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Monday, March 20, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27921 [27888] rated (+33), 403 [389] unrated (+14).

More old music than new this week. For one thing, I've been playing CDs from the travel case when I get up in the afternoon instead of things I'd have to work on. Rated count still seems robust as I spent the late nights picking off old Ken Vandermark records I had missed (my rated list here, although this doesn't pick up things where his name wasn't listed first -- a quick count shows 35 of those, including a couple of groups I catalog separately; my chart shows 11 more records I haven't gotten to, including several multi-disc sets). And over the weekend I started listening to the late Chuck Berry's old albums. I must have heard some Berry singles during his heyday, but never owned any of his records until I got to St. Louis and picked up Chuck Berry's Golden Decade (released 1967) and followed up with Vol. 2 (1973) -- though I don't recall Vol. 3 (1974). So I've always known him through compilations, especially the canon-defining The Great Twenty-Eight (1982), and the even better The Definitive Collection (2006), but also the 3-CD Chess Box (1988), which shows the pickings thin out past one disc, but don't disappear entirely.

I mentioned three deaths up top in yesterday's Weekend Roundup post: Chuck Berry, Jimmy Breslin, and James Hull. One more troubling still is pending: Mary McDonough Harren, reportedly in the final stage of her terminal cancer. She is the grande dame of the Wichita peace movement, a founder of the Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas, and a dear friend over the last 15 years. Her passing will leave an unfathomable hole in our lives.

A couple links that popped up on Chuck Berry:

New records rated this week:

  • Jason Anick & Jason Yeager: United (2016 [2017], Inner Circle Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Bat for Lashes: The Bride (2016, Parlophone): [r]: B-
  • Alex Cline's Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows (2016 [2017], self-released, 2CD): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Akua Dixon: Akua's Dance (2016 [2017], Akua's Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jill Jack and the American SongBook Band: Pure Imagination (2016, UpHill Productions): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kirk MacDonald Jazz Orchestra: Common Ground (2015 [2017, Addo, 2CD): [cd]: B
  • Ben Markley Big Band: Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton (2016 [2017], OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Nate Wooley/Ken Vandermark: All Directions Home (2015, Audiographic): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Chuck Berry: After School Session (1955-57 [1957], Chess): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chuck Berry: One Dozen Berrys (1957 [1958], Chess): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry Is on Top (1955-59 [1959], Chess): [r]: A-
  • Chuck Berry: Rockin' at the Hops (1960, Chess): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chuck Berry: New Juke Box Hits (1961, Chess): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chuck Berry: Twist (1955-61 [1962], Chess): [r]: A-
  • Chuck Berry: On Stage (1963, Chess): [r]: B-
  • Chuck Berry: St. Louis to Liverpool (1957-64 [2004], Chess): A-
  • Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry in London (1965, Chess): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chuck Berry: Fresh Berry's (1965, Chess): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry in Memphis (1967, Mercury): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chuck Berry: Live at Fillmore Auditorium (1967, Mercury): [r]: B
  • Bob Brookmeyer: The Dual Role of Bob Brookmeyer (1954-55 [1990], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Cinghiale [Mars Williams and Ken Vandermark]: Hoofbeats of the Snorting Swine (1995-96 [1996], Eighth Day Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Bo Diddley/Chuck Berry: Two Great Guitars (1964, Chess): [r]: B+(*)
  • Vic Juris: Songbook (1999 [2000], SteepleChase): [r]: B
  • Barney Kessel With Shelly Manne and Ray Brown: The Poll Winners (1957 [1988], Contemporary/OJC): [r]: B+(*)
  • Barney Kessel With Shelly Manne & Ray Brown: Poll Winners Three! (1959 [1992], Contemporary/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
  • Rara Avis: Mutations/Multicelluars Mutations (2012 [2013], dEN, 2CD): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Rara Avis (2013 [2015], Not Two): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Reed Trio: Last Train to the First Station (2008-10 [2011], Kilogram): [bc]: B+(*)
  • The Vandermark Quartet: Big Head Eddie (1993, Platypus): [bc]: B
  • Vandermark 5: Drink, Don't Drown (1997, Savage Sound Syndicate): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Vandermark 5: Thinking on One's Feet (1998, Savage Sound Syndicate) B+(**)
  • Ken Vandermark/Tim Daisy: August Music (2006 [2007], self-released): [bc]: A-
  • Ken Vandermark/Tim Daisy: The Conversation (2010-11 [2011], Multikulti): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love: Letter to a Stranger (2011 [2012], Smalltown Superjazz): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Witches & Devils: Empty Bottle Chicago (1997 [2000], Savage Sound Syndicate): [bc]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Antonio Adolfo: Hybrido: From Rio to Wayne Shorter (AAM): April 7
  • Bryan and the Aardvarks: Sounds From the Deep Field (Biophilia): April 28
  • Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: Transient Takes (Malcom)
  • Duo Baars Henneman & Dave Burrell: Transdans (Wig)
  • Tristan Honsinger/Antonio Borghini/Tobias Delius/Axel Dörner: Hook, Line and Sinker (De Platenbakakkerij)
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Ancient Africa (1973, Delmark/Sackville): March 24
  • Jentsch Group Quartet: Fractured Pop (Fleur de Son): April 7
  • Mike Longo Trio: Only Time Will Tell (2017, CAP): March 31
  • Linda May Han Oh: Walk Against Wind (Biophilia): April 14
  • Michael Rabinowitz: Uncharted Waters (Cats Paw): April 28
  • Sult/Lasse Marhaug: Harpoon (Conrad Sound/Pica Disk): advance
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 1: Titan (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2: Tarvos (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 3: Pandora (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 4: Hyperion (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 5: Rhea (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 6: Saturn (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 7: Dione (Leo)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Chuck Berry died. Jimmy Breslin died. My uncle, James Hull, died. It's been one of those weeks.

The big thing Trump did this week was to release a new budget proposal. Some reactions:

  • Who Wins and Loses in Trump's Proposed Budget; also The 62 agencies and programs Trump wants to eliminate.

  • A grim budget day for US science: analysis and reaction to Trump's plan: E.g., "NIH cuts could mean no new grants in 2016."

  • Graham Bowley: What if Trump Really Does End Money for the Arts? Public arts funding has been a political hot potato for many years now, so it's not surprising that conservative churls would take this opportunity to slash it, indeed to cut it out altogether. I could nitpick myself, but I also recall that during the 1930s the WPA financed all sorts of public art, some of which we're still fortunate enough to enjoy. One cannot even imagine government funding programs like that today, but if you give it a wee bit of thought, you might wonder why. Given today's technology, the ability to digitize sound and vision, to reproduce and disseminate those bits at zero marginal cost, there has never been a better time to make a big public investment in the arts. Sure, we need to come up with a funding scheme that isn't subject to arbitrary commissars, but the costs and risks are almost trivial. Especially compared to the Defense Department; after all, without art and entertainment, what is there left to defend?

  • David S Cohen: Trump's Budget Is Pure Cruel Conservatism

  • Jeff Daniels: Rural America and farm sector to take a hit with Trump's budget plan

  • Zaid Jilani: Trump the Outsider Outsources His Budget to Insider Think Tank: Explores how "many of the White House proposal's ideas are identical to a budget blueprint Heritage drew up last year." Also quotes from a statement put out by Heritage praising the Trump budget, with one little demur: "it complained that Trump's call for an additional $54 billion in defense spending just isn't big enough."

  • Eric Levitz: White House Says Cutting Meals on Wheels is 'Compassionate': Quote comes from White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who you'll read more about elsewhere. Levitz also wrote 6 Promises That President Trump's Budget Betrays.

  • Charles Pierce: This Is the Ending Conservatives Always Wanted:

    This budget is short-sighted, cruel to the point of being sadistic, stupid to the point of pure philistinism, and shot through with the absolute and fundamentalist religious conviction that the only true functions of government are the ones that involve guns, and that the only true purpose of government is to serve the rich. . . .

    A lot of this is going to make the members of Congress choke, so a lot of it may not pass. Its very existence is important, though, as a document that lays out quite clearly the vision of government shared almost everywhere in modern conservatism. This is a DeMint Budget, a Heritage Budget, a Gingrich Budget, a Reagan Budget, and a Tea Party Budget. It may be crude and lack a certain polish, but its priorities and goals are clear. There is no modern Republican Party without movement conservatism, and this budget is the most vivid statement yet of that philosophy.

    By the way, Piece also wrote: Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin Reinvented the English Language.

  • Jordan Weissmann: Trump's Budget Director Has a Breathtakingly Cynical Excuse for Cutting Aid to the Poor

  • Matthew Yglesias: Trump's budget blueprint is a war on the future of the American economy: I caught a whiff here of Robert Reich's old scheme for education transforming American workers into highly paid "symbolic manipulators" -- sure, boring old manufacturing jobs get stripped due to "free trade" deals, but we'll all wind up richer than ever. That was bullshit then and is bullshit now, but that doesn't mean the opposite is even close to right: you don't need Friedman to realize that business today requires more technical skill than ever before, and the future more so. So why would anyone push a government budget that seriously undermines scientific research and education?

    But Trump's rhetoric, and now his spending blueprint, don't just push back against techno-utopianism. They constitute a denial of the obvious truth that a prosperous society is necessarily going to be one that is evolving and changing over time. . . .

    One of the main things that was good about the "good old days" is that they were a time of massive progress, expansion of higher education opportunities into the middle class and rapid development of new products and cures. This happened while the government invested more -- not less -- on health, education, science, and regional development.

    Didn't Trump spend much of his campaign complaining about how we've neglected essential investments in infrastructure? Science, research and engineering are what infrastructure is built on, and education is fundamental to all that.

Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:

  • Zoë Carpenter/George Zornick: Everything Trump Did in His 8th Week That Really Matters:

    • Released a very skinny budget.
    • Moved to loosen fracking rules.
    • Delayed chemical-safety regulations.
    • Fired 46 US Attorneys nationwide.
    • Made a formal apology to United Kingdom over wild spying claims.
    • Put military action against North Korea on the table.
  • Doug Bandow: Why Is Trump Abandoning the Foreign Policy that Brought Him Victory? Starts by pointing out that Trump was often critical of the neoconservatives who had plunged America into endless war, quoting him as saying, "unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct." Indeed, many single-issue neocons like the Kagans were quick to flock to Hillary Clinton, trusting her record for hawkishness. Still, although Trump has been able to torpedo much bruited nominations for the likes of John Bolton and Elliott Abrams, his administration has done a lot of sabre-rattling so far. But the author ("a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan") has a selective memory of Trump's campaign -- he also insisted he'd crush ISIS and increase military spending. Unlike anti-war conservatives (like Justin Raimondo) who fell for Trump's promise, I actually considered him more bellicose and more dangerous than Clinton (and I've repeatedly attacked her on just this issue). The reasons: the Republicans Trump would surround himself with would be more consistently hawkish (many Democrats have better things to do), and Trump himself is ignorant of and prejudiced about the world, and much given to macho posturing. A good example of this is the rapidly developing crisis with North Korea; e.g., see two recent Jason Ditz pieces: Tillerson: North Korea Diplomacy Has Failed, and Tillerson: Attacking North Korea Remains an Option; also Charles P Pierce: Don't Poke North Korea with a Stick Just to See What Will Happen.

  • Michelle Chen: Trump's Obsession With Cutting Regulations Will Make America Sick

  • Julie Hirschfield Davis: Trump, Day After Merkel's Visit, Says Germany Pays NATO and US Too Little: Trump's been complaining for some time about NATO member not paying enough for their common defense, and he's sent Rex Tillerson out to shake down America's supposed allies, so this isn't exactly new. There's much Trump doesn't understand, but one thing is that a big part of the reason the US has so many subservient allies is that the US pays for the deference, not just in allowing the US to base troops on foreign soil but in ways like generous trade deals that help countries develop through exports. Take those perks away and won't people start wondering whether it's all worth it?

  • Allegra Kirkland: Huck: Trump Should Ignore Travel Ban Ruling, Like Jackson With Trail of Tears: Says a lot when you take inspiration from one of the most shameful facts in American history, but that's where many Republicans are at: until they manage to stock the courts with like-minded conservatives, they invite like-minded executives to run amuck over niceties like law and constitution. Not clear that Trump, a man who has put a lot of stock into using the courts for his own gains, is there yet, or that if he was he wouldn't be facing a widespread revolt from civil servants forced to choose between the legal system and his executive ego.

  • Ezra Klein: Does Donald Trump know what the GOP health bill does? Conclusion: "maybe not"; more to the point: "the AHCA does literally none of the things Trump says it does."

  • Nancy LeTourneau: Checking in on Trump's 'Contract With the American Voter': This is becoming a staple piece on the left, dredging up Trump campaign promises and showing how few of them -- especially the relatively decent ones -- have been implemented, or even followed up on. This doesn't seem to phase Trump's actual supporters yet: they have, after all, almost by definition become jaded cynics about the political process, leaving them more inclined to see Trump's failures as subversion by unseen forces. On the other hand, LeTourneau's list includes a lot of "not introduced" Acts, which goes to show how the Republicans in Congress have proceeded their own agenda, regardless of how that fits in with Trump's own promises. Ryan, in particular, seems to view Trump as his stooge, aided by the fact that Trump is too lazy to work on his own agenda, and too hamstrung by the people he's allowed himself to be surrounded by. Still, I suspect the day is coming when we'll consider ourselves lucky anytime Trump breaks a campaign promise.

  • Josh Marshall: He Seems Nice: Irony still in plan: "he" is Greg Knox, described in a Pence tweet as "a small biz owner hurting under Obamacare." So here's some context: "It shows Knox to be what policy specialists refer to as a 'toxic right wing asshole.'"

  • Ian Millhiser: Paul Ryan says he fantasized about cutting health care for the poor at his college keggers: "Meet the most insufferable frat boy in human history."

  • Tessa Stuart: Four Things We Learned About Trump's Tax Returns From Rachel Maddow: Explained much more succinctly than what you got from watching Maddow's program.

  • Amy B Wang: Why Trump's plan to slash UN funding could lead to global calamity

  • Paul Woodward: Donald Trump's deceitful and misleading statements have consequences: This keys off a long quote from John Cassidy: Donald Trup Finally Pays a Price for His False and Reckless Words, but I found Woodward's commentary more to the point:

    Donald Trump could accurately assert: "I didn't get where I am today by being honest."

    Like many people who believe in the supremacy of will power, he may believe that being faithful to ones own interests and objectives is all that matters.

    Trump is consistent in his unwillingness to bend to the will of others. His America First policy is merely an inflation of his Trump First practice.

    The idea that Trump might have the capacity to mend his ways -- to see that his dishonesty no longer works -- derives, perhaps, from a misreading of his pragmatism.

    Trump isn't bound to any ideology. At the same time, he exhibits no psychological flexibility whatsoever.

    Trump believes in his own innate capabilities with which, in his own imagining, he is so richly endowed he has no need to learn anything.

    This reminds me a bit of another president not bound to any ideology: Franklin Roosevelt. The difference, of course, was that Roosevelt did learn from his mistakes. He saw, for instance, that his more conservative impulses -- especially his fetish for balanced budgets -- were harmful, while his more generous, more liberal, impulses worked much better. The result was the most progressive administration in American history, but few voters imagined that at the start. They simply wanted to try something different, because the reign of Andrew Mellon and his three presidents had been so disastrous. The election of Trump was based on much the same reaction, but less decisive because disaster was much less universally recognized (let alone commonly understood) in 2016, and because quite a few people understood that Trump and/or the Republicans didn't offer any real solutions -- indeed, they were major problems.

Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still to America's bout of political insanity:

  • Patrick Cockburn: Yemen Is a Complicated and Unwinnable War. Trump Should Stay Out. Should, but thus far Yemen is the war Trump has most dramatically inserted himself in.

  • Tom Engelhardt: How the Invasion of Iraq Came Home: Actually, his third-tier title, after "Walled In" and "President Blowback." I'm not sure "blowback" is correct, because most of the damage done to America since Trump took office has been self-inflicted: the problem is less that others are attacking so much as we've internalized the scars of fifteen-years of the shocks of war:

    It's clear, however, that his urge to create a garrison state went far beyond a literal wall. It included the build-up of the U.S. military to unprecedented heights, as well as the bolstering of the regular police, and above all of the border police. Beyond that lay the urge to wall Americans off in every way possible. His fervently publicized immigration policies (less new, in reality, than they seemed) should be thought of as part of a project to construct another kind of "great wall," a conceptual one whose message to the rest of the world was striking: You are not welcome or wanted here. Don't come. Don't visit.

    All this was, in turn, fused at the hip to the many irrational fears that had been gathering like storm clouds for so many years, and that Trump (and his alt-right companions) swept into the already looted heartland of the country. In the process, he loosed a brand of hate (including shootings, mosque burnings, a raft of bomb threats, and a rise in hate groups, especially anti-Muslim ones) that, historically speaking, was all-American, but was nonetheless striking in its intensity in our present moment.

    TomDispatch also published Michael Klare: Winning World War II in the Twenty-First Century, on Trump's nostalgia for the days when America actually won wars -- ignoring that times have changed as pre-WWII empires have been rolled back on every front, and that the US is no longer viewed as a country normally content to mind its own business, that only joins wars when attacked, and that doesn't plot to keep and plunder other nations. Indeed, the real problems the US military face today aren't the sort that can be fixed with a few more ships, planes, and troops.

  • Matea Gold: The Mercers and Stephen Bannon: How a populist power base was funded and built: Robert Mercer is a hedge fund exec, the plural evidently refers to daughter Rebekah, and the article goes into some depth on how they've sowed their millions to promote right-wing causes, especially through Trump strategist Steve Bannon.

    While other donors gave more to support Trump's presidential bid last year, the Mercers are now arguably the most influential financiers of the Trump era. Bannon, who went on to manage the final months of Trump's campaign before joining the White House, is the senior architect of the president's policy vision. He is joined in the West Wing by counselor Kellyanne Conway, a friend of Rebekah Mercer who led the family-funded super PAC that backed first Cruz and then Trump in the 2016 race.

    People who know them say the Mercers, who soured on traditional political operatives, appreciated Bannon's business savvy and share his belief that the conversation around politics must be changed for their ideas to prevail. For all of their power and privilege, both the family and their longtime adviser see themselves as outsiders, fighting the grip of elite institutions.

    One thing I was surprised by here was a $4 million donation to John Bolton Super PAC. I wasn't aware of such a thing, but it probably explains why such a useless and incompetent buffoon keeps managing to get his name in the news.

    Gold also wrote a comparable analysis of the Kochs (in 2014): Koch-backed political network, built to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012 elections; also co-wrote one on the Clintons (in 2015): Two Clintons. 41 Years. $3 Billion.

  • William Greider: Here's What You Need to Know About the Federal Reserve: "We demand way too much from the central bank -- but that's because our elected politicians have done almost nothing to revive the economy." The Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates last week, in an effort to throttle back the economy lest it grow to the point where wages actually start to rise. That would normally be bad news for a sitting president, but not for the bankers who sit with this particular one.

    Greider also wrote: Trump Is Fighting a New Trade War -- and This One Is Intramural, about the "nasty White House battle [that] has broken out between right-wing nationalists and globalist financiers," asking the question: "Who owns this president -- the folks who voted for him, or the power hitters of big business and banking?" That's actually a novel question for a Republican president: with leaders like the Bushes, Republican voters were merely consenting to oligarchic rule, but didn't Trump promise something else? I'm not sure, but given how readily Clinton and Obama turned against their voters, I hardly expect Trump to show much spine.

  • Eric Levitz: The Case for Countering Right-Wing Populism With 'Left-Wing Economics': Article spends too much time rebutting a red herring from Zack Beauchamp. My own suspicion is that the key to making an "Left-Wing Economics" argument work is to name enemies and show how those enemies take unfair advantage of working people, especially through their bought influence on government, how their lobbying perverts the course of justice. Not that we needed more examples, but the Trump administration is rife with them. (Trump sure had a field day painting the Clintons that way.)

  • Richard Silverstein: Knesset Votes to Ban Palestinian Parties, Destroy Israeli Democracy: In 1951 Palestinians still residing in Israel were granted citizenship (a right that was not extended after 1967 as Israel occupied and in some cases annexed additional Palestinian land), and since then Palestinian political parties have been represented in Israel's parliament (Knesset) -- to little effect, of course, as ruling coalitions have very rarely even considered including them, but it's always been a talking point, a big part of the Israel's claim to be a democracy.

    This paragraph is meant as an aside, but is noteworthy:

    Coincidentally, today a UN body issued a report finding that Israel had become an apartheid state. It further urged that the UN reactivate the methods, resolutions and commissions it used to ostracize South Africa, when it too faced international opprobrium for its racist policies. The new version of the Basic Law further strengthens such findings.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Daily Log

James Arthur Hull died today, six days shy of his 86th birthday. He was my uncle, my father's youngest brother, the last survivor of his generation (my parents, uncles and aunts). Here's an obituary:

Hull, James Arthur "Jimmy," 85, of Wichita, Kansas passed away peacefully on Wednesday March 15, 2017 in Wichita. Jimmy was born the son of Robert and Mabel (Lundberg) Hull on March 21, 1931 in Spearville, Kansas. Jimmy and Bobbie were united in marriage on September 21, 1952 in Wichita. Together they celebrated 55 years of marriage before her passing in 2007. Jimmy retired from the United States Air Force after 26 years. He retired as a Master Sergeant. He retired from Boeing after 16 years and an engineer. He was preceded in death by his parents, wife, siblings, Clara Belle Handlin, George Hull, Carl Hull, Robert Hull, son, James "Jimmy" Hull, Jr. Survivors include his loving son, Gary (Nancy) Hull of Eudora, Kansas. Celebration of life services will be 3:00 p.m. of Saturday March 25, 2017 at Lakeview Funeral Home, 12100 E. 13th St. N., Wichita. Burial will be held at Fort Scott National Cemetery, Fort Scott, Kansas.

He lived here in Wichita, but it had been several years since I had seen him: last time was after his wife Bobbie Ann died in 2007. I ran into him at Home Depot, and he gave me a copy of a short memoir he had written and self-published, I Survived!, padded out with poetry and his notoriously cranky political rants ("letters to the editor"). I had often thought about wanting to check up on him, but didn't act on that until my brother informed me that he had heard James was in Kansas Medical Center and expected to die within the week. I drove out there today, and found that he had passed early this morning. I spoke to his son Gary later, and got a quick rundown on his condition. He had done poorly for several years, and was moved into a nursing home ("assisted care") last year. He ultimately had a combination of heart and kidney problems, each complicating the treatment of the other, and had fallen several times in the last week (possibly breaking his hip -- I'm not clear on that detail).

I should probably write up a proper post on him. He joined the US Air Force in 1950 and retired in 1976, then went to college, earned a degree in aeronautical engineering, and worked at Boeing until he retired again, in 1996. He was stationed all over the world, including Germany, Thailand and Vietnam, but was in Wichita (McConnell AFB) for about one-third of the time, so we saw him a lot for some stretched, and not at all for others.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27888 [27862] rated (+26), 389 [385] unrated (+4).

Actual new rated count less than above -- I only count 19 records below. I may have missed something below: seems like every record I process means I have to add lines to 4-5 files, and sometimes I lose track of one or more of them. On the other hand, in looking through the database and comparing it to the 20th Century Jazz Guide, I found a half-dozen or so reviews that hadn't been registered, so correcting those added to the count. Thus far I've gone through the Jazz '20-30s file and most of the Jazz '40s-50s, adding stubs for all of the albums I've graded but haven't collected reviews for (basically, records I heard before 2001 or so), and also for all of the artists even if I haven't heard any albums. One side effect of the latter is that I've been checking up on artists I didn't have death dates for, and finding most of them as I go along (and hopefully this trend will change) have indeed died -- some long ago. Still have a long ways to go -- the '60s through '90s files are larger still (though will have more post-2000 records), and there are also separate files for vocals, Latin, and pop. Currently up to 515 pages (254k words).

Almost finished the week without an A- record, but Clean Feed came to the rescue. Actually, two of Christgau's Expert Witness picks came real close: Sunny Sweeney and Whitney Rose. (His other pick, Becky Warren's War Surplus, was an A- back in December.) Jennie Scheinman also came close with an album uncannily similar to Bill Frisell's Disfarmer. Got a letter from Clean Feed today hoping to pinch pennies and switch me over to downloads, which won't stop me from listening but will sure slow me down -- and make me question why bother. I was tempted to give up reviewing back when the Village Voice lost interest in Jazz Consumer Guide, but kept on because labels like Clean Feed kept sending me new releases. That's effectively the difference between a virtuous circle and a death spiral.

New records rated this week:

  • Battle Trance: Blade of Love (2016, New Amsterdam): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop: Love Letter for Fire (2016, Sub Pop/Black Cricket): [r]: B+(*)
  • DIIV: Is the Is Are (2016, Captured Tracks): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dinosaur Jr: Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (2016, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B+(*)
  • Krzyysztof Dys Trio: Toys (2014 [2016], ForTune): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Gorilla Mask: Iron Lung (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
  • Norah Jones: Day Breaks (2015 [2016], Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Murs: Captain California (2017, Strange Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Radio Dept.: Running Out of Love (2016, Labrador): [r]: B+(**)
  • Whitney Rose: South Texas Suite (2017, Six Shooter, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • John K. Samson: Winter Wheat (2016, Anti-): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jenny Scheinman: Here on Earth (2017, Royal Potato Family): [r]: B+(***)
  • Andy Shauf: The Party (2016, Anti-): [r]: B
  • Swans: The Glowing Man (2016, Mute, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sunny Sweeney: Trophy (2017, Aunt Daddy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Teenage Fanclub: Here (2016, Merge): [r]: B-
  • Michael Zilber: Originals for the Originals (2016 [2017], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Swans: Public Castration Is a Good Idea (1986 [1999], Thirsty Ear): [r]: B
  • Peter Van Huffel/Michael Bates/Jeff Davis: Boom Crane (2013 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra: Invitation (OA2)
  • Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet: Waltz New (OA2)
  • Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre: The Art of Latin Jazz (Origin)
  • The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: The Music of John Lewis (Blue Engine): March 24
  • Matt Otto With Ensemble Ibérica: Ibérica (Origin)
  • Trio 3: Visiting Texture (Intakt)
  • Trio Heinz Herbert: The Willisau Concert (Intakt)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Donald Trump likes to talk about how he "inherited a mess": here's one measure of that, a chart of private-sector payroll employment over Obama's eight years:

Note first that the guy who really did inherit a mess was Obama, following eight years of Republican misrule under GW Bush. Also, that by ignoring cuts to public sector employment due to austerity measures mostly (but not exclusively) pushed by Republicans, this overstates the overall jobs gains a bit. Still, Trump's going to be hard-pressed to sustain Obama's rate, given hat he's working with the same "wrecking crew" that sunk Bush. Of course, you may not know all this, because Obama spent very little time bitching about the hole Republicans dug for him: he felt it important to recovery to project confidence, so he consistently understated the recession early on. In doing so, he did himself (and the country) a disservice, as he undercut the political case for more emphatic reforms.

Dean Baker reviews the latest jobs figures: Prime-Age Employment Rate Hits New High for Recovery in February. On the other hand, no false modesty from Trump: Trump keeps claiming he's created US jobs since Election Day. As the title continues: "Not so." Also: Spicer: Trump Says Formerly 'Phony' Jobs Numbers Are Now 'Very Real' For more, see Matthew Yglesias: Sean Spicer's appalling answer about economic data shows how far we've lowered the bar for Trump. Spicer's quip: "They may have been phony in the past, but it's very real now."

Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:

Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still to America's bout of political insanity:

  • Bernard Avishai: It's Not Too Early for the Next Democratic Ticket: Dude, it's way too fucking early. In fact, the subject should be zipped until way after the 2018 elections, and I wish we could put it off until well into 2020: partly because it'll do nothing but distract the press from the real issues, but mostly because the next candidate should represent the party, not usurp the party to stroke her or his ego (which is what being the designated leader would do).

  • Dean Baker: Drugs Are Cheap: Why Do We Let Governments Make Them Expensive? It's worth remembering that private health insurance was quick to add pharmaceutical coverage to their plans because drug therapies were often cheaper than medical interventions. Medicare was slow to follow suit, and by the time they did drugs weren't so cheap any more. The price rise was partly the effect of more money being available through insurance, and partly the increasing callousness of the profit motive, but to cash in the key has been government-granted patent monopolies, which give companies the right to push patients (and insurers) to their limits -- a "right" they've lately been exploiting so universally it's become a major driver of health care cost. There is an easy fix to this, and a little public investment would more than make up for any reductions companies might make to r&d.

    Baker also wrote a major piece on the track record of his fellow economists: The Wrongest Profession.

  • Thomas Frank: The Revolution Will Not Be Curated: There must be a better word for what he's getting at, but the people he's talking about are those who sort and select things (originally art) to be presented to larger groups of people (originally exhibitions). To call these people filters suggests they're more passive than they in fact are. Another word that comes to mind is experts, but that suggests they know more than most seem to, and that they work by some relatively objective criteria which we should respect -- in fact, many people who call themselves experts are distinguished mostly by their partisan support for special interests. Obviously, much can go wrong with all this curating, but it's impossible to be broadly informed without tapping into intermediaries who pay much more attention to specialists. Virtually all of the links in this post came to my attention through curators I've found worthwhile, and if you're reading this you're doing the same. Indeed, that makes me a curator, as I suppose I am in other domains, such as recorded jazz. Still not sure what Frank's title means, unless it's that in order to break out of today's debilitating conventional wisdom you have to be aware of how all this curating limits your options, and seek out info beyond the commonplace. But as a practical matter, that just means that you need to find better curators (and, I would add, hold them to account).

  • Henry Grabar: Corporate Incentives Cost US $45 Billion in 2015, Don't Really Work: Photo features Boeing, who recently extorted $8.7 billion from Washington state for not (for now) moving jobs elsewhere.

  • Aamna Mohdin: The Dutch far right's election donors are almost exclusively American: So rich Americans are trying to buy another election, something they have a lot of practice doing at home, and as a little reporting would easily reveal, abroad. For more on right-wing Dutch candidate Geert Wilders: Michael Birnbaum: The peroxide-blonde crusader who could soon top Dutch elections. Especially interesting is Wilders' experience of working on an Israeli kibbutz ("a trip he described as transformative in shaping his pro-Israel, anti-Muslim views"). Another American publicly supporting Wilders is Rep. Steve King (R-IA): Iowa congressman lauds far-right Dutch politician, warning over 'demographics'. Curious how chummy the International Fraternal Order of Fascists is at the moment, because one lesson history teaches us is that nationalists ultimately find themselves at war with one another, or falling obediently into the orbit of stronger nationalists (as Quisling, Petain, and others prostrated their nations to Hitler's Germany). Do the Dutch really want to elect Wilders (or the French Le Pen) to be even more under Trump's (or Putin's) thumb? [PS: Also on Wilders' funding: Max Blumenthal: The Sugar Mama of Anti-Muslim Hate.]

  • Rich Montgomery/Andian Cummings: Arcs of two lives intersect in tragedy at Austins bar in Olathe: Profiles of the Trump-inspired shooter (Adam W. Purinton: "51, had long since seen his career as an air traffic controller come to an end, gaining a reputation as an unhappy drinker as he drifted from one low-level job to another") and victim (Srinivas Kuchibbotla, 32, an engineer who had immigrated from Hyderabad, India; he "had the American dream in his grasp: great job, happy marriage, new house and plans for children"). Of course, Trump's spokespeople were quick to disavow the shooting, but aside from its ending (which they'd prefer to leave ambiguous) the whole Trump campaign was based on exploiting the frustrations of folks like Purinton and rallying their furor against people like Kuchibbotla. And it certainly is the case that American businesses prefer hiring brilliant and optimistic foreign-born professionals to trying to train undereducated and aging malcontents like Purinton. We live in a society where even such paltry welfare efforts as we make are more meant to belittle beneficiaries than to build them up, so it's easy to see how Trump's supporters can think the system favors immigrants over natives. And Democrats, having taken every side of the issue (including for the Clintons a leading roll in "ending welfare as we know it"), have had no coherent message, allowing Trump to exploit this simmering wrath -- and to stir it up, as we see here.

  • Vijay Prashad: The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush, War Criminal

  • Paul Rosenberg: Stronger than Tea: The anti-Trump resistance is much bigger than the Tea Party -- and it has to be.

  • Danielle Ryan: WikiLeaks CIA dump makes the Russian hacking story even murkier -- if that's possible: I haven't followed the latest WikiLeaks dump of confidential CIA documents enough to form an opinion on whether it's a good or bad or mixed thing, and frankly don't much care. Clearly, we already knew that the CIA was out of control, which we should have expected simply due to the cloak of secrecy under which it works. Still, this article makes some interesting points:

    The Vault 7 leaks are not exactly a smoking gun for those who maintain Russia's innocence where the DNC hacks and leaks are concerned -- but they're not insignificant either. If anything, the new leaks should make people think a little harder before putting their complete trust in the CIA's public conclusions about the acts (or alleged acts) of enemy states. . . .

    The fact that the CIA -- an organization of professionals trained in the most sophisticated methods of deception -- is front and center promoting the idea that Assange is a Russian agent, should be enough for anyone to take that idea with a pinch of salt.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Daily Log

I picked the following up for Midweek Roundup, then didn't get around to writing my intended commentary:

Twitter series from Michael Hull:

  • I spent last year thinking Clinton would be pres, so planning to take on systemic issues this year. Racism, poverty & policing under Dems.
  • Now the ground is moving so fast it's hard to figure out what to focus on - historical trends or the new lows that seem to hit every day.
  • I don't want to accept that hyperbolic insult culture is the politics of the rest of my life, but I was wrong about all this other shit, so.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Midweek Roundup

Top local story here has been wildfire, the predictable result of a very dry winter and three or more days of high winds. On Wednesday, the Wichita Eagle front page, above the fold, consisted of one huge picture of fire and the headline "Unprecedented." The story revealed that about 60% of Clark County (WSW of Wichita, south and a bit east of Dodge City, at population 2215 pretty much the definition of nowhere) has been burnt. That fire spread east into Comanche County (pop. 1891), and there have been more scattered fires near Hays and Hutchinson. For a rundown as of Wednesday, see Tim Potter: Over 650,000 acres burned so far, state says. The wind died down a bit on Thursday, so presumably the worst is over. Note, however, that the annual record broke last week (a bit early, don't you think?) dates from just last year.

The big story of the week was that Paul Ryan, with Donald Trump's evident blessing, unveiled his "repeal-and-replace" health care bill. He's managed to disgust both the right and the left, and more than a few people in between. Some reactions:

  • Jamelle Bouie: How Republicans Botched Their Health Care Bill: Title from the link, better than "Trumpcare Is Already on Life Support" on the page itself.

  • David Dayen: The Republican Health-Care Bill Is the Worst of So Many Worlds: it "fails on every score -- except cutting rich people's taxes."

  • Tim Dickinson: The Dark Strategy at the Core of the GOP Health Care Plan

  • Richard Eskow: The American Health Care Act Is a Wealth Grab, Not a Health Plan

  • Mike Konczal: The Truth About the GOP Health-Care Plan

  • Paul Krugman: A Plan Set Up to Fail

  • Josh Marshall: Let's Agree Not to Lie About GOPCare: Starts with a rather striking lie: "Here is the simple secret of health insurance and health care provision policy: You can create efficiencies and savings by constructing functioning markets." Actually, it's been clear for decades that health care markets are inherently dysfunctional -- i.e., that Marshall's assumption is horribly faulty. His next line is also untrue: "But at the end of the day, more money equals more care." This doesn't even demand theory: it implies that the US has 3-4 times more care than France or Japan, which is empirically false. Marshall then argues that when Ryan promises to reduce costs, he's really just saying he'll be offering less care, which is, well, true, but that's mostly because Ryan isn't trying to change any of the cost factors behind health care (e.g., by limiting private party profits). He then seems to endorse right-wing opponents of Ryan's plan, saying "the real way to do this is simply to repeat the Affordable Care Act root and branch -- no pretending about making it better and 'access' and other nostrums," but he doesn't see that happening because "Republicans have essentially accepted the premise of the ACA: which is to say, the people who got coverage under the ACA should have coverage." But Republicans refuse to admit to that position, so Ryan has tailored the program to fit Republican biases, which is to say to protect the insurability of people who can afford it and screw everyone else. Marshall ultimately make some solid points ("The current plan also starts the phaseout of Medicaid and preps for the phaseout of Medicare -- a key policy goal for Paul Ryan"), but makes a lot of stupid blunders along the way.

  • John Nichols: Sean Spicer Is Lying About Trump's Health-Care Debacle:

  • Joy-Ann Reid: Donald Trump Signs On to Paul Ryan's Let-Them-Die 'Health-Care' Crusade

  • Michael Tomasky: It Sure Looks Like Paul Ryan Wants Ryancare to Fail: "The tip-off to me came Tuesday around noon, when Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, issued a tweet condemning the bill. If Ryan didn't even bother to grease this with Heritage, he's just not being serious."

  • Matthew Yglesias: Republicans are now playing the price for a years-long campaign of Obamacare lies: "Republican leaders and conservative intellectuals, for the most part, didn't really believe nonsense about death panels or that Obama was personally responsible for high-deductible insurance plans. What they fundamentally did not like is that the basic framework of the law is to redistribute money by taxing high-income families and giving insurance subsidies to needy ones." I want to add two points here: the first is that every health care reform going back at least to Medicare protected industry profits and allowed the industry to increase those profits by inflating costs, even though this quickly price health care beyond what most families could afford; and second, that the Republicans have always had to jump through hoops to pretend that increasing industry profits was good for the people (at least the ones they profess to care about). These positions have become increasingly untenable over time, but Republicans have been able to make political hay as long as they could get people to blame the Democrats, whose own policies have only been marginally more viable, and whose reforms have saddled them with the lion's share of blame for their shortcomings.

Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:

Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still to America's bout of political insanity:

  • Dean Baker: Progressives Should Support Policies That Help All Working-Class People: This is all good; for example:

    On trade this means policies designed to reduce the trade deficit. This issue here is not "winning" in negotiations with our trading partners. It's a question of priorities in trade negotiations.

    Rather than demanding stronger and longer protections for Pfizer's patents and Microsoft's copyrights, we should be getting our trading partners to support a reduction in the value of the dollar in order to make our goods and services more competitive. If we can reduce the trade deficit by 1-2 percentage points of GDP ($180 billion to $360 billion) it will create 1-2 million manufacturing jobs, improving the labor market for the working class.

    We should use trade to reduce the pay of doctors and other highly paid professionals. If we open the door to qualified professionals from other countries we can save hundreds of billions of dollars a year on health care and other costs, while reducing inequality.

    We should also support policies that rein in the financial sector, such as reducing fees that pension funds pay to private equity and hedge funds and their investment advisors. This money comes out of the pockets of the rest of us and goes to some of the richest people in the country. A financial transactions tax, which could eliminate tens of billions of dollars spent each year on useless trades, would also be a major step towards reducing inequality.

    Policies that put downward pressure on the pay of CEOs and other top executives would also help the working class. This could mean, for example, making it easier for shareholders to reduce CEO pay. In the nonprofit sector we could place a cap on the pay of employees for anyone seeking tax-exempt status. Universities and nonprofit charities could still pay their presidents whatever they wanted; they just wouldn't get a taxpayer subsidy.

    There is a long list of market-based policies that we can pursue to reverse the upward redistribution of the last four decades. (For the fuller list see Rigged). These are policies that we should pursue because it is the right thing to do. It will help the working class of all races, including the white working class.

    I've been reading Ira Katznelson's Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time, which puts a lot of emphasis on how white Southern Democrats supported radical New Deal policies up to about 1938, when many switched sides, most famously joining with Republicans to pass the Taft-Hartley Act which halted the growth of unions and ultimately did them great damage. The South was, at the time, by far the poorest part of the country (well, still is), so as long as New Deal policies were crafted not to upset the South's Jim Crow racial order politicians were happy for the help. However, by the late 1930s, especially with the Wagner Act supporting unionization in 1935, Southern whites started to feel threatened, and decided they'd rather keep their racial order pure and poor than do anything that might help both whites and blacks. It is one of the great shames of American history that one of our few major periods of progressivism was so fraught with racism. (Actually, the same combination hampered Wilson's progressivism, and before that the Populist Party, at least in the South. For that matter, the great expansion of voting rights in the Jackson-Van Buren era was more often than not accompanied by disenfranchisement of free blacks.)

  • Thomas Frank: Don't let establishment opportunists ruin the resistance movement: I agree that there's a lot of similarity between the anti-Trump resistance and the anti-Obama Tea Party, but there is very little symmetry between left and right, either in the streets or among the partisan establishment (although I suspect the Republicans were more inclined to feed their protest movement because they considered it less of a personal threat -- wrongly, perhaps, if you take Trump to be a Tea Party champion, but for now let's just say that Democratic party centrists have a lot more to feel guilty about).

  • Joseph P Fried: Lynne Stewart, Lawyer Imprisoned in Terrorism Case, Dies at 77

  • Paul Glastris: Charles Peters on Recapturing the Soul of the Democratic Party

  • Rebecca Gordon: Forever War:

    During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump often sounded like a pre-World War II-style America First isolationist, someone who thought the United States should avoid foreign military entanglements. Today, he seems more like a man with a uniform fetish. He's referred to his latest efforts to round up undocumented immigrants in this country as "a military operation." He's similarly stocked his cabinet with one general still on active duty, various retired generals, and other military veterans. His pick for secretary of the interior, Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke, served 23 years as a Navy SEAL.

    Clearly, these days Trump enjoys the company of military men. He's more ambivalent about what the military actually does. On the campaign trail, he railed against the folly that was -- and is -- the (second) Iraq War, maintaining with questionable accuracy that he was "totally against" it from the beginning. It's not clear, however, just where Trump thinks the folly lies -- in invading Iraq in the first place or in failing to "keep" Iraq's oil afterward. It was a criticism he reprised when he introduced Mike Pompeo as his choice to run the CIA. "Mike," he explained, "if we kept the oil, you probably wouldn't have ISIS because that's where they made their money in the first place." Not to worry, however, since as he also suggested to Pompeo, "Maybe we'll have another chance." Maybe the wrong people had just fought the wrong Iraq war, and Donald Trump's version will be bigger, better, and even more full of win!

    Perhaps Trump's objection is simply to wars we don't win. As February ended, he invited the National Governors Association to share his nostalgia for the good old days when "everybody used to say 'we haven't lost a war" -- we never lost a war -- you remember." Now, according to the president, "We never win a war. We never win. And we don't fight to win. We don't fight to win. So we either got to win, or don't fight it at all."

    Well, if you'd just stop to give it a bit of thought, you'd realize that no one ever wins a war. Maybe you lose less bad than the other side does, but everyone comes out worse for the experience. Anyone who thought we won the 20th century's two world wars simply didn't account for everything we lost (admittedly, a pretty widespread problem, given how much money some people who didn't fight made off those wars). And anyone who tells you we won (or could have won if only we'd shown more unity and resolve) wars in Korea or Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq simply has their head wedged. What makes Trump so dangerous is his obsession with winning, and worse still his conviction that's he such a big winner -- that the only possible result of whatever he chooses to do will be winning, and indeed that all it takes to "make America great again" is leadership by a great winner like himself.

  • Danny Sjursen: I Was Part of the Iraq War Surge. It Was a Disaster.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27862 [27834] rated (+28), 385 [391] unrated (-6).

Streamnotes (February 2017) came out last week, actually on March 1 (but I backdated it). March draft file is open now, starting with 17 records listed below. At this point no real direction as to what I'm covering: I picked off a few 2016 releases that I hadn't bothered with before -- ones that got some attention from the EOY lists. Highest rated album from my EOY Aggregate List I haven't heard is Metallica's Hardwired . . . to Self Destruct, in 83rd. Highest point in the list where there are three or more straight unrated records starts at 230: Andy Stott, Wild Beasts, Woods, The Body, then after one I've heard (Clipping) there's The Drones and Fat White Family. Next cluster of 5+ I haven't heard starts at 291: Opeth, Roly Porter, Ty Segall, St Paul & the Broken Bones, Sunflower Bean, Suuns, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Thrice, Wild Nothing, and Zayn.

Also checked out Christgau's picks last week: Syd's Fin closes strong enough I could see grading it up, but three or four plays didn't quite convince me, and I didn't enjoy Nnamdi Ogbonnaya's Drool at all. I gave NxWorries' Yes Lawd! the same grade months ago, but still haven't checked out the John Legend album yet (fwiw, the only Legend album I have heard is a B).

The old Ken Vandermark records I happened to notice on his Bandcamp page as among the few I hadn't heard. A bit disappointed that the two FME records only hinted at how good the band was on two records I had previously rated A-: Cuts and Underground. I need to check more closely for whatever I've missed (though my grade list seems pretty comprehensive).

Achieved a milestone of sorts in the Jazz Guide project: got up to date with my Streamnotes reviews, copying the 20th century ones into a book file which now measures 459 pages, and the later ones into a long text file that I'll eventually fold into the 21st century book. Next step on 20th century is to go through the database files and add all the rated-but-unreviewed albums in as stubs. I knocked the first (and probably shortest) of those files off today, for jazz artists who first appeared before 1940. As with every step on this project, it's been a slow slog.

New records rated this week:

  • AMP Trio: Three (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B
  • Courtney Marie Andrews: Honest Life (2016, Mama Bird): [r]: B+(*)
  • Beans on Toast: Rolling Up the Hill (2015, Xtra Mile): [r]: A-
  • Beans on Toast: A Spanner in the Works (2016, Xtra Mile): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gianni Bianchini: Type I (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Carlos Bica & Azul: More Than This (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Chicago Edge Ensemble: Decaying Orbit (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: A-
  • Marc Ducret Trio+3: Métatonal (2014 [2015], Ayler): [bc]: B+(**)
  • The Hotelier: Goodness (2016, Tiny Engines): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sarah Jarosz: Undercurrent (2016, Sugar Hill): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lisa Mezzacappa: Avant Noir (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Nnamdi Ogbonnaya: Drool (2017, Father/Daughter/Sooper): [r]: B-
  • Old 97's: Graveyard Whistling (2017, ATO): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eivind Opsvik: Overseas V (2016 [2017], Loyal Label): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Keith Oxman: East of the Village (2016 [2017], Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Noah Preminger: Meditations on Freedom (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • The Reunion Project: Veranda (2016 [2017], Tapestry): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Hiromi Suda: Nagi (2015 [2017], BluJazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Syd: Fin (2017, Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Thee Oh Sees: A Weird Exits (2016, Castle Face): [yt]: B+(*)
  • Keith Urban: Ripcord (2016, Capitol Nashville): [r]: B
  • Velkro: Too Lazy to Panic (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
  • Ryley Walker: Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (2016, Dead Oceans): [r]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Double Tandem [Ab Baars/Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love]: OX (2012, dEN): [bc]: B+(***)
  • FME: Live at the Glenn Miller Café - Feb. 27, 2002 (2002, Okka Disk): [bc]: B+(***)
  • FME: Montage (2005 [2006], Okka Disk, 2CD): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Lean Left: Live at Area Sismica (2012 [2014], Unsounds): [bc]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Chicago/London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors (Cuneiform): advance
  • MEM3: Circles (self-released): March 24
  • The Microscopic Septet: Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues (Cuneiform): advance
  • The Ed Palermo Big Band: The Great Un-American Songbook: Volumes I & II (Cuneiform, 2CD): advance
  • Daniel Weltlinger: Samoreau: A Tribute to the Fans of Django Reinhardt (Rectify): March 31

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Weekend Roundup

For a while there, I thought I had shot my wad on Thursday's Midweek Roundup, but it didn't take long for the floodgates to open.

I thought I'd start this with a remarkable letter that appeared in the Wichita Eagle by Gregory H. Bontrager, under the title "Trump on our side" (emphasis added):

The same media that is hounding President Trump are the same ideological malcontents that gave President Obama a free pass for eight lost years of American history. Finally, the middle class has a friend in the White House.

If you like welfare, food stamps or unchecked borders, Obama is the man for you. But if you work for a living or own your own business, Trump is on your side. Despite media hype, the age of the working man has arrived, as personified by Trump.

No more apologies will be accepted from America-hating elitists and the clueless children they foster on college campuses.

The American worker will no longer be held hostage to insane regulations by runaway bureaucracies such as the Environmental Protection Agency or rogue tax collectors in the IRS who have been weaponized by Democrats to suppress political opposition.

The Democratic Party cares more about the rights of illegal aliens than your children being able to walk safely down the streets of their own neighborhoods.

Whether they sit on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or the city councils of sanctuary cities, it is time to push aside these apostate Americans and take our country back.

As someone who grew up in a union household, I can't help but be moved by this "working man" rhetoric, although I recognize that close to half of wage-earners in America are women, and that most of the jobs people work at today are in the service sector, more or less removed from the muscle and grime associated with the working men of yore -- hardly a vanished species, but much less prevalent than in my father's and grandfather's days. Nor do I begrudge the right of some people "who own their own business" to think of themselves as "working men" -- those, at least, who actually do some of their own work, as opposed to the ones who merely bark orders and push papers, but I know full well that nothing changes a person like controlling a business' checkbook, especially politically.

Still, what I find unfathomable is how anyone who's not a real estate magnate (or maybe a hedge fund manager) can imagine that Donald Trump -- a man who's spent every waking moment in the last fifty years pursuing his own wealth and celebrating his own ego -- would be on their side, or even give half a shit about them. Even the author's laundry list of phobias doesn't justify his leap of faith.

Most wage earners -- a more accurate if less romantic term than "working man" -- understand that welfare and food stamps are part of a safety net that, when properly supported, protects the lowest earners from disaster. Even people who never directly make use of such support benefit from living in a society which doesn't allow abject poverty to fester. Similarly, most government regulation is meant to protect workers and communities from the sort of abuses that inevitably tempt profit-seeking private businesses. It's easy to see why some short-sighted business owners may take umbrage at inspectors and tax collectors, but aside from lost jobs when badly managed businesses fail, workers generally benefit from policies which keep businesses from cutting corners.

It is true that if you think your problems are caused by policies which limit the greed and avarice of private companies, Trump will (sometimes) be "on your side." And if you see "illegal aliens" as some sort of plague, you may take some pleasure in Trump's callous and cruel demonization of America's most downtrodden immigrants and refugees. But neither of those stances makes you a "working man," nor does it guarantee that Trump will be your champion. For starters, the man is a world class liar and demagogue, as should already be clear from his selective memory of his campaign promises.

The stuff about Obama and the Democrats is harder to explain, other than that the author appears to have indeed been held hostage the last eight years, not by federal bureaucrats but by the right-wing fantasy media. Although appeals to the vanishing middle class have been a staple of both parties, few politicians in recent memory have devoted so much of their rhetoric to the cause as has Barack Obama. One might fault Obama for delivering so little to the middle class: under him, despite a modest tax increase on the rich, income inequality has continued to increase, the safety net has continued to fray, and his signature health care program delivered at best a mixed blessing. But the idea that with Trump replacing Obama "the middle class has a friend in the White House" is patently absurd.

To be clear, the "middle class" most of my generation grew up in -- we're talking 1950s here -- was the product of two things: a strong union movement which lifted both blue- and white-collar wage-earners to the level where they could own houses and send their kids to public colleges, and near-confiscatory (up to 90%) income tax rates on the still well-to-do managers and owners. (Paul Krugman called this "the great compression" -- see The Conscience of a Liberal.) Look for anything like this in Trump's platform: there's not even a hint of anything comparable. Rather, what the Republicans -- and this is certainly why Trump chose to become one -- have pushed ever since Reagan (or Calvin Coolidge or William McKinley or the robber barons who took over the GOP in the 1870s) is the notion that we'll all be better off if only we let businesses pursue profits unfettered by any sense of social responsibility. It should be clear by now that only the very rich have benefited from that theory, and only to the extent that they've been able to isolate themselves from the world they've left behind. The "middle class" is not a natural condition in capitalist society: it exists only because policies have forced a more equal distribution of the national wealth. Take those policies away, and, sure, a few people can become much richer, while a great many slip into increasing poverty. And that's not just theory. That's what has actually happened, to the extent that Republicans have been able to seize power since 1980.

So there's nothing in Trump's platform to make him "a friend of the middle class." But it's just as incredible to think he might be a friend of anyone. Friendship is based on empathy, common understanding, and mutual respect. To achieve that usually requires familiarity, engagement, and interaction. But how much opportunity does someone like Trump get to interact with even "middle class" (much less poor) people when he lives in the penthouse on top of Trump Tower, is chauffeured around town, and flies on private planes around the world -- at least to the few spots where he owns luxury resorts full of deferential employees and frequented by guests as rarefied as he himself is? Even leaving aside his personality, charitably described as narcissistic, no one can reasonably expect him to relate to, much less empathize with, the everyday problems of most Americans.

The letter contains more absurdities, both of fact -- Obama, rather notoriously, deported more undocumented immigrants than any previous president -- and of interpretation -- I can't even imagine the "free pass" he thinks Obama was granted, or what "eight lost years of American history" even means. (Although thanks to Bush and Republican obstruction of Obama we've wasted sixteen years. and counting, that could have been used to counter global warming -- something future generations are sure to judge us harshly for.)

The Kansas State Legislature passed a law repealing Gov. Sam Brownback's income tax exemption for business owners, at long last promising to fill a budgetary hole that has plagued Kansas since 2011. Brownback vetoed, the House overrode, but the Senate barely sustained the veto, primarily thanks to Republican Majority Leader Susan Wagle switching her position. Richard Crowson drew the cartoon at right to mark the occasion. Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau took exception to the cartoon, noting that depicting Wagle as a "female dog" was tantamount to calling her a, well, you know. Ranzau is probably the most outrageously reactionary politician in Kansas, at least in recent years. Of course, it isn't his fault that his name resonates as some lesser known Nazi extermination camp, one you can't quite put your finger on. Still, one would be less likely to make the connection if he had somewhat more moderate take on politics. See Crowson thanks Ranzau for showcasing cartoon.

Robert Christgau forwarded this tweet by James F Haning II, proclaiming it "perfect":

Donald Trump is a stupid man's idea of a smart man, a poor man's idea of a rich man, a weak man's idea of a strong man.

There certainly is a lot of projection concerning Trump. There is scant evidence to support many of the traits his fans attribute to him (although, even without tax returns, he does a fairly good job of passing for rich, even compared to the bottom of the top percentile). And rich seems to buttress the notions of smart and strong, especially given that they don't stand up all that well on their own. He has a bully aspect, but that's mostly exercised through lawyers; other than that he talks big, but is known to tone it down when faced with likely opposition (as during his campaign stop in Mexico, where he offered none of the slander and fury of his post-visit immigration rant). As for smart, he's clearly not even remotely a smart man's idea of smart. Whether stupid men are that stupid is another question: he clearly has a knack for exploiting some people's insecurities, and for projecting himself as their savior. Part of that comes from a very instinctual, almost bred-in, sense humans have that in crisis they should rally behind the guy who looks strongest -- an instinct that's likely to give you a Napoleon, a Churchill, or a Hitler (most of whom turned out to be disasters). Part is that many Americans have way too much admiration for the rich. And part is the luck of running against people who hardly inspire anyone at all. But much of it is that with Trump we have a man who is extraordinarily self-centered and immodest, so much so he doesn't betray any lack of confidence in his abilities, even though they are manifest to anyone who bothers to look.

Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:

  • George Zornick/Zoë Carpenter: Everything Trump Did in His 6th Week That Really Matters: A regular series that goes beyond chasing tweets. Sub-heads:

    • Halted a probe into airline-price transparency. "Stocks in major airlines increased 2 percent."
    • Absolved senior adviser Kellyanne Conway of wrongdoing. Re her promotion of Ivanka Trump's clothing line, contrary to federal ethics rules. "The White House concluded that Conway acted 'without nefarious motive,' and did not announce any disciplinary actions."
    • Swore in a commerce secretary with serious conflicts of interest. Multi-billionaire Wilbur Ross, who among other things "served as the vice-chair of the Bank of Cyprus, 'one of the key offshore havens for illicit Russian finance.'"
    • His attorney general recused himself from Russia inquiries. Jeff Sessions, who falsely testified to the US Senate during confirmation that he had no contact with Russian officials.
    • Announced a special exemption for the Keystone XL pipeline. He also ordered that all pipelines be made with American steel "to the maximum extent possible," which turns out to be not at all. (See Keystone Pipeline Won't Use US Steel Despite Trump Pledge.)
    • Ordered a review of water regulations. The first step toward undoing clean water rules developed by the EPA under Obama.
  • Julia Edwards Ainsley: Trump administration considering separating women, children at Mexico border

  • Eric Alterman: The Media's Addiction to False Equivalencies Has Left Them Vulnerable to Trump: "Decades of conservative efforts to work the press are paying off handsomely." I've described this as the "Earl Weaver effect": you always argue with the umps, not so much to convince them now as to make them more likely to give you a call later on (thus avoiding another scarifying encounter).

  • Coral Davenport; Trump to Undo Vehicle Rules That Curb Global Warming: "The E.P.A. will also begin legal proceedings to revoke a waiver for California that was allowing the state to enforce tougher tailpipe standards for its drivers." Also by Davenport: Top Trump Advisers Are Split on Paris Agreement on Climate Change. A few, like Rex Tillerson, recognize that withdrawal will have adverse impact on how the US is viewed throughout the world. After all, it's a pretty clear message: to protect our industry profits, we don't care what the impact is to the rest of the world: fry, drown, whatever. Note that even if the US doesn't formally withdraw, Trump's EPA is already working hard to make climate catastrophe irreversible. Also see: Steven Mufson/Jason Samenow/Brady Dennis: White House proposes steep budget cut to leading climate science agency: maybe if we stop studying the problem, we won't notice when it happens, so won't know who to blame.

  • Josh Dawsey: Trump's advisers push him to purge Obama appointees: Well, actually they'd like to purge much of the civil service as well as a few dozen holdovers still trying to do their jobs. ("Candidates for only about three dozen of 550 critical Senate-confirmed positions have even been nominated.") A big part of the problem here is that Trump campaigned by totally misrepresenting what Obama's administration had been doing, treating it as all bad and therefore all in need of radical change. But the election didn't change any laws, and policy changes are subject to many checks and balances. No past administration started with a clean slate, and most saw continuity as a virtue. Trump is different partly because he set up the expectation of radical change, and partly because his people have proven unusually incompetent -- I'd say that's largely due to his party having made obstruction its norm for eight years (after making destruction the norm for two terms under GW Bush). Still, the immediately burning issue is that they're steamed about leaks revealing their incompetence. A better solution would be to try to behave in ways that aren't embarrassing to the public, but that's a level of maturity they haven't grown into yet (if indeed they ever will).

  • Paul Feldman: A deadly pattern: States that went red during 2016 election saw more workplace fatalities: Chart is pretty starkly amazing, with only two states above 3.0 (New Mexico and Nevada) voting Democratic, and only one state below 3.0 (Arizona) voting Republican.

  • Jon Finer/Robert Malley: How Our Strategy Against Terrorism Gave Us Trump: Actually, the US doesn't have a strategy against terrorism any more, and hasn't since it became clear that reconstructing Iraq along Texas lines wasn't going to pay off. What passes for one is no more than whacking all the terrorists we notice, or people in their vicinity -- the sort of knee-jerk spasms dead chickens are noted for. What gave us Trump was the callousness and ignorance of continuing a hopeless and hapless war despite clear proof that of having no clue. In early Bush days the US could present itself as some kind of friend, and occasionally find acceptance and support, but those days are long gone as the frustration of losing has turned Americans into haters of all things Islamic. I think it was predictable from the start that this approach would fail, but the authors are still committed to the mission no matter how badly it fails.

  • Todd C Frankel: How Foxconn's broken pledges in Pennsylvania cast doubt on Trump's jobs plan: One thing I'm struck by is how many of the companies Trump's counting on to "invest in America" are Chinese -- not just that their offers are subject to political ploys but that their bottom line depends on getting lower labor costs in the US than they are already getting in China. This doesn't seem like much of a golden opportunity.

  • Jonathan Freedland: Donald Trump isn't the only villain -- the Republican party shares the blame

  • David Cay Johnston: Trump's Lament That He 'Inherited a Mess' of an Economy? False! Sad! Various measures of the economy were actually up for the last months of Obama's second term, with the median wage "began rising in 2013 after 15 years of being in the doldrums." This momentum, a far cry from the "mess" Trump has already started blaming for his own incompetence, will likely continue to buoy Trump for months or even a couple years to come, until Trump (like Bush before him) blows it all to hell. For more on this, see: Christian Weller: The truth about Obama's economic legacy and Trump's inheritance.

  • Paul Krugman: Goodbye Spin, Hello Raw Dishonesty:

    At this point it's easier to list the Trump officials who haven't been caught lying under oath than those who have. This is not an accident. [ . . . ]

    In part, of course, the pervasiveness of lies reflects the character of the man at the top: No president, or for that matter major U.S. political figure of any kind, has ever lied as freely and frequently as Donald Trump. But this isn't just a Trump story. His ability to get away with it, at least so far, requires the support of many enablers: almost all of his party's elected officials, a large bloc of voters and, all too often, much of the news media. [ . . . ]

    But then you watch something like the way much of the news media responded to Mr. Trump's congressional address, and you feel despair. It was a speech filled with falsehoods and vile policy proposals, but read calmly off the teleprompter -- and suddenly everyone was declaring the liar in chief "presidential."

    The point is that if that's all it takes to exonerate the most dishonest man ever to hold high office in America, we're doomed.

    Krugman also wrote Coal Is a State of Mind: Trump keeps insisting that he'll bring back coal mining jobs, but nothing -- not technology and not economics -- suggests he can, no matter how much political will he puts behind it:

    The answer, I'd guess, is that coal isn't really about coal -- it's a symbol of a social order that is no more; both good things (community) and bad (overt racism). Trump is selling the fantasy that this old order can be restored, with seemingly substantive promises about specific jobs mostly just packaging.

    One thought that follows is that Trump may not be as badly hurt by the failure of his promises as one might expect: he can't deliver coal jobs, but he can deliver punishment to various kinds of others.

  • Laila Lalami: Donald Trump Is Making America White Again: The detail points are worth reading, but file this under really bad titles. For one thing, America has never been white, no matter how marginalized the political system made non-whites. For another, while Trump will make America more hurtful for non-whites, nothing he can do will change the racial, religious, and/or ethnic demography of the nation to any meaningful degree. The most he and his fans can hope for is to slow down what they view as a demographic disaster, and perhaps to jigger the system a bit to politically marginalize what they view as undesirable Americans -- that is, after all, the point of the voter suppression laws that are all the rage in Republican legislatures.

  • Jefferson Morley: Who wins? Donald Trump vs. the Koch Brothers on jobs: I had to read down the article to even find out what Trump was thinking of as his jobs program: turns out it's the BAT (Border Adjustment Tax), which is really just a tariff. The Kochs are organizing against BAT, and they have things Trump doesn't have, like a grass roots organization that has been very successful at getting Republicans elected to Congress. (In many ways Trump sailed to the presidency on their coat tails.) So no, it's pretty much dead in Congress, and there's damn little Trump can do about that.

  • Paul Rosenberg: America's infrastructure disaster -- and why Donald Trump will do nothing to fix it:

    The last time it was issued, back 2013, our infrastructure got an overall grade of D+, with a projected $3.6 trillion investment needed by 2020 -- more than 3 1/2 times the amount that President Donald Trump has promised (mostly from private investors) over a much longer period. Grades ranged from a high of a single B- for solid waste to a low of D- in two categories -- levees and inland waterways. There were more straight Ds than anything else -- for schools, dams, aviation, roads, transit, wastewater, drinking water and hazardous waste. Rail and bridges both rated C+, ports a straight C, public parks and recreation a C- and energy a D+. Even Bart wouldn't be proud of that.

    The key problem is that we let business ideologues (mostly but not exclusively Republicans) convince us that government can't do anything competently (except wage war, which kind of proved their point) so we're better off not wasting our money -- just wait for the private sector to fill the need. This is, of course, exactly not how we got all our infrastructure in the first place (the whole point of Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper).

  • Matthew Rozsa: This week in Donald Trump's conflicts of interest: Favoritism from Vancouver to New York City. Rosza also wrote President Pence's problems: Indiana Democrats say VP was "the worst governor we ever had" -- something to bear in mind before you impeach Trump.

  • Katy Waldman: We All Talk Like Donald Trump Now: Sad! Oh, dear! Even when we satirize him the mental rot is contagious! As if we didn't have enough to worry about already!

  • Matthew Yglesias: Trump is Mad Online at Obama, Schwarzenegger, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court: This day (March 4) in tweets. Personally, I'm just gratified that when Trump refers to "McCarthyism" and "Nixon/Watergate" he's treating them as bad things. Nor do I especially mind him dissing Schwarzenegger, recently departed from Trump's former reality show. For more on the latter (possibly the week's least momentus "news") see: Todd VanDerWerff: Arnold Schwarzenegger is leaving The Celebrity Apprentice. He blames President Trump.

Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still to America's broader bout of political insanity:

  • William Astore: In Afghanistan, America's Biggest Foe Is Self-Deception: Actually, that's true in America as well. When future generations look back on America today (assuming they should be so lucky), one big thing they will puzzle over is how so many people could have believed in so much really crazy shit.

  • Tony Blair, Who Brought US the War in Iraq, Lectures on the Evils of Populism: Or more to the point, "he criticizes the left for abandoning centrist politicians," like himself -- where centrism means pretending to have a social conscience while serving the advancement of "clean" businesses like high-tech and finance. ("Tony Blair has worked as an advisor to JP Morgan and Zurich Financial Services, since retiring as prime minister.")

  • James Carden: Why Does the US Continue to Arm Terrorists in Syria? Well, because the US doesn't have a clue what it's doing in Syria, or for that matter all across the Middle East. Because US strategists feel the need to choose sides in a contest where no sides are viable let alone right. Because they can't contemplate of resolving problems but by force of arms. And because they, like the "terrorists" they claim to oppose, see terror as a tactic for advancing political goals.

  • Ian Cummings: FBI undercover stings foil terrorist plots -- but how many are agency-created? I think it's pretty clear that Terry Loewen here in Wichita would never have done anything but for FBI prodding. Several other cases mentioned here are similar. I think the Garden City case where three guys planned an attack on a Somali neighborhood was real, but the FBI has a long history of trying to provoke crimes, and that has probably gotten worse with all the "war on terror" nonsense.

  • Nelson Denis: After a Century of American Citizenship, Puerto Ricans Have Little to Show for It

  • Richard J Evans: A Warning From History: Review of Volker Ullrich's recent biography, Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939, by the author of The Coming of the Third Reich and two massive sequels. I can see the fascination, but I'm more struck by the dissimilarities between then and now -- one is reminded of Marx's quip about the arrival of Napoleon III: "history repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce." Nor do I mean to downplay the real people hurt by Trump's policies and acts. But Germany faced a real crisis in 1928-32, and Hitler presented a plausible (albeit totally wrong-headed) solution until his absolute self-confidence and ruthlessness drove the nation over a cliff. Trump's demons are almost totally imaginary (his 40% unemployment rates, the rampaging crime wave, hordes of demented illegal aliens, more hordes of fanatical Muslims), and despite a modest Defense Department budget bump (that will quickly be sopped up by graft) one doubts that he or his anti-government henchmen will ever be able to turn the state into a truly ominous force. Still, his impulses and tendencies are so bad it helps to be reminded how catastrophically they've failed in the past.

    Still, if you want to go further down this rathole: Anis Shivani: Trump and Mussolini: Eleven key lessons from historical fascism. Some key points:

    1. Fascism rechannels economic anxiety: key thing is that it doesn't relieve it, it just redirects blame.
    2. Liberal institutions have already been fatally weakened: I wouldn't say it's fatal here (yet), but Trump wouldn't have risen without the discrediting of key institutions, like the military in the Middle East and bankers everywhere.
    3. Of course it's a minority affair: The Tea Party and the alt-right are every bit as vanguardist as the Bolsheviks, but are rooted in venerable Americanisms, like Nixon's "dirty tricks" and Lombardi's "winning is the only thing."
    4. Its cultural style makes no sense to elites: which in turn makes it hard to counter; it's easy to prove that Trump isn't smart but you won't impress his fans by doing so -- they've spent every moment of the last eight years loathing Obama, suspecting that his brains are merely the engine of deviousness. (Nor did Meryl Streep dissing football gain any traction.)
    5. No form of resistance works: Have fascists ever been voted out of office, given that one thing they've always been quick to do is to rig the system (much like the Republicans with their voter restriction laws, though often even more brutal). "Nothing ever works until fascism's logic, the logic of empire, stands discredited to the point where no denial and no media coverup is possible anymore." Actually the Axis was only "discredited" by the most brutal military counterattack in history.
  • Daniel Politi: Pentagon Has Been Waging Secret Cyberwar Against North Korea Missiles for Years: Perhaps this has something to do with why North Korea is so paranoid, so erratic, and ultimately so dangerous? We have thus far failed to develop the sort of taboo that inhibits other forms of war, like chemical weapons -- in fact, cyberwar usually doesn't even get recognized as such. In a better world, our recent brush with Russian hacking would lead the US and Russia to work toward mutual controls, including suppressing their own independent hackers. But as long as we all think this sort of thing is OK it continues, sometimes with dire consequences.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Midweek Roundup

Some weeks the shit's piling up so fast you have to get the shovel out a few days early. I have little doubt that there will be this much more by the weekend. Less sure I have the time and energy to keep up the pace.

Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:

Also a few links less directly tied to the ephemeral in America's bout of political insanity:

  • Dean Baker: Bill Gates Is Clueless on the Economy

  • R Mike Burr: The Self-Serving Hustle of "Hillbilly Elegy": On J.D. Vance's book, widely acclaimed as a book you should read to understand "Trump's America" (well, not Trump, really, but some of the fools who voted for him).

  • Juan Cole: Sorry, Trump, China's cut-back on Coal Dooms Industry: A few years ago China was poised to build so many coal-fired electricity generators that it became likely that one nation, at the time a nation in complete denial about global warming, would wind up frying the rest of us. Since then at least half of those coal plants have been canceled. Since then, it's become clear that if you consider the externalities -- which for China includes the good will of other nations fearful of being fried -- coal is already an inefficient energy source. That's increasingly obvious in the US as well, even though thanks to fossil fuel industry clout most of those externalities go uncharged. And the trendline for coal is getting worse, even with the President and Congress securely in the industry's pocket.

  • Stanley L Cohen: Jim Crow is alive and well in Israel: The analogy hits closer to home than "apartheid" (although that was merely the South African term for a legal code of segregation inspird by and borrowed from America's Jim Crow laws). Of course, the analogy is not quite precise: the US and SA systems were meant primarily to preserve a low worker caste their respective economies were built on, whereas the Israeli system seeks to make Palestinian labor (hence Palestinians) superfluous, and as such is an even more existential threat. Article does a good job of reminding you not just that separate is inherently unequal but that segregated systems are sustained with violence and injustice.

    Cohen also wrote Trump's 'Muslim ban' is not an exception in US history, rubbing it in a little when it might be more effective to explain how such bans are inimical to American ideals even if they've recurred frequently throughout American history.

  • Mark Lawrence Schrad: Vladimir Putin Isn't a Supervillain: This seems like a fairly realistic evaluation of Russia, after first positing two strawman arguments and showing how neither is all that true. I'll add that there are a few countries what once had larger empires and have never quite shaken the mental habit of thinking they should still be more powerful than they are: this is true of Russia and China, would-be regional powers like Iran and Turkey, and several ostensible US allies (notably Britain, France, and Saudi Arabia), and if you possess the ability to look cleary in a mirror, the United States as well. (Germany and Japan were largely cured of this by the crushing weight of defeat in WWII, although you see glimpses in, e.g., Germany's role in breaking up Yugoslavia and Japan's weird dread of North Korea.) What has thus far passed for Russian aggression has so far been limited to adopting breakaway regions of now independent former SSRs -- Crimea from Ukraine, Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia. On the other hand, the US has been extending its NATO umbrella into previously neutral former SSRs, building up its Black Sea fleet, installing anti-missle systems focused on Russia, and imposing sanctions to undermine the Russian economy, and trying to influence elections in places like Ukraine and Georgia to heighten anti-Russian sentiments. Given all this, who's really being aggressive?

    Of course, were I a Russian, I'm quite certain that I'd have no shortage of political disagreements with Vladimir Putin. But the US doesn't have (or deserve) a say in who runs Russia. At best we can refer to standards of international law, but only if we ourselves are willing to live by them -- which, as was made clear by Bush's refusal to join the ICC we clearly are not. An old adage is that you should clean up your own house first, and that's the thing that American politicians should focus on.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Streamnotes (February 2017)

Pick up text here.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27834 [27814] rated (+20), 391 [386] unrated (+5).

Rated count slipped severely last week, and would have been much worse had I not dove down a hole trying to find a better Brian Lynch album than I was already aware of -- I have his 2006 collaboration with Eddie Palmieri, Simpático, at A-, and Unsung Heroes (2011) as well as last year's Madera Latino at B+(***). I found lots of pretty good records, but nothing better than those.

Excuses, excuses: I took Tuesday off to cook birthday dinner for my wife: a half-dozen Japanese dishes including salmon teriyaki and a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. Lost Monday evening shopping, and queued up three "good ol' good 'uns" while I was cooking -- Ronnie Lane's One for the Road, The Very Best of the Drifters, and Louis Jordan's Five Guys Named Moe: Vol. 2 -- and enjoyed them so much I repeated them, twice. Even now, I have Jordan songs rattling around my head. Also took some time on Sunday for an encore dinner: leftovers (mostly extra produce as opposed to reheating, but I turned the excess dashi into miso soup) plus chicken wings coated in a sticky teriyaki glaze. Alas, no new dessert.

Other things that slowed me down: my two new A- jazz records got a lot of exposure -- the Satoko Fujii double got three plays, and MOPDTK probably got six, maybe more. Not so hard to make up my mind, but I kept putting off the writing. Two non-jazz records also got three spins each: the Jens Lekman that got a Christgau A (and is currently rated 11th at Metacritic, down from 2nd when I first noticed it) and the Jesca Hoop record I actually prefer (currently 5th at Metacritic -- note that the current 2 [Tinariwen] and 3 [XX] albums are already on my fledgling 2017 A-list, although I'm not much impressed by top-rated Sampha, nor by the 6 [Loyle Carner] and 7 [William Basinski] records I checked out this week). Mark Masters and Billy Mintz also got more plays than should have been necessary.

As that rundown suggests, I spent more time looking at 2017 than 2016 releases last week, for the first time this year. As it is, I've heard 91 of the top 100 new records in my 2016 EOY Aggregate -- up from 71 as recently as 2014 (at least that's what a post I found said; I probably listened to a few more after that). I didn't add any new lists to the Aggregate last week, although I plugged in a couple new grades (from Christgau and myself).

I did spend quite a bit of time last week collecting reviews from my Streamnotes columns. I'm currently up to October 2015, so I still have about 17 months to sort through (this month's column should be up later this week, probably about the time I catch up). Reviews for 20th century albums go straight into the draft file, which is currently at 415 pages (225k words). Later reviews go into a sorted text file which I'll later use to fill up the 21st century book (currently Jazz CG only: 145 pages, 52k words; the text file has 1064k words, of which perhaps as much as one-third are redundant entries, so maybe 750k words, which in the current format would mean about 1300 pages).

I think the next step after Streamnotes will be to go through the database files and add stubs for all of the rated but unreviewed albums. That should push the 20th century guide up a bit over 500 pages, but will add very little to the 21st century. I don't think I have enough material for a valid 20th century guide, but I do have more than I expected when I started gathering this writing. I've also skipped over a shitload of non-jazz reviews (I mean thousands), which could be used to seed other projects: my database ratings for country, blues, and pre-1980 rock are pretty encyclopedic, but I doubt if I have reviews for more than 20% of any of them.

Another time sink last week was watching the Oscars and several nominated films on demand (and La La Land in the theater). I've started a book file where I'm collecting political blog posts (I'm still back in 2002, so this has just started). I've been running across a lot of movie reviews from back then, and have squirreled them away in an appendix. Reminds me how much more I saw then than now. Still, I thought I'd look back at the 2016 film list and at least jot down some grades as best I remember them.

  • Hail, Caesar!: B
  • Finding Dory: Animation. B
  • The Secret Life of Pets: Animation. B+
  • Hell or High Water: B+
  • Snowden: A-
  • Moonlight: B+
  • Loving: A-
  • Arrival: B+
  • Manchester by the Sea: B+
  • La La Land: A-

Not much here, and seems even less given that I saw fewer than half in the local monopoly's theaters. Probably the fewest movies I've seen in any year since the mid-1980s. Aside from the snub to Snowden, I don't begrudge the Oscar picks -- Moonlight seems better in memory than it did at the time; Manchester too. Still, far from a banner year.

Oh, we also saw a mockumentary Jason Bailey produced -- not on the Wikipedia list, and not really released yet so I can't look up the title, but I enjoyed it more than anything listed above.

More movies I kinda wished we had seen (well, had some small interest in, sometimes very small): Everybody Wants Some!! (Richard Linklater), Elvis & Nixon, Florence Foster Jenkins, Café Society (Woody Allen), Me Before You, Our Kind of Traitor, Captain Fantastic, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, Jason Bourne, Equity, Sully, The Magnificent Seven, Queen of Katwe (Mira Nair), Deepwater Horizon, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Tim Burton), The Girl on the Train, The Birth of a Nation, Hacksaw Ridge, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Lion, Jackie, Fences, Hidden Figures. Laura saw Zootopia and hated it.

New records rated this week:

  • William Basinski: A Shadow in Time (2017, Temporary Residence): [r]: B
  • Loyle Carner: Yesterday's Gone (2017, AMF): [r]: B
  • Allison Crutchfield: Tourist in This Town (2017, Merge): [r]: B+(**)
  • Satoko Fujii: Invisible Hand (2016 [2017], Cortez Sound, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • Jean-Brice Godet: Lignes De Crêtes (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jesca Hoop: Memories Are Now (2017, Sub Pop): [r]: A-
  • Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now (2017, Secretly Canadian): [r]: B+(***)
  • Brian Lynch: Madera Latino (2012 [2016], Hollistic MusicWorks, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mark Masters Ensemble: Blue Skylight (2015-16 [2017], Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Billy Mintz: Ugly Beautiful (2015 [2017], Thirteenth Note, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer's Hollow (2016 [2017], Hot Cup): [cd]: A-
  • The Sadies: Northern Passages (2017, Yep Roc): [r]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Jens Lekman: When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog (2004, Secretly Canadian): [r]: B+(*)
  • Brian Lynch Sextet: Peer Pressure (1986 [1987], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Lynch Quintet: Back Room Blues (1989 [1990], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Lynch: Spheres of Influence (1997, Sharp Nine): [r]: B+(*)
  • Brian Lynch Latin Jazz Sextet: ConClave (2004 [2005], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Lynch: Unsung Heroes Vol. 2 (2008-09 [2013], Hollistic MusicWorks): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Lynch and Spheres of Influence: ConClave Vol. 2 (2010 [2011], Criss Cross): B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bill Brovold & Jamie Saft: Serenity Knolls (Rare Noise): advance: March 31
  • David Feldman: Horizonte (self-released): March 10
  • Jü: Summa (Rare Noise): advance, March 31
  • Robert McCarther: Stranger in Town (Psalms 149 Music)
  • Bill O'Connell: Monk's Cha Cha: Live at the Carnegie-Farian Room (Savant)
  • Miles Okazaki: Trickster (Pi): March 24
  • Rocco John: Peace and Love (Unseen Rain): March 3
  • University of Toronto 12Tet: Trillium Falls (UofT Jazz): March 10
  • University of Toronto Jazz Orcherstra: Sweet Ruby Suite (UofT Jazz): March 10
  • Jim Yanda Trio: Regional Cookin' (1987, Corner Store Jazz)
  • Jim Yanda Trio: Home Road (Corner Store Jazz, 2CD)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Another week, so here we go again.

Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:

Also a few links less directly tied to the ephemeral in America's bout of political insanity:

  • Andrew Bacevich: At the Altar of American Greatness: There's a line deep into this piece about how "it's the politics that's gotten smaller," and indeed this piece is a good deal smaller than at first advertised -- see the subtitle: "David Brooks on Making America Great Again." Brooks is normally an easy target, but Bacevich stumbles, declaring "among contemporary journalists, he is our Walter Lippmann, the closest thing we have to an establishment-approved public intellectual." Lippmann retired in 1967, so for me was a famous name that signified little -- even today most of what I know about him I had gleaned from Walter Karp's The Politics of War, which featured him as a prominent hawk behind the so-called Great War, but while he often catered to political power, the main thing he's remembered for was his cynicism about the ignorance and gullibility of the American people. Brooks, on the other hand, is little more than a partisan hack with a bit of cosmopolitan make up to pass muster with New York/Washington elites. Still, it's interesting that Bacevich digs up a Brooks column from 1997 prefiguring Donald Trump (cue Marx's joke about tragedy/farce), titled "A Return to National Greatness" -- a title Brooks reiterated in 2017. Especially precious is the line: "The things Americans do are not for themselves only, but for all mankind." He should pinch himself to recall that he's talking about a country which positively worships the ideal of individuals pursuing their self-interest -- as witnessed by the fact that we just elected as president a guy who has done nothing but for more than fifty years.

    Under the circumstances, it's easy to forget that, back in 2003, he and other members of the Church of America the Redeemer devoutly supported the invasion of Iraq. They welcomed war. They urged it. They did so not because Saddam Hussein was uniquely evil -- although he was evil enough -- but because they saw in such a war the means for the United States to accomplish its salvific mission. Toppling Saddam and transforming Iraq would provide the mechanism for affirming and renewing America's "national greatness."

    Anyone daring to disagree with that proposition they denounced as craven or cowardly. Writing at the time, Brooks disparaged those opposing the war as mere "marchers." They were effete, pretentious, ineffective, and absurd. [ . . . ]

    In refusing to reckon with the results of the war he once so ardently endorsed, Brooks is hardly alone. Members of the Church of America the Redeemer, Democrats and Republicans alike, are demonstrably incapable of rendering an honest accounting of what their missionary efforts have yielded.

    Brooks belongs, or once did, to the Church's neoconservative branch. But liberals such as Bill Clinton, along with his secretary of state Madeleine Albright, were congregants in good standing, as were Barack Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton. So, too, are putative conservatives like Senators John McCain, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, all of them subscribing to the belief in the singularity and indispensability of the United States as the chief engine of history, now and forever. [ . . . ]

    That Donald Trump inhabits a universe of his own devising, constructed of carefully arranged alt-facts, is no doubt the case. Yet, in truth, much the same can be said of David Brooks and others sharing his view of a country providentially charged to serve as the "successor to Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome." In fact, this conception of America's purpose expresses not the intent of providence, which is inherently ambiguous, but their own arrogance and conceit. Out of that conceit comes much mischief. And in the wake of mischief come charlatans like Donald Trump.

  • Srecko Horvat: Tom Hardy's Taboo goes to the heart of our new imperialist darkness: Not sure the series is that coherent, but the asides like how "colonialism doesn't cause misery only in poorer countries, it boomerangs back to rich countries with their rising inequality" are spot on. Also he notes how today private companies, much like the "honourable" British East India Company two centuries ago, have become far-from-benign forces all around the world (and he didn't even cite Exxon Mobil as an example).

  • Robin McKie: Biologists say half of all species could be extinct by end of century: Not really a new story: I read a lot about mass extinction back in the 1990s and maybe earlier, when the Alvarez theory of the K-T extinction event became popular and Carl Sagan came up with the notion of "nuclear winter." So, no surprise that it's gotten worse. Still, I'm struck by how the threat has receded in our consciousness as our politicians keep coming up with more urgent short-term crises. Thinking about the end of the century has started to look like a luxury.

  • John Nichols: Tom Perez Narrowly Defeats Keith Ellison for DNC Chair: Margin over Keith Ellison was 35 votes. It's tempting to regard Perez as a corporate stooge, but Esme Cribb has him saying some useful things, like: "I heard from rural America that the Democratic Party hasn't been there for us recently"; "We also have to redefine our mission"; and "Our unity is our greatest strength, and frankly our unity is Donald Trump's greatest nightmare." Underscoring that unity, he named Ellison "deputy chair" (see Trump Claims DNC Chair Race Was 'Totally Rigged,' Offers No Evidence.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Daily Log

Fixed birthday dinner for Laura yesterday. She originally didn't want anything but I pitched a couple favorites (salmon teriyaki and flourless chocolate cake) and she eventually conceded. Had three guests (Janice Bradley, Mike Poage, Gretchen Eick). I make those keystone dishes somewhat regularly, but I've never put the teriyaki into the context of Japanese cuisine -- I usually just do it with some potatoes or fried rice and stir-fried lima beans (a Chinese recipe from Irene Kuo that I use with all sorts of main courses, mostly because I keep the freezer stocked and don't regularly have a lot of vegetable options). In fact, I haven't done a whole Japanese meal in decades, although the very first dinner I fixed for Laura was Japanese (mostly sushi), so it seemed appropriate for this occasion.

I shopped on Monday for everything but the salmon, which I figured I'd pick up fresh on the day at Seafood Shop, which usually has exceptionally nice salmon: I wound up buying the tail end of a slab of Shetland Island Salmon after the customer ahead of me bought two strips cut out from the thickest part; came to about 2.5 pounds, and was still sloped up to more than an inch thick. I didn't plan out a menu before shopping, but jotted down some likely ingredients and options. I did decide on a noodle dish, yakisoba, and had found a web recipe that looked promising, and had a few other ideas mostly garnered from Lesley Downer/Minoru Yoneda's Step-by-Step Japanese Cooking. I went to Wichita's top Vietnamese grocer, Thai Binh, then on to Dillons (eventually two) plus a couple other shops. One stop was to look for a julienne tool, since I was anticipating a lot of carrots and daikon. (I have a couple of expensive mandolines, but they've never worked well for me. Indeed, nothing but a chef's knife seems to work right.)

One thing that kept driving me to all those shops was that I couldn't find the right noodles for the yakisoba. Maybe if I had looked closer at Thai Binh, but I was getting frustrated by the time I got to the noodle aisle(s), and it really wasn't proving to be a good place for Japanese. (I never found "aonori" seaweed, nor "chuno sauce" -- both called for in the yakisoba recipe, although I picked up some wakame and oyster sauce.) From various stores I picked up a wide variety of possible substitute noodles: soba, both dried and pre-cooked udon, Chinese egg noodles; I even considered buccatini and gluten-free spaghetti. I wound up going with two packages of pre-cooked udon.

Tuesday's shopping turned out to be more of an ordeal than I expected. I had forgotten to buy ginger (of all things) and mirin, so I stopped at Sprout's before going to Seafood Shop for the salmon. I picked up some more noodle candidates, but then I lost a set of keys -- not discovering that until I got home, so I had to retrace my steps, eventually finding them at Sprout's. So it was close to 3pm when I got back and started cooking, with dinner guests due at 6:30. I did what I could in that brief time, and didn't put the fish in to broil until everyone arrived. Indeed, final cooking on several other dishes didn't start until then, and that segment got very crazy (and messy), but at least my prep was good.

Monday night I made dashi and the cake. The flourless cake recipe is from Ruth Reichl's Gourmet Cookbook. It calls for melting 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate in two sticks of butter, adding six eggs and 1.5 cups sugar, then whisking in one cup of cocoa. Pour it into a springform pan and bake 35-40 minutes at 350F. Very straightforward, but I ran into a problem right away: I figured the pantry was well stocked with chocolate, but couldn't find any bittersweet. I had lots of unsweetened and semi-sweet, so looked up substitutes and went with the semi-sweet (add 1/4 tsp cocoa per ounce, which struck me as preferable to adding sugar to unsweetened). Also worth noting that I used Hersey's special dark cocoa. Came out pretty damn close to perfect. I served it with Edy's Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, which is lighter than premiums like Haagen-Dasz but still richly vanilla.

As for the stock, the recipes called for making Dashi I and Dashi II, in sequence: the former is made by bringing water with a piece of kombu (dried kelp) to a boil, reserve the kelp, then add katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and let it steep. The latter starts with the leftover kelp and bonito from Dashi I, and boils them in more water (7.5 cups vs. 4.5 for Dashi I) for 20 minutes, to get a stronger, more reduced stock. You then add more bonito and let it steep, then strain. Dashi II is used for miso soup, but more importantly is needed for pretty much every sauce the Japanese use. So I wound up Monday night with two pots of dashi, for good measure letting II sit overnight before straining. That was all the prep I needed to do the night before.

On Tuesday, I got up around noon, went out and did my shopping, and chased down those keys. By then I had my eye on a set of relatively easy side dishes:

  • Yakisoba: stir-fried noodles (I decided to use the pre-cooked udon, so they were round but thicker than called for), with some vegetables, sauce, and garnishes.
  • Agedashi: deep-fried tofu with dashi-based sauce and garnish.
  • Cucumber salad with wakame (seaweed)
  • French-cut green beans with peanut sauce
  • Eggplant simmered in miso
  • Eggdrop soup with slivered snow peas (this used up my Dashi I).
  • With the salmon teriyaki as the main dish.

Here's roughly what I did to cook all of this (in, as I said, less than four hours). I took a half-dozen dried black mushrooms and covered them with hot water to soak. Also soaked a couple tablespoons of dried wakame (it expands to much more than I needed). Mixed up the teriyaki marinade (1/2 cup each: sugar, sake, soy sauce). Cut the fish, put it and the marinade in a freezer bag, and put it into the refrigerator, turning it over several times during the afternoon. (I think the recipe calls for 30 minutes, but since there's no vinegar it didn't hurt to marinate longer -- in my case about three hours.)

The green bean recipe called for "French cut"; in the past I've used frozen, but wasn't able to find any, so bought some fresh green beans and tried to cut them into inch-long pieces on a diagonal (although they didn't come out as shredded as normal "French cut"). I boiled them in salted water for 12 minutes (actually, a bit too long). I cut the snow peas on a diagonal slant and blanched them for about 90 seconds. I cut the vegetables for the noodles: about 1/2 cup julienned carrot; 1/2 onion sliced; four or five baby bok choy (about half of the package): I trimmed the root end, then sliced across until I got up to the leaves, and discarded the rest; four or five scallions, cut into two-inch lengths. The recipe called for "two cabbage leaves" but I thought the bok choy would substitute nicely, and I'd say that worked.

I cut another half-dozen scallions into thin rounds for garnishes, and grated sizable chunks of ginger and daikon. Nearly every dish would have some sort of garnish, mostly from these three piles and/or the bag of katsuobushi.

I had three small Japanese cucumbers. I peeled them, cut in half, scooped out the seeds, and cut into thin half-rounds. Salted them and let them sit for a while, then rinsed them off. I mixed up the dressing: 3T rice wine vinegar, 2T Dashi II, 2T soy sauce, 1T sugar, 1/4t salt, 2T mirin. Put the cucumbers and a handful of wakame into a bowl, poured the dressing over, and refrigerated. Before serving I garnished with ginger. First dish (almost) done.

For the green beans, I ground (actually chopped finely) 1/4 cup of roasted peanuts, added 1.5T sugar, 2T soy sauce, and 1T Dashi II. I realized I hadn't ground the peanuts up sufficiently, so I added a tablespoon (or two) of peanut butter, which did the trick (although the sauce was a good deal thicken than the picture). Second dish ready -- to be garnished with katsuobushi before serving.

For the agedashi, I started with a pound of medium firm tofu. I cut this into three slices (not as evenly as I would have liked), and cut each slice into nine pieces. I pressed these for a while to drive out excess liquid (recipe calls for soft tofu, which would have made this stage more important). I took a medium saucepan, poured into it about one-inch of peanut oil, and heated it up. I took the tofu squares, dredged them in potato starch, and fried them, draining on paper towels as they started to brown, and lined them up in a large quiche pan. I mixed up the sauce: 1 cup Dashi II, 3T soy sauce, 3T mirin. I garnished the tofu with daikon and scallion, and spooned about half of the sauce over them, offering the rest of the sauce on the side. (I wound up dumping some leftover ginger into it.)

For the eggplant, I took two long Japanese eggplants (about one pound) and sliced them diagonally into rounds, about 3/8-inch thick. I mixed up the sauce: 1/2 cup Dashi II, 3T red miso, 3T sugar. I fried the eggplant in leftover oil from the tofu, and when it was partly browned I added the sauce. I covered it, let it simmer for five minutes, uncovered it and let it bubble and thicken. Looking back at the recipe, I see I didn't follow it very well: the recipe calls for simmering in the dashi, then adding the miso and sugar, so two separate stages, and includes adding a scallion, which I forgot -- although I garnished with scallion later. Also, I went back and forth between covering and uncovering, and never cut the heat back to simmering level. And I should have gotten the oil hotter before adding the eggplant, as it got soaked up fast so I had to add more. I should also note that the recipe seems to be calling for western eggplant, not Japanese (although it would be sad notd using Japanese for this recipe). Despite all these screw-ups, this turned into the outstanding dish of the meal -- the overcooked green beans came damn close, those two being the only dishes had had no leftovers.

The yakisoba recipe called for "chuno sauce," which I couldn't find anywhere, but I did find a "make your own" recipe on the net, so did: 1/2 cup ketchup plus 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce. I only needed 3T, so cut that in half. I wound up using pretty much all of it, plus 1/2T oyster sauce. I started cooking the noodle dish about the same time as the eggplant. Heated some oil (again, from the tofu pot), and started with the carrots. After a minute or so, added the onions, then a couple minutes later the bok choy and scallions, then the pre-cooked udon noodles (two bags, four packets -- I should have separated them first since they were pretty badly clumped together. I added the "chuno sauce" and oyster sauce, and covered for a while. I had a guest slice up the black mushrooms and added them (not in the recipe, but I figured they'd come in handy somewhere, and this wound up being the place). I scooped the noodles out into a serving bowl, garnished with katsuobushi, wakame (recipe calls for aonori, but still seaweed), and beni shoga (a bright form of picked ginger cut into matchsticks -- worked very well for this purpose).

By this time I had put the salmon under the broiler. I pulled it out midway, noted that one piece in the back was exceptionally brown so I rotated the pan, and gave everything a fresh brush of marinade. A few minutes later, I checked again and found everything well browned on top, but the thickest filets were nicely done, so I turned the oven off and moved the fish to a serving tray. Last thing was to finish the soup. I had been heating up the Dashi I, so added the pea pods, let them cook for a minute or two, then dropped the heat low and whisked in two beaten eggs. I ladled the soup out into bowls and served it. I should have checked the soup seasoning. It turned out to be the only dish I was disappointed in, although the texture was good, the eggs nice and wispy: a little salt (or soy sauce) and pepper (maybe Szechuan), and maybe some scallion, maybe even a whiff of sesame oil, would have helped a lot.

I thought the mix and range and contrast of the dishes was exemplary. I had bought a bunch of extra ingredients -- mostly vegetables including broccoli, brussels sprouts, and mushrooms, that I could have used. One additional dish I would have made had time permitted was a salad of raw carrot and daikon ("red and white"), both cut into matchsticks with the usual dashi-based dressing (plus some kombu and citrus). I also cut back in some quantities -- e.g., only cooked about half of my green beans, only used about half of my baby bok choy. Still, plenty of food for five -- would have had enough for a couple more, but we didn't wind up with a ridiculous amount of leftovers.

As I said, I hadn't cooked a full Japanese meal in decades -- during which time I've cooked dozens each of Chinese, Indian, Turkish, Spanish, Italian, and Moroccan, and smaller numbers of other cuisines -- so I had pretty much lost my sense of how Japanese meals work together. (When we do go to Japanese restaurants, we invariably order sushi, so that further limits what I know -- Laura does like to order agedashi, so that was an exception, albeit one she usually orders in a favorite Thai restaurant).

Heated up the leftover noodles last night. Have enough Dashi II left to make a couple cups of miso soup, enough green beans for a replay, and various other odds and ends: made an omelet today with leftover mushrooms and scallions. Also have five or six packages of noodles, which I need to experiment with. Guess I can add Japanese to my cuisine repertoire. Also seems to be possible to get "sushi-quality fish" in a couple of stores here, and Thai Binh has the barbecued eel, so those are options. I've made tempura in the past, and fried dishes like tonkatsu. I haven't tried the fancier noodle soups like sukiyaki or yosenabe -- things I used to order before I got into sushi. Also, thumbing through the book, the steak teriyaki looks especially promising. So many things one can try.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27814 [27779] rated (+35), 386 [393] unrated (-7).

Still mostly 2016 releases below, including a couple A-list finds (the current A-lists are 74 jazz and 67 non-jazz), but the share is dropping as I dip more often into my 2017 new jazz queue. Also checked out the new Tinariwen, which even with its American guests is very similar to old Tinariwen, still enough for my second 2017 non-jazz A- (after Run the Jewels 3).

Still added a few more 2017 lists to the EOY Aggregate file (a couple are mentioned in "recommended links" below). The new lists resulted in several changes to the top-twenty rank order, mostly in line with longer term trends: A Tribe Called Quest climbed into 5th, ahead of Solange; Chance the Rapper is up to 7th, barely edging Kanye West and dropping Nick Cave to 9th; Anderson .Paak took 11th from Bon Iver; Leonard Cohen took 13th from Car Seat Headrest; Mitski took 18th from Kaytranada. I'd say most of these cases favor the better record (aside from the last pair).

Not sure I'm done, but the rate of additions slowed down quite a bit midweek, as the weather warmed up enough to do some yardwork (well, actually we've been breaking records), and I finally resumed collecting reviews for the Jazz Guide(s). The latter got to be much more fun after I finished the 2001-09 notebooks (I'm assuming anything after that is redundant with the column files) and moved into Rhapsody Streamnotes, and the latter got to be more fun once I hit 2014, when I consolidated Jazz Prospecting and Recycled Goods into Streamnotes (finally, everything I run into is new for the books). Currently up to May 2014, and the 20th Century compilation is up to 374 pages. Good chance I'll finish Streamnotes this coming week.

The first two entries under "old music" were picked up while looking for newer albums. I was pleased to find Bandcamp sites for Anzic Records (looking for Daniel Freedman) and for ROVA, but both turned out to be less than ideal: Anzic had a couple albums complete, but others didn't have enough tracks to review (Anat Cohen was one important artist I wasn't able to fill in).

The reason I looked up Bob Wilber was a Facebook post by Chris Drumm inquiring about worthwhile Arbors Records releases. I've long been a fan of Wilber's and was pleased to find one album I've heard a lot about (Fletcher Henderson's Unrecorded Arrangements for Benny Goodman, a PG 4-star and a Gary Giddins favorite). The Henderson record lived up to its billing, but nothing else I had missed turned out to be essential. And still, my own Wilber favorite is 1989's Dancing on a Rainbow (Circle).

I should probably remind readers that I occasionally write little 140-character nuggets as @tomhull747. My "follower" count recently hit 250. Mostly notices of new blog posts, but sometimes something else. Total tweets to date 1714, average rate down since I stopped trying to review records on the fly, so I'm not going to swamp your feed -- just occasionally remind you of something interesting.

Recommended music links:

New records rated this week:

  • Angles 9: Disappeared Behind the Sun (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • CP Unit: Before the Heat Death (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Tim Daisy: October Music Vol. 2: 7 Compositions for Duet (2016, Relay): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Bill Evans/Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Beauty & the Beast (2011 [2016], Spartacus): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Factory Floor: 25 25 (2016, DFA): [r]: A-
  • Daniel Freedman: Imagine That (2016, Anzic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Joana Gama/Luís Fernandes/Richardo Jacinto: Harmonies (2016 [2017], Shhpuma): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Josh Green & the Cyborg Orchestra: Telepathy & Bop (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Rich Halley/Carson Halley: The Wild (2015 [2017], Pine Eagle): [cd]: A-
  • Kayo Dot: Plastic House on Base of Sky (2016, The Flenser): [r]: B
  • Amirtha Kidambi/Elder Ones: Holy Science (2016, Northern Spy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave King Trucking Company: Surrounded by the Night (2016, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Daniel Levin Quartet: Live at Firehouse 12 (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Martha: Blisters in the Pit of My Heart (2016, Dirtnap): [r]: A-
  • Donny Most: Mostly Swinging (2016 [2017], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The MUH Trio [Roberto Magris/Frantisek Uhlir/Jaromir Helesic]: Prague After Dark (2016 [2017], JMood): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Tisziji Muñoz: Tathagata Guitar: Whisperings of Peace (2016, Anami Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tisziji Muñoz: Heart Ground (2016, Anami Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Doug Munro and La Pompe Attack: The Harry Warren Songbook (2016 [2017], GotMusic): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Oui' 3: Occupy Your Mind (2016 [2017], ITI): [cd]: B
  • Jason Palmer: Beauty 'N' Numbers: The Sudoku Suite (2015 [2016], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Luke Sellick: Alchemist (2016 [2017], Cellar Live): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra: Effervescence (2016 [2017], Spartacus): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Snakehips: Forever (Pt. II) EP (2015, Sony Music, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Snakehips: All My Friends EP (2016, Sony Music, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tinariwen: Elwan (2017, Anti-): [r]: A-

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

  • Anna Homler and Steve Moshier: Breadwoman & Other Tales (1985-93 [2016], RVNG Intl): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sky Girl (1961-91 [2016], Efficient Space): [r]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Avishai Cohen's Triveni: Dark Nights (2014, Anzic): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Rova: Long on Logic: Compositions by Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, and Rova (1989 [1990], Sound Aspects): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Bob Wilber: Horn's-a-Plenty (1994, Arbors): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Bob Wilber/Dany Doriz Quintet: Memories of You: Lionel and Benny (1995 [1996], Black and Blue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bob Wilber: Nostalgia (1996, Arbors): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bob Wilber/Dick Hayman: A Perfect Match: In Tribute to Johnny Hodges and Wild Bill Davis (1997 [1998], Arbors): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bob Wilber and the International March of Jazz All Stars: Everywhere You Go There's Jazz (1998 [1999], Arbors): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bob Wilber and the Tuxedo Big Band: Fletcher Henderson's Unrecorded Arrangements for Benny Goodman (2000, Arbors): [r]: A-
  • Bob Wilber and the Tuxedo Big Band: Rampage! (2011, Arbors): [r]: B

Grade changes:

  • American Honey [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (1974-2015 [2016], UME): [cdr]: [was B+(***)]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bill Hart: Touch of Blue (Blue Canoe)
  • Doug MacDonald: Jazz Marathon 2 (BluJazz, 2CD)
  • The Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra: Welcome to Swingsville! (BluJazz)
  • Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures: Glare of the Tiger (M.O.D. Technologies): March 10

Daily Log

Miscellaneous notes:

  • American Honey [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (1974-2015 [2016], UME): A-
  • Sky Girl (1961-91 [2016], Efficient Space): B+(*)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Trump's crazy, disjointed press conference had me thinking: I doubt that Donald Trump has ever read David Ogilvy, but he's done a bang-up job of following Ogilvy's main piece of advice on living one's life:

Develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won't think you're going gaga.

Trump's biography is chock full of such peculiarities, and indeed that's given him a certain protection against anything he does now -- a way of making excuses, rationalizing his tirades and outrages.

Still, I think the most important lesson from last week is the extent to which Trump has chosen to vilify the media. Admittedly, that's a tactic that has served him well in the past, but there is a fundamental difference between attacking the system from outside and defending the system he's gained control of. The media has always been eager to kowtow to power, but that's partly because they expect some stroking in return. Trump's characterization of everything they say as "fake news" is an affront (and a challenge) to their self-image.

On the other hand, Trump's emergence as crazy-in-chief has thus far worked out nicely for the Republican party regulars, both in Congress and increasingly in the administration (and eventually in the courts). As any con artist knows, the key is to get the marks to pay attention elsewhere while they pull off their manipulations unseen, and Trump is a marvelous distraction. Isn't it interesting that Trump's own staunchest campaign supporters have failed to get job offers in the new regime: Rudy Giulliani, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich? Even Kris Kobach, the only Republican in Kansas to endorse Trump before the caucuses here, was passed over despite a couple of high-profile photo ops with Trump. The only exception I can think of is former Senator, new Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump has managed to keep a couple pet advisers like Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway in non-policy positions, but that's about it. He's well on his way to becoming the loneliest and most expendable man in his administration. I can't say as I'm surprised.

Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:

Along the way, I wandered across a lot of liberal links critical of Trump but obsessed with Russia, including posts by John Cassidy, Paul Krugman, George Packer, and David Remnick. In particular, Packer complains about "the heads of key House and Senate committees who are doing as little as possible to expose corruption and possible treason in the White House." The word that sticks in my craw there is "treason." I can't overstate how sick and tired I am of that word -- not least because it implies that we're obligated to be loyal to some hidden, unknowable, and unquestionable power. Packer goes on to describe "an authoritarian and erratic leader" -- I mean, which is it? Doesn't the latter subvert the former? He also names John McCain and Lindsey Graham as among "the few critical Republican voices" -- the only thing they've been critical of is that Trump hasn't started any new wars yet (and the word for that isn't "critical" -- it's "impatient").

Also a few links less directly tied to the ephemeral in America's bout of political insanity:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Daily Log

Don't know whether Donald Trump ever read David Ogilvy, but he's lived out Ogilvy's prime advice on living your life:

Develop your eccentricities while you are young. That way, when you get old, people won't think you're going gaga.

Of course, that assumes you retain some memory of those cultavted eccentricities. If not, if you're just encountering 70-year-old Trump for the first time, you'll probably think he's moved well beyond gaga to batshit crazy. His press conference today certainly bears that out.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27779 [27740] rated (+39), 393 [383] unrated (+10).

Having a hard time letting go of 2016, possibly because I get the feeling I have so little to look forward to in 2017.

Queue continues to grow as I pick up 2016 list items -- seems like a lot of these came from Jason Gubbels, although Élage Diouf came from an Afropop list I found on ILXOR, and the Meridian Brothers reissue first appeared in the fine print under metal-crazed Uncle Fester's Lucky 13 (or is it psyched-out -- whatever the fuck psych is). Most interesting HMs are by Autolux, Fantastic Negrito, and Dele Sosimi (2015 releases keep sneaking in). Best jazz this week is the new Throttle Elevator Jazz Retrorespective.

Martha sounds good for next week, but needs another spin. Sampha strikes me as super-overrated (Metacritic score 86 on 24 reviews, which will most likely make it a top-20 album a year from now, somewhere between Kaytranada and Anderson Paak this year -- Tinariwen's Elwan and Jens Lekman's Life Will See You Now have 87 scores but only 8-10 reviews, so their scores are less significant).

Started reading Ira Katznelson's Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time, which is proving uncomfortable and more than a little annoying. Thus far (120 pages in) the main subject is the notion that liberal democracy was looking doomed in the early 1930s with fascism and bolshevism ascendant -- e.g., he cites Walter Lippman arguing for a beneficient dictatorship. Then as now the driving force behind fascism was fear, but as I read this I keep thinking, hey, don't we know better this time? Granted, the news is full of proof way too many of us don't know shit, and sensible minds are in short supply.

New records rated this week:

  • Africans With Mainframes: K.M.T. (2016, Soul Jazz): [r]: A-
  • A$AP Ferg: Always Strive and Prosper (2016, Polo Grounds/RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Autolux: Pussy's Dead (2016, 30th Century/Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Heather Bambrick: You'll Never Know (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Bentcousin: Bentcousin (2016, Team Love): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dierks Bentley: Black (2016, Capitol Nashville): [r]: B
  • Laura Cannell: Simultaneous Flight Movement (2016, Brawl): [r]: B+(*)
  • City Yelps: Half Hour (2016, Odd Box): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chook Race: Around the House (2016, Trouble in Mind): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kweku Collins: Nat Love (2016, Closed Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jon De Lucia Group: As the River Sings (2014 [2017], Fresh Sound New Talent): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Élage Diouf: Melokáane (2016, Pump Up the World): [r]: A-
  • DJ Diamond: Footwork or Die (2016, Duck N' Cover): [r]: B-
  • Mark Ernestus' Ndagga Rhythm Force: Yermande (2016, Ndagga): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fantastic Negrito: The Last Days of Oakland (2016, Blackball Universe): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nick Finzer: Hear & Now (2016 [2017], Outside In Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Injury Reserve: Live From the Dentist Office (2015, Las Fuegas): [sc]: B+(**)
  • Leyla McCalla: A Day for the Hunter, a Day for the Prey (2016, Jazz Village): [r]: B+(**)
  • Cass McCombs: Mangy Love (2016, Anti-): [r]: B
  • Merso: Red World (2016, Good to Die): [r]: B+(**)
  • Moksha: The Beauty of an Arbitrary Moment (2016, Jazzland): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hannah Peel: Awake but Always Dreaming (2016, My Own Pleasure): [r]: B
  • Florian Pellissier Quintet: Cap De Bonne Esperance (2016, Heavenly Sweetness): [r]: B+(**)
  • Luis Perdomo: Spirits and Warriors (2016, Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • Renegades of Jazz: Moyo Wangu (2016, Agogo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Carrie Rodriguez: Lola (2016, Luz): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sampha: Process (2017, Young Turks): [r]: B+(*)
  • Scarcity of Tanks: Ringleader Lies (2016, Total Life Society): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sneaks: It's a Myth (2016, Merge, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dele Sosimi: You No Fit Touch Am (2015, Wah Wah 45s): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dele Sosimi Meets Prince Fatty & Nostalgia 77: You No Fit Touch Am in Dub (2016, Wah Wah 45s): [r]: B+(**)
  • Throttle Elevator Music: IV (2014-16 [2016], Wide Hive): [r]: B+(**)
  • Throttle Elevator Music: Retrorespective (2016 [2017], Wide Hive): [r]: B+(***)
  • Trouble Kaze: June (2016 [2017], Circum-Disc): [cd]: B+(*)

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

  • J Dilla: The Diary (2001-02 [2016], Mass Appeal/Pay Jay): [r]: B+(*)
  • Doing It in Lagos: Boogie, Pop & Disco in 1980's Nigeria (1979-84 [2016], Soundway, 2CD): [r]: B
  • Arthur Lipner: Two Hands One Heart: Best of Arthur Lipner (1990-2014 [2017], Malletworks Media, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Meridian Brothers V: El Advenimiento del Castillo Mujer (2005 [2016], Discrepant): [r]: A-
  • Joe Newman Sextet: The Happy Cats (1956 [2016], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Greg Abate/Tim Ray Trio: Road to Forever (Whaling City Sound): February 24
  • Jason Anick & Jason Yeager: United (Inner Circle Music): March 10
  • Ballrogg: Abaft the Beam (Clean Feed)
  • Carlos Bica & Azul: More Than This (Clean Feed)
  • Akua Dixon: Akua's Dance (Akua's Music)
  • Gerry Gibbs & Thrasher People: Weather or Not (Whaling City Sound): February 24, should be 2CD but only one arrived
  • Gorilla Mask: Iron Lung (Clean Feed)
  • Jill Jack and the American SongBook Band: Pure Imagination (UpHill Productions)
  • Kirk MacDonald Jazz Orchestra: Common Ground (Addo): February 24
  • Ben Markley Big Band: Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton (OA2): February 17
  • Lisa Mezzacappa: Avant Noir (Clean Feed)
  • Nicole Mitchell: Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE): May 5
  • Velkro: Too Lazy to Panic (Clean Feed)
  • Michael Zilber: Originals for the Originals (Origin): February 17

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Running the image again. I doubt I'll really keep that up for four years, but for now it inspires me to dig up this shit.

Still need to write up something about Matt Taibbi's Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus -- recently read, although it recycles a lot that I had previously read, including a sizable chunk of Taibbi's 2009 book The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire -- an excavation so profound that Maureen Dowd snarfed up a keyword for her own regurgitation of campaign columns, The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics (a title which makes me wonder how she would have faired in Taibbi's 2004 Wimblehack -- see Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches From the Dumb Season).

Still, I suspect that the weakness of both Taibbi and Dowd books is their focus on the more obvious story: how ridiculous the Republicans were (a subject that served Taibbi best in 2008 when he compiled his brief Smells Like Dead Elephants before taking the time to craft The Great Deformation). In retrospect, the real story wasn't how Trump won, but how Hillary Clinton lost. Looking ahead, books by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes (Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign, out April 18) and/or Doug Wead (Game of Thorns: The Inside Story of Hillary Clinton's Failed Campaign and Donald Trump's Winning Strategy, February 28) promise some insight (or at least insider dope). Still, I doubt anyone is going to write something that satisfactorily explains the whole election for some time.

One thing that keeps eating at me about the election is that while Trump's polls oscillated repeatedly, falling whenever voters got a chance to compare him side-by-side (as in the debates, or even more strongly comparing the two conventions), then bouncing back on the rare weeks when he didn't say something scandalous, Clinton's polls never came close to topping 50%. She was, in short, always vulnerable, and all Trump needed to get close was a couple weeks where he seemed relatively sane (on top of all that Koch money organizing down ballot, especially in Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, and the Midwest). I doubt if any other Republican could have beat Clinton: Trump's ace in the hole was his antithesis to Washington insider-dom, which gave him credibility she couldn't buy (despite massive evidence that he was the crooked one). But just as importantly, Trump suckered her into campaigning on high-minded centrism (including support from nearly everyone in the permanent defense/foreign affairs eatablishment), which weakened her support among traditional Democrats. Any other Republican would have forced her to run as a Democrat, and she would have been better off for that.

Again, it's not that working people rationally thought they'd be better off with Trump. It's just that too many didn't feel any affinity for or solidarity with her. Of course, those who discovered their own reasons for voting against the Republicans -- which includes the left, blacks, Latinos, immigrants, single women, and others the Democrats bank on but don't invest in -- voted for her anyway. But others needed to be reminded of the differences between the parties, and Clinton didn't do a good job at that (nor did Obama give her much to build on, as he almost never blamed Republicans for undermining his efforts).

Meanwhile, Trump's net favorability polling is down to -15.

Some links on the Trump world this week:

Also a few links not so directly tied to America's bout of political insanity:

  • At TomDispatch this week: Tom Engelhardt: Crimes of the Trump Era (a Preview); Rajan Menon: Is President Trump Headed for a War with China?. Menon, by the way, has a book called The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention (2016). Regarding China, I'm reminded of a scenario sketched out by the late Chalmers Johnson: suppose a country launched a dumptruck-load of gravel into earth orbit (something well within China's capability); it would in short order destroy every satellite (including China's, but most are American or owned by corporations). Without killing any people, the economic effects would be devastating, and it would cripple America's ability to spy on friend and foe, or indeed to direct foreign wars. I'd argue that this capability all by itself makes China too big to attack (Russia, of course, could do the same, at more cost to itself; moreover, the technology isn't far out for emerging rocket builders, notably Iran and North Korea). Given these realities, the US would be well advised to work on cooperation instead of intimidation. Still, that's not Trump's style, nor is it China's: "Xi Jinping, like Trump, presents himself as a tough guy, sure to trounce his enemies at home and abroad. Retaining that image requirse that he not bend when it comes to defending China's land and honor." Neocon Robert Kagan has his own alarming scenario: Backint Into World War III. But then he's arguing to march forward into conflict, rather than back into it -- which, by the way, he sees Trump doing in his "further accommodation of Russia" (as opposed to his "tough" stance against China).

  • Stan Finger: Police seek answers, reversal as aggravated assaults surge: Could a 50% increase in aggravated assault cases since the 2013 passage of Kansas' "open carry" gun law have anything to do with that law? Minds boggle, especially as the delayed opening up of open gun carry on college campuses is looming. One complaint is new gun toters haven't been "properly trained," but wasn't a big part of the 2013 law the elimination of training requirements?

    Also in the Eagle today: Dion Lefler/Stan Finger: Race to replace Pompeo in Congress is down to three candidates: Republicans nominated Brownback crony Ron Estes, while the Democrats are backing civil rights attorney James Thompson, who will hopefully turn the election to replace CIA Director Mike Pompeo into a referendum on the Trump and Brownback administrations. (Salon has a piece by Rosana Hegeman on Thompson.) Also: Dion Lefler: 1,500 Sanders tickets sold so far, leading to move to a bigger venue, who will be speaking in Topeka on February 25.

  • Sayed Kashua: Preparing My Kids for the New America: One thing I've long noted is how much the right-wing, traditionally the last bastion of anti-semitism, has grown to admire Israel. So as they consolidate their power, it shouldn't be surprising that they're starting to make America look more like Israel, or that the first to notice would be Palestinians who lived in (and fled from) Israel.

  • John McQuaid: Coastal cities in danger: Florida has seen bad effects from Trump-like climate gag orders: North Carolina, too. Also, John Upton: Coastal Cities Could Flood Three Times a Week by 2045.

  • Daniel Oppenheimer: Not Yet Falling Apart: "Two thinkers on the left offer a guide to navigating the stormy seas of modernity." Quasi-review of Mark Lilla's The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction, trying to contrast it with Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (due for a new edition, with Trump eclipsing Palin, as indeed it does get worse, not to mention dumber). Oppenheimer make much of Lilla reviewing (and panning) Robin's book, then not including the review in his short collection (like Robin, the book stakes out the terrain of a broad, systematic study but falls short by recycling old book reviews -- in this case "thinkers" such as Franz Rosenzweig, Leo Strauss, Eric Vogelin, and Michel Houllebecq).

Monday, February 06, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27740 [27708] rated (+32), 383 [363] unrated (+20).

Failed to get this posted on Monday (or Tuesday before I finally went to bed) for the first time since I can't remember. The immediate cause on Monday was that I got distracted researching possible fixes for a faulty ice maker. Yesterday I wound up ordering a part which may not be the total fix but is at least necessary. I agree with the proposition of a movie called The Mosquito Coast that "ice is civilization," so this is a matter of some import. (That movie, by the way, was the first place I really noticed Helen Mirren.)

Then I wound up wasting much of Tuesday adding Metacritic's Top Ten Lists to my EOY Aggregate. Thought I was done with that, and indeed I had moved on to resume work on my Jazz Guides (finally getting through the 2001-09 notebooks and into Rhapsody Streamnotes). But I kept thinking it would be nice to hit the bottom before posting, and it didn't happen until early Wednesday evening. Then I found ILXOR's thread, so I've started scanning through it. I don't expect these additions to change positions much -- although there are some close ones: Solange leads Tribe for 5th by 5 (437-432), Chance passed Nick Cave for 7th (395-378), Bon Iver's hold on 11th has been slipping to Anderson Paak (318-314), Car Seat Headrest has grabbed 14th from Anohni (276-264), Rihanna edged into 16th ahead of Danny Brown (230-225), Kaytranada barely holds 18th over Mitski (202-201).

Below you'll find a typical long list of records: a little bit of 2017 jazz and a lot of interesting-looking 2016 EOY list items, few of which panned out. I had a lot of trouble with the XX album too -- Michael Tatum likes it, and hopefully will write about it soon. Took me a lot of plays, but I found my favorite song from the album rattling around in my head several days later. You might note that two albums (Injury Reserve, The Hamilton Mixtape) from last week's Expert Witness fell just short (after 2-3 plays), while I previously graded two of Bob's HMs at A- (Atmosphere, Ka; I had Noname and J Cole at **). I've since caught up with two other albums (Kool A.D. and the older Injury Reserve, having to go to Bandcamp and Soundcloud respectively), but I couldn't find the politically timely Battle Hymns.

One thing you'll note below is seven SteepleChase releases. The Danish label, notorious for never sending out promos, has recently appeared on Napster, so after noticing that I've been looking through their recent release lists. Chris Byars is an artist I've wanted to catch up on -- his Photos in Black, White and Gray was a JCG Pick Hit in 2007, and after he moved to SteepleChase the one record I did get a chance to hear, 2011's Lucky Strikes Again, is a terrific Lucky Thompson tribute. Still most of his catalog isn't on Napster. Hopefully they'll eventually get the whole back catalog up: Nils Winther founded the label in 1972, starting out with expat Americans like Dexter Gordon and Duke Jordan, and wound up being a refuge for dozens of important mainstream jazz players (like Byars). I count 17 A/A- records in my database, but there are surely dozens more I haven't heard.

Lot of incoming mail last week, much of it promising. I got another package from Clean Feed today (not listed below). Despite my tardiness, this week's list was cut off Sunday night. Been listening to more of the same the last couple days.

New records rated this week:

  • Oren Ambarchi: Hubris (2016, Editions Mego): [r]: A-
  • Ballister: Slag (2015 [2017], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Joe Bourne: Upbeat and Sweet (2016 [2017], Summit): [cd]: C
  • Chris Byars: Two Fives (2014 [2015], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chris Byars: The Music of Frank Strozier (2015 [2017], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • The CCM Jazz Orchestra as James Bond: Nobody Does It Better (2013 [2017], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Carla dal Forno: You Know What It's Like (2016, Blackest Ever Black): [r]: B+(*)
  • Death Grips: Bottomless Pit (2016, Third Worlds/Harvest): [r]: B+(*)
  • Olegario Diaz: Aleph in Chromatic (2015 [2016], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dvsn: Sept. 5th (2016, OVO Sound/Warner Brothers): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Flat Five: It's a World of Love and Hate (2016, Bloodshot): [r]: B-
  • Injury Reserve: Floss (2016, Las Fuegas): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kirk Knuffke/Jesse Stacken: Satie (2015 [2016], SteepleChase): [r]: B
  • Kool AD: Official (2016, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Michel Lambert: Alom Mola (2016 [2017], Jazz From Rant): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jihye Lee Orchestra: April (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B-
  • Okkyung Lee & Christian Marclay: Amalgam (2014 [2016], Northern Spy): [r]: B
  • James Brandon Lewis Trio: No Filter (2016, BNS Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chelsea McBride's Socialist Night School: The Twilight Fall (2016 [2017], Browntasaurus): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Brad Myers & Michael Sharfe: Sanguinaria (Hopefulsongs) (2016 [2017], Colloquy): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Awa Poulo: Poulo Warali (2016 [2017], Awesome Tapes From Africa): [r]: B+(**)
  • Primal Scream: Chaosmosis (2016, First International/Ignition): [r]: B+(**)
  • Stephen Riley & Peter Zak: Haunted Heart (2014 [2015], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Stephen Riley/Peter Zak: Deuce (2014 [2017], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Roosevelt: Roosevelt (2016, City Slang): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sao Paulo Underground: Cantos Invisiveis (2016, Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Skee Mask: Shred (2016, Ilian Tape): [r]: B+(**)
  • Baron Tymas: Montréal (2015 [2017], Tymasmusic): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The XX: I See You (2017, Young Turks): [r]: A-
  • Peter Zak: Standards (2014 [2016], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • The Hamilton Mixtape (2016, Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
  • New York Noise: Dance Music From the New York Underground 1977-1982 (1977-82 [2016], Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Anthony Braxton: Quintet (London) 2004: Live at the Royal Festival Hall (2004 [2005], Leo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Moscow) 2008 (2008, Leo): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sebastien Ammann: Color Wheel (Skirl)
  • AMP Trio: Three (self-released)
  • Angles 9: Disappeared Behind the Sun (Clean Feed)
  • Gianni Bianchini: Type I (self-released): February 21
  • Alex Cline's Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows (self-released, 2CD): advance
  • CP Unit: Before the Heat Death (Clean Feed)
  • Bill Evans/Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Beauty & the Beast (Spartacus)
  • Satoko Fujii: Invisible Hound (Cortez Sound): February 10
  • Joana Gama/Luís Fernandes/Richardo Jacinto: Harmonies (Clean Feed)
  • Jean-Brice Godet: Lignes De Crêtes (Clean Feed)
  • Rich Halley/Carson Halley: The Wild (Pine Eagle)
  • Daniel Levin Quartet: Live at Firehouse 12 (Clean Feed)
  • Mark Masters Ensemble: Blue Skylight (Capri): February 17
  • Billy Mintz: Ugly Beautiful (Thirteenth Note): March 7
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Loafer's Hollow (Hot Cup): February 24
  • The MUH Trio [Roberto Magris/Frantisek Uhlir/Jaromir Helesic]: Prague After Dark (JMood)
  • Eivind Opsvik: Overseas V (Loyal Label)
  • Keith Oxman: East of the Village (Capri)
  • Noah Preminger: Meditations on Freedom (self-released)
  • The Reunion Project: Veranda (Tapestry)
  • Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra: Effervescence (Spartacus): February 24
  • Hiromi Suda: Nagi (BluJazz)
  • Trouble Kaze: June (Circum-Disc): March 3

   Mar 2001