February 2019 Notebook
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Monday, February 25, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31174 [31145] rated (+29), 252 [249] unrated (+3).

So-so week, rated count actually a good deal more than I expected, given all the distractions. Since I went to weekly review dumps, I guess that means that the last Monday of the month is the closing date for the archive Streamnotes (February 2019) -- posted at the same time as this Music Week. February's record total of 123 (91 new) is quite a bit less than January's 201 (153 new).

Still listening more to 2018 than 2019 records (15-4 below), even a couple hitherto unnoticed 2017 releases. Should probably write a longer intro, but not feeling it at the moment.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Jakob Anderskov: Mysteries (2017 [2018], ILK): [r]: B+(**)
  • Julian Argüelles: Tonadas (2017 [2018], Edition): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rafiq Bhatia: Breaking English (2018, Anti-): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carsie Blanton: Buck Up (2019, So Ferocious): [r]: A-
  • Martin Blume/Wilbert De Joode/John Butcher: Low Yellow (2016 [2018], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dinosaur: Wonder Trail (2018, Edition): [r]: B
  • Endangered Blood: Don't Freak Out (2018, Skirl): [r]: A-
  • Hot 8 Brass Band: On the Spot (2017, Tru Thoughts): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Hot 8 Brass Band: Take Cover (2019, Tru Thoughts, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Ohmme: Parts (2018, Joyful Noise): [r]: B+(**)
  • On the Levee Jazz Band: Swinging New Orleans Jazz (2018, Big Al): [bc]: A-
  • Pilgrims [John Wolf Brennan/Tony Majdalani/Marco Jencarelli]: Oriental Orbit (2017, Leo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chris Potter: Circuits (2019, Edition): [r]: B-
  • RAM: RAM 7: August 1791 (2018, Willibelle): [r]: B
  • Dave Rempis/Brandon Lopez/Ryan Packard: The Early Bird Gets (2018 [2019], Aerophonic): [cd]: A-
  • Valee: GOOD Job, You Found Me (2018, GOOD Music, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kate Vargas: For the Wolfish & Wandering (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Gboyega Adelaja: Colourful Environment (1979 [2018], Odion Livingstone): [r]: B+(**)
  • African Scream Contest 2 (1970s [2018], Analog Africa): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Dur Dur of Somalia: Volume 1, Volume 2, & Previously Unreleased Tracks (1986-87 [2018], Analog Africa, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Orhestre Abass: De Bassari Togo (1972 [2018], Analog Africa, EP): [r]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • African Scream Contest: Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds From Benin & Togo 70s (1970s [2008], Analog Africa): [r]: A-
  • Carsie Blanton: Ain't So Green (2005, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
  • Carsie Blanton: Idiot Heart (2012, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Carsie Blanton: Not Old, Not New (2014, So Ferocious): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carsie Blanton: So Ferocious (2016, So Ferocious): [r]: B+(*)
  • Andrew D'Angelo Trio: Skadra Degis (2007 [2008], Skirl): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Andrew D'Angelo Trio: Norman (2015, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Endangered Blood: Work Your Magic (2012 [2013], Skirl): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kitchen Orchestra/Alexander Von Schlippenbach: Kitchen Orchestra With Alexander Von Schlippenbach (2013, Whats Cooking): [r]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Atomic: Pet Variations (Odin)
  • Lyn Stanley: London Calling: A Toast to Julie London (A.T. Music)
  • Carol Sudhalter Quartet: Live at Saint Peter's Church (Alfa Projects)
  • Assif Tsahar/William Parker/Hamid Drake: In Between the Tumbling a Stillness (Hopscotch) [A-]

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Weekend Roundup

When I started this exercise, I reassured myself that I would just go through the motions, collecting a few notes that I may wish to refer back to after the 2020 election. While I've written very little on it, I've thought a lot more about my four-era synopsis of American history, and I'm more convinced than ever that the fourth -- the one that started in 1980 with Ronald Reagan -- ends definitively with Donald Trump in 2020. I doubt I'll ever manage to write that book, but it's coming together pretty clearly in my mind. I'll resist the temptation to explain how and why. But I will offer a couple of comments on how this affects the Democratic presidential field. For starters, it is very important that the Democrats nominate someone who is not closely tied to Reagan-era Democratic politics, which means the Clintons, Obama, and Joe Biden. Those politicians based their success on their ability to work with Reagan-era constraint and tropes, and those have become liabilities.

It's time for a break, which could mean an older candidate with clear history of resisting Clinton-Obama compromises (like Bernie Sanders) or a younger candidate who's simply less compromised. Second point is that Republicans have become so monolithically tied to Trump, while Trump has become so polarizing, that no amount of "moderation" is likely to gain votes in the "middle" of the electorate. On the other hand, these days "moderation" is likely to be seen as lack of principles and/or character. In this primary season I don't see any reason not to go with whichever Democrat who comes up with the best platform. Still, there is one trait I might prefer over a better platform, which is dedication to advancing the whole party, and not just one candidate or faction.

I don't intend to spend much time or space on candidates, but I did note Bernie Sanders' joining the race below, a piece on his foreign policy stance (which has more to do with the shortcomings of other Democrats), as well as a couple of policy initiatives from Elizabeth Warren -- who's been working hard to establish her edge there. I've been running into a lot of incoherent spite and resentment against Sanders, both before and since his announcement, often from otherwise principled leftists, especially directed against hypothetical "purists" who disdain other "progressives" as not good enough. I'm far enough to the left that no one's ever good enough, but you make do with what you can get. I sympathize with Steve M.'s tweet:

Everyone, pro and anti Bernie: Just grow the fuck up. He's in the race. Vote for him, don't vote for him, let the process play out, then fight like hell to enact whoever wins the nomination. STOP DOING 2016 BATTLE REENACTMENTS.

Of course, if Hillary throws her hat in, all bets are off.


Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias:

  • Jamelle Bouie: Sanders has an advantage, and it's not about economics: "He has put forward a foreign policy vision that pits democratic peoples everywhere against illiberalism at home and abroad." I wish he was better still -- Laura blew up about some comments he made the other day on Venezuela, but he's not as kneejerk reflexive as most Democrats, or as gullible when someone pitches a war as humanitarian -- but he's closer to having a framework for thinking about America's imperial posture than almost anyone with a chance to do something about it. By far the biggest risk Democrats are running is the chance they may (as Hillary was) be tarred as the war party.

  • Ted Galen Carpenter: How NATO pushed the US Into the Libya fiasco: I think this was pretty obvious at the time, although once the US intervened, as it did, the war quickly became something all sides could blame on America -- particularly as the US had a long history that had only grown more intense under Bush and Obama of absent-minded intervention in Islamic nations. Obama later said that he regretted not the intervention per se but not planning better for the aftermath -- an indication of lack of desire or interest, not that Bush's occupation of Iraq turned out any better. (Of course, the fiasco in Iraq was also excused as poorly planned, but no one doubted the interest and excitement of the Bremer period as Americans tried to refashion Iraq in the image of, well, Texas.) One point that could be better explained is that Europe (especially France and Italy) had long-standing commercial ties to Libya, which America's anti-Qaddafi tantrums (at once high-handed, capricious, arbitrary, and indifferent to consequences) had repeatedly undermined. After NATO fell in line behind the US in Afghanistan and (for the most part) Iraq, Europeans felt America owed them something, and that turned out to be Libya. That all these cases proved disappointing should prove that NATO itself was never the right vehicle for dealing with world or regional problems.

  • Ben Freeman: US foreign policy is for sale: "Washington think tanks receive millions of dollars from authoritarian governments to shape foreign policy in their favor." Not just authoritarian governments, although you could argue that the most obvious exception, Israel, qualifies. For that matter it seems likely that many other nations (democracies as well as dictatorships) are every bit as active in buying American foreign policy favors -- so much so that singling out the "authoritarians" is just a rhetorical ploy. Original link to TomDispatch. By the way, in the latter, Tom Engelhardt quotes from Stephen Walt's new book, The Hell of Good Intentions: America's Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of US Primacy:

    [T]he contemporary foreign policy community has been characterized less by competence and accountability and more by a set of pathologies that have undermined its ability to set realistic goals and pursue them effectively. To put it in the bluntest terms, instead of being a disciplined body of professionals constrained by a well-informed public and forced by necessity to set priorities and hold themselves accountable, today's foreign policy elite is a dysfunctional caste of privileged insiders who are frequently disdainful of alternative perspectives and insulated both professionally and personally from the consequences of the policies they promote.

    Although "good intentions" often fail, Walt is being overly generous in accepting them at face value. Up to WWII, US foreign policy was almost exclusively dictated by private interests -- mostly traders and financiers, with an auxiliary of missionaries. WWII convinced American leaders that they had a calling to lead and manage the world, so they came up with a great myth of "good intentions," although those were soon shattered as they embraced slogans like "better dead than red."

  • Greg Grandin: How the failure of our foreign wars fueled nativist fanaticism: "For nearly two centuries, US politicians have channeled extremism outward. But the frontier is gone, the empire is faltering, and the chickens are coming home to roost." Adapted from Grandin's new book, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border in the Mind of America.

    Had the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq not gone so wrong, perhaps George W. Bush might have been able to contain the growing racism within his party's rank and file[1] by channeling it into his Middle East crusade, the way Ronald Reagan broke up the most militant nativist vigilantes in the 1980s by focusing their attention on Central America. For nearly two centuries, from Andrew Jackson forward, the country's political leaders enjoyed the benefit of being able to throw its restless and angry citizens -- of the kind who had begun mustering on the border in the year before 9/11 -- outward, into campaigns against Mexicans, Native Americans, Filipinos, and Nicaraguans, among other enemies.

    But the occupations did go wrong. Bush and his neoconservative advisers had launched what has now become the most costly war in the nation's history, on the heels of pushing through one of the largest tax cuts in the nation's history. They were following the precedent set by Reagan, who in the 1980s slashed taxes even as he increased the military budget until deficits went sky-high. Yet the news coming in from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere began to suggest that Bush had created an epic disaster. Politicians and policy intellectuals began to debate what is and isn't torture and to insist that, whatever "enhanced interrogation" was, the United States had a right to do it. Photographs from Abu Ghraib prison showing US personnel cheerfully taunting and torturing Iraqis circulated widely, followed by reports of other forms of cruelty inflicted on prisoners by US troops. Many people were coming to realize that the war was not just illegal in its conception but deceptive in its justification, immoral in its execution, and corrupt in its administration.

    Every president from Reagan onward has raised the ethical stakes, insisting that what they called "internationalism" -- be it murderous wars in impoverished Third World countries or corporate trade treaties -- was a moral necessity. But the disillusionment generated by Bush's war on terrorism, the velocity with which events revealed the whole operation to be a sham, was extraordinary -- as was the dissonance. The war, especially that portion of it allegedly intended to bring democracy to Iraq, was said to mark a new era of national purpose. And yet a coordinated campaign of deceit, carried out with the complicity of reporters working for the country's most respected news sources, had to be waged to ensure public support. The toppling of Saddam Hussein was predicted to be a "cakewalk," and US soldiers, according to Vice President Dick Cheney, would "be greeted as liberators." But Cheney still insisted that he needed to put in place a global network of secret torture sites in order to win the War on Terror.

    As thousands died and billions went missing, the vanities behind not just the war but the entire post-Cold War expansionist project came to a crashing end. . . .

    War revanchism usually takes place after conflicts end -- the Ku Klux Klan after World War I, for example, or the radicalization of white supremacism after Vietnam.[2] Now, though, it took shape while the war was still going on.[3] And border paramilitarism began to pull in not only soldiers who had returned from the war but the veterans of older conflicts.

    Notes: [1] Of course, "channeling" racism wasn't something Bush II worried about, after Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I had built their winning presidential campaigns by cultivating it. It was by then part of the Republican brand. [2] What about the Red Scares following both World Wars? Even wars that were definitely won seem to have left a hunger for more, starting with the search for scapegoats. [3] Or should we say, the war abroad dragged on even after most Americans lost interest in or commitment to it?

  • Alex Isenstadt: Trump rolls out massive corporate-style campaign structure for 2020.

  • Sarah Kliff: Elizabeth Warren's universal child care plan, extended: More evidence that Warren is running away from the pack in producing serious thinking about and proposals for policy. For another, see: German Lopez: Elizabeth Warren's ambitious plan to fight the opioid epidemic, explained.

  • Natasha Korecki: 'Sustain and ongoing' disinformation assault targets Dem presidential candidates: "A coordinated barrage of social media attacks suggests the involvement of foreign state actors." I bet not just those scary foreign state names but PACs and slush funds all over the world, any outfit with a cross to bear or an interest to push.

  • Anna North: The Trump administration is finalizing plans to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.

  • John Pilger: The war on Venezuela is built on lies. Also related: Timothy M Gill: Why is the Venezuelan government rejecting US food supplies?

    We can surely debate the cruelty of Maduro's domestic policies and his inability and unwillingness to seriously combat the economic crisis, perhaps in an effort to benefit his cronies. Yet, Maduro is not incorrect about the U.S.'s disingenuous behavior.

    At the same time that the U.S. is portraying itself as a literary protagonist with its supplies situated on the Colombia-Venezuela border, its policies are intensifying hardships for Venezuelan citizens. If it truly wanted to help Venezuelans, it could work through international and multilateral institutions to send aid to Venezuela, push for dialogue, and take some options off the table, namely military intervention.

    Above all, the U.S. is currently damaging the Venezuelan economy with its sanctions, and its supplies on the border will do very little to solve the crisis writ large. If sanctions haven't felled governments in Iran or Syria, to name just two examples, it doesn't seem likely that they will fall the Maduro government any time soon. They'll only perpetuate suffering and ultimately generate acrimony towards the country.

    The US has put this kind of pressure on nations before, imposing huge popular hardships as punishment for the government's failure to surrender to American interests. Crippling sanctions failed to break North Korea and Cuba. Iraq held out until the US invaded, then resisted until American troops withdrew. Syria descended into a brutal civil war. The US is on a path of goading Maduro into becoming the sort of brutal dictator that Assad became. One might cite Nicaragua as the exception, where the Sandinista regime relinquished power to US cronies, for what little good it did them.

  • Aaron Rupar:

  • Stephanie Savell: US counterterrorism missions across the planet: "Now in 80 countries, it couldn't be more global." See the map.

  • Tim Shorrock: Why are Democrats trying to torpedo the Korea peace talks? That's a good question. You'd think that Democrats would realize by now that the conflicts created and exacerbated by America's global military posture undermine both our own security and any prospects for achieving any of their domestic political goals.

    "Democrats should support diplomacy, and remember the most important president in this process is Moon Jae-in, not Donald Trump," Martin said. "Moon's persistent leadership toward reconciliation and diplomacy with North Korea represents the fervent desire of the Korean and Korean-American people for peace. Members of Congress from both parties should understand that and support it, skepticism about Trump and Kim notwithstanding."

  • Amanda Sperber: Inside the secretive US air campaign in Somalia: "Since Trump took office, figuring out whom the US is killing and why has become nearly impossible."

  • Emily Stewart:

  • Matt Taibbi:

    • Thomas Friedman is right: Pie doesn't grow on trees. Taibbi is the reigning champ of parsing Friedman's blabber, but instead of translating his pie metaphors into English, Taibbi is so overwhelmed by the moment he just transcribes them into page-straddling German nouns. The Friedman piece in question: Is America becoming a four-party state? I would start by sketching this out as a 2x2 chart, labeling the vertical columns Republicans and Democrats. The top row for leaders of both parties who think that all you need is growth (which mostly means pandering to big business); the bottom row for the resentful masses who feel they haven't been getting their fair share of all that growth. I imagine this less as four squares than as a capital-A. The top row is narrowed, the partisan differences marginal, while the bottom row diverges as to who to blame. Friedman pines for the good old days when all elites of both parties had to do was compete with each other to better serve the rich, when no one on either side stooped to pandering to the masses.

    • Bernie enters the 2020 race with defiant anti-Trump rhetoric.

    • Does Washington know the difference between dissent and disinformation?

  • Margaret Talbot: Revisiting the American Nazi supporters of "A Night at the Garden": A seven-minute documentary film nominated for an Oscar, based on a 1939 pro-Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden, and its relevance today.

  • Jeffrey Toobin: Roger Stone's and Jerome Corsi's time in the barrel: "Why the mismatched operatives matter to Trump -- and to the Mueller investigation."

  • Alex Ward:

  • Sean Wilentz: Presumed Guilty: A book review of Ken Starr: Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation, a reminder of the days when so-called Independent Investigators really knew how to run a witch hunt. Perhaps the new piece of information here is the extreme contempt that Starr and his minions, including Brett Kavanaugh, held for Hillary Clinton.

  • Li Zhou: The House will vote Tuesday on blocking Trump's national emergency.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31145 [31103] rated (+42), 249 [251] unrated (-2).

Still killing time fiddling with the Pazz & Jop ballots and my EOY Aggregate list. As I'm only selectively adding P&J voters' ballots to the count, I've been perturbing the standings a bit, nudging Cardi B (which I like more) into 4th over Pusha T and Low (which I don't like, although it's far from their worst) down to 10th, under Noname and Parquet Courts (which I do like). Reminds me of something I used to do in my late teens, when I could create my own book lists by mixing real bestseller with other books I was drawn to, including a lot of titles from Pantheon, Grove Press, and Monthly Review Books. The EOY Aggregate remains more rooted in reality, but factoring in my own grades and lists from favored critics and fellow travelers does add a (useful, I think) bias to the thing.

Jazz and Non-Jazz EOY lists have evened out a bit, 63-58, with one late-discovered A- in each this week. Also found my first 2019 non-jazz A-, against 12 jazz A/A- records (although Leyla McCalla's Capitalist Blues could be called non-jazz, and two more of that dozen feature spoken-word poetry).

I pulled a couple old unrated CDs off the shelf this week, now in "old music" below. I should note that French blues collection is part of a series. I also own The Prewar Vocal Jazz Story (1923-45, released 1996), which is in my database as a full A. I gave it a spin last week, and it would be hard to improve on. Had I spent more time with The Prewar Blues Story, I might have concluded it's every bit as authoritative. There are more volumes in the series, all long out of print, but likely to be worthwhile if you stumble upon one. Booklets are pretty good.

After Christgau's Expert Witness, I spent some more time with Alex Chilton reissues -- although I was actually primed with last week's review of Big Star's Live at Lafayette's Music Room. I had reviewed Ocean Club '77 back when it came out, but gave it another shot, and a better grade.

Last week I started replacing my rated albums lists with my review notes. Working methodology is to collect the list in a scratch file and retain it in the notebook, while only swapping the reviews in for the blog post. Still a bit awkward for me, but I trust more timely reviews in smaller than monthly chunks will be more useful.


New records rated this week:

  • Asleep at the Wheel: New Routes (2018, Bismeaux): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bad Bunny: X 100PRE (2018, Rimas Entertainment): [r]: B+(*)
  • J Balvin: Vibras (2018, Universal Latino): [r]: B+(**)
  • Blueprint: Two-Headed Monster (2018, Weightless): [r]: A-
  • Moses Boyd Exodus: Displaced Diaspora (2018, Exodus): [r]: B+(***)
  • BTS: Love Yourself: Tear (2018, Big Hit): [r]: B
  • Mariah Carey: Caution (2018, Epic): [r]: B
  • Hayes Carll: What It Is (2019, Dualtone): [r]: A-
  • Cypress Hill: Elephants on Acid (2018, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michael Dease: Reaching Out (2017 [2018], Posi-Tone): [r]: B
  • Michael Dease: Bonafide (2018, Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michael Dessen Trio: Somewhere in the Upstream (2016 [2018], Clean Feed): [s]: B+(***)
  • José Dias: After Silence, Vol. 1 (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Erin Rae: Putting on Airs (2018, Single Lock): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kinky Friedman: Circus of Life (2018, Echo Hill): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joshua Hedley: Mr. Jukebox (2018, Third Man): [r]: B
  • Muncie Girls: Fixed Ideals (2018, Buzz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Murs: A Strange Journey Into the Unimaginable (2018, Strange Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Thiago Nassif: Três (2015 [2018], Foom): [r]: A-
  • Larry Ochs/Nels Cline/Gerald Cleaver: What Is to Be Done (2016 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carly Pearce: Every Little Thing (2017, Big Machine): [r]: B-
  • Rich Pellegrin: Down (2014 [2019], OA2): [cd]: B
  • Scott Robinson: Tenormore (2018 [2019], Arbors Jazz): [cd]: A-
  • Shad: A Short Story About a War (2018, Secret City): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (2018 [2019], ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jorja Smith: Lost & Found (2018, FAMM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ricardo Toscano: Quartet (2018, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jeff Tweedy: Warm (2018, dBpm): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jack White: Boarding House Reach (2018, Third Man/Columbia): [r]: B-
  • Kelly Willis: Back Being Blue (2018, Premium): [r]: B+(*)
  • Luke Winslow-King: Blue Mesa (2018, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • Big Star: Live on WLIR (1974 [2019], Omnivore): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alex Chilton: From Memphis to New Orleans (1985-89 [2019], Bar/None): [r]: A-
  • Fred Hersch Trio: Heartsongs (1989 [2018], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller (2018, BMG, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • 1930s Jazz: The Singers (1930-38 [1987], Columbia): [cd]: B+(**)
  • 1930s Jazz: The Small Combos (1930-39 [1987], Columbia): [cd]: B+(***)
  • 1940s Jazz: The Singers (1940-49 [1987], Columbia): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Best of Blues Records Presents: The Prewar Blues Story [La Grande Époque du Blues 1926-1943] (1926-43 [1994], Best of Blues, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • Alex Chilton: Bach's Bottom (1975 [1993], Razor & Tie): [r]: B+(*)
  • Alex Chilton: Like Flies on Sherbert (1979 [1996], Last Call): [r]: B


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Alex Chilton: Ocean Club '77 (1977 [2015], Norton): [r]: [was: B+(**)] A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Randy Brecker & NDR Bigband: Rocks (Piloo): February 22
  • Doug MacDonald Quartet: Organisms (self-released)
  • Nick Sanders Trio: Playtime 2050 (Sunnyside): March 15
  • Urbanity: Urbanity (Alfi) **

Daily Log

The Wichita Eagle dropped Non Sequitur from its comics page, responding to the fake news "outrage" over a largely invisible "Fuck Trump" buried in a "coloring book" comic. I wrote this to the Eagle:

Please reconsider your hasty decision to drop Non Sequitur from the comics page. For that matter, please consider bring Doonesbury back -- it's always been much more than political commentary. Your efforts to impose your sense of political correctness on something that's first and foremost entertainment diminishes the value of your sadly declining product. It would also save us from having to reconsider whether your paper is worth what we pay for it.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Another weekly batch of links and comments. At some point I started shunting pieces on Trump's "state of emergency" declaration to the end, but a few are scattered in the main list. Also wound up adding more "related" links under first-found stories. More time might let me sort out a better pecking order. But at this point I'm mostly going through the motions, to establish a record for possible later review. Book idea is still germinating. Last couple weeks have been especially trying for me, and this coming one looks likely to be worse.


Some scattered links this week:


Some more links on the "emergency" declaration:

Friday, February 15, 2019

Daily Log

Monday, February 11, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31103 [30062] rated (+41), 251 [253] unrated (-2).

Last week I speculated about possibly changing the Music Week format to offer my reviews in weekly doses, so you get information sooner and in what should be more digestible doses (20-40 records per week instead of 100-200 records at the end of the month). As I thought about it, I realized that I could still archive the reviews in monthly chunks, and announce that file when it becomes public. So, I'm trying that approach this week. Actually, there is a bit of surplus here: a few records that appeared in last week's Music Week that I got to after posting January 2019 Streamnotes.

I haven't really figured the workflow out yet. What I'm thinking is that I'll collect Music Week in the notebook as usual, then swap in the reviews when I create the blog post file. Still some room for sloppy errors here, even with all the redundancy. Rated count report this week is slightly higher than actual because I came up short and found a half-dozen unregistered grades -- probably over the last 3-4 weeks, as that's about when I last checked the ungraded list.

The Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll came out last week. I didn't vote, as I wasn't invited (for the first time since when? 2002?). Relevant links:

They only listed the top 100 albums, and didn't include vote counts (just points). I scraped a copy of the ballot data but haven't yet done anything to clean up the data to make it more useful. I added the top-100 rank and a few dozen select voter ballots to my EOY Aggregate, but haven't done the one thing that would be most useful: make sure all of the records that got votes but didn't crack the top 100 get recognized in the EOY Aggregate. In recent years somewhere between 1400 and 2000 records got votes (from 400+ voters). This year should be pretty close to those numbers. My EOY Aggregate currently lists 3216 new records (plus 367 reissues/compilations/etc.). I'd guess that there are at least 100 records in the ballot fine print that I've missed. Whether it's worth pursuing this any further is hard to say.

The P&J winner this year was Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour, but my EOY Aggregate favors Janelle Monáe's Dirty Computer, by a pretty solid margin. Musgraves also won Uproxx's slapdash critics poll, although by a closer margin. I've had Monáe in the lead since the second week of counting, and for most of this time Musgraves was in 3rd, behind Mitski's Be the Cowboy. Musgraves did lead Metacritic's aggregate (98.5 to 97 points), but Monáe led at Album of the Year, with Mitski second and Musgraves a fairly distant third (364-353-295 points). Acclaimed Music Forums has had Monáe ahead from the start, with Musgraves down at 7th as of February 6 (including P&J), after Monáe, Low, Idles, Pusha T, Mitski, and Robyn). I'm not able to access the latter's spreadsheets, but they break lists down by US, UK, and other, and include a lot of the latter. I think it's fair to say that Musgraves benefits from US bias, not so much because American critics prefer her to Monáe as because non-Americans don't. Idles seems to be the band with the greatest UK bias (3 at AMF, 35 P&J, followed by Arctic Monkeys (11 at AMF, 43 P&J).

I keep putting off trying to write up some commentary on the EOY lists, and will have to punt again this week. I will note that Wayne Shorter's Emanon, which won top album in our Jazz Critics Poll, finally appeared on Napster last week. I played it and while I suspected that it was overrated, I was really surprised at how painful it was to listen to. The orchestra side was one of the worst I've heard, but the live quartet sides were little better (despite momentary exceptions).

By the way, I posted a new edition of Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez questions and answers. I was struck by this line:

you don't review an album properly by listening once and jotting down your thoughts but by immersing over time and then spending hours finding words to convey your response, all hours in which you can't listen to anything else.

Actually, I do the exact opposite of this. Most of the notes below are based on a single play of an album, often while I was distracted trying to write something about a completely different topic. Worse still, sometimes I didn't even manage to jot down my thoughts: I found myself at the end of an album with a proximate grade impression but no details and no self-analysis as to why I felt the way I did -- and most importantly, no desire to correct my lapse by listening to the record again. At this point I don't even feel like trying to justify the way I work.

On the other hand, I will note that it increasingly seems like I'm working under a cloud of doubts about my ability to express myself clearly -- even in matters of much greater import than which underground rapper might be worth your while. (There are several this week, and the odds that I got the pecking order right aren't especially good.) Maybe that's why I'm having so much trouble moving on from this EOY list nonsense?


New records rated this week:

  • Ace of Cups: Ace of Cups (2018, High Moon): [r]: B+(*)
  • Aceyalone & DJ Fatjack: 43rd & Excellence (2018, That Kind of Music): [r]: A-
  • Ralph Alessi: Imaginary Friends (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ehud Asherie Trio: Wild Man Blues (2018 [2019], Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Dem Atlas: Bad Actress (2018, Rhymesayers): [r]: B
  • August Greene: August Greene (2018, Fat Beats): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chuck D as Mistachuck: Celebration of Ignorance (2018, SpitSLAM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Double Dee & Steinski: Lesson 4: The Beat (2018, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Mats Eilertsen: And Then Comes the Night (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sue Foley: The Ice Queen (2018, Stony Plain): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nick Grinder: Farallon (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • G Herbo: Humble Beast (2017, Machine): [r]: B+(*)
  • G Herbo & Southside: Swervo (Machine/Epic/Cinematic/150 Dream Team/808 Mafia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Charlotte Hug & Lucas Niggli: Fulguratio: Live at Ad Libitum 2016 (2016 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Mick Jenkins: Pieces of a Man (2018, Cinematic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cody Jinks: Lifers (2018, Rounder): [r]: B+(*)
  • Darren Johnston/Tim Daisy: Crossing Belmont (2017, Relay): [bc]: B+(***)
  • K.A.A.N.: Subtle Meditation (2018, Redefinition): [bc]: A-
  • José Lencastre Nau Quartet: Fragments of Always (2016 [2017], FMR): [bc]: B+(***)
  • José Lencastre Nau Quartet: Eudaimonia (2018, FMR): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Marlowe: Marlowe (2018, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
  • Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues (2019, Jazz Village): [r]: A-
  • Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom: Glitter Wolf (2019, The Royal Potato Family): [r]: A-
  • Ulysses Owens Jr.: Songs of Freedom (2018 [2019], Resilience Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Phonte: No News Is Good News (2018, Foreign Exchange): [r]: B+(**)
  • Verneri Pohjola/Maciej Garbowski/Krzysztof Gradziuk: Gemstones (2017 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Javier Santiago: Phoenix (2016 [2018], Ropeadope): [r]: B
  • Shannon Shaw: Shannon in Nashville (2018, Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch): [r]: B+(***)
  • Wayne Shorter: Emanon (2015-16 [2018], Blue Note, 3CD): [r]: B-
  • Vestbo Trio: Gentlemen . . . (2019, Dog Hound): [bc]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Big Star: Live at Lafayette's Music Room (1973 [2018], Omnivore): [r]: B+(*)
  • A Certain Ratio: acr:set (1980-94 [2018], Mute): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Louvin Brothers: Love and Wealth: The Lost Recordings (1952-55 [2018], Modern Harmonic, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Make Mine Mondo! (1958-69 [2018], Ace): [r]: B
  • Neil Young: Songs for Judy (1976 [2018], Reprise): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Jeb Bishop & Tim Daisy: Old Shoulders (2012, Relay): [bc]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Mimi Fox: This Bird Still Flies (Origin): February 15
  • Marilyn Mazur: Marilyn Mazur's Shamania (RareNoise): advance, February 22
  • Liebman Rudolph & Drake: Chi (RareNoise): advance, February 22
  • Rich Pellegrin: Down (OA2): February 15
  • Scott Robinson: Tenormore (Arbors Jazz): April 5

Notes

A Certain Ratio: ACR:Set (1980-94 [2018], Mute): B+(*)

Make Mine Mondo! ([2018], Ace): B+(*)

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Nothing much on Korea this week, other than Trump announces second Kim summit will be in Hanoi, Vietnam, a few weeks out (Feb. 27-28). The Wichita Peace Center was pleased to host a couple of events last week when Professor Nan Kim from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, author of Memory, Reconciliation, and Reunions in South Korea: Crossing the Divide (2016), an activist in Women Cross DMZ (here on Twitter). I expect we'll be seeing a lot of speculation and spin on Korea over the next few weeks, especially from neocons so enamored with perpetual war -- but also from Democrats hoping to score cheap points against Trump. I've written a fair amount about Korea over the years. I won't try to recapitulate here, but here's a bit from a letter I wrote last year, with links to various key writings:

I wrote up some further comments on the Korea situation in the intro to my August 26, 2018 Weekend Roundup blog post.

I was born in October, 1950, the same week as the Chinese entry, a date which marked the maximal US advance in the peninsula. I wrote several pages about this in a memoir. I've written a fair amount about Korea over the years -- mostly when US presidents threatened to blow it up. For instance:

Many lesser references, including virtually every month since March 2017. I've also been known to make a pretty decent kimchi, and a couple dozen other Korean dishes.

On nuclear weapons, I wrote a fairly substantial post on Aug. 6, 2005, another on Aug. 21, 2015.

I've read Rhodes' four books on nuclear weapons, plus quite a bit more. I believe that Kurlansky's 2nd point is generally correct ["Nations that build military forces as deterrents will eventually use them"], but nuclear weapons are something of an exception: most politicians, even ones as ill-disposed toward peace as Kennedy and Krushchev, seem to have drawn a line there, so I tend not to worry as much as most of us about proliferation.

One thing I hadn't thought much about until Saturday was the economic problem of unifying Korea. I was aware of the German "model" -- and thought at the time that people were following a lot of bad ideas (e.g., totally shuttering the East German auto industry because their cars weren't good enough to sell in the West). But I didn't follow it much later -- I do know more about the economic failures in Russia, especially in the 1990s, when as David Satter put it, "[Russia's reformers] assumed that the initial accumulation of capital in a market economy is almost always criminal, and, as they were resolutely procapitalist, they found it difficult to be strongly anticrime. . . . The combination of social darwinism, economic determinism, and a tolerant attitude toward crime prepared the young reformers to carry out a frontal attack on the structures of the Soviet system without public support or a framework of law." (Quote in my 17/04 notebook, referring back to 07/09.)

Anyhow, I now think the utter impossibility of unifying the two Korean economies is an important point -- one of several that Americans don't seem to have a clue about.

I'll add one comment here. One thing I was struck by in Trump's State of the Union address was this:

On Friday, it was announced that we added another 304,000 jobs last month alone -- almost double what was expected. An economic miracle is taking place in the United States -- and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.

If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way!

My bold. Of course, the point everyone noticed was his plea that for the good of the country (i.e., Trump) Democrats must give up their efforts to investigate (e.g., Trump, for possible crimes or other embarrassments). Of course, he had no hope of getting his way there, even if his intent was truly threatening -- e.g., that if the Democrats investigated him, he might start a "wag the dog" war as a diversion, hoping the people would blame the Democrats. Still, I think the quote does show that when his personal financial interests aren't slanted otherwise, Trump is inclined to favor peace. The saber-rattling over Iran is clearly a case where the corrupt money (from Israel and the Saudis) is able to make Trump more belligerent. Venezuela is another case where Trump's corrupt influences may lead to war. But Korea is one case where the major influencers -- even if you discount Russia and China -- are pushing Trump toward war, so it offers a rare opportunity to claim success at achieving peace. Granted, the neocons and the defense industry don't like it, but they may be just as happy to pivot to higher budget, lower risk "threats" like Russia and China. That's one of several reason to be cautiously optimistic that Trump might be able to deliver a peaceful outcome. On the other hand, I think that Democrats need to be very cautious, lest Trump be able to make them out to be dangerous, war-thirsty provocateurs. I still believe that a major reason Trump beat Clinton in 2016 was that she came off as the more belligerent (e.g., her claims to superiority in "the commander-in-chief test").


Some scattered links this week:

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Daily Log

Tweeted this:

Someone should write an opinion piece arguing that Democrats shouldn't quit at the first hint of scandal, or demand that other Democrats quit. Be aware, acknowledge mistakes, learn, make amends, but stick with it and continue to serve.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31062 [30033] rated (+29), 253 [251] unrated (+2).

Rated count down from 40+ in recent weeks, mostly because I finally took the time to plow through Anthony Braxton's 11-CD Sextet (Parker) 1993 (on Bandcamp). Only gave it one pass (spread over three days), but loved nearly every minute of it. I pulled the original 1995 2-CD release out, Charlie Parker Project 1993, thinking it might be time to bump it up from A-, and played the live disc in the car today, but couldn't hear enough to make much difference. There is more super-long Braxton on his Bandcamp, if I ever find time to dig into it.

January 2019 Streamnotes appeared last week, with 201 record reviews. That is up from 138 in December, 186 in August (the most of any 2018 month). I looked back through 2013 and didn't find a month/column with more records (185 in November 2013 was the highest 2013-17 total). As I noted back on August 30, 2018, my single column record was 206 records on November 8, 2009, but that was before I settled on monthly posts, so covered 41 days.

I've thought a bit about going back to posting weekly, which would basically mean 20-40 records per post. I could still collect them in monthly files for archival purposes. Doing it weekly would be timelier, and involve more easily digested chunks. It's also been suggested that I should hold back reviews until release dates. Readers noted that of the 8 2019 A/A- releases I touted in January, only 3 had actually been released when my column came out. No commitment yet, but I'll think about that.

I decided that for album tracking purposes, 2018 ended on January 31, 2019 -- the date of my frozen album list. I'll keep adding records to the working album list until January 31, 2020 (a month later than my usual deadline, as I noticed this year that I was finding out about late 2017 releases only when I saw 2018 EOY lists). These are marked in a distinct color, which helps me keep track of some stats. I'm still adding records to the 2018 Jazz and Non-Jazz best-of lists, and will probably do that well into next fall. I'm also still adding to the Music Tracking 2018 file, but the rate has slowed down as I've largely stopped adding to the 2018 EOY Aggregate (and its reissues/old music edition). The Music Tracking file is the easiest way I have of counting how many 2018 releases I've heard/graded: 1091. This also shows that the jazz share was 735 (67.3%). Some other genre totals: hip-hop (88), electronica (38), country (33), world (32), metal (3). Some other genres have switches, but I don't have data for them to use.

I figured out a solution to the database update character set problem I mentioned last week. Importing an ISO-8859-1 mysqldump file using PhpMyAdmin somehow corrupts the file, even with explicit character set flags. But the command line interface read the file correctly, and once stored in the database the PHP code was able to handle it correctly. I was also able to fix a problem with the RSS feed, where the HTTP header and XML header were reporting different character sets. I'm still confused by Firefox, where the "Page Info" dialog still claims "text encoding: windows-1252." I hate it when diagnostic tools lie to you -- in part because you have to prove that no other explanation is possible, and that's a lot more work than finding a workaround -- but that seems to be the case here.

I did finally manage to port the RSS code I wrote for Christgau back to my own website. Same basic problem in that I have to manually edit the description file. I've never used RSS, and was surprised to find that built-in support for it was recently dropped by Firefox. In principle, it should be very useful for me -- especially when compiling Weekend Roundup posts. If you can recommend a reader, let me know. Also let me know if you're having any problems with these RSS feeds. I still intend to port the Q&A system. Shouldn't be much work, especially now that I seem to be working my way past some of the technical problems I've been plagued with recently. Next priority issue for me is to be able to reboot my main machine cleanly. At the moment, I have a batch of software updates waiting reboot. Would be good to post this update before I risk that.


New records rated this week:

  • Armand Hammer: Paraffin (2018, Backwoodz Studioz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bhad Bhabie: 15 (2018, BHAD Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jon Cleary: Dyna-Mite (2018, FHQ): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elvis Costello & the Imposters: Look Now (2018, Concord): [r]: B-
  • Marilyn Crispell/Tanya Kalmanovitch/Richard Teitelbaum: Dream Libretto (2018, Leo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Stephan Crump's Rosetta Trio: Outliers (2017 [2019], Papillon): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Dessa: Chime (2018, Doomtree): [r]: A-
  • Yelena Eckemoff/Manu Katché: Colors (2017 [2019], L&H Production): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Scott Hamilton Trio: Live at Pyatt Hall (2017 [2018], Cellar Live): [r]: B+(**)
  • Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions (2014-15 [2019], Flat Langston's Arkeyes): [cd]: A
  • Julia Holter: Aviary (2018, Domino): [r]: B
  • Sarathy Korwar and Upaj Collective: My East Is Your West (2018, Gearbox): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joe Lovano: Trio Tapestry (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ahmoudou Madassane: Zerzura (2018, Sahel Sounds): [r]: B+(**)
  • Metric: Art of Doubt (2018, Metric/BMG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Van Morrison: The Prophet Speaks (2018, Exile): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jim Piela: Out of Orbit (2018 [2019], Orenda): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Popcaan: Forever (2018, Mixpak): [r]: B+(**)
  • Protoje: A Matter of Time (2018, Easy Star): [r]: B+(*)
  • Zhenya Strigalev: Blues for Maggie (2017 [2018], Whirlwind): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Tony Tixier: Life of Sensitive Creatures (2016 [2017], Whirlwind): [bc]: B+(**)
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: Global Reach (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: C
  • Nate Wooley & Torben Snekkestad: Of Echoing Bronze (2015 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B

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

  • Anthony Braxton: Sextet (Parker) 1993 (1993 [2018], New Braxton House, 11CD): [bc]: A-
  • Asnake Gebreyes: Ahadu (1988 [2018], Buda Musique): [r]: B+(***)
  • Oneness of Juju: African Rhythms (1975 [2018], Strut): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Paranoid Style: Rock & Roll Just Can't Recall + 3 (2015 [2018], Bar/None, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cecil Taylor: Conversations With Tony Oxley (2008 [2018], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ehud Asherie Trio: Wild Man Blues (Capri): March 15
  • Nick Grinder: Farallon (self-released)
  • Jim Piela: Out of Orbit (Orenda)
  • Anna Webber: Clockwise (Pi): February 22

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Weekend Roundup

We watched Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 11/9 last night. Here's a review by Owen Gleiberman, which hits most of the key points. Seems to me he should have cut it into two separate movies: one on Trump (with more coverage of what he did after taking office), the other on the Flint water crisis (rather than just using his home town as his pet way of contextualizing world events). The Flint story winds up turning Obama into the goat (if not the villain, still Rick Snyder), which would have been more effective without Trump all over the map.

The Trump parts are more interesting. Moore treats Trump's presidential run as a publicity stunt -- as he's done before, but this time he went through with it only because NBC fired him for racist comments, only to find his fan's adoration in his early rallies. His decimation of his Republican opponents, then of Hillary Clinton, is a piece of story that Moore could open some eyes on, in large part because Moore doesn't flinch when Trump's absurdity and cruelty come simultaneously into focus. Indeed, his whole sequence of Trump and Ivanka is extremely creepy. However, after the election, instead of delving into the profound corruption and malign neglect that has been so evident, he settles for a long lament on the end of democracy and the rise of fascism. He can be creepy there, too, as with the Trump voiceover of stock Hitler/Third Reich newsreel footage, with side glances at Putin and Duterte and commentary by Timothy Snyder. I don't see that as necessarily unfair -- in fact, when I first noticed the Nazi rallies I expected a segue to Fred Trump in the 1930s at Madison Square Garden -- but it's far from the most important or enlightening thing a filmmaker like Moore could come up with.


One story I don't delve into below is the flap over Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, something involving racist photos in his college yearbook, which has elicited howls of indignation and calls for his resignation from many Democrats and leftists -- Elizabeth Warren and Barbara Ehrenreich are two names that popped up in my twitter feed (full disclosure: I follow Ehrenreich but not Warren or any other office-holders). I suppose if I knew more details I might think differently, but my first reaction is that I find these calls deeply troubling, both on practical grounds and because they display an arrogant self-righteousness I find unbecoming. Sooner or later, Democrats need to learn to forgive themselves -- especially those who show some capacity to learn from their mistakes. I understand that Northam is no great shakes as a Democrat, but I'd rather see him become a better one (if that's possible).

On the other hand, I don't want to turn this into a diatribe against "purism" -- if real leftists (like Ehrenreich) insist on holding folks to higher standards, God bless them.


Some scattered links this week:


Jan 2019 Mar 2019