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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

Tweet: Speaking of Which: Republican intelligence and integrity (myth of), wokism/racism, super-rich sickies, Fed chairs, crackdown courts, inflation, Birchers, shooters, fascists, voting participation, Dan Georgakas.

I saw a meme today which pictured Dwight Eisenhower and quoted a number of seemingly progressive planks in the 1956 Republican platform:

  • Federal assistance to low-income communities
  • Extension of Social Security
  • Asylum for thousands of refugees, expellees and displaced persons
  • Extending minimum-wage protections "to as many more workers as is possible and practicable."
  • improving the unemployment benefit system
  • Protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively
  • assure equal pay for equal work regardless of sex.

While figureheads like Eisenhower and Nixon saw little benefit in attacking the overwhelmingly popular platforms of the New Deal, rank and file Republicans were often still as adamantly opposed as they had been under Coolidge and Hoover (two of the three presidents who famously "served under [Treasury Secretary] Andrew Mellon"). This was posted by a distinguished historian who also mentioned Wendell Wilkie, but way overshoots the mark in arguing that "there were days when being Republican was a mark of intelligence and integrity" -- consider Joseph McCarthy for one, and Barry Goldwater for another. But rather than nitpick, my comment tried to show a broader context:

From 1932-80 and 1980-2020 we've seen eras where one party dominated and the other tried to cope by largely adopting the dominant party's rhetoric and agenda. Only two Republicans were elected president in the former period: Eisenhower and Nixon. Both basically accepted the New Deal/Great Society framework, although their commitment to it was negligible, and the core of the party was often resistant and destructive, as when Republicans joined with Southern Democrats to pass Taft-Hartley, which eventually crippled the labor movement. Similarly, from 1980-2020 only two Democrats were elected President: Clinton & Obama. Both accepted major tenets of Reagan's anti-big-government conservatism, both actively courted business interests, and limited their reform proposals (e.g., in health care) to ones that would favor business interests. That slide to the right was halted by the abject failure of Republicanism to do anything but make the rich richer, by the failure of New Democrats to actually reform anything, and by the gross embarrassment of Trump. On the other hand, Biden doesn't look like an era-founding leader on the order of Roosevelt and Reagan (or looking back further, you can play this game with Jefferson and Lincoln, who inaugurated similarly dominant eras), and there are still Democrats stuck in the Reagan-era mindset (most famously Manchin and Sinema), so we're in a bit of a muddle right now. On the other hand, the only way you're going to see Republicans start trying to be reasonable is if the party gets beat so bad they have no other alternative.

One notable thing about this these eras is that the first three start with dramatic breaks toward more equitable and inclusive polities, but the Reagan one is anomalous, attempting to impose a more stratified, hierarchical power. It is also by far the least popular, secured beyond Reagan himself only through chicanery and corruption. Moving forward, we can draw on the progressivism of the past, but need a new understanding of how the word works, and what our place within it should be.

David Edward Burke: Has the Antiracist Movement Become a Counterproductive Religion? I don't know anything more about John McWhorter's book Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America than what I've read in this review, but I have a couple of kneejerk reactions. First is the inclusion of "Racism" in the title. Call it Wokism if you must, and try to show how a religious (he specifically rejects that it is merely religion-like) devotation to Wokism is counterproductive in various ways. But as written, Wokism is a subset of, and therefore more or less equivalent to, racism. That is not true, and muddies our understanding of racism. Sure, the word by itself can be confusing, but it's hard to grow up in America without understanding that racism refers to white-over-black or white-over-non-white discrimination. Second, the implication is that racism is simply a matter of belief. I know Critical Race Theory isn't often taught in America, but isn't it obvious that racism in America is not just opinion but systemic in law, custom, and culture? If you don't know that, you deserve to be harrangued by the consciously woke. There is much more we can quibble with, like when it's useful or counterproductive to accuse someone of being racist, or whether a phrase like "white privilege" even means anything significant. But that's because I jumped to the end of the review, only to read: "Democrats will be motivated to think carefully about whether to wholeheartedly embrace or distance themselves from the more extreme and tyrannical elements of the far left." What the fuck? I get that some people "on the left" (not unlike "on the right" or "in the middle") care so much about seemingly minor slights that they react harshly (whether about racism or sexism or snobbery or pollution or food or satire or all sorts of things) but that doesn't make them tyrants. In order to be a tyrant, you have to have power, including the ability to punish people who offend you. Maybe someday some people on the left will have that kind of power, and we should work to ensure they wield it responsibly, with charity and forbearance, such as would be consistent with a belief system based on equity, justice, mutual respect and tolerance -- i.e., on the very principles that separate left from right. But for now, virtually all tyrants and would-be tyrants are on the right.

James M Bush: Author, activist and contributor Dan Georgakas has died aged 83: Probably best known for his book about his home town, Detroit: I Do Mind Dying.

Clay Cockrell: I'm a therapist to the super-rich: they are as miserable as Succession makes out: We're taking it slow through Succession's 3rd season. I can't think of a single show ever more devoid of sympathetic characters -- even Billions, where comparably rich wastrels at least on occasion get to show off their cleverness and accomplishments, or Breaking Bad, another triumph of technical skill over any shred of decency. Perhaps we are meant to admire people who get rich through lack of scruples. Popular culture started lionizing criminals in the 1960s with The Dirty Dozen and It Takes a Thief -- they broke the ice by toiling for legitimate institutional powers, but as such groups and causes became increasingly suspect, and as the notion of a public good gave way to individual greed, the rationalizations soon broke down. Succession differs in that it focuses more on the idiot heirs than on the conquering founder, although in this case whatever skill Logan Roy may once have wielded seems every bit as atrophied as his offspring. No one in the show seems even remotely competent to run the company, including Roy's lackeys and the featured outside investors (from Sandy and Stewie to Roy's estranged brother). One might suspect the whole concoction is intended as a stereotyped assault on contemporary capitalism, but our limited view of reality isn't all that different. This article's testimony about the miserable rich feels right. Of course, the rich feel trapped. They live in a world where getting rich is sold as the solution to every problem, yet also a world where one can never be too rich. For more on the show, see Emily VanDerWerff: The four F's of trauma response and the four Roy kids of Succession.

Matthew Cooper: Biden Was Right to Pick Powell to Chair the Federal Reserve. I don't agree, but I'm not terribly bothered either. I thought Obama made a serious mistake in reappointing Ben Bernanke instead of picking someone more in sync with Democratic interests, and Clinton's double-reappointment of Alan Greenspan was an even bigger mistake. If you're going to get blamed politically for the economy -- and Democrats have a knack for getting blamed even when all conventional indicators are bully (see Clinton, Obama, and especially Biden) -- you really should get your own person into the slot, especially since you lose the power to fire that person as soon as he's confirmed. Of course, Clinton and Obama were badly compromised here: the Fed Chair nominally works for the people, but really works for the banks, and both had a lot of big donors in the banking industry, with this one spot they're especially serious about IOU's. Biden too, most likely. Powell has done a decent job so far, and has some fairly progressive economists in his corner (e.g., Dean Baker). But he's been on his best behavior pending reappointment, and even so he's promising interest rate hikes. He could easily turn into Biden's worst nightmare.

Garrett Epps: Are the Courts Getting Ready to Crack Down on Reporters? Good question. The right-wing Veritas Project, which is designed to produce defamatory videos about what they regard as the left, is suing the New York Times not just for defamation but for an order to prevent the Times from further reporting about Project Veritas. Normally, such a lawsuit would be a joke. Epps has also written a big piece on How the Trump Era Changed the Supreme Court.

Paul Krugman: Wonking Out: How Global Is Inflation: Very, which means it has little to do with US federal policies; and Going Beyond the Inflation Headlines. For many people, pandemic subsidies and extra support for the safety net, like the extra money added to usually-miserly unemployment compensation, was a lifesaver, but for other people it just added to savings, helping to fuel the recovery even before the pandemic has really ended. Where this demand got ahead of supply (which is still impacted by various dislocations caused by the pandemic), companies have been able to jack up prices, reducing buying power. I'm not sure it's helpful or even accurate to describe this as inflation -- an old-fashioned but more apt term is price gouging. What one calls it matters, not least because different solutions appear depending on whether one calls it inflation or price gouging. We're accustomed to thinking of inflation as something that can be controlled by government austerity and central bank fiscal policy, even though the effects of both are precisely equal to the long-discredited medical practice of bleeding. To limit prices, we reduce demand by putting people out of work, so they can't spend. However, the method -- increasing interest rates -- is perverse, as interest rates are often a component in costs, so you'd think they'd prices further up. Moreover, higher interest rates are a windfall for lenders -- especially those debts that are indexed to the interest rate (like credit card debt). (There is also a perversity on the side of lowering interest rates: it makes money cheaper for banks, and the easiest -- and therefore the first -- thing they do with it is to fuel speculation, creating asset bubbles.)

On the other hand, the main ways for attacking price gouging are to increase supply, reduce monopoly, and tax away windfall profits. Also: the old-fashioned approach of price controls and rationing, which can be effective in the short run, while raising fears of shortages and bureaucratic hassle -- not that the famously efficient market doesn't have comparable problems. Also: a lot of price gouging is predicated on fraud, so oversight and review can help.

Much more to be be said about this than I can manage now. Some more links:

Chris Lehmann: We All Live in the John Birch Society's World Now: A review of Edward H. Miller's book, A Conspiratorial Life: Robert Welch, the John Birch Society, and the Revolution of American Conservatism, noting: "It's clear today that figures like Welch were much closer to the emerging ideological mainstream than any Cold War liberal could have imagined."

Susan Lustbader: What the Arbery and Rittenhouse Verdicts Couldn't Tell Us: Writer is a public defender in New York City. She provides a judicious, tightly reasoned analysis of this month's two high-profile murder trials: the acquittal in Wisconsin of a teenager, Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot three and killed two at an anti-racism march in Kenosha, and the conviction of three self-appointed vigilantes for the murder of an unarmed black man in Georgia. Good description here of why each trial went its own way, but the bigger point is how exceptional such trials are compared to the everyday workings of the mass incarceration system. "To get a sense of the way racism pervades our criminal justice system, I would recommend paying less attention to blockbuster cases and instead visiting a local criminal court on a random day and witnessing the parade of low-income people of color shuffled before the court, most of them accused of minor, victimless offenses. Pay attention as a judge decides, within minutes, how much money will be required for each person to get out of a cage." More pieces relevant here:

Gail Pellett: Why Care About the Rise of Fascism? The legacy of Sophie Scholl and White Rose, and their resistance against the Nazi regime in Germany, in 1942. The segue to its contemporary relevance starts with the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville in 2017, and includes a smiley, armed picture of Kyle Rittenhouse. If you doubt the relevance of fascism to right-wing political "thought" in America, check out where Chuck Rufo is heading in Zack Beauchamp: The intellectual right's war on America's institutions.

Bill Scher: Youngkin's Win Proves That Republicans Shouldn't Fear Expanded Voting Rights: When Republicans swept the 2010 elections, it occurred to me that most of the shift could be explained by the dropoff in votes following the peak 2008 presidential election. Evidently, Republicans came to the same conclusion, as they've become obsessed with erecting obstacles against voting ever since. Of course, they've worked even harder at obstacles that discriminate against likely Democratic voters, but a lot of restrictions, like limiting early voting, cut across party lines. One thing I didn't realize until later was that the dropoff in 2010 was almost identical to the dropoff from 2004 (which Bush won, barely) to 2006 (which was a major Democratic wave). What I now think happens is that when voter turnout increases, a lot of low information voters show up, and those are precisely the ones that are most gullible for Republican propaganda. Both in 2016 and 2020, Trump ran significantly better than the polls. There is a theory which tries to explain this: that Republican-leaners are intimidated by pollsters and are too shy to disclose their true feelings. Given how many Republicans are proud of being assholes, I rather doubt this. Same basic thing happened in Virginia, where Republican overshot the polls. Scher thinks this means that Republicans shouldn't fear higher voter turnout. I'd counter that Democrats shouldn't fear lower voter turnout. Indeed, as long as you keep your people committed, the total turnout doesn't matter much. I'm not saying that Democratic efforts to expand the electorate and get more people to vote are wasted. They underscore the Democrats commitment to democracy, which is something Republicans have given up on, so this helps to underscore the danger of giving Republicans more power to abuse. On the other hand, Democrats need to understand that the real threat to democracy in America isn't gerrymandering or the other scams Republicans use to leverage their power. The real threat is money. And while Democrats complain about money interests when running for office, they have yet to try to do something about it when they do have power. The result is to make them look corrupt -- something Republicans harp on even though they're even more complicit in giving moneyed interests inordinate power in federal and state governments.

Zachary Siegel: Give People Safe Drugs: "Over 100,000 overdose deaths happened last year, driven by volatile and lethal fentanyl." I think this is clearly right, although I'd add that it should be under the rubric of a general health care reform such that people can both get the painkillers they think they need and also the medical supervision and social workers they really do need. The main thing holding us back, aside from the myriad profits many interested parties (both legit and criminal) reap, is a stubborn idiotic belief in the persuasive power of hypocrisy. If anything, the effect is the opposite.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, November archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 52 albums, 8 A-list, major shift to new music this week, both jazz and non, but I have better eyes and ears for the former (and get some help in the mail); further progress on EOY polls and lists.

Music: Current count 36746 [36694] rated (+52), 130 [128] unrated (+2).

Getting into the end-of-year crunch, so nearly everything this week is in the "new music" list. The exceptions are: a Bobby Hutcherson album that a reader recommended, and a Sonny Clark album that has a new vinyl reissue in Blue Note's Tone Poet series (but I went with the 9-track CD instead of the 6-track LP, so I counted it as old instead of as a new reissue).

Six (of 7) new A-list albums are jazz, although the break in records listened to isn't that skewed. Two of the picks (Carrier and Halley) are perennial favorites, and I tend to like everything they do. Two more are groups (Ill Considered and Irreversible Entanglements) that his fusion seams that I'm easily drawn to. So there was something semi-automatic about those four picks, not involving a lot of thought, especially as I didn't do any comparative listening with old favorites (all have multiple A/A- records in their catalogs). The other two picks were, indeed, surprises (especially Buechi; Gjerstad always seemed like a good, solid contributor, but this is his first headline record I've given an A- to).

It's been harder to identify promising non-jazz, but also I haven't stuck long enough with good records to rate them higher: Idles, Kasai Allstars, and the two Taylor Swift retreads got one play each. and part of the reason I didn't give them a second play was that I already had a track record of stopping at B+(***) for each of them (the last two Idles, two previous Kasai Allstars, and the original Swifts). On the other hand, Dua Saleh overcame my usual anti-EP prejudice with three plays (although I was pretty sure on the first).

The first EOY lists have appeared, from Mojo, Uncut, and Rough Trade -- all British but still not a lot of common ground (and literally zero interest in US hip-hop, or in US pop phenoms like Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo -- although Lana Del Ray, St. Vincent, and the Weather Station got some support). I've started a Metacritic/EOY Aggregate file, but it shows very little at this point. (Also not clear when/if I'll find time to keep it up.) I'm not getting a lot of inspiration from what I've seen so far. After Black Country, Country Road, the next highest unheard record so far was Low's Hey What, a group that has gone from boring to majorly annoying (they ranked 4th both at Mojo and Uncut; Nick Cave's Carnage was 3rd and 5th, but I wasted my time on it some months ago). Still unheard in the current top 100: The War on Drugs, Paul Weller, Courtney Barnett, David Crosby, John Grant. Only one I've looked for is Barnett, but Napster only has 6/10 tracks.

Invites went out on Sunday for the 16th Annual Jazz Critics Poll. I sent 173 invitations out to voters in recent years (we had a record 149 voters last year). Got six ballots so far. Biggest surprise is how many records have already popped up that I wasn't aware of. As I learn more, I'm likely to concentrate on those records this week.

My own EOY lists (in progress): Jazz and Non-Jazz.

Feels like I should be cooking something for Thanksgiving, but I've rarely done so in the past, and thus far no one has showed any interest in me doing so this year. Boo hoo. More time for fucking lists, I guess.

Just finished Adam Serwer's excellent book on the Trump years: The Cruelty Is the Point: The Past, Present, and Future of Trump's America. He seems to be the best of Atlantic's writers (although their paywall has limited my access -- one of the very few gated publications I'm at all tempted by). Much emphasis on racism, not unwarranted but just one of many complaints I have about Trump and the Republicans. Still tempted to sketch out an outline of what I think the right book should be, but it's become increasingly clear I'm never going to get around to writing such a thing. Meanwhile, the country and world goes to hell, because even the people who can conceive of an alternative can't figure out how to implement it. (One of the things Serwer talks about is the gap between ideals and implementation.) Or more succinctly, it's impossible to build anything when people are shooting at you.

I should note that I published answers to a couple of questions last week.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Aesop Rock X Blockhead: Garbology (2021, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fatima Al Qadiri: Medieval Femme (2021, Hyperdub): [r]: B-
  • Anika: Change (2021, Sacred Bones): [r]: B+(**)
  • Badbadnotgood: Talk Memory (2021, XL/Innovative Leisure): [r]: B
  • Black Country, New Road: For the First Time (2021, Ninja Tune): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Black Keys: Delta Kream (2021, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(**)
  • Terence Blanchard: Absence (2021, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bridge of Flowers: A Soft Day's Night (2021, ESP-Disk): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Sarah Buechi/Contradiction of Happiness & Jena Philharmonic: The Paintress (2020 [2021], Intakt): [r]: A-
  • John Butcher/Dominic Lash/John Russell/Mark Sanders: Discernment (2020 [2021], Spoonhunt): [bc]: B+(*)
  • John Butcher/Sharon Gal/David Toop: Until the Night Melts Away (2019 [2021], Shrike): [bc]: B
  • François Carrier: Glow (2019 [2021], FMR): [cd]: A-
  • Neil Cowley: Hall of Mirrors (2021, Mote): [r]: B+(**)
  • Cyclone Trio: The Clear Revolution (2020 [2021], 577): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jeremiah Cymerman/Charlie Looker: A Horizon Made of Canvas (2020 [2021], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Dos Santos: City of Mirrors (2021, International Anthem): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: (Exit) Knarr (2021, Odin): [r]: B+(***)
  • Frode Gjerstad/Isach Skeidsvoll: Twenty Fingers (2021, Relative Pitch): [r]: A-
  • The Emma Goldman Bust-Out Brigade: The Emma Goldman Bust-Out Brigade (2021, Nomad Eel): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Rich Halley/Dan Clucas/Clyde Reed/Carson Halley: Boomslang (2021, Pine Eagle): [cd]: A- [12-03]
  • Louis Hayes: Crisis (2021, Savant): [r]: B+(**)
  • Natalie Hemby: Pins and Needles (2021, Fantasy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hiss Golden Messenger: Quietly Blowing It (2021, Merge): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jon Hopkins: Music for Psychedelic Therapy (2021, Domino): [r]: B
  • Idles: Crawler (2021, Partisan): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ill Considered: Liminal Space (2021, New Soil): [bc]: A-
  • Irreversible Entanglements: Open the Gates (2021, International Anthem): [r]: A-
  • Vera Kappeler/Peter Conradin Zumthor: Herd (2020 [2021], Intakt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kasai Allstars: Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound (2021, Crammed Discs): [r]: B+(***)
  • Langhorne Slim: Strawberry Mansion (2021, Dualtone): [r]: B+(**)
  • LoneLady: Former Things (2021, Warp): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brandon López Trio: Live at Roulette (2021, Relative Pitch): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Low: Hey What (2021, Sub Pop): [r]: C
  • Francisco Mela Featuring Matthew Shipp and William Parker: Music Frees Our Souls Vol. 1 (2020 [2021], 577): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Moor Mother: Black Encyclopedia of the Air (2021, Anti-): [r]: B+(*)
  • Van Morrison: Latest Record Project: Volume 1 (2021, BMG/Exile, 2CD): [r]: B
  • Willie Nelson: The Willie Nelson Family (2021, Legacy): [r]: B
  • Zeena Parkins/Mette Rasmussen/Ryan Sawyer: Glass Triangle (2021, Relative Pitch): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nicholas Payton: Smoke Sessions (2021, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dua Saleh: Crossover (2021, Against Giants, EP): [r]: A-
  • Nala Sinephro: Space 1.8 (2021, Warp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Josh Sinton: B. (2021, Form Is Possibility): [cd]: B+(**) [12-10]
  • Snotty Nose Rez Kids: Life After (2021, Distorted Muse/Fontana North): [r]: B+(**)
  • Space Afrika: Honest Labour (2021, Dais): [r]: B+(*)
  • Taylor Swift: Fearless (Taylor's Version) (2021, Republic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Taylor Swift: Red (Taylor's Version) (2021, Republic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Aki Takase/Daniel Erdmann: Isn't It Romantic? (2020 [2021], BMC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tirzah: Colourgrade (2021, Domino): [r]: B+(*)
  • Trees Speak: PostHuman (2021, Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Two Much [Reut Regev and Igal Foni]: Never Enough (2021, Relative Pitch): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Pabllo Vittar: Batidao Tropical (2021, Sony): [r]: B+(*)
  • Summer Walker: Still Over It (2021, LVRN/Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marcin Wasilewski Trio: En Attendant (2019 [2021], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jane Weaver: Flock (2021, Fire): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Mujician: 10 10 10 (2010 [2021], Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Sonny Clark: My Conception (1957-59 [2000], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bobby Hutcherson: Medina (1968-69 [1998], Blue Note): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • François Carrier: Glow (FMR)
  • Amos Gillespie: Unstructured Time (self-released) [02-22]
  • Gordon Grdina: Pendulum (Attaboygirl) [10-22]
  • Gordon Grdina's Square Peg: Klotski (Attaboygirl) [10-22]
  • Samuel Mösching: Ethereal Kinks (Bronzeville Music -18)
  • Sara Schoenbeck: Sara Schoenbeck (Pyroclastic) [11-26]

Monday, November 15, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, November archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 57 albums, 13 A-list, approaching the end of the year, picking up a few odds and ends.

Music: Current count 36694 [36637] rated (+57), 128 [133] unrated (-5).

Long list of records this week. Had one of the best weeks this year for adding new A-list records, mostly thanks to Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide. I even liked the two gospel records, although I've been miserable with the genre lately, especially slogging through the Verity compilations that have been part of my housecleaning chore. Unrated list still dropping, but I ran into a batch this week that I had little stomach for. Also, I'm running out of findable A-list entries in the unheard Christgau list (indeed, three of the Old Music entries below were reviewed from constructed playlists).

Other stuff happening that I can't really get into right now.

PS: One thing I can mention now is that there will be 16th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, with Francis Davis directing and me helping out, as usual. Top results and essays will appear on The Arts Fuse before January 1, and complete results and individual ballots will appear on my Jazz Critics Poll website. (Page is currently primitive, but I'm working on that.) Ballot invites will go out to critics by Monday. If you expect an invite (especially if you've voted in the past) and don't get one, please let us know.

Continuing to add to my Jazz and Non-Jazz EOY files. I've also started to assemble a Metacritic/EOY Aggregate file. Only 3 major lists so far, all British, so don't expect much. At this early stage, points for Christgau's and my grades are a large part of the total, creating a major skew. (Nathan Bell, for instance, is currently ranked 11, but realistically unlikely to finish in the top 300 -- not that he shouldn't be in the top 10, but the world is missing out on a lot of good things these days.) On the other hand, there is only 1 record in top 70 I haven't heard (Low's Hey What). The other thing worth noting is that I spent a lot of time collecting 4-star (and up) ratings from All About Jazz, Downbeat, and Free Jazz Collective, so the jazz skew is probably at an all-time peak. Part, but not all of the reason, Sons of Kemet and Floating Points are in the top three.

Also note that I published a set of Questions & Answers. Worth noting that so did Robert Christgau, who got an unusually meaty batch of questions this month.

Finally (for now), I copied this quote down from Twitter, someone known as @TheBlueMeme:

Our politics suffer from an immune defiency akin to AIDS -- while individuals see the danger, we cannot, as a society, mobilize our defenses against a pathogen that has evolved to capitalize on its weaknesses.

IOW, we're fucked.

Not sure that's exactly right, but it does resonate for those of us who have long been aware of the abyss we seem to be inexorably drawn into. And the conclusion is probably spot on. The acquittal of an Illinois teenager who crossed state lines to murder anti-racism protesters is just one more troubling note. In some sense this is much like the precedent of using drones to kill people abroad, with the same lame justification of self-defense. But it does hit close to home, as the victims this time could just as well have been us. I can't fathom the implications, but it surely undermines the case for gun rights, especially the whole notion that guns are defensive. Effectively they are signs saying "shoot me." Had anyone else shot and killed Rittenhouse, they would have had an equally valid case, for self-defense. (One comment I noted on Facebook: "Rittenhouse is free but it's ok to shoot him.") Unless, that is, the real message is how the case was politicized, and how that was reflected in the obvious prejudices of the judge.

On a lighter note, Ethan Iverson wrote a piece: "What do you give someone to introduce them to modern jazz?" He recommends Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme, and a stack of classic Blue Note albums. I'm not a huge fan of Dexter Gordon's Go (I prefer Our Man in Paris) or Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil (Night Dreamer is a bit better, but this is where I might go for Tina Brooks' Minor Move, or Jackie McLean's Swing Swang Swingin' (assuming New Soil is a bit too far out for this list).

New records reviewed this week:

  • Greg Abate: Magic Dance: The Music of Kenny Barron (2021, Whaling City Sound, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ada Lea: One Hand on the Steering Wheel the Other Sewing a Garden (2021, Saddle Creek): [r]: B+(**)
  • Asleep at the Wheel: Half a Hundred Years (2021, Home): [r]: A-
  • Attitude!: Pause & Effect (2019 [2021], ESP-Disk): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Aya: Im Hole (2021, Hyperdub): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bktherula: Love Black (2021, Warner): [r]: B+(***)
  • Johnathan Blake: Homeward Bound (2021, Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Darrin Bradbury: Talking Dogs & Atomic Bombs (2019, Anti-): [r]: B+(**)
  • Darrin Bradbury: Artvertisement (2021, Anti-): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hayes Carll: You Get It All (2021, Dualtone): [r]: A-
  • Cochemea: Vol. II: Baca Sewa (2021, Daptone): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Contraptionists: Working Man's Dread (2021, self-released): [r]: B
  • Andrew Cyrille Quartet: The News (2019 [2021], ECM): [r]: B
  • Lana Del Rey: Blue Bannisters (2021, Polydor/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)
  • David Friesen: Day of Rest (2020 [2021], Origin): [cd]: B+(**) [11-19]
  • Scott Hamilton/Duke Robillard: Swingin' Again (2021, Blue Duchess): [r]: B+(*)
  • Illuminati Hotties: Let Me Do One More (2021, Snack Shack Tracks/Hopeless): [r]: A-
  • Injury Reserve: By the Time I Get to Phoenix (2021, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: Georgia Blue (2021, Southeastern): [r]: B
  • JPEGMafia: LP! (2021, Republic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Darrell Katz & OddSong: Galeanthropology (2019-21 [2021], JCA): [cd]: B+(**) [11-19]
  • Doug MacDonald: Serenade to Highland Park (2021, DMAC Music): [cd]: B+(**) [11-16]
  • Mereba: Azeb (2021, Interscope, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • John R. Miller: Depreciated (2021, Rounder): [r]: A-
  • OneTwoThree: OneTwoThree (2021, Kill Rock Stars): [r]: A-
  • Phil Parisot: Inventions (2021, OA2): [cd]: B+(*) [11-19]
  • William Parker/Patricia Nicholson: No Joke! (2019-20 [2021], ESP-Disk): [cd]: A-
  • Professor Cunningham and His Old School: The Lockdown Blues (2021, Arbors): [r]: B+(*)
  • Steph Richards With Joshua White: Zephyr (2019 [2021], Relative Pitch): [r]: B+(**)
  • ROVA: The Circumference of Reason (2018-19 [2021], ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jacob Shulman: Connectedness (2021, Endectomorph Music): [cd]: B+(***) [11-14]
  • Snail Mail: Valentine (2021, Matador): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tommy Vig: 2022: Jazz Jazz (2021, Klassikus Jazz): [cd]: C
  • Dean Wareham: I Have Nothing to Say to the Mayor of L.A. (2021, Double Feature): [r]: B+(**)
  • Remi Wolf: You're a Dog (2019, Island, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Remi Wolf: I'm Allergic to Dogs (2020, Island, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Remi Wolf: We Love Dogs! (2021, Island): [r]: B+(**)
  • Remi Wolf: Juno (2021, Island): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Ben Black: Mystery & Wonder (2007 [2021], Origin): [cd]: B+(**) [11-19]
  • Joe Harriott Quintet: Free Form & Abstract Revisited (1960-62 [2021], Ezz-Thetics, 2CD): [bc]: A-
  • Calvin Keys: Shawn-Neeq (1971 [2021], Black Jazz/Real Gone Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jim Knapp Orchestra: It's Not Business, It's Personal (2009 [2021], Origin): [cd]: B+(*) [11-19]
  • Harold Land: Westward Bound! (1962-65 [2021], Reel to Real): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sacred Soul of North Carolina (2020 [2021], Bible & Tire): [bc]: A-
  • Archie Shepp: Blasé and Yasmina Revisited (1969 [2021], Ezz-thetics): [bc]: A-

Old music:

  • Dr. John: The Very Best of Dr. John (1968-92 [1995], Rhino): [r]: A-
  • Illuminati Hotties: Kiss Yr Frenemies (2018, Tiny Enginse): [r]: B+(**)
  • John P. Kee: The Essential John P. Kee (1991-2000 [2007], Verity/Legacy, 2CD): [cd]: B-
  • Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers: The Very Best of Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers (1956-60 [2000], Rhino): [r]: A
  • John R. Miller: Service Change (2014, 789875 DK): [r]: B+(***)
  • John R. Miller & the Engine Lights: The Trouble You Follow (2018, Emperor): [r]: B+(**)
  • New Jack City [Music From the Motion Picture] (1991, Giant): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eliane Radigue: Adnos I-III (1973-80 [2002], Table of the Elements, 3CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Sugar and Poison (1971-89 [1996], Virgin, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Swan Silvertones: Amen Amen Amen: The Essential Collection (1952-63 [2015], Rockbeat/Archive Alive): [r]: A-
  • Trin-I-Tee 5.7: Holla: The Best of Trin-I-Tee 5.7 (1998-2002 [2007], GospoCentric/Legacy): [cd]: B
  • Zetrospective: Dancing in the Face of Adversity (1978-84 [1989], ZE): [r]: A-
  • Zetrospective: Hope Springs Eternal (1980-84 [1989], ZE): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Attitude!: Pause & Effect (ESP-Disk) [11-19]
  • Bridge of Flowers: A Soft Day's Night (ESP-Disk) [10-22]
  • Jeff Hamilton Trio: Merry & Bright (Capri) [11-19]
  • Jacqueline Kerrod: 17 Days in December (Orenda) [12-03]
  • William Parker/Patricia Nicholson: No Joke! (ESP-Disk)
  • ROVA: The Circumference of Reason (ESP-Disk)
  • Josh Sinton: B. (Form Is Possibility) [12-10]
  • Wadada Leo Smith, Jack DeJohnette & Vijay Iyer: A Love Sonnet for Billie Holiday (TUM) [11-19]
  • Wadada Leo Smith's Great Lakes Quartet: The Chicago Symphonies (TUM, 4CD) [11-19]

Daily Log

Tweet from @TheBlueMeme:

Our politics suffer from an immune defiency akin to AIDS -- while individuals see the danger, we cannot, as a society, mobilize our defenses against a pathogen that has evolved to capitalize on its weaknesses.

IOW, we're fucked.

Monday, November 08, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, November archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 46 albums, 10 A-list, introduction to my EOY lists (first draft, will add more over time), also a bit on the state of the Jazz Critics Poll; still more old music than new, but not by much this time.

Music: Current count 36637 [36591] rated (+46), 133 [145] unrated (-12).

Got up this morning to find that we had no internet, which less importantly also took out the TV and phone line. Major disruption to my usual day, which I compounded by doing some long-procrastinated yard work. Also some grocery shopping, and picked up some food for dinner. Finally up and working now, but late start here. Still haven't read the morning on-line newspaper.

I spent a good deal of time yesterday organizing my 2021 EOY lists for jazz and non-jazz. I've been doing it this was since 2013, figuring that since I started writing Jazz Consumer Guide in 2005 half or more of the records I listen to each year are jazz, and I follow different rules and heuristics in deciding what to listen to in jazz and non-jazz. In particular, I still receive a fair (albeit declining) number of jazz promos, which I almost always listen to -- even those that wouldn't have caught my attention otherwise. I'm pickier when it comes to non-jazz, favoring genres I've tended to enjoy, avoiding ones I've rarely cared for. I usually wind up checking out 95% of the top 100 EOY albums, 80% of the top 200, with numbers falling of considerably from there.

First key statistic is that the initial draft of the files shows 509 jazz and 276 non-jazz albums (i.e., 65% jazz). I expected the number of records to drop this year. Early on, I decided not to try to keep a running metacritic album list this year, so I've spent a lot less time following reviews (especially non-jazz), and as such have much less idea of what is out and what other people are liking. Also, I've been searching out a lot of old music -- my rated totals are actually up this year (1960 vs. 1726 for the first 10 months in 2020, so up 13.5%), but new records are down (785 vs. 982 when I initially compiled the EOY files in 2020, so down 20.1%). I'm still undecided on doing an EOY aggregate this year. If I do so, I'm likely to make up more ground than if I don't. At any rate, the years of me doing 1200-1500 records per year are probably done.

The statistic I was surprised by this year is that both my jazz and non-jazz lists show 38 A/A- albums each. That's about half the number I wind up with most years (2020 wound up with 86 jazz, 76 non-jazz, although the more relevant stat was the initial draft number: 54 jazz, 43 non-jazz). That points to the second statistical anomaly this year. As far as I can recall, the EOY lists always started with significantly more jazz A-list than non-jazz (2020 was closer than usual). As you can see, the domain split is almost 2-to-1 in favor of jazz, so I've been paying lots of attention to new jazz releases. Indeed, the archival split of 22 jazz/5 non-jazz is way above any past norms. I don't know why, but it's been a very active year for jazz reissues/archival music, and those releases have been more accessible this year than has been the case for many years.

One more thing I'll note is that (working from memory) only 14 of my top 38 non-jazz albums have been graded A/A- by Robert Christgau; 3 have lower Christgau grades (as does Sons of Kemet on my jazz list); the other 21 haven't been reviewed/graded by Christgau. Of the 14, I got to 8 first (although Billie Eilish was a close call; I reviewed Dry Cleaning earlier, but only raised my grade to A- after Christgau's review). (Actually, four more Christgau A-list albums made other parts of my list: three in Non-Jazz Reissues/Historic Music [out of 5, so 60%], and Body Meπa on the Jazz list -- all albums I only heard about through him.) At least 9 more Christgau A-list albums appear lower down my Non-Jazz List, with Tune-Yards at the bottom (B).

As always, I will update the lists as I listen to new music. Note that order isn't at all well established. I try to keep the A-list in some sort of rank order, but my usual method isn't very reliable, so when I finally look at the whole list I wind up doing a log of juggling. I did some of that while I was putting this together, and expect to do more, especially as I re-listen to select items. Also, one thing I haven't worked on yet is to fill in the unheard prospects at the bottom of the files ("estimated to have a 2% or better chance of making the A-list if/when I finally hear them"). I'll add to that list as I look at other lists (and my own tracking file), and then tick them off as I listen to some of them.

I hear that NPR is dropping its support for Jazz Critics Poll this year. I'm inclined to run the poll anyway, posting the results on my Hullworks website (as I've done for many years; that way we provide complete ballot accountability without encumbering the sponsor, who's usually only interested in the winners). Waiting to hear what Francis Davis thinks of my proposal, and what (if any) contribution he'd like to make. It's been his forum since its inception back when we were both writing for Village Voice, so what he thinks carries a lot of weight. Last year, ballot invites went out on November 20, with a deadline of December 13. The idea was for NPR to post the results first week of January, although last year they weren't posted until January 14.

The downside to not having a sponsor is that we won't get paid, even the modest sums we're used to. At this point, that's not a big concern, for me at least. I have a system for collating and counting the ballots, and it's reliable and pretty easy to work, so that part is straightforward. I'd like to set up a package with the results and whatever writing we can come up with, and see if we can nudge it out so it spreads virally around the Internet, increasing its visibility and interest in new jazz. I'd appreciate any suggestions on how to do that. Also tips on people we should invite but haven't.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Borderlands Trio [Stephan Crump/Kris Davis/Eric McPherson]: Wandersphere (2021, Intakt, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Daniel Carter/Tobias Wilner/Djibril Toure/Federick Ughi: New York United, Volume 2 (2018 [2021], 577): [bc]: A-
  • Claudia Quintet: Evidence-Based (2021, Flexatonic): [bc]: A-
  • Gerald Cleaver: Griots (2020 [2021], Positive Elevation/577): [bc]: B+(**)
  • The Cookers: Look Out! (2021, Gearbox): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elvis Costello & the Attractions: Spanish Model (2021, UMe): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sylvie Courvoisier/Mary Halvorson: Searching for the Disappeared Hour (2021, Pyroclastic): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Daggerboard: Last Days of Studio A (2018-19 [2021], Wide Hive): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Fred Frith Trio With Lotte Anker/Susana Santos Silva: Road (2021, Intakt, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Futari: Underground (2018-21 [2021], Libra): [cd]: B+(**) [11-19]
  • Wanda Jackson: Encore (2021, Big Machine, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Irene Jalenti: Dawn (2020 [2021], Antidote Sounds): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Remy Le Boeuf's Assembly of Shadows: Architecture of Storms (2019-21 [2021], SoundSpore): [cd]: B
  • Megan Thee Stallion: Something for Thee Hotties: From Thee Archives (2019-21 [2021], 300 Entertainment): [r]: A-
  • Allison Miller/Jane Ira Bloom: Tues Days (2021, Outline): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Cameron Mizell & Charlie Rauh: Local Folklore (2020-21 [2021], Destiny): [cd]: B
  • Parquet Courts: Sympathy for Life (2021, Rough Trade): [r]: B+(***)
  • Self Esteem: Prioritise Pleasure (2021, Fiction): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matthew Shipp: Codebreaker (2020 [2021], Tao Forms): [cd]: A-
  • This Is It!: Mosaic (2021, Libra): [cd]: B+(***) [11-19]
  • Mareike Wiening: Future Memories (2020 [2021], Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(*) [11-12]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Laurence Cook/Jacques Coursil/Warren Gale/Perry Robinson/Steve Tintweiss: Ave B Free Jam (1967 [2021], Inky Dot): [cd]: B [11-30]
  • Harvie S Trio: Going for It (1985 [2021], Savant): [r]: A-

Old music:

  • Glen Campbell: The Legacy (1961-2002) (1961-2002 [2003], Capitol, 4CD): [cdr]: C
  • Sylvie Courvoisier/Mary Halvorson: Crop Circles (2016 [2017], Relative Pitch): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Bing Crosby: Bing! His Legendary Years, 1931 to 1957 (1931-57 [1993], MCA, 4CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • A Good Year [Music From the Motion Picture] ([2006], Legacy/Sony Music Soundtrack): [cd]: B
  • Heart of the Forest: The Music of the Baka Forest People of Southeast Cameroon (1993, Hannibal): [r]: B+(***)
  • Make 'Em Mokum Crazy: This is the New Sound of Popcore (1995-96 [1996], Mokum): [yt]: A-
  • Donnie McClurkin: The Essential Donnie McClurkin (2000-05 [2007], Verity/Legacy, 2CD): [cd]: B-
  • Notekillers: Airports + Ants (2006, Notekillers, EP): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Putumayo Present: Christmas Around the World (1990-2002 [2003], Putumayo World Music): [cd]: C+
  • Juan Carlos Quintero: Joy to the World (2007, Tenure): [cd]: B-
  • Rhythm Love and Soul Live (2002 [2003], Shout! Factory): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Kevin Roth: Between the Notes (2006, Star Gazer): [cd]: B
  • The Rubinoos: The Rubinoos (1977, Beserkley): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson: It's Your World (1976, Arista): [yt]: A-
  • Snapback: Purgatory (2006, "Insert Your Major Label Name Here" Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Steppin' Out: Disco's Greatest Hits (1970-78 [1978], Polydor): [yt]: A-
  • Luther Vandross: The Best of Luther Vandross: The Best of Love (1980-89 [1989], Epic, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Very Best of Praise & Worship Volume 2 (1996-2006 [2007], Verity/Legacy): [cd]: B-
  • Andreas Vollenweider: Midnight Clear (2006, SLG}: [cd]: B-
  • Hezekiah Walker: The Essential Hezekiah Walker (1992-2005 [2007], Verity/Legacy, 2CD): [cd]: C
  • Wide Right: Wide Right (2002, Wide Right, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jesse Winchester: Jesse Winchester (1970, Ampex): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bill Withers: The Best of Bill Withers (1971-74 [1975], Sussex): [r]: A-
  • ZZ Top: Greatest Hits (1979-90 [1992], Warner Brothers): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ben Black: Mystery & Wonder (Origin) [11-19]
  • Daggerboard: Last Days of Studio A (2021, Wide Hive) [10-15]
  • David Friesen: Day of Rest (Origin) [11-19]
  • Futari: Underground (Libra) [11-19]
  • Rich Halley/Dan Clucas/Clyde Reed/Carson Halley: Boomslang (Pine Eagle) [12-03]
  • Darrell Katz & OddSong: Galeanthropology (JCA) [11-19]
  • Jim Knapp Orchestra: It's Not Business, It's Personal (Origin) [11-19]
  • Mick Kolassa: Uncle Mick's Christmas Album (Endless Blues) [10-15]
  • Phil Parisot: Inventions (OA2) [11-19]
  • This Is It!: Mosaic (Libra) [11-19]
  • Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet: Fools for Yule (Housekat) [11-01]
  • Tommy Vig: 2022: Jazz Jazz (Klassikus Jazz) [11-03]

Friday, November 05, 2021

Daily Log

Tweet based on article in Wichita Eagle:

Headline: "Thousands of intel officers refusing vaccine risk dismissal." Doesn't vaccine refusal prove that said "intel officers" are unfit for intelligence agency work? One of many areas where vaccine mandates could help weed out undesirable workers.

I've seen similar articles (and comments) with regard to police.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Rapid Response

I've made next to no effort to read post-mortem analysis of Tuesday's elections, and don't see any reason to start now. What I was hoping for was that Democrats would hold on to New Jersey and Virginia governorships and legislatures, and maybe pick up a contested congressional seat in Ohio (where Republicans have been overperforming ever since they put those new voting machines in for the 2004 election). Had that happened, it would basically say that even if voters are dissatisfied with Democrats they at least recognize that they'd be much worse off with Republicans. As you know, that didn't happen, although the NJ governorship was held by Democrat Philip Murphy (in something of a nail-biter). The lesson I draw from all of this is that Democrats need to communicate and campaign better. In particular, they need to drive home the point that there is no effective difference between Trump and any other Republican on any ticket anywhere.

No More Mister Nice Blog has written several good posts on just this theme. In particular, see Democrats Need to Develop Rapid Response 2.0. He starts off quoting Greg Sargent on a "lopsided communications imbalance" by which "Youngkin and his allies have pumped . . . raw right-wing sewage directly into the minds of the GOP base, behind the backs of moderate swing voters, via a right-wing media network that has no rival on the Democratic side." Blogger SM notes:

What Democrats need to do is disrupt the messaging of the right. They need a sense of what's being said in the right's propaganda channels and they need to respond to it fast, before the messaging reaches voters in the middle. They need to debunk dishonest allegations and they need to make the dishonesty the story.

The 1992 Bill Clinton campaign was known for a "rapid response" capability that didn't allow bad news to fester. Democrats need to recognize that Fox News is the Republican Party, and that they need to treat messaging on Fox as if it's messaging from Republican campaigns. (Because it is.) They need to see propaganda campaigns like this coming and they need to counter such campaigns as fast as they can.

The facile explanation for Democratic losses is Biden's recent drop in the favorability polls, which crossed negative around August 27. That slide started with the fall of Kabul, which had become inevitable at least since Obama's "surge" failed to gain any traction in 2009-10, or for many of us since Fall 2001, when GW Bush responded to Osama Bin Laden's dare and blundered into the "graveyard of empires." I gave Biden much credit for sticking to his withdrawal schedule, and thought he defended the decision ably (if not as eloquently as one might wish for). But who in the public eye had his back? Republicans enjoyed a purely opportunistic feast of demagoguery at Biden's expense. Since then the right-wing talk machine has been harping on things like gasoline prices, while the media has been focused on the efforts of two marginal senators to sabotage an important (and if people properly understood it better a potentially very popular) piece of legislation, making Democrats look hapless.

While it may be difficult to get an airing in the fracas-oriented mainstream media, it really shouldn't be hard for sensible people to make meaningful comparisons Democrats, who are honestly proposing real solutions to critical problems, and Republicans, who offer nothing but complaints and paeans to magical thinking. Even more so between Biden and his Republican predecessor. Last week's trip to Europe for G20 and COP26 should have been seen as a triumph of statesmanship, in stark contrast to the amateur hour histrionics of Trump's foreign meetings. The G20 agreement to pursue minimum global taxation of corporations, for instance, wasn't even on the agenda as long as Trump was president. The pledges on deforestation may not amount to much, but can you even imagine Trump caring a whit?

Trump is so ridiculous and vile he's like a prophylactic around the mass of the Republican Party (at least those who haven't made public spectacles of themselves, like Louie Gohmert, Matt Goetz, Marjory Taylor Greene, and Ted Cruz), protecting their reputations from his stain. But for all practical purposes, there is very little difference Trump and the average Republican conservative in Congress. SM has a post on this: The Number of Bad Republicans Is Much Greater Than One. His first piece of evidence is a Twitter thread from Diana Butler Bass (links in post) about "Bad stuff that happened in Virginia the last time we had a GOP governor" (each of these is backed by links to articles):

  • Remember the Virginia ultrasound bill forcing vaginal probes controversy?
  • UVA professors were investigated for teaching climate science.
  • Gov Bob McConnell reinstated Confederate History Month.
  • The GOP worked to subvert every environmental policy in the books.
  • The 2013 candidate for Lt Gov ran a campaign based on Democrats being the Antichrist.

SM concludes:

But this is my ongoing complaint about the Democrats: They're up against a party of extremists whom much of the country regards as moderate, while Democrats are a mostly moderate party that's regarded by far too many voters as extreme. Regarding the latter, Democrats like Joe Biden and Kyrsten Sinema, in different ways, send the message, "I'm moderate -- I'm not like those Democrats you don't like," which got them elected but reinforces the Democrats-as-extremists stereotype. And when Democrats focus on Trump as a uniquely evil figure, that reinforces the belief that most Republicans are fine, decent, responsible right-centrists.

Still, what bothers me isn't that the Republicans have become the real extremists, but that the ideas that motivate their extremism are so dysfunctional. In simpler times I might offer you a list here, but now it would take a book. They have no idea how the economy works. They have no concern for what unfettered business does to the environment, let alone the climate. They hold all but the rich in contempt, yet are convinced their attitudes will never provoke redress. After all, they figure they got all the guns. Every time you give them a piece of power, they cost us valuable time and often exacerbate the problems.

Still, as disasters go, Tuesday's elections didn't do a huge amount of damage. They are a wake up call for Democrats, a warning that we need to work smarter and help each other out more, and take seriously the need to explain to people why we offer hope for the future, and why Republicans don't. And by the way, the elections did bring some victories. Here in Wichita, three progressives were elected to the city council (a net gain of two). On the other hand, the school board took a step backward, as Republicans organized a partisan slate in a nominally non-partisan election and flipped three (of four) seats, one thanks to a split among better candidates. That promises to be the end of Critical Race Theory in the Wichita Public Schools (not that there was any), but also the end of mask mandates.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, November archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 57 albums, 16 A-list, taking it easy by listening to well-regarded oldies, coming up with a remarkably diverse list; also notes on blogging, fiction, Covid, and tomorrow's elections.

Music: Current count 36591 [36534] rated (+57), 145 [149] unrated (-4).

After last week's birthday dinner, friends advised me to take it easy. Easiest thing for me to do was to continue down my unheard Christgau-rated list. Having passed 'z' and moving into various artists compilations, I was a bit surprised to find a mis-sorted block of artist albums starting with Plastic People of the Universe, although I didn't find streamable copies of any A-list albums until I got down to Smokey Robinson. I also worked a few of my unrated albums in, although I slowed down when I hit a pile of Verity gospel compilations (blame Fred Hammond). Most of the few other records came from Facebook tips (e.g., Disco Tex was Chuck Eddy's first pick in 150 Best Albums of 1975). Sorry I'm not as impressed with O.V. Wright as Cliff Ocheltree is.

Actually, I've known about the sort bug for a long time, but when I've looked at it, the only things I could find were data errors that produce inconsistent qsort() comparisons. This results in locally sorted blocks (themselves sorted properly) being thrown out of order. I just found and fixed one such error, and now it looks like all.tbl is fully sorted. Still doesn't fix the subset I previously extracted for the Christgau grade list, but does feel a lot tidier.

Late in the week, I turned to the Ezz-Thetics Bandcamp for something under the "recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries," and accidentally found they had slipped a new release into the catalogue. Finally, I thought I should have something new and recent from the demo queue. Glad I went for the Steve Coleman. Only after I had the review mostly written did I discover that there were two discs -- I had been listening to the second, which I still slightly prefer, but both are delightful. Could well be a ballot pick.

I finally did the indexing on October Streamnotes, which came out to 218 albums, pushing the Streamnotes total to 18011 albums (although that's included real CDs, and a handful of LPs, since 2014; still, we're approaching the point where half of my rated records have been streamed).

My daily routine is to get up whenever seems appropriate, take a bunch of pills, get a bowl of yogurt for breakfast, put some music on, and settle down in front of the computer, scanning through the Wichita Eagle on-line. Used to be thumbing through the paper news, but digital has introduced some subtle changes in my reading habits. For one thing, I see and read a bit more. I see more because I wind up forwarding through every page, instead of skipping whole sections. Mostly I see more sports, which makes up about a third of the whole paper. I find myself actually following NBA basketball, which is the only sport I still have any feel for. Occasionally I stop on an auto racing story. And I have to admit, I've picked up a bit of baseball for the first time in 25 years. I still don't recognize any of the players, but I'm beginning to know a bit about teams.

I find myself reading more news articles, superficial as they so often are. Occasionally I feel like commenting on something, but the logistics are inconvenient. Updating my blog is also inconvenient, which is probably why I've tended to group comments into weekly posts, like Music Week or Speaking of Which (which I haven't been doing much of lately). I've thought about using Twitter to forward the occasional article link (as I did yesterday), but it's hard to make a point (let alone several) in 280 characters. Besides, Twitter is such a fleeting forum (and Facebook is even more limited). Then I remembered that I already have a domain name, Notes on Everyday Life, with a WordPress blog set up but unused. I've used that domain for a couple of since-crashed websites. So I resurrected it yesterday, had trouble finding my original About page, so I wrote another, then a new post on VA health care and how the Republicans have a weird knack for creating crises and the fobbing off blame for them on Democrats. I had previously tweeted about a Washington Monthly article that I wanted to expand on.

I updated the WordPress site software, and am still finding a lot of things about it confusing (like why it doesn't include the author name with the article, except on rare occasions, or how I get rid of that "Proudly powered by WordPress" footer). So working on that.

Finished reading Kim Stanley Robinson's novel The Ministry for the Future, but haven't finished my commentary on an article he wrote about the book, something I started working on before I got to the book. Meanwhile, I've started a second novel, called We, the House, by Warren Ashworth and Susan Kander. My wife is an editor for a local publishing house, Blue Cedar Press, founded by a couple of local friends (guests at my birthday party, by the way), and they were offered the novel because it's about an old house in nearby Newton, Kansas. It has two major characters: one is a painted portrait of a Mrs. Peale that hangs in the dining room and can observe the people inside the house, and the other is the house itself (pronoun we), which can only report the view outside the house. My wife loves the book, and I've been hearing her praise it for several months now. And while I'm not much of a fiction reader, I do have a thing for houses.

Just happened to take a look at the Covid map today, and what I'm seeing looks rather alarming: not just the slight uptick in the last week (since Oct. 25), reversing a downward trend since the second peak on Sept. 13, but the county map looks a lot like a map of fall colors, with Alaska the worst, a stretch from Maine down the Appalachians to West Virginia, the Great Lakes from Michigan to Minnesota, and the High Plains and Rocky Mountains stretching into the Sierra Nevada nearly all high. This is a big shift from September, when the correlation was strongest with dipshit Republican governors. Flus have always peaked in Winter, as Covid did last year. Looks like we're not out of the woods yet, although you can thank your vaccinated friends and neighbors if this year isn't as bad as last. And if you ban the unvaccinated from your Thanksgiving feasts, you'll come out ahead two ways.

Many elections tomorrow. Hopefully we'll get a city council rep (Michelle Ballard) who's not in the pockets of the developer lobby. The only election that's likely to be read as a barometer on Biden (at least vs. Trump) is Virginia governor. I can understand lamenting the inability of Democrats to deliver on campaign promises, but that's no reason to vote Republican. All they have to offer is spite and stupidity. Democrat Terry McAulliffe is pretty uninspiring, but do voters really want to choose nothing (and no hope) over something?

Actually, I continue to be impressed by Biden's ability to shift the Overton Window (the domain of issues being seriously discussed). For instance, see: G20 Leaders Endorse Plan to Block Corporations From Sheltering Profits. This is something literally no one in power was talking about when Trump was president. The G20 pledges on climate change may be lame, but they would have been pointless with Trump still in charge. Sens. Manchin and Sinema may succeed in scuttling much of Biden's Build Back Better bill, but they're looking desperate and obtuse in doing so.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Live at the Village Vanguard Volume II (MDW NTR) (2018 [2021], Pi, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • Nick Fraser Quartet: If There Were No Opposites (2019 [2021], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Lady Gaga: Dawn of Chromatica (2021, Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lainey Wilson: Sayin' What I'm Thinkin' (2021, Broken Bow): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Jimmy Giuffre 3: Graz Live 1961 (1961 [2019], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Be Kind Rewind [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (2007 [2008], Lakeshore): [cdr]: B
  • Between the Covers (1989-2005 [2006], Legacy): [cd]: B
  • Tony Conrad: Thunderboy! (1971-73 [2002], Table of the Elements): [cd]: B-
  • Disco Tex & the Sex-O-Lettes: Disco Tex & the Sex-O-Lettes (1975, Chelsea): [r]: B+(**)
  • Arnold Dreyblatt: The Sound of One String (1979-91 [1998], Table of the Elements): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Fred Hammond: The Essential Fred Hammond (1991-2004 [2007], Verity/Legacy, 2CD): [cd]: C+
  • The Orioles: For Collectors Only (1948-57 [1992], Collectables, 3CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Orioles: Sing Their Greatest Hits (1948-54 [1991], Collectables): [r]: B+(**)
  • Smokey Robinson: Where There's Smoke . . . (1979, Tamla): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tom Robinson: North by Northwest (1982, IRS): [r]: B+(*)
  • Roxy Music: Greatest Hits (1972-75 [1977], Atco): [r]: A
  • Roxy Music: The High Road (1982 [1983], Warner Brothers, EP): [yt]: B+(***)
  • Roxy Music: Heart Still Beating (1982 [1990], Reprise): [r]: A-
  • Frederic Rzewski: Coming Together/Attica/Les Moutons De Panurge (1973 [1974], Opus One): [yt]: A-
  • Sarge: Distant (2000, Mud): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Selecter: Too Much Pressure (1980, Chrysalis): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Sex Pistols: Filthy Lucre Live (1996, Virgin): [r]: A-
  • Shalamar: Three for Love (1980, Solar): [r]: B+(***)
  • Shalamar: Go for It (1981, Solar): [r]: B+(***)
  • Shalamar: Greatest Hits (1978-81 [1982], Solar): [r]: A-
  • Shoes: Present Tense (1979, Elektra): [r]: B+(***)
  • Shoes: Tongue Twister (1981, Elektra): [r]: A-
  • Shop Assistants: Shop Assistants (1986, Blue Guitar): [r]: B+(**)
  • Shop Assistants: Will Anything Happen (1986 [2008], Cherry Red): [r]: B+(**)
  • Silkworm: Lifestyle (2000, Touch & Go): [r]: A-
  • The Silos: About Her Steps (1985, Record Collect): [r]: B+(***)
  • Silos: Cuba (1987, Record Collect): [r]: B+(**)
  • Slade: Slayed? (1972, Polydor): [r]: B+(**)
  • Slave: Show Time (1981, Cotillion): [r]: B+(*)
  • Phoebe Snow: The Best of Phoebe Snow (1974-78 [1982], Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Specials: Ghost Town/Why?/Friday Night Saturday Morning (1981, Chrysalis, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Speed Boys: That's What I Like (1982, I Like Mike): [r]: A-
  • The Speedboys: Look What Love's Done to Me Now (1983, I Like Mike): [r]: A-
  • The Strokes: The Modern Age (2001, Rough Trade, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Strokes: First Impressions of Earth (2005 [2006], RCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Suburbs: In Combo (1980, Twin/Tone): [r]: A-
  • Billy Swan: I Can Help (1974, Monument): [r]: B+(**)
  • Billy Swan: Billy Swan (1976, Monument): [r]: B+(***)
  • Billy Swan: At His Best (1974-76 [1978], Monument): [r]: A-
  • Billy Swan: Like Elvis Used to DoB+(**)
  • Billy Swan and Buzz Cason: Billy and Buzz Sing Buddy (2018, Arena): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tavares: The Best of Tavares (1974-76 [1977], Capitol): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Thermals: The Bodyo, the Blood, the Machine (2006, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(**)
  • Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments: Straight to Video (1997, Anyway): [r]: B+(***)
  • Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments: No Old Guy Lo-Fi Cry (2000, Rockathon): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sally Timms: Cowboy Sally (1997, Bloodshot, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sally Timms & Jon Langford: Songs of False Hope and High Values (2000, Bloodshot, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sally Timms: In the World of Him (2004, Touch & Go): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tokyo Police Club: A Lesson in Crime (2006, Paper Bag, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tony Toni Toné: Hits (1988-97 [1997], Mercury): [r]: A-
  • Pete Townshend: Who Came First (1972, Track): [r]: B+(*)
  • Trouble Funk: Drop the Bomb (1982, Sugar Hill): [yt]:
  • Trouble Funk: Trouble Over Here/Trouble Over There (1987, Island): [r]: B+(**)
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: Live Alive (1985-86 [1986], Epic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble: Greatest Hits (1983-90 [1995], Epic): [r]: A-
  • Tom Waits: Blood Money (2002, Anti-): [r]: A-
  • Tom Waits: The Black Rider (1993, Island): [r]: B+(***)
  • O.V. Wright: The Soul of O.V. Wright (1964-73 [1992], MCA): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Laurence Cook/Jacques Coursil/Warren Gale/Perry Robinson/Steve Tintweiss: Ave B Free Jam (1967, Inky Dot) [11-30]
  • Doug MacDonald: Serenade to Highland Park (DMAC Music) [11-16]
  • Sara Serpa: Intimate Strangers (Biophilia) [12-01]
  • Dave Stryker: As We Are (Strikezone) [2022-01-07]

Sunday, October 31, 2021

NOEL: The Struggle Over the Veterans Health Administration

There are huge asymmetries between America's two political parties. One of the most maddening is how quickly Americans forget when Republicans screw things up, which is all the time, and for the simplest of reasons. The one big idea that Republicans have is that they should hobble government, to turn its functions over to private enterprise, and to free business from oversight and regulation. When Republicans prevail, three things inevitably happen: businesses turn predatory, they take greater risks in pursuit of profit, and they dump their wastes and mistakes onto the public. Well, make that four: they concentrate wealth among the already rich, while making a mockery of our belief in justice.

But if that's so obvious, why do we keep forgiving them? Why give them another chance, as happened in 1994 and 2010, when Republicans reclaimed the House only two years after being swept out of the Presidency? And after Trump's mob made an even greater mess, why do pundits still expect a Republican resurgence in 2022? In other words, why when Republicans screw up, so many of us trust Democrats even less to fix the mistakes?

There are two ways to look at this question, and both are relevant. On the one hand, few people understand how things actually work, which leaves us vulnerable to half-truths and convenient homilies backed by special interest groups. On the other hand, Republicans have built a relentless propaganda machine that is constantly attacking Democrats, not just for real shortcomings but for all sorts of fantastical crimes that are only rooted in the fevered imaginations of right-wing pundits. Democrats have long been ineffective at countering either of these thrusts. Explaining how things work is too boring, and responding to madness in kind is too disrespectful, so again and again they stand blinded and take the beating. If only they had opponents who were sensible and sincere, but that's exactly what Republicans aren't.

If you want a concrete example, took at Suzanne Gordon and Jasper Craven: The VA Is Ripe for Right-Wing Attacks. Here's How Biden Can Stop Them. In the 1990s under Clinton-appointee Kenneth Kizer, the VHA had become the highest-performing, most cost-effective organization in the sad-but-glitzy universe of American health care, but since 2001 Republicans have been picking it apart -- while flooding the system with new casualties -- making it easy to air complaints about slow service and other shortcomings. The key sentence here is this:

The right knows how to undermine veterans' health care while simultaneously winning political points on the negative outcomes their own policies have wrought.

That is, in short, the magic Republican formula: mess things up and blame the Democrats. This overlooks the one great advantage VHA has: it is non-profit, the closest thing the US has to a NHS. It can, in short, dispense with profit measurements and solely pursue health outcomes, with strong confidence that a healthier system will save money in the long run. The problem I see is that VHA is limited to veterans for its patient pool, and the percentage of the American public that serves in its armed forces is small and dwindling. Right now, VHA is having trouble serving veterans in remote areas, because the patients are too few and far between. But the system could grow considerably if we let more people use it. It could, for instance, offer its services like an HMO, at attractive prices (at compared to private insurance). One could transition from its current patient limits by adding other public employees (who, very often, provide more useful services than does the military). Not that I like the idea of limiting it to a subset of the public -- least of all to the military caste many Americans like to fetishize. An expanded National Health Service could provide a nice "public option" alternative to the private sector, whose profit-seeking approaches the predatory. An easy path here would be to make VHA an option for Medicaid.

Of course, before any such thing can happen, we have to get past the mental obstacle course Republicans have laid (and Democrats have way too often fallen for). In the 1990s, the VHA proved that capable and conscientious leadership, safe from political corruption, can deliver superior health care services. That is government at work for you, in sharp contrast to politicians who serve a private sector system that is based on market failures and run like an extortion racket. But Republicans will deny that, and blame their own failures on everyone else (like their efforts to crucify public servants like Anthony Fauci). And they seem credible, because who is cynical enough to imagine that Republican intentions are as malign as their results? An increasing number, but not yet enough to definitively reject Republican rhetoric, even among Democratic leaders who should know better than anyone what they are facing.

By the way, the "Here's how Biden can stop them" section is by far the weakest in the article. All they suggest appointing a "talented undersecretary." That would help, but we need a more fundamental sea change in thinking about what, and whom, government is for.

Daily Log

Tweet: Streamnotes (October 2021): Nothing new here, but finished my indexing and buttoned the file down. 218 records this month, mostly old stuff because I've been cleaning house ("unrated" list cut by 25%): link.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Notes on Everyday Life

Spent some time today dicking around with my WordPress site Updated the WordPress software to 5.8.1, which introduced this new "block editor" that, frankly, doesn't work very well, or at least doesn't make much sense. I previously set up the site on September 12, 2018, but couldn't find my original writing there, so edited the existing first post, to this:

Notes on Everyday Life

I started writing about politics and society in 1972, when I joined a small group in St. Louis intent on publishing a underground paper, called Notes on Everyday Life. We worked on it two years, publishing a dozen tabloid issues (or so, probably less). The title reflected our critical theory that politics permeated every facet of culture, and everything everyday had implications for politics. Dialectics were fashionable, and provided a model of complex interactions. As in any political group, there were endless discussion. My career in rock criticism started in those debates.

In the mid-1970s, I moved on: got a job, made some money, got married, had friends, learned a new trade, struggled with various health problems, got past my wife's death, kept reading (mostly science). I started thinking about politics again around 1990, when I started with my second wife. She grew up on the left, and had never wavered in her commitments, something I admired her for even though I rarely lived up to her model. We were, at least, philosophically compatible. And I was appalled by the Reagan turn to the right, even though I wasn't an obvious victim. (As I explained to people at the time, the only growth industry in America was fraud.) My alarm continued to grow through the 1990s until September 2001, when G.W. Bush grabbed his megaphone on "ground zero" and vowed vengeance on anyone who dared challenge the power and hubris of America's ruling class.

I had started blogging a bit before then, but mostly just noting trivia like what I thought of records and movies. Since then I've written several million words on political issues. At some point, I remembered my old St. Louis publication, and registered the domain name. This is the third or fourth iteration of a website there. My plan is to write occasional short notes of relevance here, not just on obvious political matters but also on broader cultural concerns -- since they remain linked, probably more obviously so than at any point in my life. Not to put too fine a point on it, that's because the post-Reagan Republicans have become dedicated degraders and destructors of civilization itself. They hate you, and they mean to hurt you. It has never been more urgent to stand up to their attacks. The only way I know how to do that is through reason, so that's what this website is for.

I started working on the Internet back in the mid-1990s. My previous sites have been crafted using my own tools and coding, so this one, based as it is on the free software WordPress, is a bit of learning curve. Some things I expect to be easier, and some more frustrating. I hope to be able to write more short pieces, on a more timely basis. I also expect that I'll be able to slip in some older excerpts from my previous 20 years of writing. In theory, this tool also supports collaboration more easily than my other sites. I'd especially like to see some of my old comrades join in.

Subsequently, I found the page I had originally written (which didn't appear because it was a page and not a post). It covers much the same ground. For the record:

Back in the early 1970s, I fell in with four other young leftists, mostly fellow students at Washington University in St. Louis. They wanted to publish an underground radical rag, and "Notes on Everyday Life" was their suggested title. This came readily upon the discovery that the personal was political as well as vice versa, and that both were connected to the technology and social relations of production and distribution, something so all pervasive that it permeated all human culture. We were curious about how all this worked, but under it all we were unhappy about the inequities that resulted and the violence that the system depended upon. In 1972, for instance, the US was still engaged in the longest and most dishonest war in the history of the republic, while the US president was engaged in the most cynical and callous acts to date to undermine democracy. We didn't figure we could do much about this, but by poking at the frayed edges of what seemed like a system, we felt we could raise a bit of consciousness, the more questions people would ask about what's worth doing and what isn't.

Little did we know then that forty-some years later the period of time we were so unsettled by would come to resemble a lost golden era, the point in US history when incomes and outcomes were closer to being equitable than before or since, a period of great reforms and transformations, a period of relative reason, one where the courts sided with an expansion of freedom, and after Vietnam one of relative peace and prosperity. But to be fair to ourselves, it now appears as though the tide had already turned -- I now make the "peak oil" year of 1969 to have been pivotal, but the 1970s saw the emergence of an ever more aggressive financial class and the always corruptible American political system soon succumbed.

After a couple years, we moved on: one toward a sociology Ph.D., one wound up teaching remedial high school, one emerged as a slumlord in St. Louis. I became an amateur rock critic and a professional software engineer, only to find post-2001 events push me back into writing more about politics again. Sensing that my website had become torn between those interested in music and those preoccupied with politics, I thought it would be a good idea to sort my interests out into two relatively specialized websites, and I named each for an early effort at publishing: Terminal Zone for music, Notes on Everyday Life for more political interests -- admittedly, a division we wouldn't have embraced in the early 1970s, when Notes had much to say about music. Still, those sites floundered, with earlier iterations wiped out by a server failure. The first drafts of both were mostly cloned from my blog. I don't really have a plan at the moment: just two domain names, a dedicated server, and some software to learn.

Certainly one way I might like this to develop would be if some young nerdy types were to pick up on the original ideas we were tuned into and apply them anew. Given how far America has backslid, much of what we thought all but too obvious forty years ago needs to be relearned today.

Lots of things are confusing at this point. These include:

  • Site health: complaint site is running PHP 5.6.40. Cpanel does have a multi-PHP version tool, but only other options are 7.1 and 7.2. Current PHP is 7.4, with PHP 8.0 in the wings. Evidently PHP 7.4 isn't installed on server. How to fix that?

  • Missing PHP modules: exif, fileinfo, mbstring, imagick, zip, iconv.

  • Your website does not use HTTPS. Yet actual url is, so WTF is going on here? [This seems to be fixed.]

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, October archive (done).

Tweet: Music Week: 54 albums, 11 A-list, quite a bit for a week where I took a couple days out to cook birthday dinner.

Music: Current count 36534 [36480] rated (+54), 149 [159] unrated (-10).

Took a break from the computer yesterday, playing oldies and cooking dinner to celebrate my 71st birthday. That puts me a year older than my grandfather was -- he believed the Bible promised "three score and ten" years, and died right on schedule. That leaves me five years short of my father. I never knew my mother's parents, neither of whom made it to 70. My father's mother lived into her 90s, but suffered from dementia her last decade or more. My sister died at age 60. She was the last born and the youngest to die among the cohort of 20 cousins on my mother's side. And my younger brother is struggling with more health issues than I am (or than I know about). So I approached the date with a bit of grim foreboding.

We had eight people total, four older than me, three younger, but only one who had to think about work the next day. All were vaccinated. One topic discussed was family members who are becoming ostracized for their refusal: the word "selfish" was used to describe them. I'm pretty sympathetic to laissez faire arguments, but I've lost my patience for them, regardless of their motivations. I'm particularly bothered by the bad faith of people who campaign against other getting vaccinated -- even if you thought there was a risk in being vaccinated (and I don't see that there is one), wouldn't encouraging others to become immunized help protect yourself? It's hard to see their logic as anything short of political, and that's where the malevolence shows through. I'm even more irked by anti-vaxers who claim any form of patriotism or religion or community spirit, as their efforts are aimed at undermining all of those things. But I should also note that while the political right has claimed anti-vaccination, and therefore promoting the spread of pandemic, many of the people we know who have refused to get vaccinated are highly critical of the right: they are cynical about business and politics, and are often committed to what I can only describe as extra-scientific health fads. I find these people even more frustrating to argue with or be critical of.

By the way, Laura and I got Pfizer booster shots recently. I got a flu shot earlier this week, while I was out grocery shopping. And Sadie (Liz Fink's orphaned dog) got her mandated shots today.

The only birthday gift I hope for is that my guests will submit gracefully to letting me cook for them. I started the tradition back in the 1990s, usually using it as the excuse for a fairly deep dive into a foreign cuisine (first was Chinese, second Indian, and I've since done Turkish, Thai, Spanish, French, Greek, Russian, Korean, Mexican, Brazilian, several variations on Middle Eastern). Last year we ate Turkish and Moroccan food in the backyard. This year my exotic food venture was directed at the US South. I always like my mother's coconut cake for birthday, and it occurred to me that I hadn't fried chicken in several years -- last time, I think, was a visit from my brother -- so it felt a bit rarer than last year's yogurtlu kebap and bisteeya. Besides, I had a copy of Edna Lewis's The Gift of Southern Cooking (with Scott Peacock) that I bought in 2016 but still hadn't cooked anything from.

So this seemed like a good time to broaden my mother's backwoods Arkansas background with a deeper survey of (mostly Afro-American) Southern cooking. Once I made that decision, I ordered three more cookbooks to broaden my perspective and cross-reference:

I also referred to several other cookbooks I already owned, most importantly The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book (my primary source for baking except for cakes). I also thumbed through Betty Fussell's I Hear America Cooking (my "go to" for jambalaya). What I ultimately came up with was:

  • Fried chicken, per Lewis: brined, buttermilk, cast iron, lard and butter, dredge in flour and fry, making gravy from the drippings (no recipe, but that's the way we always did it).
  • Biscuits.
  • Mashed potatoes, cooked in chicken stock, whipped up with butter and cream, with shredded white sharp cheddar.
  • Sweet potato casserole, topped with pecans, brown sugar, and a flour-butter combo similar to pie crust.
  • Greens in pork stock: collard, turnip, kale. I couldn't get the "country ham" for the stock, so bought and roasted 4 lb. pork bones, then simmered them and a chunk of salt pork for 10 hours.
  • Maque choux: corn, onion, and green bell pepper, sauteed, then added cream.
  • Eggplant relish: roasted, with onion, tomato, and raisins.
  • Apple chutney.
  • Bacon jam.

I had planned on making green beans, but couldn't find them loose. I bought a bag at Sprouts, but they tasted off when I boiled them, so I threw them out. Also planned on making cornbread, but I got rushed and confused and decided to just do the biscuits. I thought the chutneys would go nice with the cornbread, but they wound up getting left to the side (although they were all very good, as was everything).

For dessert I wanted to make the coconut cake and a pecan pie. Wound up making two pies, both with ATK's all-butter crust. For one I used Lewis's bourbon pecan pie filling, for the other ATK's chocolate pecan. I also made the Fudgy Flourless Brownie Pie from the Black Girl Baking book, with its tahini-maple sauce. I posted a picture of the desserts on Facebook. My caption there: "When I was growing up, I learned that dinner is just a social ritual you have to get through in order to get to dessert."

With dinner plans afoot, I expected a drop in the number of records reviewed this week, but the numbers held up pretty well. I knocked off 7 new jazz promos, another dozen-plus old unheard CDs, and a bunch of unheard Christgau picks. I also picked up a copy of the new Nathan Bell album Christgau reviewed, and was impressed enough to go back to all his other albums on Napster (where the new one isn't). First two were real impressive, but I cooled a bit when he trimmed down to solo albums -- lots of good things in the songs, but not as much fun to listen to.

I've been hearing rhapsodic reports on the new Coltrane vault tape, and I'm a huge fan of A Love Supreme, but I was disappointed when I finally got a chance to hear it. Not inconceivable my opinion could improve, but strikes me as a case of hope getting ahead of reality.

Thanks to the reader who tipped me to the "new" Kid Creole album. Unfortunately, it's not really new, nor really good. Thanks to another reader for catching some typos (one crippling), and for pointing out the recent death of Dutch classical conductor/violinist Bernard Haitink (also see Bernard Haitink, Perhaps the Wisest Conductor of Them All). I grew up despising classical music -- one prejudice I've never felt the slightest desire of working on -- so I don't see myself following up here, but seems like a public service announcement to note that someone who likes most of what I like also holds this guy in highest esteem.

I will note that Mort Sahl died today, age 94 (also see: Mort Sahl, Whose Biting Commentary Redefind Stand-Up, Dies at 94.) I remember him as one of the first comics I heard who was really outspoken on political issues. My favorite line of his goes something like: "Charlton Hesston says he hopes his children will one day live under Fascism. If he were more perceptive, he'd be a happy man today."

This is the last Music Week of October. I've opened a Streamnotes file for November, and started to add new things to it (although I liked A Rhys Chatham Compendium enough to sneak it in this week). I haven't done the indexing for October yet, so will get to it later this week. But as you can see from the link up top, it's been a big month for sampling old music. Easy to keep doing that. A good deal easier than figuring out what's new and interesting. Not sure whether I'll do an EOY compilation this year. Early on I would have said no, but not sure I'll be able to hold myself back.

New records reviewed this week:

  • JD Allen: Queen City (2020 [2021], Savant): [r]: B+(*)
  • Atmosphere: Word? (2021, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nathan Bell: Red, White and American Blues (It Couldn't Happen Here) (2021, Need to Know): [cd]: A
  • Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra: Tinctures in Time (Community Music, Vol. 1) (2021, Royal Potato Family): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Erin Enderlin: Barroom Mirrors EP (2021, Black Crow Productions, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Adam Forkelid: 1st Movement (2021, Prophone): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jazz Daddies: Moontower Nights (2021, self-released): [cd]: B
  • David Leon: Aire De Agua (2020 [2021], Out of Your Head): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Lil Nas X: Montero (2021, Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Karen Marguth: Until (2014-21 [2021], OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
  • John Moulder: Metamorphosis (2019 [2021], Origin): [cd]
  • Randy Napoleon: Rust Belt Roots: Randy Napoleon Plays Wes Montgomery, Grand Green & Kenny Burrell (2018 [2021], OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • RaeLynn: Baytown (2021, Round Here): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • John Coltrane: A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle (1965 [2021], Impulse): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kid Creole and the Coconuts: Nothin' Left but the Rest (1996 [2021], 2C2C): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lionel Loueke: Close Your Eyes (2018 [2021], Sounderscore): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Nadja Noordhuis: Gullfoss (2019 [2021], Little Mystery): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Send I a Lion: A Nighthawk Reggae Joint (1979-84 [2019], Omnivore): [r]: B+(***)
  • Billy Joe Shaver & Kinky Friedman: Live Down Under (2002 [2021], Omnivore): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Nathan Bell: In Tune, On Time, Not Dead (2007, Zensuit): [r]: A-
  • Nathan Bell: Traitorland (2008, Zensuit): [r]: A-
  • Nathan Bell: Black Crow Blue (An American Album) (2011, Stone Barn): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nathan Bell: Blood Like a River (2013, Stone Barn): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nathan Bell: I Don't Do This for Love, I Do This for Love (Working and Hanging On in America) (2015, Stone Barn): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nathan Bell: Love > Fear (48 Hours in Traitorland) (2017, Stone Barn): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nathan Bell: Er Gwaetha Pawb a Phopeth (In Spite of Everyone and Everything) (2017 [2018], Angry Stick): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nathan Bell: Loves Bones and Stars, Love's Bones and Stars (2018, Angry Stick): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chris Berry and the Bayaka of Yandoumbe: Listen . . . OKA! (2011, Oka Productions): [r]: A-
  • Calling Rastafari (1981 [1982], Nighthawk): [r]: B+(***)
  • Rhys Chatham: A Rhys Chatham Compendium (1971-89 [2002], Table of the Elements): [cd]: A-
  • The Ebony Hillbillies: Barefoot and Flying (2011, EH Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Maria Kalaniemi: Maria Kalaniemi (1992 [1994], Xenophile): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ustad Ali Akbar Khan/Pandit Swapan Chadhuri: Passing on the Tradition (1995 [1996], AMMP): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kodo: Ibuki (1997, Tristar): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Look Directly Into the Sun: China Pop 2007 (2007, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(***)
  • Masters of the Boogie Piano [Delmark 50th Anniversary Collection] (1939-2001 [2003], Delmark): [r]: B+(***)
  • Pointer Sisters: Pointer Sisters' Greatest Hits (1978-81 [1982], RCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pointer Sisters: Greatest Hits (1978-85 [1989], RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Ramones: Pleasant Dreams (1981, Sire): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Rave-Ups: Town and Country (1985, Fun Stuff): [r]: B+(***)
  • R.E.M.: New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996, Warner Brothers): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Replacements: Stink ("Kids Don't Follow Plus Seven) (1982, Twin/Tone, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jack Smith: Les Evening Gowns Damnées: 56 Ludlow Street 1962-1964 Volume I (1962-64 [1997], Table of the Elements): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jack Smith: Silent Shadows on Cinemaroc Island: 56 Ludlow Street 1962-1964 Volume II (1962-64 [1997], Table of Elements): [cd]: B
  • The Sound of Kinshasa: Guitar Classics From Zaire (1950s-70s [1982], Original Music): [yt]: A-
  • Streets of Dakar: Generation Boul Falé ([1999], Sterns): [r]: A-
  • The Tanzania Sound (1960s [1987], Original Music): [yt]: A-
  • A Taste of the Indestructible Beat of Soweto ([1993], Earthworks): [r]: A
  • James Blood Ulmer: Black Rock (1982, Columbia): [yt]: A-
  • Neil Young & the Bluenotes: This Note's for You (1988, Reprise): [r]: B-
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Weld (1991, Reprise, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Neil Young: Unplugged (1993, Reprise): [r]: B+(***)
  • Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Broken Arrow (1996, Reprise): [r]: B+(**)
  • Yuri Yunakov Ensemble: New Colors in Bulgarian Wedding Music (1997, Traditional Crossroads): [r]: B+(***)
  • Z-Man: Dope or Dog Food (2004, Refill): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tapper Zukie: Man Ah Warrior (1973 [1977], MER): [yt]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Live at the Village Vanguard Volume II (MDW NTR) (Pi) [10-29]


  • Nathan Bell: Red, White and American Blues (It Couldn't Happen Here) (Need to Know)

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Daily Log

Colin Powell died, and is being mourned much more than he ever deserved. I wrote this on Facebook:

My most indelible memory of Powell comes from his press conferences in 1990-91, where he repeatedly raised his voice to emphasize his oft-repeated "kill the enemy" mantra. He clearly believed that killing was the point of war, and was razor-focused on that. The "Powell Doctrine" was designed to maximize killing, making it as one-sided as possible. Neocons like Max Boot hated it because they wanted the US to stop worrying about possible consequences of US interventions -- the argument in Boot's "Savage Wars of Peace" is that we shouldn't worry about getting into wars, because they always work out ok anyway. (He's not the first prognosticator to go 0-for-forever after staking his claim, nor the only one to remain employable.) You can't counter that Powell's Doctrine was meant to keep us out of quagmire wars, because he personally used it to define US wars in Panama and Kuwait/Iraq. The Doctrine was shelved after 9/11, especially when the CIA war in Afghanistan briefly looked successful. He probably had a role in beefing up the Iraq invasion force beyond Rumsfeld's wishes, but the effect of that was to abandon the real reason the 1990-91 wars looked good: very limited goals. Wasn't Powell the guy behind the "Pottery Barn Rule"? I can't find a redeemable moment in his career -- certainly not covering up war crimes in Vietnam, or launching them in Central America, or in his political moves in 1993 to stop the "Commander in Chief" from rectifying gross civil rights abuses under his command. Maybe you can give him some credit for turning on Trump, but so did his nemesis Boot. Now I read they want to rename some Army base Fort Powell (as we're finally disposing of those bases named for Confederate generals, the token black general looks irresistible). What was it Thurgood Marshall said? "A black snake can bite you as bad as a white snake." Powell may have been the first black to attain various high posts, but he was never a pioneer or a visionary. He rose through the ranks by being one of the boys, committed to his comrades and their self-importance.

Laura also linked to this article from CodePink: Colin Powell: Another War Criminal Cashes In.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, October archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 47 albums, 13 (or 14) A-list, mostly old records (again), with some comments on method and madness. And yes, I'm getting plenty mad.

Music: Current count 36480 [36433] rated (+47), 159 [188] unrated (-29).

Picked up a couple new (and one old) music tips from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide: October 2021. I can note that I previously reviewed both Dave albums, Homeboy Sandman's Anjelitu, and Kalie Shorr's I got Here by Accident, all four at A-. Also Baloji at B+(***). While I had missed this particular Howlin' Wolf edition, the same 20 songs are also available in the same order on The Definitive Collection (released 2007), previously graded A+. It's depressing to compare the pitiful one below to the one I wrote back then:

Howlin' Wolf: The Definitive Collection (1951-64 [2007], Geffen/Chess): "Hidden Charms" was just a song, one about his girl. Chester Burnett had nothing to hide except his name. He was a big man, "three hundred pounds of heavenly joy," "built for comfort, not for speed." And he was bold. His voice sounded like gravel, but he could sing with it as well as bark, growl, and howl. He may not have been a great guitarist, but Hubert Sumlin was -- when Buddy Guy joined the band he played bass. Despite his mass, he had a light touch, an uncanny rhythmic cadence that dropped the words gracefully into place. Chess helped, too. Coming up from Memphis he was howlin' at midnight; soon he was sittin' on top of the world. A+

Otherwise, last week was like the week before, except even more depressing. Going through a sad, miserable patch, but at least I do take a little pleasure in crossing previously unplayed CDs off my "unrated" list -- at least as I cross them off my list, especially ones I didn't much enjoy listening to. Still, two of those records made the A-list this time (Ian Dury, Bert Williams). The other "old music" records -- most of the ones not marked [cd] -- continued my scan through the unheard Christgau-graded albums list, starting with Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, up to Dwight Yoakam this week. Deep down in the alphabet there, but still only 73% through (lot of various artist compilations to follow). Also, I'm aware of a few records I skipped that I can find on Napster or YouTube (shit I've really been avoiding -- Robert Cray is the name I'm most conscious of, probably because there's like three albums by him).

By the way, I don't seriously believe that anyone needs all three Cleanhead A- albums this week. I think he's terrific, but damn little difference between them, and any one will give you a good sample. (I probably prefer Clean Head's Back in Town.) By the way, he's also on two somewhat more varied records I'm also a fan of: Cleanhead and Cannonball, as in Adderley, and Blues in the Night Volume 2: The Late Show, filed under Etta James, and marginally better than Volume 1: The Early Show.

I wound up showing covers of two albums not reviewed below. The alternate Howlin' Wolf is really the same record, and when I looked up the review (above), I found I already had the cover scan handy. The Double Dee & Steinski EP didn't actually have a cover: it was just a sleeve with the label showing through, not that you'd ever find a copy anyway. The pictured Steinski comp starts off with those three pieces, then adds two more hours of brilliance. It's a desert island disc (well, two).

Reviewing old compilations always presents maddening, perhaps even impossible, trade-off questions between multiple editions. When I pointed out the Howlin' Wolf equivalence, Robert Christgau left his review unchanged, but tweeted:

To spare myself an insane amount of discographical nitpicking, I chose to base this week's Howlin' Wolf pick solely on what was in my shelves. But note that indefatigably punctilious Tom Hull has determined that Chess's 2007 Wolf Definitive Collection is identical to His Best.

Punctilious as I am, I also work mostly from my own shelves, plus a few things that are readily streamable. So sometimes I pull obsolete (out-of-print) compilations off my shelf. Since I've been checking up on old Christgau grades, I look for the releases he reviewed, even if they are long out-of-print, superseded by more recent editions -- even if that requires assembling an approximate playlist. That doesn't seem like ideal consumer guidance, but some kind of compromise is necessary. One odd artifact this week is that I've ignored the 2004 release dates on my Jethro Tull reissues in favor of their original dates, since that seems like a better baseline. I own a copy of A + Slipstream, but since the latter is just a live DVD, I limited the review to A. On the other hand, it's possible that on occasion I devalue an old LP compilation in favor of later CDs. That's likely with Don Williams below, as I at least partly explain in the review.

The Ezz-Thetics reissues continue to bug me. After I reviewed four a couple weeks ago, a reader pointed out that the series is curated with great care, with detailed liner notes from reputable critics. I review two more below, and find them slightly more useful than the original releases. I will get to more later.

I had to make my own scan of the Bert Williams, a release that seems to have escaped notice on the Internet. Archeophone's three volumes are probably the preferred source, not least for sound quality, but my single disc fills the bill nicely. I didn't write it as such, but that final trio of A-list albums (Williams, Betty Wright, Yo Yo) says much about the trajectory of race in America (and you can fill in a few gaps with Wynonie Harris, Howlin' Wolf, Cleanhead Vinson, and Marion Brown. Bought a new HP all-in-one printer in hopes of doing some scanning with it, but hadn't tried it, and it turned out xsane couldn't work with it. Very unhappy about that, and I blame HP -- for business tactics I hitherto mostly associated with Apple.

Started reading Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry for the Future -- the first novel I've tackled in close to 20 years. I've long said that when I finally get so disgusted with the world I give up, I'm going to give up and switch to fiction. I'm not sure if that's what this signals. For one thing, it's been touted as a superb wonk book. I've been writing a bit on annotation for a KSR article in Financial Times (paywalled, but I secured a samizdat copy). I'm despairing of getting it into publishable shape, but we're not so very far apart: he's both more pessimistic (maybe I mean panicky) and more optimistic (a faith in geoengineering I'm not convinced of), but we share common ground in believing that survival depends on fundamental changes in attitudes and beliefs, especially toward each other.

That would be difficult in any case, but the degree of stupidity and vileness exhibited lately on the US right is mind boggling. I haven't written a Speaking of Which in nearly a month in large part because words seem so insufficient. Another problem, by the way, is that my sources have been drying up, increasingly blockaded by paywalls. Latest seems to be Politico. I've never put much stock in them, but occasionally issues are so obvious they break through their studied bipartisanship. I don't see how an informed electorate is possible when everything's pay-to-play.

This week is countdown to my 71st birthday. I usually make a big dinner, and a month ago was looking forward to this one. As of today, I have no fucking idea what I'm going to do. (Well, the minimum is probably cake.) Have some other projects around the house to work on, so might be a good time to take a break from the usual grind.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Thomas Anderson: Ladies and Germs (2021, Out There): [r]: A-
  • Mickey Guyton: Remember My Name (2021, Capitol): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Albert Ayler Quintet: 1966: Berlin, Lorrach, Paris & Stockholm. Revisited (1966 [2021], Ezz-Thetics, 2CD): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Marion Brown: Capricorn Moon to Juba Lee Revisited (1965-66 [2019], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: A-

Old music:

  • Keola Beamer: Wooden Boat (1994, Dancing Cat): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bingo: Songs for Children in English With Brazilian and Caribbean Rhythms (2005, Soundbrush): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Contemporary Piano Ensemble: The Key Players (1993, DIW/Columbia): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Don Dixon: Chi-Town Budget Show (1988, Restless): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Double Dee & Steinski: The Payoff Mix/Lesson Two/Lesson 3 (1985, Tommy Boy, EP): [r]: A
  • Ian Dury & the Blockheads: Live! All the Best, Mate (1990 [2000], Music Club): [cd]: A-
  • Shirley Eikhard: The Last Hurrah (2000, Shirley Eikhard Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Shirley Eikhard: End of the Day (2001, Shirley Eikhard Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Shirley Eikhard: Stay Open (2002-03 [2003], Shirley Eikhard Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Dan Fogelberg: The Essential Dan Fogelberg (1973-90 [2003], Epic/Legacy): [cd]: C+
  • Forgetting Sarah Marshall [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] ([2008], Verve Forecast): [cd]: B
  • Gimme Indie Rock V. 1 (1984-99 [2000], K-Tel, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Golden Gate Quartet: Travelin' Shoes (1937-39 [1992], Bluebird/RCA): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Barry Harris: Live at Maybeck Recital Hall Volume Twelve (1990 [1991], Concord): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Wynonie Harris: Rockin' the Blues (1944-50 [2001], Proper, 4CD): [cd]: A-
  • Tish Hinojosa: Dreaming of the Labyrinth/Soñar del Laberinto (1996, Warner Brothers): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Robin Holcomb: Robin Holcomb (1990, Elektra): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Howlin' Wolf: His Best (1951-64 [1997], MCA/Chess): [r]: A+
  • Ella Jenkins: Little Johnny Brown (1971 [2001], Smithsonian/Folkways): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jethro Tull: Live: Busting Out (1978 [2004], Chrysalis, 2CD): [cd]: B-
  • Jethro Tull: Stormwatch (1979, Chrysalis): [cd]: C+
  • Jethro Tull: A (1980, Chrysalis): [cd]: C+
  • George Jones: The Definitive Collection 1955-1962 (1955-62 [2004], Mercury/Chronicles): [r]: A
  • Kartet: The Bay Window (2006 [2007], Songlines): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Alan Morse: Four O'Clock and Hysteria (2007, Inside Out Music): [cd]: B
  • Genesis P-Orridge & Astrid Monroe: When I Was Young (2001 [2004], Important): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mike Rizzo: Webster Hall's New York Dance CD v.6 (2003, Webster Hall NYC): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Daryl Stuermer: Go (2007, Inside Out Music): [cdr]: B-
  • Swans: Soundtracks for the Blind (1996, Young God/Atavistic, 2CD): [cd]: B
  • UTD [Urban Thermo Dynamics: DCQ/Ces/Mos Def]: Manifest Destiny (2004, Illson Media): [yt]: B+(***)
  • Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson: Clean Head's Back in Town (1957, Bethlehem): [r]: A-
  • Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson: The Original Cleanhead (1970, BluesTime): [r]: A-
  • Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson: Kidney Stew [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1969-78 [1996], Black & Blue): [r]: A-
  • Bert Williams: "It's Getting So You Can't Trust Nobody": The Songs of Bert Williams Volume One (1901-22 [199X], Vaudeville Archive): [cd]: A-
  • Don Williams: The Best of Don Williams, Volume II (1975-78 [1979], MCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bobby Womack: Greatest Hits (1972-89 [1999], Capitol): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Stevie Wonder: Original Musiquarium I (1971-82 [1982], Motown, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Stevie Wonder: In Square Circle (1985, Tamla): [r]: B+(***)
  • Stevie Wonder: Jungle Fever (1991, Motown): [r]: B+(**)
  • Betty Wright: Danger High Voltage (1974, Alston): [r]: A-
  • Betty Wright: Live (1978, Alston): [r]: B+(***)
  • Yo Yo: You Better Ask Somebody (1993, EastWest): [yt]: A-
  • Dwight Yoakam: Just Lookin' for a Hit (1986-89 [1989], Reprise): [r]: B+(***)

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

  • Henry Threadgill Zooid: Poof (2021, Pi): [r]: [2/5]: +

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • David Leon: Aire De Agua (Out of Your Head) [08-27]

Daily Log

Saw this meme on Facebook:

The price of gasoline consists of four factors: taxes, distribution and marketing, the cost of refining, and crude oil prices -- which are not determined by the president.

Joni Bradley added: "Let us quit blaming Biden for all kinds of things." I suppose if I really thought about it, I could find something to fault Biden for, but reading the crap spewed out by Republicans, I simply don't feel like it. Still, the meme failed to understand many basic tenets of business and economics, so I took a stab at correcting the record:

The price of gasoline is determined by demand and supply. When supply is constricted (by OPEC quotas, by wars and sanctions, by hurricanes and other disasters, by depletion of existing fields, by transportation snafus as seems to be the case in the UK recently), prices rise. When demand drops (most dramatically by recessions, but longer-term by the switch to electric cars), prices drop. Your first three cost factors are relatively fixed (although taxes vary a lot by region; Europe has taxed gasoline heavily at least since the 1950s, which is why European cars have always been much more fuel-efficient than American cars), so price volatility gets pushed back to crude oil prices (which is where the real windfall profits reside). Politicians can affect both supply and demand sides, but mostly indirectly. (There are some exceptions, such as filling up and drawing down the US Strategic Reserve. Taxes is another way in theory, but aside from California there have been no significant tax changes in decades.) Bush and Trump drove gasoline prices up through wars and sanctions (Trump less so because under Obama the US became a net exporter for the first time since 1969, and because demand was already slacking), only to see prices collapse when both ended in major recessions. Gasoline prices have been rising under Biden because the economy is recovering. That's actually good news. And while recovery was likely to happen in any case, having a sane and responsible person as president must be counted a plus.

Many more tangents on this I could have wandered off on.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, October archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 63 albums, 9 A-list, hardly anything new this week, just lots of old stuff, including CDs I bought 20 years ago and am only now getting to (some are actually pretty good).

Music: Current count 36433 [36370] rated (+63), 188 [203] unrated (-15).

Almost no new jazz (or new anything else) this week. I continued with the Christgau unheard list, moving from B.B. King to Merle Travis, although I couldn't find most of the A-list records in the bottom half of that list. (This is my second pass, and while I skipped a lot of A-N albums in the first pass, I had made a more diligent effort further down.) Note that 4 of this week's A-list items are albums I didn't buy because I had previously heard/rated most of the music from other editions (Fela, Lovin' Spoonful, Roy Orbison, Merle Travis). I've noted some of those other editions below.

The other thing I did last week was to rifle through a shelf unit which (at least originally) had old CDs from my unheard list, and played what looks like a random selection. I had bought a ton of CDs early in the 2000s, especially in "going out of business" sales, and many of them languished. I've been keeping track of "unheard albums" since 2003, when the total was over 900. Eventually I got it down to the low 200s, but as I've streamed more, I've scrounged less, and I was getting frustrated at my inability to drop the unrated number below 200. Well, I made a dent in that list this week. To my surprise, three of those albums made this week's A-list, in very different ways (folksinger Ewan MacColl, Mardi Gras Party, and a hip-hop mix). The remaining unrated albums are listed here. Where they are in the house is anyone's guess, but I figure this is at least in part a housekeeping task.

One excuse I have is that the new promo queue has shrunk to the point where I only have one album past its release date (and that was one I received last week, by a group I had never heard of). That doesn't count downloads, which I don't keep very good track of. Actually got a fair amount of unpacking last week, mostly into November. I'll do them when I get around to it. Things are pretty messy right now.

Wichita suffered a catastrophe last week: the city water system broke down, leading to a "boil water alert." The pumps were shut down by an electrical failure. Then when they started up again, the restored pressure broke a 42-inch main a couple miles east of us, flooding streets and dropping pressure again. We spent a few days working around the various restrictions and warnings, thinking about how critical it is to have a safe, reliable source of water. And contemplating how callous and stupid Republicans (and a couple Democrats) are in their opposition to sorely needed infrastructure investments.

Wichita (and most of Kansas) set a record high temperature on Saturday. I've set up a fairly fancy weather station here, so we're keeping a close watch. Got 1.55 inches of rain yesterday. We've generally been pretty lucky this year: hot but not exceptionally so, a bit drier than usual but not quite enough to call it a drought, and the jet stream has been well to the north, so we haven't seen much smoke from the fires out west.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Jü: III (2021, RareNoise): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jo Berger Myhre: Unheimlich Manoeuvre (2021, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets: Walkabout (2013-19 [2020], Yep Roc): [r]: B

Old music:

  • Fela and Afrika 70: Zombie (1976 [1977], M.I.L. Multimedia): [r]: A-
  • Hard Times Come Again No More, Vol. 1: Early American Rural Songs of Hard Times and Hardships (1924-37 [1998], Yazoo): [r]: A-
  • B.B. King: The Best of B.B. King (1969-71 [1973], ABC): [yt]: B+(***)
  • B.B. King: The Best of B.B. King (1967-85 [1999], MCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • B.B. King: Blues Summit (1993, MCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • B.B. King: His Definitive Greatest Hits (1963-93 [1999], Polygram): [r]: A-
  • B.B. King: Deuces Wild (1997, MCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • B.B. King: Let the Good Times Roll: The Music of Louis Jordan (1999, Geffen): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ali Hassan Kuban: From Nubia to Cairo (1980 [1989], Piranha): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fela Ransome Kuti and His Koola Lobitos: Highlife Jazz and Afro-Soul (1963-1969) (1963-69 [2016], Knitting Factory, 3CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lady Saw: Passion (1997, VP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo: The Best of Ladysmith Black Mambazo (1975-85 [1992], Shanachie): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo: The Gift of the Tortoise (1994, Music for Little People): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Tony Lakatos/Al Foster/Kirk Lightsey/George Mraz: The News (1994 [1995], Jazzline): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jim Lauderdale: Pretty Close to the Truth (1994, Atlantic): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Linx: Intuition (1981, Chrysalis): [r]: B+(**)
  • Living Things: Ahead of the Lions (2004 [2005], Jive/Zomba): [r]: B+(***)
  • Love: Da Capo (1967, Elektra): [r]: B+(***)
  • Love: Four Sail (1969, Elektra): [r]: B+(**)
  • Love: Out There (1969, Blue Thumb): [r]: B-
  • Love: False Start (1970, Blue Thumb): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Lovin' Spoonful: Greatest Hits (1965-68 [2000], Buddha): [r]: A-
  • Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit: The Rose of England (1985, Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nick Lowe: Untouched Takeaway (1995-2000 [2004], Yep Roc): [r]: B
  • Luna: Slide (1993, Elektra, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd: Nuthin' Fancy (1975, MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd: Gimme Back My Bullets (1976, MCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd: One More From the Road (1976, MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd: Street Survivors (1977, MCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd: Gold & Platinum (1972-77 [1979], MCA, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Yo-Yo Ma: Classic Yo-Yo (1992-2001 [2001], Sony Classical): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ewan MacColl: Black and White: The Definitive Collection (1972-86 [1990], Green Linnet): [cd]: A-
  • Mardi Gras Party (1971-90 [1991], Rounder): [cd]: A-
  • The Master Musicians of Jajouka Featuring Bachir Attar: Apocalypse Across the Sky (1992, Axiom): [r]: B+(***)
  • Johnny Mathis: The Ultimate Hits Collection (1956-86 [1998], Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Moby Grape: Moby Grape (1967, Columbia): [yt]: B+(**)
  • Moby Grape: Wow (1968, Columbia): [yt]: C+
  • Moby Grape: Moby Grape '69 (1969, Columbia): [yt]: B-
  • M.O.P.: Handle Ur Bizness (1997, Relativity): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bill Morrissey: North (1986, Philo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bill Morrissey: Bill Morrissey (1991, Philo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bill Morrissey & Greg Brown: Friend of Mind (1993, Philo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pablo Moses: I Love I Bring (1975 [1978], United Artists): [yt]: B+(***)
  • Motörhead: No Remorse (1979-84 [1984], Bronze): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Walter Norris Quartet: Sunburst (1991, Concord): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Roy Orbison: 16 Biggest Hits (1960-64 [1999], Monument/Legacy): [r]: A
  • Annette Peacock: I Have No Feelings (1986, Ironic): [yt]: B-
  • Annette Peacock: An Acrobat's Heart (2000, ECM): [r]: B
  • Ken Peplowski: The Other Portrait (1996, Concord): [cd]: B
  • Ralph Peterson Quintet: Art (1992 [1994], Blue Note): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Prodigy Present: The Dirtchamber Sessions: Volume One (1998 [1999], XL): [cd]: A-
  • Dr. Krishna Raghavendra: RARE Pulse (2001, GEMA): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Remember Shakti [John McLaughlin/Zakir Hussain/U. Shrinivas/V. Selvaganesh]: The Believer (1999 [2000], Verve): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Remember Shakti: Saturday Night in Bombay (2000 [2001], Verve): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jimmy Rogers: The Complete Chess Recordings (1950-59 [1997], MCA, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Nate Ruth: Whatever It Meant (2002, Soundless): [cd]: B
  • Jeremy Steig/Eddie Gomez: Outlaws (1976 [1977], Enja): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Swayzak: Himawari (2000, Medicine): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Swayzak: Dirty Dancing (2002, !K7): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Train Don't Leave Me: Recorded Live at the 1st Annual Sacred Steel Convention (2000 [2001], Arhoolie): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Merle Travis: Sweet Temptation: The Best of Merle Travis (1946-1953) (1946-53 [2000], Razor & Tie): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sylvie Courvoisier/Mary Halvorson: Searching for the Disappeared Hour (Pyroclastic) [10-29]
  • Adam Forkelid: 1st Movement (Prophone) [10-09]
  • Jazz Daddies: Moontower Nights (self-released) [09-06]
  • Karen Marguth: Until (OA2) [10-15]
  • Cameron Mizell & Charlie Rauh: Local Folklore (Destiny) [10-29]
  • John Moulder: Metamorphosis (Origin) [10-15]
  • Randy Napoleon: Rust Belt Roots: Randy Napoleon Plays Wes Montgomery, Grand Green & Kenny Burrell (OA2) [10-15]
  • Jacob Schulman: Connectedness (Endectomorph Music) [11-14]

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Daily Log

Robert Christgau, in his review of Kim Stanley Robinson's novel, The Ministry for the Future, refers to an essay by KSR published in Financial Times. The piece is behind a severe paywall, but I wangled a copy, and thought I would offer a partial annotation (which should be fair use). It reads more like lecture notes than an essay. I thought I'd pull some quotes (in bold below) out, then add my comments.

What does it feel like to live on the brink of a vast historical change? It feels like now.

We've been living in the midst of vast historical change for about 150 years now, so you'd think we'd be getting used to it by now. The main developments are technological. Starting around 1870, accelerating dramatically around 1900, and more sporadically every 20-30 years since, the main innovations were:

  • Oil, a vast and portable store of energy, which made it possible for people to do previously unimagined quantities of work (something we're constantly reminded of as we measure engines in horsepower).
  • Electricity, a form of energy which can be transmitted instantly, and controlled and focused in infinitesimal amounts.
  • Materials, especially metals, which can be extracted, refined, and machined precisely, and plastics, which can also be built to extraordinary precision.
  • Information, which can be collected at a mind-bogglingly vast level, stored indefinitely, and transferred instantly anywhere.

The effect of these technological changes is that today, unlike 150 years ago, we live in a wholly synthetic world, a bubble of human design, which has given most of us longer, healthier, more comfortable, and better entertained lives than was imaginable just a few generations before. One simple measure of this change is that the number of human beings the Earth can support has increased in this period sixfold (from 1.276 billion in 1870 to 7.753 billion in 2020).

The only comparable degree of change in human history started about 10,000 years ago with agriculture, as humans managed to domesticate a few plants and animals, dedicating land to their cultivation, building water works to nurture them, markets for trade, and armies to defend from marauders (or do some plundering on their own). But that played out over thousands of years: high estimates for world population 10,000 years ago were 5-10 million, growing to 28 million 6,000 years ago (when the first "cradles of civilization" were evident), 72 million 4,000 years ago (with the growth of small regional empires), 188 million 2,000 years ago (with large empires in China and the Mediterranean), 295 million 1,000 years ago, and 461 million 500 years ago (the start of the European conquest).

So, pace KSR, the "vast historical change" has already happened, quite recently and suddenly. The sense that we are "on the brink" may still be real. Great changes are mixed blessings, and it is reasonable to worry that we have not properly accounted for the risks and potential downfalls of the last 150's years of blinding progress. Climate change is the worry on KSR's mind, but it's not the only one.

The first great change (to agriculture) forced humans to adjust in many ways, which took time and was often painful, but happened so long ago we can hardly imagine what life was like as scattered primitive hunter-gatherers. Many of the adjustments dealt with interpersonal relations, which were largely codified through the development of religions (occurring in parallel in the various "cradles of civilization," mostly in the first millennium BCE), and later through civil codes. But there were also ecological crises, ranging from mass extinctions and loss of biodiversity to irrigation failures, plagues, and climate-related crises.

One thing we should have learned from history is that humans are quick to accept the gifts of progress, reluctant to anticipate downsides and side-effects, blind to catastrophic long-term trends, and stubbornly resistant to change (especially to their privileged sense of social order). While the last 150 years of technological progress has profoundly affected virtually everyone, adjustment has proceeded slowly, fitfully if at all. Indeed, we are often stuck trying to understan new information through ideological concepts from earlier eras.

One thing I will note here is that this 150-year spurt of incredible technological progress was built on top of an intellectual revolution that goes back 500 years, past the Enlightenment to the Renaissance, with the rise of secular thought, science, rationality, free speech, civil law, and an economic system which distributed decision-making, allowing self-motivated entrepreneurs to competitively maximize their commercialization of new technologies. The latter has downsides we've been slow to recognize, like putting short-term profits over long-term concerns, increasing inequality, and capturing political power for the protection of its privileged owners.

Humanity now stands on the brink of not just change, but disaster. And because we can see it coming, just as clear as a black storm on the horizon, our attempts to dodge disaster and create a healthy relationship with our only home will bring huge changes in our habits, laws, institutions and technologies. . . . Unlike the people living in the years before the first world war, we won't be sandbagged by catastrophe. The 2020s will not be filled with surprises -- except perhaps at the speed and intensity of the changes coming down. With its atmosphere of dread foreboding, our time more resembles the years preceding the second world war, when everyone lived with a sensation of helplessly sliding down a slippery slope and over a cliff.

Two big topics here. One is the extent to which we understand the coming crisis. The other is how painful those "huge changes in our habits, laws, institutions and technologies" -- indeed, what pains we're willing to accept, either to change or by resisting change.

It certainly is the case that some people understand the way the world works, including the way humans function on Earth, much better now than ever before -- although in this age of specialization, even very smart people have serious blind spots. Still, I wonder whether alarmists (like KSR) focus on climate change not because it's the biggest issue we're facing but because it's so clear and simple -- hence relatively easy to grasp (which, of course, makes one wonder all the more about the deniers). I don't wish to detract from the importance of climate change as an issue, but it's possible that there are other more/less equally important issues, some of which are being neglected because they don't kick you in the teeth like a hurricane, drought, floods, or massive fires.

I also suspect that one reason a lot of people are so concerned about climate change isn't that they understand the science, but instead have this deep-seated romantic notion that pristine nature is perfect (those so inclined would say: "the way God intended"). Recent (as geologists use the term, which is to say for most of the last 18,000 years) climate is one of many the Earth has supported, with others equally viable. Life adapts, and humans are considerably more adpatable than most. So I hate it when I hear people talk about "saving the Earth": it's a reflection of their own self-importance to think that the Earth needs their help; rather, the dire need is to save our peculiar perch on the Earth, not because we cannot adapt to a radically changed Earth -- indeed, we have already changed its surface extensively to suit our purposes -- but because the costs of adaptation are painfully high. This is basically because the synthetic world we've constructed is much more fragile than the natural world we originally evolved into, and because we've stressed that synthetic world by expanding our population to the limits of its carrying capacity.

The second topic can be illustrated by a model. Let's say, we have to negotiate a turn to get from point A to point B. We need to figure out how sharply we can turn, and how fast. The problem is that we have a lot of inertia to overcome: physical, economic, and psychological. That inertia is why even political figures who are committed to the idea of stopping the rise in carbon dioxide levels so often talk about goals for 2030 or 2050 or further out. When KSR talks about changing technologies, he's hoping scientists and engineers will come up with a painless cure, something that will suck the excess heat out of the air.

It's completely unrealistic to think we can ignore that inertia and just suddenly, arbitrarily solve the greenhouse gas problem. On the other hand, if we try to make the change of direction slow and painless, we'll never get to where we need to be. Political systems try to balance off private and public interest groups, but in the right has long disparaged the very idea of a public interest, and the American political system has long been dominated by money interests, especially business (and especially oil).

But historical analogies will take us only so far in understanding our current situation, since we have never before been able to wreck our own means of existence.

That really started with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but that threat was more tangible because they blow up so spectacularly, and more manageable because the number of people with their fingers on the triggers has always been so small. It would be simple to free us from that threat, and it is stupid that we haven't done so. Climate change is harder to visualize, because it works slowly, methodically, via the accumulation of many small, individually innocuous acts. Even so, many people have learned to reflexively blame global warming for increasingly frequent and disastrous weather effects, so the issue is rapidly gaining immediacy -- even if few currently see it as an existential threat.

Scientists coined the name the Anthropocene to signal that this moment in history is unprecedented. There are so many of us, and our technologies are so powerful, and our social systems so heedless of consequences, that our damage to Earth's biosphere has increased with stunning speed.

Until recently, the term anthropocene had a whiff of hubris to it, the suggestion of man's God-given dominion over the Earth. However, the term has quickly spread, signifying not just humanity's effects on the biosphere, but on geostratigraphy itself. If humans were soon wiped off the face of the earth, intelligent visitors would have no trouble identifying the Anthropocene layer in the rocks ("possible markers include microplastics, heavy metals, or the radioactive nuclei left by tests from thermonuclear weapons" -- distinctions which delineate the last 75 years from the rest of the Holocene, hence KSR's "stunning speed").

By the way, what I've been referring to as inertia KSR describes as "immense biological and geophysical momentum." He notes that: "We can't just gather our diplomats and call it off, declare peace with the biosphere." (But we could do that with nuclear weapons. The stumbling block is that key political leaders don't even have that modicum of vision and will.)

Supply chains that we rely on for life itself can be disrupted by hoarding, which is to say by loss of trust in our systems. In the US, it was toilet paper and cleaning supplies -- but if it had been food, then boom: panic, breakdown, famine, the war of all against all. That's how fragile civilisation is; that's how much individuals are forced to trust each other to survive. A prisoner's dilemma indeed, all of us locked together on this one planet. We either hang together or we hang separately: Franklin's law.

Few people had given any thought to supply chains before the pandemic, but the economy crashed on the front edge of the pandemic in 2020 not because lots of people were getting sick, but because early lockdowns broke supply chains, a failure that propagated throughout the world economy faster than the virus did. I'm not especially prescient on these things, but I remember a few years ago an earthquake in Taiwan closed down an industrial park which housed all three of the companies worldwide that made a critical electrical component. Supply chain risk has gotten markedly worse in recent years, as factories have squeezed out extra profits from "just-in-time" parts delivery, and also because the search for bargains has driven less efficient suppliers out of markets, leading to further concentration.

That's only a part of what KSR is getting at, but it's a particularly vivid example of how the relentless search for efficiency, which is driven by demand for higher returns to capital, increases risk and fragility. While I agree that loss of trust is a paramount issue of our times, the problem with supply chains is that we don't distrust suppliers as much as we should (because we're not good at evaluating risk, especially when myopia promises profits).

Another lesson from the pandemic, one we should have known already: science is powerful. We need to learn to put it to better use than we do, but if we were to do that, lots of good things would follow. Aiming science is the work of the humanities and arts, politics and law. We have to decide as a civilisation what tasks are most important for us to take on now.

It's tempting to say: "science got us into this mess, so how can we look to more science to find a way out?" Wouldn't backing up be more prudent? But in simple terms, that would mean forcing 8 billion people to revert to a world that was hard-pressed feeding 1 billion. And food is just one of many blessings of 150 years of staggering technological progress we'd be unwilling to give up -- that we'd be willing to fight and kill each other to protect. So, sure, we have to plow on through, but we can't do it the same ways we've done it in the past. We need to understand that letting the profit motive dictate what gets done, what is available, and to whom, has warped everything with its perverse incentives. And where we can't directly limit the bad side-effects, we need to rig incentives differently.

Most of the rest of KSR's essay is dedicated to tinkering with incentives, but he remains locked in certain conventional ways of thinking.

Monday, October 04, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, October archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 47 albums, 10 A-list, 4/18 new music, 1/4 new compilation, 5/25 old albums (3/7 by Jimi Hendrix), an active week of diving deep into divers artists and niches, plus some thoughts on singles lists, science fiction, the approaching apocalypse.

Music: Current count 36370 [36323] rated (+47), 203 [207] unrated (-4).

Spent much of the week whittling down the unheard Christgau list, this week starting at Grateful Dead and working my way to Jaojoby (B.B. King next, playing now). Took a couple side trips along the way. I was excited to hear that Hat Hut's Ezz-Thetics reissue label has a Bandcamp page, then chagrined to find that many of their "Revisited" sets were purloined from other labels (probably aided by Europe's 50-year copyright limit). Hat was an important label for new jazz from the early 1970s on, so they have a lot of important music in their vaults, but they've always had certain business quirks. Another diversion was Michaelangelo Matos publishing a 2021 top-ten ballot on Facebook, so I checked out the half I hadn't heard (or for that matter heard of). The Matos list also led me to find a couple Burnt Sugar albums I had missed.

My other big diversion (a/k/a waste of time) this week was to play around with singles lists. What I have so far is tucked away in the notebook, but I'll probably move it into a standalone file if I ever get it close to presentable. (Temporary link here, but this is very short of ready, and also the numbers are for counting, not rank -- each list is alphabetical by artist.) My methodology was to start by looking at the Rolling Stone list (via Rock NYC and the ballots by Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell and Chuck Eddy, and pick out what seemed most indubitable. Then I started looking through my database to find various artists compilations I liked. I would then pull them up on Discogs or Wikipedia for song lists, and pick a few more titles from them. Once I decided I wanted something from an artists, I would go on to Wikipedia to look at artist discographies (especially singles, which are usually presented with chart numbers).

Two insights occurred after I got started: (1) I decided to break up the list by decades, otherwise comparisons became difficult (too many apples-to-oranges) and would ultimately just prove my period prejudice: as someone born in 1950, the 1960s and 1970s were my peak exploration period, where everything was new and much of it exciting. I've continued to follow (and enjoy) new music since then, but after I stopped writing rockcrit in 1980 (and listening to radio a few years earlier, and stopped buying singles) I thought about it differently. If I tried to balance out a life-spanning singles list, it would wind up being about 80% pre-1980 (and 60% pre-1970), which says something about singles vs. albums -- the latter really came into their own around 1967-70 -- but mostly that I'm just an old fart. (2) is that after starting to pick one song per artist (per decade), I decided it would be worthwhile to add a few alternatives -- in case I wanted to refine my choices later on, or simply because some songs were too good to omit, and I started to get greedy.

I initially decided to leave jazz out completely -- no disrespect, but they became different things, with different aims, about the time LPs split off from singles in the 1950s. I may revise this to make vocals the dividing line. That would leave some rock instrumentals out, but not many were ever likely to be considered ("Rebel Rouser"? "Pipeline"? "Honky Tonk"?) And post-1970 I've picked the occasional album-only track (I think the first one I jotted down was Mott the Hoople's "I Wish I Was Your Mother"). I'm doing this almost exclusively from a memory that since the late 1970s has almost exclusively been formed from listening to albums, so it's no surprise that many of the songs that stuck in my cerebellum like singles used to were never marketed as such. (Note that not every critic has experienced this the way I have: in the late 1970s 12-inch singles became favored by DJs; in the 1980s MTV started the flood of video singles; and from the late 1990s the Internet has done much more to break singles than radio, which for all I know is nothing but senseless blather these days. Younger critics started with these media, much as I started with AM radio.)

So far I mostly have records from 1955-70, not just because that's my prime period, but also because that's where I've looked most intensively. I'm starting to think the 1960s and 1970s need to be broken into two halves, both due to quantity but also due to the rapid rate of change in those two decades, with 1964 and 1976 especially pivotal dates. As I recall, the first halves of both decades were much disparaged, although looking back I find them to be especially fertile (albeit as extensions of the previous half-decade).

One side effect was noticing one of Capitol's 2002 "Crescent City Soul" compilations that I had missed. I had to construct a playlist to review it, but it was worth it. (Still, not as good as the Minit-based Finger Poppin' and Stompin' Feet.) Tried to do the same with David Toop's Sugar and Poison, but couldn't find all the songs.

I also depleted enough of my promo queue that I inadvertently reviewed records as far out as November 12. (I've been sitting on the Fiedler and Balto albums for longer than I could stand.) Haven't done anything yet with the latest Phil Overeem list, but nice to see William Parker's Painter's Winter high on the list (higher than Mayan Space Station, which got first notice).

I finally bought a copy of a novel: Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry for the Future, based on Robert Christgau's review, although I had previously linked to the New Yorker essay Christgau cites. (Has it really been that far back? First piece linked to there is titled, "As death toll passes 60,000, Trump's team searches for an exit strategy." As you probably know, the US death toll passed 700,000 last week.) I quoted Robinson there:

Margaret Thatcher said that "there is no such thing as society," and Ronald Reagan said that "government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." These stupid slogans marked the turn away from the postwar period of reconstruction and underpin much of the bullshit of the past forty years. . . .

Economics is a system for optimizing resources, and, if it were trying to calculate ways to optimize a sustainable civilization in balance with the biosphere, it could be a helpful tool. When it's used to optimize profit, however, it encourages us to live within a system of destructive falsehoods.

I'm beginning to wonder whether the only forum for serious discussions of viable solutions to ongoing crises isn't science fiction. I've long wanted to collect my more harebrained ideas under a recycling of Paul Goodman's 1962 title, Utopian Essays and Practical Proposals, but it's getting hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. Indeed, in the minds of certain "centrist" Dems all variants are equally impossible, precisely because they are held to be inconceivable.

I also ordered William T. Vollman's Carbon Strategies for reference. I've thumbed through the two volumes at the library, and can't imagine reading them through, but thought they might be useful as references (although I have to wonder whether the deep discounts at Amazon don't imply that they're already obsolete).

I've added a link at the bottom of every blog post to "Ask a question, or send a comment." This links to my old Ask a Question form, which I've hacked a bit on. You can now choose "Question" or "Comment." The former gives me input for my Questions & Answers page. The latter sends me a comment without expectation of answer. I'm not going to be a stickler on that point. There's also a new form field for "URL Context." Eventually I'll figure out how to set this form from the referer context, but I don't have that working yet. In the future, I could add this link to many more pages, and could even develop some kind of comment system. But for now, these changes haven't been given much of a test. I appreciate your feedback, and would like to see more. Thanks.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Angels Over Oakanda (2018-21 [2021], Avantgroidd): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Whit Dickey/William Parker/Matthew Shipp: Village Mothership (2020 [2021], Tao Forms): [cd]: A- [10-15]
  • DMX Krew: Loose Gears (2021, Hypercolour): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hernâni Faustino: Twelve Bass Tunes (2020 [2021], Phonogram Unit): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Thomas Fehlmann: Böser Herbst (2021, Kompakt): [r]: A-
  • Joe Fiedler's "Open Sesame": Fuzzy and Blue (2021, Multiphonics): [cd]: B+(***) [11-12]
  • Kazemde George: I Insist (2019 [2021], Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(***) [10-22]
  • Julia Govor: Winter Mute (2021, Jujuka, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eunhye Jeong: Nolda (2021, ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(**) [09-24]
  • Rochelle Jordan: Play With the Changes (2021, Young Art): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kuzu: All Your Ghosts in One Corner (2020 [2021], Aerophonic): [cd]: B+(***) [10-05]
  • José Lencastre Nau Quartet + Pedro Carneiro: Thoughts Are Things (2021, Phonogram Unit): [cd]: A-
  • Bryan Murray & Jon Lundbom: Beats by Balto! Vol. 2 (2021, Chant): [cd]: B+(***) [11-07]
  • Q'd Up: Going Places (2021, Tantara): [cd]: B [10-08]
  • Rebellum: The Darknuss (2021, Avantgroidd): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Matthew Stevens: Pittsburgh (2021, Whirlwind): [cd]: B
  • Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & The MaXx: Live (2018 [2020], MNJ): [r]: B+(**)
  • Trondheim Jazz Orchestra & Ole Morten Vågan: Plastic Wave (2020 [2021], Odin, 2CD): [bc]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Albert Ayler: New York Eye and Ear Control Revisited (1964 [2021], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: B+(*)
  • John Coltrane Quartet: Newport, New York, Alabama 1963 Revisited (1963 [2021], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: B+(***)
  • John Coltrane: Chasin' the Trane Revisited (1961 [2021], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: A-
  • Mike Taylor: Trio, Quartet & Composer Revisited (1965-68 [2021], Ezz-thetics): [bc]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Live From Minnegiggle Falls (2004 [2007], Avant Groidd): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: All Ya Needs That Negrocity (2008-11 [2011], Avant Groidd): [bc]: A-
  • Thomas Fehlmann: 1929: Das Jahr Babylon (2018, Kompakt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Grateful Dead: Dozin' at the Knick (1990 [1996], Grateful Dead, 3CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Grateful Dead: Crimson White & Indigo (1989 [2010], Grateful Dead/Rhino, 3CD): [r]: B
  • The Guess Who: The Greatest of the Guess Who (1969-75 [1977], RCA Victor): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience: Radio One (1967 [1988], Rykodisc): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock (1969 [1994], MCA): [r]: A-
  • Jimi Hendrix: Hendrix in the West (1968-70 [2011], Experience Hendrix/Legacy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jimi Hendrix: Valleys of Neptune (1969-70 [2010], Experience Hendrix/Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jimi Hendrix: Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight (1970 [2002], Experience Hendrix/MCA, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection (1967-70 [2001], Experience Hendrix/Universal, 2CD): [r]: A
  • Jimi Hendrix: Fire: The Jimi Hendrix Collection (1967-70 [2010], Experience Hendrix/Legacy): [r]: A
  • His Name Is Alive: Stars on E.S.P. (1996, 4AD): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Hollies: In the Hollies Style (1964, Parlophone): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Hollies: The Hollies' Greatest Hits (1965-72 [1973], Epic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hüsker Dü: Everything Falls Apart (1982 [1983], Reflex): [r]: B+(**)
  • Irakere: Irakere (1978 [1979], Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ronald Shannon Jackson: Pulse (1984, Celluloid): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ronald Shannon Jackson and the Decoding Society: Decode Yourself (1984, Island): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ronald Shannon Jackson: Red Warrior (1990, Axiom): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Jacksons: The Jacksons (1976, Epic): [r]: B
  • The Jacksons: Destiny (1978, Epic): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Jacksons: Triumph (1980, Epic): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Jacksons: Victory (1984, Epic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jaojoby: Aza Arianao (2001, Label Bleu): [r]: B+(**)
  • Let the Good Times Roll: 20 of New Orleans' Finest R&B Classics 1946-1966 (1949-1966 [2002], Capitol): [r]: A-
  • Shirley and Lee: Let the Good Times Roll (1952-59 [2000], Ace): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Hernâni Faustino: Twelve Bass Tunes (Phonogram Unit)
  • Jü: III (RareNoise) * [09-24]
  • José Lencastre Nau Quartet + Pedro Carneiro: Thoughts Are Things (Phonogram Unit)
  • Jo Berger Myhre: Unheimlich Manoeuvre (RareNoise) * [09-24]
  • Mareike Wiening: Future Memories (Greenleaf Music) [11-12]

Daily Log

Here's the Michaelanelo Matos 2021 EOY list (scraped from his FB post, my grades in brackets):

  1. Rochelle Jordan, Play with the Changes [***]
  2. Julia Govor, Winter Mute [**]
  3. Madlib, Sound Ancestors [*]
  4. Mdou Moctar, Afrique Victime [A-]
  5. LSDXOXO, Dedicated 2 Disrespect [**]
  6. Burnt Sugar, Angels Over Oakanda [***]
  7. Thomas Fehlmann, Böser Herbst [A-]
  8. Sault, Untitled/9 [***]
  9. The Hold Steady, Open Door Policy [**]
  10. DMX Krew, Loose Gears [**]

Friday, October 01, 2021

Daily Log

Started a singles list here. On October 12, 2020, Moved it somewhere else.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, September archive (closed).

Tweet: Music Week: 52 albums, 8 A-list, half new records (many from my new jazz demo queue plus a bit of electronica), half reputable oldies (not my idea of sureshots, but more pleasant surprises than I expected).

Music: Current count 36323 [36271] rated (+52), 207 [220] unrated (-13).

Only four Mondays in September, so the monthly archive (link above) is closed with 188 albums. Breakdown is 77 new music releases, 15 new archival releases, 90 old albums, 5 limited sampling, 1 grade change. This week's albums were split 23-3-26, as I finally took a bite out of my demo queue. Most surprising stat of the month is only 4 new music A-list records (none this week). I have 63 in my 2021 Music Year list, so average so far is close to 8 per month (discounting January, which usually is mop up for the previous year, so first 8 months this year; at that rate, I'll wind up with a bit less than 100 A-list new music albums for the year. That's way down from 156 (+6 post-freeze) in 2020. This year's Tracking File shows 701 new albums (including archival) graded, vs. 1637 in 2020. So my pace for rated records this year is down 35.8% from last year, and my pace for A-list new music is down 39.5%.

I expected my listening to tail off when I decided not to compile a metacritic file this year, so that part is no surprise. I'm a bit surprised that A-list has dropped more than total, as I'm still listening to nearly every well-publicized, well-regarded new album out, but the variance may not count for much. But I'm still listening to a lot of records. I'm just cribbing more from old lists than new ones. The main one I've been using lately is of albums Christgau graded but I haven't. The list is longer, but I've been picking out the A* records -- a big part of the reason so many of these albums hit the spot. This week I scanned from Devo to Go-Betweens -- but wasn't able to find or construct items from Dramarama, Stoney Edwards, Fat Boys, The Fever, Franco, and Go-Betweens (2-CD Spring Hill Fair and The Peel Sessions). I had scanned through this section of the list before, so this time I was checking out things that hadn't appealed to me before. I started off surprised by how much I liked The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified and War on 45 -- two groups I'd never cared for before. (Ferron was another pleasant surprise.)

As I noted below, I've never bought comedy albums, but lately I have wondered whether I might enjoy streaming a few. Christgau reviewed them with some regularity in the early 1970s (but rarely since), so I didn't flinch when Firesign Theatre popped up. Made for a couple unpleasant days -- I do think I got better at hearing them over time, but mostly that just increased my certainty that I don't enjoy them. The few comedy albums I have heard (and some merely heard of) are in my Unclassified file, along with spoken word/poetry, children's music, and a few more things I never managed to classify. I wrote about Lenny Bruce here. Re-reading it, it occurs to me that if I had focused more on politics, I might have wound up more generous to Firesign Theatre (also Credibility Gap, maybe even Month Python).

I will note that while I played everything I could find in this week's section of the file, I did skip Bill Cosby last week. I can compartmentalize with the best of you, but that's one I didn't care to try. Next in my (not Christgau's) file was Redd Foxx, who might still be fun. But I figured I'd had enough for now, and wanted to move on to some music. Go-Betweens. Grateful Dead next.

I've neglected Robert Christgau's website this week. He has two pieces I haven't announced yet: Xgau Sez, and Favorite vs. Best vs. Whatever, on the Rolling Stone song poll. I'll get to that when I'm done here. Maybe I'll add write up my own take on the songs list -- not that I'm sure I can construct a ballot. My idea of singles is still rooted in the era when that's what I listened to on radio (something I rarely did in the 1970s, almost never since -- one time I recall was driving a rental car for hours around Boston in 1984; during that time, only 4 songs I liked came on, Sheila E's "The Glamorous Life" and three by Madonna).

Finished Ed Ward's deeply enjoyable two-volume History of Rock & Roll, only to be disappointed not to be able to turn the page to 1977. Reportedly there is a third volume written, but never published. Finished it late one night and was looking for something to take to bed, when I saw Read This Next shouting off from the shelf. I've often been tempted by meta-books (which is how it got on the shelf in the first place). Not sure whether it's good or bad that I haven't even heard of at least half of the 500 recommended books here. I've only read a few dozen, with a similar number I've seen movies or TV series based on. Probably worth a list.

Jimmy Kimmel runs a bit fairly often with clips of a dozen-plus TV heads declaring "I can't believe that it's already [insert month/season]." Well, I'm having trouble recognizing the end of September, mostly because it hit 94°F again today. I expect the first two weeks to be miserably hot here, but this year it's going down to the wire. I haven't gotten a God damn thing done this month. (Well, other than to have written up 188 records.)

New records reviewed this week:

  • Air Craft: Divergent Path (2021, Craftedair/Blujazz): [cd]: B
  • Arab Strap: As Days Get Dark (2021, Rock Action): [r]: B+(**)
  • Baby Queen: The Yearbook (2021, Polydor): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lena Bloch & Feathery: Rose of Lifta (2019 [2021], Fresh Sound New Talent): [cd]: B+(*) [10-08]
  • Butcher Brown: #KingButch (2020, Concord): [r]: B+(*)
  • Butcher Brown: Encore (2021, Concord Jazz, EP): [r]: B
  • George Cables: Too Close for Comfort (2021, HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mike Cohen: Winter Sun (2021, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Graham Dechter: Major Influence (2018 [2021], Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Satoko Fujii: Piano Music (2021, Libra): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jon Gordon: Stranger Than Fiction (2021, ArtistShare): [cd]: B+(**)
  • India Jordan: Watch Out! (2021, Ninja Tune, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Timo Lassy: Trio (2021, We Jazz): [r]: B+(***)
  • Adam Nolan Trio: Prim and Primal (2021, self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Alexis Parsons: Alexis (2021, New Artists): [cd]: B+(**) [10-01]
  • Lukasz Pawlik: Long-Distance Connections (2017-19 [2021], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Houston Person: Live in Paris (2019 [2021], HighNote): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mauricio J. Rodriguez: Luz (2021, self-released): [cd]: B
  • Adonis Rose and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Petite Fleur (2019-20 [2021], Storyville): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Renee Rosnes: Kinds of Love (2021, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Saint Etienne: I've Been Trying to Tell You (2021, Heavenly): [r]: B+(**)
  • David Sanford Big Band Featuring Hugh Ragin: A Prayer for Lester Bowie (2016 [2021], Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Pauline Anna Strom: Angel Tears in Sunlight (2020 [2021], RVNG Intl.): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Marianne Faithfull: The Montreux Years (1995-2009 [2021], BMG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jim Snidero: Strings (2001 [2021], Savant): [cd]: A-
  • Pauline Anna Strom: Trans-Millenia Music (1982-88 [2017], RVNG Intl.): [r]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • 50 Cent: The Massacre (2005, Shady/Aftermath/Interscope): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Credibility Gap: A Great Gift Idea (1973 [1974], Reprise): [r]: B+(*)
  • Devo: Greatest Hits (1977-84 [1990], Warner Bros.): [r]: B+(***)
  • Devo: Greatest Misses (1976-82 [1990], Warner Bros.): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Dismemberment Plan: The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified (1997, DeSoto): [r]: A-
  • The Dismemberment Plan: Change (2001, DeSoto): [r]: B+(**)
  • D.O.A.: War on 45 (1982, Alternative Tentacles, EP): [yt]: A-
  • The Doors: Morrison Hotel (1970, Elektra): [r]: B
  • The Doors: 13 (1967-70 [1970], Elektra): [r]: B+(***)
  • Marianne Faithfull: Come and Stay With Me: The UK 45s 1964-1969 (1964-69 [2018], Ace): [r]: B
  • Marianne Faithfull: Marianne Faithfull's Greatest Hits (1964-69 [1987], Abkco): [r]: B
  • Marianne Faithfull: Faithfull: A Collection of Her Best Recordings (1964-94 [1994], Island): [r]: A-
  • Marianne Faithfull: Vagabond Ways (1999, IT/Virgin): [r]: B+(**)
  • Marianne Faithfull: Before the Poison (2005, Anti-): [r]: B
  • Freddy Fender: Canciones De Mi Barrio: Barrio Hits From the 50s and 60s [Roots of Tejano Rock] (1959-64 [1993], Arhoolie): [r]: B+(**)
  • Freddy Fender: The Best of Freddy Fender (1974-77 [1977], Dot): [r]: A-
  • Freddy Fender: Swamp Gold (1978, ABC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ferron: Testimony (1981, Philo): [r]: A-
  • The Firesign Theatre: How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All (1969, Columbia): [r]: B-
  • The Firesign Theatre: Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers (1970, Columbia): [r]: B-
  • The Firesign Theatre: I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus (1971, Columbia): [r]: C+
  • The Firesign Theatre: Everything You Know Is Wrong (1974, Columbia): [yt]: B
  • The Firesign Theatre: Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death (1998, Rhino): [r]: B
  • The Firesign Theatre: Boom Dot Bust (1999, Rhino): [r]: B-
  • The Firesign Theatre: The Bride of Firesign (2001, Rhino): [r]: B-
  • The Go-Betweens: Metal and Shells (1983-84 [1985], PVC): [yt]: A-

Grade (or other) changes:

  • New Millennium Doo Wop Party (1954-61 [2000], Rhino): [cd]: [was: A-] A+

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Eunhye Jeong: Nolda (ESP-Disk)

Friday, September 24, 2021

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

Tweet: Speaking of Which: Much ado over whether a few donors can turn money-minded centrist Democrats into blowing up Biden's presidency, and/or whether a few Republicans filing impeachment articles will doom us all.

I wasn't planning on posting anything this week, but I tweeted after reading the Dougherty article below, and felt like I should expand on that a bit more.

I don't want to get into the weeds over Biden's approval poll dip, or into its associated (all too predictable) politics, but I was rather taken aback by a piece of email I got from something calling itself National Democratic Training Committee. Omitting the poll solicitation and the garish background colors, it looked rather like this:


President Biden is UNDER ATTACK. Unless we can prove good Democrats are still standing by him, this could spell the END of Joe Biden's presidency.

Republicans are OVER-THE-MOON.

Their baseless calls for Biden's impeachment are working, and now his presidency is on the verge of COLLAPSE.

This is a C-A-T-A-S-T-R-O-P-H-E!!!

But without MASSIVE support from Democrats, Biden's presidency will be doomed.

Biden is working day and night to END the pandemic and SAVE our voting rights . . . while Republicans try to sabotage his presidency???

We must act quickly! Respond before 11:59 PM to give Joe Biden a fighting chance >>

I realize all they're really doing is phishing for donations for their organization (National Democratic Training Committee), which may (or may not) be worthy, but this level of hysteria is totally uncalled for, and counterproductive. Impeachment is a press release, not a practical threat. (Marjorie Taylor Greene filed impeachment articles the day after Biden was inaugurated. Four more Republicans filed articles last week, trying to make political hay out of Afghanistan. Two Texas Republicans added their articles over border policy. Also: Greene's impeachment rant goes off the rails.)

Impeachment cannot possibly proceed, let alone succeed, without significant Democratic defections. Even if the House acted, the Senate would fail to convict, the process would be viewed as purely political, and consequences would be few and far between. Assuming Biden's health holds up, his presidency is secure through 2024, and the only real threat is if Democrats lose Congress in 2022 (which is something that happened to the last two Democratic presidents). But that's still more than a year away, and unless you're running for office then, there's very little you can do about it now, so please chill, and save your energy for when it's needed. Above all, don't panic and back down. Republicans are unhinged, and their devotion to fringe insanity will ultimately undermine them. Don't help them by going insane yourself.

On my Facebook feed, a right-wing relative forwarded this meme:

In the 60s, the KGB did some fascinating psychological experiments.

They learned that if you bombard human subjects with fear messages nonstop, in two months or less most of the subjects are completely brainwashed to believe the false message.

To the point that no amount of clear information they are shown, to the contrary, can change their mind.

My first thought was to respond, "so you're working for the KGB now?" Her personal posts are harmless enough, but in spurts as much as 10-20 times a day she forwards right-wing troll memes, many designed to inculcate fear, others aimed to flatter totems of the right, and all massively mendacious and mean. I've replied to a few, like the one that tried to illustrate the evils of socialism by offering Facebook as an example (as I pointed out, "I think the word you're looking for is capitalism"). But I may have learned something from this one: namely, that the reason Russia's trolls favor the Republicans has less to do with currying favor with their fellow oligarchs than because they've both embraced the same model of psychological manipulation.

Further down, my relative forwarded another meme, which shows a donkey in a chemical protection suit, carrying a tank marked "Center for Democrat Control" and spraying "FEAR" all over. I didn't recognize the donkey at first, so my initial reading was that "FEAR" was being used to control Democrats. No Democrat would label it that; not that they would use "Center for Democratic Control" either, as democracies are opposed to control, but using "Democrat" as an adjective breaks the association of the Party with democracy -- something at least until recently that Republicans had to give lip service to. The donkey spoils the malaproprism, but it underscores how Republicans' worst fears are that Democrats will act just like they do.

It seems like Republicans are flipping on a lot of rhetoric these days, whatever it takes to make their side sound plausible. The big recent one is how vaccine refusal rests simply on "free choice" -- something they deny in their efforts to criminalize abortion.

Another meme: "Right now, TODAY . . . We have the very government our Founding Fathers warned us about." Only thing I can think of there -- at least it's one that was widely discussed at the time -- is the peril of having a standing army.

Carter Dougherty: Senate Democrats Have a Big New Corporate Tax Idea: Democrats want to pass a fairly major public works bill -- top line is advertised as $3.5 trillion over 10 years, which works out to a measly $350 billion/year, well less than half of what the Defense Department costs, but for things that are actually useful and valuable. (For more context, see: Peter Coy: It's Not Really a '$3.5 Trillion' Bill; also: Eric Levitz: $3.5 Trillion Is Not a Lot of Money; and Michael Tomasky: How the Media's Framing of the Budget Debate Favor the Right.) But to get it through the Senate reconciliation process (i.e., around the filibuster), they have to offset that cost with revenue increases. Reversing Trump's corporate income tax giveaway is an obvious candidate, but swing voter Joe Manchin has been balking at anything over 25% (up from 21%, or down from 35%, depending on your perspective). So Bernie Sanders has proposed a compromise, which "would impose a surcharge on corporate income tax if the company paid its CEO 50 times more than what its median employee earns." Dougherty applauds this as "a wildly popular idea just waiting for them." Sounds like a real dumb idea to me. Sure, CEO compensation is ridiculous, but there are more straightforward ways to deal with it: income tax, and you can also limit the deductibility of the corporate expense (since executive bonuses are basically profit-sharing, why not tax them twice, first as profits, then as income?). To raise any significant revenues, the surtax would have to be steep, which puts a lot of emphasis on the pivot point: why 50 times? Doesn't that suggest that CEO pay 40-49 times is OK? You don't have to go back very far to find years when that ratio was not just exceptional but unheard of. This also raises questions about what is CEO compensation (base salary, obviously, but CEOs also routinely get "performance" bonus, stock options, and all sorts of non-salary perks, treated variously). And why just CEOs? Aren't their also issues with COOs, CFOs, CTOs, board members, and others? The whole proposal is simply perverse.

All the more so because there is a simple alternative, one so obvious I'm shocked no one seems to be discussing it: make corporate income tax progressive. It should be easy to pick out brackets and a range of tax rates -- say, from 21% (or less) to 35% (or more). Given the concentration of profits in large companies, one could even lower the tax rate for a majority of corporations while increasing total revenue. Seems like that would be good political messaging. One might object that a progressive profits tax would discriminate against companies that are simply large and/or successful (have high profit margins). That sounds to me like a feature. High profit margins are almost always due to monopoly effects. It's very difficult to break up or even regulate monopolies, especially in marginal cases. Taxing them will make them more tolerable. And if the prospect of higher taxes leads some corporations to spin off parts to tax them separately, that too sounds like a benefit.

There are cases where flat taxes are appropriate, but income/profit taxes aren't one. It's OK to have flat taxes on consumption (sales and excise taxes), because that saves having to identify and qualify the spenders. But income/profit taxes are always identified, and the level is an intrinsic part of what's being taxed. Elsewhere I've proposed a scheme where unearned income (interest, dividends, capital gains, gifts, inheritance, prizes) should be taxed at a rate which is progressive over the lifetime sum (see: here and here and here and here). Admittedly, it's fun to tinker with tax schemes, but the real questions are harder, as they turn on what income and what can be deducted. The big problem with corporate income/profit taxes is that many corporations are able to avoid/evade them -- in which case the marginal rate may be moot. On the other hand, it's just those questions that are least transparent and most subject to interest group lobbying. It's very hard to develop a fair tax system when every political office is up for auction, as is the case now.

[PS: A related story: House Bill Would Blow Up the Massive IRAs of the Superwealthy: The rationale behind IRAs is to allow people to postpone paying tax on retirement savings until they need them, at which point their incomes will probably come down, so they'll save a bit when they have to pay tax on their withdrawals. However, Peter Thiel (to take just one example) has used this loophole to shelter $5 billion. The proposal is to limit tax-sheltered savings to $20 million, which is still pretty generous.]

Anne Kim: A Case for a Smaller Reconciliation Bill: Of all the sources I read regularly, Washington Monthly has been consistently defending the more conservative Democrats in their efforts to go slow and small (if they have to go at all). I don't particularly agree with them, but I'm not especially bothered as well. I'd like to pocket a few real (even if ultimately inadequate) gains as soon as possible, like the "bipartisan" infrastructure bill and the whittled-down Manchin-approved fragment of the $3.5 trillion reconstruction package. Pass those and you can go into 2022 with a message that you've already produced important, tangible gains -- things that were never even attempted when Trump was president -- and all you need to do more is get more Democrats elected. As this piece advises: "Take a longer view, with a strategy and tactics geared toward building a sustainable governing majority." On the other hand, while I can see the centrists' impulse to take things gradually, they need to decide which side they're on, and act accordingly. As Benjamin Franklin put it, "we must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."

PS: Seth Myers recently pointed out that Democrats in Congress are divided into three groups: progressives, moderates, and "Republicans" -- cue picture of Manchin (Follow the Money Into Joe Manchin's Pockets) and Sinema (Kyrsten Sinema Is Corporate Lobbies' Million-Dollar Woman). By the way, Steve M. has a theory about conservative/corrupt Democrats like Manchin and Sinema: No, Mr. Bond, They Expect the Democratic Party to Die:

I don't think she cares. She's being sweet-talked by corporate interests who've undoubtedly made it clear that whatever happens to her in the future, she'll never go hungry. She'll be taken care of if she carries out a hit on Biden and the rest of the Democrats. So she knows she has nothing to fear. She'll be fine.

This country is in deep trouble because even people who should know better can't grasp how dangerous the Republican Party is -- and it's also in deep trouble because of a failure to understand the stranglehold corporate America has on our politics. We need to see Republicans and the rich as the enemies of ordinary Americans. And we need to recognize that the damage the rich do isn't always done by means of the GOP.

By the way, I noticed that the former right-wing of the Democratic Senate, Claire McCaskill and Heidi Heitkamp, have been in the news recently, appearing as paid corporate lobbyists against the Biden bill, so the notion that Manchin and Sinema will, in cue course, dutifully lose their seats and wind up making more money lobbying, isn't at all far-fetched.

For more on this, see Krugman, below.

Ezra Klein: The Economic Mistake the Left Is Finally Confronting: Interesting article, although the title doesn't do it any favors. The "Left" is Biden's economic team, and the "Economic Mistake" is, well, what? Arthur Laffer-style "supply side" gimmickry? Opposition to same? Does it matter? The point is that they're looking not only at increasing demand (by government spending, plus putting more money into the hands of workers and the poor) but also at supply-side bottlenecks, hoping to limit friction that could produce inflation. Of course, one big item there (infrastructure) works both ways, which is why investments in infrastructure and education have such big returns. Klein cites two papers, one on the problem: Cost Disease Socialism (an even worse title) from the "center-right" Niskanen Center; and one on the solution: An Antidote for Inflationary Pressure by Biden advisers Jared Bernstein and Ernie Tedeschi. I'd add a few more points. Antitrust enforcement would help eliminate supply bottlenecks, by encouraging more companies to exist and add capacity. Eliminating patents and limiting other forms of "intellectual property" would prevent many monopolies from forming. And while government can encourage private companies to form and invest by guaranteeing future purchases, it could be more efficient to directly fund new ventures.

Paul Krugman: Are Centrists in the Thrall of Right-Wing Propaganda? Republicans are predictably acting out as nihilists, but:

More surprising, at least to me, has been the self-destructive behavior of Democratic centrists -- a term I prefer to "moderates," because it's hard to see what's moderate about demanding that Biden abandon highly popular policies like taxing corporations and reducing drug prices. At this point it seems all too possible that a handful of recalcitrant Democrats will blow up the whole Biden agenda -- and yes, it's the centrists who are throwing a tantrum, while the party's progressives are acting like adults.

So what's motivating the sabotage squad? Part of the answer, I'd argue, is that they have internalized decades of right-wing economic propaganda, that their gut reaction to any proposal to improve Americans' lives is that it must be unworkable and unaffordable.

Well, right-wing propaganda for sure, which includes the occasional nod to economists like Hayek and Friedman, although these days they rarely bother with rationalizations for their political preferences when shouting them louder will do. Keynes, who like Krugman held his occupation in exceptionally high regard, famously derided political opponents as "slaves of some defunct economist," but the less-quoted continuation is more true today: "Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back." Or for every stupid idea in circulation today, you can find some past "thinker" who articulated it first. (Sure, this is just a variation on one of my old aperçus: that every bad idea in Western thought can be traced back to some Greek.)

It's mind-boggling to recall this now, but back in the 1990s Reagan Republicans were widely regarded not just as crafty politicians but as serious thinkers. Not that the "Laffer curve" survived much more than the few months when it was useful for selling the Reagan tax cuts, but the idea was propagated so widely that some Democrats started buying into it, which is how we got Clinton and Obama -- Democrats who raked in huge donations on the promise that they could do more for the wealthy than even the Republicans could. That idea lost its lustre during the Obama years, and especially with Hillary Clinton's loss to Trump. But it's recent enough that it's no surprise that there are still Democrats trying to make the "Reagan Era" Clinton-Obama model working -- the one they've been fairly successful at for their own political careers. Besides, nothing has been done to reform the system that allows the rich to dominate elections and smother elected officials with lobby interests.

Indeed, the real surprise is that Biden, who followed the Reagan Era's zeitgeist as uncritically as anyone, and who was the overwhelming choice of the Clinton-Obama legacy minders in 2020 (at least once every other right-center candidate had been eliminated), should have broken the mold as definitively as he has. I attribute that to two things: one is that politics has ceased to be simply a vehicle for office-seekers to advance their careers on -- voters have started to demand services and representation, which means that Democrats have to consider more than their donors; and the other is that most serious thinking about practical solutions to increasingly dire real problems is concentrated on the left these days.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, September archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 41 albums, 4 A-list, typical week, not much to say about it.

Music: Current count 36271 [36230] rated (+41), 220 [231] unrated (-11).

I have nothing much to say about music (or anything else) this week. Lots of things been getting me down, although I had a respite over the weekend when niece Rachel came for a visit. I managed to come up with one decent Chinese, then totally blew my attempt at maqluba (rice never cooked; I've made it successfully before, but can't find the picture).

Only things I did manage to write during the week were a few Facebook rants, which I collected in the notebook.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Eivind Aarset 4tet: Phantasmagoria, or a Different Kind of Journey (2021, Jazzland): [cd]: B+(***) [09-24]
  • Adult Mom: Driver (2020 [2021], Epitaph): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lauren Alaina: Sitting Pretty on Top of the World (2021, Mercury Nashville): [r]: B-
  • Bomba Estéreo: Deja (2021, Sony Music Latin): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Bug: Fire (2021, Ninja Tune): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marc Cary: Life Lessons (2020 [2021], Sessionheads United): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Charley Crockett: Music City USA (2021, Son of Davy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sasha Dobson: Girl Talk (2021, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chet Doxas: You Can't Take It With You (2019 [2021], Whirlwind): [cd]: B+(**) [09-24]
  • Gerry Eastman Trio: Trust Me (2021, self-released): [cd]: B+(*) [10-01]
  • Amir ElSaffar/Rivers of Sound: The Other Shore (2020 [2021], Outnote): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Family Plan: Family Plan (2020 [2021], Endectomorph Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Alon Farber: Hagiga: Reflecting on Freedom (2020 [2021], Origin): [cd]: B
  • The Felice Brothers: From Dreams to Dust (2021, Yep Roc): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gordon Grdina/Jim Black: Martian Kitties (2020 [2021], Astral Spirits): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Lyle Mays: Eberhard (2020 [2021], self-released, EP): [cd]: B
  • Aakash Mittal: Nocturne (2018 [2021], self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Kacey Musgraves: Star-Crossed (2021, MCA Nashville): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge: Within Us: Celebrating 25 Years of the Jazz Surge (2021, MAMA/Summit): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Carly Pearce: 29: Written in Stone (2021, Big Machine): [r]: A-
  • The Scenic Route Trio: Flight of Life (2021, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Tropical Fuck Storm: Deep States (2021, Joyful Noise): [r]: B+(*)
  • Yuma Uesaka and Marilyn Crispell: Streams (2018 [2021], Not Two): [cd]: B+(***) [10-15]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Sheila Jordan: Comes Love: Lost Session 1960 (1960 [2021], Capri): [cd]: B+(***) [09-27]
  • What Goes On: The Songs of Lou Reed (1967-2019 [2021], Ace): [dl]: A-

Old music:

  • Eivind Aarset: Électronique Noire (1998, Jazzland): [r]: A-
  • Eivind Aarset's Électronique Noire: Light Extracts (2001, Jazzland): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eivind Aarset: Connected (2004, Jazzland): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eivind Aarset: Sonic Codex (2007, Jazzland): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eivind Aarset & the Sonic Codex Orchestra: Live Extracts (2010, Jazzland): [r]: B+(**)
  • Autosalvage: Autosalvage (1968, RCA Victor): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gene Chandler: The Duke of Earl (1962, Vee-Jay): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gene Chandler: The Girl Don't Care (1967, Brunswick): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Chi-Lites: (For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People (1971, Brunswick): [yt]: A-
  • Carly Pearce: Carly Pearce (2018-19 [2020], Big Machine): [r]: B
  • Carly Pearce: 29 (2021, Big Machine, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Puss N Boots: No Fools, No Fun (2013 [2014], Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Puss N Boots: Sister (2020, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Air Craft: Divergent Path (Craftedair/Blujazz) [07-15]
  • Mike Cohen: Winter Sun (Blujazz)
  • Graham Dechter: Major Influence (Capri) [09-17]
  • Adonis Rose and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Petite Fleur (Storyville) [09-24]

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Daily Log

Josi forwarded a Facebook meme, a picture of a guy, his hand on the shoulder of a boy, both in overalls, and a dog, standing in a wheat field gazing into a bright yellow and red sunset, with the caption: "I MISS THE AMERICA I GREW UP IN." Kathy Peck commented, "Me too . . . a lot . . ." My reaction:

I don't. I feel lucky to have gotten out alive. I won't deny that some things have gotten worse, but they're mostly extended consequences of problems we didn't understand or appreciate way back then.

Josi replied:

I agree with you Tom. I just wish there was more honesty and more compassion.

My rejoinder:

That's polarization for you. Some people these days are more honest and more compassionate than ever before, often without the snootiness and hypocrisy common among liberals of the 1950s & 1960s. On the other hand, there's Donald Trump, who would have been as fringe back then as Ayn Rand and George Lincoln Rockwell, but who commands a sizable (and shameless) public following today. That's clearly one thing that's gotten worse in my lifetime, but I feel a lot less alienated and isolated now than when I was growing up.

A couple days ago Marianne Pyeatt forwarded a Facebook meme: "Facebook is a PERFECT example of socialism. You get it for free. You have no say in how it works. The guy who runs it is rich. You have NO privacy, AND if you say one thing they don't like, they shut you up . ." I commented: "I think the word you're looking for is 'capitalism.'" Then someone replied to my comment:

Trump proved you wrong, he doesn't care how money you make, he would Not shut you or anyone else up, but if you check the liberals record: They are ready to shut anyone up who doesn't see their point of view!!! Proven, even they have brought into the news media to help with this agenda.

My riposte:

To go back to the original post, Facebook is a profit-seeking corporation, a very successful one, at least judging from the $30 billion in profits they've made over the last 3 quarters. To say "you get it for free" misses everything about it. You pay for it by producing free content, by revealing personal information about yourself (and your "friends"), and by spending time looking at their highly targeted advertising. Like most capitalists, the owners are rich (and mostly concerned with getting richer), they have control over their business, and they're free to reject content they don't like (not that they work very hard at it; they depend on "AI" algorithms -- artificial stupidity is more like it). The meaning (or focus) of socialism has changed over the years, but however you define it, Facebook is not an example. As for the Huett comment, the only thing Trump has proven is that if you're born to it, one can be obscenely rich without having any real skills, intelligence, or social cares. In my experience, the right is far more censorious than the left (or liberal, a distinction you don't seem to make). For instance, when Trump became president, he sought to purge all government websites of all mention of climate change, and he imposed all sorts of "gag orders" on government workers. It's worth noting that the original "gag order" was a law passed to prevent anyone in Congress from criticizing slavery -- which I would have thought was a settled issue by now, but the thrust of current right-wing efforts to ban "critical race theory" is the same.

Cale Siler posted a picture of a school classroom (although it's rather open) with two posters, one with six horizontal color bars (rainbow coalition?), the other with "BLACK LIVES MATTER." His words: "If God isn't allowed in schools, this shouldn't be either." Neither attacks, even mildly or indirectly, God. Here's the only substantive comment:

Leftism=Marxism, the fastest growing religion across our country and the modern western countries. It is a rabid obsession of the over educated high IQ fools with no Wisdom who lust for absolute Power and the very low IQ who are jealous and want to be lazy and steal everything from the productive.

I didn't post an answer: just too many errors there to try to straighten out in what's bound to become a flame war. I did jot the following down:

Your "want to be lazy and steal everything from the productive" line sounds like the Marxist critique of capitalists, who "appropriate surplus value" from labor. That's one of many insights from Marx and other thinkers who followed his thinking, but it seems unlikely that the number of self-identified Marxists has increased in the last 50 years, partly because the Leninist/Maoist reduction of Marx's theories on class struggle and revolution have fared so poorly, partly because non-Marxist thinkers (like John Maynard Keynes) have developed insights into how capitalism can be managed and reformed to provide greater and more universal general welfare. In any case, Marxism was never a dogma (much less a religion), based as it was on the fundamental notions of questioning all authority and learning through science and reason.

On the other hand, leftism (very generally considered) does indeed appear to be gaining ground, something that has much more to do with the obvious atrocities and disasters created and spread by pretty much everyone right-of-center. The core difference between right and left is that people on the right believe that there is a economic and social order that favors some people over others (typically: rich over poor, masters over servants, bosses over workers, police over citizens, the church over believers over non-believers, fathers over family, whites over non-whites, natives over immigrants), and that the privileged can and should use force to maintain their superiority, while people on the left believe that everyone deserves to be treated the same, with respect and dignity, even if that can only be accomplished by public supply of goods and/or services. There's not much more to it, but this single key difference is often expressed in opposite terms. For example, both sides can define their stance in terms of freedom, but for the right freedom is for the privileged to act with few constraints (the unprivileged are by definition unfree, but that is of no concern as long as the betters are not inconvenienced). On the other hand, the left is concerned with freedom from the oppression and prerogatives of the privileged (which pretty much negates the purpose of privilege), as well as freedom from material needs. As you can see, both sides fear the freedom of the other: that seems to be where the "lust for absolute power" line comes from, although no leftist has any such lust -- indeed, most see power as the enemy (as it is typically used by the right to protect privilege).

Most people tacitly agree with the principle of equality, but that isn't what's driving the growth of the left. The driving force is the increasing danger of the right. Some of this is old hat: in order to protect the privileged class(es), it's critical to break people up into distinct and hostile groups. Republicans have been doing this at least since Nixon's "southern strategy," claiming ownership of identities like white, male, native, rural (guns help here), Christian, patriotic, even non-union working class, the constituent parts of Kevin Phillips' "Emerging Republican Majority." Backed by the moneyed few, with their "think tanks" and propaganda media, that formula has served them well, but it's wearing thin. For one thing, it's been intensified through the logic of its rhetoric -- I blame some of this on Thomas Frank, for showing how Republicans routinely shortchange their base in favor of their moneybags, but it's probably more due to the rise of demagogues like Trump (a blotter who soaks up and spreads toxicity). For another, it's actively creating more enemies than it can win against -- at least without cheating. Finally, Republicans have built up a horrifying track record. While the media has cut them a lot of slack, more and more people are wising up to the damage they've been causing.

I could say more about right vs. left, but will leave it there for now. The rainbow thing (if that's what it is) doesn't mean much to me, but there's something most people on the right simply refuse to acknowledge about Black Lives Matter: it's a direct reaction to specific events when police or vigilantes kill black citizens, usually with callous disregard for human (or at least black human) life. No one is saying that black lives matter more than other lives, but we are saying that it this instance, someone needs to be reminded that black lives do matter. The protests associated with Black Lives Matter are a form of self-defense and of education, and are probably the most constructive way to do either. It is always going to be difficult to train police to discipline themsmelves to stop killing people, but the certainty that people will protest and apply political pressure at least in the most egregious police killings will hopefully act as a deterrent, resulting in fewer killings. And make no mistake: these protests are only triggered by a small number of police killings (several dozen times in recent years, as opposed to the 1,000 or so total police killings each year).

Art Protin posted a quote from Dwight D Eisenhower:

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clousd of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.

I've run across that quote before. I commented:

Economists call this "opportunity cost." There was a famous book called "Economics in One Lesson," but John Quiggin realized it failed to explain opportunity costs, so he wrote "Economics in Two Lessons." It's easy to overlook opportunity costs, because they're the road not taken, the option not exercised, their very possibility a mere fleeting thought. They don't occur to you until you reach the end of the road you did take, until you run out of options, and vaguely recall that you could have done something different. Opportunity costs are the abyss that eventually swallows you. Trump did a lot of bad things in the last four years, but they pale compared to four years utterly squandered on complete nonsense, even as decades of previous bad choices became impossible to ignore.