Latest Notebook Entries


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Quite a bit below. After a very depressing/blasé week, I got an early start on Friday, and started feeling better -- not for the nation or the world, but pleased to be occupied with some straightforward, tangible work. One thing I can enjoy some optimism about is the Democratic presidential campaign. I expected it to be swallowed whole with the sort of vacant, pious clichés that Obama and the Clintons have been campaigning on for decades now, but what we're actually seeing is a lot of serious concern for policy. The clear leader in that regard is Elizabeth Warren, and of course Bernie Sanders has a complete matching set with if anything a little more courage and conviction, but I've run across distinct and refreshing ideas from another half-dozen candidates. I haven't noticed Biden rising to that challenge yet. He remains the main beneficiary of as fairly widespread faction that would be quite satisfied with their lives if only the Republican threat would subside in favor of the quiet competency Obama brought to government. Personally, I wouldn't mind that either, but I recognize that has a lot to do with my age. Young people inhabit a very different world, one with less opportunity and much graver risks, so platitudes from America's liberal past don't do them much good, or offer much hope. They face real and growing problems, and not just from Republicans (although those are perhaps the hoariest). Talking about policy actually offers them some prospect that faith alone can never fill. And sooner or later, even Biden's going to have to talk about policy, because that's where the campaign is heading.

This could hardly offer a starker contrast to the 2016 Republican presidential primary, where there was virtually no difference regarding policy -- just minor tweaks to each candidate's plan to steer more of the nation's wealth to the already rich, along with a slight range of hues on how hawkish one can be on the forever wars and how racist one can be when dealing with immigrants and the underclass. The real price of entry wasn't ideas or commitment. It was just the necessity to line up one or more billionaire sponsors -- turf that credibly favored Trump as his billionaire/candidate were one. The fact that Cruz and Kasich folded when they still had primaries they could plausibly have won is all the proof you need that the financiers pulled the strings, and as soon as they understood that Trump would win the nomination, they understood that he was as good for their purposes as anyone else, so they got on board.

Democrats may have a harder time finding unity in 2020, because their candidates are actually divided on issues that matter. On the other hand, they are learning to discuss those issues rationally, especially the candidates who are pushing the Overton Window left. Even if they wind up nominating some kind of centrist, that person is going to be more open to solutions from the left, and that's a good thing because that's where the real solutions are. Franklin Roosevelt wasn't any kind of leftist when he was elected in 1932, and his famous 100 days were all over the map, but he was open to trying things, and quickly found out that left solutions worked better than conservative ones. We're not quite as mired in crisis as America was in 1932, but it's pretty clear that catastrophe is coming if Trump and the Republicans stay in power. The option for 2020 is whether to face our problems calmly and rationally with deliberate policy choices or to continue to thrash reflexively and chaotically. There's no need to imagine how bad the latter may be, because Trump's illustrating it perfectly day by day.

Some scattered links this week:

Friday, June 14, 2019

Daily Log

My tweet on Trump's boast to the president of Poland that "much of the media unfortunately in this country is corrupt":

So Trump tells president of Poland that the media in this country is corrupt. Would have been smarter to add "that's why we don't have to censor them." Or that he's built his career by exploiting that corruption. But he's so vain he'd like to censor anyway.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31614 [31587] rated (+27), 251 [248] unrated (+3).

Ran the numbers late Sunday evening, but added Monday's unpacking, so the numbers have a slight skew from reality. I'm especially pleased to get a copy of Orakel, the Swedish label Moserobie. It's currently ranked number two on Chris Monsen's Favorites list, and follows a Moserobie release that topped my own 2018 list. It's gotten very expensive to mail CDs from Europe to the US recently, and several of the last few labels I've been getting service from seem to have dropped out (the ones I've felt the worst about are Intakt and NoBusiness, plus Clean Feed a couple years back). With labels like that, I try to find streaming sources, but it's not always easy.

Joe Yanosik wrote to tell me he's working up a Franco discography, and asked whether I've considered doing a deep dive, especially into his numerous Sonodisc recordings. I had, in fact, picked up a couple of them in my shopping days, and have generally enjoyed everything I picked up. Napster has a few of them I hadn't heard, so before long I started working my way through them -- limiting myself to ones I could figure out dates for. The grades below split 3 A-, 4 B+(***), but there wasn't all that much to separate best from worst.

Notable music links this week:

  • Hank Shteamer: Anthony Braxton's Big Ideas.

  • New York City Jazz Record: I've never managed to see this before, although it seems like most of the Jazz Critics Poll voters write for it. I was first struck by Kurt Gottschalk's label spotlight on Fundacja Sluchaj -- a Polish label I follow fairly closely because they put whole records up on Bandcamp.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Akiko Hamilton Dechter: Equal Time (2018 [2019], Capri): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Angles 9: Beyond Us (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Big Thief: U.F.O.F. (2019, 4AD): [r]: A-
  • Alan Broadbent Trio: New York Notes (2019, Savant): [r]: A-
  • Avishai Cohen: Arvoles (2019, Razdaz/Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Confluence (2018 [2019], Libra): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Injury Reserve: Injury Reserve (2019, Senaca Village): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kedr Livanskiy: Your Need (2019, 2MR): [r]: B
  • Rosie Lowe: Yu (2019, Wolf Tone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kelsey Lu: Blood (2019, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Martha: Love Keeps Kicking (2019, Dirtnap): [r]: B+(**)
  • Orville Peck: Pony (2019, Sub Pop): [r]: B-
  • Red Kite: Red Kite (2019, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Chanda Rule: Sapphire Dreams (2016 [2019], PAO): [cd]: B
  • The Jamie Saft Quartet: Hidden Corners (2019, RareNoise): [r]: [cdr]: B+(**)
  • The Twilight Sad: It Won/t Be Like This All the Time (2019, Rock Action): [r]: B
  • Federico Ughi: Transoceanico (2016 [2019], 577): [r]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Paul Bley/Gary Peacock/Paul Motian: When Will the Blues Leave (1999 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alex Chilton: Songs From Robin Hood Lane (1991-94 [2019], Bar/None): [r]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Franco Et TP OK Jazz: 1966/1968 (1966-68 [1992], Sonodisc): [r]: B+(***)
  • Franco Et TP OK Jazz: 1967/1968 (1967-68 [1992], Sonodisc): [r]: A-
  • Franco & Le TP OK Jazz: 1971/1972: Likambo Ya Ngana (1971-72 [1994], Sonodisc): [r]: A-
  • Franco, Vicky Et L'OK Jazz: Marceline Oh! Oh! (1972 [1998], Sonodisc): [r]: B+(***)
  • Franco Et Le T.P. OK Jazz: 79/80/81 Live: Kinshasa Makambo (1979-81 [1994], Sonodisc): [r]: B+(***)
  • Franco Et Le TP OK Jazz: Makambo Ezali Bourreau: 1982/1984/1985 (1982-85 [1994], Sonodisc): [r]: B+(***)
  • Franco/Simaro/Jolie Detta Et Le T.P. O.K. Jazz: 1986-1987-1988 (1986-88 [1994], Sonodisc): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sharman Duran: Questioning Reality (self-released)
  • Rosana Eckert: Sailing Home (OA2): June 21
  • Per 'Texas' Johansson/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Konrad Agnas: Orakel (Moserobie)
  • La La Lars: La La Lars II (Headspin)
  • Xavier Lecouturier: Carrier (Origin): June 21
  • Greta Matassa: Portrait (Origin): June 21
  • Moutin Factory Quintet: Mythical River (Laborie Jazz)
  • Matt Olson: 789 Miles (OA2): June 21
  • Marlene Rosenberg: MLK Convergence (Origin): June 21
  • Chanda Rule: Sapphire Dreams (PAO)
  • Erik Skov: Liminality (OA2): June 21
  • Ståhls Trio: Källtorp Sessions: Volume One (Moserobie)

Friday, June 07, 2019

Weekend Roundup

No introduction. Cut my finger while cooking, and can't type worth a damn. Getting late, too.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Riley Beggin:

  • Peter Beinart: 13 Democrats recorded messages about Israel. Only one spoke with courage. Bernie Sanders.

  • Ronald Brownstein: Democrats learned the wrong lesson from Clinton's impeachment: "It didn't actually cost the GOP all that much."

  • Alexia Fernández Campbell: The May jobs report is a big disappointment for workers and bad news for Trump.

  • Juliet Eilperin/Josh Dawsey/Brady Dennis: White House blocked intelligence agency's written testimony calling climate change 'possibly catastrophic'.

  • Masha Gessen:

    • The persistent ghost of Ayn Rand, the forebear of zombie neoliberalism. Review of Lisa Duggan's Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed. After mentioning various political figures, like Paul Ryan and Mike Pompeo, infatuated with Rand, Gessen finishes:

      Their version of Randism is stripped of all the elements that might account for my inability to throw out those books: the pretense of intellectualism, the militant atheism, and the explicit advocacy of sexual freedom. From all that Rand offered, these men have taken only the worst: the cruelty. They are not even optimistic. They are just plain mean.

    • What HBO's "Chernobyl" got right, and what it got terribly wrong: We watched all five episodes this week, and I thought they did a remarkable job of explaining the causes and consequences of one of the devastating man-made disasters of our time. Gessen compliments the series whenever it sheds a harsh light on the Soviet bureaucracy, then attacks it for not being harsh enough. Her critique is most effective regarding Ulyana Khomyuk (Emily Watson), a single character invented to represent the hundreds of scientists assigned to figure out what went wrong, what more could go wrong, and how best to deal with all that. Gessen faults Khomyuk as a stock Hollywood hero, but what bothers me more is the reduction of a large group effort, with all the complex interaction of major scientific endeavors, to small acts of individual heroism. I've made the same complaint about the series Manhattan, which reduced nearly all of the high-level technical decision to just two characters -- both American, losing any recognition that most of the major scientists working on the project were Europeans (who, aside from some Brits and a celebrity visit by Niels Bohr, were totally written out of the story). The other conspicuous omission/error I found was when the lead scientist attributed the critical "design flaw" and the lack of a containment chamber to the Soviets' tendency to do things on the cheap. As I understand it, the main consideration for the RBMK reactor design was its use for producing bomb fuel as well as electricity, which required frequent access to extract plutonium from the core. Still, I think the writer here, Craig Mazin, makes a good case for telling the story this way. See: Emily Todd VanDerWerff: HBO's Chernobyl is a terrific miniseries. Its writer hopes you don't think it's the whole truth. I haven't yet followed the link to Mazin's podcasts, which reportedly go into more detail about what's true and what's been fictionalized in the series. VanDerWerff also wrote: Chernobyl's stellar finale makes a case for the show as science fiction. Also: Peter Maass: What the horror of "Chernobyl" reveals about the deceit of the Trump era.

  • John Hudson/Loveday Morris: Pompeo delivers unfiltered view of Trump's Middle East peace plan in off-the-record meeting: What he told "a closed-door meeting with Jewish leaders."

  • Murtaza Hussain: An Iranian activist wrote dozens of articles for right-wing outlets. But is he a real person? "Heshamat Alavi is a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK. This is not and has never been a real person."

  • Sean Illing: Why conservatives are winning the internet: Interview with Jen Schradie, author of The Revolution That Wasn't: How Digital Activism Favors Conservatives. "Ultimately, it's not about the tool; it's about the inequalities in our society that give certain people advantages over others."

  • Quinta Jurecic: 4 disturbing details you may have missed in the Mueller report: "and none of them are favorable to the president."

  • Fred Kaplan: How Trump could restart the nuclear arms race. And how this dovetails with Putin's interests in the same: Reese Erlich: Nuclear disarmament: the view from Moscow.

  • Rashid Khalidi: Manifest destinies: "The tangled history of American and Israeli exceptionalism." Review of Amy Kaplan's book, Our American Israel: The Story of an Entangled Alliance.

  • Jen Kirby: Trump tightens Cuba travel rules: "The US bans cruises and restricts certain travel in a move meant to pressure Cuba. . . . All of these policy moves reflect the administration's Cold War-esque approach to Latin America that has emerged since Bolton arrived as National Security Advisor."

  • Paul Krugman:

  • Farhad Manjoo: I want to live in Elizabeth Warren's America: "The Massachusetts senator is proposing something radical: a country in which adults discuss serious ideas seriously."

    I'm impressed instead by something more simple and elemental: Warren actually has ideas. She has grand, detailed and daring ideas, and through these ideas she is single-handedly elevating the already endless slog of the 2020 presidential campaign into something weightier and more interesting than what it might otherwise have been: a frivolous contest about who hates Donald Trump most.

  • Michael E Mann: Trump is giving Americans dirty water, dirty air, and a very dirty climate: Alternate title by Paul Woodward -- Newsweek's is "Trump lied to Prince Charles's face -- and to the world."

    To say that Donald Trump's jaw-dropping display of environmental ignorance while in the United Kingdom is an embarrassment to all Americans would be an understatement. But the worst part of his ramblings about how we have "among the cleanest climates there are based on all statistics" isn't that it sounds like the ramblings of a Fox News addict. It's that his administration is doing everything it can to work towards the opposite: dirty water, dirty air, and, well, a very dirty climate.

    Found a link there to another article which people who regard Trump as Putin's stooge might pick up and run with: Hannah Osborne: Climate change could make Russia's frozen Siberia far more habitable by the 2080s.

  • Dylan Matthews/Byrd Pinkerton: The incredible influence of the Federalist Society, explained.

  • Rani Molla:

  • Samuel Moyn: The nudgeocrat: "Navigating freedom with Cass Sunstein." Review of Sunstein's recent short book, On Freedom, although he's been rehashing those same ideas for a long time now, most notoriously in Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (co-authored by Richard H. Thaler). He pushes "libertarian paternalism," where technocratic elites rig default choices to help guide the minions to better choices without making them feel like they're being run.

  • Ella Nilsen:

  • Anna North: Joe Biden's evolution on abortion, explained.

  • John Quiggin: America needs to reexamine its wartime relationships: "The lessons of the 1920s have been painfully relearned." Evidently not the author's title, as the main thrust of the article is that Keynes was right about the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and is still right today. Quiggin also pointed me to this report: Advertising as a major source of human dissatisfaction: Cross-national evidence on one million Europeans.

  • Nathan J Robinson: The best they've got: "Examining the National Review's 'Against Socialism' issue" -- an article-by-article answer, which mostly suggests that the writers are blithering idiots, with most authors understanding nothing more than that socialism is bad, bad, bad.

  • Aaron Rupar:

  • Sigal Samuel: Forget GDP -- New Zealand is prioritizing gross national well-being.

  • Dylan Scott:

    • Why Joe Biden is holding on to such a strong lead in the 2020 primary polls: "Biden has one big advantage in the 2020 Democratic primary polls: older voters." Some numbers: with voters over age 45, Biden leads sanders 45-10%; under 45, Sanders leads Biden 26-19%. Older dividing lines increase the break for Biden. I'd guess that the world looks very different as you move away from the 45 dividing line: older voters have their lives relatively set and secure, as long as moderate Democrats can protect Social Security/Medicare against further Republican depredation; on the other hand, younger voters have bleaker job prospects, lots of debt (their children's prospects looking even worse), and longer range fears over the environment and war. They see Biden as representative of the generation of mainstream Democrats whose accommodation to business and the Republicans have let their prospects decline.

    • Trump is really unpopular in the most important 2020 battleground states: "Trump is deep underwater in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other key 2020 states.

  • Tim Starks/Laurens Cerulus/Mark Scott: Russia's manipulation of Twitter was far vaster than believed. Of course, not just Russia funds trolls. See: Jason Rezaian: The State Department has been funding trolls. I'm one of their targets.

  • Joseph Stiglitz: The climate crisis is our third world war. It needs a bold response. I get his point, but when he brings up this particular analogy he wanders into all sorts of conceptual minefields. War and climate change both cause vast devastation, but the agencies are different, and so are most of the effects. Even more specious is the notion that we need a war to work up the courage and will to tackle difficult problems -- as phony wars on poverty and drugs and so forth have repeatedly shown. Moreover, you can never measure the true cost of wars in dollars -- as Stiglitz tried to do in The Three Trillion Dollar War: The Truth Cost of the Iraq Conflict (2008, so by now probably a couple trillion short).

    When the US was attacked during the second world war no one asked, "Can we afford to fight the war?" It was an existential matter. We could not afford not to fight it. The same goes for the climate crisis. Here, we are already experiencing the direct costs of ignoring the issue -- in recent years the country has lost almost 2% of GDP in weather-related disasters, which include floods, hurricanes, and forest fires. The cost to our health from climate-related diseases is just being tabulated, but it, too, will run into the tens of billions of dollars -- not to mention the as-yet-uncounted number of lives lost. We will pay for climate breakdown one way or another, so it makes sense to spend money now to reduce emissions rather than wait until later to pay a lot more for the consequences -- not just from weather but also from rising sea levels. It's a cliche, but it's true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    The war on the climate emergency, if correctly waged, would actually be good for the economy -- just as the second world war set the stage for America's golden economic era, with the fastest rate of growth in its history amidst shared prosperity. The Green New Deal would stimulate demand, ensuring that all available resources were used; and the transition to the green economy would likely usher in a new boom.

    Lots of other analogies bother me here. I can't imagine that any amount of climate change will end human habitation or civilization, and even if it did the earth will carry on, oblivious to evolution of its surface chemistry. The great risk from climate change is that it will cause destabilization and disruption, and that those things will impose pain and loss and, most likely, greater strife. It may be hard to convince people that such threats matter, but reasonable people recognize that they do.

  • Matt Taibbi: Michael Wolff's 'Siege' is like his last book -- but worse.

  • Nick Utzig: Bowe Bergdahl's story lays bare the tragedy of our forever wars: review of American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Tragedy in Afghanistan, a book by Matt Farwell and Michael Ames.

  • Alex Ward:

    • Trump's D-Day speech was great. He was the wrong man to give it. If all I knew was the title, I'd guess that someone wrote him a fairly decent speech, but it felt off because Trump is incapable of delivering the emotions the speech intended to convey. Aside from his peculiar form of malicious humor, which he manages to deliver with unthinking grace, he may be the worst speaker I've ever seen among major political figures. Even when he's reading lines, he's so obviously out of character it's disconcerting to try to follow him. But Ward doesn't say any of that. He genuinely praises the speech, quoting sections which reveal nothing more than the sanctimonious pablum of high school orators. Then he denies that Trump is entitled to be valedictorian, because he dodged the draft to avoid Vietnam, and because he's said various impolitic things about NATO, America's anointed allies, and Robert Mueller -- reminding us that Mueller is a veteran as well as a patriot. Final line: "If Trump really wants to honor D-Day's heroes, he should live and work by their values from here on out." Sometimes it's hard to sort out who confuses Ward the most, but given their demographics (male, 93+ years old) those surviving "D-day heroes" probably voted overwhelmingly for Trump. They were no more than typical Americans at the time, and 75 years of cynical, self-serving militarism later their view of the world is unlikely to be less warped than that of anyone else today.

      Oh, by the way, isn't the celebration of D-Day anniversaries a bit chauvinistic (for America, of course, but also for France, which bequeathed us the term)? The turning point of WWII in Europe was the Battle of Stalingrad, where the Soviet Union, at enormous cost, halted and started to reverse the German advance. Even after D-Day the war was overwhelmingly fought in the East, where the suffering was immense. Not that D-Day was a picnic. For something realistic, see: David Chrisinger: The man who told America the truth about D-Day, a profile of famed journalist Ernie Pyle.

    • Trump escalates feud with London mayor by calling him a "stone cold loser": "Trump's spat with Sadiq Khan has lasted years."

  • Emily Wax-Thibodeaux: In Alabama -- where lawmakers banned abortion for rape victims -- rapists' parental rights are protected.

  • Lauren Wolfe: Human rights in the US are worse than you think: "From police shootings to voter suppression to arrests of asylum seekers, a new report finds US human rights are abysmal."

  • Paul Woodward: Trump's obfuscation on the climate crisis.

  • Matthew Yglesias:

    • Public support for left-wing policymaking has reached a 60-year high: "Just slightly higher than the previous high point of 1961." The study specifically looks at public attitudes to "big government," although that's a right-wing scare term. The more basic question is how many people think government should take a more active role in addressing general problems, and consequently look to progressive politicians for help. One thing I find interesting about this is that this shift in opinion hasn't been led by Democratic politicians advocating a larger role for government. Rather, it seems to be a groundswell, as more and more people realize that the Republican "small government" obsession has lost credibility. I'd also add that popular belief in liberal and progressive ideals, so dominant in the New Deal/Great Society era, never changed. Rather, people lost faith in the Democrats' ability to defend and extend those ideals, which gave Reagan and his ilk a chance to argue that their conservative ideas might do a better job of securing the American Dream. They succeeded to a remarkable degree, but only used their power to increase inequality and injustice. As their effects have become more manifest, their rationalizations have become more threadbare and disingenuous, to the point where fewer and fewer people believe anything they say. The last to realize this seem to be the mainstream media and centrist Democrats, but even they are losing their blinders. Eric Levitz also writes about this study: America's political mood is now the 'most liberal ever recorded'.

    • Why Trump's Mexico tariffs are producing a revolt when China tariffs didn't. Trump's China trade war is (mostly) pro-business, while Trump's Mexico trade war is about immigration. Opposing immigration may still be good politics for Trump, but restricting trade makes it bad for business, and that's the one thing Republicans are willing to break with Trump on.

      What makes this standoff interesting is that Trump is asking, in a small way, for a sacrifice the business wing of the GOP is never asked to make. . . . The way the deal is supposed to work is that cultural conservatives provide the votes, and they get their way on issues the business community doesn't care about (until cultural conservatives' views become an unpopular embarrassment the way opposition to same-sex marriages and military service is), but business isn't supposed to actually sacrifice its interests for the sake of cultural conservative causes. With the tariff gambit on Mexico, Trump is overturning that logic in a way that his other trade shenanigans haven't. And that's why congressional Republicans are resisting in an unusual way.

    • The Joe Biden climate plan plagiarism "scandal," explained: "A reminder of some bad history, but far and away the least important part of his climate plan." Reviews the "bad history" of plagiarism charges against Biden in 1987 for cribbing from a speech by a British politician, which led to his withdrawal from the 1988 presidential race. Neither case bothers me as plagiarism -- admittedly, not much does -- but the charges reinforce the notion that Biden isn't a very original thinker. But so does his climate plan. Indeed, his embrace of received opinion is the foundation of his campaign.

    • Judy Shelton's potential nomination to a Federal Reserve Board seat, explained.

    • Elizabeth Warren's latest big idea is "economic patriotism": "The plan is to marry industrial policy to environmentalism and transform the economy." Robert Reich applauds: Elizabeth Warren's economic nationalism vision shows there's a better way.

    • Jared Kushner's telling indifference on refugees.

    • Banning former members of Congress from lobbying won't fix the revolving door: "Congress needs more staff money and public financing, not tighter rules." Yglesias previously argued members of Congress themselves should be paid more, so he's extending that logic to staff members: maybe if they're paid more as public servants better people would seek these jobs, and be less likely to sell out to lobbyists later. I rather doubt this. On the other hand, while a lifetime ban strikes me as excessive, I can imagine some regulations helping. One could, for instance, limit pay by lobbying firms, which would have put a severe cramp into Billy Tauzin's move from the House to head up PHARMA just after Tauzin managed the passage of the Medicare D bill (which kept insurers from negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies). Still, it's hard to think of things that couldn't be worked around. The core problem is that we live in a very inequal society, which rewards (and therefore drives) everyone to maximize income, and rarely (if ever) enforces taboos (let alone laws) against graft. That may seem like too tall an order, but some little steps would help: much higher tax rates for high incomes, making lobbying expenses taxable, and most important of all, cutting off the main flow of corruption by public funding of campaigns.

  • Gary Younge: How bad can Brexit get? "Theresa May is out, but the crisis that made her premiership both possible and untenable has intensified."

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Daily Log

Scraped from Kathleen Geier's Facebook post:

If I am Donald Trump, the Democrat I most want to run against in 2020 is definitely Joe Biden.

Here are some of the reasons why:

  • I can tell working class voters of all races about Biden has fucked them over by supporting NAFTA and championing the slimiest practices of the credit card industry and other corporate predators. This should help me hold on to some of the support I got from white working class voters in the Midwest and it will depress voter turnout among the working class voters who normally vote Democrat.

  • If I once again get accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault, I can neutralize these charges by pointing to Hairsniffer Joe's history of touching women inappropriately, a behavior that continue into the present, as well as his treatment of Anita Hill.

  • I will be sure to have my people place targeted ads that remind African-American voters of Biden's crime bill and his history as a white backlash anti-busing candidate. Do I think this will win me their votes? No, but it will cause a lot of them to stay home.

  • When people raise concerns about my cognitive decline and my being too old to be president, I can point the finger at Biden, who at 76 is four years older than me, and whose affect and campaign is noticeably low-energy.

  • Best of all, even if I lose, Biden has made it clear that, unlike Warren or Sanders, he's not going to make any structural changes to the system that made me so powerful in the first place. Biden has pledged that things will go "back to normal," which means that white collar elites like me, who have committed fraud and abuse in the private sector and high crimes and misdemeanors in office, won't be held accountable for them. Not only do I and my peeps get off the hook, but Biden's approach will breed the kind of apathy and cynicism that discourages left-wing activism and empowers the right and the GOP.

No other Democrat is anywhere near as vulnerable on a whole range of issues as Joe Biden is. He is clearly the weakest top-tier candidate in the race and the one that Trump, and the rest of the Republican party, would give their collective right arm to run against.

I am praying that my fellow Democrats don't make their dream come true.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31587 [31558] rated (+29), 248 [251] unrated (-3).

So, 29 again. Ran the counter this afternoon, after I found a missed grade and added a "remembered LP" grade -- an LP I distinctly remember having but which didn't get picked up when I jotted down my first grade list (mid-1990s, I think). I may have cut it some slack -- main thing I remember was being disappointed by it.

Once again, surprised that I bagged that many -- after a very slow start, one that kept the Salamon Freequestra album in the changer for close to three days. Finished with Alfred Soto's top 20 list, checking out Mountain Goats, National, Tyler, and Weyes Blood, leaving me with only 5 A- records from his 20 (Control Top's Covert Contracts, Billie Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Robert Forster's Inferno, Lizzo's Cuz I Love You, and Nilüfer Yanya's Miss Universe). Only one Christgau pick in those five (Eilish), and only one more in Soto's other 15 (Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow, a low B+ for me).

Speaking of Eilish, Phil Freeman dissed her album in the course of making a Facebook rant:

I will never stop griping about "Best Albums of [Year]" lists that should be called "Best *Pop and Indie Rock* Albums of [Year]". Billie fucking Eilish's album (to pick but one example: sub in Tyler, the Creator if you're worried about sexism) is not better than the Art Ensemble of Chicago's, so own your ignorance or just fuck off, OK? And no, I'm not saying all jazz > all pop. I hear shitty jazz records every day. I'm just saying that if you're simply ignoring the possibility that a jazz album could even be one of the best records of the year, especially given what's been happening in the genre in the last 4-5 years, that's *fucked up*, and major publications are fucking up by doing it.

I commented, taking exception to his examples: Eilish is currently 12 on my Music Year 2019 list, behind 7 jazz albums (counting my top-rated Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions, which admittedly has vocals, although the other 6 don't) and 4 other non-jazz. Of course, Freeman isn't complaining about me ignoring jazz albums in my annual lists. And I'm not much bothered that who spends most of his non-jazz time listening to metal should have trouble appreciating a lo-fi girl singer-songwriter. Or even that he offers Tyler, a hip-hop artist who buries himself in soft off-kilter tones, as another option in hype. (I agree that he is overrated, but I also find Igor to be his most pleasing and interesting album yet.) Where I disagree is in positing that the Art Ensemble of Chicago survivors reunion album is this year's flagship jazz hope. I played it (both CDs) until I gave up all hope, then let if off easy with a B+(**), which is to say that I currently have at least 50 jazz records this year that I like better.

On the other hand, if I had to handicap the 2019 Jazz Critics Poll, I doubt I'd find more than a couple of my A- records in the top ten: James Brandon Lewis's An Unruly Manifesto seems most likely, then maybe Matthew Shipp's Signature, Moppa Elliott's Jazz Band/Rock Band/Dance Band, Quinssin Nachoff's Path of Totality, or David Berkman's Six of One -- hunches based as much on labels and publicists as on the records themselves. But none of those artists have fared well in past polls, which is a much stronger indicator. Some albums you're more likely to find on JCP ballots (my grades in brackets):

  • Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Pi, 2CD) [**]
  • Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Epistrophy (ECM) [*]
  • Vijay Iyer/Craig Taborn: The Transitory Poems (ECM) [**]
  • Julian Lage: Love Hurts (Mack Avenue) [***]
  • Joe Lovano: Trio Tapestry (ECM) [***]
  • Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (Okeh) [***]
  • Matt Mitchell: Phalanx Ambassadors (Pi) [**]
  • Joshua Redman Quartet: Come What May (Nonesuch) [***]
  • Wadada Leo Smith: Rosa Parks: Pure Love: An Oratorio of Seven Songs (TUM) [*]
  • David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith: Sun of Goldfinger (ECM) [***]

AEC looks pretty imposing on this list: it's big (last year was dominated by 2-CD releases and won by Wayne Shorter's 3-CD monstrosity), has historic cachet that reconciles the avant-garde with the tradition; it augments what's left of a legendary group augmented with lots of guest stars, and is on a label which always places records high in EOY polls (that same label is the reason Mitchell is on this list). None of the other records have that sort of cred, so maybe Freeman is right to pick it. My only complaint is that it isn't good enough. If I wanted to broaden the horizons of non-jazz critics, I'd start by recommending better records.

Christgau remarked recently that EOY list-building has more to do with brand identification than diligent sorting and ranking. I know that to be true of my own lists, where my brand is somone who listens to all kinds of things and doesn't give a fuck about what anyone else thinks. As the Dean, I figure Christgau is more focused on building a pantheon, but individual lists tend to be idiosyncratically personal (and his certainly is). Freeman's referring to corporate lists, which are carefully crafted to cater to a target audience. There's no place for jazz in most, not because their writers dislike jazz (although many do, or simply don't get the exposure -- hardly anyone hears much outside of their niche these days), but because their editors don't expect their readers to be interested in such things. So what you see is what you'd expect when people of limited knowledge try to write down to appeal/appease people who know even less.

Nonethless, as someone who has compiled literally thousands of EOY lists in recent years, I believe that there is actually a tiny trend toward more crossover jazz in predominantly indie/pop lists (although more so in UK than US). Last year the major breakthroughs were Kamasi Washington, Makaya McCraven, and Sons of Kemet (two A- records among those three, the other a high B+, so those picks were much more respectable as jazz than, say, Bad Bad Not Good from a few years back).

I could write volumes more on EOY lists (for data, see last year's EOY aggregate and Jazz Critics Poll). But my bottom line is learn what you can from the data, don't begrudge other people's pleasures, and don't rag on people for not liking what you like.

Back to my original thread about what I reviewed this week: beyond Soto's list, I looked at AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2019 and picked out a few records that seemed promising. Three sounded good enough to warrant multiple plays before I settled on B+(***): Fontaines D.C.'s Dogrel (1), Slowthai's Nothing Great About Britain (22), and Craig Finn's I Need a New War. Two previously graded A- in top 25: Dave's Psychodrama (2), and Little Simz's Grey Area (6), and a bunch more I haven't heard. By the way, the Lee Perry dive started with Christgau's review of Rainford. I couldn't find it on Napster, so went to Bandcamp. Obviously, a lot more Perry I haven't heard. I've always recommended the 3-CD compilation, Arkology, but that only gets you 4 prime years (expect overlap with Super Ape). I also really like the recent (2014) Back at the Controls.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Melissa Aldana: Visions (2019, Motéma): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bruce Barth: Sunday (2017 [2018], Blau): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: The Seven Rays (2019, Savant): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Douglas/Uri Caine/Andrew Cyrille: Devotion (2018 [2019], Greenleaf Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ezra Collective: You Can't Steal My Joy (2019, Enter the Jungle): [r]: B
  • Craig Finn: I Need a New War (2019, Partisan): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fontaines D.C.: Dogrel (2019, Partisan): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: The Hope I Hold (2018 [2019], Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Maren Morris: Girl (2019, Columbia Nashville): [r]: B
  • The Mountain Goats: In League With Dragons (2019, Merge): [r]: B+(**)
  • The National: I Am Easy to Find (2019, 4AD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford (2019, On-U Sound): [r]: A-
  • Rotten Girlz: Punk You (2018 [2019], Sazas): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Samo Salamon & Freequestra: Free Sessions, Vol. 2: Freequestra (2016 [2019], Klopotec): [cd]: A-
  • Samo Salamon/Szilárd Mezei/Jaka Berger: Swirling Blind Unstilled (2018 [2019], Klopotec): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Slowthai: Nothing Great About Britain (2019, Method): [r]: B+(***)
  • Peter Stampfel and the Atomic Meta Pagans: The Ordovician Era (2019, Don Giovanni): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mavis Staples: We Get By (2019, Anti-): [r]: A-
  • Tyler, the Creator: Igor (2019, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Vampire Weekend: Father of the Bride (2019, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising (2019, Sub Pop): [r]: B-

Old music:

  • Jerry Bergonzi Trio: Lost in the Shuffle (1998, Double Time): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Spotlight on Standards (2016, Savant): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lee Perry: Africa's Blood (1971, Trojan): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lee Perry and the Upsetters: Some of the Best (1968-79 [1985], Heartbeat): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Upsetters: Super Ape (1976, Mango): [r]: A-
  • The Upsetters: Return of the Super Ape (1978, Upsetter): [r]: B+(**)

Added grades for remembered lps from way back when:

  • Lee "Scratch" Perry: The Return of Pipecock Jackxon (1980, Black Star Liner): B

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Akiko Hamilton Dechter: Equal Time (Capri): June 21
  • Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Confluence (Libra): July 29

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Weekend Roundup

No time for an intro, but let's credit Bernie Sanders for this tweet:

Soon we will send soldiers to Afghanistan who weren't even born yet on September 11, 2001.

We've spent $5 trillion dollars on wars since 9/11.

And now some of the same people that got us into Iraq are trying to start a war with Iran.

We must end our endless wars.

Some scattered links this week:

Daily Log

I started to include this link, because it fits into a discussion several friends have been having about creating a game that would make a case against nominating Joe Biden. I have mixed feelings about this, partially explained below. On the other hand, I didn't get around to presenting the other hand, so decided to drop it from the post.

  • Mehdi Hassan/Rebecca Traister: Joe Biden would be a disaster: Podcast with transcript. I don't agree that Biden would be a disaster, although I do think that nominating him would be a missed opportunity. As I've noted, I think that 2020 may be a pivotal, era-founding election. (There's no ironclad law at work here, but we can identify four eras, each founded by a legendary president, each ending with a notoriously bad president: Jefferson-Buchanan, Lincoln-Hoover, Roosevelt-Carter, and Reagan-Trump; one might have included Washington-Adams, but 12 years doesn't make for much of an era. The latest era is anomalous in several respects, especially in that it represents a turn away from the progressive expansion of democratic rights.) Biden's total experience and instincts are totally rooted in the compromises Democrats made to compete in the Reagan-Trump era. That doesn't mean that if elected in 2020 he would continue to practice the same submissive triangulation that marred the Clinton and Obama presidencies. The party base today is going to pull him to the left, because it's increasingly clear that the solutions to pressing problems are on the left, and because we now know that centering impulses weaken the party.

After the post, I noticed an open tab with a multi-part tweet by Jared Yates Sexton that someone had pointed my way. I rather hate these things, so I may not have linked to it if I had noticed it in time, but thought I might copy it here to see how much sense it makes:

I've written about this extensively in my new book The Man They Wanted Me To Be, but it's really important to get this out: Trump's behavior with Pelosi completely reflects the cycle of abuse that myself and other survivors have endured. 1/

It's a really unpleasant thing to endure and it brings up some very awful memories from my childhood, where I was systematically physically and emotionally abused by insecure and unwell men. Unfortunately, the president is an insecure and unwell man, the Abuser-in-Chief. 2/

The cycle is very simple. When an insecure man is threatened, he'll lash out. This can be verbally or physically. It can be a dressing down, a verbal tirade, the throwing of things, or a beating. Then, after it's over, he'll try and make good or question the abusee's reality. 3/

Trump calling Pelosi "crazy" yesterday was really, really triggering. I've seen, time and again, abusive men calling the women they abuse crazy, calling into question what they endured, what I watched happen. It's almost as bad as the actual abuse because it fractures reality. 4/

Trump having his staff corroborate his version of events is something that happens all the time. I've been made to corroborate events I knew to be false simply because I was a frightened and intimidated child. It was . . . jarring to watch it happen on the national stage 5/

How this happens is pretty complicated and a lot to process. It begins with childhood, where men are systematically abused themselves in an effort to "toughen them up." By telling boys they can't have emotions they're actually being emotionally abused in the process. 6/

The message that's being sent though is that anyone who has emotions, in this case women, are irrational. That means that men own rationality and reality and that anytime a woman questions your reality she's being "crazy" or irrational, which is what happened with Pelosi. 7/

As I chronicle in THE MAN THEY WANTED ME TO BE, traditional masculinity is a lie. Nobody can repress their emotions. But they can pretend and pretend until eventually men develop what's called alexithymia, which is a terrible emotional condition where they lose ability. 8/

With alexithymia men lose the ability to understand their own emotions, they lose the ability to understand other's emotions, which leads to them being "crazy" or "irrational." They often lose the frame for their own emotional outbursts and ability to understand their actions. 9/

Watching Donald Trump, it's not hard to imagine he suffers from alexithymia. Obviously he doesn't understand his own outbursts and has no frame for the things he says and does. When he's questioned he lashes out. In this case, maybe he believed he was calm, but he's lost. 10/

When men behave this way, those around them only have a few options. You either submit to their worldview or face vicious abuse. You see men around Trump who kowtow in fear constantly. That's part of this cycle. With Pelosi, unfortunately, Trump isn't going to stop. 11/

As part of socialization men are taught the only acceptable expressions are anger and violence. What we're seeing with Trump is all his range of emotions. Pelosi challenged him and so he lashed out. He questioned her sanity and has even promoted fake videos to prove his point 12/

To anyone who's been abused, Trump is the embodiment of this cycle. He brags incessantly while he's obviously pathetically insecure. Anyone who even dares question him is ostracized and attacked, belittled because he's afraid. He's really, really pathetic. 13/

It makes me sad to see the country resemble the abusive households of my youth. Every day we worry what mood the president will be in, whether it's a bad day or if we'll just be left alone. I've talked to other survivors and the memories are visceral, palpable. 14/

Yesterday, as I heard him line up staff to back up his twisted memories, I felt like I was four years old all over again, an angry and dangerous man lording over me and demanding loyalty or else promising violence. You don't shake that, and unfortunately that's where we are. 15/

The truth is, Trump is unwell. Mentally, yes, but emotionally it's undeniable. He's the embodiment of toxic masculinity and is so far gone there's no reaching him. This is an abusive relationship, an abusive situation we're living through, and he simply knows no other way 16/

We're going to keep seeing this cycle repeat itself until he's out of office and we're going to be living with the ghosts of it. Survivors of abuse carry their abuse with them the rest of their lives. I certainly do, and to get better you have to recognize the abuse as abuse. 17/

Listening to shows last night call it maneuvering just hid the true nature of this. It isn't politics, it's personal, one-on-one abuse, and if we don't recognize it we're not going to escape it or understand it. There are many, many layers to this and simplifying worsens it. 18/

A large reason why Trump enjoys the devotion he does is because the people supporting him are locked into unhealthy cycles of abuse. They've been victims too and they become locked in with his abuse. It happens all the time. And to get past it we must recognize it. 19/

In the meantime, as a survivor of abuse, I can tell you this: reach out to anyone you know who is a survivor. These are really, really trying times that reawaken the scars of abuse. Everyday the president perpetuates a new dose of abuse and it takes a powerful toll. 20/20

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Book Roundup

When I posted my latest Book Roundup on March 15 -- eleven months after my only 2018 compilation, after two in 2017, four in 2016, and five in 2015 -- I figured another one would be eminent. I got distracted, but here's a second batch of 40+ books, and I'm pretty certain that a third will be ready in a few weeks. These surveys are useful to me as a means of keeping track of what the world knows and is thinking about. I've been trying to track "the coming dark age" for some time now, but while lots of people seem to be getting dumber (or at least more certain of their ignorance), a lot of smart thinking is still being developed and preserved in books.

As I've started doing recently, I'm including various related books in bullet lists following a leading one. There's also a supplemental list at the end, of books worth noting but not (as far as I'm concerned) at much length.

Jill Abramson: Merchants of Truth: The Business and the Fight for Facts (2019, Simon & Schuster): Tries to update David Halberstam's The Powers That Be (1979) by profiling four major media corporation (The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and VICE) as they make business out of the public's appetite for news. That, of course, raises the question of how the selection and reporting of news is filtered and often distorted by each of their business and cultural models. That's an intrinsically interesting question, but not necessarily one that can be answered -- for one thing the author adds her own limited vantage point. I can't say anything about charges that sections of the book were plagiarized. Related:

  • Alan Rusbridger: Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now (2018, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Carol Anderson: One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy (2018, Bloomsbury USA): At some point in recent history, Republicans came to realize that it was easier to win by suppressing the vote among Democratic constituencies than it was to convince those voters of a political program which actually promises little more than to make the rich richer at the expense of everyone else. Of course, this isn't new: all republics have struggled over who counts and who doesn't, but the core idea of democracy -- each and every person is entitled to the same vote -- has been hard to argue with, until very recently. Even now, even among Republicans, the arguments tend to be disguised, and much of the mischief avoids the spotlight. Also wrote, with Tonya Bolden, We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide (2018, Bloomsbury). Previously wrote: White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (2016). Also on voting rights:

  • Allan J Lichtman: The Embattled Vote in America: From the Founding to the Present (2018, Harvard University Press).

Max Blumenthal: The Management of Savagery: How America's National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump (2019, Verso): For the most part, a basic primer on how the US fed and nurtured its eventual enemies in the Middle East, in a long series of events that ultimately show how arrogant and self-centered the architects of American policy have been. That general book has been written a half-dozen times already, with dozens of other tomes treating one aspect or another of the big picture. However, by dropping Trump into the title, he's adding another dimension: not just what American plots and wars have done to the Middle East, but what such persistent warmaking has done to the psyches of ignorant and oblivious Americans-- Trump being an example.

Steven Brill: Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America's Fifty-Year Fall -- and Those Fighting to Reverse It (2018, Knopf): Journalist, wrote a book on Obamacare called America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healtcare System (2015), looks for a bigger picture and finds it in "an erosion of responsibility and accountability, an epidemic of shortsightedness, an increasingly hollow economic and political center, and millions of Americans gripped by apathy and hopelessness." That sounds a bit like a backgrounder for Trump's "Make American Great Again" campaign slogan, but it appears that the culprit Brill identifies is Trump's own billionaire class.

Arthur C Brooks: Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt (2019, Broadside Books): Someone might be able to write a decent book on this theme, but I doubt that the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative propagandist who revels in his sense of moral superiority, is up to the task. Previous feel-good books include: Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (2006); Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America -- and How We Can Get More of It (2008); The Battle: How the Fight Between Big Government and Free Enterprise Will Shape America's Future (2010); The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise (2012), and The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America (2015). Turns out that it's easy to "love your enemies" once you've ground them under heel, which is the author's real mission. More recent efforts to make the conservatives seem like they think and care:

  • Noah Rothman: Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America (2019, Gateway).
  • Ben Shapiro: The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great (2019, Broadside Books).

Contrast these with the right's more pedestrian hackwork, designed to rile up hatred (and otherwise confuse you):

  • Dinesh D'Souza: The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left (2017, Regnery).
  • Jonah Goldberg: Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy (2018, Crown Forum).
  • Mary Katherine Ham/Guy Benson: End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun) (2015; paperback, 2017, Crown Forum).
  • Derek Hunter: Outrage, Inc.: How the Liberal Mob Ruined Science, Journalism, and Hollywood (2018, Broadside Books).
  • Mark R Levin: Rediscovering Americanism: And the Tyranny of Progressivism (2017, Threshold Editions).
  • Ben Shapiro: Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth (2004; paperback, 2010, Thomas Nelson).

Paul Buhle/Steve Max: Eugene V Debs: A Graphic Biography (paperback, 2019, Verso): Buhle was editor of Radical America, a major historian of American radical movements (co-editor of Encyclopedia of the American Let), and a long-time of the graphic book form, so the only thing surprising here is that it took so long to come together. Art by Noah Van Sciver, with additional help by Dave Nance. Actually, I've noted several of Buhle's graphic histories in the past. Here's a longer list (credits aren't always clear):

  • Paul Buhle/Nicole Schulman: Wobblies! A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World (paperback, 2005, Verso).
  • Paul Buhle: The Beats: A Graphic History (2009; paperback, 2010, Hill & Wang).
  • Paul Buhle/Sabrina Jones: FDR and the New Deal for Beginners (paperback, 2010, For Beginners).
  • Paul Buhle: Radical Jesus: A Graphic History of Faith (paperback, 2013, Herald Press).
  • Paul Buhle/Noah Van Sciver: Johnny Appleseed (2017, Fantagraphics).
  • Kate Evans: Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg (paperback, 2015, Verso): ed, Paul Buhle.
  • Harvey Pekar/Paul Buhle: Studs Terkel's Working: A Graphic Adaptation (paperback, 2009, New Press).
  • Harvey Pekar: Students for a Democratic Society (paperback, 2009, Hill & Wang): ed, Paul Buhle.
  • Harvey Pekar/Paul Buhle: Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land (2011, Harry N Abrams).
  • Spain Rodriguez: Che: A Graphic Biography (paperback, 2017, Verso): ed, Paul Buhle.
  • Sharon Rudahl: Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman (paperback, 2007, New Press): ed, Paul Buhle.
  • Gilbert Shelton/Paul Buhle: Radical America Komiks (paperback, 2019, PM Press): reprint of Radical America "underground comix" edition from 1969.
  • Nick Thorkelson/Paul Buhle/Andrew Lamas: Herbert Marcuse: Philosophy of Utopia: A Graphic Biography (paperback, 2019, City Lights).
  • Howard Zinn/Mike Konopacki/Paul Buhle: A People's History of American Empire: A Graphic Adaptation (paperback, 2008, Metropolitan Books).

Chapo Trap House: The Chapo Guide to Revolution: A Manifesto Against Logic, Facts, and Reason (2018, Atria Books): I went through a kneejerk period in the 1960s when I rebelled so hard against the liberal warmongers of the Democratic Party that I was willing to throw away all appeals to "logic, facts, and reason," and embrace its opposite (arts, irrationality, mysticism). I changed my tune when I found that one could arrive at right conclusions through reason, and I wound up more dedicated to rationality than ever before. So at first glance I took this book to be complete, reactionary bullshit. But it turns out this is meant to be funny, and it's aimed at young people today who feel the same incoherent rage and disgust over the powers that be as I felt back in the 1960s. The authors are comedians who run some kind of podcast. And while there are some lame jokes and outright bullshit here, their core claim harbors a kernel of truth: "Capitalism, and the politics it spawns, is not working for anyone under thirty who is not a sociopath." Once you understand that, you can look elsewhere for better-reasoned explanations and proposals, but that insight is a good place to start.

Sarah Churchwell: Behold, America: The Entangled History of "America First" and "the American Dream" (2018, Basic Books): Two iconic notions, offered as sweeping generalizations about America's role in the world, adopted by various political movements for varying ends depending on the time and place. The contemporary interest angle is that both played large roles in the 2016 election, perhaps even more so than in their long and storied past. On the other hand, they're basically bullshit, at once able to flatter and mislead their political targets, and there's something rather hollow about stretching a book around them.

Kimberly Clausing: Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital (2019, Harvard University Press): Theory tells us that free trade and unrestricted mobility of capital and labor increases wealth all around. The reality is something else, as global capital has exploited economic theory to effectively escape nation-state regulation, leading to ever more extreme inequality, stripping most people of most nations of their political standing. That has in turn produced a backlash, both on the reactionary right and on the left, which sees things like "free trade agreements" as little more than a power- and wealth-grab. Causing attempts to save theory from practice, by advancing political schemes to make open borders work for everyone.

Anna Clark: The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American Urban Tragedy (2018, Metropolitan Books): We routinely receive warnings about America's crumbling infrastructure, but usually assume those threats are things that could happen in the future, not things already happening today. But the water system in Flint, Michigan has already turned toxic, killing and irreparably harming people who merely happened to live in the wrong place.

Michael D'Antonio/Peter Eisner: The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence (2018, Thomas Dunne Books): Two key questions here: How bad is Pence? And how powerful is he? Trump had promised to give his vice president unprecedented day-to-day power -- the first evidence of that was that Pence had the leading role in staffing the administration, which is how Trump got surrounded by so many orthodox extreme conservatives. But beyond his immediate influence, I can't recall a moment of disharmony between Trump and Pence -- indeed, hard to think of anyone else in the administration one can say that about. Part of this is that Pence has been eager and willing to support Trump's Kulturkampf fetishes, no matter how loony (e.g., his stunt leaving a NFL game after players took the knee during the national anthem, or his ridiculous task of holding the official press conference announcing the Space Force). The import of this is how Pence has set an example for even the most hopelessly ideological Republicans to line up behind and join forces with Trump.

Jared Diamond: Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis (2019, Little Brown): An anthropologist who since his famous Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (1997) has used his license to practice macrohistory, taking a view that straddles vast stretches of time and space to wrap big questions up into tidy boxes. He picks on six countries for his turning points this time: Japan (forced opening by US in 1860s), Finland (attacked by Soviet Union in 1939 following their "non-aggression" pact with Nazi Germany), Germany and Austria (post-WWII), Indonesia and Chile (victims of US-backed coups in 1965 and 1973). He draws lessons for Americans today. I doubt he has much to say about karma.

William Egginton: The Splintering of the American Mind: Identity Politics, Inequality, and Community on Today's College Campuses (2018, Bloomsbury): "Egginton argues that our colleges and universities have become exclusive, expensive clubs for the cultural and economic elite instead of a national, publicly funded project for the betterment of the country. Only a return to the goals of community, and the egalitarian values underlying a liberal arts education, can head off the further fracturing of the body politic and the splintering of the American mind." Lots of gripes about higher education these days, many from the right. Hard for me to sort these book out, probably because my own stake in academia is so tenuous:

  • Greg Lukianoff/Jonathan Haidt: The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018, Penguin Books).
  • Heather MacDonald: The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermined Our Culture (2018, St Martin's Press).

David Graeber: Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (2018, Simon & Schuster): It's long been obvious -- I first picked up this insight from a book by Paul Sweezy written in the 1950s -- that we have a lot of jobs that don't really produce anything of value, that are effectively pointless and parasitical, what Graeber has finally called bullshit. He's an anthropologist and anarchist, the writer of a major tome Debt: The First 5,000 Years, and a book of his experience and theory of Occupy Wall Street, The Democracy Project:A History, a Crisis, a Movement.

Greg Grandin: The End of Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America (2019, Metropolitan Books): Author of a number of first-rate books on America's impact on Latin America -- e.g., Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism (2006) -- easily sees the links between two centuries of US aggression and the militarization of the US-Mexico border. Timely enough to include Trump's border wall fixation, though not the latest blow up in Venezuela.

Bradley W Hart: Hitler's American Friends: The Third Reich's Supporters in the United States (2018, Thomas Dunne Books): Some were well known, like Charles Coughlin and Charles Lindbergh, the Bund and the America First Committee. I wouldn't be surprised to hear names like Koch and Trump pop up, although neither appear in what I've read. Still, I'd guess that actual supporters were fewer in number than sympathizers and apologists, especially those with home-grown racist and/or anti-labor agendas. On the other hand I really doubt that every isolationist was anti-semitic. Before WWII, Americans had a long history of believing that we should stay away from foreign entanglements, and the war schemes they lead to.

Daniel Immerwahr: How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States (2019, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Beyond the 48 continental states, the US managed to pick up various far-flung lands, and has actually managed to keep more of them than any European rival: Alaska and Hawaii have become full-fledged states, Puerto Rico and various smaller islands are in limbo, the Philippines were let go but only losing them to Japan, the Panama Canal Zone was returned to Panama (which was itself a US creation), Cuba was never officially on the books but treated like a colony until its revolution. This surveys most of that list, stopping short of the coups and incursions and a globe-straddling archipelago of bases and even more pervasive property claims by private Americans and friendly investors.

Stephen Kinzer: The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire (2017; paperback, 2018, St Martin's Griffin): To be clear, Roosevelt was for and Twain was against in this particular political debate (c. 1898, what we've dubbed the Spanish-American War) over whether America should impose itself on others as an empire -- arguably not the first such debate, and most certainly not the last. Evan Thomas covered the pro-empire side (mostly) in The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire (2010); also Kinzer has previously written about the 1898 annexation of Hawaii in Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq (2006). Still, would be good to pay more attention to the anti-war/empire arguments.

Eric Klinenberg: Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life (2018, Crown): Sociologist, writes about the value of shared spaces -- examples given include libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks -- for building social bonds and a sense of common interests, as opposed to the fragmentation and isolation that has lately taken hold almost everywhere.

Kevin M Kruse/Julian E Zelizer: Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974 (2019, WW Norton): A broad history of what I've started calling the Reagan-to-Trump era, backing up a couple years (the falls of Nixon and Saigon, OPEC embargoes, desegregation riots in Boston) to get a running start. Jill Lepore says this details how "Americans abandoned a search for common ground in favor of a political culture of endless, vicious, and -- very often -- mindless division." Kruse previously wrote White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (2005), and One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (2015). Zelizer has written The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society (2015, Penguin Press), and a few more, including books on the presidencies of Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.

Milton Lodge/Charles S Taber: The Rationalizing Voter (paperback, 2013, Cambridge University Press): Argues that "political behavior is the result of innumerable unnoticed forces and conscious deliberation is often a rationalization of automatically triggered feelings and thoughts," testing five basic hypotheses: "hot cognition, automaticity, affect transfer, affect contagion, and motivated reasoning." Yglesias used this book to explain Kanye West's embrace of Trump.

Michael Mandelbaum: The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth (2019, Oxford University Press): Argues that "in the twenty-five years after 1989, the world enjoyed the deepest peace in history." Further asserts that this blissful state ended "because three major countries -- Vladimir Putin's Russia in Europe, Xi Jinping's China in East Asia, and the Shia clerics' Iran in the Middle East -- put an end to end to it With aggressive nationalist policies aimed at overturning the prevailing political arrangements in their respective regions." Pretty amazing that anyone can look at the last 25-30 years and fail to identify the one nation that has been almost constantly at war, attacking "enemies" in more than a dozen countries scattered all around the world. Also that the author overlooked a number of other wars that broke out during the period, including the period's most deadly wars (in and around Congo).

Bill McKibben: Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? (2019, Henry Holt): Wrote one of the early books on global warming, The End of Nature (1989). I read it during a mid-summer trip to Florida, where my initial skepticism was overcome by seeing and feeling how much heat could be absorbed into the atmosphere. Still, I hated his metaphor, and he has a knack for coming up with new irritating ways to say the same thing ever since. (Eaarth was the worst.) This is his latest, probably even more impassioned as he's made his career move from critic to activist. I'd probably find his 2013 memoir, Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist, more to my taste than this doomsday screed. But despite the hyperbole, he's been basically right all along. You have to respect that.

John J Mearsheimer: The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities (2018, Yale University Press): Foreign policy mandarin, subscribes to the realist wing like his sometime co-author Stephen M Walt, has developed a healthy skepticism about how American foreign policy is practiced. Problem here is likely to be his choice of "Liberal Dreams" as his evil strawman. Although political liberals, especially in the anti-communist 1950s, readily supported America's originally bipartisan, military-first foreign policy, this policy has never advanced "liberal dreams." For the last 30-40 years, "liberal hegemony" has never been more than a neocon ruse, an attempt to dress up old-fashioned imperial power projection with a patina of nice words. Meanwhile, Walt has his own new book:

  • Stephen M Walt: The Hell of Good Intentions: America's Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of US Primacy (2018, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Steve Pearlstein: Can American Capitalism Survive? Why Greed Is Not Good, Opportunity Is Not Equal, and Fairness Won't Make Us Poor (2018, St Martin's Press): Reminded me first of Robert Kuttner's 2018 book Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism (still unread on my shelf), but the questions are slightly different. Pearlstein seems to assume democracy will have the final say, and asks instead whether capitalism can be reformed in ways that will make it palatable to most people. Clearly, its current practices like "squeezing workers, cheating customers, avoiding taxes, and leaving communities in the lurch" tend to undermine public trust and confidence.

Nomi Prins: Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World (2018, Nation Books): Former bond trader, found her calling writing about the banking racket in the Bush years -- Other People's Money: The Corporate Mugging of America (2004), Jacked: How "Conservatives" Are Picking Your Pocket (Whether You Voted for Them or Not) (2006), It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses, and Backroom Deals From Washington to Wall Street (2009) -- looks at how "the open door between private and central banking has ensured endless opportunities for market manipulation and asset bubbles." I'm not a big fan of the titles per sé, but few people have written more lucidly about how theirs racket works.

John Quiggin: Economics in Two Lessons: Why Markets Work So Well, and Why They Can Fail So Badly (2019, Princeton University Press): Author of Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us, an important effort to clear out much of the dead wood, takes up Henry Hazlitt's 1946 classic, Economics in One Lesson, which he summarizes as "leave markets alone, and all will be well." But all isn't well, as there are many cases of market failures, so Quiggin adds "Lesson Two: Market prices don't reflect all the opportunity costs we face as a society." He gives 400 pages of examples and explanations, in what may be one of the essential texts of modern economics.

Eric Rauchway: Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal (2018, Basic Books): After an overwhelming majority of Americans voted to free themselves from President Herbert Hoover, they faced a four-month delay until the new president could be sworn in -- a period so grueling that the US Constitution was changed to move future inaugurations up from March to January. This book covers those four months, a kind of pre-history to the famous "100 days" that followed Franklin Roosevelt's inauguration. In terms of anticipatory obstructionism, Hoover probably holds the record -- although John Adams in 1800-01 raised the bar, and Donald Trump will no doubt try to top them all in the shorter 2020-21 transition period.

Richard Rhodes: Energy: A Human History (2018, Simon & Schuster): Recaps the history of mankind as the story of claiming and taming sources of energy, possibly starting with human and domesticated animal muscle, but wood, coal, oil, and nuclear play larger roles in this story -- Rhodes seems to be especially fond of nuclear, although the four major books he's written on nuclear bombs can be read as cautionary tales. I've read those four books, plus a couple more, and don't doubt that he is capable of synthesizing such a large and important story.

Nathaniel Rich: Losing Earth: A Recent History (2019, MCD): A history, pointing out that by 1979 "we knew nearly everything we understand today about climate change -- including how to stop it," which goes on to show how supposedly responsible people failed to act on that knowledge, letting us slide into the ever-increasing crisis we face today. The Reagan administration's determination to promote coal and cripple the EPA and drive science from the policy process -- I'd say "echoes of Trump" but it's the other way around -- were key, but the thing you keep running into is human reluctance to deal with a catastrophe that seems to merely loom in the future, because the worst hasn't struck yet.

Sam Rosenfeld: The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan Era (2017, University of Chicago Press): Assumes that the problem with politics today is partisan polarization, and seeks to find where that came from by examining the political period from 1945 through 1980, moving from "The Idea of Responsible Partisanship" to "The Making of a Vanguard Party" and "Liberal Alliance-Building for Lean Times." Winds up with a chapter on 1980-2000 and a "Conclusion: Polarization without Responsibility, 2000-2016." Rosenfeld attributes the idea that the two parties should be realigned on a liberal-conservative axis to Franklin Roosevelt. What actually forced the realignment was a single issue -- civil rights -- which straddled the 1980 divide (what we might call the tipping point). Whether this was a good or bad thing depends a lot on how important you think that issue is. But more generally, polarization always occurs when issues become more serious and less amenable to compromise -- and we see that happening now, on race (of course) but also on the more general principles of equality, fairness, justice, and whether government will serve or oppress the vast majority of the people. I don't mean to argue that polarization has no down side. The main one is that it's led one party in particular to view politics as a zero-sum game, even worse as it's blinded that party to recognizing common problems (most obviously, climate change, which Republicans furiously deny because it's inconvenient for some of their major donors).

Joseph E Stiglitz: People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent (2019, WW Norton): Major liberal economist, advised Clinton in the 1990s and bragged about it in The Roaring Nineties: A New History of the World's Most Prosperous Decade (2003), warned about Bush in the 2000s and reminded us in Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy (2010), wrote an important book on The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future (2012), and several books on trade, starting with Globalization and Its Discontents (2002). I've read (and admired) most of his books, but overlooked an earlier book, Whither Socialism?, which claimed that "market socialism" couldn't work. His analysis back then probably has much to do with his decision now to push for what he calls "progressive capitalism" as the alternative to the burgeoning movement for socialism. I'm sure he's very smart about it, but I always find it a bit sad that the only occasions when the left gains enough power to do something, they first have to spend all their energy saving capitalism's sorry ass.

Bhaskar Sunkara: The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality (2019, Basic Books). Editor of Jacobin offers a primer on the history of socialism since the mid-1800s and "a realistic vision for its future" -- well short of the Soviet-era ideals, but carefully, cautiously tailored to provide universal, fair and equitable solutions to economic problems. Related:

  • Bhaskar Sunkara: The ABCs of Socialism (paperback, 2016, Verso).
  • Cinzia Arruzza/Tithi Bhattacharya/Nancy Fraser: Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto (paperback, 2019, Verso).
  • Rutger Bregman: Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World (2017, Little Brown; paperback, 2018, Back Bay Books).
  • Nancy Fraser: The Old Is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born (paperback, 2019, Verso).
  • Nancy Fraser/Rahel Jaeggi: Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical Theory (paperback, 2018, Polity).
  • Kristen R Ghodsee: Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism: And Other Arguments for Economic Independence (2018, Bold Type Books).
  • Avel Honneth: The Idea of Socialism: Towards a Renewal (2017; paperback, 2018, Polity).
  • Danny Katch: Socialism . . . Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation (paperback, 2015, Haymarket Books).
  • Leigh Phillips: Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts: A Defence of Growth, Progress, Industry and Stuff (paperback, 2015, Zero Books).
  • Leigh Phillips/Michal Rozworski: The People's Republic of Walmart: How the World's Biggest Corporations Are Laying the Foundation for Socialism (paperback, Verso).
  • Chantal Mouffe: For a Left Populism (2018, Verso).

Michael W Twitty: The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South (2017, Amistad): A family history back to its roots, focusing on the food that made each generation, and crossed in various ways from black to white and back. Also on food and the South: John T Edge: The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South (2017, Penguin).

Craig Unger: House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia (2018, Dutton): A journalist with a nose for corrupt relationships, previously wrote House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties (2004), seems to have a ripe subject digging into Trump's various deals with Russian mobsters and oligarchs.

Jose Antonio Vargas: Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented Citizen (2018, Dey Street Books): Author spent 25 years as an "undocumented" American, "living illegally in a country that does not consider me one of its own," before outing himself to write about the experience in the New York Times -- becoming a spokesman for the millions of "undocumented" Americans. Less about immigration either as policy or practice than about what it feels like to live in a country you have to hide from. Other recent books on immigration:

  • Francisco Cantú: The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches From the Border (2018; paperback, 2019, Riverhead Books).
  • Abdi Nor Iftin: Call Me American: A Memoir (2018, Knopf).
  • Viet Tranh Nguyen, ed: The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives (2018, Harry N Abrams).
  • Peter Schrag: The World of Aufbau: Hitler's Refugees in America (2019, University of Wisconsin Press).
  • Matthew Soerens/Jenny Yang: Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (paperback, 2018, IVP Books).

William T Vollmann: Carbon Ideologies: Volume One: No Immediate Danger/Volume Two: No Good Alternative (2018, Viking): Mostly a novelist, occasionally writes non-fiction and has been known to get carried away, like his Imperial (1306 pp). This "almanac of global energy use" is similar-sized, but published in two volumes.

Jon Ward: Camelot's End: Kennedy vs. Carter and the Fight That Broke the Democratic Party (2019, Twelve): This suggests that Reagan's triumph in 1980 had more to do with a breakdown caused by Ted Kenndy's almost unprecedented primary challenge against a president of his own party. The closest analogy I can think of was Teddy Roosevelt's rebuke of William Howard Taft in 1912, which wound up with his Bull Moose third party and both losing to Woodrow Wilson. Lots of parallels there, not least the challengers' sense of entitlement. Looking back now it's clear that Carter was a forerunner of many of Reagan's issues, and as such helped to legitimize someone who had previously been viewed as a far-right fringe candidate. One wonders whether the clearer choice that Kennedy might have presented would have faired better.

Alan Wolfe: The Politics of Petulance: America in an Age of Immaturity (2018, University of Chicago Press). More like senescence, which has less to do with age than the popular choice 38 years ago to turn away from facing reality and pretend we're fine in Ronald Reagan's fantasy world. Wolfe is a political science prof (emeritus) with a long list of books, including The Seamy Side of Democracy: Repression in America (1973), Marginalized in the Middle (1996), Does American Democracy Still Work? (2006), and At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews (2014). I last noticed him when he published The Future of Liberalism (2009), a spirited defense that this must contrast with.

Shoshana Zuboff: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (2019 PublicAffairs): Seems to focus on the new information businesses, specifically the ones that track your every step in navigating the Internet, and analyze and market that information to others hoping to manipulate you. I'm not sure how far you can push this model: is it really that important? I suspect it may even be self-limiting.

Other recent books also noted without comment:

Ben S Bernanke/Timothy F Geithner/Henry M Paulson Jr: Firefighting: The Financial Crisis and Its Lessons (paperback, 2019, Penguin Books).

William J Burns: The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal (2019, Random House).

Tucker Carlson: Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution (2018, Free Press).

Robert A Caro: Working (2019, Knopf).

Susan Faludi: In the Darkroom (2016, Metropolitan Books; paperback, 2017, Picador).

Henry Louis Gates Jr: Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (2019, Penguin Press).

Gary Giddins: Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star: The War Years 1940-1946 (2018, Little Brown).

Jonah Goldberg: Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy (2018, Crown Forum).

Max Hastings: Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975 (2018, Harper).

Steven Johnson: Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most (2018, Riverhead Books).

Dan Kaufman: The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics (2018, WW Norton).

Yasmin Khan: India at War: The Subcontinent and the Second World War (2015, Oxford University Press).

Lawrence Lessig: America, Compromised (2018, University of Chicago Press).

Steve Luxenberg: Separate: The Story of Plessy V. Ferguson, and America's Journey From Slavery to Segregation (2019, WW Norton).

Anna Merlan: Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power (2019, Metropolitan Books).

Ashoka Mody: Euro Tragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts (2018, Oxford University Press).

Raghuram Rajan: The Third Pillar: How Markets and the State Leave the Community Behind (2019, Penguin Press).

Jeffrey D Sachs: A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism (2018, Columbia University Press).

Darrel M West: Divided Politics, Divided Nation: Hyperconflict in the Trump Era (2019, Brookings Institution Press).

Joan C Williams: White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America (2017, Harvard Business Review Press).

Monday, May 27, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, May archive.

Music: current count 31558 [31518] rated (+40), 251 [252] unrated (-1).

Last Monday in May, so extra work today doing my paperwork for the May Streamnotes archive. Rated count was 34 when I first checked on Sunday, but I've kept this open to see what fits into the month. Still, much of the bulk, both this week and for the month, has come from diving into back catalog. With new albums from George Cables and Jerry Bergonzi out, I thought they might be fun. When time ran out, I still had more Bergonzi to go, not least the new one.

The week's finds are scattered. The latest Christgau Expert Witness picked a Youssou N'Dour album I had noticed from publicist email but hadn't tracked down (not on Napster, but I was able to stream from Rock Paper Scissors). Also Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba's Miri, a previous A- here (also according to Michael Tatum). Phil Overeem's latest list pointed me at Beyoncé's Homecoming and A Day in the Life, but the album I liked most was an exceptionally genteel trad jazz quartet he had down at 23. I got some more ideas from Alfred Soto's The best albums of 2019, first draft: specifically Nilüfer Yanya's Miss Universe -- although I'll note that I had heard his six higher-rated albums and didn't A-list any of them. (Further down his list, I did pick Control Top: Covert Contracts; Robert Forster: Inferno; Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?; and Lizzo: Cuz I Love You; still unheard: The Mountain Goats, Vampire Weekend, The National; Tyler, the Creator; and Weyes Blood.) Lucas Fagen provided the tip on L7 (also one I did't follow up on yet: Gary Clark Jr.). First L7 play didn't convince me, so I went back and played the Best Of. Gave the new one an extra play later, but didn't move it. They have one of the all-time great band sounds, but at this point I'd guess it's more likely to drop a notch than to rise one. Opposite is true of their eponymous debut, which Christgau missed and I'd never heard. They get something out of youth there that they'll never get back to again.

It occurred to me that Ray Charles and Betty Carter might be on YouTube, and indeed it was. Someone wrote me a while back to point out that several albums I couldn't find on Napster were on YouTube (usually with nothing but the static album cover for video). I haven't followed that tip often, but with big chunks of backlist from both artists this month, seemed like good due dilligence. Disappointing album.

David Cantwell has written an exceptionally thorough review of Robert Christgau's two recent essay compilations, Book Reports and Is It Still Good to Ya? (Duke University Press): Robert Christgau's big-hearted theory of pop. I managed to screw up Cantwell's name when I initially posted the link, confusing him with a mediocre pitcher from 1927-37 (W-L record 76-108, mostly with the doormat Boston Braves, although he looked better before going 4-25 in 1936). Turns out David Cantwell has been cranking out country music list-articles for Rolling Stone. It might be fun to follow up on them in June.

I am posting tonight a new installment of XgauSez, Christgau's question-and-answer session.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Beyoncé: Homecoming: The Live Album (2018 [2019], Columbia, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Carlos Bica/Daniel Erdmann/DJ Illvibe: I Am the Escaped One (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Brooks & Dunn: Reboot (2019, Arista Nashville): [r]: B
  • George Cables: I'm All Smiles (2019, HighNote): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Davis: Correlations (2019, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elder Ones: From Untruth (2019, Northern Spy): [r]: B
  • Luke Gillespie: Moving Mists (2018 [2019], Patois): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated (2019, 604/School Boy/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Norah Jones: Begin Again (2019, Blue Note, EP): [r]: B
  • Kehlani: While We Wait (2019, Atlantic/TSNMI): [r]: B+(**)
  • L7: Scatter the Rats (2019, Blackheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • Doug MacDonald: Califournia Quartet (2018 [2019], Dmacmusic): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Matt Mitchell: Phalanx Ambassadors (2018 [2019], Pi): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Youssou N'Dour: History (2019, Naïve/Believe): [os]: A-
  • Phicus + Martin Küchen: Sumpflegende (2017 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Matthias Spillmann Trio: Live at the Bird's Eye Jazz Club (2017 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Spring Roll: Episodes (2017-18 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B
  • Ben Stapp/Joe Morris: Mind Creature Sound Dasein (2017 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Oli Steidle & the Killing Popes: Ego Pills (2017 [2019], Shhpuma): [r]: B-
  • Norbert Susemihl/Chloe Feoranzo/Harry Mayronne/Barnaby Gold: The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17, October (2018 [2019], Sumi): [r]: A-
  • Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer (2019, Six Shooter, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Dave Wilson Quartet: One Night at Chris' (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Nilüfer Yanya: Miss Universe (2019, ATO): [r]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper (2018, Impulse!): [r]: B+(*)
  • L7: Pretend We're Dead: Best of L7 (1992-97 [2019], Warner Music Group): [r]: A

Old music:

  • Jerry Bergonzi: Intersecting Lines (2012 [2014], Savant): [r]: A-
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Dog Star (2017, Savant): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Cables: Cables Vision (1979 [1992], Contemporary/OJC): [r]: B
  • George Cables Trio: Beyond Forever (1991 [1992], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Cables: Quiet Fire (1994 [1995], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Cables: Person to Person (1995, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Cables Trio: Skylark (1995 [1996], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Cables Trio: Dark Side, Light Side (1996 [1997], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Cables Trio: Bluesology (1998, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Cables: One for My Baby (2000, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ray Charles/Betty Carter: Ray Charles and Betty Carter (1961, ABC): [yt]: B
  • Carly Rae Jepsen: Tug of War (2008, Maple Music/Fontana North): [r]: B+(***)
  • L7: L7 (1988, Epitaph): [r]: B+(***)
  • Art Pepper/George Cables: Tête-Ã-Tête (1982 [1983], Galaxy): [r]: A-
  • Art Pepper/George Cables: Goin' Home (1982, Galaxy): [r]: B+(***)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Assif Tsahar/William Parker/Hamid Drake: In Between the Tumbling a Stillness (2015 [2018], Hopscotch): [cd]: [was: A-] A

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Avishai Cohen: Arvoles (Razdaz/Sunnyside): June 14
  • Red Kite: Red Kite (RareNoise): advance, June 28
  • The Jamie Saft Quartet: Hidden Corners (RareNoise): advance, June 28

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Here in Wichita it's rained every day for a week with more coming tonight, tomorrow, the day after. We're up to 11.96 inches this month (2nd wettest May ever; annual average is 34 inches). Many rivers in southeastern Kansas have flooded -- my recent trip to Oklahoma was detoured when the Kansas State Turnpike went under water. Wichita used to flood regularly, and my home would surely be under water but for "the big ditch" -- a flood control project built in 1950-59. (See Beccy Tanner: 'Big Ditch Mitch' saved Wichita many times; also, David Guilliams: The Big Ditch: The Wichita-Valley Center Flood Control Project [PDF].) I've been reading up on this, not least because I haven't seen the rivers this high since 1966, when the Ditch spared Wichita (barely) an epochal flood that wiped out the Arkansas River dam in Lamar, CO, and flooded every other town on the river's path into Oklahoma and Arkansas. Reading Guilliams' history reminds me that we had politicians in the 1940s who were as short-sighted as the ones we have today, but I'll always be thankful they got outvoted. That Ditch was the best investment Wichita ever made. Without it I wouldn't be able to get around to this week's other stories.

Some scattered links this week:

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Daily Log

From Greg Tate, on Facebook, comment reply to Allen Lowe question about Gary Davis:

A friend who speaks six languages fluently (including Arabic and Polish) told that in her mind its all one language. The Black American creative tradition is by necessity that of the auto-didact but on a deeper level its also one of people who couldn't afford to only be great at one thing or the luxury of compartmentalizing the world. The major innovators seem to be more inter-dimensional than the rest of us in mind body and spirit--You get the sense that All of Life is one language to them. Which is to say they are more West African than Cartesian how they integrate the world outside with the world inside. Nothing exemplifies this more to me than Davis saying he thought he heard a brass band the first time he heard a guitar. Which suggests his artistic high bar when he started playing wasn't mere competency but to make people feel like they too were experiencing a marching band projecting out of a guitar. Methinks we do a disservice to these innovative artists when we think they were only trying to work out mechanics--they were acquiring complex technique to reproduce MAGIC.

Susan Brown posted this on Facebook, crediting Gary Moss. It may be the single most horrific thing I've read all year:

i wish everyone would read this

94 yr old Kissinger takes on Trump

Recently, Henry Kissinger did an interview and said vary amazing things regarding President Trump. He starts with: "Donald Trump is a phenomenon that foreign countries haven't seen before"! The former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gives us a new understanding of President Donald Trump's foreign policy and predicts its success:

"Liberals and all those who favor (Hillary) Clinton will never admit it. They will never admit that he is the one true leader. The man is doing changes like never before and does all of it for the sake of this nation's people. After eight years of tyranny, we finally see a difference."

Kissinger knows it and he continues with:

."Every country now has to consider two things: One, their perception that the previous president, or the outgoing president, basically withdrew America from international politics, so that they had to make their own assessments of their necessities.

And secondly, that there is a new president who's asking a lot of unfamiliar questions. And because of the combination of the partial vacuum and the new questions, one could imagine that something remarkable and new emerges out of it.

Then Kissinger puts it bluntly:

"Trump puts America and its people first. This is why people love him and this is why he will remain in charge for so long. There is not a single thing wrong with him and people need to open their eyes." When he boasts that he has a "bigger red button" than Kim Jung Un does, he so transcends the mealy-mouthed rhetoric of the past, thereby forcing a new recognition of American power.

Kissinger once wrote:

"The weak grow strong by effrontery - The strong grow weak through inhibition!" No sentence better captures the U.S.-North Korea relationship.

Trump is discarding the inhibitions and calling the bluff on North Korea's effrontery: His point is that the contrast of American retreat under Obama and its new assertion of power under Trump creates a new dynamic that every one of our allies and of our enemies must consider.

Our allies grew complacent with Obama's passivity and now are fearful due to Trump's activism. And they must balance the two in developing their policies:

They realize that the old assumptions, catalyzed by Bush 43's preoccupation with Iraq and Obama's refusal to lead are obsolete. So, Trump is forcing a new calculus with a new power behind American interests. Those - here and abroad - who rode the old apple cart worry about its being toppled.

But, as Kissinger so boldly stated: "Trump is the one true leader in world affairs and he is forcing policy changes that put America first!"

This is the most accurate statement of what the American Citizens who live outside of the swamp want and expect from their government.

I like the list of 13 things that I, as a senior American citizen, want. Trump is at least talking about issues that most Americans are concerned about.

My mantra about Trump is this: Truthfully, We are in agreement with most of what he says. We are getting older and our tickers aren't what they used to be, but what matters is that he covers most of the 13 things we as seniors want, at least I do for sure

  1. Hillary: held accountable for her previous wrongs!
  2. Put "GOD" back in America!
  3. Borders: Closed or tightly guarded!
  4. Congress: On the same retirement & healthcare plans as everybody else
  5. Congress: Obey its own laws NOW!
  6. Language: English!
  7. Culture: Constitution and the Bill of Rights!
  8. Drug-Free: Mandatory Drug Screening before & during Welfare!
  9. Freebies: NONE to Non-Citizens
  10. Budget: Balanced
  11. Foreign Countries: Stop giving them our money! Charge them for our help! We need it here.
  12. Term limits for congress
  13. "RESPECT OUR MILITARY AND OUR FLAG!" And our law enforcement. DRAIN THE SWAMP!

Further down, Susan offered this meme:

First Lady Melania Trump has sent out a request for prayers for our president. Let us be a shield for him as he fights for us.

Further down, she links to an AP News piece on Alabama's "near-total abortion ban," presumably favorably. But a commenter picked up another tweet, from Stephanie Wittels Wachs, which is on target:

Make no mistake - a state that criminalizes abortion but ranks 50th in public education doesn't give a shit about children.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, May archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31518 [31498] rated (+20), 252 [249] unrated (+3).

Rated count well down this week. Wednesday through Friday got totally wiped out, starting with a dental appointment, then shopping for dinner on Friday, then marathon cooking. Zhanna Pataki and I made a blini feast. I found a Russian grocery store in Tulsa the previous week, and picked up a pound of salmon caviar ("Alaskan rubies") and three whole schmaltz herring. The latter went, one each, into sour cream sauce, mustard sauce, and Estonian potato salad (with golden beets, apple, and ham (actually, Canadian bacon). Other side salads: poached cod with horseradish sauce, cucumbers in sour cream, green bean and walnut, carrot and garlic. I got a couple of salmon filets and salted them. I made two loaves of rye bread (only disappointment: came out dense and dry, probably because the dough was, or maybe I just don't know how to properly knead bread; anyway, the expensive Breville food processor wasn't up to the task). For dessert, I made a light sponge cake, and topped it with strawberries and whipped cream (recipe called for smetana, but I didn't allow myself enough time to make my own -- probably should have bought some in Tulsa, when I had the chance). I just now realized that I had brought a jar of eggplant caviar back from Tulsa but failed to serve it. Dinner was spectacular, and exhausting.

A couple weeks ago I learned that Ani DiFranco has written a memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream. She grew up in Buffalo, and was close to my cousin's family there, so I have some kind of personal interest in her story, and I've been aware of her musical career from near the beginning. Then last week I noticed her No Walls: Mixtape on Napster, so delved a bit deeper. I read what I could from Google's excerpt, while listening to Mixtape -- unplugged remakes of 25+ years of remarkable songs -- and a couple other items I had missed that I found on her Bandcamp. Stopped short of the bootlegs, although one of my favorites (and one of the best places to start with her) is the live Living in Clip. I was especially pleased that after panning most of her recent albums with Todd Sickafoose I enjoyed Red Letter Year so much. I wrote about her in [The New] Rolling Stone Album Guide. A current grade list is here.

Robert Christgau reviewed Epic Beard Men this week, along with two records by Quelle Chris that I had already reviewed. I gave Guns another spin, enjoyed it, but left my grade at B+(***). For whatever it's worth, I've graded A- all four of Strut's Nigeria 70 compilations. I couldn't begin to rank them, other than to note that I have the CDs to the first, and played one out of my travel case while cooking last week. I doubt any are as good as the best King Sunny Adé albums, or the second edition of The Rough Guide to Highlife, but the new one hits the exact same pleasure centers, and that was good enough for me.

The Ray Charles comp was the one I skipped when reviewing his Atlantics last week. It's the one you'd most likely buy if you're reluctant to get the entire 3-CD box (The Birth of Soul). Not sure why I didn't grade it as high as the box or two of the source albums, other than that I didn't give it a lot of time. I'm still bothered that we don't have the ABC albums available for streaming. And I will note that one problem with virtually every "greatest hit" collection from that period is the mandatory inclusion of two hideous Beatles covers. Compilers don't always pick the best songs, so that may be what's slightly off about the Rhino Atlantic Best Of.

Best jazz album of the week was the first 2019 Clean Feed release I've found on Napster. They've sometimes been hard to search out, but until this year all of their releases have been available for streaming, which lately has saved me the hassle of downloading. Not everything that's come out is available yet, but I'm glad to get what I can. I'll try to catch up in coming weeks. (There are a couple more on this week's list, as well as one where the musician sent me the CD -- thanks for that favor.)

New records reviewed this week:

  • Charlie Apicella & Iron City: Groove Machine (2018 [2019], OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Camp Cope: How to Socialise & Make Friends (2018, Run for Cover): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ani DiFranco: No Walls: Mixtape (2019, Righteous Babe): [r]: A-
  • Epic Beard Men: Season 1 (2018, Strange Famous): [r]: B+(**)
  • Epic Beard Men: This Was Supposed to Be Fun (2019, Strange Famous): [r]: A-
  • The Fictive Five: Anything Is Possible (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Hart: Crop Circles (2017 [2019], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fred Hersch & the WDR Big Band: Begin Again (2019, Palmetto): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jørgen Mathisen's Instant Light: Mayhall's Object (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: A-
  • The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra: Along for the Ride (2018 [2019], Summit): [cd]: B
  • Yoko Miwa Trio: Keep Talkin' (2019, Ocean Blue Tear Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Priests: The Seduction of Kansas (2019, Sister Polygon): [r]: B+(***)
  • Scheen Jazzorkester & Thomas Johansson: «As We See It . . . » (2019, Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • The Selva: Canicula Rosa (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Senyawa: Sujud (2018, Sublime Frequencies): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Marcus Shelby Orchestra: Transitions (2017 [2019], MSO): [cd]:B+(*)
  • Rodney Whitaker: Common Ground: The Music of Gregg Hill (2017 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Nigeria 70: No Wahala: Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987 (1973-87 [2019], Strut): [bc]: A-

Old music:

  • Ray Charles: The Best of Ray Charles: The Atlantic Years (1951-59 [1994], Rhino): [r]: A-
  • Ani DiFranco: Red Letter Year (2008, Righteous Babe): [bc]: A-
  • Ani DiFranco: Binary (2017, Righteous Babe): [r]: B+(*)
  • Larry Ochs: The Fictive Five (2015, Tzadik): [bc]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Luke Gillespie: Moving Mists (Patois)
  • Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: The Hope I Hold (Greenleaf Music): June 28
  • Doug MacDonald: Califournia Quartet (self-released)
  • Matt Mitchell: Phalanx Ambassadors (Pi)
  • Samo Salamon & Freequestra: Free Sessions, Vol. 2: Freequestra (Sazas/Klopotec)
  • Samo Salamon/Szilárd Mezei/Jaka Berger: Swirling Blind Unstilled (Klopotec)
  • The Dave Wilson Quartet: One Night at Chris' (self-released): May 27

Weekend Roundup

Ran a day late on this one, partly because I went long on the intro, but also because I found so many links in my early trawl through the usual sources I wasn't able to finish my rounds, then found even more when I tried to wrap up. I'm sure it's always the case that an extra day or two to let the words settle and go back and restructure would be useful, but I've rarely felt that more than this week.

Abortion became a much hotter political issue last week, with the passage and signing of a law in Alabama which criminalizes abortion in all cases except when it is necessary to save the life of the woman, with doctors risking prison terms of up to 99 years if their call on life-saving is disputed. Much focus on this particular law centers on the lack of any exclusion for rape and incest, which most people agree would be reasonable grounds for abortion. (As Phil Freeman tweeted: "Your first mistake was assuming old white men in Alabama were against rape and incest.") But the Alabama law is just one of many state laws Republicans have been pushing lately, all aimed at relitigating Roe v. Wade in the Trump-packed Supreme Court. (E.g., The "heartbeat" bills that could ban almost all abortions, passed in four states including Ohio and Georgia, and coming soon in Missouri; still more draconian bills are in the works, such as A Texas bill would allow the death penalty for patients who get abortions.)

I'll start this off by quoting from a Facebook post by a relative of mine in Arkansas, Marianne Cowan Pyeatt, offering an unvarnished glimpse of what anti-abortion Republicans are telling themselves:

All of a sudden we are supposed to believe that millions and millions of aborted babies are the result of rape and not just a lack of responsibility to use birth control or face the consequences if you can't even be adult enough to take precautions. We all know that the reason they can't make exceptions for rape is because every women would lie and claim to be raped to get an abortion. There are morning after pills for real rape victims or they can give the child away. No one says they have to keep them. And the fact that this is even being debated is because all the people who did very little for decades when they could forget what was going on in those clinics are suddenly facing a world where full-term babies can be murdered at birth. YOU stupid liberals have taken it SO FAR that no decent person can ignore it any longer. And we aren't so stupid as to believe that only abortion of a baby could "save the mother's life" in medical emergencies . . . we know delivery is many, many times faster. At that point, if it dies, at least you tried and the mother is "saved" from her life-threatening condition with no murder involved. I find it hilarious that in insisting on that last frontier of killing babies right up to birth has finally given people the resolve to take a stand and right a wrong.

One thing this shows is that the fight over abortion rights is being fought at the margins, with both sides seeking maximalist positions, although there is nothing symmetrical about the conflict. There is only one fanatical side to this issue: those who, like Marianne here, want to ban all abortions. No one on the opposite side -- and I am about as opposite as anyone gets -- wants to terminate all pregnancies. Rather, we understand that pregnancy is a complicated issue that affects women in many different ways, and that there are some circumstances where some women feel they would be better off with an abortion. We believe that this should be a free and responsible choice, and to make this a real choice for all women requires that we isolate it from the encumbrances of government regulation and economic pressure.

I've long thought that conservatives and libertarians should be strong supporters of abortion rights. Libertarians cherish freedom, and freedom is the ability to make free choices -- among which one of the most important is whether to bear and raise children. Not everyone who wants children is able to have them, but safe abortion at least makes it possible to choose not to have children. As for conservatives, they always stress the responsibilities parenthood infers. It would be perverse if they did not allow those who felt themselves unable to assume the responsibility of raising children the option of not having them. Indeed, in the past have sometimes wanted to impose limits on the fertility of those they deemed unfit to raise children (e.g., the forced sterilization of the eugenics movement). Consequently, the hard turn of Republicans against free access to abortion and birth control has always struck me as bad faith: a political ploy, initially to capture votes of Catholics and Southern Baptists, who had traditionally voted Democratic. I first noticed this in Bob Dole's 1972 Senate campaign, and I never forgave him for politicizing the issue. (He was being challenged by William Roy, a ob/gyn who had occasionally performed abortions, which were legal in Kansas well before Roe v. Wade. Until that time Kansas Democrats were more likely to be anti-abortion than Republicans. Using abortion as a partisan tactic may have started with Nixon's 1972 "silent majority"/"southern strategy." It was especially successful in Missouri. See How abortion became a partisan issue in America.)

Abortion rights are desirable if there are any circumstances where abortion is a reasonable choice. Most people recognize rape and incest as valid reasons, as well as the health of the woman and/or the fetus. Beyond that there arise lots of possible economic and psychological concerns, which can only really be answered by the woman (with the advice of anyone she chooses to consult). We generally, if not always consistently, recognize that our freedom is rooted in a right to privacy. Since a decision to terminate has no broader repercussions, there is no good reason for the government to get involved. (One might argue that a decision not to terminate might concern the state, in that it would wind up paying for the child's education and health care, but no one who supports abortion rights is seeking that sort of oversight. China's "one child" policy is an example, but no one here is arguing for the state to enforce such a thing.)

Regardless of how cynical Republican leaders were when they jumped on the anti-abortion bandwagon, they learned to love it because it dovetailed with the prejudices and fears they exploited (Jason Stanley has a handy list, in his recent book, How Fascism Works), while doing little to detract from their main objective: making the rich richer, and building a political machine to keep the riches coming. (Thomas Frank, in his 2004 book What's the Matter With Kansas?, tried to expose their two-faced cynicism, but he wound up only agitating the anti-abortion mobsters into demanding more results for their votes.) Marianne's post is full of such prejudices, even while she tries to paper over others. But while the first line refers to the Alabama law, she'd rather turn the tables by accusing "stupid liberals" of wanting to kill babies the instant before birth. That would be a symmetrically opposite point of view, but even if legal it's not a real something anyone would do.

Some links on the Alabama law and the assault on abortion rights:

Some scattered links this week:

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Daily Log

Disconnected red speaker posts at 4:06 PM, then turned amplifier back on.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, May archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31498 [31469] rated (+29), 249 [248] unrated (+1).

Weird how these weekly totals keep landing on 29 (6th time so far this year). Should have been less, given that I drove to the Tulsa area on Wednesday, returning Friday evening. Took my travel cases for the car, nothing remotely new in them. Packed the Chromebook, but inadvertently left it at home. Supposedly I can check email and web on phone, plus a million apps including Napster, but I've never got the hang of that. My second cousin down there swears she does everything with Siri, and I could see how that might be better than trying to type on a clumsy and error-prone touch screen. As a confirmed Apple-phobe, that isn't even an option I'd consider, but I gather Samsung has something along those lines (bixby?). I suppose I should look into that. Meanwhile, I seem to be the only person I know who can go 3-4 days between charges, so I take comfort in that.

I wanted to visit my cousin Duan, second son of my mother's oldest sister, Lola. I hadn't been down there since his older brother, Harold, passed several years ago, and he's up to 92 now. He's lived in/around Bristow as long as I can remember -- we went to visit Aunt Lola every couple months when I was young, and by then Harold and Duan had their families, my second cousins just a couple years younger than I was, so we were fairly close. Harold and Duan were drafted into WWII, and Duan got called back for the Korean War. That seems to have qualified him for living in the Veterans Center in Claremore, where he moved a few months ago. Probably a good place for him at this stage, but not one I'd ever look forward to (not a prospect with my 4F). Can't say as we had good talks, but was good to see him.

I saw live music twice in Oklahoma, although nothing I can recommend. The first was a free concert at the Veterans Center, with a c&w singer who called himself Cowboy, and who toured with a dwarf pony in tow -- something the vets seemed to appreciate. He mostly played Merle Haggard songs (and nothing as obvious as "Okie From Muskogee"; more like "Silver Wings"). One bizarre moment: he had a little girl bring him up a disguise designed to make him look like Elvis Presley, then launched into a medley of three r&b songs ("Lawdy Miss Clawdy," "See See Rider," don't recall the third), suggesting not only that even today black music was only acceptable if dressed up as white. He then played a fourth Elvis song, something late and not black, and didn't bother with the disguise for that. Blackface has gone out of fashion, but whiteface still works in Oklahoma. (There were a few black residents at the Center, but they were a tiny minority, and I don't recall any at the show.)

Second live music experience was attending a recital at the Coweta High School of their various band ensembles, starting with 6th grade. All three of my second-cousin's granddaughters played there, among at least a hundred others. No strings, but lots of flutes and clarinets -- I counted 12 and 18 in the high school band -- a few saxophones, the odd oboe or bassoon, a fair amount of brass, and a pretty substantial investment in percussion (including a featured percussion ensemble). Best was a pair of Cuban tunes. More typical were the Andrew Lloyd Weber medleys. Lasted over two hours, which was exhausting for all (huge crowd, by the way). They made passing reference to also having a jazz ensemble, but nothing I heard fit that bill.

Given that hole in my week, the only way I got to 29 was by streaming oldies. I started by looking for Betty Carter's album with Ray Charles. Napster didn't have it, or for that matter much of anything else after Charles left Atlantic for ABC. I mostly know his Atlantics through the 1991 Rhino 3-CD box, The Birth of Soul (my grade: A), but since the individual albums were available, I worked through them, yielding most of this week's pick hits. That also got me Ray Charles Presents David 'Fathead' Newman, and I followed that up with a few more of Newman's records (especially his early HighNotes). I didn't go very deep there, as I've never found him to be especially remarkable.

After I got back from Oklahoma, I played the new Greg Abate record, so I took a look at his back catalog. He's a mainstream saxophonist, more rooted in bebop than swing, and I especially liked his 2014 album Motif, so I was more hopeful there. I skipped a few things like his samba album, but got a fairly good sense of where he's come from. Several very nice albums, the best being one with Alan Barnes. The next logical step would be to see what else I can find by Barnes. My database lists six of his albums, all Penguin Guide ***(*)-rated, but I haven't heard any of them yet. Surprised I've missed him, although I have rated records he shared but I've filed under other names: Tony Coe, Scott Hamilton, Warren Vaché.

Revisited the latest Coathangers album this week, after Robert Christgau gave it an A-. As I recall, Michael Tatum also likes the album. I gave it a B+(***) on one or two plays back in March, and found that my review didn't need much tweaking. I played his other pick, Priests' The Seduction of Kansas, after the break, so next week for it and Camp Cope's How to Socialise & Make Friends -- both good, high B+ records.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Greg Abate with the Tim Ray Trio: Gratitude: Stage Door Live @ The Z (2019, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Combo: Chez Nous (2018 [2019], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Peter Jensen & DR Big Band: Stand on Your Feet and Fight: Voices of the Danish West Indies (2018 [2019], ILK): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ellynne Rey: The Birdsong Project (2019, self-released): [cd]: B
  • Gwilym Simcock: Near and Now (2018 [2019], ACT): [r]: B
  • Aki Takase Japanic: Thema Prima (2018 [2019], BMC): [r]: B+(***)
  • The United States Air Force Band: The Jazz Heritage Series: 2019 Radio Broadcasts (2019, self-released, 4CD): [cd]: C-
  • Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: The Rhythm of Invention (2019, Patois): [cd]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Greg Abate Quartet: Bop City: Live at Birdland (1991, Candid): [r]: B+(***)
  • Greg Abate: Straight Ahead (1992 [1993], Candid): [r]: B+(**)
  • Greg Abate Quintet: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1995, Candid): [r]: B+(*)
  • Greg Abate Quintet: Bop Lives! (1996, Blue Chip JAzz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Greg Abate: Evolution (2002, 1201 Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Greg Abate/Alan Barnes: Birds of a Feather (2007 [2008], Woodville): [r]: A-
  • Ray Charles: Ray Charles (1953-56 [1957], Atlantic): [r]: A
  • Ray Charles: The Great Ray Charles (1956 [1957], Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ray Charles: The Genius After Hours (1956-57 [1961], Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ray Charles: Yes Indeed! (1952-58 [1958], Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • Ray Charles: What'd I Say (1952-59 [1959], Atlantic): [r]: A
  • Ray Charles: The Genius of Ray Charles (1959, Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ray Charles: Ray Charles in Person (1959 [1960], Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ray Charles: Ray Charles Live (1958-59 [1987], Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ray Charles: The Genius Sings the Blues (1952-60 [1961], Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
  • David "Fathead" Newman: Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David 'Fathead' Newman (1958 [1960], Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • David Newman: Fire! At the Village Vanguard (1988 [1989], Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
  • David "Fathead" Newman: Chillin' (1998 [1999], HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
  • David "Fathead" Newman: Keep the Spirits Singing (2000 [2001], HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
  • David "Fathead" Newman: The Gift (2002 [2003], HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
  • David "Fathead" Newman: Song for the New Man (2004, HighNote): [r]: B+(***)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • The Coathangers: The Devil You Know (2019, Suicide Squeeze): [r]: [was B+(***)] A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Charlie Apicella & Iron City: Groove Machine (OA2): May 17
  • Fred Hersch & the WDR Big Band: Begin Again (Palmetto): June 7
  • The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra: Along for the Ride (Summit): June 7
  • Scheen Jazzorkester & Thomas Johansson: As We See It . . . (Clean Feed)
  • Marcus Shelby Orchestra: Transitions (MSO): June 7
  • Rodney Whitaker: Common Ground: The Music of Gregg Hill (Origin): May 17

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Weekend Roundup

I spent much of the week in Oklahoma, visiting my 92-year-old cousin, his two daughters, and various other family. I packed my Chromebook, then forgot it, so went a few days without my usual news sources -- not that anything much changed while I was away. Trying to catch up here, including a few links that seem possibly useful for future reference.

Looks pretty obvious from my "recent reading" sidebar that I'm in a gloomy mood about the viability of democracy in this nation. The odd book out is subtitled "On the Writing Process" -- thought that might inspire me to write about it, and it has made me a bit more self-conscious in my writing. The one I recommend most is Jason Stanley's How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. I lumped it into a list in my recent Book Reports, but it's well thought out and clear, with a fair smattering of historical examples but more focused on here and now: things you will recognize. I rather wish there was a more generic word than "fascism": one with less specific historical baggage, one that can be used in general discourse without tripping off unnecessary alarms. On the other hand, as a leftist, I've always had a keen nose for generic fascism, so the word suits my purposes just fine. I have, in fact, been using it since the 1970s, which is one reason the modern American conservative movement always seems to coherent and predictable.

Some scattered links this week:

I don't have much to say about Game of Thrones, but I was struck by this ratiocination by Zack Beauchamp: "But it's one thing for Daenerys to act like Bush, and another for her to act like Hitler." He's talking about the indiscriminate fire-bombing of cities full of innocent civilians, but while Bush criminally started wars, lied about his reasoning, rounded up and tortured supposed enemies, disrupted the lives of millions doing irreparable harm, just to show the world that it's more important to fear his "shock and awe" than to respect his self-proclaimed beneficence, and while Hitler did those same things on an even more epic scale, the most comparable historical example of a leader laying waste to entire cities was Harry Truman -- who we generally recall as an exceptionally decent and modest president.

You can say that war does that, even to otherwise decent people. You can say that Hitler and Bush were worse than Truman because they started wars whereas Truman was simply trying to end one he had inherited. (This is not the place to get into how he escalated the Cold War and the Korean War, which in many ways I find more troubling than his "final solution" to WWII.) You can say that Hitler was worse than Bush because his desire for war was more deeply rooted in the uncritical imperialism and racism of the era, which made him even more vindictive and bloodthirsty. But I'd also note that Truman was not above the prejudices of Hitler's era, and that Bush (while less racist than Truman let alone Hitler) was, like all conservatives ever, fully committed to traditional hierarchies of wealth and power, which made it easy for him to run roughshod over all the others.

I have no idea where Daenerys fits among this trio, as she is a fictional character in an imaginary world. Even if she reflects the world of her creators, she does so haphazardly and inconsistently.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, May archive (in progress).

Music: current count 31469 [31440] rated (+29), 248 [255] unrated (-7).

Had a low energy period after posting April Streamnotes last Monday, so I'm not surprised that the rated count dropped. If anything, I'm surprised it's as high as it is, but that was mostly from streaming back catalog of artists recently reviewed.

I speculated last week that Walt Weiskopf's Worldwide is his best yet, but I had missed most of his 1990s albums, so I had to hedge. There are still a couple things I haven't heard, but nothing old came close to the new one -- best of the albums below is probably Siren (1999). When I gave Betty Carter's The Music Never Stops an A- a few weeks back, I noted lots of holes in my database. Scratching my head for something to listen to, I remembered that, and plugged a few of them (while being unable to find others). The new Teodross Avery album also sent me back. No great finds from any of those excursions.

I also tried looking up the album Carter and Ray Charles did together in 1961, but couldn't find it. I noticed then I had an unrated Charles record, and wondered whether I could build a playlist to duplicate it (as opposed to having to dig up my physical copy). Turns out there's damn few of Charles' ABC records on Napster, but I still got 17/20 songs from Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, while the other three were easy to find on YouTube. Not quite an equivalent listening experience, but close enough, I figured (especially given that I recalled hearing nearly everything). I'll do a few more Ray Charles albums next week, starting with the early Atlantics.

On the other hand, this week's two new A- records are ones I hadn't read a thing about before they showed up. After months of second guessing other folks' picks, I feel like I've done my job.

I'll be posting a new XgauSez overnight (link always points to the latest Q&A).

New records reviewed this week:

  • Teodross Avery: After the Rain: A Night for Coltrane (2019, Tompkins Square): [bc]: B+(***)
  • The Campfire Flies: Sparks Like Litle Stars (2019, OverPop Music): [cd]: A-
  • Mark Dresser Seven: Ain't Nothing but a Cyber Coup & You (2018 [2019], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Satoko Fujii: Solo Piano: Stone (2018 [2019], Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Invisible Party: Shumankind (2017 [2018], Chant): [cd]: A-
  • Jon Lipscomb Quartet: Fodder (2016 [2018], self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Side Three: New Work (2018 [2019], Edgetone): [cd]: B+(***)
  • The Richard Shulman Trio: Waltzing out of Town (2019, RichHeart Music): [cd]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Kinloch Nelson: Partly on Time: Recordings 1968-1970 (1968-70 [2019], Tompkins Square): [bc]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • The Teodross Avery Quartet: In Other Words (1994, GRP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Teodross Avery & the 5th Power: New Day, New Groove (1998 [2001], 5th Power): [r]: B+(*)
  • Teodross Avery: Bridging the Gap: Hop-Hop Jazz (2008, BTG Music): [r]: B-
  • Betty Carter/Ray Bryant: Meet Betty Carter and Ray Bryant (1955-56 [1996], Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Betty Carter: The Modern Sound of Betty Carter (1960, ABC): [r]: B+(*)
  • Betty Carter: Inside Betty Carter (1964-65 [1993], Capitol Jazz): [r]: B+(*)
  • Betty Carter: Finally, Betty Carter (1969 [1975], Roulette): [r]: B+(*)
  • Betty Carter: At the Village Vanguard (1970 [1993], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Betty Carter: The Betty Carter Album (1976 [1988], Verve): [r]: B
  • Ray Charles: Greatest Country and Western Hits (1962-66 [1988], DCC): [r]: A-
  • Jon Lipscomb: Solo Guitar Improvisations Vol. 1 (2016, self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Walt Weiskopf: Night Lights (1995, Double Time): [r]: B+(**)
  • Walt Weiskopf: Song for My Mother (1995 [1996], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(***)
  • Walt Weiskopf: Sleepless Nights (1996 [1998], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(***)
  • Walt Weiskopf: Anytown (1998, Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Walt Weiskopf: Siren (1999, Criss Cross): [r]: B+(***)
  • Walt Weiskopf: Man of Many Colors (2001 [2002], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(***)
  • Walt Weiskopf: Open Road (2014 [2015], Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(***)
  • Walt Weiskopf: Fountain of Youth (2016 [2017], Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Yoko Miwa Trio: Keep Talkin' (Ocean Blue Tear Music)

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Weekend Roundup

No time to work on this, as I spent Sunday trying to break in a new Mexican cookbook. Much of Saturday too, and more of Friday -- not that I had even started then. The one story that dominated the interest of the liberal media was Attorney General William Barr's Senate testimony and his failure to appear before the House. I was tempted to tweet when I looked at Talking Points Memo and they had devoted their entire front page to Barr (aside from one bit on the implosion of Stephen Moore's Fed nomination).

Actually, this should have been a banner week for the media to pick apart Trump's increasingly manic and deranged foreign policy. The US hasn't been taken such a nakedly imperial stance toward Latin America since FDR traded in his cousin's penchant for Gunboat Diplomacy for the sunny promise of a Good Neighbor Policy. I didn't link to anything below on Trump's phone call to Putin, mostly because no one seems to know enough about it to write intelligently. But there were also fairly major stories that could have been reported about Korea, China, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Yemen, and Israel/Palestine (where Netanyahu celebrated his election victory by launching the heaviest assault on Gaza since 2014).

Some scattered links this week:

For the record, tonight's Cinco de Mayo menu, nearly all from The Best Mexican Recipes (America's Test Kitchen):

  • Chicken adobo
  • Braised short ribs with peppers and onion
  • Cheese enchiladas
  • Classic Mexican rice
  • Skillet street corn
  • Restaurant-style black beans
  • Shrimp and lime ceviche
  • Mango, jicama, and orange salad
  • Cherry tomato and avocado salad
  • Key lime pie
  • Duce de leche cheesecake

I generally cut the hot peppers back by 50%. I made the beef and the desserts the night before. Started around noon, aiming at 6pm dinner, but it wound up closer to 7pm, putting a couple guests to work. Used a gluten-free shell for the key lime pie, but made cheesecake crust from scratch, using a box of caramel and sea salt cookies plus some graham crackers. Used store-bought yellow corn tortillas, which were the weak link in the enchiladas (otherwise pretty great). Ten people, so the table was pretty crowded. Kitchen was a colossal mess, but got it straightened out by bedtime.

I've never been a big fan of Mexican food, but figured I should give it a try, especially given access to specialty grocers here. But when I bought my first Mexican cookbook, I found it impenetrable. This one is intentionally simplified, which helped get me started. This cookbook didn't have any desserts, so I scrounged around the web, not finding much that interested me. (I've made flan and rice pudding many times before, but didn't want to do them here. And while I'm partial to cake, tres leches isn't a favorite.) On the other hand, lime figures large in the meal, and I had the pie shell on the shelf. The cheesecake was a second thought, and turned out to be a nice complement.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Daily Log

Replied to a twitter thread. It seems to have started with Dave Weigel, who wrote:

To understand Bidenmentum, you've got to have some of the conversations I had yesterday: Middle-aged women explaining that 2016 showed that voters won't elect a female president, so they've got to be strategic.

Kathleen Geier wrote:

This is so depressing. Countries like Argentina, Chile, Liberia, and Taiwan have elected women presidents. Are those countries less sexist than the US? Just because Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate who ran a lousy campaign doesn't mean another woman can't win.

I responded:

Only reason I can think of why significant numbers of voters reject any woman candidate is that the US has been on a constant war footing since 1948, and that's seeped deep into our pores; ironically, overcompensating hawks like H Clinton scare more voters than they win over.

Wrote this up as a proposal for Mike and Ram:

Been kicking around various ideas, and thought this one might be worth sharing. I've spent a lot of time thinking about a political book, built around the idea that US history breaks neatly into four eras: 1800-1860, 1860-1932, 1932-1980, and 1980-2020. Each begins with a legendary president (Jefferson, Lincoln, FD Roosevelt, Reagan) and ends with a tragically inept one-termer (Buchanan, Hoover, Carter, and Trump). (In this regard, one could also cite 1788-1800, Washington-to-Adams, but that doesn't seem quite long enough to count. Each era was dominated by a single political party, although each had two minor breaks for presidents from the other party -- in three cases two for two terms each (Cleveland and Wilson, Eisenhower and Nixon, Clinton and Obama); in the 1800-1860 period the Whig party managed to win two elections with former generals (Harrison and Taylor), but they both died in office and were succeeded by exceptionally unpopular VPs (Tyler and Fillmore). Within each era, not only was one party dominant, but the other party tended to mimic the dominant party: most obviously, how Eisenhower and Nixon supported and extended New Deal reforms, while Clinton and Obama willingly gave ground to the pro-market, small-government Republican agenda. (The earlier eras are more mixed, partly because the dominant party was itself evolving. Cleveland, for instance, was more conservative than the most pro-business Republican of his day, while Wilson was relatively progressive, admittedly with certain blinders, most notoriously race.)

The Reagan-to-Trump era differs from the others in several respects. The first three eras started with major shifts to the left: the spread of democracy under Jefferson and Jackson; the end of slavery with Lincoln; Roosevelt's New Deal. Reagan led a backlash, aimed at making Americans less equal, at reducing democracy, and at limiting the rights of most Americans. Although Republicans captured the levers of power and dominated the public agenda, their program was never very popular, their winning margins (aside from Reagan's two elections) slim (twice, at least by actual votes, negative). The eras subdivide, this one breaking down into three waves as presidential power (Reagan, Bush, Trump) did their damage, separated by breaks which allowed the economy to recover (from the first Bush recession of 1992 and the much larger Bush recession of 2008), and the Republicans to recharge (taking control of Congress in 1994 and 2010, kneecapping the Democrats from making changes).

My original idea was to start with this framework, then expand on how Democrats should view 2020 as an epochal, era-ending election, an opportunity not just to reverse the Reagan-to-Trump tide but to build a new paradigm for decades to come. A lot of good things fall out of that perspective. I'm thinking now that I should dial back the ambition from book to essay length, crank out the essay, try to get it published somewhere respectable, and see if there's any further demand. But along the way, I thought of how either of you might help, then came up with something slightly different. That is to look at the Reagan-to-Trump era reactionary movement in the broader context of fascist movements around the world. Also, to lessen my load, and give this a better chance of actually happening, I propose that you two do it as a graphic book (Mike writing, Ram illustrating). Maybe I can contribute some rough ideas, a website, some online notes, like that.

The immediate trigger for the thought was reading Benjamin Carter Hett's "The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic." Some descriptions of Hitler can easily be recast for Trump. Some cannot, but the essential point is that both are public faces of crazed mass movements which were handed power by arch-conservative power brokers (the Kochs and Mercers as much as Hindenburg and his business backers), in both cases understanding that their privileges can only be sustained if they can hide behind a political movement preoccupied with hating others. It's taken some countries much longer to mount a successful fascist movement than others. Germany in the 1920s could look back on its humiliating defeat in the Great War and rail against both internal traitors and the insults of reparations, while imagining that the extraordinary will of someone like Hitler could triumph, restoring Germany's greatness among nations. Fascists could build on lesser grounds, as Mussolini did in Italy. Even in England and France, small groups felt cheated and spawned lesser fascist movements.

It was even harder to get a fascist movement started in the US, but in the 1930s there was a clique of conservatives who harbored the fantasy, and they started to build as the Cold War lent their anti-union politics an air of respectability. As Robert Paxton argues in "The Anatomy of Fascism," fascists start out as the public face of oligarchic powers frustrated by having to deal with democracy. That turns out to be a pretty apt description of Trump. And it's worth noting that GW Bush made his own fortune working as the front man for the oil magnates who owned the Texas Rangers. Also that as Reagan's acting career washed up, he made his living as a shill for General Electric (see Kim Phillips-Fein's "Invisible Hands" for more on GE's hardcore opposition to FDR's New Deal). The difference between Hitler and America's leading fascists is that Hitler moved beyond being a front, seizing power and pursuing his own delusions, driving Germany to utter ruin, whereas the damage wrought by the American troika have yet to rebound against their masters.

Thinking along these lines, I was reminded of Marx's quip about Napoleon III in 1848: "history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce." That seems about right for contrasting Trump to Hitler and Mussolini, although one might not want to tempt fate given that the full bill for electing Trump has yet to be paid. Also one doesn't want to make light of the many terrible things that Trump as already done. Still, I see no reason why we can't present him as a buffoon as well as vile. Indeed, that's likely to be where the graphic form is most effective. Nor should we refrain from treating Hitler and Mussolini as farcical characters. Maybe if people had realized then how ridiculous they were, they might have been stopped before they could devastate so much of the world. Stopping Trump is still an option.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive.

Music: current count 31440 [31400] rated (+40), 255 [256] unrated (-1).

Last Monday of the month, so time to unveil April Streamnotes, including this week's subset below. Five Mondays this month, so the totals are up handsomely from the two previous four-Monday months. Weekly rated count is up a bit, but that's partly because I found five records I failed to record grades for recently. Some of those bookkeeping errors probably caused me to log 29-album weeks (four so far this year) instead of 30, long my standard for a productive week.

Worth noting that all three of this week's new non-jazz A-list albums here also placed high on Phil Overeem's latest list (numbers 4, 6, and 20). For what little it's worth, I wrote those before seeing Overeem's list, but not before Dan Weiss praised them on Facebook (although I think I first heard of Billie Eilish from Christgau).

Those tips help make up for the frustration of declining awareness I've been feeling. Although I still keep a music tracking file, I've stopped making any systematic effort to find and list prospects, leaving me with little concept of what to search out next. As a result, I veer off on arbitrary tangents, as when I found a piece called A Guide to Drexciya's Futuristic Electro. I really liked Drexciya's Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller, Vol. I back in 2012, so that seemed worth pursuing. But it certainly fell far short of a plan.

Finally, a link that makes more sense to list here than in yesterday's Weekend Roundup: Rachel Syme: Vince Aletti's Obsessive Collection of Seminal Fashion Magazinse. Vince was one of the first people I met when I moved to New York City in 1977, so it's good to see him again, even older, as we all are.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Kevin Abstract: Arizona Baby (2019, Question Everything/RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Juan Álamo & Marimjazzia: Ruta Panoramica (2016 [2019], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Anderson .Paak: Ventura (2019, Aftermath/12 Tone Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Brittany Anjou: Enamigo Reciprokataj (2015-16 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Seamus Blake: Guardians of the Heart Machine (2017 [2019], Whirlwind): [r]: B+(***)
  • Club D'Elf: Night Sparkles (Live) (2011 [2019], Face Pelt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Control Top: Covert Contracts (2019, Get Better): [r]: A-
  • Cooper Moore/Stephen Gauci: Studio Sessions Vol. 1 (2019, Gaucimusic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ronnie Cuber: Straight Street (2010 [2019], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Billy Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019, Darkroom/Interscope): [r]: A-
  • Anat Fort Trio: Colour (2019, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Four: There You Go Thinking Again (2018 [2019], Jazz Hang): [cd]: B
  • Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Epistrophy (2016 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Stephen Gauci/Sandy Ewan/Adam Lane/Kevin Shea: Live at the Bushwick Series (2019, Gaucimusic): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Lizzo: Cuz I Love You (2019, Nice Life/Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • Lisa Maxwell's Jazz Orchestra: Shiny! (2018 [2019], Uncle Marvin Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bennett Paster: Indivisible (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Andrew Rathbun: Character Study (2017 [2018], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Reed: Everybody Gets the Blues (2019, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steph Richards: Take the Neon Lights (2019, Birdwatcher): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Scott: In Search of Hipness (2018 [2019], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
  • Swindle: No More Normal (2019, Brownswood): [r]: B-
  • Trapper Keaper: Meets Tim Berne & Aurora Nealand (2019, Ears & Eyes/Caligola): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Cory Weeds Quintet: Live at Frankie's Jazz Club (2019, Cellar Live): [r]: B+(*)
  • Walt Weiskopf European Quartet: Worldwide (2019, Orenda): [cd]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Afro-Blue Persuasion: Live at Haight Levels: Volume One (1967 [2019], Tramp): [r]: B+(**)
  • Afro-Blue Persuasion: Live at Haight Levels: Volume Two (1967 [2019], Tramp): [r]: B+(**)
  • Elecktrokids: Elektroworld (1995 [2019], Clone Classic Cuts): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Mark Turner/Gary Foster: Mark Turner Meets Gary Foster (2003 [2019], Capri, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Bill Cunliffe/Gary Foster: It's About Love (2003, Torii): [r]: B+(***)
  • Drexciya: Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller III (1992-97 [2013], Clone Classic Cuts): [bc]: A-
  • Drexciya: Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller IV (1992-97 [2013], Clone Classic Cubs): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Drexciya: Neptune's Lair (1999, Tresor): [r]: B+(***)
  • Drexciya: Grava 4 (2002, Clone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Billie Eilish: Don't Smile at Me (2017, Darkroom/Interscope, EP): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Greg Abate with the Tim Ray Trio: Gratitude: Stage Door Live @ The Z (Whaling City Sound)
  • Brittany Anjou: Enamigo Reciprokataj (Origin)
  • Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Combo: Chez Nous (Summit): June 7
  • Satoko Fujii: Stone (Libra): June 7
  • The Invisible Party: Shumankind (Chant -18)
  • Peter Jensen & DR Big Band: Stand on Your Feet and Fight: Voices of the Danish West Indies (ILK)
  • Ellynne Rey: The Birdsong Project (self-released): May 1
  • Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Side Three: New Work (Edgetone)
  • The Richard Shulman Trio: Waltzing out of Town (RichHeart Music): May 11
  • Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: The Rhythm of Invention (Patois): June 7
  • Walt Weiskopf European Quartet: Worldwide (Orenda): May 3


  • Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy (2018 [2019], Atlantic) [A-]
  • Todd Snider: Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3 (2019, Aimless) [A-]

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Started early and still running late. Having recently read Benjamin Carter Hett's The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic, I woke up this morning with the idea of writing something about Trump, Republicans, and Fascism for today's introduction. Never got close to that. Hett's book is pretty straight history, but you can find a page here or there where you could easily gloss in Trump's name for Hitler's. Then you move onto other pages where Trump fails any comparison, usually by being too dumb or too lazy. There are also big differences between the Nazis and the Republicans, although differences on race, foreigners, unions, and military muscle are insignificant. The biggest one is that the Nazis actually had their own goon squad that could go out and physically attack their suspected enemies, whereas Republicans only wish they could do that. Still, the key point about Germany in 1932 was supposedly sober conservatives were so desperate to squash the left -- indeed, any trace of popular government, of democracy -- that they were willing to hand power over to a psycho like Hitler and his vicious gang of followers. Republicans seem happy to do the same thing here in America, for the same reasons, and with the same obliviousness to consequences.

I should note somewhere that former Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) died last week. Back in the 1980s he was the model of how a Republican politician could straddle moderate urban politics (he was mayor of Indianapolis) and the Reagan reaction, which for a time helped make the latter seem more innocuous and palatable. He was finally devoured by the right, purged in a primary by an opponent so extreme that the Democrats were able to (temporarily) pick up the seat. I never felt any particular fondness for Lugar, but I could understand why people respected him. Even his breed of Republican is now a thing of the past.

Also noted that historian David Brion Davis has died. His 1967 book The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture greatly affected the way pretty much everyone understood the history of slavery in the Americas. I've often thought I should check out his later books, especially the ones that extended his study into the 19th century. I learned of his death from a cranky Corey Robin note, which I decided not to bother with below. Here's a more useful (and generous) obituary.

Anyhow, this is what the week has to show for itself:

   Mar 2001