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Friday, January 22, 2016

Weekend Roundup

Just brief links this week. For what it's worth, about 3,000 people showed up for Wichita's edition of the anti-Trump Women's March. As someone who's always wanted politics to be boring and irrelevant, I'm clearly not going to enjoy the next four years. On the other hand, I voted for Hillary Clinton knowing full well that she, too, would bring us four years or war and financial mayhem to protest against. But she's boring enough we'd be hard pressed to get 30 people out to a march. Whatever else you think, Trump is much more effective at moving us to opposition.

Again, very important for readers to contribute to the project to Help Us Save the Elizabeth M. Fink Attica Archive. Please go there, read about what's being done, and contribute some money. And pass this note on to other people who might. Thanks.

Also a reminder that you can read Dean Baker's new book, Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer free, on-line.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Daily Log

From The Onion via Twitter, a quote from "Retired Francophile" Nina Mendel: "Sometimes you have to vote against your own interests if you want to vote against the interests of everyone else."

Monday, January 16, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27639 [27586] rated (+53), 370 [367] unrated (+3).

Fifty-one records in the list below, so at most I picked up two extras I had graded but not recorded in the past, or maybe there's a record or two I added to the database but somehow forgot to list below. Either way, I clearly kept my ears to the grindstone all last week, as I was working on updating the Robert Christgau website and adding lists to this year's EOY Aggregate file. I should update the former more often than every six months, but it's done for now -- only missing last week's EW on Run the Jewels and T.I. No idea how many more EOY lists I'll add, but that project is done enough I could walk away from it at any time.

While I'm thinking of it, let me make a pitch for an Indiegogo project my nephew is working on: Help Us Save the Elizabeth M. Fink Attica Archive. Liz was a radical lawyer who joined the Attica Brothers defense team shortly after Nelson Rockefeller ordered the massacre of dozens of prisoners and guards, and saw the case to its conclusion thirty-some years later. In the process, she collected a huge amount of evidence on what actually happened. My nephew, Mike Hull, is a filmmaker and Liz entrusted him with the video evidence before her death last year. He's already digitized the video evidence, and now needs some funding to properly organize the archive for posterity. Would appreciate it if you can help him out.

New records rated this week:

  • Bill Anschell: Rumbler (2016 [2017], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Arca: Entrańas (2016, self-released, EP): [sc]: B+(*)
  • BJ Barham: Rockingham (2016, self-released): [r]: A-
  • Luke Bell: Luke Bell (2016, Bill Hill): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jakob Bro: Streams (2015 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B
  • Brookzill!: Throwback to the Future (2016, Tommy Boy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Apollo Brown & Skyzoo: The Easy Truth (2016, Mello Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bibi Bourelly: Free the Real (Pt. 1) (2016, Circa 13/Def Jam, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bibi Bourelly: Free the Real (Pt. 2) (2016, Circa 13/Def Jam, EP): [r]: B
  • The Cactus Blossoms: You're Dreaming (2016, Red House): [r]: B+(*)
  • Frank Catalano/Jimmy Chamberlin: Bye Bye Blackbird (2016, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gustavo Cortińas Snapshot: Esse (2016 [2017], OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Laura Dubin Trio: Live at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival (2016 [2017], self-released, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Fall: Wise Ol' Man (2016, Cherry Red, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Fumaça Preta: Impuros Fanáticos (2016, Soundway): [r]: B+(*)
  • Noah Haidu: Infinite Distances (2015-16 [2017], Cellar Live): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Cynthia Hilts: Lyric Fury (2014 [2017], Blond Coyote): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Lonnie Holley: Keeping a Record of It (2013, Dust-to-Digital): [r]: B+(**)
  • Cody Jinks: I'm Not the Devil (2016, Cody Jinks Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands: The Hazel & Alice Sessions (2016, Spruce and Maple): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mark Lewis: New York Sessions (2015 [2017], Audio Daddio): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mannequin Pussy: Romantic (2016, Tiny Engines, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kjetil Mřster/Hans Magnus Ryan/Stĺle Storlřkken/Thomas Strřnen: Reflections in Cosmo (2016 [2017], RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Wolfgang Muthspiel: Rising Grace (2016, ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Ted Nash Big Band: Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom (2016, Motema, 2CD): [r]: B
  • Youssou N'Dour: #Senegaal Rekk (2016, self-released, EP): [yt]: A-
  • Tami Neilson: Don't Be Afraid (2015, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nu Guinea: The Tony Allen Experiments [Afrobeat Makers Vol 3] (2016, Comet): [r]: A-
  • Randy Rogers Band: Nothing Shines Like Neon (2016, Tommy Jackson): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jimetta Rose: The Light Bearer (2016, Temporary Whatever): [r]: B-
  • L.A. Salami: Dancing With Bad Grammar (2016, PIAS America): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hillary Scott & the Scott Family: Love Remains (2016, Capitol Nashville): [r]: B-
  • Jimmy Scott: I Go Back Home (2010-14 [2017], Eden River): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Aubrie Sellers: New City Blues (2016, Warner Nashville): [r]: B+(*)
  • Amanda Shires: My Piece of Land (2016, BMG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Shura: Nothing's Real (2016, Polydor): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sia: This Is Acting (2016, Inertia/Monkey Puzzle/RCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Wainwright Sisters: Songs in the Dark (PIAS): [r]: B+(**)
  • Warehouse: Super Low (2016, Bayonet): [r]: B+(**)
  • Watkins Family Hour: Watkins Family Hour (2015, Thirty Tigers): [r]: B
  • Eri Yamamoto Trio: Firefly (2012 [2013], AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(*)
  • Eri Yamamoto Trio: Life (2016, AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(**)
  • Miguel Zenón: Típico (2016 [2017], Miel Music): [cd]: A-
  • Zomba Prison Project: I Will Not Stop Singing (2016, Six Degrees): [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Mose Allison: American Legend: Live in California (2006 [2015], Ibis): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bobo Yéyé: Belle Époque in Upper Volta (1970s [2016], Numero Group, 3CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Boogie Breakdown: South African Synth-Disco 1980-1984 (1980-84 [2016], Cultures of Soul): [r]: B-
  • Joe Bushkin: Live at the Embers 1952 (1952 [2016], Dot Time): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chris Rogers: Voyage Home (2001 [2017], Art of Life): [cd]: B
  • Sheer Mag: Compilation (2014-16 [2017], Wilsuns RC): [bc]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Joe Bourne: Upbeat and Sweet (Summit)
  • The CCM Jazz Orchestra as James Bond: Nobody Does It Better (Summit)
  • Stephan Crump/Ingrid Laubrock/Cory Smythe: Planktonic Finales (Intakt)
  • Tim Daisy: Red Nation "1" (Relay)
  • Jon De Lucia Group: As the River Sings (Fresh Sound New Talent): cdr
  • The Brian Dickinson Quintet: The Rhythm Method (Addo): January 28
  • Nick Finzer: Hear & Now (Outside In Music): February 17
  • Jihye Lee Orchestra: April (self-released): February 24
  • Arthur Lipner: Two Hands One Heart: Best of Arthur Lipner (Malletworks Media, 2CD)
  • Aki Takase/David Murray: Cherry Shakura (Intakt)
  • Baron Tymas: Montréal (Tymasmusic): January 23
  • Miguel Zenón: Típico (Miel Music): February 10

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Odd that this week intellectuals promoting Trump had more interesting things to say than intellectuals still defending Hillary Clinton. Not necessary truer things, but less hackneyed and disturbing, even if the overall trend is a race toward complete stupor.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Michelle Goldberg: Democrats Should Follow John Lewis' Lead: I have considerable respect for Lewis, a long-time civil rights leader before he became (thanks to gerrymandering) Georgia's token black Democrat in the House, and it doesn't bother me in the least that he's decided not to attend Trump's inaugural. I don't see why his presence is in any way necessary, and I sure can't think of anything more stupefying a person can do on that day than attend. But according to Goldberg, this all turns on the Clinton Democrats' favorite scapegoat, Vladimir Putin:

    Lewis was speaking for many of us who are aghast at the way Trump benefited from Russian hacking and now appears to be returning the favor by taking a fawning stance toward Putin. He spoke for those of us who are shocked by the role of the FBI, which improperly publicized the reopening of its investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails but refuses to say whether it is investigating Trump's ties with Russia. Trump lost the popular vote; he is president-elect only because the country values fidelity to the democratic process over popular democracy itself. (The Constitution, it turns out, may in fact be a suicide pact.) If the process itself was crooked -- if Trump's campaign colluded in any way with Russia -- his legitimacy disappears. If he scorns the Constitution by, say, violating the Emoluments Clause, it disappears as well. A president who lost the popular vote, who may have cheated to win the Electoral College, and who will be contravening the Constitution the second he's sworn in is due neither respect nor deference.

    I suppose there's a focus group somewhere that says anti-Putin rants are politically effective, but really, this has got to stop. The fact is Hillary Clinton lost for dozens of reasons, and the fact that WikiLeaks (with or without Russian help) exposed John Podesta and Donna Brazile as political hacks didn't help but is surely way down the list. They must realize as much because they never mention the substance of Russian interference: they focus on Putin as an evil manipulator who will wind up dominating a submissive US president because Trump owes his election not to the millions of Americans who voted for him but to a foreign ogre who orchestrated some dirty tricks -- a ruse they can only get away with by replaying cold war stereotypes (e.g., Putin is a dictator, although he's been elected several times by large margins in reasonably fair and competitive elections, and his background in the KGB proves he's always been anti-US); and secondly, they posit Trump as a dissenter from the consensus views of the American "intelligence community" -- the secret clan of spooks who have one of the world's worst track records for truth and accuracy.

    Worse still, I think, are the practical consequences: they are demanding that the US ramp up its hostility toward Russia, including sanctions that were previously in place for other supposed affronts, threatening a war that unlike America's recent attacks on marginal or failed states could be genuinely disastrous. And why should we risk world peace? To revenge Podesta's tarnished reputation? Because Clinton Democrats can bear to take responsibility for blowing the election to Donald Trump? There's plenty of blame to go around for the latter, and it's well nigh time for Clinton and her career to admit that they should have done a better job campaigning. And when they do so, they should realize that obsessing over the Trump-Putin connection was one of the things they did wrong. The first fact is that people don't care. The second is that it's not healthy for Democrats to be seen as the war party (and bear in mind that Hillary, given her past hawkishness, is already so tainted).

    Still, if you have to blame someone else, there are real ogres much closer to home. Look first at the Republican laws aimed at suppressing the vote, and gerrymandering congress. Look especially at the billion dollars or so that the Koch network and other GOP mega-financiers spent on getting their vote out. I think it's quite clear that there was a sustained, methodical effort to undermine democracy in 2016, but it wasn't the Russians who were behind it. It was the Republicans. Maybe if you hack some emails -- seems like fair play at this point -- you might even find a smoking gun showing that the Russians were working for the Republicans (a much more credible story than vice versa; it would, in fact, be reminiscent of finding out that Nixon interfered with the talks to end the Vietnam War, or that Reagan kiboshed Carter's efforts to negotiate the release of hostages in Tehran).

    And by all means, note that Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton by nearly three million votes, yet through a 227-year-old quirk in the constitution is being allowed to install the most extreme right-wing oligarchy ever. Then, if you like, you can point out that Putin enjoys a similar relationship to Russia's oligarchy -- I never said he was beyond reproach, let alone a saint, but has to be respected as leader of a major nation, and (unlike Trump) a democratically-elected one at that.

    As for John Lewis, bless him: after spending his life working hard to make this country a better place for all who live here, he's earned the right to take a day off, especially when the alternative is having to witness such tragedy.

    Relevant here: Patrick Lawrence: Trump, Russia, and the Return of Scapegoating, a Timeless American Tradition.

  • Tony Karon: The US media is not equipped to handle a Trump White House: There's an old adage that generals always prepare to refight the last war, and as such are always surprised when a new war happens. Something similar has been happening in media coverage of politics, but in many ways the media landscape has changed over the last 4-8-16 years, yet veterans of past campaigns (and clearly HRC fits this mold) still seem to believe that what worked in the past must still work today. Not clear whether Trump was smart or lucky -- I'd say he was selected from the large Republican field because he fit the evolving right-wing media model remarkably well, and he merely lucked out over Clinton due to a wide range of factors, including an electoral structure which allowed him to squeak out a win despite losing the popular vote by nearly three million votes. Still, his election was especially astonishing to those of us who thought, based on long experience, we understood how the system works. In the end, his biggest assets were a vast electorate willing to believe anything and the opportunistic and unscrupulous media that indulged them with all manner of fantastic innuendo.

    Mr Trump emerged as a public figure by mastering this fractured landscape, where distinctions between news and entertainment were increasingly blurred and where the business model's reliance on "click-bait" favours provocation. He connects instinctively with a public likely to judge the veracity of information not on its own merits, but according to existing attitudes towards the news outlets publishing it. Thus the logic behind his off-the-cuff remark last summer that "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters."

    But while painting him as a pawn of Moscow is certainly unlikely to weaken Mr Trump's political base, his empty promises on health care and job creation are a real weakness, because failure to deliver will increase the pain of many people who voted for him.

    It's critically important, therefore, for the media to focus on what Mr Trump's government and their allies on Capitol Hill are actually doing -- not simply what they say about what they're doing.

    The problem is that sort of journalism hardly exists anymore, anywhere, and certainly not on the 24-hour news torrents. And while the election seemed to set new qualitative lows practically every week, post-election coverage has been even lamer: even for "reporters" who never delve any deeper than sifting quotes for gotchas, the only Washington source sure to get reported on is Trump's latest tweetstorm -- and that's more for entertainment than insight. You'd think that as America goes to hell the vested interests that own big media would realize that they actually need to better know and understand what's happening, but recent experience suggests that groupthink (the Bushies used to call it "message discipline") breaks hard.

  • Paul Krugman: There Will Be No Obamacare Replacement: Read past the snark about Comey and Putin, and look at the policy analysis.

    From the beginning, those of us who did think it through realized that anything like universal coverage could only be achieved in one of two ways: single payer, which was not going to be politically possible, or a three-legged stool of regulation, mandates, and subsidies. [ . . . ]

    It's actually amazing how thoroughly the right turned a blind eye to this logic, and some -- maybe even a majority -- are still in denial. But this is as ironclad a policy argument as I've ever seen; and it means that you can't tamper with the basic structure without throwing tens of millions of people out of coverage. You can't even scale back the spending very much -- Obamacare is somewhat underfunded as is.

    Will they decide to go ahead anyway, and risk opening the eyes of working-class voters to the way they've been scammed? I have no idea. But if Republicans do end up paying a big political price for their willful policy ignorance, it couldn't happen to more deserving people.

    I have little faith that sanity will save the Republicans at this late date, but to destroy Obamacare they're going to run afoul of some powerful special interests, and while they may try to assuage them by permitting them to operate even more fraudulently than before the ACA was passed, the result will be millions of people screwed, and most likely the health care industry itself will lurch into contraction.

    Also see: David Dayen: Trump Just Stumbled Into a Canyon on Obamacare.

  • Kelefa Sanneh: Intellectuals for Trump: I must admit that I never liked the idea of intellectuals -- I always thought that learning and reasoning were things that everyone did, so dividing people between a self-defining intellectual elite and the ignorant masses never set well with my democratic instincts (not to mention that those same self-identified intellectuals tended to exclude me, not because I didn't know or think but because I often knew and thought the wrong things -- elites, as ever, being jealous guardians of their ranks). But I was also quick to realize that thinking doesn't always work out right: indeed, that clever people could contort their command of history, logic, and rhetoric to justify almost anything, most often whatever their interests and upbringing (which is to say, class identity) favored. So perhaps we're best off characterizing intellectualism as a style with no intrinsic merit. Throughout history, political leaders have had little trouble gaining the rationalizing support of intellectuals, just as intellectuals have struggled to raise their baser instincts to fine principles.

    Donald Trump makes for a fine case in point. He has so little cred and rapport with liberal intellectuals that some scurried off to re-read Richard Hofstadter's Anti-Intellectualism in American Life for a refresher course on how willfully stupid the people can be. Even conservatives with intellectual pretensions were almost unanimous in their dismay over Trump: his early vocal supporters were almost exclusively limited to professional bigots like Ann Coulter and Michael Savage. Still, what finally made Trump palatable to Republican elites was the only thing they really cared about: winning. So, as Sanneh chronicles, of late right-wing intellectuals have started flocking to Trump. Two varieties have emerged. One, including Heritage Foundation chief honcho Jim DeMint and his crew, are ordinary conservatives continuing to spout their usual nostrums while claiming validation by Trump's victory. The others, including an anonymous group which evidently started "The Journal of American Greatness" as "'an inside joke,' which in the course of a few months, attracted a large following, and 'ceased to be a joke.'" The website was subsequently deleted, but blogger Publius Decius Mus, the main subject of Sanneh's piece, is still attempting to develop a coherent intellectual Trumpism:

    Decius is a longtime conservative, though a heterodox one. He had grown frustrated with the Republican Party's devotion to laissez-faire economics (or, in his description, "the free market über alles"), which left Republican politicians ill-prepared to address rising inequality. "The conservative talking point on income inequality has always been, It's the aggregate that matters -- don't worry, as long as everyone can afford food, clothing, and shelter," he says. "I think that rising income inequality actually has a negative effect on social cohesion." He rejects what he calls "punitive taxation" -- like many conservatives, he suspects that Democrats' complaints about inequality are calculated to mask the Party's true identity as the political home of the cosmopolitan élite. But he suggests that a government might justifiably hamper international trade, or subsidize an ailing industry, in order to sustain particular communities and particular jobs. A farm subsidy, a tariff, a targeted tax incentive, a restrictive approach to immigration: these may be defensible, he thought, not on narrowly economic grounds but as expressions of a country's determination to preserve its own ways of life, and as evidence of the fundamental principle that the citizenry has the right to ignore economic experts, especially when their track records are dubious. (In this respect, Trumpism resembles the ideologically heterogeneous populist-nationalist movements that have lately been ascendant in Europe.) Most important, he thinks that conservatives should pay more attention to the shifting needs of the citizens whom government ought to serve, instead of assuming that Reagan's solutions will always and everywhere be applicable. "In 1980, after a decade of stagnation, we needed an infusion of individualism," he wrote. "In 2016, we are too fragmented and atomized -- united for the most part only by being equally under the thumb of the administrative state -- and desperately need more unity."

    Decius takes perverse pride in having been late to come around to Trump; as a populist, he likes the fact that everyday American voters recognized Trump's potential before he did. When Decius started paying serious attention, around January, he discerned the outlines of a simple and, in his view, eminently sensible political program: "less foreign intervention, less trade, and more immigration restrictions." [ . . . ] In his "Flight 93" essay, Decius called Trump "the most liberal Republican nominee since Thomas Dewey," and he didn't mean it as an insult. Trump argues that the government should do more to insure that workers have good jobs, speaks very little about religious imperatives, and excoriates the war in Iraq and wars of occupation in general. Decius says that he isn't concerned about Trump's seeming fondness for Russia; in his view, thoughtless provocations would be much more dangerous. In his telling, Trump is a political centrist who is misconstrued as an extremist.

    Emphasis added, the rare insight a conservative's focus on social order is likely to latch onto that liberals, whether individualistic or utilitarian, tend to miss. Of course, what pushes conservatives in that direction is the belief that cohesion involves acceptance of the traditional pecking order.

    The "Flight 93" post, by the way, comes off as a sick joke: he's arguing that folks should vote for Trump for the same reason that Flight 93 passengers committed suicide by rushing their hijackers rather than wait for the hijackers to kill them (and presumably others). No rational person can claim that Obama or Hillary would affect much change, much less destroy the country, and no Republican (much less a Trump partisan) can plausibly claim to care about the effects of America's self-destruction on the rest of the world. The post tacitly admits that electing Trump would be suicidal, yet like suicide bombers all around the world (indeed, like their old "better dead than red" slogan) were so convinced of their righteousness they no longer cared about the consequences.

    The rest of Decius' argument is more interesting, but still deeply confused. He's not the first Republican to recognize that inequality is a serious problem, not just because it hurts the people who get pushed aside and makes the so-called winners look callous and unjust, but because it threatens to undermine the entire fabric of society. Kevin Phillips, who back around 1970 plotted out The Emerging Republican Majority, wrote three remarkable books in 2004-08 -- American Dynasty, American Theocracy, and Bad Money -- which recognized the problem squarely. And there have been others, but the only policies that would mitigate inequality are ones that move the nation to the left, and the mindset of the conservative movement is constructed like a valve which only permits policy to flow ever further to the right.

    I think the key to Trump's primary victory was in how he reinforced the party base's prejudices, thus showing he was one with them, without embracing the slashed earth destruction of the liberal state which has become unchallenged gospel among conservatives -- therefore the base didn't find him either alarming (like Ted Cruz) or callow (like Marco Rubio). On the other hand, to win the election Trump had to keep the support of dogmatic conservatives and moneyed elites, which he paid for by basically delivering the administration to their hands (cf. Pence and the cabinet of billionaires and their hired guns). The dream that Trump might blaze a new path that breaks from conservative orthodoxy while avoiding the taint of liberal-baiting, even assuming he had the imagination and desire to do so, has thus been foreclosed. The only question is the extent to which he can act as a brake on the damage his administration might cause, not least to him. And he really doesn't strike me as sharp enough to keep himself out of trouble, much less to help anyone else out.

    Yet "intellectuals" will keep constructing fantasies about what a truly Trumpist Trump might do, and in the end will wind up blaming his failures on him not being Trumpist enough. After all, nothing defines an intellectual like one's commitment to pursue unfounded assumptions to ridiculous ends.

  • Justin Talbot-Zorn: Will Donald Trump Be the Most Pro-Monopoly President in History? Given the competition, it's going to be hard to tell. I can't recall any big cases either for Bush or Obama. The Clinton DOJ mounted (and won) a case against Microsoft, which Ashcroft settled as soon as he took over, achieving virtually nothing. But it's becoming more widely recognized that mergers and lack of competition not only drive profits up, increasing inequality, but also kill jobs.

    While Republicans have been skeptical of antitrust enforcement since Robert Bork came on the scene in the late 1970s, Democrats have been part of the problem too. Bill Clinton took antitrust out of the party platform in 1992, and, only in 2016 -- with a push from Bernie Sanders -- was the plank restored.

    This also ties into Brian S Feldman: How to Really Save Jobs in the Heartland.

Also, a few links for further study (briefly noted:

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Daily Log

Wrote this comment to Facebook regarding Christgau's 1969 graded list (Marty Lederman had complained: "Boy, there sure was some grade inflation in 1969, wasn't there?"):

Looking at the 1969 graded list, the thing I'm most struck by is how nicely distributed the grades are over the entire A+ to D- range. Sure, the bell curve is a bit left-shifted, centering over B instead of the B-/C+ divide, and there is a minor excess of A+ grades (perhaps an element of enthusiasm there that later practice tempered), but I don't think Bob's distribution has ever been so normal again -- and I'm damn sure mine has never come close (in part, I would argue as Bill James has viz. baseball, because the domain isn't normally distributed in the first place, although the other part is that the more shit we listen to, the less time we're willing to waste on it). The E grades don't fit this distribution, suggesting they have little to do with quality distribution -- that even from the beginning what they registered was exceptional disgust.

I had previously pointed out that Christgau didn't revise any 1969 grades for his 1970s Christgau's Record Guide, as he did with 1970-79 records, thereby imposing greater uniformity on his grade scale.

Discarded fragment written for Weekend Roundup:

I was thinking about writing a post just on Kelefa Sanneh: Intellectuals for Trump, but with the weekend fast approaching I figured I might as well tack a Weekend Roundup to the end. Still makes a reasonable introduction, as the season's overriding question is how could otherwise reasonable people think that electing Donald Trump president would be some kind of good idea -- indeed, would be anything less than a total clusterfuck for the vast majority of the American people.

Sanneh profiles a right-wing blogger who writes as Publius Decius Mus ("after the Roman consul known for sacrificing himself in battle" -- i.e., the sort of person who can envision himself as a suicide bomber). In September he wrote a post called "The Flight 93 Election," "which likened the country to a hijacked airplane, and argued that voting for Trump was like charging the cockpit: the consequences were possibly dire, but the consequences of inaction were surely so." Given how little change was effected by the eight years of Obama's presidency, it's hard to imagine anyone thinking that Clinton might do anything that would come close to such "dire consequences" -- let alone the "we're all going to die" fate of Flight 93. Still, the mind is a peculiar thing, and many conservatives have been bracing themselves for liberal doomsday ever since Bush gave way. It's easy to see (if not to understand) how they rationalized voting for Trump over the alternatives. The real tough nut to swallow is the ones like PDM who recognized that electing Trump would be suicidal yet decided to do it anyway.

PDM wrote for something called The Journal of American Greatness, where various "intellectuals" attempted to codify a Trumpism above and beyond the candidate himself. Sanneh finally suggests that they were never sincere:

Like virtually everything written in the Journal, this essay expressed seemingly sincere convictions in a faintly ironic tone, which was disorienting: we didn't really know who these people were, or how serious they were, even though the political movement they sought to explicate was anything but marginal. Then, in June, the Journal signed off and deleted its archives, declaring that it had been "an inside joke," which, in the course of a few months, attracted a large following, and "ceased to be a joke." In this last respect, the Journal had more than a little in common with the man who inspired it.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27586 [27548] rated (+38), 367 [366] unrated (+1).

Ran through a lot of records last week, including finally dipping into the 2017 release queue, starting with a Randy Weston joint that garnered a couple votes in the 2016 Jazz Critics Poll, then following up with Intakt's January releases and Satoko Fujii's best Orchestra album ever. Along with Run the Jewels (a December 24 digital release but I'm figuring the January 13 CD release to be more official) I already have four A-list albums for 2017. But most of the albums listed below are 2016 releases recommended by various EOY lists, whatever I could find that tickled my fancy. Good hip-hop week. Of the HMs, the one that tempted me most was by the Klezmatics.

I should note that Nat Hentoff died last week, at 91. I met him once back in the 1970s, and at the time thought of him mostly as a political columnist rather obsessed with defending free speech. Since then I've gotten an inkling of his deep commitment to jazz. It says something that the two jazz musicians I most closely link to him are Ruby Braff and Cecil Taylor -- he was a huge critical fan of both. Here's an obit from Evan Haga. Probably much more out there.

I'm more or less caught up with the EOY Aggregate file, but will probably keep adding stragglers and late finds of personal interest. One surprise at this point is that margins for two pair of high slots are currently down to one vote: Beyonce 389-388 in 2nd over Frank Ocean, and A Tribe Called Quest 298-297 in 6th over Nick Cave. Highest tie at present is 89-89 between Avalanches and Iggy Pop for 28th place.

Link to share: Can't Slow Down: Michaelangelo Matos' "notes toward a history of the pop world of 1984."

New records rated this week:

  • 21 Savage/Metro Boomin: Savage Mode (2016, self-released): [r]: A-
  • Amanar: Tumastin (2015 [2016], Sahel Sounds): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jim Black/Óskar Gudjónsson/Elias Stemeseder/Chris Tordini: Mala Mute (2016 [2017], Intakt): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Mykki Blanco: Mykki (2016, !K7): [r]: B+(*)
  • Peter Brötzmann & ICI Ensemble: Beautiful Lies (2014 [2016], Neos Jazz): [r]: B+(*)
  • Judy Carmichael and Harry Allen: Can You Love Once More (2016, GAC): [r]: A-
  • Childish Gambino: Awaken, My Love! (2016, Glassnote): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dr. Mint: Voices in the Void (2016 [2017], Orenda): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Echoes of Swing: Dancing (2015 [2016], ACT): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ellery Eskelin/Christian Weber/Michael Griener: Sensations of Tone (2016 [2017], Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Peace (2014 [2017], Libra): [cd]: A-
  • Gallant: Ology (2016, Mind of a Genius/Warner Bros.): [r]: B+(*)
  • Vince Gill: Down to My Last Bad Habit (2016, MCA Nashville): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nancy Harms: Ellington at Night (2016, Gazelle): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Hauschildt: Strands (2016, Kranky): [r]: B+(**)
  • Terrie Hessels & Ken Vandermark: Splinters (2014-15 [2016], Audiograph): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Ethan Iverson: The Purity of the Turf (2016, Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Klezmatics: Apikorsim/Heretics (2016, World Village): [r]: B+(***)
  • Rolf Kühn: Spotlights (2016, Edel/MPS): [r]: B+(**)
  • Little Simz: Stillness in Wonderland (2016, Age 101): [r]: B
  • Lasse Marhaug & Ken Vandermark: Close Up (For Abbas Kiarostami) (2016, Audiographic): [bc]: B
  • Hedvig Mollestad Trio: Black Stabat Mater (2016, Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hedvig Mollestad Trio: EVIL in Oslo (2015 [2016], Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(*)
  • Simon Nabatov/Mark Dresser/Dominik Mahnig: Equal Poise (2014 [2016], Leo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Prince Rama: X-Treme Now (2016, Carpark): [r]: B-
  • Isaiah Rashad: The Sun's Tirade (2016, Top Dawg Entertainment): [r]: B+(**)
  • Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3 (2016 [2017], Run the Jewels): [r]: B+(***)
  • Matthew Shipp/Michael Bisio: Live in Seattle (2015 [2016], Arena Music Promption): [r]: B+(**)
  • T.I.: Us or Else (2016, Grand Hustle/Roc Nation, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • T.I.: Us or Else: Letter to the System (2016, Grand Hustle/Roc Nation): [r]: A-
  • David Wise: Till They Lay Me Down (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • C. Spencer Yeh & Ken Vandermark: Schlager (2015 [2016], Audiographic): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Dhafer Youssef: Diwan of Beauty and Odd (2016, Okeh): [r]: B

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

  • Brother Ahh/Sounds of Awareness: Move Ever Onward (1975 [2016], Manufactured): [r]: B-
  • Brother Ah and the Sounds of Awareness: Key to Nowhere (1983 [2016], Manufactured): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chris McGregor & the Castle Lager Big Band: Jazz/The African Sound (1963 [2016], Jazzman): [r]: B+(**)
  • Cecil Taylor: Live in the Black Forest (1978 [2016], MPS): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Simon Nabatov/Mark Helias/Tom Rainey: Tough Customer (1992 [1993], Enja): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bill Anschell: Rumbler (Origin): January 20
  • François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: Freedom Is Space for the Spirit (FMR)
  • Gustavo Cortińas: Snapshot (OA2): January 20
  • Howard Johnson and Gravity: Testimony (Tuscarora)
  • Adam Pieronczyk: Monte Albán (Regent)
  • Dave Soldier: The Eighth Hour of Amduat (Mulatta): January 6

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Weekend Roundup

After a couple weeks I had enough open tabs to think I should hack out another links-plus-comments column. Nothing systematic here, just a few things that caught my fancy.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Jamelle Bouie: The Most Extreme Party Coalition Since the Civil War: The first book I read on alternative politics back in the 1960s was called The New Radicals, a survey of various thinkers and activists on the New Left. In it, radicals were people who looked for root causes and core principles, as opposed to those who casually wandered from one compromise to another. While it's certainly true that radicals can be wrong, and that they can become obsessed by their insights and oblivious to consequences, the problem there is picking bad principles, not radical ones. In fact, the only other time when "radical" was commonly used to describe politics was after the Civil War, when the GOP was dominated by so-called radicals like Thaddeus Stevens who advocated a deep-seated reconstruction of the former Slave South. Bouie is right that today's GOP is chock full of folks who hold very dangerous views, but those people are not radicals -- they're just wrong. Indeed, in terms of their eagerness to impose their ideology on a world that has moved way past it, they share much more than attitude with pro-slavery activists like John Calhoun than with Republicans like Stevens. But as Corey Robin has pointed out, the proper term for Calhoun and his ilk isn't radical -- it's conservative. The first thing Bouie must do to get smarter is to disabuse himself of the notion that conservatism is a respectable political philosophy. Leftists learned this lesson long ago, which is why they readily identify people who are willing to wreck the world to save the rich -- people like Trump, Pence, and Ryan -- as fascists. That may seem reflexive and excessive, but it serves us well.

  • Gorbachev: US Was Short-Sighted After Soviet Collapse: So true, but America's effective policy toward the former Soviet Union was to rub their faces in the dirt. We helped turn their collectivist economy into a Mafia-run kleptocracy. The result was near-total economic collapse -- so severe that even life expectancy dipped by as much as a decade. And to add insult to injury, the US started picking off former satellite nations and SSRs that formerly propped up the Russian economy and turned them westward, hugely expanding both NATO and the EU. This produced a huge backlash in Russia, and its face is Vladimir Putin, a guy we fear and loathe as a nationalist strongman, but who Russians flock to precisely because he doesn't look like as an American flunky. Sure, it's not clear why the US didn't handle the situation more adroitly, but from the start American Cold Warriors did everything they could to prevent any form of free/open/humane socialism from securing a foothold anywhere. Americans always preferred to work through corrupt strongmen, and even if Yeltsin didn't qualify as strong, he more than made it up as corrupt. Those who complain so much about Putin today should bear this history in mind, but the lesson they draw is inevitably wrong, because we are incapable of considering what would be good for the welfare of people in other nations -- Republicans, especially, don't even care about people living here. And the only thing the foreign policy mandarins consider is whether foreign leaders follow or challenge America's power dictates.

  • Bradley Klapper/Josef Federman/Edith M Lederer: US Rebukes and Allows UN Condemnation of Settlements: Widely interpreted as a "parting shot" rebuke of Netanyahu by the Obama administration, the fact is that it's been US policy since 1967 that Israel must retreat to its pre-1967 armistice borders as part of a "land-for-peace" deal, a scheme which later came to be described as "the two-state solution." That was, after all, the basis for George Mitchell's mission to restart final status talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and before that was the official expectation for Bush's Roadmap, for the Clinton-era Oslo Accords, and for Carter's peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Mitchell himself spent most of his mission time trying to convince Israel to halt settlement construction, and his complete failure to limit Israel destroyed any hope for an American-brokered peace. In past years, the intransigence of an Israeli PM like Yitzhak Shamir would have led to a breach with the US, rectified by Israel electing a more flexible leader (Yitzhak Rabin). Even GW Bush was able to put pressure on Israel, at the time led by Ariel Sharon (not a pushover), to dismantle settlements as part of his poisoned Gaza withdrawal. But Obama never did anything like that, and over eight years Netanyahu discovered he could walk all over Obama, ensuring that the US would never challenge Israel in an international forum. Given that the UNSCR resolution does nothing more than reiterate four decades of US policy, the real question isn't why Obama didn't veto it. It's why Obama didn't direct his ambassador to vote for it, indeed why he didn't sponsor the resolution eight years ago, when it might have been more effective -- when at least it would have served notice that the US is serious about peace and justice in the Middle East. Rather, Obama wasted eight years digging ever deeper holes in the region, obliterating any doubts that the US could ever be a force for peace, security, and equitable prosperity.

    Of course, Netanyahu and his American political lackeys and allies have gone ballistic over Obama's affront to Israeli power, but that is less to punish him than to threaten Trump, who despite his vaguer "America first" rhetoric has promised to be the most servile American president ever. The vote stands, and hopefully will help Palestinians seek justice in the international courts system, but the intensity of the political rebuke that Obama's belated gesture has raised, along with the imminent inauguration of Trump, only goes to show how far the United States has strayed from the ideals of international law and order, and cooperation, that were once our best hope for world peace and prosperity. Trump has, for instance, vowed to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, in flagrant disregard for international law -- although that's pretty minor compared to the practices Jeremy Scahill documents in Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield -- his big book on how Bush and Obama ran roughshod over international law to prosecute their misguided "war on terror." The significance of the 14-0 UNSCR vote isn't just that it shows how isolated and delegitimized Israel has become in the eyes of the world. It also shows how marginal the US has become after decades pursuing policies Israel has pioneered. One clear conclusion must be that any notion the US might once have had of being an "honest broker" for peace have vanished. If Europe, Russia, China, etc., really want to do something to bring peace and justice to Israel-Palestine, they're going to start with the recognition that the US is a big part of the problem and no or little part of the solution. Obama, Trump, and Netanyahu, each in his own way, have helped clarify that point.

    Also see: Richard Silverstein: Kerry's Speech: America Lost in Two-State Ether, Israel Spied on Nations Supporting UN Vote.

  • Dennis Laumann: The first genocide of the 20th century happened in Namibia: The party responsible was Germany, the time 1904-07, the territory South-West Africa, the target the Herero, a tribe of herders who got on the colonial power's wrong side mostly by just being in the way. Laumann describes the Ottoman genocide against the Armenians in 1915 as "indisputable" but it was nowhere near as clear cut as Lt. Gen. Lothar von Trotha's Vernichtungsbefehl, which specified: "Within the German borders, every Herero, whether armed or unarmed, with or without cattle, shall be shot." Oddly enough, I first learned about this event from a novel, Thomas Pynchon's V., where it appears as a key link in a chain of increasingly mechanized slaughter. Also worth seeking out is Sven Lindqvist's book "Exterminate All the Brutes": One Man's Odyssey Into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide, which puts the Herero genocide into the broader context of European colonial brutality, making it more the culmination of the 19th century than a harbinger of the 20th.

  • Reihan Salam: Will Donald Trump Be FDR or Jimmy Carter? Sub-hed: "We're on the cusp of either a transformative presidency or a party-killing failure" -- oddly conflating Ronald Reagan with the former and Herbert Hoover with the latter. I've never doubted that it's important to know of and learn from history, but this sort of muddying makes me wonder. The pairings suggest that Salam is uncertain whether Trump will be seen as a winner (like Roosevelt-Reagan) or a loser (Hoover-Carter), so that's one level of ignorance he brings to the table. Another is that while Roosevelt is properly viewed as "transformational" that status is rooted in his unique time period (the depression, which forced the state to become a major economic factor, and the war, which transformed the state into empire). On the other hand, there was nothing distinctive about the Carter-Reagan years, and the myth of Reagan's success was largely based on ignoring reality and engaging in fantasy -- the bankruptcy of which would have long been obvious had not Democrats like Clinton, Gore, and Obama not built their own careers on indulging that same fantasy. At most, this article might have exposed the hollowness of this PoliSci paradigm, but Salam rarely offers more than lines like "Trump will put a candy-covered nationalist shell over Reaganism's chocolate-covered peanut." Peanut? Wasn't Carter the peanut guy? Wasn't Reagan more into jelly beans?

    Actually, Salam does try to make a case that some sort of Trumpian nationalism might be politically successful enough to move Trump into the winners column, but this would involve building on ideas from the center-left, including embracing and defending the safety net. Whether even such a hypothetical program might work isn't analyzed, but the more obvious problems are touched on: that Republican regulars would sabotage any gestures he might make toward the center, and that Trump himself isn't really serious about the platform he ran on (as evidenced, for instance, by his cabinet). Of course, someone who knows a little history might help out here. One might argue that Hoover, for instance, would actually have preferred to move toward what became the New Deal but that he was checked at every step by the dead-enders within his own administration (e.g., Andrew Mellon). One might equally argue that Carter wanted to move toward what eventually became Reaganism -- he did in fact start the recession that broke the back of the American labor movement, and his anti-regulation schemes and anti-communist militancy paved the way for Reagan, but he too faced a debilitating revolt from his own party. Whatever people thought when they voted for Trump, what they wound up with was a politician deep in hock to his party and the insatiable greed of their donors, and that's more or less the only thing he'll ever be able to deliver. If you think that's going to be some kind of booming, transformational success, well, you're fucking nuts.

  • Steven Waldman: The Strangest Winner on Election Night Was Not Trump: He means the Republican Congress, enjoying an approval rating of just 15%, yet they only lost two Senate and six House seats, retaining a thin but anomalous and ominous majority.

    And yet the Republican Party has more power now than it has in decades, and is acting as if the party received a tidal-wave mandate.

    How did this happen? While Trump occasionally clashed with Republican leaders during the campaign -- leading to the impression that he was at war with the GOP establishment -- it was always over lack of fealty more than policy. The main exception was trade but so as long as the Republican's are "saying nice things" to Trump, he was perfectly happy to embrace almost all of their policies. The rift with the GOP establishment was always less than advertised.

    Second, as has been often noted, Trump's lack of knowledge and curiosity about policy has meant he is totally reliant on the people who have the plans -- who are congressional republicans, K street lobbyists and industry groups. There is no shadow world of public policy centers crafting a Trumpian alternative to Republican orthodoxy. With the exception of trade and immigration, Trump's views are standard issue Republican policies, albeit sprinkled with extra bile.

    Finally, because so much of the GOP power is safeguarded by gerrymandering, congressional Republicans can act like they have a mandate without much fear that swing voters will punish them.

    All in all, it adds up to an odd situation: the Republican party is less popular than its been in ages -- and has more power.

    One part of why this happened was that the GOP donor network focused on down-ballot races, which had the effect of lifting Trump up without having to bear all his dead weight. Indeed, all they needed to close the deal was to convince their voters that Hillary was a tad worse, or that they had nothing to lose by giving Trump a chance. Indeed, they seemed to understand that in the end Trump would turn into the party toady he's since become. The other part is that the Democrats focused on supporting Hillary over, and free from, their party -- all those appeals to "moderate suburban Republican housewives" and neocons and other chimerical groups. The biggest gripe I've had against Obama and the Clintons is how they've neglected building a party to compete with the Republicans, instead usurping the party apparatus for their own cult of personality (and appeals to elite donors).

Also, a few links very briefly noted:

Laura Tillem forwarded one of those Facebook image/memes that I can't share anywhere else due to devious Facebook programming, but it's all text so I'll just retype it (originally from The Other 98%):


  1. Everybody in, nobody out
  2. Portability: Change jobs, get divorced, lose your job, etc. - won't lose coverage
  3. Uniform benefits for everyone
  4. Enhance Prevention
  5. Choose your physician
  6. Ends insurance industry interference with care
  7. Reduces administrative waste
  8. Saves money
  9. Common Sense Budgeting - set fair reimbursements and apply them equally
  10. Public oversight, public ownership

This could be spelled out a little better, but is all basically true, and for sound reasons. However, single-payer only gets at part of the problem -- basically the easy one, as insurance companies are mostly parasitical, hence it's easy to imagine a scenario where everything is better once they're gone. The bigger piece of the problem is for-profit health care providers, and dealing with their conflicts of interest and inefficiencies is more complex.

Daily Log

Mike Poage circulated this "letter to the editor" he wrote:

Cal Thomas (Eagle, "Obama has aided Israel's enemies," Jan. 4) has outdone himself in accusing President Obama of perpetrating an act of treason against the state of Israel. In his op-ed, he is referring to the recent U.S. abstention from voting on United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 which, among other things, condemns the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The UNSC was following decades of votes, based on the Fourth Geneva Convention, condemning the settlement movement which started after the 1967 war. Resolution 2334 passed 14-0. Mr. Thomas, Mr. Netanyahu, AIPAC and many other pro-Israel groups have stated that the abstention by the U.S. was "an unprecedented and deeply disturbing break from the past." (The Orthodox Union) AIPAC, on its website, stated that the failure to vote by the U.S. broke with the "longstanding U.S. practice by successive administrations," of opposing "one-sided United Nations Security Council resolutions." However, since 1967, those "successive administrations" allowed passage of 71 resolutions that Israel objected to. Obama's abstention brings the total to 72, while those "successive administrations" vetoed 42 "anti-Israel" resolutions. It appears that the "longstanding U.S. practice" is to side with the international community in calling out Israel for egregious and illegal violations of international law. The champions for allowing anti-Israel resolutions, according to Americans for Peace Now, are Pres. Reagan, 21, Pres. Nixon, 15, and Pres. Carter, 14. The undisputed champion for fewest anti-Israel resolutions allowed through is Pres. Obama with zero until the R. 2334 abstention which brings his total to one in is eight years as President. Mr. Thomas, are you a racist or can you just not count? The U.S., under Pres. Obama has, in my opinion, unfortunately supported Israel's status as a major military power with an unforgivable $38 billion, ten year package, the Iron Dome missile defense system, the backing of three massacres in Gaza, continuing to give an unprecedented $4 billion annual aid package and, by these actions and others, the U.S. has refused to say anything critical about the settlements until the Dec. 23 abstention. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama, who has in other ways been an outstanding President, has broken with "successive administrations" by being Israel's most supportive president since before 1967. So, Mr. Thomas, are you just practicing poor and biased journalism or blatant fake news?

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Home Cooking

While rumaging through my old on-line notebooks, I noticed that in the early days (2001, a bit before 9/11) I felt few inhibitions about writing whatever happened to me or happened to catch my fancy. This included bits of music and politics, which later came to dominate the blog, but also books, movies, lectures I attended, dinners I cooked, and trips I took. After 9/11, and especially as the Iraq War approached in 2003, I started to take politics more seriously, and after I started Recyled Goods in 2003 and Jazz Consumer Guide in 2004 I found myself putting even more time and effort into writing about music. To some extent they soon crowded everything else out, but I also started having qualms about exposing myself too much on-line, and thought it would look more professional to focus. It had become a cliché that most blogs were nothing more than exercises in personal vanity, and I certainly didn't want to be viewed that way. I even came up with a plan to split the politics and music into two distinct websites, dusting off the old titles I had used for actual paper publications back in the 1970s: Notes on Everyday Life and Terminal Zone. I even had a fanciful hope that I might entice some of my old comrades into joining in, but alas that never came to pass.

Since the election I've been in a deep funk: not that I was in any way looking forward to Hillary Clinton picking her own cabinet of war criminals and Goldman-Sachs executives, but I really don't have anything deeper to say about the Republican stranglehold on government that "I told you so" -- in fact, if you want to read more on what's happening today go back to the notebook link above and scan through the literally millions of words on the subject I've written since 2001. I really did tell you so, repeatedly, rarely mincing words, yet obviously millions of Americans didn't get the message and couldn't figure it out on their own (as millions who also didn't read me nonetheless managed to do). So I can't point to much tangible satisfaction for all that work.

So over the last few weeks, as it's gotten nasty cold even here in the land of the "south wind," about the only satisfaction I've gotten has been in cooking the occasional nice dinner for friends. So I thought I'd break the usual Monday (music)/Sunday (news) rut and write about cooking, or at least jot down some notes on three recent dinners. None came out without a hitch, but most of the food was memorable, and those in attendance seemed to appreciate it.

I originally scheduled the first dinner for Sunday, December 18, but didn't realize we had another commitment that day. This was a party to honor Mary Harren, and it was suggested I fix something for it, but the only direction I was given was "finger food," and the only inspiration I had was to make cookies. I figured two batches (four dozen) cookies would suffice, and expected to have what I would need in stock, so didn't do any real planning.

I did two variations on the Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book: one with white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts, the other with dark chocolate chips and pecans. The basic recipe calls for 1.5 sticks of butter, 1 cup light brown sugar, 0.5 cup sugar, 0.5 tsp baking soda and salt, 2 tsp vanilla, 1 whole egg plus 1 yolk. (I fried up the leftover white for the dog.) Mix in the extras and bake 15-20 minutes at 325F.

I ran into a problem on the second batch: ran out of butter. It was brutal cold, so I tried to cheat. I had some Light Salted Butter that we were never going to use, so melted two sticks. (I figured what made it light was probably air, so more would get me closer, but I don't think that's all there was to it. I also cut back on the salt.) I also figured the dark chips and the pecans would help. They came out a bit off, with a slightly chewier texture, but not likely to draw much nitpicking from anyone else. On the other hand, we didn't get a chance. The event got canceled, and we were stuck with four dozen super-rich cookies.

Roast chicken with fennel, clemtines, and ouzo.

Meanwhile, the first dinner was rescheduled for Tuesday, December 20. Just two guests: Kathy Jenkins, the widow of my next door neighbor Tony Jenkins, and her mother. I asked for a hint as to what to fix, and she said "chicken" and added "not spicy." My first thought was a Moroccan chicken tagine with lemon peel and olives, then I thought of another half-dozen superb chicken dishes. In the end, I figured the winner would be Roasted Chicken with Clementines & Arak from Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem Cookbook, with its spectacular medley of tastes plus the fact that it's extremely easy to produce a stunning dish. With that I picked out three side dishes from the same cookbook, plus my Iranian cucumber-yogurt standby (better than Ottolenghi's cucumber-yogurt recipe). All four dishes could be done well ahead of time and served room temp (or chilled for the yogurt), so it's about as easy logistically as any possible meal. For dessert I decided to break out of the Middle East and go with an old standby, pineapple upside-down cake, topped with whipped cream.

I did my shopping on Monday, then got started that evening. I made the cake using a recipe I picked up from the web -- somehow I had misplaced my mother's recipe, and this one was terrific the previous time I had made it. Two differences this time: I started from a whole pineapple, so I cut exceptionally thick slices. I used a glass quiche pan which unfortunately was smaller than I really needed. I added some chopped pecans to the butter-brown sugar mix, and skipped the maraschino cherries. The recipe called for beating egg whites until fluffy and carefully folding them into the batter -- something I didn't recall doing before, but this time I came up with an exceptionally light batter.

But this time disaster struck: the cake appeared to bake nicely, but when I flipped it over it turned to mush, its juices spilling out onto the floor. After mopping up, my only idea to fix it was to scoop it back into the pan and bake it some more. I wound up giving it a good extra 30 minutes of baking time. When I put it back into the oven, it was effectively pineapple pudding (actually, quite tasty), and when I pulled it out it was more like cobbler. I tasted it: it was still rather mushy, but very sweet and a bit sour, an aesthetic disaster but a damned tasty one, so I decided to use it. I let it sit overnight before flipping it over. Next day I whipped some cream with a little sugar and vanilla to serve over it.

I bought a whole chicken plus a package of thighs, so I cut them up and prepared the marinade: ouzo, olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, grain mustard, brown sugar, fresh thyme, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. The recipe calls for arak, but offers ouzo or pernod as substitutes. First time I made it I was able to find arak from Lebanon, but since I wasn't able to find it again, I picked up a bottle of ouzo as a backup. I also had two fennel bulbs, which I cut into chunks, and a bag of clementines -- I sliced about six into rounds, and juiced a couple more. They went into two freezer bags with the chicken and marinade, and into the refrigerator overnight, until I was ready to roast the chicken. At that point the whole thing is dumped into a roasting pan and tidied up a bit, to be roasted in a 475F oven for 35-45 minutes.

That evening I also made the cucumber-yogurt (mast va khiar): peel, seed, and dice two cucumbers, and salt them in a colander; chop 5-7 scallions, and put them into a second bowl, along with a handful each (about 1/2 cup) of golden raisins and black walnuts, plus mint (1 tsp dried or 1 tbs fresh chopped) and a sprinkle of ground white pepper; add 2 cups of plain yogurt (Greek Gods doesn't require draining like I used to have to do with Dannon); fold in the unrinsed cucumbers, check the salt, and refrigerate.

Leftovers plate, clockwise from left: sweet potatoes, barley-parsley salad,
zucchini-tomato salad, cucumber-yogurt.

The three other Ottolenghi side dishes were: roasted sweet potatoes & fresh figs (I substitute mejdol dates, a big improvement); chunky zucchini & tomato salad; and parsley & barley salad. I made them the next afternoon, and pretty much had them done by the time to start roasting the chicken.

I think I had three small-ish sweet potatoes. I left the peels on, but cut them into wedges 3-4 inches long; dressed them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and lined them up on a foil-lined baking tray; roasted them at 475F for 25 minutes; lined them up on a serving dish. I pitted about a dozen mejdol dates and cut them into slivers (four per date), and tucked them around the sweet potatoes. I took a half-dozen scallions, cut them into 3-inch lengths (splitting the whites in half), sauteed them in olive oil, and dumped them (with the oil) on top of the sweet potatoes. I then drizzled a balsamic reduction (from a store bottle, although in the past I've followed the recipe and done it from scratch) over the dish, then sprinkled some soft goat cheese.

For the zucchini-tomato salad, I started by cutting three zucchini and three tomatoes in half; I brushed the cut ends with olive oil, and seared them in a very hot cast iron skillet until they were blackened. I then took the zucchini and tomatoes and put them onto a foil-lined baking sheet, cut-side down; roasted them 20 minutes at 425F; cooled and coarsely chopped them. I mixed the dressing: yogurt, garlic, lemon zest and juice, date syrup, black walnuts, mint, parsley, salt and black pepper; then folded the zucchini and tomatoes in. I thought this was overly sweet last time I made it, so was careful with the date syrup this time.

For the parsley-barley salad: cover 1/4 cup pearl barley with water and boil for 30-35 minutes. On the side, crumble the feta cheese and dress with olive oil, za'atar, toasted/crushed coriander seeds, and cumin. Mix the barley with chopped parsley, chopped scallions, roasted cashew nuts, a diced green bell pepper, and dress with allspice and lemon juice. The recipe suggests plating the salad and topping it with spiced feta, but I just mixed the two together, and checked the salt and pepper.

This had all proceeded smoothly until just after 5PM when I was warming the oven up, planning on having the chicken come out of the oven at 6:30. Then the power went out, leaving me without a main course -- or amenities, like lights. We conferred and decided to go ahead. The power came back on just moments before the guests arrived, so I turned the oven on and we had four lovely dishes for a first course. The chicken was ready an hour later, and I served it straight out of the roasting pan without bothering to reduce the juices. So it wasn't optimal -- I probably should have let it brown a few more minutes to crisp up the skin, and the reduced juices would have intensified the flavor (especially the fennel), but having waited so long I went with the short cut.

Finally, we finished with the pineapple upside-down mess, topped with whipped cream. It was pretty ugly, but scrumptious. After dinner I did reduce the pan juices and poured them over the leftovers. They reheated nicely.

Second dinner was December 24, Xmas Eve. Ever since my parents died I've cooked that evening, usually just for my sister and her son. That was the plan this year, but Kathy messed up the dates and planned some sort of pot luck get-together for her friends that evening, and Ram was off with his girlfriend's family. So we wound up inviting Kathy's friends to our place for my dinner. Only the vegan brought food, which was just as well given that I didn't even have a salad she'd deem edible.

My only idea going into the dinner was that I had a duck in the freezer that needed to be cooked. I remembered that I had once attempted to fix a Thai panang curry duck -- it was my favorite dish at a Thai restaurant we used to frequent in Brookline (Sawasdee). I've done some Thai cooking but not a lot -- did a birthday dinner once but I can't find mention of it in my notebook (2003 is probable; did Moroccan in 2002, nothing in 2004, feijoada in 2005, Peking duck in 2006 -- note there says I had done Thai, and I know I've only done it once), and I make pad thai rather often. So I thought I'd try panang curry duck again, plus a pad thai, a couple side dishes, and our traditional Amish date pudding for dessert.

Roast duck (minus one wing).

Problem is I've had to extrapolate a recipe from various sources. I have several panang curry recipes (and looked up a couple more on the web), and sort of mixed them together. Not fond of hot chilis, I limited myself to one long serrano (seeded), which I pounded into a paste with garlic, galangal, lemongrass, cilantro stems, coriander and cumin seeds (ground), shallots, shrimp paste, lime zest and leaves, peanuts, salt, and white pepper. The night before, I defrosted the duck, pricked the skin, and rubbed it with roasted Szechuan pepper-salt and paprika, and propped it on a rack in a baking dish. I put it into a 450F oven, which 15 minutes later I turned down to 350F, and roasted it for another hour or more, until it read 180F at the thigh bone. Next day I chopped it up, more or less Chinese-style.

I opened a can of chickpeas and picked the skins off. I peeled two sweet potatoes, cut them into 3/4-inch cubes and steamed them until barely done, about 8 minutes. To finish the dish, I fried the curry paste in a little oil, then added two cans of coconut milk. I probably should have added chiffonaded lime leaves and adjusted the seasoning with a little palm sugar and fish sauce, but wasn't paying enough attention to the recipe I was improvising on. I added the chickpeas and sweet potatoes, then finally the duck and cooked a few minutes to get it evenly heated through. Then I added a handful of chopped Thai basil, and it was done.

Earlier that afternoon I put the side dishes together: cucumber salad, water chestnut salad, and sweet & sour eggplant salad. The cucumber was peeled, seeded, sliced, salted, and rinsed, then dressed with sugar, fish sauce, and lemon juice. (Recipe calls for a grated onion, chilis and prawn powder, but I don't recall using them.) The water chestnuts were peeled and sliced thin. I mixed them with a can of crabmeat and a can of tiny shrimp, lime juice, roasted peanuts, fried garlic and shallots (both bought that way), half a serrano chili, and cilantro. I made a dressing with tamarind juice, fish sauce, brown and regular sugar, and poured it over everything.

I roasted three Japanese eggplant -- it took about twice as long as the recipe called for. I made a chili-tamarind sauce from dried shrimp (softened), garlic, shallots, a serrano chili, tamarind concentrate, fish sauce, palm sugar, and peanut oil, and added that to the chopped eggplant, along with a finely chopped stalk of lemongrass, more shallots, lemon juice, cilantro, and mint. The three salads were done early and out of the workflow.

Clockwise from top: pad thai, cucumber salad, panang curry duck, eggplant salad

That just left the pad thai. I thawed and peeled two pounds of large shrimp (recipe calls for 1/2 pound, but expects other meat; I usually do one pound, but with extra guests I decided to scale up everything but the noodles). I soaked some dried shrimp -- they add a little crunch to the garlic. About 40 minutes before cooking, I soaked 8 oz. of thin rice noodles. I mixed up a batch-and-a-half of sauce: 6 tbs sugar, 9 tbs white vinegar, 6 tbs fish sauce, 2 tbs ketchup. I cut a bunch (plus a couple extra) scallions into 2-inch lengths, and split the white ends. I broke four eggs into a bowl and mixed them with a fork.

The stir fry goes fast: I heated my largest skillet, added some peanut oil, about 8 cloves of chopped garlic, the dried shrimp, then the large shrimp. When they were mostly cooked, I added the sauce, brought it to a boil, then added the noodles, stirred to coat, and covered the pan for a couple minutes. I lifted the cover, stirred to evenly coat the noodles, pushed them to one side and poured the eggs into the other, flipping them as they set, then scattering them throughout the noodles. Then I added the scallions, stirred some more, and finished with dish with a couple handfuls of chopped peanuts. I use Victor Sodsook's True Thai recipe mostly for the sauce, leaving out all sorts of complication (especially the usual bean sprouts). Sometimes I add a little sesame oil, but this time I didn't.

This effectively worked out to about half of my old Thai birthday dinner, but was more than enough food for eight people. I referred to three cookbooks: Sodsook, Su-Mei Yu's Cracking the Coconut, and Charmaine Solomon's trusty Asian Cookbook (my first, its binding now failing, but she does an admirable job of saving these cuisines from excess complication). Thanks to a large Vietnamese population here in Wichita, it's pretty easy to get ingredients -- only problems I had were cilantro roots (I used stems and ground seeds) and kaffir lime leaves (I bought "lemon leaves"). I could have bought Thai bird chilis, but felt more comfortable working with serranos.

I made the date pudding the night before. I found the recipe in the newspaper long ago, and copied and adapted it. Pit and chop two cups of mejdol dates, put into a bowl with 2 tsp soda and 2 tbs butter, cover with 2 cups boiling water, and let soak for an hour. Mix two eggs, 2 cups sugar, 2.25 cups flour, 1 tsp vanilla, then add 5/8 cups chopped black walnuts. Bake in a 9x13 cake pan at 275F for about 50 minutes (more like 70). The middle collapses as it cools, so you get cakey on the outside, pudding in the middle. Make a caramel sauce with 1.5 cups brown sugar, 2 tbs cornstarch, 1 cup water, and a dash of salt, boiled 6-8 minutes. Stir in 2 tbs butter, 2 tbs cream, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 1/8 tsp maple extract, then dump it on the pudding. Let it all cool, then whip 1.5 cups heavy cream with a tsp sugar and a half-tsp vanilla, and spread over the pudding, and refrigerate. Probably the richest, certainly the most delicious, dessert ever concocted.

Third dinner was Wednesday, December 28: our annual Hannukah dinner ritual. No menorahs, no old tales of Hebrew military prowess, just an excuse to fry up a batch of potato pancakes (latkes). The main course is quite simple, but they're best when served hot off the griddle, so I spend most of the dinner over a hot stove while everyone else enjoys themselves. But I've also developed a repertoire of side dishes to go with them, and added a few wrinkles this year.

The main things you need are sour cream and applesauce. We buy the former (Daisy), but I've learned to make the latter. I take four gala apples, peel, quarter, and core them, and put them in a saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and the zest of one lemon. Bring it to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, then uncover and cook most of the liquid away. Add a little cinnamon, and mush with a potato masher. (I adapted this from The Gourmet Cookbook, which called for twice the sugar, half the cinnamon, and 2 tbs calvados -- an apple brandy, a very Gourmet touch. I don't know apples, so promptly forgot what I bought. Looking at charts they could have been honeycrisp instead of gala -- both seem to be good sauce choices.)

I also like to serve cured salmon. This year I got a 2-lb slab of Canadian, skin on, dusted all sides with 3 tbs of kosher salt, put it in a freezer bag and refrigerated overnight. Next day I washed it off, found it wasn't too salty (if so, soak until it isn't), and sliced it thin. It's basically homemade lox without the smoke (which turns out not to be very important; commercial nova or scottish lox is "cold smoked" at temperatures below 85F, which means they're depending on the salt, and not the smoke, for texture, preservation and bacteria prevention).

I also make chopped liver, and while Joan Nathan's recipe served me well for many years, Ottolenghi's is even better: hard boil 5 eggs, and set aside; slice 2 cups of onions and sauté them, until dark, in duck fat (reserved from above). Move them using a slotted spoon to the food processor bowl, then sauté the chicken livers until they are cooked through. Add them to the food processor. Peel and grate four of the eggs and add them to the food processor, along with 4 tbs of dessert wine, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Pulse to chop (don't overdo it). Garnish with the other egg (grated), scallions and/or chives. I make this every year, but as we all know chopped liver is best spread on fresh rye bread, so I thought I'd make some rye bread this year.

Rye bread and pumpernickel bread, fresh from oven.

One thing I am not is a practiced breadmaker, so I figured this task to be a learning experience. I decided to try two different recipes, both from Joan Nathan, scaled down to produce one loaf each. Both involved starting the night before. The pumpernickel called for creating a starter the night before (1 tbs dry yeast, 1 cup water, 1/4 cup white bread flour, 1/4 cup rye flour), then mixing the dough proper the next day. The rye bread recipe mixed that dough the night before: 1.5 tbs dry yeast, 1 tbs honey, 1/2 cup water (let this proof), 3.5 cups rye flour, 3.5 cups white bread flour, 1 tbs salt, 1 tbs sugar, 3-4 tbs caraway seeds, 2 tbs vegetable oil, about 1.5 cups lager beer. I halved this, tried mixing it up and kneading it in my horrible KitchenAid mixer, hating it more and more, eventually kneading it by hand (and suspecting the whole thing was way too dry, but what do I know?). It did rise though, and I punched it down, shaped it to fit the loaf pan, cut diagonal slits on top, and let it rise again.

Meanwhile, I screwed up the pumpernickel. I mixed up the dough: 1 tbs dry yeast, 2 tbs honey, 1-2/3 cup water, 3-1/3 cups rye flour, 2 cups whole wheat flour, 2 cups white bread flour, 1 tbs salt, 2 tbs caraway seeds (in both cases I ground the seeds up), 4 tbs oil, 4 tbs dark molasses. Again, the mixer was awful, and the dough seemed too dry, so I added more (and more) water. Then I remembered the starter, added it, and found the dough was too wet (but at least much easier to knead). I let this rise, punched it down, formed it to fit the loaf pan (tearing off an excess bit), cut orthogonal slashes, and let it rise again. The pumpernickel rose about 50% more than the plain rye bread, filling up the loaf pan nicely. I beat a raw egg and painted the tops of both loaves, and sprinkled some whole caraway seeds on top.

The recipes called for different baking temperatures/times, but I decided to standardize on the pumpernickel: 350F for 1 hour (the rye called for 375F for 50-55 minutes). I put a bowl of water on the lower left rack, and the two loaves on the top rack, near the middle. They came out looking and smelling like rye bread, the pumpernickel a bit larger and softer (but, contrary to expectations, no darker than the rye). Both were more than acceptable.

I also usually serve herring in sour cream and in wine sauce, the two kinds it's possible to buy here. I would, of course, prefer to dress my own herring -- as I did, for instance, when I brought some maatjes back from Buffalo last summer, but that wasn't an option this time. However, I did find some smoked herring packed in olive oil in a middle eastern store, so I had the idea of drying that off and making a mustard sauce for it. I found a Swedish recipe online and adapted it. I was out of whole grain mustard, so used Dijon then ground up some black mustard seeds and mixed them in. I used light olive oil instead of grapeseed. I tried whisking up an emulsion with vinegar and egg yolks, and failed. I put it aside, disgusted, then tried again later and it worked fine -- I've read that those yolks have to be room temperature, something I should remember in the future. Not perfect, but not bad.

As I said, the latkes were straightforward. I chopped three onions, and put them in a large bowl. I peeled five russet potatoes, soaked them in water, then ran them through the coarse grating disc in the food processor, then used the knife to chop them into small bits. I mixed the potatoes in with the onions, and added five eggs, salt, and pepper. I should have put a piece of plastic wrap in to keep the potatoes from discoloring, but they would wind up being browned anyway. I took a large frying pan and an even larger griddle, heated them up on the stove, added oil, and ladled out 3-to-4-inch discs, flipping them once they set and browned, then piling them onto a paper-towel-lined plate, to be served as fast as they came out. Don't know how long it took to work through them all.

I rarely make dessert for latke dinners, but decided to try a couple of things this time. Ottolenghi has a recipe for pears poached in wine and cardamom (and saffron), which seemed like a good choice. I also tried Nathan's reiz kugel, but somehow didn't get it to thicken sufficiently, so it resembled a thin, cold, sweet soup. My one real disappointment, although like the pineapple upside-down mess the taste was close to right, so the embarrassment was mostly aesthetic.

Pineapple upside-down cake (from an earlier time when I didn't screw it up).

Of course, I rarely cook like this for just the two of us. For one thing, I almost never have the ingredients I'd need for a dinner with three or more dishes, so I have to go out shopping -- and in some ways that's the hardest (certainly the most unpleasant) part of any meal. One thing I like about inviting guests for dinner is the engineering aspect of planning the project, envisioning how the whole dinner fits together, figuring out the logistics, especially how to manage my own time so each meal comes together smoothly. Practice has made me better at that; also steadier and more resourceful as things (as they inevitably do) go wrong. These dinners give me a sense of accomplishment that little else in my life these days offers. But more basically, it's simply a pleasure to offer other people pleasure, and I can fairly say that each of these meals did just that. And they remind me of one of the central truths of our times: there is an extraordinary amount of knowledge at our fingertips, and much of the material world is easily (and economically) accessible if we just know what to look for, and to expect. I think, these meals prove that much.

By the way, I took a break from writing this afternoon to whip up a small dinner-for-two, something very simple and basic. I had some frozen pacific cod in the freezer, so I semi-thawed it, and cut the thicker chunks in half (so they were about 1/2-inch thick). I opened a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, added a little sugar, about 2 tbs capers, juice of one lemon, and 15 or so pitted green olives (cut in half). I Mixed that sauce up, spooned it over the fish in a baking pan, sprinkled panko bread crumbs on top, drizzled a little olive oil, and baked it at 400F for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, I stir-fried lima beans (fordhooks) for a side dish, using Irene Kuo's recipe (from The Key to Chinese Cooking): thaw, sizzle in some oil, sprinkle with salt and sugar, add chicken stock and cover to steam about five minutes, remove cover and boil off the excess liquid, and drizzle a little toasted sesame oil to finish.

At some point I should probably go back and jot down the remaining recipes -- a few that do already exist in my online recipe file: Mast Va Khiar, Panang Curry Duck, Phat Thai, Water Chestnut Salad, Amish Door's Date Pudding, Baked Fish with Capers and Olives, Stir-Fried Lima Beans, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake; also note that virtually all of the Ottolenghi recipes are online somewhere -- and add the appropriate links, but I wanted to the flow and process more than to provide a guide to duplicating these dinners.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 27548 [27512] rated (+36), 366 [362] unrated (+4).

Most of the week's discoveries have already been unveiled in Saturday's Streamnotes post, although I did add one more A- record a day later, from Venetian Snares -- a synth programmer from Winnipeg with a jazz master's sense of rhythm. Also came close to adding the new Klezmatics album, but I stretched its consideration beyond my cutoff moment. Whereas alt-country provided most of my A- finds last week, this week's winners were mostly rap albums.

I temporarily caught up with my backlog of EOY lists, not that I won't keep adding data at least up through Pazz & Jop (as it used to be known). Top of the list is pretty consistent at this point, with only minor fluctuations and no trends I can discern. The top 50 reads as follows (with my grades in brackets):

  1. David Bowie: Blackstar (Columbia) {491} [***]
  2. Beyonce: Lemonade (Parkwood/Columbia) {378} [A-]
  3. Frank Ocean: Blonde (Boys Don't Cry) {367} [**]
  4. Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool (XL) {326} [B]
  5. Solange: A Seat at the Table (Saint/Columbia) {293} [**]
  6. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed) {276} [B-]
  7. A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic) {273} [A-]
  8. Kanye West: The Life of Pablo (Def Jam/GOOD Music) {270} [***]
  9. Bon Iver: 22 a Million (Jagjaguwar) {246} [*]
  10. Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book (self-released) {245} [A-]
  11. Angel Olsen: My Woman (Jagjaguwar) {235} [***]
  12. Anohni: Hopelessness (Secretly Canadian) {200} [*]
  13. Anderson Paak: Malibu (OBE/Steel Wool/ArtClub/Empire) {194} [A-]
  14. Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker (Columbia) {187} [A-]
  15. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial (Matador) {183} [***]
  16. Danny Brown: Atrocity Exhibition (Warp) {171} [A-]
  17. Mitski: Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans) {141} [*]
  18. Kaytranada: 99.9% (XL) {139} [A-]
  19. Blood Orange: Freetown Sound (Domino) {138} [A-]
  20. Rihanna: Anti (Roc Nation) {136} [A-]
  21. Kendrick Lamar: Untitled Unmastered (Top Dawg Entertainment) {109} [***]
  22. Skepta: Konnichiwa (Boy Better Know) {101} [***]
  23. Jenny Hval: Blood Bitch (Sacred Bones) {98} [C+]
  24. Parquet Courts: Human Performance (Rough Trade) {96} [A-]
  25. PJ Harvey: The Hope Six Demolition Project (Vagrant) {95} [**]
  26. Sturgill Simpson: A Sailor's Guide to Earth (Atlantic) {92} [***]
  27. James Blake: The Colour in Anything (Polydor) {90} [B-]
  28. The Avalanches: Wildflower (Astralwerks) {85} [B]
  29. Iggy Pop: Post Pop Depression (Loma Vista) {82} [*]
  30. Michael Kiwanuka: Love & Hate (Polydor) {79} [**]
  31. Whitney: Light Upon the Lake (Secretly Canadian) {78} [B-]
  32. Kate Tempest: Let Them Eat Chaos (Lex) {74} [**]
  33. Nicolas Jaar: Sirens (Other People) {70} [**]
  34. Margo Price: Midwest Farmer's Daughter (Third Man) {70} [A-]
  35. The 1975: I Like It When You Sleep for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It (Dirty Hit/Interscope) {66} [*]
  36. Drive-By Truckers: American Band (ATO) {66} [A-]
  37. Savages: Adore Life (Matador) {65} [***]
  38. Young Thug: [No My Name Is] Jeffery (300 Entertainment/Atlantic) {62} [A-]
  39. Drake: Views (Cash Money) {55} [*]
  40. Jessy Lanza: Oh No (Hyperdub) {55} [A-]
  41. Schoolboy Q: Blank Face LP (Interscope/Top Dawg) {51} [***]
  42. YG: Still Brazy (Def Jam) {51} [*]
  43. Miranda Lambert: The Weight of These Wings (Sony Music Nashville) {47} [A-]
  44. Noname: Telefone (self-released) {47} [**]
  45. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Nonagon Infinity (ATO) {46} [*]
  46. Kevin Morby: Singing Saw (Dead Oceans) {43} [***]
  47. Christine and the Queens: Chaleur Humaine (Because) {41} [**]
  48. Paul Simon: Stranger to Stranger (Concord) {41} [*]
  49. Wilco: Schmilco (dBpm) {41} [*]
  50. BadBadNotGood: IV (Innovative Leisure) {40} [B]

Probably the first year ever where I've heard all top-50 albums (informed as I am that this year's Chaleur Humaine is just a British repackaging of last year's eponymous Christine and the Queens album -- the one I've heard -- which was itself a reissue of the 2014 French Chaleur Humaine). The top five have been stable for a while now, even though the 2-3 margin is just 11 (I don't think the lead has ever changed). I had originally expected Beyoncé to catch Bowie but the closest they've come was about 30 points, and Bowie has been steadily building his lead over the last 2-3 weeks. I suspect she's lost votes (at least positions) to sister Solange.

Note that 6-7-8 are still very close (6 points total). Nick Cave does exceptionally well in non-English-language pubs, and I've picked up quite a few of them. Tribe got a late start, but seems to have hit a plateau, at least here -- I figure they'll finish 4th in the Voice poll, behind Bowie-Beyoncé-Ocean. The 9-10 race is also close (1 point), but 11-16 is pretty well spread out, 17-20 close (5 points), then a big jump to 21 (27 points).

My grade breakdown is: 15 A-, 10 ***, 8 **, 10 *, 3 B, 3 B-, 1 C+. I'd be real surprised if any previous year broke that favorably. (Last year I had 9 A- [-6], 11 *** [-1], 12 * [+2], and 9 B/lower [+2], with 3 unrated.) Number of lists compiled is down from 720 to 231, so there are quite a few more I could add if the spirit moves me. Total records are down from 5285 to 2402.

At this point, all of the new jazz CDs in my queue are scheduled for release in 2017, so I've felt justified in ignoring them. (I also held a few that I have listened to back for January's Streamnotes.) I'll start digging into them over the next week or two, but for a while I plan on concentrating on 2016 releases I've missed. Maybe start thinking about what to do in this coming year.

New records rated this week:

  • Adia Victoria: Beyond the Bloodhounds (2016, Canvasback/Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Beyoncé: Lemonade (2016, Parkwood/Columbia): [cd]: A-
  • David Bromberg Band: The Blues, the Whole Blues and Nothing but the Blues (2016, Red House): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Uri Caine Trio: Calibrated Thickness (2015 [2016], 816 Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Club D'Elf: Live at Club Helsinki (2012 [2017], Face Pelt, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • CupcakKe: Cum Cake (2016, self-released): [r]: A-
  • Dear Eloise: Uncontrollable, Ice Age Stories (2012 [2016], Maybe Mars): [bc]: B+(*)
  • El Guincho: Hiperasia (2016, Nacional): [r]: B
  • EOLA: Dang (2016, Leaving, EP): [r]: B-
  • Family Atlantica: Cosmic Unity (2016, Soundway): [r]: B+(*)
  • Brent Gallaher: Moving Forward (2016 [2017], V&B): [cd]: B
  • GFOTY: Call Him a Doctor (2016, PC Music, EP): [r]: B-
  • Wayne Hancock: Slingin' Rhythm (2016, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(**)
  • Heron Oblivion: Heron Oblivion (2016, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(**)
  • Horse Lords: Interventions (2016, Northern Spy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carly Rae Jepsen: E-MO-TION: Side B (2014-15 [2016], School Boy/Interscope, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ka: Honor Killed the Samurai (2016, Iron Works): [r]: A-
  • King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard: Nonagon Infinity (2016, ATO): [r]: B+(*)
  • Krokofant: Krokofant II (2015, Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(*)
  • Moor Mother: Fetish Bones (2016, Don Giovanni): [r]: B
  • Willie Nelson: For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price (2016, Legacy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nice as Fuck: Nice as Fuck (2016, Loves Way, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Noname: Telefone (2016, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • NxWorries: Yes Lawd! (2016, Stones Throw): [r]: B+(***)
  • Preoccupations: Preoccupations (2016, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B+(*)
  • Serengeti & Sicker Man: Doctor My Own Patience (2016, Graveface): [r]: B
  • Sleigh Bells: Jessica Rabbit (2016, Torn Clean): [r]: B
  • Elza Soares: A Mulher Do Fim Do Mundo (2015 [2016], Mais Um Discos): [r]: A-
  • Susso: Keira (2016, Soundway): [r]: B+(*)
  • A Tribe Called Red: We Are the Halluci Nation (2016, Radicalized): [r]: B+(***)
  • Venetian Snares: Traditional Synthesizer Music (2016, Timesig): [r]: A-
  • The Weeknd: Starboy (2016, XO/Republic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Andre Williams: I Wanna Go Back to Detroit City (2016, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jamila Woods: HEAVN (2016, Closed Sessions): [sc]: B+(*)
  • Yussef Kamaal: Black Focus (2016, Brownswood): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Mark Lewis: New York Sessions (Audio Daddio): January 27
  • Chelsea McBride's Socialist Night School: The Twilight Fall (Browntasaurus): January 13
  • Chris Rogers: Voyage Home (Art of Life): February 3
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: Piano Song (Thirsty Ear)


  • Beyoncé (2013, Columbia)
  • Beyoncé: Lemonade (Parkwood/Columbia)
  • The Del McCoury Band: Del and Woody (McCoury Music
  • Anderson .Paak: Malibu (OBE/Steel Wool/ArtClub/Empire)
  • Pet Shop Boys: Super (X2)
  • A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27512 [27465] rated (+47), 362 [383] unrated (-21).

This week's rated count when I first ran make was +24, but when I counted the rated records this week, I came up with 28, so clearly I had missed at least four. I made a deeper search of unrated records and found them plus a bunch more (+19), hence this week's inflated count. Actually, I lost a couple days this week to cooking, but I also made up ground by leaning rather hard on Napster and Bandcamp, as I checked out interesting records from various EOY lists. Most helpful this week was Tom Lane's list (emailed personally), as it yielded about a dozen albums I hadn't previously tracked, including two of this week's A- finds (Kelsey Waldon and Becky Warren).

NPR published the 11th Annual Jazz Critics Poll this year. Francis Davis organized the poll of 137 jazz critics, and wrote two essays:

Once again, I compiled all of the critics' ballots into presentable form here, and tabulated them all to provide complete results down to the most obscure single votes. My own ballot is here, which includes, I believe, four singular votes (Keita, Person, Lucas, Rempis -- plus Lucas and Sonic Liberation 8 in the special categories; Amado got one other vote, and Rudd two; Damana got two other votes for Debut). I voted for records which finished 1st (Threadgill), 13th (Allen), 14th (Murray), and tied for 30th (Coleman), but I also graded eight other top-31 finishers A- (DeJohnette, Haden, Lehman, Bloom, Ward, Holland, Rollins, and Hersch), and ten more B+(***) (Smith, Halvorson, Formanek, Wilson, Sorey, Cyrille, Davis, Ortiz, Guy, Brown), plus five B+(**) (Iyer, Argue, Lloyd, Finlayson, Dresser). I didn't manage to hear two (Harrell, Moran). So all in all I find this a very respectable consensus -- in fact, probably fewer records here I disfavor than ever before.

Since the Jazz Critics Poll went up, I've mostly been trying to bring my EOY Aggregate up to date. Thus far I've mostly tried to pick up the (mostly foreign) polls listed at Acclaimed Music Forums. I'm currently up to 166 lists (as compared to about 750 lists last year, a total I'm not even remotely hoping for this year). (By the way, the list-of-the-week is from Dan Weiss. And while I haven't read/counted it yet, here's one from Jason Gross).

The current top-10: David Bowie, Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Radiohead, Solange, Nick Cave, Kanye West, A Tribe Called Quest, Bon Iver, and Chance the Rapper. Second 10: Angel Olsen, Anohni, Anderson .Paak, Car Seat Headrest, Leonard Cohen, Danny Brown, Kaytranada, Blood Orange, Rihanna, and Mitski. The recent infusion of non-Anglo lists has helped fuel bubbles for Nick Cave (up to 6 from 9 last week), Bon Iver (9 from 11), and Anohni (11 from 13). I suspect those three will settle down a bit as the list focus moves back to America. That should also help Beyoncé, but at this point it's pretty clear that Bowie will wind up in first place (current margin +83), and it's not inconceivable that Beyoncé will lose second place to Frank Ocean (her lead is currently 306-300, so very close). I still expect Beyoncé to win the Village Voice Critics Poll, but my own scheme doesn't allow enough weighting for high finishes to make such a lead reversible.

I was invited to vote in El Intruso's annual poll, so this is what I sent in. They asked for "no more than three choices in each category." Most of those are for musicians-by-instrument. I don't think it makes much sense to try to rank musicians, so please consider this just an exercise in name-dropping.

  • Musician of the year: Ivo Perelman, Allen Lowe
  • Newcomer Musician: Dag Magnus Narvesen
  • Group of the year: Made to Break, Black Bombaim
  • Newcomer group: Damana, Festen
  • Album of the year: Aly Keita, Kalo-Yele (Intakt); Houston Person & Ron Carter: Chemistry (HighNote), Henry Threadgill: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi)
  • Composer: Carla Bley, John Zorn
  • Drums: Gerald Cleaver, Paal Nilssen-Love, Gerry Hemingway
  • Acoustic Bass: William Parker, John Hebert
  • Electric Bass: Devin Hoff, Rafal Mazur
  • Guitar: Samo Salamon, Eric Hofbauer, Luis Lopes
  • Piano: Irene Schweizer, Kris Davis, Nik Bartsch
  • Keyboards/Synthesizer/Organ
  • Tenor Saxophone: David Murray, Ellery Eskelin, Ernest Dawkins
  • Alto Saxophone: Francois Carrier, Greg Ward, Brahja Waldman
  • Baritone Saxophone: Vinny Golia
  • Soprano Saxophone: Jane Ira Bloom, Sam Newsome
  • Trumpet/Cornet: Taylor Ho Bynum
  • Clarinet/bass clarinet: Marty Ehrlich
  • Trombone: Steve Swell, Roswell Rudd, Joe Fiedler
  • Flute: Nicole Mitchell, Robert Dick
  • Violin/Viola: Jason Kao Hwang
  • Cello: Fred Lonberg-Holm, Erik Friedlander
  • Vibraphone: Jason Adasiewicz
  • Electronics: Jean-Marc Foussat
  • Other instruments: Aly Keita (balafon/kalimba)
  • Female Vocals: Sarah Stiles, Barbara Dane
  • Male Vocals: Freddy Cole
  • Best Live Band: Cortex
  • Record Label: Intakt, Clean Feed, Pi

I also voted in the Village Voice Music Critics Poll 2016 (formerly Pazz & Jop, originally -- i.e., 1971 -- named for a similar poll published by Jazz & Pop magazine). The poll asks critics to vote for their 10 favorite albums, dividing up 100 votes among them (5 minimum, 30 maximum), and also for 10 songs (with no point system).

  1. Aly Keďta/Jan Galega Brönnimann/Lucas Niggli: Kalo-Yele (Intakt) 14
  2. Mekons: Existentialism (Bloodshot) 13
  3. Houston Person & Ron Carter: Chemistry (HighNote) 13
  4. Pet Shop Boys: Super (X2) 11
  5. Brandy Clark: Big Day in a Small Town (Warner Brothers) 11
  6. Henry Threadgill Ensemble Double Up: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi) 9
  7. Drive-By Truckers: American Band (ATO) 8
  8. Murray, Allen & Carrington Power Trio: Perfection (Motéma) 8
  9. Gary Lucas: Fleischerei: Music From Max Fleischer Cartoons (Cuneiform) 7
  10. Aesop Rock: The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers) 6

I haven't been tracking singles, so have no idea what to vote for there, and no time at the moment to figure out how to fake it. I only picked five records from my 2016 Jazz List and one (Lucas) was picked ahead of order because it's more pop/vocal, with five more from the 2016 Non-Jazz List. For a variety of reasons, my present integrated EOY list is rather heavily skewed toward jazz (for one thing, I have 71 A-list jazz records, vs. 51 A-list non-jazz). But the former hardly ever get any Pazz & Jop support, and I don't wish to be totally marginal there. For one thing, we've lost way too many elections already this year.

On the other hand, I'm not terribly excited by the records leading the EOY Aggregate count. Looking at my grades for the top 20 (and I still haven't heard Beyoncé), I come up with zero A records, 8 A- (Chance the Rapper [44], A Tribe Called Quest [27], Anderson .Paak [7], Leonard Cohen [30], Kaytranada [13], Rihanna [25], Danny Brown [12], Blood Orange [28]), 4 B+(***) (David Bowie, Kanye West, Angel Olsen, Car Seat Headrest), 2 B+(**) (Frank Ocean, Solange), 3 B+(*) (Bon Iver, Anohni, Mitski), 1 B (Radiohead), 1 B- (Nick Cave), nothing really worse than that. While I can't say as I understand the attraction of the bottom two, the average year has 3-4 times as many "deplorables," so it's hard to complain about this year's polls. In fact, it's never been clearer that the Trump demographic has never been more culturally impotent (or should I just say eclipsed?).

New records rated this week:

  • Harry Allen's All Star New York Saxophone Band: The Candy Men (2016, Arbors): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Beasley: Presents MONK'estra Vol. 1 (2016, Mack Avenue): [r]: B-
  • William Bell: This Is Where I Live (2016, Stax): [r]: B
  • Sarah Bernstein Quartet: Still/Free (2015 [2016], Leo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Peter Brötzmann/Steve Swell/Paal Nilssen-Love: Live in Copenhagen (2016, Not Two): [cd]: A-
  • J Cole: 4 Your Eyez Only (2016, Dreamville/Roc Nation/Interscope): [r]: B+(**)
  • Daniele D'Agaro/Giovanni Maier/Zlatko Kaucic: Disorder at the Border Plays Ornette (2015 [2016], Not Two): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pierre Dřrge's New Jungle Orchestra: Ubi Zaa (2016, SteepleChase): [r]: B
  • DD Dumbo: Utopia Defeated (2016, 4AD): [r]: B
  • ELEW: And to the Republic (2016, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jonny Fritz: Sweet Creep (2016, ATO): [r]: B+(*)
  • Future: EVOL (2016, Epic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kirk Knuffke: Little Cross (2014 [2015], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
  • Konx-Om-Pax: Caramel (2016, Planet Mu): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kornél Kovács: The Bells (2016, Studio Barnhus): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Pedrito Martinez Group: Habana Dreams (2016, Motéma): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rob Mazurek & Emmett Kelly: Alien Flower Sutra (2016, International Anthem): [r]: C
  • Parker Millsap: The Very Last Day (2016, Okrahoma): [r]: B+(*)
  • Modus Factor: The Picasso Zone (2015 [2016], Browntasaurus): [r]: B+(**)
  • Uwe Oberg & Silke Eberhard: Turns (2015 [2016], Leo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Roberto Occhipinti: Stabilimento (2016, Modica Music): [cd]: B
  • Phronesis: Parallax (2015 [2016], Edition): [r]: B+(**)
  • Populous: Night Safari (2014, Bad Panda): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Todd Snider: Eastside Bulldog (2016, Aimless): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gregory Tardy: Chasing After the Wind (2015 [2016], SteepleChase): [r]: B
  • Tell Tale: Film in Music (2014 [2016], Drip Audio): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kelsey Waldon: I've Got a Way (2016, Monkey's Eyebrow): [r]: A-
  • Becky Warren: War Surplus (2016, self-released): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Led Bib: Umbrella Weather (RareNoise): advance, January 20
  • Brad Myers & Michael Sharfe: Sanguinaria (Hopefulsongs) (Colloquy): March 3
  • Reflections in Cosmo (RareNoise): advance, January 20

Monday, December 19, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27465 [27433] rated (+32), 383 [385] unrated (-2).

Spent most of last week building the website for the 11th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, which NPR will publish tomorrow, or maybe a bit later. I won't disclose anything here, other than that we received 139 ballots, down a bit from last year's record 147 (where's John Chacona? Steven Dollar? David Hajdu? Lyn Horton? Garrett Shelton?). When they do go up, my pages will look a lot like last year's. Francis Davis again deserves a big round of applause for making this happen.

Mostly picking things off lists opportunistically, as well as mopping up a few 2016 stragglers in my queue: down to 6 pending records. With all the JCP work, I've done very little on my own EOY Aggregate file: today belatedly adding only a few of the recent lists (Blare, Gigwise, Line of Best Fit, Pitchfork, Q, Tiny Mix Tapes). I'll add more when I get some time next week, although several things are going to slow me down. For one, I have dinners to cook on Tuesday and Saturday. For another, I have ballots due for the Village Voice (evidently not Pazz & Jop anymore) and El Intruso polls, though those at least I can safely wing.

New records rated this week:

  • Ab-Soul: Do What Thou Wilt (2016, Top Dawg): [r]: A-
  • Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids: We Be All Africans (2016, Strut): [r]: B+(***)
  • Babyfather: BBF Hosted by DJ Escrow (2016, Hyperdub): [r]: B-
  • Black Art Jazz Collective: Presented by the Side Door Jazz Club (2016, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jane Bunnett & Maqueque: Oddara (2016, Linus Entertainment): [r]: B
  • Jeff Collins: The Keys to Christmas (2016, Crossroads): [r]: C-
  • Alexis Cuadrado: Poetica (2016, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Deap Vally: Femejism (2016, Nevado): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Dining Rooms: Do Hipsters Love Sun (Ra?) (2015, Schema): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dog Leg Dilemma: Not This Time (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Dave Douglas/Frank Woeste: Dada People (2015 [2016], Greenleaf Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mark Dresser Seven: Sedimental You (2016, Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Fire!: She Sleeps/She Sleeps (2015 [2016], Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(**)
  • Freddie Hendrix: Jersey Cat (2010 [2016], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dre Hocevar: Transcendental Within the Sphere of Indivisible Remainder (2016, Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bobby Kapp/Matthew Shipp: Cactus (2016, Northern Spy): [r]: A-
  • Irene Kepl: SololoS (2016, Fou): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Brad Mehldau Trio: Blues and Ballads (2012-14 [2016], Nonesuch): [r]: B+(**)
  • Moker: Ladder (2016, El Negocito): [r]: B+(*)
  • Donny Most: Swinging Down the Chimney Tonight (2016, Summit, EP): [cd]: B
  • Motif: My Head is Listening (2013-15 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Nao: For All We Know (2016, Little Tokyo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nots: Cosmetic (2016, Goner): [r]: A-
  • Frank Ocean: Blonde (2016, Boys Don't Cry): [r]: B+(**)
  • Schoolboy Q: Blank Face LP (2016, Interscope/Top Dawg): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Swell/Gebhard Ullmann/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Michael Zerang: The Chicago Plan (2016, Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mat Walerian-Matthew Shipp Duo: The Uppercut: Live at Okuden (2012 [2015], ESP-Disk): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/Hamid Drake: Jungle: Live at Okuden (2012 [2016], ESP-Disk, 2CD): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Neil Young + Promise of the Real: Earth (2015 [2016], Reprise, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Neil Young: Peace Trail (2016, Reprise): [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Bob Dylan: The Real Royal Albert Hall 1966 Concert! (1966 [2016], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): [r]: B
  • Dizzy Gillespie & Friends: Concert of the Century: A Tribute to Charlie Parker (1980 [2016], Justin Time): [r]: B+(*)
  • Evan Parker/Daunik Lazro/Joe McPhee: Seven Pieces: Live at Willisau 1995 (1995 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Howard Riley: Constant Change 1976-2016 (1976-2016 [2016], NoBusiness, 5CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Neil Young: Bluenote Café (1987-88 [2015], Reprise, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Neil Young + Promise of the Real: The Monsanto Years (2015, Reprise): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jim Black/Óskar Gudjónsson/Elias Stemeseder/Chris Tordini: Mala Mute (Intakt): January
  • Ellery Eskelin/Christian Weber/Michael Griener: Sensations of Tone (Intakt): January
  • Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Peace (Libra): January 27
  • Cynthia Hilts: Lyric Fury (Blond Coyote): January 13
  • Gary Lucas' Fleischerei: Music From Max Fleischer Cartoons (Cuneiform)
  • Tell Tale: Film in Music (Drip Audio)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Weekend Roundup

I have better things to do than to continue documented this entirely predictable trainwreck. Still, a few links and brief notes if you're still transfixed:

  • David Atkins: Democrats Should Hope the Economic Populists Are Right:

  • More than a month after the election, a war of words and ideas still rages on the left between the Sanders-leaning economic populists and the more establishment defenders of the Clinton campaign. Broadly speaking, the contours of the argument center around whether Clinton could have done more from a populist messaging standpoint to appeal to white working class Rust Belt voters and to disaffected voters who stayed home, or whether Clinton's overall approach was good, but that she was overwhelmed by the prejudices of white voters and stabbed in the back by Comey, Russia, and various parts of the progressive left.

    I suppose I quoted this because the last clause led me to react: well, the progressive leftists I know gave her a lot more support than she would have given us over the next four years had she won. And I say that even though I know a few Stein supporters (probably, even, a couple folks who voted for Johnson), and I know a lot of people who voted for Clinton but weren't happy with her. I voted for her, fully understanding that we'd wind up spending the next four years protesting and organizing against much of her platform, because I was also every bit as aware that putting the Republicans into power would be far worse for virtually all of us. That's what we call a rational decision, and that's something we on the left weigh carefully and practice more or less consistently. Clinton's problem in the 2016 election wasn't with rational people, ergo it wasn't with "progressive leftists." Her problem was with crazy people, or effectively the same thing, people who were willing to put aside reason and vote on some emotional whim, a belief backed with no more than a scintilla of evidence.

    There are, of course, two approaches to this problem: one is to make voters more conscious of real problems and to better articulate real solutions. The other is to do a better job of identifying the emotions that can be made to work for you, and to hit them in ways that move voters to your side. (The Republicans are quite good at the latter, and have the much easier job doing the opposite of the former: all they need to do is to convince voters that problems are beyond political remedy, and ignorance helps as much as mendacity there.) As much as we'd like to see reason win out, that's a long term project. For right now, suffice it to say that wasn't especially effective at picking her issues, and was vulnerable to precisely the sort of attacks Republicans specialize in.

  • Lauren Fox: Obama: 'Reagan Would Roll Over in His Grave' Over GOP Support for Russia: One of Obama's strangest quirks is his continuing affection for Ronald Reagan, even to the point of imagining he's some sort of kindly national father-figure far removed from his actual history and legacy. It's not as if Obama wasn't conscious during the Reagan administration -- he was 18 when it started -- but he didn't have the Vietnam War to inform his politics at that age (like I did), so maybe he's normalized his memory in some way those of us who can recall Reagan from his days as governor of California in the 1960s cannot. (Maybe he's conflated Reagan with his first experiences of getting high and getting laid?) In any case, his comment reflects a simpler misunderstanding. Reagan's wailing about the Soviet Union was purely ideological -- even when he framed it as some sort of Manichaean struggle between good and evil -- he never went off on nationalist rants against the Russians, nor did he grasp the neoconservative doctrine that seeks to punish any nation that isn't sufficiently obsequious to American power. Moreover, like all conservatives of his era (and for that matter today), he appreciated the efficient order that dictators abroad offered -- one might even say he preferred them to the risks of unruly democracy America itself posed. So why on earth would Reagan be disturbed by Trump's fondness for Putin? -- a fellow plutocrat who's willing to cut corners when it comes to democratic niceties to consolidate the power of his favored cronies? It's not like conservatives care any more about ordinary Russians than they do about ordinary Americans.

    Liberals (and leftists), at least, can offer a plausible claim to caring about iniquities around the world, because they care about them at home, and recognize that the rest of the world isn't that different. Still, nothing Obama (nor any of the Democrats who have lately been obsessed with Russian meddling in our election) has said indicates any concern for the Russian people. Rather, he has simply fallen for the post-Cold War neoconservative line that demonizes any nation outside of America's "security" umbrella -- especially any political leaders who think they have any interests beyond their own borders (as Russia does with Syria and Ukraine). The neocons motives are pretty transparent: they like to puff up Russia and China as rivals and enemies to justify America's expensive indulgence in world-threatening arms. On the other hand, it's just plain ignorant and lazy for Democrats like Obama (and the Clintons) to take up the neocon cudgel against Russia. It leads to greater militarization, less diplomacy, a world torn into hostile camps where America rules by brute intimidation, and has ceded any motivation except for self-interest.

    As for the "Russian hack" of the election, which is presumably the imagined (if not the real) inspiration for Obama's attempt at wit, see Sam Kriss: The Rise of the Alt-Center, or as the subhed put it, "Why did establishment liberals fall in love with a deranged Twitter thread?" Or as the link I followed read: "Establishment Liberals Have Lost Their Damn Minds." The tweet thread was by Eric Garland, and Kriss adds a full paragraph of liberal praise, including "if there were a Pulitzer for tweeting -- this thread would be the updisputed winner of 2016." Kriss continues:

    Clearly something horrifying has happened to America's great liberal intellects. One moment they were yapping along in the train of a historic political movement; now, ragged and destitute, they wander with lolling tongues in search of anything that might explain their new world to them. This is, after all, how cults get started. Cultists will venerate any messianic mediocrity and any set of half-baked spiritual dogmas; it's not the overt content that matters but the security of knowing. If Trump's devoted hype squad of pustulent, oleaginous neo-Nazis can now be euphemized as the "alt-right," the Eichenwalds and Jefferys of the world might have turned themselves into something similar: an alt-center, pushing its own failed political doctrine with all the same vehemence, idiocy, and spleen. So it's strange, but not surprising, that so many people would sing the praises of Garland's masterpiece, because it is absolutely the worst piece of political writing ever inflicted on any public in human history. [ . . . ]

    Whatever Russia did or didn't do, the idea that its interference is what cost Hillary Clinton the election is utterly ludicrous and absolutely false. What cost Hillary Clinton the election can be summed up by a single line from Sen. Chuck Schumer, soon to be the country's highest-ranking Democrat: "For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin." As it turned out, he was fatally wrong. It wasn't the Russians who told the Democratic Party to abandon the working-class people of all races who used to form its electoral base. It wasn't the Russians who decided to run a presidential campaign that offered people nothing but blackmail -- "vote for us or Dangerous Donald wins." The Russians didn't come up with awful tin-eared catchphrases like "I'm with her" or "America is already great." The Russians never ordered the DNC to run one of the most widely despised people in the country, simply because she thought it was her turn. The Democrats did that all by themselves.

  • Barack Obama's presidency will be defined by his failure to face down Assad: No, Obama's presidency has been defined by his failure to face down the real threat to the security and welfare of the American people: the Republicans. He's done this by not blaming them for their misdeeds. He's done this by not breaking with their failed policies -- above all the wars against Muslims, but also much of their domestic policy. And he's done this by not offering real alternatives, and by not supporting his party or its voters. As for Syria, sure, he screwed up, but not for backing away from the "red line" over chemical weapons -- pace, the author, he won the only meaningful resolution of that issue, and did it diplomatically (the only way that would stick). But in his early rejection of Assad, his congenital antipathy to Russia and Iran, his willingness to give supposed allies (like Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia) a free hand to pursue radically opposed goals), and his general belief in the effectiveness of military might (and his continued support for the most clandestine and irresponsible American warmakers), he made sure the US would be a much bigger part of the problem than of the solution.

And briefly noted:

Monday, December 12, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27433 [27403] rated (+30), 385 [369] unrated (+16).

Two leftover thoughts from yesterday's Weekend Roundup:

  1. As I've been saying for much of last year, the surest way for Clinton to lose to Trump is to present herself as a reckless, foolhardy hawk, which she did with all that "who's fit to be Commander-in-Chief" talk, especially combined with her neocon attempts to shame Trump on Russia and Putin. I didn't cite any articles on it yesterday, but ever since the election mainstream Democrats have been harping on the alleged Russian hack of the elections, which makes themselves look pathetic, and gives Trump one issue where he comes off as relatively sane. It also detracts from them scoring real points, like how Clinton received 2.84 million more votes than Trump (a margin of more than 2.0%), or how she did that despite Republican voter suppression efforts. It also wastes time that could be spent exposing the actual things the Trump transition team are doing.

  2. Speaking of which, if there's any theme I've hit on even harder throughout the year it's that the problem with Trump isn't his deviant personality -- even much more than deplorable traits like his racism and misogyny -- but the fact that he's found common cause with extreme right-wingers who have come to dominate and define the Republican Party. Maybe if Republicans had nominated someone like Ted Cruz we could have had a straight referendum on the party's worldview, but Clinton chose to focus on Trump's quirks instead of the real threat, so now we have cretins like Paul Ryan plotting to destroy Social Security and Medicare, while Trump is stocking his cabinet with people who are just fine with that sort of double cross.

One problem with doing these rush posts is that real points, themes even, get lost in the nest of links. Just wanted to reiterate those two points. And I'll add a possible third one: in order for the Democratic Party to provide effective resistance against Trump's oligarchs, they have to actively, consistently, as a matter of principle, oppose war and support and promote equality. Quite frankly, if they don't step up to that challenge -- the real threat that Trump and the Republicans pose -- they're helpless and worthless.

Thirty newly rated albums below. Last time that happened was Oct. 10, eight weeks ago. I still don't have the newly rebuilt computer all hooked up -- still have a printing problem -- and I still haven't restored my unplayed (not to mention played) downloads, but I've been able to listen to Napster and Bandcamp. I've also been plowing through EOY lists, so my searching has been more inspired and better targeted than usual. One result is no less than eleven A- records. In particular, I finally got a chance to catch up with Robert Christgau's last two months of Expert Witness picks. Given how far behind I was, I'm a bit surprised that I didn't concur with more. As it is, I more/less agreed with five (Alicia Keys, Tanya Tagaq, A Tribe Called Quest, Pat Thomas, and Urgent Jumping), while six others didn't quite do it for me (Margaret Glaspy, Macy Gray, Pussy Riot, Regina Spektor, and Jinx Lennon twice).

I also added five A- records to my EOY Jazz List shortly after voting for the Jazz Critics Poll closed -- seems like it always works out that way. Four were late arrivals to my mailbox (Albert Cirera, Eve Risser, Steve Swell, and a vault treat from 1994 with Dave Burrell and Bob Stewart), and I picked up the fifth (Taylor Ho Bynum) on Napster. The eleventh was one by Tom Zé that I only found out about from Phil Overeem's list (also my source for Tyler Keith).

I've continued adding EOY lists to my . EOY Aggregate file. I currently have 97 lists compiled, which I assemble in two weight groups: one for longer lists which scores 5 points (1), 4 (2-5), 3 (6-10), 2 (11-20), and 1 (everything else); the other for shorter lists, scoring 3 (1), 2 (2-5), and 1 (everything else). Unranked lists are noted + (sometimes ++ or +++ if they are somehow tiered). I've also scored grades by Robert Christgau and myself (A/A+ 5, A- 4, B+/*** 3, ** 2, * 1), and will probably do that for Michael Tatum as well. These grades have a minor effect of biasing the results towards things I/we like, but then my point isn't to offer some kind of objective, impersonally scientific ranking. It's, as always, to help identify records worth searching out.

Speaking of which, I've tended to skip over lists dedicated to genres I have no real interest in, which mostly means metal. I'll also note that in addition to Overeem (who picked enough records this year to qualify as a major listmeister), I've picked up a couple lists from Facebook friends where I've noticed them (Thomas Walker and Joe Yanosik). I'll do more of that when I find them. I haven't picked up Chris Monsen's still-evolving favorites list, but at some arbitrary point will do so.

Current standings according to my way of counting (counts in opening brackets, my grades in closing):

  1. [208] David Bowie: Blackstar (Columbia) [***]
  2. [182] Beyonce: Lemonade (Columbia/Parkwood) [?]
  3. [162] Frank Ocean: Blonde (Boys Don't Cry) [**]
  4. [144] Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool (XL) [B]
  5. [133] Solange: A Seat at the Table (Saint/Columbia) [**]
  6. [131] Chance the Rapper: Coloring Book (self-released) [A-]
  7. [120] Kanye West: The Life of Pablo (Def Jam/GOOD Music) [***]
  8. [110] A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic) [A-]
  9. [108] Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree (Bad Seed) [B-]
  10. [104] Anderson Paak: Malibu (OBE/Steel Wool/ArtClub/Empire) [A-]
  11. [104] Bon Iver: 22 a Million (Jagjaguwar) [*]
  12. [101] Angel Olsen: My Woman (Jagjaguwar) [***]
  13. [92] Anohni: Hopelessness (Secretly Canadian) [*]
  14. [85] Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial (Matador) [***]
  15. [81] Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker (Columbia) [A-]
  16. [73] Kaytranada: 99.9% (XL) [A-]
  17. [71] Mitski: Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans) [*]
  18. [68] Rihanna: Anti (Roc Nation) [A-]
  19. [61] Blood Orange: Freetown Sound (Domino) [A-]
  20. [60] Danny Brown: Atrocity Exhibition (Warp) [A-]
  21. [59] Sturgill Simpson: A Sailor's Guide to Earth (Atlantic) [***]
  22. [52] Kendrick Lamar: Untitled Unmastered (Top Dawg Entertainment) [***]
  23. [46] Margo Price: Midwest Farmer's Daughter (Third Man) [A-]
  24. [44] Drive-By Truckers: American Band (ATO) [A-]
  25. [40] PJ Harvey: The Hope Six Demolition Project (Vagrant) [**]
  26. [40] Parquet Courts: Human Performance (Rough Trade) [A-]
  27. [40] Skepta: Konnichiwa (Boy Better Know) [***]
  28. [38] The 1975: I Like It When You Sleep for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It (Dirty Hit/Interscope) [*]
  29. [38] Iggy Pop: Post Pop Depression (Loma Vista) [*]
  30. [36] Young Thug: [No My Name Is] Jeffery (300 Entertainment/Atlantic) [A-]

Album of the Year's Aggregate has same top seven, but a closer race for the top spot (Bowie over Beyoncé 286-282), and Solange ahead of Radiohead (225-208), They actually have the same top-twenty records, with the big difference that they move Angel Olsen up from 12th (my list) to 8th. From 21-30 they add Jenny Hval (31-26), The Avalanches (33-28), and Savages (38-29), in place of Drive-By Truckers (24-31), Parquet Courts (26-36), and Young Thug (30-37) -- three records graded A- or better by both Christgau and myself, so there's my cheat for you. (I have Hval C+, Avalanches B, Savages ***.)

My next project will be tallying the Jazz Critics Poll ballots, which I finally have but haven't really cracked into yet.

New records rated this week:

  • Aesop Rock & Homeboy Sandman: Lice Two: Still Buggin' (2016, Stones Throw, EP): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Aziza Brahim: Abbar El Hamada (2016, Glitterbeat): [r]: B+(**)
  • Burial: Young Death/Nightmarket (2016, Hyperdub, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Taylor Ho Bynum: Enter the Plustet (2016, Firehouse 12): [r]: A-
  • Joăo Camőes/Jean-Marc Foussat: Ŕ La Face du Ciel (2014 [2016], Shhpuma): [r]: B+(***)
  • John Dikeman/Luis Vicente/Hugo Antunes/Gabriel Ferrandini: Salăo Brazil (2016, NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Paolo Fresu & Omar Sosa: Eros (2016, Otá): [r]: B+(*)
  • Margaret Glaspy: Emotions and Math (2016, ATO): [r]: B+(**)
  • Macy Gray: Stripped (2016, Chesky): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Kastan: Roll the Dice on Life (2016 [2017], Kastan, 2CD): [cd]: C+
  • Tyler Keith & the Apostles: Do It for Johnny (2016, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Alicia Keys: Here (2016, RCA): [r]: A-
  • Lady Gaga: Joanne (2016, Streamline/Interscope): [r]: B
  • Jinx Lennon: Past Pupil Stay Home (2016, Septic Tiger): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jinx Lennon: Magic Bullets of Madness to Uplift Grief Magnets (2016, Septic Tiger): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bruno Mars: 24K Magic (2016, Atlantic): [r]: B
  • Mark Pritchard: Under the Sun (2016, Warp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pussy Riot: XXX (2016, Nice Life, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra: Les Deux Versants Se Regardent (2016, Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
  • The Rolling Stones: Blue & Lonesome (2016, Polydor): [r]: B+(***)
  • Daniel Romano: Mosey (2016, New West): [r]: B-
  • Ned Rothenberg/Mark Feldman/Sylvie Courvoisier: In Cahoots (2014 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Regina Spektor: Remember Us to Life (2016, Sire): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Swell Quintet: Soul Travelers (2015 [2016], RogueArt): [cdr]: A-
  • Tanya Tagaq: Retribution (2016, Six Shooter): [r]: A-
  • A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service (2016, Epic): [r]: A-
  • William Tyler: Modern Country (2016, Merge): [r]: B+(*)
  • Wilco: Schmilco (2016, dBpm): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tom Zé: Cançőes Eróticas de Ninar (2016, Circus): [r]: A-

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

  • Dave Burrell and Bob Stewart: The Crave (1994 [2016], NoBusiness): [cdr]: A-
  • Steve Lehman Camouflage Trio: Interface (2003, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Joe McPhee & Raymond Boni: Live From the Magic City (Birmingham, Alabama) (1985 [2016], Trost): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Pat Thomas: Coming Home: Original Ghanaian Highlife & Afrobeat Classics 1967-1981 (1967-81 [2016], Strut, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Urgent Jumping: East African Musiki Wa Dansi Classics (1972-82 [2016], Sterns Africa, 2CD): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Taylor Ho Bynum & SpiderMonkey Strings: Other Stories (2003-05 [2005], 482 Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet: Asphalt Flowers Forking Paths (2008, Hatology): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Peter Brötzmann/Steve Swell/Paal Nilssen-Love: Live in Copenhagen (Not Two)
  • Club D'Elf: Live at Club Helsinki (Face Pelt): January 10
  • Sandy Cressman: Entre Amigos (Cressman Music): February 3
  • Dog Leg Dilemma: Not This Time (self-released): January 6
  • Mark Dresser Seven: Sedimental You (Clean Feed)
  • Laura Dubin Trio: Live at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival (self-released, 2CD): January 6
  • Dre Hocevar: Transcendental Within the Sphere of Indivisible Remainder (Clean Feed)
  • Donny Most: Swinging Down the Chimney Tonight (Summit, EP)
  • Motif: My Head is Listening (Clean Feed)
  • Michael Occhipinti: Stabilimento (Modica Music)
  • Evan Parker/Daunik Lazro/Joe McPhee: Seven Pieces: Live at Willisau 1995 (Clean Feed)
  • Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra: Les Deux Versants Se Regardent (Clean Feed)
  • Ned Rothenberg/Mark Feldman/Sylvie Courvoisier: In Cahoots (Clean Feed)
  • Jimmy Scott: I Go Back Home (Eden River): January 27
  • Steve Swell: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Improviser (Swell)
  • Steve Swell Quintet: Soul Travelers (RogueArt): cdr
  • Steve Swell/Gebhard Ullmann/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Michael Zerang: The Chicago Plan (Clean Feed)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Weekend Roundup

I woke up yesterday morning thinking about how America, if little else, has become something of a consumer paradise over the last 30-40 years. I often wonder why it is that so many people are so uncritical of the established order, and that seems to be a big part of why. Sure, one can nitpick, and if you know much about how business, marketing in particular, works, you'll realize that the real gains still fall way short of what's possible or desirable. You may also may feel some qualms about what has actually been achieved by all this consumption. And, of course, like everything else the gains have not been equally distributed. But for those who can afford today's markets, life has never been better.

I count Trump's voters among them. Sure, many gripe about economic fears, some even about hardships, but somehow they overlook their own bosses and the businesses who take most of their money while perceiving others as threats. I'm aware of lots of reasons why they think that, but I can't say that any of them make real sense to me. What I am sure of is that the incoming Trump administration isn't going to solve any of their imaginary (let alone real) problems. Trump's cabinet is going to have more ultrarich (say, half-billionaires and up) than any other in history. In fact, this represents a new plateau in the history of American plutocracy: even as recently as the Shrub administration, titans of industry and finance were happy to stock the government with their lobbyists and retainers, but Trump is tapping "the doers, not the talkers" -- people who don't just take orders but who intimately know how to convert public influence into private gain. In the past, the most notoriously corrupt administrations (Grant, Harding, Reagan) combined indifferent leadership with underlings imbued in a culture of greed. Yet today, Trump not only hasn't divested himself of his business entanglements; he's actively continued to work his deals, nakedly using his newly acquired leverage. Unlike the others, he won't just turn a blind eye to corruption; he's ideally positioned to be the plunderer-in-chief.

One thing Trump's election has spared us was being plagued with four years of non-stop Clinton scandals -- sure, mostly likely as bogus and conflated as the ones she's endured for 24 years, but still catnip to the press. Instead, Trump promises to give us real scandals, huge scandals, the kind of scandals that expose the rotten core of American Greatness. One hardly knows where to begin, or when to stop, but this will necessarily be brief.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Peter Beinart: Trump Excuses the White Working Class From the Politics of Personal Responsibility: The author has been reading JB Vance's Hillbilly Elegy and detects some manner of irony:

    Under Reagan, Republicans demanded personal responsibility from African Americans and ignored the same cultural problems when displayed by whites. Under Trump, Republicans acknowledge that whites exhibit those same pathologies. Trump, for instance, spoke frequently during the campaign about drug addiction in white, rural states like New Hampshire. But instead of demanding personal responsibility, Trump's GOP promises state protection. Unlike Vance, who speaks about his poor white neighbors in the way Reagan-era conservatives spoke about poor blacks, Trump-era conservatives describe the white working class as the victims of political and economic forces beyond their control. Sounding a bit like Jesse Jackson defending the black underclass in the 1980s, Trump Republicans say that what the white underclass needs today is not moralistic sermonizing but government assistance and cultural respect.

    Of course, there is a simpler reason why Republicans would present different sets of standards and prescriptions for white and blacks: it's called racism. Such double standards are hardly novel. Nor was "separate but equal" merely ironic. But Beinart is also wrong when he thinks Trump intends to solve the problems of poor whites through state actions. Like all Republicans since Reagan, his solution is to reduce the political options of the state, reserving it for violence against any challenges to authority, while allowing the private sector to expand its power over workers, customers, and mere bystaders.

  • Rosa Brooks: Don't Freak Out About Trump's Cabinet Full of Generals: I doubt I'd take Brooks seriously without knowing that her mother is the brilliant left journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, as Brooks' own resume paints her as an insider in Washington's foreign policy establishment, a perch from which she's observed the creeping hegemonic encroachment of military brass (her recent book is How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales From the Pentagon). So, yeah, she's uncommonly comfortable with generals and admirals running things, even respects and admires them. Still, she may be right that the problem with all Trump's generals isn't that they'll upset the intricate checks and balances the founding fathers devised, but she misses the real point: that Trump's generals consummates a steady drift that started back in WWII transforming the US military from a rarely-used last resort to an everyday implement of world-hegemonic imperial policy. And sure, all that (so far) happened before Trump, but in hiring those generals Trump is demonstrating that his own foreign policy thinking is nothing more than an echo of that long (and frankly disastrous) drift. Of course, that should come as no surprise to anyone who paid attention to him during the long campaign. They only thing that doesn't alarm me about the generals is the fact that I can think of even worse civilians to hand power over to. (Brooks herself contrasts State candidates Rudy Giuliani and David Petraeus, and she's got a point there, but I'm still drawing a blank on who Michael Flynn is saving us from.)

  • Martin Longman: Breitbart Does Not Like Trump's Labor Pick:

    So, if you go look at the Breitbart website right now, you'll see an anti-Trump headline that accuses him of nominating a Labor Secretary that prefers foreign labor to American workers. And if you actually go ahead and read the article, you'll see that it lashes out at Andy Puzder for standing "diametrically opposed to Trump's signature issues on trade and immigration."

    As an example, they cite his decision to "join forces with Michael Bloomberg, Bob Iger, and Rupert Murdoch's open borders lobbying firm, the Partnership for a New American Economy, to call for 'free-market solutions' to our immigration system." They also question Puzder's support for "amnesty" and overall view him as a poster-boy for what they oppose, which is bringing in low-wage immigrants that take jobs from white Americans and suppress their wages.

    The man Trump nominated to be Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzder, is CEO of a chain of fast food restaurants (Hardee's, Carl's Jr.), so his labor expertise is in how to hire minimum wage, no benefit workers. (His business experience includes taking his firm through a private equity deal valued at more than $1 billion. The company generates $1.4 billion in revenues, operating in the US and 40 foreign countries.) I'm not sure whether Puzder counts as one of Trump's billionaires, but he comes pretty close.

    One thing that worried me about the prospect of Sanders becoming president was that the Democratic Party regulars -- the people he'd have to draw on for appointments and support -- weren't ready to back his "revolution." I never believed that Trump would veer significantly from Republican Party orthodoxy, but I can see how those who did think he offered something different -- notably the Breitbart crowd, and as many "white populists" as you can count -- are likely to belatedly discover the same problem. Much as Trump went with impeccably demented Mike Pence as his VP, he's stocking his cabinet from the same stock of utter reactionaries.

  • Daniel Politi: Trump Explains Why He Rejects Daily Intelligence Briefings: "I'm, Like, a Smart Person": I saw Michael Moore on Seth Myers the other night making a big stink about how Trump has sloughed off going to CIA briefings, and for once I thought, "good for Trump." As far as I know, the first president to receive daily briefings was Shrub, and the chemical reaction of misinformation-meets-ignorance there didn't do anyone any good. Supposedly Obama tried to fix this by laying down a rule -- "don't do stupid shit" -- but his own daily briefings allowed all sorts of loopholes to that rule, backed by presidential authority. The fact is that the "war on terror" isn't important enough to require daily input and direction from the so-called Commander-in-Chief. A sane president would simply, quietly wind it down, mostly by not encouraging "stupid shit" to happen. The fact that Trump isn't a reasonable person, that he pretty much campaigned on doing "stupid shit" all the time, makes it even more important to steer him away from meetings about killing people and embarrassing the country.

  • Nomi Prins: The Magnitude of Trump's Cronyism Is Off the Charts -- Even for Washington: "The President-elect's incomplete cabinet is already the richest one ever."

    There is, in fact, some historical precedent for a president surrounding himself with such a group of self-interested power-grabbers, but you'd have to return to Warren G. Harding's administration in the early 1920s to find it. The "Roaring Twenties" that ended explosively in a stock market collapse in 1929 began, ominously enough, with a presidency filled with similar figures, as well as policies remarkably similar to those now being promised under Trump, including major tax cuts and giveaways for corporations and the deregulation of Wall Street. . . .

    Harding's other main contributions to American history involved two choices he made. He offered businessman Herbert Hoover the job of secretary of commerce and so put him in play to become president in the years just preceding the Great Depression. And in a fashion that now looks Trumpian, he also appointed one of the richest men on Earth, billionaire Andrew Mellon, as his treasury secretary. Mellon, a Pittsburgh industrialist-financier, was head of the Mellon National Bank; he founded both the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa), for which he'd be accused of unethical behavior while treasury secretary (as he still owned stock in the company and his brother was a close associate), and the Gulf Oil Company; and with Henry Clay Frick, he co-founded the Union Steel Company.

    He promptly set to work -- and this will sound familiar today -- cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations. At the same time, he essentially left Wall Street free to concoct the shadowy "trusts" that would use borrowed money to purchase collections of shares in companies and real estate, igniting the 1929 stock market crash. After Mellon, who had served three presidents, left Herbert Hoover's administration, he fell under investigation for unpaid federal taxes and tax-related conflicts of interest.

    Prins goes on to run down the wealth and interest conflicts of several Trump picks, including Wilbur Ross ($2.9 billion, Commerce), Betsy DeVos ($5.1 billion, Education), and Steven Mnuchin (up to $1 billion, Treasury, from Goldman Sachs). If, as reported, Trump picks Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State, he's not going to lower the average much.

  • Theda Skocpol/Alexander Hertel-Fernandez/Caroline Tervo: Behind "Make America Great," the Koch Agenda Returns With a Vengeance: The Koch network spent about $750 million on the 2016 elections, mostly on down-ballot races that saved and shaped the Republican Congress, and that is rapidly becoming the framework that shapes the Trump presidency, even on issues where Trump publicly differed from the Kochs and their cronies (like Scott Walker and Mario Rubio).

    Publicly available numbers suggest that AFP's grassroots organizing made a real difference -- and indirectly helped Trump, who had little campaign capacity of his own. In Wisconsin, for instance, AFP claims that it reached over 2.5 million voters in phone banking and canvassing efforts. In North Carolina, AFP claimed over 1.2 million calls and 120,000 door-to-door efforts, or nearly the entire reported margin of victory for Trump. And in Pennsylvania, AFP claims it made over 2.4 million phone calls and knocked on over 135,000 doors, more than twice Trump's margin of victory in that state. AFP's grassroots efforts were especially pronounced in Florida, where AFP boasts that its people knocked on a record-breaking one million doors throughout the state to help re-elect Senator Marco Rubio. Hillary Clinton lost the state by just over 100,000 votes. In all four of these states AFP helped to re-elect the incumbent Republican Senator and make important down ballot gains. Obviously, given what we know about the decline of split ticking voting, most of the same citizens AFP mobilized for state and Congressional contests also cast ballots for Donald Trump.

Briefly noted:

One last note: I just finishing reading Peter Frase's Four Futures: Life After Capitalism (Verso). He sets up a 2x2 matrix, one axis determined by plenty/scarcity, the other inequality/equality. Needless to say, only one quadrant reads like something we're already in the midst of: scarcity/inequality, the one he calls "exterminism" -- not a very euphonious term, but one which underscores how the rich, as they increasingly automate labor come to view the workers they discharge as expendable, and ultimately as threats. (Frase never uses the term "useless eaters" but you may recall how that terminology paved the way for the Nazi genocide.) Needless to say, aside from branding, "exterminism" sounds more than a little like the Trump agenda. More blatantly, there's increasing inequality while progressively stripping the poor and marginal of any semblance of rights.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Daily Log

Tried to troubleshoot a noisy treadmill today. I wrote the following note to Fitness Repair Parts, which seems to be connected to Hebb Industries (now Trimline):

We have a Hebb Industries 7200.1 treadmill, serial number 001027917. Pretty sure it was purchased here in Wichita Ks, probably 1999-2000. The motor has recently become annoyingly noisy, increasingly so at higher speeds (although we've never run it much over 2.5 mph). I've opened the unit up, cleaned everything. Drive belt is good, and no evident problem with the tread. Motor works, so may just be a bearing problem. No evident problem with the electronics. What would it cost to repair or replace?

Motor is a Leeson direct current permanent magnetic motor KK2248, model 04D34DB16A, cat no. 108909.00, 2.7 HP, 19 Amps 4000 RPM 120 Volts. We haven't tried removing the fan or the flywheel/drive assembly. We haven't removed the motor yet, but did loosen it to slip the belt off.

Form noted "support ticket request #210596 has been created."

When I looked for service agents at Fitness Repair Parts, they gave me two in Kansas: one in Olathe, the other in El Dorado: Meyer Fitness, 5405 NE 53rd, Phone 316-299-1744.

I also wrote to Leeson Motors:

We have a Hebb 7200.1 treadmill (probably bought in 1999), and the motor has become noisy (still works, the faster the louder, could be a bearing). The motor is one of yours: Leeson direct current permanent magnetic motor KK2248 Model 04D34DB16A Cat No. 108909.00 2.7 HP 19 amps 4000 rpm 120 volts. It's held to the treadmill base with four bolts, and has a plastic fan on one side and a flywheel/belt drive on the other. Do you have a replacement motor? Is it possible to disassemble and replace the bearings? Thanks.

Got a bullshit response from Fitness Repair Parts. I tried to respond but their ticket system won't open up the previous ticket, so I filed a new one. My new comment:

This is in reference to ticket 210596. I was unable to log into that ticket to reply, per your instructions.

Are you saying that you don't have the replacement part I (evidently) need? Or that you only serve some authorized repair network, so that I have to hire someone else to do work I could just as easily do myself?

From my previous ticket, I've edited down the details on the needed replacement part:

We have a Hebb Industries 7200.1 treadmill, serial number 001027917. Pretty sure it was purchased here in Wichita Ks, probably 1999-2000. The motor has recently become annoyingly noisy, increasingly so at higher speeds (although we've never run it much over 2.5 mph). Motor is a Leeson direct current permanent magnetic motor KK2248, model 04D34DB16A, cat no. 108909.00, 2.7 HP, 19 Amps 4000 RPM 120 Volts. Do you have this part? What would it cost to replace this motor (with or without the external fan and flywheel/drive assemblies)?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27403 [27386] rated (+17), 369 [362] unrated (+7).

I lost track of how many days of listening I lost due to cooking last week. In fact, I lost track of almost everything else, only remembering that I needed to publish November's Streamnotes column when I saw the calendar had turned to December (fortunately, that was soon enough after the moment I was able to backdate the post). That pattern continues here as I'm trying to finish my usual Monday Music Week column well into Tuesday evening.

My Jazz Critics Poll ballot was due on Sunday. I gave up trying to find new things and/or fiddle with the order sometime Saturday, when I dashed off the following:

New releases:

  1. Aly Keita/Jan Galega Bronnimann/Lucas Niggli: Kalo Yele (Intakt)
  2. Houston Person & Ron Carter: Chemistry (HighNote)
  3. Henry Threadgill Ensemble Double Up: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi)
  4. Murray, Allen & Carrington Power Trio: Perfection (Motéma)
  5. George Coleman: A Master Speaks (Smoke Sessions)
  6. Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balasz Pandi: Strength & Power (Rare Noise)
  7. JD Allen: Americana (Savant)
  8. Gary Lucas' Fleischerei: Music From Max Fleischer Cartoons (Cuneiform)
  9. Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Periheleon (Aerophonic, 2CD)
  10. Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio: Desire & Freedom (Not Two)

Reissues or Historical albums:

  1. Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra: All My Yesterdays (1966, Resonance, 2CD)
  2. Peter Kuhn: No Coming, No Going: The Music of Peter Kuhn, 1978-1979 (NoBusiness, 2CD)
  3. William Hooker: Light: The Early Years 1975-1989 (NoBusiness, 4CD)

Best Vocal album:

  • Gary Lucas' Fleischerei: Music From Max Fleischer Cartoons (Cuneiform)

Best Debut album:

  • Damana (Dag Magnus Narvesen Octet): Cornua Copiae (Clean Feed)

Best Latin Jazz album:

  • Sonic Liberation 8: Bombogenic (High Two)

This mostly follows my EOY Jazz List -- the main exception being that I skipped over a Coleman Hawkins compilation I had heard on Rhapsody in favor of three comps that publicists had sent me. On the other hand, I included no less than three records that I didn't get physical copies of in my new releases list (Murray, Coleman, Lucas). I don't recall ever doing that before.

My list strikes me as more mainstream, or more specifically less avant, than usual. No idea whether that represents a mellowing of my taste or just how the cookies crumbled this year. Thus far I haven't gotten any of the ballots back from Francis Davis for my website, and I've only seen two ballots posted on the net (Ken Franckling, Tim Niland). In previous years JJA published member lists that lined up (and in some cases expanded from) critics' lists, but I haven't yet found anything there.

I'm actually not all that curious about how the JCP turns out. OK, I do have a hunch that Henry Threadgill's Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi) will win, but not much faith -- but not much faith. It's more that I can't imagine what the competition can be. (Mary Halvorson? Dave Holland? Vijay Iyer? Steve Lehman? Sonny Rollins? Wadada Leo Smith? Those should all finish top-20, but I don't have more confidence than that.) I've started tallying EOY lists for my own EOY List Aggregate file, but at present I don't have enough jazz to predict anything. (I will go out on a limb and say that the current leader, Canadian crossed-over band BadBadNotGood, won't finish top-40 in JCP -- nor, I hope, will Snarky Puppy.)

On the other hand, the non-jazz lists are starting to take shape (understanding that the early lists skew Anglo and miss out on late-breaking hip-hop). Current top-ten: David Bowie, Radiohead, Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Nick Cave, Angel Olsen, Leonard Cohen, Bon Iver, Anderson Paak, Car Seat Headrest. I figured Beyoncé to win, and she still might (and probably will dominate the Village Voice poll), but right now Bowie's lead is solid (92-61-58-53-52), and he's regularly finished top-5 in US as well as UK lists. Cohen has never polled especially well before, so I figure he and Bowie are riding a rarely-tested dead legend boost. Bowie, Radiohead, and Cave also benefit from the current UK skew, with Cave the most likely to slip on later lists.

Second ten (11-20): Chance the Rapper, Solange, Anohni, Kanye West, A Tribe Called Quest, Mitski, Blood Orange, Kaytranada, Sturgill Simpson, Danny Brown. Tribe is this year's late-breaker (released Nov. 11), rising lately but hard to project how much more. I expected Chance to do better, maybe Brown also. Some of the more promising names further down: Parquet Courts (24), PJ Harvey (27), Kendrick Lamar (29), Drive-By Truckers (34), Rihanna (38), Miranda Lambert (86, but released 11/18).

Speaking of Lambert, you'll noticed that I nudged her grade up a notch from my Streamnotes review. I was sitting on the fence anyway, and what pushed me over was a Greg Morton review, which I'd rather quote here than try to link you to Facebook:

Miranda Lambert: The Weight of These Wings. I hope Bob [Christgau] does a long form on this since the songs aren't just consistently great, but consistently interesting as well. Worthy of thorough track-by-track analysis. I'll give you "Good Ol' Days" as filler and "Covered Wagon" as one road metaphor too many but other than that it sounds to me like a 90-minute song cycle about caring, from the perspective of a modern young women who turns out to be more articulate, successful, and worldly than her raising taught her she could be. Your mileage may vary dependent on how interested you are in that perspective, but my evidence is two days of the album on shuffle. Where no matter the sequence, an hour and a half later you're listening to a song that was as good (and as interesting) as the one that started it. At least an A.

Of course, before committing I did give the record(s) another spin. Seven cuts in I was reminded how long it took me to realize Exile on Main Street was the Stones' best. But fourteen cuts in I killed that line of thinking and settled for a solid A-.

New records rated this week:

  • BadBadNotGood: IV (2016, Innovative Leisure): [r]: B-
  • François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: The Joy of Being (2015 [2016], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(***)
  • The DKV Thing Trio: Collider (2014 [2016], Not Two): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charlie Haden/Liberation Music Orchestra: Time/Life (Song for the Whales and Other Beings) (2011-15 [2016], Impulse): [r]: A-
  • I Am Three: Mingus Mingus Mingus (2015 [2016], Leo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ich Bin Nintendo: Lykke (2016, Shhpuma): [r]: B+(**)
  • Martin Küchen/Mark Tokar/Arkadijus Gotesmanas: Live at Vilnius Jazz Festival (2016, NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Lambchop: FLOTUS (2016, Merge): [r]: B
  • Miranda Lambert: The Weight of These Wings (2016, RCA Nashville, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Live the Spirit Residency: Presents the Young Masters 1: Coming of Age (2016, self-released): [cd]: A-
  • Donny McCaslin: Beyond Now (2016, Motema): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mekons: Existentialism (2015 [2016], Bloodshot): [r]: A
  • Myra Melford + Ben Goldberg: Dialogue (2014 [2016], BAG): [r]: B
  • The Monkees: Good Times! (2016, Rhino): [r]: B-
  • Van Morrison: Keep Me Singing (2016, Caroline): [r]: A-
  • The Nu Band: The Final Concert (2012 [2016], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach: Jazz Now! (Live at Theater Gütersloh) (2015 [2016], Intuition): [r]: B+(***)

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

  • Miles Davis Quintet: Freedom Jazz Dance [The Bootleg Series Vol. 5] (1966-68 [2016], Columbia/Legacy, 3CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • David S. Ware & Matthew Shipp Duo: Live in Sant'Anna Arresi, 2004 (2004 [2016], AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Dave Burrell and Bob Stewart: The Crave (1994, NoBusiness): cdr
  • François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: The Joy of Being (NoBusiness)
  • Albert Cirera/Hernâni Faustino/Gabriel Ferrandini/Agustí Fernández: Before the Silence (NoBusiness)
  • John Dikeman/Luis Vicente/Hugo Antunes/Gabriel Ferrandini: Salăo Brazil (NoBusiness): cdr
  • The Fat Babies: Solid Gassuh (Delmark)
  • Noah Haidu: Infinite Distances (Cellar Live): February 15
  • Irene Kepl: Sololos (Fou)
  • Martin Küchen/Mark Tokar/Arkadijus Gotesmanas: Live at Vilnius Jazz Festival (NoBusiness): cdr
  • Live the Spirit Residency: Presents the Young Masters 1: Coming of Age (self-released)
  • Modus Factor: The Picasso Zone (Browntasaurus)
  • The Nu Band: The Final Concert (NoBusiness): cdr
  • Howard Riley: Constant Change 1976-2016 (NoBusiness, 5CD)
  • Randy Weston: The African Nubian Suite (African Rhythms, 2CD): January 20

Also got a batch of Clean Feeds on Monday which I'll list next week.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Peace Dinner

I ran behind in writing this, so I'll have to postpone Music Week until tomorrow (Tuesday). Unfortunately, nobody I'm aware of thought to take any pictures of the event below, and the evidence is now far gone. Without such documentation, I reckon we're already entering the realm of myth. I figure the least I can do is to write this event up, to establish some sort of paper trail.

Friday night the Peace and Social Justice Center here in Wichita had its annual dinner and business meeting. My little part in that was to plan and direct the menu, preparing food for 62 guests. I spent much of last week hashing out the menu with Janice Bradley and Leah Dannar-Garcia. Leah and I went shopping on Wednesday. I spent about thirteen hours on Thursday at home prepping and in some cases finishing dishes, while Janice and Leah did their own home prep. On Friday about 1 PM we met at Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church, along with several other people (Pat Cameron, Gretchen Eick, Kathy Hull, Russ Pataki) where the dinner would be held, and started cooking. By 6 PM we had dinner ready to serve. We put small bowls of appetizers and bread on the tables so people could start noshing. And we set up a double-long table for people to serve themselves with the main dishes. The menu was mostly Mediterranean, with dishes from Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel and the Arab countries, plus one salad from Iran:

The appetizer array:

The main dishes:


  • Mutabbaq: filo pastry sheets filled with ricotta and goat cheese.
  • Macedonia: mixed fruit: apples, pears, red and green grapes, strawberries, pineapple, macerated with sugar and citrus juices.
  • Vanilla Cream: vanilla-flavored whipped cream.

The recipes (follow the links) were typically scaled 2 times for the appetizers and desserts (more for the hummus and fruit), the salads 2-3 times, the main dishes 3-4 times (8 lbs fish, 16 lbs chicken). The main thing that limited the scaling was the size of cooking and serving dishes, although several dishes were limited by shopping -- I didn't buy nearly enough kalamata olives, so had a single one pound recipe of tapenade and had to buy extra for the salad. The salads ran out first -- possibly because they were first in the serving line, but we could have fixed another batch of the horiatiki and mast va khiar and served it in the same large bowls. The root vegetables fit neatly into two deep baking dishes, the fish into two shallow ones, and the chicken was optimally packed into my largest pot (16-inch diameter, 6-inches deep).

I made two trays of mutabbaq, and cut them into 60 2.25 x 2.5-inch pieces, so only a couple people missed out. We served them at the counter, on plates, and let people add fruit and/or cream. (I was surprised to see people dolloping the cream on top of the mutabbaq.) The cream, which I had borrowed from a "berries and cream" recipe, was exceptional -- we should have made a second batch. We had a couple cups of caponata and a couple pints of cacciatore left at the end, plus hummus and fruit -- Janice overscaled while I erred on the low side -- but I didn't hear complaints about not cooking enough.

I think it's safe to say that it all came out delicious -- one could even say fabulous. Also that the mix of dishes worked and the tastes complemented one another. (The desserts offered a mix of sweet, tart, and creamy, none of which were overly heavy.) We could have done a better job of pointing out which things were vegetarian (or vegan), which dishes had dairy or gluten or nuts or some other real or imagined hazard -- we published the menu, but that was hardly self-explanatory.

The last few years we had the dinner catered, using various Mexican and Middle Eastern sources, nothing especially memorable. Further back, we tried pot lucks, and I made large main dishes for a couple of those -- jambalaya and cacciatore are the ones I remember -- which often produced better food, but were also inconsistent and chancey. This year, when the board decided to try another pot luck, I suggested that a planned and assigned menu would work better, maybe something Mediterranean like the Ottolenghi menu we fixed for an Alice Powell memorial dinner, but a bit broader (and simpler). Leah, who runs a small organic farm east of town, suggested a seasonal fall menu, which I was fine with, but when I spelled out my proposal she embraced it, and provided invaluable support.

Also invaluable was the kitchen and equipment provided by the church. They had a 10-burner range (which we barely used), with two ovens (exactly what we needed), large baking dishes and bowls, lots of counter space, ample dishes and flatware, and a terrific dishwasher for cleaning up. We also had about the right mix of people helping out. If we were to do it again, the one change I would make would be to get together in that kitchen the night before and do the meze and prep together rather than dividing them up and working at home (especially as I had taken on most of that work myself -- by the end I was so exhausted that I wound up knicking myself a couple times cleaning up a knife). Friday had moments that seemed like chaos, but I managed to keep everything lined up and moving along properly, so it all came together at the appointed time (6 PM).

Also, other people (especially Leah and Russ) took over the clean up when I wore out. I got in line after the salads were gone, and wandered in and out of the actual meeting. The guest speaker was Maxine Phillips, a former executive editor of Dissent Magazine and a vice chair of Democratic Socialists of America, who blogs at She spoke about "Forced Migrations and US Immigration Policy." I didn't catch enough of this to comment, but I will risk saying two things:

  1. Most migration today, especially from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, is the result of the US (and Europe) exporting neoliberal economic dogmas and the tools of war which are primarily used by complicit local elites against their own people. It's all good and well to sympathize with the victims of economic and military dislocation, but the root causes are embedded in our own political system, so much under the thumb of supra-national corporate interests. In particular, we need to guard against the tendency to militarize our response to every crisis, especially as that knee-jerk reaction primarily serves to avoid self-scrutiny.

  2. Nonetheless, the fact that refugees and emigrants still come here is a testimony to the fact that America (and Europe) still have functioning and (relatively) humane institutions such that most of our citizens are spared the most brutal effects of our economic and military dogmas. And it's worth noting that immigrants generally add to supporting those institutions, and to the economy as a whole, in part because they're more appreciative of them than so many of our embittered "natives" (who have mastered the knack of taking them for granted while doing little to support). Whatever else it may be, net immigration is a vote of confidence in our shared future, something we should appreciate rather than curse.

Unfortuantely, the 2016 election, especially of Donald Trump to the presidency, promises nothing constructive on this front. Indeed, if Trump does manages to reduce immigration it will probably be more due to making our own country less livable than to enforcing draconian laws, and even less to making the rest of the world any less treacherous.

I'm afraid I have rather mixed views on immigration. As someone whose most recent foreign-born ancestors came to America nearly 150 years ago, and whose family preserved not one shred of previous ethnic identity, I've never had any sentimental attachment to the notion that America as a melting pot of immigrants. Nor do I have a problem with the idea that a nation has a right to control its borders and limit immigration. I'll also note that the one period of history when Americans seemed to exhibit the greatest care for one another -- at least in the sense of moving furthest to the left -- was in the 1930-40s, when immigration was largely halted. One wonders whether loosening immigration restrictions in the 1970s didn't contribute somehow to the nation's rightward drift since 1980. (That nearly a third of last year's Republican presidential candidates had at least one foreign-born parent is troubling, to say the least.)

On the other hand, I've known dozens of immigrants, most real fine people, credits to our communities, and they've helped to broaden and deepen our lives. One way, of course, was to share with us the range of food we made for this Peace Dinner (plus a great many other dishes we couldn't include -- things we can explore further in future dinners). Admittedly, most of the immigrants I know are professionals, many citizens, pretty much all with their legal status in order. The only problem I see is with those lacking proper documentation, mostly because their lack of proper credentials leaves them open to exploitation, and that less because I'm sympathetic to their plight than because their vulnerability allows those in power to be more abusive -- and not just to undocumented immigrants.

But Trump's anti-immigrant tirades are not some isolated tick. They are wrapped up in all sorts of mutually reinforcing hatreds meant to appeal to the vanity of increasingly marginalized white voters -- at least those sucker enough to overlook the obvious architects of their demise: the barons of industry and finance, whose pillage of the economy has made everyone more vulnerable. But we need to recognize that what makes this tactic work is how effectively mass fears have been stoked through decades of war. The only way to break that cycle is to insist on peace, which is why organizations like out Peace Center are so important. Please consider a contribution.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Streamnotes (November 2016)

Pick up text here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Peace Dinner Planning

Top-line menu:

Appetizer array:


  • Mutabbaq: cheese-filled pastry, scale x 2.
  • Mixed Fruit: delegated to Janice.
  • Vanilla Cream: scale x 3 (3 cups cream, 1 cup sour cream)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27386 [27362] rated (+24), 362 [379] unrated (-17).

Finally, on Saturday, got my new computer build working, hooked up, and able to stream from Napster. I'm somewhat embarrassed to finally realize that the problem all along was a faulty monitor (a Samsung, like most of the other faulty equipment in the house right now -- my big complaint is a broken ice maker in the refrigerator, and by broken I mean that the plastic tray is badly cracked on both ends, such that the screw drive that moved the ice forward jams). The monitor actually displays internally generated messages fine, but doesn't display the signal coming in through the D-SUB connection. In fact, the manual says the monitor has a self-test feature, and when I tried that the self-test came out OK. But it took weeks for it to finally sink in that the monitor was the problem.

Went out on Black Saturday and picked up a new LG 24-inch monitor for about $140. The new computer works fine with it. The old computer works fine too, so now I have a spare. It had been 5-6 years since I built the old one, so one can argue that I was due for a new one, but I hate to have blundered into it like that. The new one has an 8-core AMD FX-8350 processor, ASUS motherboard and video card (not a fancy one, but has 2GB RAM), plus I have 32GB RAM and a 2TB hard drive, a DVD burner, and a parallel printer port board so I can still hook up to my old HP laser printer. Loaded Xubuntu 16.04 desktop on it, and I've had to load a couple dozen extra software packages so I have a LAMP web server, emacs, gimp, and a few extra applications that looked promising (including a CAD system, an alt-Adobe Illustrator, and a database program for recipes). That's all free software. Had to jump through some extra hoops to get non-free (but zero cost) Adobe Flash (needed by Napster) and gstreamer drivers for playing DVDs. Probably still need some further work, but it's basically functional now. Used a cheap old box, so it's not the most elegant thing in the shop, but should be a solid machine.

Only three Napster streams among the records listed below. I also played the new A Tribe Called Quest (given an A+ last week by Christgau) but didn't get into it enough to pass any sort of judgment. (Two-thirds sounds pretty good, but nothing sounds as great as that grade implies. And it's two discs, and I'm often slow getting into hip-hop records, so I figured it best to return later).l The three rated below only got a single play. Could be that a second play might nudge Common up a notch, but Bruno Mars was disappointing and Pink Martini clearly not their best work. Playing the latest Miles Davis bootleg as I write this, but at 3-CD it's going to take a while.

Besides, I needed to make a serious dent in the incoming jazz queue, which I did. The 2016 pending list is currently down to six albums: no one I've heard of (although I filed one under Ernest Dawkins, whose last three albums came in at A-, so I need to check that one out soon). Jazz Critics Poll ballot due next week, and Francis Davis is already getting anxious about that. I did a preliminary sort on my jazz list a couple weeks ago, but I still expect to fiddle with the order quite a bit (depending on time and whether I can find things, so possibly not before I have to turn a ballot in).

I'm afraid I have no sense whatsoever how that poll is going to go. I currently list 61 A- (or better) new jazz albums. The only one in my top-ten I'm reasonably sure will finish top-ten (probably top-three) is Henry Threadgill's Old Locks and Irregular Verbs. I suppose JD Allen (Americana) and David Murray (Perfection) are possibles; further down my list Steve Lehman, Sonny Rollins, Greg Ward, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, and Fred Hersch seem likely to get a few votes, but I'll be surprised if anything else cracks the top forty. (George Coleman maybe? Rich Halley? Jane Ira Bloom?)

Rather seems more likely that some of my HM records will poll well -- Michael Formanek, Mary Halvorson, Wadada Leo Smith, Tyshawn Sorey -- or records I listed lower -- Darcy James Argue, Kenny Barron, Vijay Iyer, Charles Lloyd -- not much else I've noticed other critics liking, but I'm sure I've missed some things. As for records I've heard of but haven't heard, I scanned through my checklist file and added 13 records to the "estimated to have a 2% chance of A-" list in the EOY Jazz file cited above (also added 19 to the EOY Non-Jazz file). I'll add more as I see some actual EOY lists.

Speaking of EOY lists, the first few have appeared (starting, as usual, in the UK with NME, Mojo, Uncut, and a few record store lists). I put a lot of work into tracking these things last year, and doubted that I would again, but the last few weeks have been so stressful to me that I thought it might be calming to waste some time on them this year. After eight (or so) lists this year looks like this. (Note that I'm already counting my grades, although I've only included those on other lists.) My initial guess was that Beyoncé would win going away, with Chance the Rapper in second, and then, well, I don't know -- AOTY has Nick Cave top-rated based on review averages (a B- as far as I'm concerned), followed by Bon Iver (*), Beyonce (?), Solange (**), Radiohead (B), Frank Ocean (?), Leonard Cohen (A-), A Tribe Called Quest (probably A-), Mitski (*), and Angel Olsen (***). But at least in the UK, David Bowie jumped into a clear lead, followed by Cave, Radiohead, Olsen, Thee Oh Sees, and Iggy Pop, with Beyoncé and Chance back in the 30-40 range.

However, the first American list to appear, from Consequence of Sound, is closer to what I expect: Beyoncé, Chance, Bowie, Ocean, Anohni, Cave, Olsen, Anderson .Paak, Bon Iver, Cohen, Mitski, A Tribe Called Quest (first list appearance for a late release), Radiohead, Blood Orange, Schoolboy Q, Wilco, Tim Hecker, Car Seat Headrest, Solange; plus some further down records that may do better: Kaytranada, Danny Brown, Savages, Kevin Gates, Young Thug, White Lung.

One list that's out that I haven't bothered with is Decibel's. Last year I faithfully tracked all the metal lists, but wound up listening to fewer than five albums, so that much doesn't seem to be worth the effort this year. I suppose that makes my tally a bit less objective, but I'd rather spend my time on things I consider worthy.

I made a mistake last week in listing Heroes Are Gang Leader's new album Flukum, so corrected that and repeated it this week. I liked their previous album this year (Highest Engines Near/Near Higher Engineers) a bit more, but both should be of interest if you're interested in jazz-rap fusion. The two A- records this week are from Ivo Perelman's six-volume set, only marginally better than the others because bass seems to fit in better than piano (or viola or guitar). Could be I downgraded the one with Shipp only because I expected more (it was the one volume I singled out to listen to in the car). Perelman finishes the year with 4 A-, 4 ***, 1 **, 2 * records.

PS: Monday's mail brought a nice package from NoBusiness in Lithuania, and a new Randy Weston 2-CD that officially drops on January 20 (so I can ignore it for a couple weeks). Also email from Steve Swell offering me a couple CDs, so they'll be coming soon. Also, that new Dawkins album is pretty good.

New records rated this week:

  • Aguankó: Latin Jazz Christmas in Havana (2016, Aguankó): [cd]: B
  • Eraldo Bernocchi/Prakash Sontakke: Invisible Strings (2016, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Karl Blau: Introducing Karl Blau (2016, Raven Marching Band): [r]: B
  • Common: Black America Again (2016, Def Jam): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Delegation: Evergreen (Canceled World) (2014-15 [2016], ESP-Disk, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Fat Babies: Solid Gassuh (2016, Delmark): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Machine (2016, Moserobie): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Stu Harrison: Volume I (2016, One Nightstand): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Heroes Are Gang Leaders: Flukum (2016, Flat Langston's Arkeyes): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jerome Jennings: The Beast (2016, Iola): [cd]: B+(**)
  • MAST: Love and War_ (2016, Alpha Pup): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Karl Berger/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 1 (2016, Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Whit Dickey: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 2 (2016, Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 3 (2015 [2016], Leo): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ivo Perelman/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 4 (2016, Leo): [cd]: A-
  • Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 5 (2016, Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 6 (2016, Leo): [cd]: A-
  • Pink Martini: Je Dis Oui (2016, Heinz): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bobby Previte: Mass (2016, RareNoise): [cdr]: B-
  • Rudy Royston Trio: RisEofOrion (2016, Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Enoch Smith Jr.: The Quest: Live at APC (2016, Misfitme Music): [cd]: C
  • Snaggle: The Long Slog (2016, Browntasaurus): [cd]: B-
  • Basak Yavuz: A Little Red Bug (2016, Things&): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Zarabande: El Toro (2016, AFlo): [cd]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington: The Stockholm Concert (1966 [1994], Jazz World): [cd]: B+(***)

   Mar 2001