their tyrant, God helps those who help themselves. But even short of that some sort of negotiated end to the sanctions would do far more good, and would no doubt be much more appreciated than occupation by an alien power.

But the thing that worries me most has nothing to do with the Iraqis: I'm worried about what war, even in victory, will do to us. An old Kansas named Dwight Eisenhower warned about the growing threat of a "military-industrial complex," but rather than heeding that warning John F. Kennedy concocted his "missile gap" and Lyndon Johnson plunged us hopeless into Vietnam. And while Johnson and his liberal ideologues may have thought that they were bringing American democracy to Vietnam, their methods so undermined them that they became lost, unable to fathom that it's impossible to save a village by destroying it. On the other hand, Nixon and his conservative realpolitiker saw that defeat in Vietnam was inevitable, but tragically escalated the war to remind the world to respect American power. Since then we've been in denial about what the war did not only to Vietnam and Cambodia (millions of dead) but what it did to America, which was to strip away the innocence of our good intentions and to cultivate a cynical, power-craving military/CIA establishment.

We had an opportunity to cut back with the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the hawks were saved by Iraq, and propelled forward by Al Qaeda. While the rest of the world has steadfastly moved away from war as a solution to anything, Bush seems to be intoxicated with America's status as the world's sole superpower and the military prowess that dubious claim rests on. But that power is hollow: the power to destroy, but not to build, nor even to protect. And it's harder than ever to clothe that power with anything resembling good intentions. And this seems to be pretty clear to the whole world now, even if some politicians and media moguls opt to play along.

Back in the 1960s there was a slogan in the antiwar movement: "Suppose they gave a war and nobody came." At the time reeked with irony, a flashback to the pro-war parades that launched World War I. (Hardly a more distant past then than Vietnam is now -- my grandfather fought in WWI.) Hopefully this old slogan will lose its irony and become a plain statement of fact this time.

I won't bother to quote it here, but in January 2003 I wrote a post on who got elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and who didn't, with what still reads to me like pretty solid analysis. Can't do that any more, but at the time I still knew a thing or two about the sport.

Next post down I referred to Sam Brownback as "our ultra-slimy Senator." From February 19, 2003, I see a post about a plan to keep increases in electric and gas rates secret so as to not tip the utilities' hands to the terrorists.

On March 18, 2003, I wrote the first of many pieces about the Bush War in Iraq as a bad fact and not just a bad idea. Long before I knew that when the time came I'd refer to the Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. The post starts out:

Yesterday, March 17, 2003, is another date that will live in infamy. On this date, U.S. President George W. Bush rejected the efforts and council of the United Nations, and the expressed concerns of overwhelming numbers of people throughout the U.S. and all around the world, and committed the U.S. to attack, invade, and occupy Iraq, to prosecute or kill Iraq's government leaders, and to install a new government favorable to U.S. interests.

Nothing I wrote that day requires amendment, although I didn't manage to anticipate many of the subsequent debacles. At least, as this paragraph further down shows, I didn't underestimate the unexpected:

As I write this, we cannot even remotely predict how this war will play out, how many people will die or have their lives tragically transfigured, how much property will be destroyed, how much damage will be done to the environment, what the long-term effects of this war will be on the economy and civilization, both regionally and throughout the world. In lauching his war, Bush is marching blithely into the unknown, and dragging the world with him.

I wrote much more about Iraq in the following days, weeks, months, and years. I'll leave it to you to look that up. But throughout the entire notebook period I feel that I've been pretty consistent, and my key insights have been vindicated time and again. Most key is that the US made a colossal mistake in resorting to military force after 9/11, especially in attacking Afghanistan. Bush bears special blame because he was in the unique position of being able to stop the march to war after 9/11. Of course, he didn't, and arguably couldn't, not just because of the institutional inertia of the American war machine but because of his own peculiar personal and political history.

But also note that I wrote quite a lot about Israel/Palestine during the 18 months from 9/11 to Iraq. That was the peak period of the Israeli counter-intifada when Ariel Sharon destroyed what was left of the previous decade's "Oslo peace process," which had begun with much fanfare at Clinton's White House, but which Bush had no interest in salvaging -- indeed, Bush and Sharon shared a preference for "solving" conflicts by brute force, a corollary which only served to worsen each conflict.


Just for perspective, I'll also pull some music bits from the same period. For instance, on February 9, 2003, I wrote: "Closing in on 8000 records rated." The latest count is 27198, so since that point I've averaged about 1400 records per year, or 27 per week (which, yeah, seems like a pretty typical week). The thing that accelerated those numbers was, first, writing consumer guide columns which got some publicists to send me free music, and second, various streaming and downloading services (especially Rhapsody).

I found my first (21st century) Pazz & Jop ballot filed away on December 20, 2002 (after I had started writing for Michael Tatum at Static Multimedia):

  1. DJ Shadow: The Private Press (MCA) 14
  2. NERD: In Search of . . . (Virgin) 13
  3. Mekons: Oooh! (Out of Our Heads) (Quarterstick) 12
  4. Spaceways Inc.: Version Soul (Atavistic) 12
  5. Youssou N'Dour: Nothing's in Vain (Nonesuch) 10
  6. Cornershop: Handcream for a Generation (Beggars Banquet) 9
  7. Buck 65: Square (Warner Music Canada) 9
  8. Van Morrison: Down the Road (Universal) 8
  9. Spoon: Kill the Moonlight (Merge) 7
  10. Cee-Lo: Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections (Arista) 6

As of January 6, 2003, my 2002 A-list was 62 albums long, growing to 77 when I stopped adding records to the file. By contrast, my 2001 A-list only had 35 albums by January 2, 2002 (eventually growing to 53), but I rather prefer my mock 2001 Pazz & Jop ballot -- what I would have sent in had I been invited (which I was not):

  1. The Coup: Party Music (75 Ark) 16
  2. Manu Chao: Proxima Estacion: Esperanza (Virgin) 16
  3. Lucinda Williams: Essence (Lost Highway) 11
  4. David Murray: Like a Kiss That Never Ends (Justin Time) 11
  5. Maria Muldaur: Richland Woman Blues (Stony Plain) 9
  6. Tricky: Blowback (Hollywood) 9
  7. Bob Dylan: Love and Theft (Columbia) 8
  8. Orlando Cachaito Lopez: Cachaito (World Circuit/Nonesuch) 7
  9. The Moldy Peaches: The Moldy Peaches (Rough Trade) 7
  10. Nils Petter Molvaer: Solid Ether (ECM) 6

Note that Molvaer eventually dropped to 13th, with Buck 65: Man Overboard (Metaforensics) slipping into 8th, The Highlife Allstars: Sankofa (Network) 9th, and Shakira: Laundry Service (Epic) 11th.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Daily Log

No Weekend Roundup Sunday. Still, I'd be remiss not to mention the late Shimon Peres. Some links:


Made sort of a Cuban-Mexican dinner the other night. Menu:

  • Fricasé de Pollo: chicken thighs, marinated in sour orange juice and browned, skinned, added to a sofrito (onions, green bell pepper, oregano, cumin) and braised in wine-chicken stock-marinade with small potatoes, green olives, raisins, and balsamic vinegar.
  • Congrí Oriental: small red beans, cooked, then added to a sofrito with thick bacon and fried pork loin, then cooked with long-grain rice.
  • Mexican Street Vendor Corn: minus the stick; ears cut into 2-3 chunks, boiled, then rolled in butter, creme fraiche, grated cotija cheese, and sprinkled with paprika and ancho chile powder.
  • Classic Ceviche: white fish (Chilean sea bass, halibut, orange roughy) cut into chunks and marinated with white onion in lime juice, then mixed with chunked tomatoes, green olives, and avocado, dressed with olive oil, orange juice, and cilantro.
  • Key Lime Pie: in a graham cracker crust, topped with whipped cream sweetened with powdered sugar.

The first two recipes came from The Cuban Table; the corn from Gran Cocina Latina; the ceviche from a Rick Bayless recipe found on the net; the key lime pie from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. I juiced the limes I zested, but otherwise used bottled juice (including bottled key lime juice for the pie). I rarely bother with fresh squeezing citrus even though every recipe on earth calls for it.

All came out well, although we had a lot of leftovers and they didn't hold up especially well. I threw away my first pie because the sweetened condensed milk had turned brown and it wound up looking like a pumpkin pie. The second pie was just spectacular, the best I've ever had.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27198 [27183] rated (+15), 390 [381] unrated (+9).

Low rated count. Best explanation I can offer is that I took big chunks from a couple days to work on a drainage project in the back yard, and also spent a day cooking for friends (Mexican recipes for ceviche and corn-on-the-cobb rolled in cotija, Cuban recipes for red beans & rice and a chicken fricasee, fried plantains, and key lime pie). But also many of the records below took a lot of time: the three Springsteen titles (leftover from last week) total seven discs, and at least five of the others got three or more plays (up to six). Actually, when I went to close the week out last night, I only had 14 new rated records -- added Danny Brown and John Lindberg today (two of those multiplay albums).

Or maybe I've just been bummed. Seems like everything is getting hard these days. Aside from the physical wear and tear, I had to deal with a server outage last week -- one of those things that periodically make me wonder whether it's worth the trouble to pay for the damn thing. Even more tedious, I've been collecting reviews from Recycled Goods for possible use in my book-in-progress, Recorded Jazz in the 21st Century: A Consumer Guide. Took me a couple seconds to concatenate 115 columns (427k words) and about three weeks to scroll through them and pick out the jazz reviews. I added the post-2000 records to a working file which currently has about 5000 reviews to add to the 21st century book. Still have Jazz Prospecting (110k words) and Rhapsody Streamnotes (641k words) to go, and I might as well do that before I start integrating all that material into the book.

Meanwhile, I took the opportunity to open a second book file, Recorded Jazz in the 20th Century: A (Haphazard and Woefully Incomplete) Consumer Guide, and stuffed most of my Recycled Goods pre-2000 jazz reviews into it (currently 136 pages). You can look at a PDF here. I haven't set up a download page for it. It's not even a real project at this point, just a repository.

I will say, though, that by the time I got through the Recycled Goods columns, I was wishing I had set up a similar file for other things, especially African music. The database shows I have 703 rated African (and Middle Eastern, mostly from North Africa) albums. That's a fair start toward a record guide, but barely. I figure Robert Christgau would be in a better position to do a Consumer Guide to African Music: his African Set List adds up to 613 albums, but it looks like I haven't updated the list links since sometime in 2003 (max artist id = 5394 (of 7331), max album id = 11171 (of 16849). A quick search for albums with higher artist ids or VA albums with higher album ids generated a list of 2185 albums, but the actual number that should be added to the set list is probably less than 200. (If anyone wants to sort them out, please let me know.)

Christgau's review of Drive-By Truckers is here. He also flagged the Handome Family's Unseen as a HM. For what little it's worth, I had Unseen as an A- last week.


New records rated this week:

  • Beekman: Vol. 02 (2015 [2016], Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Danny Brown: Atrocity Exhibition (2016, Warp): [r]: A-<./li>
  • Dogbrain: Blue Dog (2016, Dogbrain Music, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Drive-By Truckers: American Band (2016, ATO): [r]: A-
  • Earprint: Earprint (2016, Endectomorph Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Five in Orbit: Tribulus Terrestris (2015 [2016], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mary Halvorson Octet: Away With You (2015 [2016], Firehouse 12): [cd]: B+(***)
  • John Lindberg BC3: Born in an Urban Ruin (2016, Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Minim Experiment: Dark Matter (2016, ForTune): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Moonbow: When the Sleeping Fish Turn Red and the Skies Start to Sing in C Major I Will Follow You to the End (2016, ILK): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Parker Abbott Trio: Elevation (2016, self-released): [cd]: B
  • John Scofield: Country for Old Men (2016, Impulse!): [r]: B+(*)
  • Silva/Rasmussen/Solberg: Free Electric Band (2014 [2016], ForTune): [bc]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Bruce Springsteen: The Promise (1977-78 [2010], Columbia, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bruce Springsteen: Tracks (1972-95 [1998], Columbia, 4CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bruce Springsteen: 18 Tracks (1972-99 [1999], Columbia): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Stefan Aeby Trio: To the Light (Intakt)
  • Black Bombaim & Peter Brötzmann (Clean Feed)
  • Christiane Bopp/Jean-Luc Petit: L'Écorce et la Salive (Fou)
  • John Butcher & Stĺle Liavik Solberg: So Beautiful, It Starts to Rain (Clean Feed)
  • Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense: Moving Still (Pi): October 15
  • Friends & Neighbors: What's Wrong? (Clean Feed)
  • Luke Hendon: Silk & Steel (self-released)
  • John Lindberg Raptor Trio: Western Edges (Clean Feed)
  • Jacam Manricks: Chamber Jazz (self-released): October 28
  • Delfeayo Marsalis presents the Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Make America Great Again! (Troubadour Jass)
  • Jřrgen Mathisen/Christian Meaas Svendsen/Andreas Wildhagen: Momentum (Clean Feed)
  • Mark Murphy: Slip Away (Mini Movie): October 25
  • Schlippenbach Trio: Warsaw Concert (Intakt)
  • Soul Basement feat. Jay Nemor: What We Leave Behind (ITI)


Sep 2016 Nov 2016