July 2018 Notebook
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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Streamnotes (July 2018)

Pick up text here.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30033 [30010] rated (+23), 344 [345] unrated (-1).

Week didn't start until Wednesday, after we got the air conditioning fixed, or probably later given how sleep-deprived I was by then. Returned to the Silkheart catalog, figuring that might be easiest, although by the end of the week, trying to move quickly through so much avant-squawk made it hard to distinguish. Generally speaking, the Sun Ra veterans came out on top, probably because they still swung some. The Ernest Dawkins record is probably the best of the B+(***), although they're all pretty good. And, of course, I strayed off-label for a few things that caught my eye. Unfortunately, Napster only had one cut from Dawkins' Jo'burg Blues, so that remains unreviewed.

New music, mostly picked from Napster's lamentably short "featured" lists, didn't yield much of interest, although I started playing the digital-only reissue of a 1992 collection of A Tribe Called Quest remixes before I knew what I was getting into. Most of the songs originated on their debut album, and I was surprised how many I recalled, especially given that at the time I only gave the album a B -- sure, probably from their 1999 best-of The Anthology. Seemed pretty likely that I had underrated their debut. I was tempted to quietly nudge the grade up to B+, but wound up re-checking the album, and decided A- would be more appropriate. Biggest caveat I had was their paean to veganism, but (on principle at least) that's not something I either credit or begrudge.

One background note is that I've been reading the questions sent into Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez, and one of the most common threads there is to ask about records he rated low at the time but has since come to regard more highly. I can think of a couple dozen for him, a few more for me, but realistically we only find such shifts (or errors) when there is some current reason to revisit. I'll also note that Christgau feels even less compulsion than I do to match his graded list to his current taste, partly because he's more disciplined at spending his listening time on paying projects, partly because he puts a higher value on the authority of his grades. On the other hand, I'm almost never certain of my grades, figuring they're never more than my latest impression, worth jotting down because I figure any small bit of information is better than none. At one point, I even thought about adding a parameter to the grades: a second number which would indicate an estimate of certainty. For instance, I might add [1] to indicate a single play, [2] for two, maybe even [∞] for the Pet Shop Boys' Very -- the last record I can remember playing at least once a day for more than three months. That might help, but it's just another wild ass guess, and would be a lot of extra hassle.

My big project last week was to update Robert Christgau's website to prepare for the release of his new book, Is It Still Good to Ya? Fifty Years of Rock Criticism 1967-2017, to be published October 26 by Duke University Press. One stipulation of the contract is that most of the previously published pieces be embargoed from the website for three months before and two years after publication date, so most of the work involved tucking those pieces away, so they'll reappear on the proper date. I did some further work sprucing up the book pages and the Xgau Sez feature, and started the task of converting old pages as I ran into them into proper validated HTML5. The latter wasn't terribly hard, but frustrating in two respects: one had to do with warnings about nesting CSS styles inside tables, which I temporarily fixed by moving the CSS but a better fix would be to get rid of the tables used for page layout; the other was that in most cases I was left with one or two warnings about a squib of non-conforming javascript code I picked up from Twitter. I decided to let that go, but at some point would like to rewrite the code myself, without the warning (and probably a lot of other shit). Sure, you'd think that a state-of-the-art outfit like Twitter could write valid code, but then I accidentally ran a simple Google search result page through the validator, and results there were shocking indeed: 36 errors, 315 warnings.

Turns out that despite my best efforts some of the book pieces weren't even on the website. I did find two in a "nyet" directory that I had forgotten about, and the Chuck Berry obit over on Billboard's website. Not sure offhand what else is missing, but I couldn't find mention of "Sticking It in Their Ear: Bob Dylan" anywhere on the web.

I also managed to add this year's Expert Witness posts to the monthly CG columns (although some are time-locked). They're not in the CG database yet. I still have technical problems reconciling the changed database access code and, until I figure out the UTF-8 requirement I'm reluctant to make an database changes. I'll make another push on this once the dust settles. Thus far I've gotten zero feedback on the update, so I guess that means that I didn't screw it up too bad.

One more project milestone last week: I've been collecting the political posts from my notebook/blog, starting from 2001, initially under the title The Last Days of the American Empire. Sheer verbiage made me split this project into two volumes, one for the Bush era (2001-08), a second from 2009 on (or maybe just for Obama, as Trump is already getting out of hand, and has a different feel. I made it through 2008 a while back, but decided to make a second pass and stick things into a separate personal file, which I call Notes on Everyday Life: family and friends, cooking, house work, computers and blog maintenance, notes on movies and TV, some bits on music (but not the stuff already collected in the jazz guides). I had initially put some of that stuff (mostly movies) into a 2001-09 volume appendix. The 2001-08 tome wound up at 1590 pages (766k words), while Notes has 316 pages (130k words).

I doubt the latter has any but personal interest, although I could refer to it if I ever get around to writing that memoir, and I'm happy to have it better organized. I'd like to think my political writings might have some more general appeal. The most straightforward thing would be to keep the chronicle organization, trim lots of fluff and redundancy, flesh out the framework with historical notes and asides, and add some post-facto commentary. One thing I'm struck by is much of Trump's agenda was introduced by Bush, in many cases implemented much more efficiently. Had Trump not been elected, we should be closing the door on the Bush years -- something Obama should have worked much more dilligently at doing -- but with Trump it's all the more urgent.

I've also kicked around three other book ideas that could pick up words from this journal. One is a dictionary of terms and concepts -- I started working on such a thing a long time ago, and it will take some digging to see if I can find what I actually did. A second is a collection of slightly longer essays on various topics, especially those related to free software and related concepts. My working title here is borrowed from an old Paul Goodman book: Utopian Essays & Practical Proposals. A third possible carve out would be material on Israel-Palestine. I wrote a lot more about that than would make sense for a US-oriented political chronicle. I came up with an outline for such a book a while back, and tried pitching it to a friend to co-write. She didn't bite, but if enough good material already exists, it might be worth reconsidering. (And, of course, the second volume will add to this base. Whereas Bush-Obama-Trump make for clearly differentiated epochs, Sharon-Olmert-Netanyahu is a single piece.

I've started moving on to 2009. Did a lot of work on the house in January, while Israel was smashing up Gaza, and Bush and Obama were keeping their heads down.

One last note: Polish trumpet player Tomasz Stanko has just died, age 76. He played with Krzysztof Komeda in the 1960s, gravitated to free jazz. He somehow managed to straddle the Iron Curtain, playing in Western Europe in groups like Globe Unity while maintaining his ties to Poland. He recorded primarily for ECM from 1994 on, with Leosia and Litania early masterpieces -- you can find my grade list here. Poland continues to be an exceptionally strong and vibrant jazz venue, with dozens of superb musicians emerging in the last decade or two. Stanko was their pioneering giant.

PS: Will try to get Streamnotes out tomorrow (last day of July).


New records rated this week:

  • Barker Trio: Avert Your I (2017 [2018], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Florence + the Machine: High as Hope (2018, Virgin EMI): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gorillaz: The Now Now (2018, Parlophone): [r]: B-
  • The Internet: Hive Mind (2018, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Houston Person & Ron Carter: Remember Love (2018, HighNote): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Joshua Abrams: Ithra (2017 [2018], Aerophonic): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Dave Rempis/Jasper Stadhouders/Frank Rosaly: Icoci (2017 [2018], Aerophponic): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ty Segall & White Fence: Joy (2018, Drag City): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • A Tribe Called Quest: Revised Quest for the Seasoned Traveller (1989-91 [2018], Jive/Legacy): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Ahmed Abdullah Quartet: Liquid Song (1987, Silkheart): [r]: A-
  • Ahmed Abdullah: Ahmed Abdullah and the Solomonic Quintet Featuring Charles Moffett (1987 [1988], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bob Ackerman Trio: Old & New Magic (1993, Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Thomas Borgmann/Wilber Morris/Dennis Charles Trio: The Last Concert: Dankeschön (1998 [2000], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Roy Campbell Pyramid: Communion (1994, Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Roy Campbell Pyramid Trio: Ethnic Stew and Brew (2000 [2001], Delmark): [r]: A-
  • Daniel Carter/William Parker/Roy Campbell Jr./Rashid Bakr: Other Dimensions in Music (1989 [1990], Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: South Side Street Songs (1993, Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Joel Futterman Quartet: Vision in Time (1988 [1990], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joel Futterman Trio: Berlin Images (1991, Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Joel Futterman/'Kidd' Jordan Quintet: Nickelsdorf Konfrontation (1995 [1996], Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Joel Futterman/'Kidd' Jordan Trio With Alvin Fielder: Southern Exterme (1997 [1998], Drimala): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joel Futterman and Ike Levin: Live in Chicago (2007 [2017], Charles Lester Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • 'Kidd' Jordan Quartet: New Orleans Festival Suite (1999 [2002], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • A Tribe Called Quest: People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (1990, Jive): [r]: was B, now A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Aguankó: Pattern Recognition (Aguankó)
  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. I (The Embedded Sets) (Pi): August 30
  • Mahobin: Live at Big Apple in Kobe (Libra)

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Weekend Roundup

I've been wanting to write something about the liberal hawk rants over Trump's summits with Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin, his snubs of "traditional allies" like the EU, his denigration of NATO, and other acts (or just tweets) crossing the line of politically correct dogma, in some cases even eliciting the word "treason" (the one word I'd most like to vanish from the language). Still, as I ran out of time, I decided to do a quickie Weekend Roundup instead, then found myself sucked into that very same rabbit hole.

I don't know why it's so hard to explain this. (Well, I do know that everywhere I turn I run into new examples of well-meaning idiocy -- the Stephen Cohen piece below has a bunch of examples. A couple more, by Michael H Fuchs and Simon Tisdall, just showed up in the Guardian. There's that piece by Jessica Matthews on "His Korean 'Deal'" over at NYRB. The Yglesias pieces I do cite below are nowhere near the worst.) After all, a key point was written up by the late Chalmers Johnson nearly years ago and recently republished at TomDispatch as Three Good Reasons to Liquidate Our Empire.

Another key point is the cardinal rule of democracy: trust your own people to mind their own business, and trust others to mind theirs. It used to be that many Americans (including most Democrats) believed that disputes and conflicts were best handled through international law and institutions, but that notion doesn't even seem to be conceivable any more.

The fact that I missed writing up a Weekend Roundup last week no doubt adds to the eclectic and arbitrary mix below. It's been real hard to sort out what's important., especially when everywhere you look turns up new heaps of horror.

But I also neglected the one bright spot I'm aware of from the last two weeks: we had a rally here in Wichita where Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders spoke and some 4,000 people showed up. This was an event for James Thompson's campaign for Congress (the seat previously held by Mike Pompeo and, before that, Todd Tiahrt). Thompson ran for the vacant seat after Trump nominated Pompeo to run the CIA, losing by a 6% margin a district that Trump won by 28% despite getting zero outside support from the national or state Democratic Parties. Thompson vowed to keep running, and we're hopeful.

Kansas has a primary on Tuesday. Thompson has an opponent, who may have gotten a lucky break with a newspaper article today that claims the only issue separating the candidates is guns: Thompson, a former Army vet, is regarded as more "pro gun" -- not that he has a chance in hell of wrangling an NRA endorsement. Actually, I suspect there's a lot more at stake: Thompson has established himself as a dedicated civil rights attorney, while his opponent worked as a corporate lobbyist.

The Democratic gubernatorial race is a mixed bag, where all of the candidates have blemishes, but any would be better than any of the Republicans (or rich "independent" Greg Orman). Jim Barnett got the Wichita Eagle endorsement for Republican governor, but the actual race seems to be a toss-up between Jeff Colyer (former Lt. Governor who took over when Sam Brownback returned to Washington, and a virtual Brownback clone) and Kris Kobach (current Secretary of State, freelance author of unconstitutional laws, and a big Trump booster). Polls seem to be split, with a vast number of undecideds. Kobach would turn Kansas (even more) into a national laughing stock, which doesn't mean he can't win. Orman came very close to beating Sen. Pat Roberts four years ago, after the Democrat ducked out of the race, but I don't see that happening this time, making him a mere spoiler.


Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: He seems to have given up on his "week explained" articles, but still writes often and broadly enough his posts are still useful for surveying the week in politics. Most recent first:

    • Closing ads from the Georgia gubernatorial nominees perfectly illustrate the state of the parties: "Stacey Abrams talks about issues; Brian Kemp says he's not politically correct."

      Abrams's ad is called "Trusted" while Kemp's is called "Offends," and they only diverge further from there. Abrams talks about issues, and she talks optimistically about making people's lives better in a concrete way. Kemp, typically for a 2018 Republican, talks exclusively about diffuse threats to the white Christian cultural order.

      Abrams says she has "a boundless belief in Georgia's future," and talks about Medicaid expansion, middle-class taxes, and mass transit.

      Kemp describes himself as "a politically incorrect conservative" and literally does not mention any policy issues. Instead, he says that he says "Merry Christmas" and "God bless you," stands for the national anthem, and supports our troops, and that if that offends you, then you shouldn't vote for him.

    • Trump's enduring political strength with white women, explained: "There are huge divides by age and education."

    • Republicans now like the FBI less than they like the EPA: "Meanwhile, most Americans have an unfavorable view of ICE." On the other hand, that 83-84% of Democrats "have confidence" in CIA and FBI shows them to be pretty gullible.

    • Donald rump is actually a very unpopular president.

    • Swing voters are extremely real: A lot of polling data here. A couple things I'm struck by: that a relatively significant number of voters saw Trump as moderate or even liberal; and that even on extremely polarized issues (like abortion) both parties have large minorities that still vote for their chosen party.

    • Trump says he's "not thrilled" by Federal Reserve interest rate hikes.

    • Trump's latest interview on Russia shows the profound crisis facing America: This piece winds up wobbling as severely as Trump does in the interview at its heart. So while this much is true:

      Trump was evasive and ignorant, relentlessly dishonest, and at turns belligerent and weirdly passive -- all in an interview that lasted less than eight minutes. It's clear that he is either covering up some kind of profound wrongdoing or else simply in way over his head and incapable of managing the country's affairs. . . . Trump and Putin sat in a room together for a long time. They presumably talked about something. No staffers were there, so it wasn't that Trump was zoning out while the real dialogue happened at the staff level. . . . And then there is Trump's relentless fishiness on the subject of Russia and hacking. . . . Trump, of course, had nothing of substance to say about this but returned to a longtime theme of his tweets -- that the investigation is a "witch hunt" and that its very existence harms the country -- that completely undermines the pose that he thinks it's bad for Russian state-sponsored hackers to commit crimes against Americans. . . .

      The problem in the US-Russia relationship for a long time now has been that while Russia does a lot that America sees as misbehavior that it wants stopped, there genuinely isn't that much that America affirmatively wants from Russia or that Russia can do for us. And Trump himself has no ideas on this front either. He likes that Putin likes his North Korea diplomacy, and doesn't see that maybe Putin likes it because it's really absurd and Putin doesn't have America's best interests at heart.

      Yglesias thinks the last line is the "best case" scenario -- others readily parrot Cold War memes claiming that Russia's intent is to do harm to America regardless of consequences for Russia. They evince a classic case of projection: attributing motives and even acts to Putin that are really their own. After all, is there any "misbehavior" that America's Russophobes have charged Putin with that American agents haven't carried out many times over? (I won't bore you with the list, but even when it comes to fomenting revolts to annex territory, Crimea is small potatoes compared to Texas and Hawaii. And don't get me started on shooting down civilian airliners.) It's no surprise when conceited, self-aggrandizing nations abuse their power, and from our perspective it's easy to fault Putin's Russia when they do. However, one should respond just as readily when America does the same, and that's a part that's inevitably missing when Yglesias and others rattle off their list of Russian "misbehavior." Also missing is recognition that there is a huge imbalance in interests and power between America and Russia, as should be clear from the areas of dispute: Ukraine and Georgia are literally on Russia's border, traditional trading partners that the US and Europe have conspired to lure away, while NATO expansion has moved American troops ever closer to the Russian border, while new anti-missile systems seek to negate Russia's nuclear deterrent, while sanctions further isolate and impoverish the Russian economy. It may be inappropriate for Russia to interfere in the political affairs of its neighbors, but that isn't a complaint that Americans are entitled to make without focusing their efforts on their own country's same violations.

      It makes perfect sense that Putin and his cronies might see hacking as a way of leveling the playing field, or maybe just poking the beast. (It's certainly not as if the US isn't doing the same thing and then some: my book notes file has a dozen or so volumes on "cyberwar" and the NSA.) I've spent enough time looking at server security logs to know that a lot of mischief arises from .ru (and .zh) domains. And it makes sense that Putin would favor someone like Trump, and not just because they share authoritarian streaks: Putin is tight with many of the oligarchs who managed to snap up so many previously state-owned enterprises, and those oligarchs are used to doing business with billionaires like Trump. If anyone in American politics is capable of putting personal avarice above imperial hubris, it's surely someone like Trump.

      On the other hand, it was at best a long-shot, as Trump isn't smart or coherent or principled or popular enough to drive his own foreign policy, but he has shown that when he makes a conciliatory gesture on the side of peace, contrary to America's "deep state" dogma, that move turns out to be rather popular, even as it elicits furious scorn from establishment pundits. Most alarming here are the liberals/Democrats who think they're doing us a favor by attacking Trump via widespread residual prejudices against Putin and Russia -- who somehow believe that sabotaging the unholy Trump-Putin alliance is progressivism at its finest. I've been wanting to write something deeper about how wrongheaded these people are, but cannot do that here. When I see people who supposedly cherish peace and are committed to democracy throw their beliefs away just to score cheap and meaningless points, well . . . it boggles my mind.

    • Trump gave congressional Republicans the deniability they crave: The rest of Yglesias' Russia pieces are similarly worthless. Trump doesn't have a foreign policy -- what the US does is largely what it's been doing on autopilot for 20 (or maybe 60) years -- but he does have a persona, which waxes hot and cold according to Trump's intuition of how it plays to his public -- a public which relishes grand gestures while having no command of or feeling for details. And like that public, Trump takes many of his clues from how much he offends the self-confirmed experts -- especially those railing about how Trump's attacking "traditional allies" and embracing "our enemies": people who think they're scoring points by embracing all those past strategies which have repeatedly pushed America into conflicts and wars. The tell here is when critics seize on utter nonsense to put Trump down. For instance, this piece recycles the "I think the European Union is a foe" quote. I've seen the interview the quote was taken from, and clearly Trump was tricked into using "foe" for something much closer to rival.

    • It's time to take Trump both seriously and literally on Russia.

    • Asked directly, Putin does not deny possessing "compromising material" on Trump.

  • Damian Carrington: Extreme global weather is 'the face of climate change' says leading scientist: Michael Mann is the scientist, although "other senior scientists agree the link is clear." Europe seems to be especially hard hit at the moment: Patrick Greenfield: Extreme weather across Europe delays flights, ferries and Eurotunnel -- but the heat wave and fires in California rival those in Sweden and Greece.

  • Stephen F Cohen: Trump as New Cold War Heretic: More like the guy who didn't get the memo and wound up trying to wing it.

  • Elizabeth Kolbert: The Trump Administration Takes on the Endangered Species Act.

  • Paul Krugman: Radical Democrats Are Pretty Reasonable.

  • Emily Stewart: One chart that shows how much worse income inequality is in America than Europe: based on Eric Levitz: New Study Confirms That American Workers Are Getting Ripped Off. Also includes charts showing that the US ranks third in highest "share of households earning less than half the median income" (after Eurozone losers Greece and Spain), and second in "earnings at the 90th percentile as a multiple of earnings at the 10th percentile, for full-time workers" (after Israel, where the 10th percentile is almost exclusively Palestinian). These numbers come from the OECD, and don't include Russia, the only country where inequality has expanded even more radically than in the United States. Much more here (like: "only Turkey, Lithuania, and South Korea have lower unionization rates than the United States"), but here's the chart Stewart referred to:

    Note that the trend line points the same directions in US and Western Europe: that the latter still has considerable and increasing inequality. Indeed, the concentration of capital worldwide is putting increasing pressure on Western Europe, but thus far democratic institutions there have been more effective at resisting the greed and corruption that has managed to so distort politics in the United States. Note especially Levitz's conclusion:

    President Trump spends a great deal of time and energy arguing that American workers are getting a rotten deal. And he's right to claim that Americans are getting the short end. But the primary cause of that fact isn't bad trade agreements or "job killing" regulations -- its the union-busting laws and court rulings that the president has done so much to abet.

  • Matt Taibbi: Why We Know So Little About the U.S.-Backed War in Yemen:

    What the U.N. calls the "world's worst humanitarian crisis" is an unhappy confluence of American media taboos. . . . Yemen features the wrong kinds of victims, lacks a useful partisan angle and, frankly, is nobody's idea of clickbait in the Trump age. Until it becomes a political football for some influential person or party, this disaster will probably stay near the back of the line.

    Taibbi also wrote: Trump's War on the Media Should Make Us Better at Our Jobs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30010 [29979] rated (+31), 345 [340] unrated (+5).

Week was short, for all practical purposes ended Friday or Saturday, when I figured out that the insufferable heat was due to a failed air conditioner compressor. It would have to be replaced, which took until Tuesday. By Saturday afternoon I was so miserable that I decided not to do any writing or even web surfing for the duration -- certainly no Weekend Roundup, although I figured I'd just postpone Music Week. Went to bed relatively early Sunday but only managed about four hours sleep, with a little nap Monday afternoon. Monday night was worse: went to bed at 4:30, and woke up at 7:00, so got up to wait for the service tech, and was up all day. Was so worn out last night I spent an hour staring at a jigsaw puzzle without being able to add a single piece. But by then the house had cooled, and I slept last night. Not enough to catch up, but I'm at least I'm functional today.

The one piece of work I did manage to do was to post the first batch of questions and answers on Robert Christgau's website. Joe Levy suggested that Christgau do this to help promote his new book, Is It Still Good to Ya? Fifty Years of Rock Criticism 1967-2017. The obvious model is Ask Greil, where Greil Marcus fields readers' questions. That feature was put together by using the WordPress blog tool, but I thought it would work better with some custom coding. I had this pretty much worked out before the weekend catastrophe, but had trouble with the final edits, and couldn't respond to some style issues under the circumstances. We should have a page intro and a link to the question form. I'd like to have a banner instead of the usual H2 title. Joe wanted to insert some links, but I lost them (as well as a couple edits), and didn't feel up to tracking them down.

Current plan is to publish a batch of these every other Tuesday -- which, as long as I'm in the loop probably means early AM (or as I prefer to think of it, late Monday). Currently have 160 questions, so demand has already way outpaced supply. My scheme will present the most recent dozen or so, letting you scroll back through the rest (like the news file). But I've thought a bit about making it easier to search back through the archive, possibly using keywords or simple text search, maybe more complex queries. It also should be possible to develop some sort of FAQ, but that would involve moving the q&a into the database, and that would complicate the still unsettled work flow.

Meanwhile I'm trying to manage three sets of work involving the Christgau website. The first problem is that after my computer crash, I had to rebuild my local copy of the website from the server copy, and that revealed a fairly substantial amount of code breakage: PHP 7 dropped support for a number of functions, including literally all of the MySQL database interface. Until I fix that (in a way that remains compatible with the PHP 5 the server is running) I can't do a general website update. I got about a third of the way through that before I got distracted by a bunch of other things several weeks ago.

Second, I need to update files to enforce a contractual embargo on various articles that are going into the new book. That's supposed to be done this week (three months before publications date), so has the tightest deadline. I was working on that before the air conditioning went out, and need to get right back to it after I post this. Instead of doing a general update, I figure I can do that by just updating a select subset of files, but they still have to be changed in ways that work on both platforms. Also, I'm trying to change them in ways that will also work in the future.

That introduces the third set of work: the website is overdue for a comprehensive redesign. When I originally built it back in 2001, I wrote it to conform to "HTML 4.01 Transitional," using ISO-8859-1 (Latin-1) character set encoding (which works for all Western European languages), implemented using PHP 3 and whatever MySQL was then (I think also 3). Some newer features have been incorporated piecemeal, but I've been fighting a rearguard battle to keep what I have working for more than a decade (I found a 2008 notebook entry about codeset problems). I'm not sure what all this entails, but a good start is to make the files conform to HTML5, and that's what I'm trying to do now, in a piecemeal framework. However, some changes will have to be applied globally -- the viewport change to better support phones, replacing table layout with CSS, and (most traumatically, I'm sure) converting to UTF-8.

I hope to have the book support and enough of the code breaks fixed to do a partial update by the end of the weekend. After that, I think the next step is to build a separate beta website, first locally then on the server, to work out the kinks in the redesign. I'd be curious if anyone has ideas to incorporate -- technology, of course, and graphics (obviously something I'm weak in) but perhaps more importantly matters of usability.


The other thing to note here is that my rated count passed a pretty major round number this week: 30,000. I suppose I should go back through the notebook and plot the rise. I'm not even sure when I started keeping a rated list. I bought my first computer -- and last Apple, an Apple II -- in 1979, but didn't do a very good job of carrying data forward until I set up my first Linux machine in 1998, which if memory serves was my sixth or seventh generation machine. (I still have that machine, and only shut it down a year ago, when I replaced it with an appliance router.) Sometime before 1998 I had a file called "records.txt" which was an alphabetized list with letter grades as a crib sheet (an aide de memoire in case I got confused over "which was the good one" of some poorly remembered artist). But in its early days, the list didn't capture everything I owned, much less had heard.

I had very few LPs before I went to college -- maybe three dozen bought in the 1960s -- and didn't grow much until I left college and finally got a job, setting type in St. Louis. At that point, I started driving all over town, shopping every week, sometimes buying things simply because the cover enticed me. (Not always successfully, but that's how I got into Roxy Music and Ducks Deluxe.) When I moved to New York in 1976, I had a plywood filing cabinet with six drawers, each of which could hold over one hundred albums (you could thumb through them, cover facing), plus a shelf on top with two dividers that could hold a couple hundred more. Not sure when I filled them up and moved on to industrial shelving -- probably after I moved to New Jersey in 1980. I didn't write about music in the 1980s, so I probably slowed down, but my income went up, so maybe I didn't. I think I had somewhere between 2000 and 3000 LPs when I started buying CDs, rather late in that game. The CD numbers exploded in the mid-1990s as I got seriously into jazz (and had a private office where I could play music while I worked), and exploded again for a few years after moving back to Kansas in 1999 (and worked at home, before I became freer still). And from 2003 on, especially after the Voice started publishing my Jazz Consumer Guide, I started getting promos. The rated count jumped further once I started streaming Rhapsody. I started writing Streamnotes in 2007, figuring that as long as I was listening, I should take notes, and the grade is the simplest, most gut level form of note.

The earliest rated count I can find in the notebook is from February 2003, when the count passed 8,000, so I've averaged about 1,420 per year since then (or 118 per month, or 27 per week). Perhaps we should divide this stretch into two periods, before and after streaming. February 2008 is a fair dividing line, I averaged 1230/year (101/month, or 24/week), which with streaming rose to 1510/year (125/month, 29/week). This confirms my subjective feeling that 30-count weeks are very common, and that 10-year average still seems to be the case. This year seems to be on track: counting 133 records in July's Streamnotes file, I have 912 graded records for the year-to-date (130/month, 30/week).

That would put me on track to hit 40,000 in seven years (August 2025), and 50,000 seven years later (2032), but it's unlikely I'll be able to sustain that pace for anything close to that long -- I'd be close to 75 for the former, 82 for the latter. And every year, with well over 50,000 new records coming out, I'd fall ever further behind -- my list shrinking into an ever smaller sampling. I'm sorry but the more I do this, the more insignificant it feels.

As for this week's haul, I noticed new vault tapes from Dexter Gordon and Woody Shaw, so I thought I'd see what else Napster had that I hadn't heard. Turns out there was very little by Shaw, but quite a bit of Gordon -- hence this week's "old music." One album in particular I wanted to listen to was Homecoming, since I had wrangled myself a ticket to one of Gordon's Village Vanguard shows (the only time I saw him, or for that matter the famous club). Also turns out that Shaw was on stage with Gordon there -- something I didn't recall, probably because I wasn't aware of him at the time. Still more Gordon I didn't get to (mostly on European labels, especially the one named for his tune: SteepleChase).


New records rated this week:

  • Beats Antique: Shadowbox (2016, Antique): [r]: B+(***)
  • Future & Young Thug: Super Slimey (Epic/300/Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Future: Beast Mode 2 (2018, Epic/Freebandz): [r]: A-
  • Freddie Gibbs: Freddie (2018, ESGN/Empire, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jennifer Lee: My Shining Hour (2018, SBE): [r]: B
  • Lori McKenna: The Tree (2018, CN): [r]: A-
  • Allen Ravenstine: Waiting for the Bomb (2018, Morphius/ReR Megacorp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rhio: A Rhio Good Thing (2018, Beso): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ty Segall: Freedom's Goblin (2018, Drag City): [r]: B
  • Sophie: Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides (2018, MSMSMSM/Future Classic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Florian Wittenburg: Four Waves (2018, NurNichtNur): [r]: B+(***)

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

  • Dexter Gordon Quartet: Tokyo 1975 (1973-77 [2018], Elemental Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Woody Shaw: Tokyo '81 (1981-85 [2018], Elemental Music): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Gene Ammons & Dexter Gordon: The Chase! (1970 [1996], Prestige): [r]: A-
  • Dexter Gordon/Wardell Gray; Citizens Bop (1946-52 [1994], Black Lion): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dexter Gordon: Dexter Blows Hot and Cool (1955 [2010], Essential Jazz Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dexter Gordon: The Resurgence of Dexter Gordon (1960, Jazzland/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dexter Gordon: Body and Soul (1967 [1988], Black Lion): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dexter Gordon: The Tower of Power (1969 [1993], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dexter Gordon: More Power! (1969 [1994], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dexter Gordon: The Jumpin' Blues (1970 [1996], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dexter Gordon: The Panther! (1970 [1992], Prestige/OJC): [r]: A-
  • Dexter Gordon: Ca' Puange (1972 [1973], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dexter Gordon: Generation (1972 [1973], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dexter Gordon: Trangerine (1972 [1975], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dexter Gordon Quartet: The Apartment (1974 [1975], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dexter Gordon Quartet: Something Different (1975 [1980], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dexter Gordon Quartet: Biting the Apple (1976 [1977], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dexter Gordon: Homecoming: Live at the Village Vanguard (1976 [1977], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Jackie McLean Featuring Dexter Gordon: The Meeting (1973 [1990], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Kids See Ghosts [Kanye West/Kid Cudi]: Kids See Ghosts (2018, GOOD/Def Jam, EP): [r]: was B+(*), B+(**)
  • Pusha T: Daytona (2018, GOOD/Def Jam, EP): [r]: was B+(**), B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Stefan Aeby Trio: The London Concert (Intakt): August 18
  • Simon Barker/Henry Kaiser/Bill Laswell/Rudresh Mahanthappa: Mudang Rock (Fractal Music): September 14
  • Dennis Llewellyn Day: Bossa, Blues and Ballads (DDay Media Group): AUgust 25
  • Rich Halley 3: The Literature (Pine Eagle)
  • Gayle Kolb: Getting Sentimental (Jerujazz): August 31
  • Nicole Mitchell: Maroon Cloud (FPE): August 10
  • John Pittman: Kinship (Slammin' Media): August 24
  • Günter Baby Sommer: Baby's Party [Guest: Till Brönner] (Intakt): August 18

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Daily Log

Looking at my 2006 notebook, I noticed a list of 25 points Mark Kurlansky made in summing up his book Nonviolence:

The twenty-five lessons (pp. 183-184):

  1. There is no proactive word for nonviolence.
  2. Nations that build military forces as deterrents will eventually use them.
  3. Practitioners of nonviolence are seen as enemies of the state.
  4. Once a state takes over a religion, the religion loses its nonviolent teachings.
  5. A rebel can be defanged and co-opted by making him a saint after he is dead.
  6. Somewhere behind every war there are always a few founding lies.
  7. A propaganda machine promoting hatred always has a war waiting in the wings.
  8. People who go to war start to resemble their enemy.
  9. A conflict between a violent and a nonviolent force is a moral argument. If the violent side can provoke the nonviolent side into violence, the violent side has won.
  10. The problem lies not in the nature of man but in the nature of power.
  11. The longer a war lasts, the less popular it becomes.
  12. The state imagines it is impotent without a military because it cannot conceive of power without force.
  13. It is often not the largest but the best organized and most articulate group that prevails.
  14. All debate momentarily ends with an "enforced silence" once the first shots are fired.
  15. A shooting war is not necessary to overthrow an established power but is used to consolidate the revolution itself.
  16. Violence does not resolve. It always leads to more violence.
  17. Warfare produces peace activists. A group of veterans is a likely place to find peace activists.
  18. People motivated by fear do not act well.
  19. While it is perfectly feasible to convince a people faced with brutal repression to rise up in a suicidal attack on their oppressor, it is almost impossible to convince them to meet deadly violence with nonviolent resistance.
  20. Wars do not have to be sold to the general public if they can be carried out by an all-volunteer professional military.
  21. Once you start the business of killing, you just get "deeper and deeper," without limits.
  22. Violence always comes with a supposedly rational explanation -- which is only dismised as irrational if the violence fails.
  23. Violence is a virus that infects and takes over.
  24. The miracle is that despite all of society's promotion of warfare, most soldiers find warfare to be a wrenching departure from their own moral values.
  25. The hard work of beginning a movement to end war has already been done.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29979 [29939] rated (+40), 340 [342] unrated (-2).

Easiest way for me to scrounge for new music is to bring up the "featured" lists on Napster, descending into my dozen or so "favorite" genre lists. (Not most useful, but sometimes easy trumps.) One surprise record on their jazz list was 5 x Monk 5 x Lacy, a Penguin Guide 4-star album that had eluded me, so I jumped on it. It had been released on the Swedish Silkheart label back in 1997, and it turns out that a whole passel of old Silkheart releases have just appeared on Napster (and probably other streaming services, as well as Bandcamp -- unfortunately only limited cuts on the latter, so they're useless for me to review). I scanned through my database and came up with a list of 24 Silkheart records I had noted but hadn't heard, and listened to 18 of them last week. Before this bonanza appeared, I had several Silkheart albums at A-:

  • Dennis Gonzalez: Stefan (1986) [A-]
  • Matt Lavelle: Spiritual Power (2006 [2007]) [A-]
  • Sirone Bang Ensemble: Configuration (2004 [2005]) [A-]
  • Steve Swell's Kende Dreams: Hommage ŕ Bartók (2014 [2015]) [A-]
  • Booker T. Trio: Go Tell It on the Mountain (1988) [A-]

I'll probably hit some more of them up in the coming week(s). Another album I picked out of the Napster featured lists is the Millie Jackson remix. It raised my hopes that label Ace's compilations would also be available, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Tempted me to go and take a dive through her back catalog, but I held back. Very likely my database picks will stand: the 1974 concept album Caught Up, the 1979 Live and Uncensored, and to mop up the rest, Rhino's 2-CD compilation Totally Unrestricted. The remix album frames her in disco strings with occasional but weak horns. Pretty useless, although not even Levine can suffocate "Never Change Lovers in the Middle of the Night."

Some hip-hop too. Robert Christgau did an Expert Witness on a batch of six recent EPs, including four of Kanye West's 7-cut productions. I listened to four of them in previous weeks: Pusha T: Daytona [***], Kids See Ghosts [*], Gift of Gab: Rejoice! [A-], Kanye West: Ye [*]. I should revisit the first two; good chance both could be nudged up a notch. (Ye is more likely to drop one.) I did bump my initial Tierra Whack grade up after seeing her video: Welcome to Whack World: A Visual and Auditory Project by Tierra Whack. I still have reservations about musical flow, but it doesn't feel too short or incomplete when you keep your eyes glued to the screen. I've never been a fan of EPs. Always thought one needs more time to develop a statement or even a feel, but the recent vogue for mini-albums looks to be unstoppable. Probably ties to shorter attention spans and a huge explosion of digital product. On the other hand, Christgau has always been a big fan of EPs. Probably relates back to his early preference for singles over albums, and his complaints when CDs were introduced about them being too long.

Last Friday we announced a new feature on Christgau's website, Xgau Sez, where Christgau will answer readers' questions. Here's a form for submitting questions. The idea came from Greil Marcus's Ask Greil posts. The timing has something to do with promoting Christgau's new (October 2018) essay collection, Is It Still Good to Ya?: Fifty Years of Rock Criticism, 1967-2017. The initial plan is to answer questions in batches of a half-dozen or so, every other week. I've counted 73 submissions to date (not counting 2 spam). I imagine he'll pick and choose the questions that pique his interest, and adjust the quantity and frequency accordingly, depending on how much other work he has (quite a bit at the moment) and his other commitments.

Meanwhile, I need to do a fair amount of work to support this new feature, and also to promote the new book. In particular, the book contract requires that most of the essays and reviews in the book be removed from the website for an extended period (if memory serves, five years), so I have to identify and flag all of those. Also write up a new book page. I hope to get most of this work done by the end of the week, but I'm still hampered by the crash and its attendant conversion issues. I'm only about half way through rewriting the PHP files that access the database. (The database interface library was rewritten between PHP 5 and PHP 7 with new function names.) Until that work is done, I won't be able to do a comprehensive update of the server, so I'll have to poke selected files.

Complicating this is the longer-term need to convert the website character set from ISO-8859-1 (which handled Western European languages) to UTF-8 (which handles all languages), and to upgrade the HTML markup from 4.1 (Transitional) to 5.0. The former is simple in principle -- just run the program iconv on everything -- but has to be done all at once, upsetting the whole apple cart. The latter is complex, but may be done somewhat incrementally -- I don't have a real good handle on it. It would also be a good time to do some re-design, especially to make the website easier to use from smart phones. I'm far behind the learning curve there. Would appreciate any suggestions on this sort of thing.

One big problem from last week appears to have been solved. I was experiencing sudden garbage screen updates, where pieces of previously rendered windows would pop up suddenly on top of things I was working on. I suspected the problem was the video card. Those things have much more memory than is needed for a simple screen buffer, so the computer can offload window manager display lists and buffers. Anyhow, problem has vanished since I installed a new video card (an ASUS R7240-2GD3-L 2GB, cost $75).


One more (important) news item: Mike Hull has released a short video on Sacred Space, a collaborative art project that my sister, Kathy Hull, took a leading role in conceiving and executing back in 2002. It consists of eight portals: doorways from around the world, each opening to landscapes featuring endangered wildlife, viewed through the prism of the world's major religions. The portals are 7-8 feet high, 5-6 feet wide. The exhibition includes a labyrinth in the middle of the room, and origami cranes hanging from the ceiling. It is currently exhibited at Wichita State University, and will be up until August 31, 2018. However, the longer-term future of the exhibit is up for grabs. We are looking for a future home for the artwork. Anyone interested should get in touch with Mike (contact details in video). Special thanks to Joanna Pinkerton, who designed three of the portals, and appears in the video. Kathy was very excited about this showing before her death in March this year.


PS: One thing that must mark me as an old-fashioned UNIX hand is a fondness for obsolete tools like the classic spell program. (Newbies seem to prefer the interactive ispell, which steps you interactively through a file, giving you alternative choices to toggle in; spell just lists possible misspelled words one per line, leaving it to you to figure out what to do about them.) I had to explicitly download spell to even get it. But when I run it on HTML files, it routinely flags lots of markup, especially URLs, as possible errors. Some while back I had written a shell script to sift the HTML tags out before piping a file through spell, but that got lost in the crash. Finally took a few moments to rewrite the script, and came up with this:

sed '/^#\^[cdh]/d
s/<[/a-z][^>]*>//g' $* | spell

First line throws out some meta-markup I use in my faux blog files. Second is a perhaps over-simplistic way of deleting HTML tags (without deleting HTML comments or PHP markup, which often span multiple lines, but rarely occur in things I need to spellcheck). I could add code to strip HTML entities, but again they very rarely show up. A more useful enhancement would be to add a post-filter to weed out complaints about non-dictionary words that are commonly used (e.g., Silkheart, ECM, Interscope, remix). One way to do this would be to figure out how to add books to ispell's dictionary. Another would be to pipe the output through fgrep -vw and the "good word" list.

PPS: Played Daytona three more times, and it didn't budge, but Kids See Ghosts picked up a notch.


New records rated this week:

  • The End: The End (2018, RareNoise): [cdr]: D+
  • Nipsey Hussle: Victory Lap (2018, All Money In/Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Susie Ibarra: Perception (2017, Decibel Music): [r]: B
  • Kyle: Light of Mine (2018, Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • Charles Lloyd & the Marvels + Lucinda Williams: Vanished Gardens (2017 [2018[], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nicolas Masson: Travelers (2017 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pete McCann: Pay for It on the Other Side (2017 [2018], McCannis Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Nas: Nasir (2018, Mass Appeal/Def Jam, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Roller Trio: New Devices (2018, Edition): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dori Rubbicco: Stage Door Live! (2017 [2018], Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Jamie Saft Quartet: Blue Dream (2017 [2018], RareNoise): [cdr]: A-
  • Rafal Sarnecki: Climbing Trees (2017 [2018], Outside In Music): [cd]: B
  • Aaron Shragge & Ben Monder: The World of Dew (2018, Human Resource): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Marc Sinan/Oguz Büyükberber: White (2016 [2018]. ECM): [r]: B
  • Tierra Whack: Whack World (2018, UMGRI/Interscope, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • YoshimiO/Susie Ibarra/Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe: Flower of Sulphur (2018, Thrill Jockey): [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Millie Jackson: Exposed: The Multi-Track Sessions Mixed by Steve Levine (1972-79 [2018], Ace): [r]: B

Old music rated this week:

  • Charles Brackeen: Bannar (1987, Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Andrew Cyrille: What About (1969 [1992], Affinity): [r]: B+(*)
  • Andrew Cyrille & Maono: Metamusicians' Stomp (1978, Black Saint): [r]: B+(***)
  • Andrew Cyrille: Special People (1980 [1981], Soul Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Andrew Cyrille-Richard Teitelbaum Duo: Double Clutch (1981 [1997], Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Andrew Cyrille Quintet: Ode to the Living Tree (1994 [1995], Venus): [r]: B-
  • Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Ancestral Song: Live in Stockholm (1987 [1988], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Ka-Real (1997 [2000], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charles Gayle Trio: Spirits Before (1988 [1989], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Charles Gayle Trio: Homeless (1988 [1989], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charles Gayle Quartet: Vol. 1: Translations (1993 [1994], Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dennis Gonzalez New Dallas Sextet: Namesake (1987, Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dennis Gonzalez New Dallasangeles: The Desert Wind (1989, Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jim Hobbs Fully Celebrated Orchestra: Peace & Pig Grease (1993 [1994], Silkheart): [r]: A-
  • Jim Hobbs Trio: Babadita (1994, Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • William Hooker/Billy Bang: Joy (Within)! (1994-95 [1996], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Lacy Sextet: The Gleam (1986 [1987], Silkheart): [r]: B+(*)
  • Steve Lacy: 5 x Monk 5 by Lacy (1994 [1997], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jimmy Lyons/Andrew Cyrille: Something in Return (1981 [1988], Black Saint): [r]: A-
  • Asif Tsahar Trio: Ein Sof (1997, Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • David S. Ware Quartet: Great Bliss Volume 1 (1990 [1991], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • David S. Ware Quartet: Great Bliss Volume 2 (1990 [1994], Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • David S. Ware Quartet: Oblations and Blessings (1995 [1996], Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Brian McCarthy: Codex (self-released)
  • Dave Rempis/Jasper Stadhouders/Frank Rosaly: Icoci (Aerophponic)
  • Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Joshua Abrams: Ithra (Aerophonic)
  • Florian Wittenburg: Four Waves (NurNichtNur)

Daily Log

Miscellaneous Album Notes:

  • Millie Jackson: Exposed: The Multi-Track Sessions Mixed by Steve Levine (1972-79 [2018], Ace): B

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Got a late start. Hadn't been paying much attention to the news, least of all Trump's European trip. Indeed, the pattern on domestic issues is pretty well set, with only a few details changing, so few things hold any real surprises. Disgust and outrage, sure, but none of that is surprising any more. So I mostly just went through the motions, grabbing a few links from the usual places, occasionally adding a brief comment.


Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: Trump's administration can't clean house because its leader is too soaked in scandal. I've seen critics on the left (e.g., Gary Younge) worry that "we are normalising Donald Trump" by losing our capacity for continuous outrage, but the normalization we should be most worried about is from the right, as they've retreated to the stance that since everyone critical of Trump has a political agenda, everything that Trump does should be defended by attacking the critics. Therefore:

    The ethical and moral standards inside the White House have dropped so low that even on the way out the door, conservatives are painting the comically corrupt former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt as a martyred hero victimized by the hysterical liberal media.

    "I am just so disappointed in the president's failure to support Scott against the angry attacks from the loony left," Republican donor Doug Deason told Politico. "Nothing he did amounted to anything big. He was THE most effective Cabinet member by far."

    Presidential administrations are large, and it's impossible to build one that's entirely scandal-free. But you can vet people properly, you can drum-out malefactors who slip through the cracks, and you can build an institutional culture in which team members are rewarded for exposing impropriety rather than rewarded for covering it up.

    But inside the Donald Trump White House, grifters, abusers, racists, and harassers still get hired; they lurk around the Oval Office after they've been found out; and even in the rare instance where they're forced out, it's only grudgingly.

    Other Yglesias pieces this week:

    • Mueller's new indictments remind us of 2 core truths about the Trump-Russia story:

      First, regardless of the culpability of anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign, real crimes were committed in 2016 with real victims.

      Second, both as a candidate for office and then continuing onward as president-elect and president, Donald Trump has worked to shelter the people who committed those crimes from exposure or accountability.

      These points are worth dwelling on because they cut against two commonplace narratives about the case. One renders the entire issue as a question of mystery and spycraft, leading ultimately to things like Jonathan Chait's maximalist speculation that perhaps Trump has been a KGB asset for decades. The other renders it as a narrowly political question in which passionate fans of Hillary Clinton should perhaps feel robbed of an election win -- but her critics, whether on the right or the left, can feel smugly self-assured that there were other reasons for her loss. . . .

      Trump's inability to even feign anger or outrage at the real crimes committed against real American citizens is remarkable relative to the context of what's ordinarily considered acceptable presidential behavior.

      That it seems banal from Trump itself is perhaps understandable given how flagrantly and constantly he reminds us that he doesn't care about anyone outside his narrow circle of support. But that's merely a measure of how far we've fallen as a society in the Trump era -- it's not a real reason to ignore it.

    • The bizarre media hoopla over Alan Dershowitz's social life in Martha's Vineyard, explained: Opportunistic media lawyer has a new book to hype, The Case Against Impeaching Trump, a title formula he has already exploited six times in a series of outrageously deceitful books about Israel/Palestine.

    • Paul Ryan's pathetic excuse for not challenging Trump on trade, explained

    • Brett Kavanaugh and the new judicial activism, explained: Sure, I was predisposed to object to anyone Trump might nominate to the Supreme (or for that matter any other) Court, and most likely so are you, but if you do feel the urge to bone up on why such a person poses such a threat to liberty and justice, you can start reading here. Key paragraph:

      But where a progressive judge might see judicial intervention as primarily warranted in order to protect the powerless against assaults from the powerful, Kavanaugh and the conservative legal mainstream see it as a tool to protect business owners from majority rule. If one is a sufficiently unprincipled liar -- which Brett Kavanaugh certainly is, as we saw in his remarks after Trump introduced him to the nation -- one can dress this up in the language of democracy or originalism or whatever else.

      The fact of the matter is that conservatives have been grooming lawyers like Kavanaugh for 30-40 years now in the conscious realization that with the life-long terms of US judges they can build a protective wall around corporate power that will be very difficult for democratic majorities to overcome. (That is why Republicans put such emphasis on nominating unusually young judges, to extend present Republican rule and forestall any possible reversal by Democrats once they return to power.)

  • Adam Davidson: Where did Donald Trump get two hundred million dollars to buy his money-losing Scottish golf club?

    Even before the financial crisis of 2008, Trump found it increasingly difficult to borrow money from big Wall Street banks and was shut out of the rapidly growing pool of institutional investment. Faced with a cash-flow problem, he could have followed other storied New York real-estate families and invested in the ever more rigorous financial-due-diligence capabilities required by pension funds and other sources of real-estate capital. This would have given him access to a pool of trillions of dollars from investors.

    Instead, Trump turned to a new source of other people's money. He did a series of deals in Toronto, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Azerbaijan, and Georgia with businesspeople from the former Soviet Union who were unlikely to pass any sort of rigorous due-diligence review by pension funds and other institutional investors. (Just this week, the Financial Times published a remarkably deep dive into the questionable financing of Trump's Toronto property.) He also made deals in India, Indonesia, and Vancouver, Canada, with figures who have been convicted or investigated for criminal wrongdoing and abuse of political power.

    We know very little about how money flowed into and out of these projects. All of these projects involved specially designated limited-liability companies that are opaque to outside review. We do know that, in the past decade, wealthy oligarchs in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere have seen real-estate investment as a primary vehicle through which to launder money. The problem is especially egregious in the United Kingdom, where some have called the U.K. luxury real-estate industry "a money laundering machine." Golf has been a particular focus of money laundering. Although the U.K. has strict transparency rules for financial activity within the country, its regulators have been remarkably incurious about the sources of funds coming from firms based abroad. All we know is that the money that went into Turnberry, for example, came from the Trump Organization in the U.S. We -- and the British authorities -- have no way of knowing where the Trump Organization got that money.

  • Thomas Frank: It's not wage rises that are a problem for the economy -- it's the lack of them.

  • Sean Illing: Why you should give a shit about NATO: Interview with Ivo Daalder, a former US ambassador to NATO under Obama, since settled into a comfy think tank slot, and not a very convincing one. His assertion that Russia today is every bit the threat that the Soviet Union posed in 1949 is laughable. Maybe there are some countries today -- really just former SSRs like Ukraine and Estonia -- that worry that nationalists in Russia would like to recapture the Tsardom's former imperial glory, but that margin has retreated far from the partition of Germany. Even in 1949 there were options other than NATO, such as the neutrality agreements with Finland and Austria. The fact is that military alliances have historically been more likely to provoke war than to prevent it. When the Warsaw Pact dissolved would have been a good time to disband NATO and restore the UN to its intended role as the arbiter of international peace. That didn't happen for several reasons: one result being that NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe pushed Russia into an uncomfortable corner; another was that NATO became a vehicle for a new wave of neo-imperial adventures in Asia and Africa (mostly US-directed, but France and Turkey have also used it to pursue their own agendas). People like Daalder with vested interests and/or prejudices formed in the Cold War and radicalized by their GWOT conceits, have been especially vocal this week in countering Trump's disparaging comments about NATO. But as it turns out, Trump's real game is to stimulate defense spending -- especially the purchase of American weapons systems.

  • Aditi Juneja: Like Kylie Jenner, I was on a Forbest list. Here are the hidden privileges that made me a "success."

  • Robert Mackey: Live: Dispatches From the UK as Trump Stokes Turmoil. Mackey also wrote: Ahead of UK Visit, Donald Trump Praises Boris Johnson, Who Once Called Him Insane.

  • Josh Marshall: Israel Pushed Heavily for Trump to Meet with Putin: Colbert and ilk like to make jokes about Trump being "Putin's bitch," but Trump has bowed deeper and bent over far more often for Israel, even if it isn't always clear whether Netanyahu or Sheldon Adelson is calling the shots. Marshall doesn't mention this, but Netanyahu has pow-wowed with Putin recently, supposedly coming away with some sort of Syria deal which would retain Assad and marginalize Iran there.

  • Nadia Popovich, et al: 76 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump.

  • Robert B Reich: What if the Government Gave Everyone a Paycheck?: Review of two recent books on basic income: Annie Lowrey: Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World, and Andrew Yang: The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Umiversal Basic Income Is Our Future. Also in the New York Times Book Review: Emily Cooke: In the Middle Class, and Barely Getting By, a review of Alissa Quart: Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America.

  • James Risen: Indictment of Russian intelligence operatives should quell harebrained conspiracy theories on DNC hack. Risen, by the way, has a whole series of articles on Trump and Russia: Part 1: Is Donald Trump a traitor?; Part 2: A key Trump-Russia intermediary has been missing for months, as the case for collusion grows stronger; Part 3: There's plenty of evidence that Trump sought to block the Russia probe, but it will take more than that to bring him down; and Part 4: Republicans' slavish loyalty to Trump in the Russia investigation may permanently deprive Congress of its oversight role.

  • Hiroko Tabuchi: How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country.

  • Matt Taibbi: No, the Mythical 'Center' Isn't Sexy.

  • Adam Taylor: For South Korean conservatives, Trump adds to deep political problems:

    But almost 18 months into his presidency, many acknowledge that Trump has been a disaster for South Korea's beleaguered conservative movement.

    "I still can't wrap my head around it," Hong Joon-pyo, former leader of the country's largest right-wing party, Liberty Korea, said of Trump's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12. "I never imagined a U.S. government would help a leftist government in South Korea."

    In a nation where the political right has long based its policies on deep animosity toward North Korea and unfailing support for the U.S. military alliance, conservatives now find themselves dealing with an American leader who is not only willing to meet with and praise Kim, but who publicly muses about withdrawing troops.

    South Korea's rightists are in the midst of a full-blown identity crisis. And the effect can be seen in electoral votes and opinion polls.

    In regional elections on June 13, the Liberty Korea Party suffered a humiliating defeat, garnering just two of 17 major mayoral and gubernatorial seats and only a little more than half the votes that the governing Minjoo Party received.

  • Nathaniel Zelinsky: The case for not publishing hacked emails. Nor is it only hackers who are guilty of indiscriminate leaking; see Peter Maass: Trump finds a new weapon for his war on journalism -- leak indictments aimed at smearing reporters.


PS: I finished this Sunday night, but didn't post until Monday, by which time the Helsinki summit between Trump and Putin had taken place, with predictable blood curdling howls of outrage from liberal pundits -- as trapped within their militant anti-Russian prejudices as those South Korean conservatives mentioned above. I might as well go ahead and link to Matthew Yglesias: It's time to take Trump both seriously and literally on Russia, just to get the nonsense out of the way before next Weekend Roundup. Yglesias starts by faulting Trump for not raising a stink over a long list of Putin sins (some real, some likely, some unclear and/or distorted), as if the sole point of the meeting is to see who can claim moral high ground. (That is, by the way, a fool's errand for any American president: you seriously want to talk about invading other countries? shooting down airliners? assassinating critics in foreign lands? how many people you've incarcerated? how badly you treat them? efforts to subvert democratic choice? I don't deny that Russia, and Putin in particular, has a checkered record on those counts, but so does Trump and America.)

The point of diplomacy is to find common ground to solve mutual problems. To do that, you need to be realistic, to show respect, to see past differences. It's actually very refreshing when Trump says that both sides have made mistakes. It's also completely clear that if you want to, say, reduce the threat of nuclear war, these are the two leaders you need to get together, to find common ground, even if you don't approve of the common traits of both. There are currently a lot of issues where constructive agreement between Russia and the US would benefit everyone. Demonizing the other simply doesn't help.

Of course, one has little hope that Trump will see his way to solving any of those disputes. He simply seems too incoherent, not to mention too morally skewed. Nonetheless, he brings something to the table that his predecessors lacked: flexibility. As with Korea, it's just possible that clear thinking on the other side(s) of the table could steer him into a breakthrough that someone like Obama or Clinton couldn't conceive of. It would be a terrible shame if Democrats scuttled worthwhile deals just to spite him. (In fact, it would be a godawful Mitch McConnell-like thing to do.)

Also, note that it isn't as if Trump hasn't been giving Democrats plenty of reasons this trip to tear him apart. The problem with Trump's disparaging of the EU, characterizing Europe as a "foe," championing Brexit in the UK, etc., is that he is deliberately, at the highest levels, attempting to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries -- the same thing Democrats accuse Putin of (just more shamelessly).

Monday, July 09, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29939 [29896] rated (+43), 342 [348] unrated (-6).

New video card arrived today, but I figured I should post this before I risked installation. No guarantee it will fix my screen problem, and no guarantee it won't wreck everything.

High rated count this week. Got off to a fast start last Monday as I was collecting data on mid-year best-of lists, and checking out things I had missed. Probably also helped in that more than a few of them turned out to be EPs (or "mini-albums"). Only one of those albums made this week's A-list (Seun Kuti's), but I was pleasantly surprised by Shawn Mendes, and at least understand the interest in the Carters' Everything Is Love and Against All Logic's 2012-2017. Meanwhile, after something of a drought, three good jazz albums -- one from my queue, the other two from Bandcamp. (Actually, pretty sure Again is also on Bandcamp.)

The computer problem has kept me from doing much updating of the mid-year aggregate, but Janelle Monae managed to slip ahead of Kacey Musgraves for the top spot. I haven't factored Robert Christgau's grades in yet, but doing so would help (among the top 25): Monae (A-), Cardi B (A), Courtney Barnett (A-), Black Panther (A), Superchunk (A), Superorganism (A-), and Parquet Courts (A). My grades are listed in the file, but also not counted. I have those same records at B+(***) or above, plus Kali Uchis at A- and Saba at B+(***). Latter was hard to find a streaming source for, and I'm not sure how well I heard it.


New records rated this week:

  • A.A.L. (Against All Logic): 2012-2017 (2012-17 [2018], Other People): [r]: B+(***)
  • Amen Dunes: Freedom (2018, Sacred Bones): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tucker Antell: Grime Scene (2017 [2018], OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Arctic Monkeys: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018, Domino): [r]: C+
  • John Bailey: In Real Time (2017 [2018], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Big Heart Machine: Big Heart Machine (2017 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B
  • Binker and Moses: Alive in the East? (2017 [2018], Gearbox): [bc]: A-
  • Leon Bridges: Good Thing (2018, Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jarod Bufe: New Spaces (2017 [2018], OA2): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Burna Boy: Outside (2018, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Camila Cabello: Camila (2018, Syco/Epic): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Carters: Everything Is Love (2018, Parkwood/Roc Nation): [r]: B+(***)
  • Neko Case: Hell-On (2018, Anti-): [r]: B+(*)
  • Brent Cobb: Providence Canyon (2018, Low Country Sound/Elektra): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tomasz Dabrowski Ad Hoc: Ninjazz (2018, ForTune): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Grouper: Grid of Points (2018, Kranky, EP): [r]: B
  • Haley Heynderickx: I Need to Start a Garden (2018, Mama Bird): [r]: B+(**)
  • Juice WRLD: Goodbye & Good Riddance (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kids See Ghosts [Kanye West/Kid Cudi]: Kids See Ghosts (2018, GOOD/Def Jam, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Seun Kuti & Egypt 80: Black Times (2018, Strut): [r]: A-
  • Jeremy Ledbetter Trio: Got a Light? (2018, Alma): [cd]: B
  • Peggy Lee: Echo Painting (2017 [2018], Songlines): [bc]: B
  • Joachim Mencel Quintet: Artisena (2015 [2018], ForTune): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Shawn Mendes: Shawn Mendes (2018, Island): [r]: B+(***)
  • Migos: Culture II (2018, Quality Control/Motown/Capitol, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Adam O'Farrill's Stranger Days: El Maquech (2018, Biophilia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Old Crow Medicine Show: Volunteer (2018, Columbia Nashville): [r]: B+(*)
  • Oneohtrix Point Never: Age Of (2018, Warp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Charles Pillow Large Ensemble: Electric Miles (2017 [2018], MAMA): [cd]: B
  • Pocket Aces: Cull the Heard (2016 [2018], Creative Nation Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Post Malone: Beerbongs & Bentleys (2018, Republic): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Raymond & Real Feels: Joy Ride (2018, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Royce Da 5'9": Book of Ryan (2018, EOne): [r]: B+(*)
  • Shame: Songs of Praise (2018, Dead Oceans): [r]: B
  • Sibarg Ensemble: Cipher (2016 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Snail Mail: Lush (2018, Matador): [r]: B+(*)
  • SOB X RBE: Gangin (2018, Empire): [r]: B
  • Jason Stein's Locksmith Isidore: After Caroline (2017 [2018], Northern Spy): [bc]: A-
  • Sunflower Bean: Twentytwo in Blue (2018, Mom + Pop): [r]: B+(*)
  • Toronto Jazz Orchestra: 20 (2017 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Turnstile: Time & Space (2018, Roadrunner): [r]: B+(*)
  • Verve Jazz Ensemble: Connect the Dots (2018, Lightgroove Media): [cd]: B
  • Kobie Watkins Grouptet: Movement (2017 [2018], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Weeknd: My Dear Melancholy (2018, XO/Republic, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Years & Years: Palo Santo (2018, Polydor): [r]: B

Old music rated this week:

  • Binker and Moses: Dem Ones (2014 [2015], Gearbox): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Binker and Moses: Journey to the Mountain of Forever (2016 [2017], Gearbox, 2CD): [bc]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jennifer Lee: My Shining Hour (SBE): August 10
  • Lonnie McFadden: Live at the Green Lady Lounge (Jazz Daddy)

Daily Log

Pleasant surprise: Silkheart records on Napster and Bandcamp. Here's a quick list of unrated items in my database:

  • Charles Brackeen: Attainment () -
  • Rob Brown: Breathe Rhyme (1989) -
  • Dennis Charles Triangle: Queen Mary () -
  • Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: Chicago Now: Thirty Years of Great Black Music Vol. 1 (1995) -
  • Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: Chicago Now: Thirty Years of Great Black Music Vol. 2 (1995) -
  • Charles Gayle: Raining Fire (1993) -
  • Charles Gayle Quartet: Always Born () -
  • Charles Gayle Quartet: Blue Shadows () -
  • Heinz Geisser-Guerino Mazzola Duo: Someday () -
  • Steve Lacy: One Fell Swoop (1986) -
  • Guerino Mazzola & Joomi Park: Passionate Message ()
  • Hal Russell-Joel Futterman Quartet: Naked Colours ()
  • Matthew Shipp Quartet: Points ()
  • Charles Tyler/Brus Trio: Autumn in Paris (1988) -
  • David S. Ware: Passage to Music (1988) -
  • Spirit of New Jazz ()

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Weekend Roundup

I've been hampered by another, quite maddening, computer problem this week. It helps to understand that every program has its own private piece of screen buffer memory, updating the entire image whenever it wishes to change what you see. Whether you actually see the changes depends on the layering of the windows. You usually see all of the current (active focus) window, but other windows may be partially or wholly covered by the top window, or by other windows in an overlay stack. This means that every possible view of every window is stored in memory somewhere -- either the main computer memory, or dedicated screen memory on a video controller card. The computer (or the video card) keep a display list of everything that is to be shown. What's happening on my computer is that this display list is getting corrupted, so all of a sudden I'll see some screen chunk appear when it shouldn't.

The result is very disorienting. For instance, while I've been writing this in an emacs editor window, the screen to my window's left has decided to show a big chunk of a Pitchfork review that I closed from my browser a couple of days ago. I can make it go away by moving the mouse over it and using the wheel to scroll whatever the proper window there has in it (a Wikipedia page). I'm able to work around the problem by using little tricks like that to force proper screen updates, but it's a trial, a real nuisance. This started happening a week ago when I was experiencing heavy load problems. I cut down on the loads by installing an ad blocker and rebooting. That did indeed help on performance, but within a day I started experiencing this phantom screen ghosting (not a technical term, but that's what the screen fragments feel like; just happened again).

I'm guessing that the problem is in the video card, and hoping it will go away when I replace the card (new one on order). Before I installed the ad blocker, I ran into another serious problem: I kept hearing random pops from Napster (although not from Bandcamp, which also plays through the browser, or from VLC, which is a separate ap). No such problem with the ad blocker installed, so that problem was clearly due to the added overhead of processing all those annoying ads. Good riddance to the visual distraction, as well.


I've been working on a side project this past week. I started this last year, spent a couple of days on it, and let it sit, moving on to other, seemingly more urgent, tasks. The idea is to collect all of the political notes from my online notebook. This starts back in 2001, before I started my blog, and continues to archive all of my blog posts from 2005 on. Originally I was thinking of one file for the whole roll, but as I got into 2006, I realized I need to split it into multiple volumes: one for the Bush years, a second for Obama, and probably one for Trump as long as is necessary. Prime determinant was length, but it also makes more sense subject-wise.

Of course, the writing will need a lot of editing to turn it into anything useful. And it's not clear even how it should be organized: day-by-day, or sorted out into subject areas. Good news is that compared to the jazz guides, this one is going pretty fast. Unless the computer situation deteriorates further, I should finish the first pass compilation up to 2008 this coming week. Currently have 465,000 words, up to Feb. 2007 (930 pages of 12 pt. type).

I'd like to say a few things about the material I've been reviewing, but don't have much time and the circumstances aren't conducive. Suffice it to say that the one clearest lesson is that nearly everything we've found so galling and appalling about Trump had previously appeared as a big problem under GW Bush. For instance, I have a lot of material in 2006-07 on North Korea. I have a report on a mass demonstration against ICE excesses. I even have a disgusting story about the president and the Boy Scouts. It's not that nothing never changes, but it is very much the case that Trump's agenda is a direct continuation of the shit Bush tried to pull until he flamed out in 2008, leaving the economy in shambles.


Some scattered links this week:

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Daily Log

Greg Magarian posted this on Facebook:

Justice Kennedy's retirement is a disaster, because his replacement will be a hard right vote for everything. But please, for the sake of history, let's correct the narrative that Kennedy was some kind of centrist or pragmatist. He did the occasional fine thing, most obviously on LGBT rights. But he was, most of the time and with great consequence, a movement conservative: right-wing on race, right-wing on the electoral process, a right-wing libertarian on the First Amendment, right-wing on criminal justice, right-wing on regulation of business. His defense of abortion rights extended no further than the tactically smart posture of eviscerating Roe v. Wade without actually overruling it. His legacy is one of defending the powerful against challenges to their power. His importance as the swing vote for more than a decade is a sad chapter in judicial history, and the fact that we have cause to regret his departure is a sad commentary on the state of our country.

Absolutely correct, especially the last sentence, but I still have a bone to pick. My comment:

Doesn't "right-wing libertarian on the First Amendment" obscure the real point: he believes that free speech should scale with the amount of money you can spend on it.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 29896 [29859] rated (+37), 348 [348] unrated (-0).

Nothing monumental below that I didn't get to before posting June Streamnotes on Saturday, although the Grupo Mono Blanco records are pretty nice if you're interested in Mexican folk music that doesn't veer into Mariachi or more generally Norteńo. I spent a fair amount of time in the EOM crunch pouring over Phil Overeem's We're Halfway There -- But to Where? midterm list. Still 27 records in his main list (out of "damn near 100") that I haven't heard, as well as 12 title under "Old Music Nicely Repackaged." I'll try to knock a few more off that list next week.

Since it's midway through 2018, I figured there would be some "So Far" album lists to look at. I thought it might not be too hard to adapt my EOY Aggregate architecture to collecting data from mid-year lists. (I've done minimal editing, so I can purge the mid-year data and reuse the program files come November.) I collected 21 lists, mostly from Album of the Year, which netted 240 albums (three are new releases of archival music so they're in separate files; two are new works by various artists, which I kept with the new music in large part because Black Panther: The Album is likely to show up on a competitive number of lists). The data is here. The top albums (my grades in brackets, but not counted):

  1. Kacey Musgraves: Golden Hour (MCA Nashville) {35/16} [B]
  2. Janelle Monae: Dirty Computer (Bad Boy) {33/14} [A-]
  3. Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy (Atlantic) {32/16} [A-]
  4. Pusha T: Daytona (GOOD/Def Jam -EP) {26/13} [**]
  5. Soccer Mommy: Clean (Fat Possum) {25/12} [**]
  6. Beach House: 7 (Sub Pop) {25/11} [**]
  7. US Girls: In a Poem Unlimited (4AD) {22/10} [**]
  8. Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel (Mom + Pop Music) {20/12}: [***]
  9. Kali Uchis: Isolation (Virgin EMI) {19/10} [A-]
  10. Lucy Dacus: Historian (Matador) {19/8} [*]
  11. Arctic Monkeys: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (Domino) {18/11} [C+]
  12. Saba: Care for Me (Saba Pivot) {15/8} [***]
  13. Black Panther: The Album (Music From and Inspired By) (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope) {14/8} [***]
  14. Amen Dunes: Freedom (Sacred Bones) {14/7} [*]
  15. Shame: Songs of Praise (Dead Oceans) {12/5} [B]
  16. Snail Mail: Lush (Matador) {12/6} [*]
  17. Camila Cabello: Camila (Epic) {10/7} [**]
  18. Parquet Courts: Wide Awake! (Rough Trade) {10/7} [A-]
  19. Oneohtrix Point Never: Age Of (Warp) {10/6} [*]
  20. Jeff Rosenstock: Post- (Polyvinyl) {10/6}
  21. Sleep: The Sciences (Third Man) {10/6}
  22. Superorganism: Superorganism (Domino) {10/6} [***]
  23. Superchunk: What a Time to Be Alive (Merge) {10/4} [**]
  24. DJ Koze: Knock Knock (Pampa) {9/7} [B]
  25. Turnstile: Time & Space (Roadrunner) {9/6} [*]
  26. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks: Sparkle Hard (Matador) {9/5} [*]
  27. MGMT: Little Dark Age (Columbia) {8/5}
  28. Jack White: Boarding House Reach (Third Man/Columbia) {8/5}
  29. J Cole: KOD (Roc Nation) {8/4} [**]
  30. Sunflower Bean: Twentytwo in Blue (Mom + Pop) {8/3}

The first number in braces is points, followed by number of lists the album appears on (I used that as a tiebreaker).

Main caveat here is that most of the lists were unranked, so each album listed there got one point. Numbered lists were counted on my standard scale -- 5 for number one, 4 for 2-5, 3 for 6-10, 2 for 11-20, 1 for everything else -- although only 6 ranked lists had more than 20 albums (the max was 50, by Stereogum and Uproxx). That scale works better for longer year-end lists, especially more of them, but with such a small sample expect some distortion.

I expected Janelle Monae and Cardi B to dominate the list, but not much else was obvious. I didn't like the Kacey Musgraves album at all. I'm not surprised that it has fans, but so many? The Pusha T EP was produced by Kanye West, and seems to have gotten a perverse boost as West's fortunes faded (1 mention; his Kid Cudi collaboration, Kids See Ghosts, got 2). Lot of women in the top 10 (if memory serves, 9 of 10, though only 2 of the next 8, or 4 of 20). Kali Uchis and Saba have high metacritic scores, but so do Confidence Man and Rolo Tomassi (1 mention each). Kamasi Washington's Heaven & Earth broke late (4 mentions, 4 points, tied for 54th), between Mount Eerie/Tracey Thorn and Car Seat Headrest/Ezra Furman.

I played a bunch of these today while compiling the list. Unfortunately, Napster is performing poorly in the new computer, with audible glitches every 15-30 seconds. Pretty sure it's a problem with Firefox, which has split up its content handlers into multiple processes. At the moment, with music off, one of those processes is chewing up 70-78% of CPU, which probably means that some JavaScript somewhere is spinning in an infinite loop. I don't know of any way to profile individual tabs, so I'm hard pressed to map the performance loss back to specific web pages. I do find it striking, though, that Google search windows are among the slowest pages to refresh, and Wikipedia is also surprisingly sluggish. I've killed off the two most likely suspects -- Facebook and Twitter -- to little avail.

One positive bit of computer news is that I bought a new keyboard -- a Logitech K740 Illuminated -- that I'm pretty happy with. Not sure what you'd call the switches, but they have a better than usual tactile feedback without being as clunky (clicky?) as the mechanical keyboards. Plus it has LED backlighting on the key legends, so I can find whatever key I'm looking for in the dark. (I am a competent touch typist, but that doesn't help if you can't find the right starting keys.)


New records rated this week:

  • 700 Bliss: Spa 700 (2018, Halcyon Veil/Don Giovanni, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Lily Allen: No Shame (2018, Parlophone): [r]: A-
  • Rodrigo Amado: A History of Nothing (2017 [2018], Trost): [cd]: A-
  • Beach House: 7 (2018, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(**)
  • Big Freedia: 3rd Ward Bounce (2018, Asylum Worldwide, EP): [r]: B
  • Andy Biskin: 16 Tons: Songs From the Alan Lomax Collection (2018, Andorfin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Justin Brown: Nyeusi (2015-17 [2018], Biophilia): [r]: B-
  • Busdriver: Electricity Is on Our Side (2018, Temporary Forever): [r]: B-
  • Lynn Cassiers: Imaginary Band (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chrome Hill: The Explorer (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Scott Clark: ToNow (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sean Conly: Hard Knocks (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Benje Daneman Serendipity: Light in the Darkness (2017 [2018], ACI): [cd]: C+
  • Daphne & Celeste: Daphne & Celeste Save the World (2018, Balatonic): [r]: B
  • Grupo Mono Blanco: ˇFandango! Sones Jaroches de Veracruz (2018, Smithsonian Folkways): [r]: B+(***)
  • Imarhan: Temet (2018, City Slang): [r]: B+(***)
  • Wilko Johnson: Blow Your Mind (2018, Chess): [r]: B+(**)
  • Vic Juris: Eye Contact (2016 [2018], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lana Trio: Lana Trio With Sofia Jernberg (2016 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Low Cut Connie: Dirty Pictures (Part 2) (2018, Contender): [r]: B+(**)
  • MIKE: Black SoapB+(*)
  • MIKE: Renaissance Man (2018, Lex): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mdou Moctar/Elite Beat: Mdou Moctar Meets Elite Beat in a Budget Dancehall (2017 [2018], Boomarm Nation): [bc]: A-
  • Molly Tigre: Molly Tigre (2018, Very Special): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Alberto Pinton Noi Siamo: Opus Facere (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bebe Rexha: Expectations (2018, Warner Brothers): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mark Soskin: Upper West Side Stories (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kamasi Washington: Heaven and Earth (2018, Young Turks, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dr. Michael White: Tricentennial Rag (2018, Basin Street): [r]: B+(**)
  • Buster Williams: Audacity (2017 [2018], Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kamaal Williams: The Return (2018, Black Focus): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wye Oak: The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs (2018, Merge): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • John Coltrane: Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (1963 [2018], Impulse, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • The Savory Collection Vol 4: Embraceable You: Bobby Hackett and Friends (1938-40 [2018], National Jazz Museum of Harlem): [dl]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Rodrigo Amado/Carlos Zíngaro/Ken Filiano: The Space Between (2002 [2003], Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Grupo Mono Blanco: Soneros Jarochos: The Arhoolie Recordings 1989-1990 (1989-90 [2006], Arhoolie): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lisbon Improvisation Players: Live_LxMeskla (2000 [2002], Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(**)
  • MIKE: May God Bless Your Hustle (2017, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba: Routes (2018, Twelve/Eight): [r]: was B+(***), now A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Andy Biskin: 16 Tons: Songs From the Alan Lomax Collection (Andorfin)
  • Rhio: A Rhio Good Thing (Beso)

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Busy day yesterday for the anti-Trump left in Wichita. I made it to the Ice Cream Social at the Wichita Peace Center, along with about forty other people, including two candidates -- James Thompson, running for Congress, somehow escaped my attention, but I couldn't miss Lacey Cruse, running for the Sedgwick County Commission, as she was the featured entertainment. Coming at the end of a long day wrapping up my June Streamnotes, I wasn't in the mood for a folkie singalong, so repaired to a quieter nook of the Peace House. However, she mentioned two demonstrations that day: one on inequality, the other on refugee rights. My wife went to the latter, and guessed about 300 people showed up. The former seemed to be the work of DSA. About a half-dozen people in DSA tee-shirts showed up for ice cream -- only one previously known to me.

I mention this because I've been in a deep, disgusted funk all week, and expected to just go through the motions in this post today. So while my commitment and even interest are flagging, note at least that there are still others who are getting more engaged -- especially much younger ones. That is as it should be. While there are terrible things that the current regime can do to what's left of my life, it's young people today who face the real horrors of America's current political nihilism, and it's their futures that hang in the balance. I've never been comfortable thinking in generational terms, but there are massive differences from the world I grew up in to the one young people inhabit today. We saw that there were inequities that needed work and issues that needed new attention, but we still believed that America's political legacy pointed toward a fairer and more equitable world. We made some real progress on many fronts, but left the door open which allowed moneyed interests and right-wing ideologues to creep back into control.

That, in turn, led to the impoverished, disempowered, manipulated, and embittered world young people today inhabit. That world took a turn for the worse in November 2016 when Trump won the presidency and both houses of Congress. I was literally sickened by the thought. If my capacity to be shocked has since waned, it's not because Republicans have failed to deliver on their threats. It's just because what's come to pass already seemed so inevitable 20 months ago. One such prospect was that right-wing activists would strengthen their grip on the Supreme Court and increasingly use that power to advance their agenda. This week that threat became suddenly real for a lot of people, thanks first to a series of rulings where Kennedy sided with the right, then with Kennedy's retirement, allowing Trump to install yet another right-wing movement judge.

But actually that movement on the court has been growing slowly, at least since Nixon nominated Rehnquist, whose opposition to civil rights was somehow deemed less threatening without a Southern drawl. (Nixon had previously had two nominees rejected, precisely for that reason.) It hasn't gone as smoothly as conservatives wanted, but their game plan has been relentless, and focused on the branch of government that is slowest moving and least responsive to popular political opinion. Actually, until Roosevelt prevailed by outlasting the judges, the Supreme Court had always been a bastion of elite privilege. We are very fortunate to have lived during the one period in American history when the Court regularly stood up for the civil rights of individuals and minorities. Thanks to the 2016 election, the Supreme Court will be a millstone on any recovery of democracy we manage to achieve in the 2018, 2020, etc. elections -- probably for decades to come.

I don't have a citation, but I have a pretty clear memory of Lindsey Graham, back when he was in the House before he became a Senator in 2003, explaining that Republicans have to use whatever power they have to lock in long-term, hard-to-repeal changes whenever and wherever they can, precisely because they realize that they can't expect to hold power indefinitely (and possibly because they fear demographic trends might undermine their standing). The courts, with their lifetime terms, are merely the most obvious example. Indeed, for decades now they've come up with novel approaches to frustrate democracy, including feeding a steady erosion in the confidence people have that they can change lives for the better through political action.

This week has been a banner week for their cynical manipulations. The lesson Democrats should learn is that they need to defeat the Republicans so big that such schemes are overwhelmed.


Some scattered links this week:


Jun 2018 Aug 2018