September 2012 Notebook


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:

  • Ryan Cooper: Delisting an Islamo-Marxist Terror Cult and Elite Decline: Looks like the big lobby effort behind the MEK is succeeding -- it will be hard to ever forgive Howard Dean, in particular, for this.

    But the fact that Giuliani, Dean and company would choose to associate themselves with this organization in such an obviously corrupt way is indicative of the general decline of elite quality that is afflicting this country. Islamist, terrorist, Marxist, and cult are probably the four most toxic adjectives in American political discourse, and yet we have literally an Islamo-Marxist cult with a history of terrorism, including murdering American soldiers, that has bought its way off the terrorist organization list. And recent history is stuffed with examples of this sort of enemy-of-my-enemy thinking blowing up in our face! Does anyone remember how arming the Afghan mujahideen in the 80s worked out?

    Cooper missed one big thing, which is that the reason MEK has gotten so much support is Israel: much of the bogus "intelligence" that Israel has trumpeted on Iran's "nuclear ambitions" has come from their alliance with the MEK. It's also likely that Israel views the MEK as not just a good way to sabotage Iran but as a prospect for regime change -- which is what many Israeli security gurus see as the ultimate solution to their Iran problem. Another big point is that approval of MEK shows the world that for the US terrorism has more to do with who you target than with the act itself. As long as MEK was listed, the US could argue otherwise (admittedly from shaky grounds -- cf. Cuba, Nicaragua, a lot of cases, including Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda, all of which have tempted the US to cross the line). With this embrace of the MEK, that line is an even more transparent joke.

  • Paul Krugman: Notes on the Political Economy of Redistribution: Somewhat wonky, and I'm not sure the model really holds up, partly because there are more to the question of how government redistributes income (e.g., patents redistribute up). But beyond the model:

    In particular, imagine yourself as a hired gun for the right tail of the income distribution. What would you do in an effort to stop the median voter from realizing that she would benefit from a more European-style system? Well, you'd do everything you can to exaggerate the disincentive effects of higher taxes, while trying to convince middle-income voters that the benefits of government programs go to other people. And at the same time, you'd do everything you can to disenfranchise lower-income citizens, so that the median voter has a higher income than the median citizen.

    So far, efforts along these lines have been remarkably successful. But operatives on the right are clearly worried that their three-decade run of success may be coming to an end. Indeed, the whole panic about the lucky duckies and all that can be seen as reflecting a great fear on the part of the right that any day now the median voter will realize where his true interests lie, and start supporting much more redistributionist policies.

  • Andrew Leonard: Romney's Ohio Problem: The political problem is globalization, a problem for both candidates, but more so for Romney, especially if you consider his tax returns:

    Consider: 267 out of the 379 pages of Romney's return detail his holdings in 34 offshore foreign corporations and partnerships -- including 15 in the Cayman Islands, as well as Bermuda, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Ireland. In 2011, Romney reported $3.5 million in foreign income out of total of $13.7 million. He paid $88,853 in foreign taxes -- an effective tax rate of a minuscule 2.4 percent. He also applied for and received a foreign tax credit in the U.S. -- so he actually lowered his U.S. tax liability by getting a credit for the low taxes he paid on investments parked outside the United States.

    This also underscores a big problem with trickle-down policies like tax cuts and easy credit for the rich: even when they turn around and invest that money, they're more likely to invest it abroad, because that's where the returns are, and the tax breaks are just gravy on top of that.

  • Patrick Tyler: Defusing Israel's "Detonator" Strategy: The "detonator" is a Moshe Dayan concept: basically, Israel tries to bully other nations into doing its bidding by threatening to make an even bigger mess if they have to act alone. It is unlikely that an Israeli strike can seriously disrupt Iran's nuclear infrastructure, but attempting to do so is certain to make a region-wide mess, not least for the US.

    "The philosophical underpinning of U.S. policy toward Israel," President Ford said, "had been our conviction -- and certainly my own -- that if we gave Israel an ample supply of economic aid and weapons, she would feel strong and confident, more flexible and more willing to discuss a lasting peace." But after serial wars and a strong aversion within the ruling elite to compromise, Ford lamented, "I began to question the rationale for our policy."

    Israel deserves our attention and protection. But 60 years after its founding, it remains in the thrall of an original martial impulse, the depth of which has given rise to succeeding generations of leaders who seem ever on the hair trigger in dealing with their rivals, and whose contingency planners embrace only worst-case scenarios in a process that magnifies the sense of national peril, encourages military preemption and covert subversion, and undermines any chance for a more engaging diplomacy based on compromise and accommodation.

    By the way, Tyler has a new book out, Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country -- and Why They Can't Make Peace. I've ordered a copy.

  • Matthew Yglesias: Plossers "Warns" That QE 3 May Lead to Economic Recovery:

    QE 3 skeptic and Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Charles Plosser gave a very strange speech outlining his opposition to monetary stimulus which I think can best be summarized as starting with concerns that it won't work and ending with dire warnings that it might work. Perhaps the strangest part comes when he warns that aggressive monetary stimulus in today's era might lead to consequences similar to those seen in the mid-1930s, when FDR's stimulative monetary policies broke the back of the Great Depression.

    The sense you get from bankers like Plosser is that we already have the perfect recovery, aside from the lose end of disposing of the Democrat in the White House. The big banks are flush again, more concentrated than ever; profits are back up to pre-recession levels, companies are sitting on piles of cash, and the stock market is higher than ever, so business (and Republicans) are quite content with doing nothing more. After all, the vast increase in unemployment isn't their problem -- if anything, it's their blessing, as it weakens labor markets, allowing businesses to demand more givebacks from labor.

Links for further study:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Roundup

Once again, it's been way too long since the last batch of new book notes -- July 21 -- and how far behind I've dropped is only beginning to sink in as I've spent the last few days searching around. Forty follow, all politics and history: many important, a few dangerous (or at least despicable). There's at least as many left in the file -- admittedly, some stubs -- plus I expect to find more the more I look. That could result in a follow-up next week or in a month or two.

Donald L Barlett/James B Steele: The Betrayal of the American Dream (2012, PublicAffairs): Journalists, wrote their first book on this subject back in 1992 (America: What Went Wrong?), then followed it up in 1996 (America: Who Stole the Dream?), and nothing's happened since then to take their subject away. They tend to lead with an onslaught of facts, so expect that. I used to be wary of Middle Class/American Dream arguments, partly because the implicit narrative behind them is one of aspiring to be ever richer. However, the new story line is one of struggling to avoid poverty, nipping at your heels, meaner than ever.

Michael Bar-Zohar/Nissim Mishal: Mossad: The Greatest Missions of the Israeli Secret Service (2012, Ecco): One of a rash of recent books on the world's best-publicized spy force, boasting of their great works, not just abductions and assassinations (although there have been plenty of those). Others include: Gordon Thomas: Gideon's Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad (784 pp.; , sixth ed., paperback, 2012, St. Martin's Griffin); Dan Raviv/Yossi Melman: Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel's Secret Wars (paperback, 2012, Levant Books); Ephraim Lapid/Amos Gilboa, eds.: Israel's Silent Defender: An Inside Look at Sixty Years of Israeli Intelligence (2012, Gefen). For a somewhat more balanced view, see Daniel Byman: A High Price: The Triumphs & Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism (2011, Oxford University Press).

The Bush Institute: The 4% Solution: Unleashing the Economic Growth America Needs (2012, Crown Business): After eight years as president with virtually no net growth once they blew away the housing bubble, Bush's advisers think they've finally figured out how to grow the economy. GW wrote the forward. The book proper claims five Nobel economists, starting with Robert Lucas -- probably the most completely discredited man in the profession -- and ending with Myron Scholes, the genius behind Long Term Capital Management (long since defunct).

James Carville/Stan Greenberg: It's the Middle Class, Stupid! (2012, Blue Rider Press): Note: comma omitted on front cover, suggesting several alternative parsings. Professional political hacks, i.e., people who somehow get paid for getting it all wrong. I've never liked Obama's middle class fetishism, but that's probably his idea of defensible ground, along with all the other God and patriotic gore he peddles. If Carville has any redeeming merit, it's that he's often crass, and once in a blue moon right.

Michael J Casey: The Unfair Trade: How Our Broken Global Financial System Destroys the Middle Class (2012, Crown Business): Australian reporter, takes an international view of the crisis. Not sure how well the "middle class" angle ties in here, although the drive of the financial elites to skim an ever greater slice of the profit and the race to the bottomn of the labor market are certain to take their toll on anyone in between.

Steve Coll: Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power (2012, Penguin Press): A corporate biography from the Exxon Valdez disaster to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, with plenty of bumps along the road. [link]

Gail Collins: As Texas Goes . . . : How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda (2012, Liveright): Political reporter, raised in Ohio, groomed in Connecticut, tramps around Texas in search of what stinks, which turns out to be pretty much everything, except perhaps the people's sense of humor. Previously wrote When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present (2009, Little Brown); before that America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines (2003, William Morrow), and Scorpion Tongues: Gossip, Celegbrity, and American Politics (1998, William Morrow), and most recently a biography of William Henry Harrison (in a Times Books series -- looks like she drew the short straw).

Edward Conard: Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You've Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong (2012, Portfolio): Romney's buddy at Bain Capital, takes pseudo-contrarian stands mostly to argue that he (and Romney) should be making even more money, that inequality is a great thing, and that if you don't believe him you're just a sore loser, an envious shithead.

David Crist: The Twilight War: The Secret History of America's Thirty-Year Conflict with Iran (2012, Penguin Press): Latest news charges Iran with launching denial-of-service cyberattacks against New York banks. Wonder where they got that idea? Google "stuxnet": a computer virus the US developed and Israel used against Iran. Cyberattacks are effectively acts of war, even though they have yet to escalate to guns and rockets. There is much to complain about the Iranian government, but the 30-year conflict Crist writes about was born of ineptness at how badly the US reacted to the ouster of a Shah originally installed by the CIA but who had mutated into an embarrassment -- a wound that the US has continued to ineptly pick at, mostly hubris but aggravated once Israel decided to make Iran their public enemy number one. Today we seem closer than ever to war -- arguably with the cyberattacks, assassinations of Iranian scientists, support for the MEK terrorists, and above all sanctions meant to cripple Iran's economy, the US is already committed to war by one means or another.

Christopher de Bellaigue: Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup (2012, Harper): Background on the man who may have been the best hope ever for a democratic, peaceful Iran, except that he objected to Britain's fraudulent control of Iranian oil -- a 19th-century grant of the long-defunct Qajjar dynasty -- so the British pressured the US to orchestrate a coup in 1953.

EJ Dionne Jr: Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (2012, Bloomsbury): Liberal-leaning political journalist, gives more credit to conservatives than they deserve, but that doesn't necessarily lead to the sort of confused centrism that is the norm of the socalled liberal media. Seems likely that Dionne will make the point that sometimes people back conservatives for good reasons -- although most clearly what they get are ignorant brutes set on destroying what's left of civilization.

John Dower: Ways of Forgetting, Ways of Remembering: Japan in the Modern World (2012, New Press): Wrote two important books on Japan (War Without Mercy and Embracing Defeat, then took his eye off his niche when the Bush people tried to claim Japan as a model for how well they'd do rebuilding Iraq, but here he returns to his chosen field. Looks like this carries the first two books forward in history as both countries made mental and cultural adjustments that allowed them to work together (even if not on equal terms).

Dinesh D'Souza: Obama's America: Unmaking the American Dream (2012, Regnery): Having previously discerned Obama's inner Mau-Mau (Newt Gingrich: "the most profound insight I have read in the last six years"), right-wing America's favorite adopted con man further discovers that Obama "wants a smaller America, a poorer America, an America unable to exert its will, an America happy to be one power among many, an America in decline so that other nations might rise -- all in the name of global fairness." Of course, as a matter of principle, the right's against anything that smacks of fairness, but four years into Obama's presidency, that's the best case they can make? I should probably do a full post on the latest round of Obama hate literature, but it's so uninspired and empty. Some examples: Deneen Borelli: Backlash: How Obama and the Left Are Driving Americans to the Government Plantation; Ann Coulter: Mugged: Racial Demagoguery From the Seventies to Obama; Bruce Herschensohn: Obama's Globe: A President's Abandonment of US Allies Around the World; Hugh Hewitt: The Brief Against Obama: The Rise, Fall & Epic Fail of the Hope & Change Presidency; Paul Kengor: The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor; Aaron Klein: Fool Me Twice: Obama's Shocking Plans for the Next Four Years Exposed; Edward Klein: The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House; Stanley Kurtz: Spreading the Wealth: How Obama Is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities; David Limbaugh: The Great Destroyer: Barack Obama's War on the Republic; Richard Miniter: Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors Who Decide for Him; Kate Obenshain: Divider-in-Chief: The Fraud of Hope and Change; Katie Pavlich: Fast and Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and the Shameless Cover-Up; Michael Savage: Trickle Down Tyranny: Crushing Obama's Dream of the Socialist States of America; Phyllis Schlafly: No Higher Power: Obama's War on Religious Freedom.

Peter Edelman: So Rich, So Poor: Why's It's So Hard to End Poverty in America (2012, New Press): Could it be because once Nixon appointed Donald Rumsfeld to head up Equal Opportunity nobody cared and nobody tried? Edelman worked for Robert Kennedy in the 1960s, much later for Bill Clinton in the 1990s before resigning when Clinton signed the 1996 "welfare reform" bill -- Clinton's own term for it, as I recall, was "a sack of shit."

Kurt Eichenwald: 500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars (2012, Touchstone): Focuses on 18 months, a little over 500 days, from 9/11/2011 to the invasion of Iraq, following Bush and company through their tortured logic leading to tortured prisoners, countering terror with "shock and awe" -- as someone must have said, "the mother of all terrors." Digs up some juicy quotes, my favorite so far Chirac's "Does anyone know what he was talking about?"

Charles H Ferguson: Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America (2012, Crown Business): Director of the Oscar-winning film Inside Job -- in his acceptance speech Ferguson pointed out that three years into the depression no one has gone to jail for the financial manipulations that nearly bankrupt the country, so the point here seems to be to name names and lay out the case for the prosecution.

Norman G Finkelstein: Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance With Israel Is Coming to an End (2012, paperback, OR Books): Hard to guess how this will play out as political prophecy, but it certainly is the case that there has been a steady erosion of Jewish-American support for Israel as the David-Goliath table has turned, as Israel's has become more right-wing anti-democratic, as Israel's political leaders become ever more contemptuous of human rights and the desire for peace -- in short, as Americans learn more about what actually goes on under the aegis of The Jewish State. At the very least, Finkelstein can be counted on to help understand the history. Finkelstein also has another short (100 pp) book, What Gandhi Says: About Nonviolence, Resistance and Courage (paperback, 2012, OR Books).

Richard L Hasen: The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown (2012, Yale University Press): Book came out in August, but would be much longer if author had waited until after November to assess the rash of voter ID laws Republicans put in place after winning so many 2010 elections. Say what you will about Obama, the economy, health care reform, and the Tea Party, the difference between 2008 and 2010 came down to a massive drop in voting, from 116 to 83 million: the more people the Republicans can keep away from the polls, the better their chances. Don't know whether Hasen spells this out or not, but "gaming the system" is no less than an attack on the fundamentals of democracy.

Christopher Hayes: Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy (2012, Crown): The idea that anyone could rise in America commensurate with their talent, effort, and achievement, is passé. America is an oligarchy, not a meritocracy, and Hayes at least has finally figured that out. Lots of reasons are possible here: the simplest is that in a declining economy -- the measure of which is median wages and wealth, and both in real terms have declined for more than 30 years -- the elites have fewer job slots available, and the rich want them for their own idiot offspring. By the way, it wasn't Obama and Clinton who decided to tank the country -- they were poster boys for the meritocratic impulse, or would have been if their politics were more right-wing; it was the business elites who thought they were maligned in the 1970s and who thought they were brilliant in the 1980s who pushed their short-term self-serving game way past its limits and luck.

Chris Hedges/Joe Sacco: Days of Destruction Days of Revolt (2012, Nation Books): Pine Ridge, SD; Camden, NJ; southern WV; Imoakalee, FL; Occupy Wall Street. Hedges reports, and rails; Sacco illustrates (although he has a book in his own right called Journalism).

Tom Holland: In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire (2012, Doubleday): Wrote two books of ancient history, one on Rome (Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic) and one on the Middle East (Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West), and now has two more even more complementary, The Forge of Christendom: The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West, which runs from Otto to the Crusades, so this adds to the back story, the rise of Islam. When I read Forge, I was struck by the nastiness of his take on Islam, which doesn't bode well here.

Seth G Jones: Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of Al Qa'ida Since 9/11 (2012, WW Norton): RAND analyst, wrote a useful book on Afghanistan (In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan), but lately has turned into a full-time apologist for the US occupation of Afghanistan. If this book is honest, one thing you will see is how little the US military contributed to the "hunt" -- even granting that the Bin Laden kill was their action. Still, you won't find Jones questioning the whole mission, or how the US earned Al-Qaeda's enmity in the first place.

Yaakov Katz/Yoaz Hendel: Israel Vs. Iran: The Shadow War (2012, Potomac Books): Documents Israel's ongoing activities to wage war against Iran -- assassinations, computer viruses, sanctions, political subversion -- as well as various Israeli wars against supposed Iranian fronts like Syria, Hamas in Gaza, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, finding them all inadequate, favoring a full-out attack. For more pro-war propaganda, see Robert D. Blackwill/Elliot Abrams, et al., Iran: The Nuclear Challenge (paperback, 2012, Council on Foreign Relations Press).

Paul Krugman: End This Depression Now! (2012, WW Norton): A basic, straightforward guide to what is wrong with the economy today, and what can (and should) be done about it. Analysis is basic macroeconomics from Keynes to Minsky to Bernanke (who used to know something about this before he became the bankers' tool). Doesn't put as much emphasis on the role of inequality as I would, but does at least recognize that the recovery is stalled mostly by political design, and can prove that. Also lots on the Euro, which is a different problem, also political.

Mike Lofgren: The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted (2012, Viking): Some sort of Washington insider, which may be why he's stuck in the trap of blaming both parties, when the main thing wrong with the Democrats is that they let Republicans play them for suckers -- a problem exacerbated by the middle-of-the-roaders who keep legitimizing the right, but it's deeper than that: in a system where success depends on chasing money, the Democrats who are most successful are most easily estranged from their constituents. In that, the main difference between the parties isn't their common ideology, but how they shape that message to be palatable by their voters. No idea whether Lofgren gets this, but at least he's started to notice that the collateral damage is getting close to home.

Keith Lowe: Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II (2012, St Martin's Press): Focuses on the turmoil Europe suffered after the defeat of the Third Reich -- the massive destruction, the displaced people, the more/less punitive (or sometimes just inept) occupations (especially the Soviets in eastern Europe), the struggles between partisans and collaborators, etc. Quite a few books have started to focus on this, perhaps because way too many policy people had such a rosy view of occupation going into Iraq in 2003.

James Mann: The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Redefine American Power (2012, Viking): Wrote a book about the Bush administration which was less inside story than useful background (Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet). This suggests less coherence, which is likely true, especially as one tries to fathom the depths of the military-security state and how intractable it seems -- not that it helps that Obama doesn't have a coherent view in the first place.

Thomas E Mann/Norman J Ornstein: It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism (2012, Basic Books): The US Constitution predates the development of political parties, assuming that a delicate balance of powers would lead reasonable men to compromise. This system has failed several times, notably over the issue of slavery leading to the 1861-65 Civil War, and is failing again, as the Republicans have combined a winner-takes-all view of tactics with an ideology that argues that anything government does is likely to be bad so there is no downside to obstructing a government led by their enemies. Previously wrote The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (2006; paperback, 2008, Oxford University Press).

David Maraniss: Barack Obama: The Story (2012, Simon & Schuster): Big bio (672 pp.) that doesn't get very far: he leaves off with Obama still in his 20s, leaving plenty of room for future volumes, a project I've seen likened to Robert A Caro's still-unfinished LBJ series, expecting him to spend most of his career digging up trivia about Obama and his family.

Miko Peled: The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine (2012, Just World Books): Memoir, touching on his father's complicated role in Israel's wars and postwar politics, and on his niece, the victim of a suicide bomber, but mostly on the country he grew up in.

Paul Preston: The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain (2012, WW Norton): Less well known than the early Inquisition launched in 1492 to rid Spain of its Jews and Muslims, but actually linearly connected, the rubric under which Franco executed tens of thousands from 1936 to 1945, a period when he was allied with Nazi Germany. Preston previously wrote, The Spanish Civil War: Reaction, Revolution, and Revenge (2nd ed, paperback, 2007, WW Norton).

Seth Rosenfeld: Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals, and Reagan's Rise to Power (2012, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Another big book (752 pp.), but the author managed to get hold of 250,000 pages of FBI files on student radicals from Berkeley's Free Speech Movement into the 1970s. J. Edgar Hoover got his first taste of power in the Palmer Raids of 1919, so he rarely missed an opportunity to sniff out subversives -- an obsession with thought control you'd think un-American. One story uncovered is how close Hoover was to Reagan, who built at least one leg of his career on bashing students. Seems like an important book.

Michael J Sandel: What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (2012, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Philosopher, previously wrote Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? (2009), poses various questions about what should or should not be up for sale. If he can find anything, the notion that markets have limits is significant.

Kay Lehman Schlozman/Sidney Verba/Henry E Brady: The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Policy (2012, Princeton University Press): Argues that "American democracy is marred by deeply ingrained and persistent class-based political inequality," and backs that up with enough statistics to choke a horse (728 pp). True, of course, as is the intuition that democracy depends on an effort to effect and affirm equality even if it isn't strictly factual. This isn't impossible, or even terribly difficult: for most of US history the notions that we were created equal, that we stand equal before the law, that we should enjoy equal opportunities, that the government is subject to the will of the people, etc., has been ensconced in patriotic myth -- anything else would be un-American.

Robert Skidelsky/Edward Skidelsky: How Much Is Enough? Money and the Good Life (2012, Other Press): Pivotal question, one that should provide against all sorts of other obsessions, including working yourself to death. It should help that Robert Skidelsky is the biographer of John Maynard Keynes, who thought even more about the good life than he did about the pursuit of money.

Joseph E Stiglitz: The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future (2012, WW Norton): The top 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of the nation's wealth, which makes that wealth unavailable for remedying the real problems we face. Let's go a bit further and say that that much inequality is itself a problem, which I hope Stiglitz manages to demonstrate. Nor is the problem just numbers, as Stiglitz's Mismeasuring Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn't Add Up shows.

Charles Townshend: Desert Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia (2011, Harvard University Press): The original Gulf War, 1914-24, when Britain drove the Ottomans out of Iraq and found their colonial intentions quite unwelcome and imperial cronies unwelcome -- "a cautionary tale for makers of national policy."

Nick Turse/Tom Engelhardt: Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare 2001-2050 (paperback, 2012, CreateSpace): What it says, although maybe not the first. See also: Medea Benjamin: Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control (paperback, 2012, OR Books). There is also a small shelf full of drone techie books, like Bill Yenne: Birds of Prey: Predators, Reapers and America's Newest UAVs in Combat (paperback, 2010, Specialty), and Matt J Martin: Predator: The Remote-Control Air War Over Iraq and Afghanistan: A Pilot's Story (paperback, 2010, Zenith Press).

Patrick Tyler: Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country -- and Why They Can't Make Peace (2012, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Nearly everyone in Israel (women as well as men, but not Palestinians, and not some Ultra-Orthodox) is drafted into the military, most remaining in the reserves until they're 49 -- a degree of militarization unknown anywhere else in the world. The military in turn becomes a stepping stone toward career success, especially in politics but also in business. The net effect is to drive Israel ever more to the right politically, into a bind where the greatest threat to the system that so many key people benefited from is peace. So this in itself is a big part of why there is no peace in the region.

Richard Wolff: Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism (paperback, 2012, City Lights): Economic professor, doesn't like the way things have been going, "in conversation with David Barsamian," so he likely keeps it basic and to the point. In 2009, Wolff wrote Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It.

Previously mentioned books (book pages noted where available), new in paperback:

James Carroll: Jerusalem, Jerusalem: How the Ancient City Ignored Our Modern World (2011; paperback, 2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): The city in history and myth, from Abraham through the Assyrians and Romans and Crusaders to Arafat and Olmert, a sad tale -- an object lesson in fetishism, don't you think? [link]

Thomas Frank: Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right (2012, Metropolitan Books; paperback, 2012, Picador): Disgraced by reality -- the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the inept government response Katrina, the revolt against Bush's "mandate" to gut social security, the collapse of the entire Western economy followed by trillions of dollars of bailouts -- the right bounced back by embracing fantasy, and cowed the media (much wholly owned by the right anyway) to go along and pump up the "tea party" effort. [link]

Richard Wilkinson/Kate Pickett: The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger (2009; paperback, 2011, Bloomsbury Press): Important book on how greater inequality is bad for your health, as well as general well being. [link]

Expert Comments

Christgau gave Pink's The Truth About Love a full A. I disclosed:

Gave Pink two spins on Rhapsody last week and jotted the following down. Figured I might as well share it here, not to argue but to document (good chance if I pick up a copy I'll wind up having to rewrite it anyway; wish we had some formatting controls):

Pink: The Truth About Love (2012, RCA): Not promising: she's insisting on being called "P!nk" now, and AMG acceded making it annoyingly hard to look her up. Back when I was setting type, I learned to correct copy to keep clients from making fools of themselves, as I've continued to do in cases like Kesha, Currensy, Tune-Yards, etc. More seriously, she insisted that her 2010 best-of, which is standard industry policy following her worst-ever album, be titled Greatest Hits . . . So Far! I've never seen an artist who insisted there are more to come actually deliver any, but she may have a couple here. Still, hard to be sure, because they mostly spin off her profanity -- not that I disapprove, but calling everyone else an asshole makes you wonder about her. At the very least, she make this more difficult than it needs to be. Even her lingerie looks like more trouble than it's likely to be worth. B+(**)

By the way, back when I wrote those RS things, I routinely translated B to 3-stars, B+ to 3.5, A- to 4; sometimes I promoted A to 5-stars, given how rarely I do A+. I have hundreds of RS grades in my metacritic files. I'm inclined to translate them back the same, although doing so makes their curve a bit more generous than letter-graders like AV Club or EW.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 20485 [20454] rated (+31), 646 [658] unrated (-12).

Nothing special to add about this week. Remarkably ordinary, at least as far as music is concerned: in addition to depleting some of the jazz backlog, finding lots of better-than-average albums, October's Recycled Goods draft stands at 33 albums, Rhapsody Streamnotes at 8, both slowly growing. Unpacking looked anemic until I added in today's haul (not in the stats above) -- now it's close to par, about 50 per month, or 600 per year, close to what I usually get, even though a couple publicists seem to think I've died.

Also wrote a bit on the Terminal Zone web plan. Would be interested in any comments, wish lists, and/or technical advice -- especially if you have any experience building Mediawiki sites. Thus far all I've been able to do is install it, after which it sits blankly, possibly realizing that I have no clue what to do next.

Josh Berman & His Gang: There Now (2011 [2012], Delmark): Cornet player, based in Chicago, third album, His Gang an octet, with five horns -- Berman, Jeb Bishop (trombone), Guilhermo Gregorio (clarinet), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), and Keefe Jackson (tenor sax) -- vibes (Jason Adasiewicz), bass (Joshua Abrams), and drums (Frank Rosaly). The horns (even the clarinets) have a lot of firepower, often glorious, sometimes fracturing or skidding, while the vibes do a nice job of following the crowd. B+(***)

George Cables: My Muse (2012, High Note): Pianist, b. 1944, worked his way through Art Blakey's boot camp, recorded frequently (and magnificently) with Art Pepper (1979-82), has 30-some albums since 1975, a mainstream stylist of exceptional touch and taste, which makes it all the harder to pick among his many trios, like this one with Essiet Essiet and Victor Lewis. I'm especially touched by his "My Old Flame." B+(***)

Ed Cherry: It's All Good (2012, Posi-Tone): Guitarist, b. 1954, played with Dizzy Gillespie 1978-92, also with Henry Threadgill's Very Very Circus group; cut three albums 1993-2001, with this his fourth. Organ trio, with Pat Bianchi and Byron Landham. Tasty, but rather light. B+(*)

Anat Cohen: Claroscuro (2011 [2012], Anzic): Israeli reed player, based in New York, leads with her clarinet here but also plays tenor and soprano sax. Mostly quartet, with Jason Lindner on piano, Joe Martin on bass, and Daniel Freedman on drums. About half Brazilian tunes, with Paquito D'Rivera guesting on four. Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon joins in on two, and sings "La Vie en Rose." Closes with Abdullah Ibrahim's "The Wedding." B+(***)

Denise Donatelli: Soul Shadows (2012, Savant): Singer, fourth album, not sure I'd call these standards except for "All or Nothing at All," but she's fine when the songs and arrangements are up to it. Geoffrey Keezer plays musical director and piano. He likes extra percussion, just a touch of horns and strings, the latter icky. "Another Day" is the odd song out, or in. B

Joe Fiedler's Big Sackbut (2011 [2012], YSL): Trombone player, b. 1965, sixth album since 1998, including a tribute to Albert Mangelsdorff, and an A-listed album last year (Sacred Chrome Orb). This is a trombone quartet, or close -- Ryan Keberle and Josh Roseman also play trombone, but Marcus Rojas plays tuba. Not the first to try something like this (cf. Ray Anderson's Slide Ride), but the tuba gives this some extra bounce, and the bones take the hint. B+(***)

Gato Libre: Forever (2011 [2012], Libra): Fifth album for this group led by Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, who writes all the pieces, with Satoko Fujii playing accordion, Kazuhiko Tsumura guitar, and Norikatsu Koreyasu bass. Not much action out of the accordion this time -- when they recorded live in Europe Fujii seemed to tap right in to the folk-dance tradition -- so interesting as this is it never really takes off. B+(*)

Uli Geissendoerfer: Colors (2011 [2012], Black Coffee Music): Pianist, b. Munich, Germany; two previous albums. This "world jazz quintet" is mostly a vehicle for singer Pascale Elia, who is engaging enough -- I even find myself enjoying her take on "Norwegian Wood," normally one of those kiss-of-death jazz album songs. B

The Harris Group: Choices (2011 [2012], self-released): Lots of competing users for this name, but this looks to be a Chicago group led by guitarist Ric Harris, with bass, drums, and vibes, plus Chris Greene guesting on soprano sax (two cuts). As groove music -- or should we say soul jazz? -- bass/vibes offers a refreshing contrast to the usual Hammond, lighter and faster than the norm. B+(*)

Mark Masters Ensemble: Ellington Saxophone Encounters (2012, Capri): Big band arranger, b. 1957, started on trumpet, cut records for Sea Breeze in the 1980s, founded American Jazz Institute in 1997. This adds to his tribute projects (Jimmy Knepper, Clifford Brown, Porgy and Bess, Dewey Redman: five saxophonists -- Gary Smulyan, Pete Christlieb, Gene Cipriano, Gary Foster, and Don Shelton -- have a go at Ellington's sax legends, with no one quite reminiscent of Johnny Hodges or Ben Webster, not that that's a fair complaint. B+(**)

Donny McCaslin: Casting for Gravity (2012, Greenleaf Music): Tenor saxophonist, technically among his generation's greats, often known to explode and run away with other people's records, but his own records more often than not leave me cold -- exception, 2008's Recommended Tools, especially with the fancy postbop layering. The backing here is relatively straightforward, with Jason Lindner favoring electric keybs over piano, Tim Lefebvre on electric bass, and producer David Binney slipping in some further synth -- all of which mean the sax is constantly front and center. B+(***)

Hendrik Meurkens/Gabriel Espinosa: Celebrando (2012, Zoho): Meurkens was born in Germany, Dutch parents, gravitated to Brazilian music early (his 1989 album was called Samba Importado), initially playing vibes but switching to harmonica. Espinosa is from Mexico, has a similar fascination with Brazil (his first album was called From Yucatan to Rio), plays bass and sings (five songs), composed four songs here (as did Meurkens; piaist Misha Tsiganov contributed two more). Anat Cohen (clarinet, tenor sax) and Antonio Sanchez got their names on the front cover and pics on the back. It's a mess. C+

Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Pepper Vol. VII: Sankei Hall, Osaka, Japan (1980 [2012], Widow's Taste, 2CD): I've probably lost my credibility here, given that this makes six straight Pepper authorized bootlegs I've given this same grade to -- they cheaped out on Vol. VI and only sent a sampler, so that's the hole in the list, but even with excess talk, thin sound, and a set list I've heard several times before, I can't go lower. For one thing, he's got George Cables on board -- the pianist he used on most of his studio recordings, but has been absent thus far on the boots. But also he's at a personal peak, which for him means more or less midway between jail and death. Simplest way to describe him is that he refracted up every modernist impulse from Parker to Coltrane to Coleman, but (excepting Johnny Hodges, of course) he also maintained the sweetest alto sax tone of all. A-

Bobby Sanabria Big Band: Multiverse (2011 [2012], Jazzheads): Drummer, b. 1957 in the Bronx, folks Puerto Rican; studied at Berklee, and perhaps more importantly with Mario Bauza, who gets a toast here. Started with small groups, moving up to a big band with 2007's Big Band Urban Folktales, and he pretty much owns that niche now. Picks up momentum, ending with a La Bruja rap that starts with history and plunges into the future. B+(***)

Elliott Sharp's Terraplane: Sky Road Songs (2012, Enja): Guitarist, b. 1951, has a huge discography including 17 solo albums, a bunch of string quartets and orchestral pieces, and now seven albums with Terraplane, his blues group. He dedicates this one to the late Hubert Sumlin, including a sample. Songs are new, some written by Joe Mardin, who appears on nearly every song with one odd credit or another. Eric Mingus and Tracie Morris sing, Alex Harding and Curtis Fowlkes blow, Dave Hofstra and Don McKenzie keep the beat straight. B+(*)

Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo: Ancestors (2011 [2012], TUM): Duets, trumpet and drums, not that either should need introduction, Smith coming out of the AACM, Moholo (not sure why he expanded his name) from South Africa's legendary Blue Notes. Cut in Finland, a little spare but both players continually rise to the occasion, providing a lot to focus on. A-

Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii: Muku (2011 [2012], Libra): Married couple, longtime collaborators, reduce their focus to trumpet and piano duets; should be intimate, but their styles clash and the instruments tend to separate out, a thrill when Fujii breaks out knocking chords every which way. B+(**)

Leon Foster Thomas: Brand New Mischief (2012, self-released): Plays steel pan, b. 1981, has a previous record. Group here includes Allen C. Paul on piano, plus bass and drums. The steel pan is similar enough in tone to the piano that this starts off like an upbeat piano trio before the pan tones emerge clearly. Nice trick. B+(*)

Ryan Truesdell: Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans (2012, ArtistShare): Of course, this is much more enticing as Gil Evans' unfinished work, on his 100th birthday no less, than it would be attributed to unknown arranger Truesdell, and I've seen reviews that go whole hog and file the record under Evans' name. It stands up nicely, if not all that consistently, on its own, the huge orchestra -- 32 instrumentalists plus three vocalists slotted with one song each -- is full of players who don't need to hide in a crowd. Aside from the solos, I found myself tracking the vibes (Joe Locke), a little sparkle on top of all the lushness. B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • John Daversa: Artful Joy (BFM Jazz)
  • Roger Davidson Trio: We Remember Helen (Soundbrush)
  • Eric Divito: Breaking the Ice (Pioneer Jazz Collection)
  • Erik Jekabson: Anti-Mass (Jekab's Music)
  • Steve Kuhn Trio: Life's Magic (Sunnyside): October 16
  • Negroni's Trio: On the Way (AA)
  • Sam Newsome: The Art of the Soprano, Vol. 1 (self-released)
  • Ellen Robinson: Don't Wait Too Long (EMR Music): October 16
  • Jason Robinson: Tiresian Symmetry (Cuneiform)
  • David Virelles: Continuum (Pi)
  • Torben Waldorff: Wah-Wah (ArtistShare)
  • Andrea Wolper/Connie Crothers/Ken Filiano: Trance Formation: In Concert (New Artists)
  • Zohar's Nigun: The Four Questions (Rectify)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Expert Comments

Sharpsm taunted me:

Couple/three excellent jazz releases I haven't seen mentioned here or elsewhere ("elsewhere" meaning Hull's or Monsen's sites--I should get out more).

Trio M: The Guest House--Myra Melford is intimidating as only a credentialed avant-garde pianist can be: Don Pullen protegee, Henry Threadgill and Butch Morris connections, thirst for discordant abstraction, off-the-scale talent and compositional genius. Here she hooks up with Mark Dresser on bass and Matt Wilson on drums (pick up the same group's 2006 Big Picture while you're out shopping) and somehow they come up with the most rhythmically irresistible jazz of the year. Begins with Wilson channeling Ziggy Modeliste under some of Myra's catchiest discordant abstractions, then leads into the aptly-titled "Don Knotts" (it's pretty jittery!). Further in, things veer between the atmospheric and the plain gorgeous while maintaining the pulse, but on the African-sounding closer the two M's loosen their ties and take Myra out dancing. A late 2011 release but I don't know if anyone heard it in 2011.

Nico Gori/Fred Hersch: Da Vinci--In 2008, after a two-month coma and the nearest near-death experience God allows before He calls you to your great reward, the very great pianist Fred Hersch built up his muscles enough to walk and play the piano again, then he got busy, putting out some of the best records of his career (I just gulped down both discs of his new Alive At The Vanguard without a break). Here he shares credit with an Italian clarinetist I've never heard of for an album of stately duets: mostly Hersch originals, one Gori tune, a couple of fairly arcane standards plus a closing "Tea For Two" that stands with Monk and Murray/Arvanitas. The Italian clarinetist turns out to be terrific, and this serves as the ideal introduction to Hersch the composer, containing unbeatable versions of some of his most indelible tunes ("Mandevilla" and "Down Home" in particular).

Benoit Delbecq: Crescendo In Duke--A classically-trained French pianist usually so austere he makes Myra Melford sound like Leon Russell: who better to lead an Ellington tribute? But there's nothing austere about it. Leading two superb American bands, Delbecq leans down hard on Duke's neglected late copyrights ("The Goutelas Suite" in its entirety!), and with odd touches everywhere (African percussion and electric bass on "Portrait Of Wellman Braud") creates something completely fresh.

And if this is the year of the Old Guy in music (Dylan, Cohen, Wainwright, hey Jimmy Cliff, why not) can I get at least a couple of you to take a shot on Robert Cray's new Nothin' But Love? I swear, it's the best batch of new songs the guy's come up with in at least twenty years, with two absolute classics: "I'm Done Cryin'", about a good man holding onto his dignity after his job is shut down and sent overseas ("They put the blame on the unions, like they always do"), and "Side Dish", about how easy it is to lose your place as someone's main course ("Turnip! Don't cry, french fry! Carrots! Boiled carrots at that!"). Great cover photo too (what a car! what a suit!). Bonus track is a live Magic Sam cover you ought to hear (mistakenly credited at Allmusic to Pee Wee King for some reason, which would make it a Patti Page/Dean Martin/Dovells cover).

I wrote:

Thanks to sharpsm for the jazz recommendations. Trio M finished 78th in last year's Jazz Critics Poll, but I never got a copy. I rated the last records I did receive from Melford (and for that matter Delbecq) at A-, but they've been hard to come by lately. There are a lot of jazz records I would like to check out but don't get -- seems like more all the time, which is likely to turn into a death spiral for my jazz consumer guiding. (For example, I haven't gotten anything from AUM Fidelity for over a year, even though I've written tons about them. The only way I get a new Vandermark release these days is if it comes out on Clean Feed.) Lots more examples I could gripe about -- don't have the new Mary Halvorson Sextet everyone seems to love (but do, somehow, managed to get her crap, which gets rather confusing). Way too much stuff to buy on spec, given how little time I have and how little I make off this. Which isn't to say that I don't get stuff or that I don't find things nobody else writes about -- good recent example is that Michael McNeill piano trio I wrote about a couple weeks ago. A few years ago, at what now looks like the peak of JCG influence, I figured out that I was covering about 40% of everything released. Haven't tried remeasuring that, but 25% is a good guess. That's a lot, but also it's not.

Milo Miles responded:

Change that to simply "records" and I think most reviewers are in much the same sad boat these days. I hate it. Old Fart or not, downloading to scan promo is way more hassle for me than grabbing discs from a pile and giving a spin -- that whole process can be over in less than five minutes and I can get more done as a series of titles play. And more and more you're pressured to declare serious interest in something you haven't even heard.

The one bright spot is that performers have told me good write-ups in respected outlets are in some ways more important than ever, what with the torrents of informal media noise roaring nonstop.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Expert Comments

Tried to post this:

Thought I'd mention this as a public service for those so interested: Jazz Loft has a 50%-off sale on a bunch of (but far from all of their) Hat releases. I just ordered six for $5.47 each -- David Murray, two Joe McPhee, Ellery Eskelin, John Carter, Franz Koglmann (I've never cared much for him, but PG loves him). Lot of Hat Now releases (post-classical avant-garde), which I skipped for lack of any reference sources. Sale ends tomorrow (Sept. 20). I probably missed some stuff, and of course didn't order anything I already had. Quite possibly the best record on sale is Horace Tapscott's The Dark Tree.

Hat sales seem to come around every few years: they issue limited editions, close them out, then reissue them under different label variants. Strange business.

From Joe Yanosik:

OK, so most of you know I fancy myself the Keeper of the Lists, so just for fun tonight, I compared Xgau's unofficial entries in Bradley's poll to my unofficial A-Lists and noted some probable list adjustments. One advantage of keeping the lists constantly updated like this is . . . well, your lists are up to date and you don't forget to include things in polls.

I had made some changes to the lists back when Xgau submitted his Top 30 of the Decade to RS which helped. Here's what I've now updated in the lists 1992 to present as well as grade changes I've noted in my own database.

PS: I omitted reissues in the A-lists for the purposes of this exercise. PPS: I'm assuming everything on his (a) and (b) lists are now A+ records. PPPS: Take this with a grain of salt.

1992 - moved Belalo to # 1 position ahead of Can You Fly. Belalo upgraded A to A+
1993 - no change.
1994 - no change - still Latin Playboys/My Life/Exp Jet Set
1995 - moved Rivers of One to #1 position ahead of Tricky (now #2) & Penthouse (now #3). Guvenc upgraded A to A+.
1996 - no change - DJ Shadow/Fluffy/Fugees.
1997 - moved Sleater Kinney Dig Me Out down below Yo La Tengo, so now Arto/Pavement/Yo La Tengo/Sleater-Kinney.
1998 - no change - SY/Music in My Head/Lucinda/Mermaid Ave
1999 - no change - Magnetic Fields/Moby/Le Tigre
2000 - As a result of the Top 30 RS poll, I had Go-Betweens Friends of Rachel Worth at #1 which I suspect Xgau simply forgot since it was down pretty far on the original Dean's List. I moved Marshall Mathers ahead of Stankonia which didn't make his lists so I have GoBetweens/PJ Harvey/Eminem/Outkast
2001 - no change - Dylan/Moldy Peaches/Satellite Rides
2002 - moved Mekons OOOH ahead of Specialist in All Styles so Mekons/Baobab/Shadow/Imperial Teen. OOOH upgraded from A to A+.
2003 - no change - Buck 65/DBT/Wrens
2004 - moved SMiLE ahead of Kanye so Brian Wilson/Kanye/Youssou - all three now A+.
2005 - no change - Kanye Late Reg/Wussy Funeral Dress/Sahara/Gypsy Punks - all four now A+.
2006 - Modern Times moved ahead of NY Dolls so now Dylan/Dolls/Tom Zé - all A+. I suspect Tom Zé Danc-Eh-Sah should be at #3 position but I could be way off on this one . . . he did say it was his fave Zé though.
2007 - no change - MIA/Wussy Left for Dead/Gogol Super Taranta - all A+.
2008 - no change - Lil Wayne/DBT (both A+), then TV on the Radio
2009 - moved Loudon ahead of Leonard so now Paisley/Wainwright/Cohen, all A+.
2010 - Roots - now A+
2011 - Das Racist - now A+

That's all.


I understand that Jeffrey Goldberg and others have attacked an op-ed by Maureen Dowd for being anti-semitic. The offending line seems to have been the title, Neocons Slither Back. To understand how anti-semitic this title is, you first have to realize, as Goldberg put it, that in using "slither" "she is peddling an old stereotype, that gentile leaders are dolts unable to resist the machinations and manipulations of clever and snake-like Jews." You also have to assume that neocons are Jewish, a mental process that involves blotting out such infamous figures as Dick Cheney, John Bolton, and Fouad Ajami, although I suppose she (or Goldberg) could be arguing that those neocon gentiles (as well as their followers, like G.W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney) are really manipulated dolts.

I picked up the Goldberg quote from Dylan Byers at Politico, who provides many more uselessly out-of-context quotes, like Daniel Halper calling "it" (whatever it is) "outrageous," and Jonathan Tobin describing something as "particularly creepy." Byers quotes Max Fisher as saying, "[The] weirdest part of the anti-semitic tropes on the Dowd column is how lazy they are," without explaining what tropes those were, or why they were "on" the column and not "in" it -- I'd parse this as meaning Goldberg et al. were the lazy ones.

Parsing itself is fairly critical here. As someone who's had his titles mangled by everyone from editors to typesetters, I try to say what I mean at least once in the article. Dowd uses the word "slither" only once in the article, when she quotes Paul Wolfowitz, "slimily asserting that President Obama should not be allowed to 'slither through' without a clear position on Libya." But here the imputed serpent isn't Jewish (or neocon, or Republican); rather, it sounds at least vaguely racist, but then that's easy to do when the object of one's scorn happens to be black (or for that matter Jewish). In many cases the writer is just trying to spritz up a bit of language, and it's best not to read too much in it.

That's certainly the case with Dowd, whose piece often appears to be written in a private language. For instance, her first line threw me: "Paul Ryan has not sautéed in foreign policy in his years on Capitol Hill." It took some delving into Wiktionary to come up with any plausible deciphering of this line, but it turns out that the French verb sauter has a slang usage "to bang, jump, have sex with." Still, if what you wanted to say was that Ryan was a virgin in foreign policy, wouldn't it have been much clearer to say, "Ryan was a foreign policy virgin"? (Personally, I'd rather say, "Ryan has never fucked with foreign policy, and therefore has never fucked it up.")

And Dowd does more spritzing to even more dumbfounding effect: Romney foreign policy adviser (or, as Dowd puts it, "neocon puppet master") Dan Senor was "secunded to manage the running mate [Ryan]" -- presumably she means "seconded" (temporarily assigned). She refers to Romney and Ryan as "both jejeune about the world"; most likely "jejune" (naive, simplistic, lacking matter, devoid of substance). She also refers to Romney as "Mittens," but not consistently enough to make a style or attitude out of it; more like a brain fart.

I don't normally read Dowd, so this column mostly served as a reminder why. Still, she did come up with one remarkable quote from Ryan:

Ryan bemoaned "the slaughter of brave dissidents in Syria. Mobs storming American embassies and consulates. Iran four years closer to gaining a nuclear weapon. Israel, our best ally in the region, treated with indifference bordering on contempt by the Obama administration." American foreign policy, he said, "needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose."

As I recall, "moral clarity" was a favorite G.W. Bush term, which is to say the guy who's response toward peacemaking in Israel-Palestine was, "Sometimes a show of force by one side can really clarify things." The decade prior to that was the only period where the US took a role in attempting to bridge the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and and Bush squandered that by endorsing Sharon's show of force. After Bush, Obama made a pathetic gesture at returning to America's pre-Bush role as an "honest broker" in favor of peace, an effort Ryan decries as "indifference bordering on contempt" because it presumes that Israel would benefit from peace, even though Netanyahu wants no such thing.

But in terms of moral clarity, the bit about Syria and Libya is even more confused. Many of those "dissidents" in Syria Ryan wants to help are Islamists, as were the "dissidents" the US helped in Libya (who in turn attacked the Benghazi consulate there). Indeed, the US has a long history (at least back to the Afghan mujahideen in 1979) of supporting Islamists who ultimately turn on us, a track record that would give anyone knowledgable and sane pause. Obviously, that excludes Ryan and Romney (who may well not know better), and their neocon advisers like Senor (who probably does but doesn't care, so committed are they to perpetuating US conflicts in the region).

MJ Rosenberg, on Dan Senor:

Dan Senor is no ordinary Jewish guy who happens to work for Romney. He was Paul Bremer's spokesman in Iraq. He has written a best-selling book on the wonders of Israel. His sister runs AIPAC's Jerusalem office and her husband is a far-right writer in Israel (they emigrated from the United States). He is an outspoken apologist for the right-wing Israeli position and has been his whole life (he worked for me as a college kid). See this remarkable profile of Senor that appeared in the Jewish Tablet.

Some relevant links in Dowd's defense (along with Rosenberg above):

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rhapsody Streamnotes (September 2012)

Pick up text here.

Expert Comments

Brad Sroka's 1992-2012 poll results released (top 100, minimum 2 votes, ties add up to 119):

 1. The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs 235 (21)
 2. Kanye West, Late Registration 232 (19)
 3. Bob Dylan, "Love and Theft" 228 (20)
 4. DJ Shadow, Endtroducing..... 202 (14)
 5. Sleater-Kinney, Dig Me Out 172 (17)
 6. Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville 166 (14)
 7. Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road 157 (14)
 8. M.I.A., Kala 151 (15)
 9. Wussy, Funeral Dress 146 (15)
10. PJ Harvey, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea 127 (12)
11. Luna, Penthouse 119 (12)
      Tricky, Maxinquaye 119 (12)
13. The Wrens, The Meadowlands 118 (11)
14. Kanye West, The College Dropout 115 (11)
15. Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP 98 (11)
16. Iris DeMent, My Life 94 (7)
17. Pavement, Wowee Zowee 91 (7)
18. PJ Harvey, To Bring You My Love 85 (10)
19. Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One 85 (9)
20. Robyn, Body Talk 83 (9)
21. Mekons, OOOH! 77 (7)
22. Orchestra Baobab, Specialist in All Styles 74 (8)
23. Fountains of Wayne, Welcome Interstate Managers 74 (6)
      Wussy, Strawberry 74 (6)
25. Nirvana, MTV Unplugged in New York 73 (8)
26. Pet Shop Boys, Very 72 (7)
27. Moby, Play 70 (5)
28. Drive-By Truckers, Brighter Than Creation's Dark 68 (7)
29. OutKast, Stankonia 66 (8)
30. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 66 (5)
      Nirvana, In Utero 66 (5)
32. Brian Wilson, Smile 65 (6)
33. Ghostface Killah, Fishscale 62 (6)
34. Pavement, Crooked Rain Crooked Rain 59 (6)
35. Sleater-Kinney, One Beat 56 (4)
36. Sleater-Kinney, The Hot Rock 55 (4)
37. Pavement, Brighten the Corners 53 (6)
38. Wussy, Left for Dead 53 (5)
39. Sonic Youth, A Thousand Leaves 52 (5)
40. Bob Dylan, Modern Times 50 (5)
41. Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar 49 (5)
42. Frank Ocean, nostalgia, ULTRA. 48 (5)
43. Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) 47 (6)
44. Fugees, The Score 45 (6)
45. Brad Paisley, American Saturday Night 45 (4)
46. Old 97's, Satellite Rides 44 (5)
47. Arcade Fire, Neon Bible 44 (4)
48. Sleater-Kinney, Call the Doctor 44 (3)
49. The Roots, How I Got Over 43 (5)
50. Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Spinning Around the Sun 43 (4)
51. Rilo Kiley, More Adventurous 42 (4)
52. Amy Rigby, Diary of a Mod Housewife 41 (5)
53. Billy Bragg & Wilco, Mermaid Avenue 40 (5)
54. Sonny Rollins, This Is What I Do 40 (4)
55. Gogol Bordello, Super Taranta! 40 (3)
56. New York Dolls, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This 39 (5)
57. Belle and Sebastian, If You're Feeling Sinister 39 (4)
58. TV on the Radio, Dear Science 38 (4)
59. Cornershop, When I Was Born for the 7th Time 38 (3)
      Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea 38 (3)
61. Drive-By Truckers, Decoration Day 37 (5)
62. Leonard Cohen, Live in London 37 (4)
      Liz Phair, Whitechocolatespaceegg 37 (4)
64. PJ Harvey, Rid of Me 36 (5)
65. Tune-Yards, w h o k i l l 36 (3)
66. Archers of Loaf, Icky Mettle 35 (4)
      Lil Wayne, Da Drought 3 35 (4)
68. Freedy Johnston, Can You Fly 34 (3)
      The White Stripes, White Blood Cells 34 (3)
70. De La Soul, Buhloone Mindstate 33 (3)
71. James Carter, Chasin' the Gypsy 32 (4)
      The Notorious B.I.G., Ready to Die 32 (4)
73. Todd Snider, The Devil You Know 32 (3)
74. The Go-Betweens, The Friends of Rachel Worth 31 (2)
75. Buck 65, Talkin' Honky Blues 30 (3)
      Drive-By Truckers, Southern Rock Opera 30 (3)
77. Tom Zé, Danc-Eh-Sa 30 (2)
78. Latin Playboys, Latin Playboys 29 (4)
79. The Avalanches, Since I Left You 28 (3)
      D'Angelo, Voodoo 28 (3)
      Girl Talk, All Day 28 (3)
      The Libertines, Up the Bracket 28 (3)
      The Strokes, Is This It 28 (3)
84. Arcade Fire, Funeral 28 (2)
85. Sonic Youth, Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star 27 (3)
      Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend 27 (3)
      Wussy, Wussy 27 (3)
88. Sleater-Kinney, All Hands on the Bad One 27 (2)
89. Todd Snider, East Nashville Skyline 26 (3)
90. Amy Rigby, Little Fugitive 25 (3)
      David Murray, Shakill's Warrior 25 (3)
      Le Tigre, Le Tigre 25 (3)
      Sleater-Kinney, The Woods 25 (3)
94. Bob Dylan, Live 1966 25 (2)
95. Gogol Bordello, Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike! 24 (3)
96. Hole, Live Through This 23 (3)
97. The Notorious B.I.G., Life After Death 20 (3)
98. Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball 20 (2)
      The Coup, Pick a Bigger Weapon 20 (2)
      Das Racist, Relax 20 (2)
      DJ Shadow, The Private Press 20 (2)
      Dramarama, Hi-Fi Sci-Fi 20 (2)
      Girl Talk, Feed the Animals 20 (2)
      Imperial Teen, On 20 (2)
      Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III 20 (2)
      Loudon Wainwright III, High Wide and Handsome 20 (2)
      Lucinda Williams, Sweet Old World 20 (2)
      Madvillain, Madvillainy 20 (2)
      Manu Chao, Proxima Estacion: Esperanza 20 (2)
      Modest Mouse, The Moon and Antarctica 20 (2)
      The Mountain Goats, Tallahassee 20 (2)
      Mzwakhe Mbuli, Resistance is Defence 20 (2)
      OutKast, Aquemini 20 (2)
      Serengeti, Dennehy: Light, Camera, Action 20 (2)
      Todd Snider, The Storyteller 20 (2)
      Wussy, Funeral Dress II 20 (2)
      Youssou N'Dour, Egypt 20 (2)
      Youssou N'Dour Nothing's in Vain 20 (2)

My post:

I hated the idea of compressing 20 years into one 20-deep list, but wound up sending a list of 100 -- presumably Brad counted the top 20:

1. Lily Allen: It's Not Me, It's You
2. Pet Shop Boys: Very
3. Cornershop: When I Was Born for the Seventh Time
4. Buck 65: Talkin' Honky Blues
5. Sonic Liberation Front: Ashé a Go-Go
6. Manu Chao: Proxima Estacion: Esperanza
7. Sonny Rollins: This Is What I Do
8. Pavement: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
9. Iris Dement: My Life
10. Ornette Coleman: Sound Grammar
11. Sonic Youth: Dirty
12. James Carter: Chasin' the Gypsy
13. The Roches: A Dove
14. Bruno Mars: Doo-Wops and Hooligans
15. Billy Bang: Vietnam: The Aftermath
16. Nelly: Country Grammar
17. Amy Rigby: Little Fugitive
18. NERD: In Search of . . .
19. DJ Shadow: The Private Press
20. Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Spinning Around the Sun

The whole 100, better formatted, is stored on my website in the Sept. 8, 2012 notebook entry. (The notebook has extra stuff beyond the blog, although interest is more limited.)

Eight of those twenty failed to make the top 100 (only two of those were jazz: SLF and Bang). I've been jotting down individual ballot entries that missed the top 100. AN has the most at 16; Cam, Chris, and FM Lo have 9; Matt Rice and I have 8. Two from Matt's list really surprise me: Beck's Odelay, and Sufjan Stevens' Illinois. Everyone so far has at least one.

Christgau wrote:

right off the top of my head, with no 2012 albums permitted, just paging through the top of old dean's lists and double-checking very sketchily through bradley's list, 40 preliminary candidates divided into preliminary a & b lists, listed more or less in reverse chronological order based mostly on how often i recall playing them over the years:

a: how i got over, amer sat nite, carter iii, brighter than creation's dark, kala, late reg, rough guide sahara, modern times, funeral dress, smile, college dropout, egypt, oooh, specialists in all styles, moldy peaches, love and theft, a thousand leaves, endtroducing, ocean of remembrance (oruj guvenc), latin playboys, my life

b: relax, high wide and handsome, super taranta, gypsy punks, one day it will please us, private press, on, satellite rides (or fight songs), stories from the city, nothing's in vain, marshall mathers, 69 love songs, play, car wheels, mermaid avenue, mundo civilizado, i can hear the heart, brighten the corners, maxinquaye, belalo (dalienst)

Individual lists (dropping out everything that scored top 100 (actually, 119, see above); number is number of lines; I've added list numbers and removed points so everything is semi-standardized, then sorted the records from most to least lines):

Alexander Nevermind (16):

 1. The Verve: Urban Hymns
 2. The Verve: A Storm In Heaven
 3. The Verve: A Northern Soul
 4. The Verve: No Come Down (B-Sides and Outtakes)
 5. The Verve: E.P.
 8. New Radicals: Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too
10. Primal Scream: Echo Dek
11. Boards of Canada: Music Has the Right to Children
12. Massive Attack: Mezzanine
13. Ride: Going Blank Again
14. Portishead: Dummy
15. Dan the Automator: Deltron 3030
16. Spiritualized: Lazer Guided Melodies
17. The Chemical Brothers: Dig Your Own Hole
19. Morcheeba: Big Calm
20. Global Communication: 76:14

Cam Patterson (9):

2. Lyrics Born: Later That Day . . .
3. The Flaming Lips: The Soft Bulletin
4. Tribalistas
5. Robert Forster: Live in New York City 9/15/2008
7. DJ Shadow: Diminishing Returns Party Pack
8. Marisa Monte: Rose And Charcoal
11. Caetano Veloso: Omaggio A Federico E Guilietta
13. Drive-By Truckers: Southern Rock Opera live Salt Lake City 2/18-2/19/2002
20. Guided by Voices- Bee Thousand

Christopher Monsen (9):

 1. Charles Gayle/William Parker/Rashied Ali: Touchin' on Trane
 2. William Parker In Order to Survive: Peach Orchard
 3. Adam Lane Full Throttle Orchestra: Ashcan Rantings
 4. Darius Jones Trio: Man'ish Boy (a Raw & Beautiful Thing)
 6. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Shamokin'
 7. Ken Vandermark Barrage Double Trio: Utility Hitter
 8. 8 Bold Souls: Sideshow
16. Sonic Youth: Rather Ripped
18. Archers of Loaf: Vee Vee

FM Lo (9):

 2. The Beach Boys: The Smile Sessions [LP]
 4. A Tribe Called Quest: Midnight Marauders
 8. The xx: xx
 9. Fugazi: The Argument
10. The Moldy Peaches: The Moldy Peaches
14. GZA/Genius: Liquid Swords
16. Yo La Tengo: Painful
19. Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven!
20. Burial: Untrue

Matt Rice (8):

 9. Beck: Odelay
12. The Hold Steady: Boys and Girls in America
13. Sufjan Stevens: Illinois
14. Dizzee Rascal: Boy in Da Corner
17. Low: Trust
18. Beck: Mellow Gold
19. Spoon: Kill the Moonlight
20. Avi Buffalo: Avi Buffalo

Tom Hull (8):

 1. Lily Allen: It's Not Me, It's You
 5. Sonic Liberation Front: Ashé a Go-Go
11. Sonic Youth: Dirty
13. The Roches: A Dove
14. Bruno Mars: Doo-Wops and Hooligans
15. Billy Bang: Vietnam: The Aftermath
16. Nelly: Country Grammar
18. NERD: In Search of . . .

Edgar Sargent (7):

 5. Thelonious Monk w/John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall
 7. Nas: Illmatic
 8. Drive-By Truckers: Dirty South
12. Liz Phair: Liz Phair
14. Howard Fishman Quartet: Do What I Want
18. Black Keys: Rubber Factory
20. Jerry Garcia and David Grisman: Shady Grove

Joe Lunday (7):

 7. Ghostface Killah: Iron Man
14. Sebadoh: Bakesale
15. GZA: Liquid Swords
17. Yo La Tengo: Summer Sun
18. Spoon: Kill the Moonlight
19. A Tribe Called Quest: Midnight Marauders
20. The Dismemberment Plan: Emergency and I

Kenny Mostern (7):

 6. Sugar: Copper Blue
 9. Los Lobos: Colossal Head
10. Dessa: A Badly Broken Code
15. Digable Planets: Blowout Comb
18. John Langford & Skull Orchard: Old Devils
19. Wild Flag: Wild Flag
20. Bruce Springsteen: Magic

Nicky (7):

 3. Withered Hand: Good News
 6. Sonic Youth: NYC Ghosts & Flowers
 9. Jens Lekman: Argument with Myself
10. Radiohead: OK Computer
12. Anti-Flag: Terror State
15. Pavement: Terror Twilight
18. Frank Ocean: Channel Orange

Paul Hayden (7):

 7. REM: Automatic for the People
 8. Radiohead: The Bends
10. Neko Case: The Tigers Have Spoken
11. Ass Ponys: Electric Rock Music
15. The Rooks: A Wishing Well
17. Sugar: Copper Blue
19. Old 97s: Fight Songs

Richard Cobeen (7):

 6. Loudon Wainwright III: Older Than My Old Man Now
12. Rubén González: Introducing . . . Rubén González
13. The Coup: Party Music
15. M People: Elegant Slumming
17. Macy Gray: The Sellout
19. Lyrics Born: Later That Day
20. Cachao: Master Sessions Volume 1

Jason Gubbels (6):

 2. Common: Like Water For Chocolate
 4. Digable Planets: Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space)
14. Pavement: Slanted and Enchanted
15. Sonic Youth, Sonic Nurse
16. Tom Waits, Mule Variations
20. Yo La Tengo: And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

Liam Smith (6):

 1. New Order: Get Ready
 4. Jinx Lennon: Know Your Station Gouger Nation!!
13. Tiger: We Are Puppets
16. Soul Coughing: Ruby Vroom
17. Archers of Loaf: Vee Vee
19. James Carter: The Real Quietstorm

Semi Mike (ShadyShack) (6):

10. Johnny Cash: American IV
13. Soundgarden: Superunknown
14. Guided By Voices: Bee Thousand
15. Jay-Z: Vol. 3...Life and Times of S. Carter
16. Sugar: File Under Easy Listening
19. Tom Waits: Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards

Seraphina Cobeen (6):

11. Imperial Teen: Seasick
15. Lupe Fiasco's Food and Liquor
16. Lily Allen: Alright, Still
17. Madonna: Music
18. Beyoncé: B-Day
19. White Stripes: Elephant

sharpsm (6):

 9. Big Boi: Sir Luscious Leftfoot: The Return of Chico Dusty
13. Robbie Fulks: 50 vc. Doberman
14. ICP Orchestra: Jubilee Varia
16. Ted Nash: Sidewalk Meeting
17. Toni Tone Tony: House of Music
20. Alexander von Schlippenbach: Monk's Casino

Bradley Sroka (5):

 7. Frederic Rzewski: Rzewski Plays Rzewski, Piano Works 1975-1999
10. David S. Ware: Go See the World
13. Miranda Lambert: Revolution
16. Kronos Quartet w/Aki Takahashi/Morton Feldman: Piano and String Quartet
18. The Jaki Byard Quartet w/Joe Farrell, The Last From Lennie's

Tom Walker (5):

 2. James Carter: The Real Quietstorm
 3. Tom Zé: Jogos de Amar
 9. VA: The Rough Guide to the Music of the Sahara
15. Randy Newman: Randy Newman's Faust
17. John Prine: In Spite of Ourselves

Chris Hurst (4):

 7. The Coup: Steal This Album
10. Hamell on Trial: Ed's Not Dead - Hamell Comes Alive
15. Four Tet: Rounds
19. The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike

decherre (4):

11. Go-Betweens: Oceans Apart
13. Fountains of Wayne: Traffic & Weather
19. Tricky: Blowback
20. Prince Paul: Presents a Prince Among Thieves 

Greg Morton (4):

 2. Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Americana
 8. Julieta Venegas: Limon y Sal
12. Nirvana: Muddy Banks of the Wishkah
16. Bobby Pinson: Songs For Somebody

Joey Daniewicz (4):

12. Green Day: Dookie
13. The Hold Steady: Boys and Girls in America
14. Pavement: Slanted & Enchanted
19. Jay-Z: The Black Album

JY48NY (4):

 1. Miles Davis: The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions
 2. Sonic Youth: Murray Street
 6. Plastic People of the Universe: 1997
 9. Thelonius Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall

Rodney Taylor (4):

 3. Viktor Vaughn (MF Doom): Vaudeville Villian
 9. P.M. Dawn: The Bliss Album
11. Spring Heel Jack: The Sweetness of Water
17. Tom Zé: Jogos de Armar

bradluen (3):

 9. Taylor Swift: Fearless
12. Johnny Cash: American IV: The Man Comes Around
20. Sonic Youth: Dirty

Marcus2010 (3):

 7. Miranda Lambert: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
10. Raphael Saadiq: The Way I See It
14. Mos Def: The Ecstatic

John Smallwood (2):

19. Rilo Kiley: Under the Blacklight
20. The Coup: Steal This Album

Dan W. (Rock/Pop/Hip Hop/World list: 1):

 5. Sonic Youth: Washing Machine

He also provided a separate Jazz list:

 1. David Murray: Long Goodbye: A Tribute to Don Pullen
 2. Dewey Redman/Cecil Taylor/Elvin Jones: Momentum Space
 3. Jason Moran: Modernistic
 4. Ornette Coleman & Prime Time: Tone Dialing
 5. Alexander von Schlippenbach: Monk's Casino
 6. Vandermark 5: Alchemia
 7. Mahanthappa/Lehman: Dual Identity
 8. William Parker: Raining on the Moon
 9. Cecil Taylor: Willisau Concert
10. Paul Motian Trio: Sound of Love (@VV '95)
11. Matthew Shipp: Harmony & Abyss
12. John Zorn: Bar Kokhba, Vol. 11, 50th Anniversary Concerts
13. David S. Ware Quartet: Live in the World
14. Adam Lane Full Throttle Orchestra: Ashcan Rantings
15. Tim Berne: The Shell Game
16. Jewels & Binoculars: Ships on the Tattooed Sails
17. Fred Hersch: In Amsterdam: Live at the Bimhuis
18. Wayne Shorter: Footprints Live!
19. Vijay Iyer: Reimagining

Frapton (all he listed: 1):

11. Caetano Veloso: Omaggio A Federico E Guilietta

JeffC77 (1):

12. Randy Newman: Harps and Angels

He also listed "also rans": Sonic Youth, Rather Ripped; Miranda Lambert, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; Arto Lindsay, Mundo Civilizado; Old 97s, Fight Songs; Tom Waits, Mule Variations.

Matt Bernier (1):

16. The Apples in Stereo: New Magnetic Wonder

After here, unsorted ballots that came in late:

jreamteam (8): posted but not submitted, so not counted:

 6. Archers of Loaf: Vee Vee
 7. The Dismemberment Plan: Emergency & I
10. Taylor Swift: Fearless
12. Pavement: Slanted and Enchanted
14. Los Campesinos!: Hold On Now, Youngster
16. Hayes Carll: Touble In Mind
19. The Moldy Peaches
20. Miranda Lambert - Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 5

Mark Rosen (8):

 2. Sebadoh: Bakesale
 6. Stars: Set Yourself on Fire
 8. Blonde Redhead: Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons
10. Old 97s: Too Far to Care
12. Los Lobos: Kiko
14. Bob Dylan: Time Out of Mind
16. Belle and Sebastian: The Boy with the Arab Strap
18. Jens Lekman: Oh You're So Silent Jens
19. New Pornographers: Electric Version

Tigster326 (5):

 4. Music in My Head
11. David S. Ware: Go See the World
12. William Parker: I Plan to Stay a Believer
19. John Prine: In Spite of Ourselves
20. FAB Trio: History of Jazz in Reverse

Ioannis Sotirchos (didn't count last one: 8):

 1. Miles Davis: The Complete On the Corner Sessions
 2. Led Zeppelin (DVD)
 3. Sunn O))): Black One
 5. Burzum: FIlosofem
 8. Jay-Z: Reasonable Doubt
11. Monster Magnet: Powertrip
16. Neil Young: Sleeps With Angels
19. Kid Rock: Devil Without a Cause
20. White Stripes discography (all five albums)

Other records below the line that no one has claimed a vote for:

Ali Farka Toure: Niafunke
Allo Darlin': Allo Darlin'
Baseball Project: Vol. 1
Be Your Own Pet: Get Awkward
Belle and Sebastian: Lazy Line Painter Jane
Belle and Sebastian: The Boy With the Arab Strap
Big Bang: Big Bang 2
Björk: Homogenic
Blonde Redhead: Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons
Blood Brothers: Burn, Piano Island, Burn
Blur: Parklife
Bob Dylan: Time Out of Mind
Burzum: Filosofem
Capsule: Stereo Worxxx
FAB Trio: History of Jazz in Reverse
Fountains of Wayne: Utopia Parkway
Holy Modal Rounders: Too Much Fun
Jay-Z: Reasonable Doubt
Jens Lekman: Night Falls Over Kortedala
Jens Lekman: Oh You're So Silent Jens
Kid Rock: Devil Without a Cause
King Sunny Ade: Best of the Classic Years
Kronos Quartet/Morton Feldman: Piano and String Quartet
Lady Gaga: The Fame Monster
LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver
Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin (DVD)
Los Lobos: Colossal Head
Los Lobos: Kiko
Miles Davis: The Complete On the Corner Sessions
Monster Magnet: Powertrip
Mountain Goats: We Shall All Be Healed
Mr. Lif: I Phantom
Neil Young: Sleeps With Angels
New Pornographers: Electric Version
Nicki Minaj: Pink Friday
Old 97's: Too Far to Care
Pulp: Different Class
Saint Etienne: So Tough
Stars: Set Yourself on Fire
Stereolab: Emperor Tomato Ketchup
Streets: A Grand Don't Come for Free
Sunn O))): Black One
Tabu Ley Rochereau: Voice of Lightness
VA: Music in My Head
William Parker: I Plan to Stay a Believer
Yo La Tengo: Electr-O-Pura

Monday, September 17, 2012

Expert Comments

Posted to facebook, in response to something Alice Powell said about American exceptionalism:

I'm always reminded of a Camper Van Beethoven song lyric: "if you weren't born here in America/you'd probably be living somewhere else." There's an aspect of self-flattery in all nationalist trappings, which must feel good but is likely to strike everyone else as merely vain.

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 20454 [20416] rated (+38), 658 [664] unrated (-6).

Somewhat short Jazz Prospecting this week, but more than the usual number of albums at or near the top. Rated count is robust because I've started using Rhapsody again. The monthly Rhapsody Streamnotes post has gradually slipped from first to second or third week in the month, mostly because I prefer to run it after A Downloader's Diary, and Tatum ran late for several months, finally skipping August. I had given some thought to skipping September, but after this past week I feel I have enough material to post something tomorrow. Last month Streamnotes appeared on the 17th. Tomorrow will be the 18th, so that's a month. It will probably wind up being the shortest of the year -- draft file currently has 28 entries, enough to chew on. (March had 36; every other month this year topped 50, with 87 back in January trying to mop up 2011.)

Tim Carey: Room 114 (2011 [2012], self-released): Bassist, teaches in Seattle. First album, mostly guitar, piano, bass, drums -- a second drummer is credited on five tracks. All originals, intricately woven together. B+(*)

Hugo Carvalhais: Particula (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Portuguese bassist, second album -- I usually don't bother crediting headliners as composer, even though they often make a point of it on their websites, on the theory that virtually everyone makes that claim, but often with bassists the compositions are the main point. Describes Gabriel Pinto (piano, organ, synth) and Mário Costa (drums) as "regular band mates," adding Emile Parisien (soprano sax) and Dominique Pifarély (violin) for this date. Gives him a lot of options to play off against each other, or occasionally pile up. B+(***)

Ricardo Fassi: Sitting in a Song (2009 [2012], Alice): Pianist, b. 1955 in Italy, has more than a dozen albums since 1986, mostly on Splasc(H). Calls this group New York Pocket Orchestra, and it's well stocked with stars: Alex Sipiagin (trumpet), Dave Binney (alto sax), Gary Smulyan (baritone sax), Essiet Essiet (bass), and Antonio Sanchez (drums). First cut ("Random Sequencer") delivers everything the band promises, but the postbop moves lose interest over the long haul. B+(*)

The Fish: Moon Fish (2010 [2012], Clean Feed): French trio: Jean-Luc Guionnet (alto sax), Benjamin Duboc (bass), Edward Perraud (drums). They have at least one previous album together; Guionnet has maybe a dozen since 1998 but it's hard to sort them out (e.g., first two were duos with Eric Cordier, credits listed in different orders). Three long improv pieces, the sax grasping for traction and chewing up the room. B+(**)

Hairy Bones: Snakelust (to Kenji Nakagami) (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Second group album, various typographic problems on the packaging -- they've decided they don't like to space out the group name, and prefer "e" to umlaut in the saxophonist's name, but for history's sake we'll straighten those quirks out. Of course, a mere moment's attention will satisfy you that the saxophonist is Peter Brötzmann, even when he's playing clarinet in what he may well think of as New Age mode. Toshinori Kondo, who worked with Brötzmann back in the Die Like a Dog quartet, adds mischief with trumpet and electronics. Zu electric bassist Massimo Pupillo smoothes things out, and Paal Nilssen-Love is the drummer. One 53-minute blast, but it moves up and down and around enough they could call it a suite if they had such pretensions. They don't. A-

Fred Hersch Trio: Alive at the Vanguard (2012, Palmetto, 2CD): Pianist, has more than three dozen records since 1984, went solo for last year's Alone at the Vanguard, returns with a trio (John Hébert on bass and Eric McPherson on drums) and stretches out. Half originals, half standards, half of those from jazz icons (Parker, Monk, Rollins, Coleman). The rhythm section fleshes out the music, but he doesn't push them very hard. B+(**)

Johnny Hodges: Yeah . . . About That (2012, Veritas): Trumpet player, originally from Oklahoma City, started playing cruise lines in 1991, lives in Kissimee, FL -- you expecting maybe someone else? Looks like his first album, also credited with rhythm programming, and aside for a couple of guest spots that's about it. Scrawny, but not without a certain charm. B

Keith Jarrett: Sleeper: Tokyo, April 16, 1979 (1979 [2012], ECM, 2CD): Live double, featuring Jarrett's European Quartet: Jan Garbarek (saxes, flute), Palle Danielsson (bass), Jon Christensen (drums) -- their surnames staggered on the front cover, but only the leader's on the spine. All Jarrett pieces, only the encore clocking in under 10 minutes, "Oasis" stretching to 28. Interesting to hear Garbarek struggling with Coltrane's ghost -- much more rugged than I recall even from his early work -- and, of course, the piano is dense and divisive. B+(***)

Sam Kulik: Escape From Society (2012, Hot Cup): Trombonist, from western Massachusetts, studied at Oberlin, wound up in New York. Second album, "inspired by the song-poem phenomenon of the '70s and '80s, in which everyday people would respond to magazine ads seeking lyricists": twelve lyricists are credited here, Kulik the only repeater, David Greenberger the only other name I recognize. Band is quartet, crediting Kulik with vocals, brass, guitar; others with bass/keys, drums, and tenor sax. At first sounds almost like country music, matter-of-fact until the quotidinary gets too ordinary and the brass starts to peek through. Then Kulik switches horses on the last two cuts, one group moving toward free jazz, the other avant-industrial, or as the title puts it, "Infinite Shit." B+(*)

Fred Lonberg-Holm's Fast Citizens: Gather (2011 [2012], Delmark): Chicago group, sextet, with three horns -- Aram Shelton (alto sax, clarinet), Keefe Jackson (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Josh Berman (cornet) -- plus Lonberg-Holm on cello (and tenor guitar), Anton Hatwich (bass), and Frank Rosaly (drums), with everyone doubling up on trumpet or cornet somewhere. Third group album, but the leaders have rotated depending on who came in with the songs -- the other two are filed under Shelton and Jackson. The cellist has released some squelchy electronics albums, and appeared in the Vandermark 5, but he's never had this kind of front line, and he makes quite a lot out of it. A-

The Odd Trio: Birth of the Minotaur (2012, self-released): Brian Smith (guitar, vox), Marc Gilley (saxophones), Todd Mueller (drums), a lineup we've seen a few times lately, notably on last year's Inzinzac album: guitar can rival sax as a lead instrument, as well as add chordal harmony, especially when you're doing something rockish (or should I say punkish?), often the case here. B+(**)

Sam Rivers/Dave Holland/Barry Altschul: Reunion: Live in New York (2007 [2012], Pi, 2CD): Rivers died in 2011, so the only way to get more is to scrounge for it. This first effort uncovers two fully improvised sets with bass and drums, backing Rivers on tenor sax, soprano sax, flute, and piano. The tenor, of course, is his main instrument, and I'd be happy if that's all there was, but the flute is engaging, and the piano is a revelation. The bass is more of a reminder: we've listened to Holland as leader and composer so long one forgets just how vital he was during his avant-garde phase, but here it all comes back. A-

Josh Rosen/Stan Strickland: Instinct (2012, Ziggle Zaggle Music): Duets. Rosen plays piano, teaches at Berklee, has a previous album as 3 Play +. Strickland plays various flutes, bass clarinet, soprano sax, and sings -- he has a vocal jazz album from 2005, and also teaches at Berklee. A little thin on both sides. B-

Florian Weber: Biosphere (2011 [2012], Enja): Pianist, b. 1977 in Germany, classical ed gives him a chamber jazz rep; released a trio in 2006 called Minsarah, used that group name for his 2010 follow-up. This is a quartet with Lionel Loueke (guitar), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums, tabla). A lot of flutter and shuffle, all tucked in, at least until the end when they slow down and consolidate, rather touchingly. B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Dan Block: Duality (Miles High)
  • Gustavo Casenave: Tango Casenave (Watch Craft Music)
  • Michael Formanek Quartet: Small Places (ECM)
  • Ben Holmes Quartet: Anvil of the Lord (Skirl)
  • Weber Iago: Adventure Music Piano Masters Series Vol. 3 (Adventure Music)
  • Marc Johnson/Eliane Elias: Swept Away (ECM)
  • Rob Mazurek Pulsar Quartet: Stellar Pulsations (Delmark)
  • Ricardo Silveira: Storyteller (Adventure Music)

Added grades for remembered LPs from way back when:

  • Caravan: In the Land of Grey and Pink (1971, London): B

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:

  • Jonathan Bernstein: Paul Ryan Fails -- The Truth: Much one can say about Ryan's mendacity, but this is a pretty good example. Ryan attacked Obama for not doing anything about the Simpson-Bowles commission report:

    He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.

    From this quote, you'd never suspect that Ryan was himself a member of that commission ("they . . . them . . . them"), and that he and the other House Republicans had voted against the report. There was, in short, no bipartisan agreement for Obama to walk away from. More examples follow, but Bernstein is only scratching the surface.

    While you're at it, take a gander at Brad DeLong: Paul Ryan Calls for Fewer Jobs and Higher Unemployment in America. That's not literally what he said. His phrase was, "We want honest money." Which is to say he's against the Fed expanding the monetary base. Whether that means he wants to dispose of the $8 trillion of "fiat currency" the Fed has created since 1950 isn't clear, but at least looking forward he wants an economy that cannot grow, which certainly adds up to DeLong's title. (I am saddened, though, that Paul Sweezy takes a fall in the end.)

  • Lawrence Downes: The Man in the Empty Chair: Applauds Clint Eastwood at the GOP Convention ("the perfect distillation of the Republican campaign"):

    The last four years have been an extended exercise in Republican denialism: This cannot be. This isn't happening. If you're really the president, show us your papers.

    Imaginary Barack was invented in Hawaii, sneaked into the Oval Office, and has no legitimate claim on the presidency. As for the real tall black guy posing in Washington, go ahead and treat him any way you want. You can jab your finger in his face, shout him down, call him a Muslim, a Kenyan, an illegal alien, you can invent all kinds of lies about him and then you can tell him -- get out of that chair.

    In reality, the president is a more-or-less mainstream, smarter-than-average pol, left-of-center on some things, to the right on others, like guns, disturbingly hawkish on ordering the killing of American citizens suspected of terrorism, on national security, executive secrecy and immigration. He is, too, an inveterate compromiser who used to bend over backward to make deals -- sometimes in advance! -- with Republicans.

    But that guy is not as scary as Imaginary Barack.

  • Matt Stoller: Clinton's No Liberal Hero:

    A few years ago, Clinton said, "I never had any money until I got out of the White House, you know, but I've done reasonably well since then." That's $2.9 million, just in 2011, for 15 speeches. Indeed. So while Romney and Clinton are ostensible political opponents, they share more than you'd know just from press reports. The primary difference between them is not a question of fealty to finance, but that Romney made his fortune with Bain Capital before he sought office, whereas Clinton made his afterward. [ . . . ]

    This split is why the 2012 election is so empty of substance, because the concerns of the elites are addressed, and the voices of millions are simply unacknowledged. Bill Clinton offers essentially the same belief system as both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, one in which private industry runs the government through payoffs to ex-officials, and government returns the favor through bailouts. If Americans are ever going to grapple with the power of banks over their lives, they are going to have to come to grips with the real track record of their leaders, including Bill Clinton. And it isn't pretty. And until people like Bill Clinton can be compensated in ways that aren't obviously corrupting, and their track records honestly assessed, elections will continue to be unimportant, simple popular ratification of an increasingly authoritarian creditor state.

  • Stephen M Walt: Why Do People Keep Predicting War With Iran?: Cites a number of examples starting with Jeffrey Goldberg's 2010 cover story in The Atlantic -- one could go back further; as Juan Cole notes, back in 1992 Netanyahu predicted that Iran was "3 to 5 years" from having a nuclear weapon -- up to yesterday:

    Last but not least, yesterday's New York Times featured a one-sided story on the "shadow war" between Israel and Iran that placed virtually all the blame for the trouble on Tehran. On the front page, it described a "continuing offensive" by Iran, without mentioning that there has been a long cycle of tit-for-tat between these two countries. Only after the jump came any mention of the assassination of Iranian civilian scientists (almost certainly by the Mossad), or any acknowledgement that Iran might be acting defensively rather than conducting a totally unprovoked campaign of aggression. [ . . . ]

    As I noted a few months back, it's virtually impossible to know how much credence to place in the repeated predictions that Israel is about to attack. It does prove that there is no shortage of journalists or pundits who are willing to serve as sympathetic stenographers for government officials, but it doesn't tell you very much about what is going to happen or what these officials really believe. Why? Because the various officials whose alarming testimony forms the basis for these articles have lots of different reasons for stirring the pot in this fashion.

    It's worth reminding ourselves that there is considerable opposition within Israel's own security illuminati to attacking Iran, which as far as I can tell has more to do with how unlikely an affective attack would be than with any repercussions (which, most likely, would redound on the US far worse than on Israel). One outspoken opponent of a strike is ex-Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who unfortunately has an even worse idea in mind for a solution: subvert and overthrow the Iranian regime.

    Walt also has a piece titled Why Americans Don't Understand the Middle East, which starts with a photo of NBC correspondent Richard Engel.

Links for further study:

  • James K Galbraith: No Return to Normal: Written in 2009, subhed: "Why the economic crisis, and its solution, are bigger than you think." Main thing wrong with the piece is the assumption that there would be a solution: in fact, the Republicans have managed to kick the legs out from under nearly everything Obama pushed, and have intimidated Obama to the point that he didn't push much. Then there's important stuff that never occurred to Obama or his team, like:

    Second, we should offset the violent drop in the wealth of the elderly population as a whole. The squeeze on the elderly has been little noted so far, but it hits in three separate ways: through the fall in the stock market; through the collapse of home values; and through the drop in interest rates, which reduces interest income on accumulated cash. For an increasing number of the elderly, Social Security and Medicare wealth are all they have.

    That means that the entitlement reformers have it backward: instead of cutting Social Security benefits, we should increase them, especially for those at the bottom of the benefit scale. Indeed, in this crisis, precisely because it is universal and efficient, Social Security is an economic recovery ace in the hole. Increasing benefits is a simple, direct, progressive, and highly efficient way to prevent poverty and sustain purchasing power for this vulnerable population. I would also argue for lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare to (say) fifty-five, to permit workers to retire earlier and to free firms from the burden of managing health plans for older workers.

    Plug at the end of the piece for Galbraith's book, The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best political book written in the last decade.

  • Jeremiah Goulka: Why I Left the GOP: Better late than never, but still.

  • John B Judis: Mitt Romney, Latter-Day Neoncon

  • Ed Kilgore: World Without Labor Day: Looks like it's become a Republican meme that the people we should celebrate on Labor Day are the entrepreneurs (you know, the "job creators") instead of the people who actually did the work. TPM quotes Eric Cantor: "Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success."

  • Andrew Leonard: Apple's Enormous Insult: I've been an Apple-hater since c. 1980, but more evidence why should too:

    Apple shrugs. Instead of joining this one-world utopia of interoperability, Apple is replacing its own unique, incompatible-with-everyone-else dock connector with a new dock connector that is incompatible with itself. [ . . . ] That's the true genius of Steve Jobs. He resurrected a model of old-school tech monopoly that everyone else thought was broken.

  • Stephen M Walt: What Terrorist Threat?: Includes a link to an article (PDF only) by John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart, The Terrorism Delusion: America's Overwrought Response to September 11. Mueller wrote a book in 2006 called Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them, in 2009 wrote Atomic Obsession: Nuclear Alarmism From Hiroshima to Al-Qaeda (has a couple pages on Israel and Iran, not nearly enough), and co-wrote with Stewart the 2011 book, Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Greed and Debt

There's a very succinct description of how private equity works in Matt Taibbi's Greed and Debt: The True Story of Mitt Romney and Bain Capital:

In a typical private-equity fragging, Bain put up a mere $18 million to acquire KB Toys and got big banks to finance the remaining $302 million it needed. Less than a year and a half after the purchase, Bain decided to give itself a gift known as a "divident recapitalization." The firm induced KB Toys to redeem $121 million in stock and take out more than $66 million in bank loans -- $83 million of which went directly into the pockets of Bain's owners and investors, including Romney. "The dividend recap is like borrowing someone else's credit card to take out a cash advance, and then leaving them to pay it off," says Heather Slavkin Corzo, who monitors private equity takeovers as the senior legal policy adviser for the AFL-CIO.

Under the debt load, with new management planted by Bain who knew nothing about the toy business but knew enough to rubber stamp Bain's dividend, KB went bankrupt. That may have been disappointing to Bain -- the longer KB survived, the more its owners could bleed it -- but Bain's investors and owners had already made a handsome return on the deal. And deals are what private equity is all about, one deal after another, each one a windfall. Back during the S&L crisis someone pointed out that the best way to rob a bank was to own one. Turns out that's true for any business.

But it used to happen less frequently. Several reasons come to mind, the most obvious being that business owners have fewer scruples now than they used to. The most corrosive idea behind this shift is the notion that the sole responsibility of business owners is to maximize profits, especially given that we can only truly measure profits in the short-term. This has always been a latent idea among business owners and (especially) financiers, but for most of our history has been limited both by law and by custom.

For instance, family-owned companies have good reason to take a longer-term view of a business that will be handed down through the generations. Even the case of a broadly held corporation is likely to have a mix of short- and long-term-oriented investors, and need to balance those interests off. On the other hand, when a company is taken over through a LBO, the ownership is narrowed drastically, and the debt overhang all but forces the owners to focus on the short-term.

Other trends add in. When owners live in the same locale as the plant, they are less likely to harm the community. Replace them with outside owners and those scruples go away. When owners are expert in their industry, they are more likely to strike a balance between short- and long-term needs, because they see their whole careers developing within a single industry which has few options should they blow up. Replace them with finance people and those considerations vanish: to a financier, all companies look the same, and there are always more companies around the corner. (Financiers, after all, don't build companies; they buy them -- and usually with other people's money.)

A unionized work force also limits the management's options, so the loss of union protection has made it easier for companies to be looted and plundered. Then there is the law: most of us still believe that business owners are still subject to law, that they are prohibited from criminal activity (significantly including fraud), but the overall trend had been toward less regulation, toward less effective enforcement, and toward less exposure to torts: the result is that business owners need have fewer scruples about their compliance with the law. (Possibly the best example of this was the Citibank-Travelers merger, at the time blatantly illegal, but rather than prosecuting the Clinton administration arranged to change the law, making the merger retrospectively legal.)

The result of all these trends is that we are now plagued by a new breed of businessman: one that's only in it for the money, and willing to take the money from anywhere it's available, using any methods he can get away with. The particular scheme that Romney practiced at Bain is especially odious because even in cases where the extra debt and looting don't kill the business, everyone related to the business (workers, customers, neighbors) except for the owners is much poorer as a result, while only a handful of already rich investors get richer. But they're just the worst of the worst. The whole financial sector has more than doubled in the last thirty years as the business of business has shifted from making products and providing services to making deals with huge payouts to the dealmakers, those profits to be squeezed out of everyone else.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Two Strikes

On September 10, a US airstrike in Yemen killed seven people, including Saeed al-Shihri, alleged to be "al-Qaida's No. 2 leader in Yemen." This follows numerous other US airstrikes in Yemen, including one that killed US-born Anwar al-Awlaki.

On September 11, a demonstration at the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, turned violent, and the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, was killed. Most likely the demonstration was incidental, providing cover for an independent attack force (see the Quilliam report, which describes a video released by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with a call "to avenge the death of Abu Yaya al-Libi, al-Qaeda's second in command killed a few months ago"). The US responded by sending a small detachment of Marines to Libya -- not enough for an occupation, but quacks like one, and will be taken as such by those so inclined.

What this shows is that after eight years of Bush and nearly four of Obama virtually nothing has changed. The US still throws its weight around the Arab world, siding with tyrants it finds conveniently corrupt, helping them kill and imprison their own people, getting trapped in blood feuds, and blamed for the dearth of progress that keeps these nations poor. Sensible persons back away from tactics that don't work; US politicians stumble forward, convinced that losing credibility would be far worse than throwing away lives and treasure.

Oil gets blamed for this, and indeed there are lots of things one can pin on the oil companies, but they prefer to work quietly, and were doing nicely in places like Saudi Arabia until external politics got in their way. The rub there is Israel, ever more a warrior state, which has spent the last four years goading Obama into a pointless and potentially tragic showdown with Iran. That may seem nothing more than good sport for Israel, much like their dabblings in US domestic politics, like smacking down uppity presidents with congressional resolutions and radio flak.

For Israel, hostilities are a win-win proposition: either they kick ass, or they burnish up their victimhood cult, renewing their claim to the moral high ground. (And while they whine about their losses, they're never so severe they disturb the warrior ethos.) On the other hand, for the US war is lose-lose: like Todd Snider's bully, what kicking ass winds up meaning is you got to do it again tomorrow, and again and again and again, all the while exposing your inner wretchedness. Israel, behind its Iron Wall, can fancy that it's better to be feared than liked, but the US needs good will to do business, so with every misstep risks losing it all. That's why the two days both wind up in the loss column.

In the wake of the embassy incident, Obama promised to bring the killers "to justice": the first thing that flashed through my mind was Pershing chasing all over Mexico after Pancho Villa, nothing but a wild goose chase. But even nominal success most often rings hollow, as Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden have proven. (Ultimately, both happened after killing more people than the evildoers had themselves, making one wonder what a higher power should do with Bush and Obama.)

Meanwhile, Romney accused Obama of "apologizing for America" when the State Department tried to disclaim and disown the video that triggered (or served as the pretext for) the demonstrations. Presumably, Romney thought that Obama should have stood up for gross slander of a religion with one trillion followers -- presuming that Romney was thinking, as he's likely to disavow the video himself by week's end. Still, even if he walks back the particulars, you've seen his basic instinct: to plunge headlong, chin up, into every conflict that comes his way, as if, like Israel, he's convinced that every fight is win-win.

That last point is the secret behind the Neocons' slavish idolatry of Israel: envy. They want to fight, and they want to win. They want to thumb their noses at the world, and have the world cower before them. They see that on a small scale with Israel, and even there they don't actually see very well, but they're convinced that if only our leaders had the vision and the guts we could scale Israel's formula up and leave the world awestruck. Romney, of course, is as committed to Neoconnery as McCain and Bush -- see John Judis: never apologize, never negotiate, never think, just act. After all, you're America: always right, invincible (except when led by cowards like Obama, Clinton, and Carter).

Update: Minor edit above, changing "Israeli movie" to "video." Initial reports were that the demonstrations were against a movie produced by a California-based Israeli named Sam Bacile. WarInContext has a post that suggests that it was in fact produced by an Egyptian Christian living in California. As I understand it, the title is Innocence of Muslims, and at present it is only distributed as a 14-minute excerpt on YouTube, so it is not clear to me whether words like "film" and "movie" are appropriate. These details don't have any real bearing on the argument above. The video may be a convenient pretext for a demonstration, but the real issue is US interference in the region, including support for regimes that do real violence to people, especially Israel's occupation.

Speaking of which, I see now that Obama has dispatched several Navy ships to the Libyan coast, and has started flying drones over Libyan air space "to search for the perpetrators of the attack" -- once again the instinct of US leaders is to make it all worse. Romney, clueless as ever, argued: "It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks." What he means is that the government should stand up in solidarity with every bigot identified as American because failure to do so could be construed as "apologizing for America," and the World's Greatest Nation should never apologize for anything.

Further Update (Sept. 15): Two items from Washington Monthly's Lunch Buffet:

  • In her own VVS speech, Michele Bachmann suggests Obama has tried to outlaw "understanding who the enemy is" in apparent gesture of solidarity with anti-Muslim bigots.
  • In interview, Mitt Romney condemns Innocence of Muslims, apparently exhibiting sympathy for America's enemies.

It's easy to see how such great minds can get confused. The nominal purpose of America's "Oil Wars" -- the long string of US operations in the Middle East (and Afghanistan) since Carter declared the oil in and around the Persian Gulf a "national interest" in 1979 -- has always been to help our good Muslims against those bad Muslims (the definitions sometimes changing, e.g., in Afghanistan), so the US has always had to be careful not to make offense against Islam. But it's always been easier to sell those wars to the American people with a dollop of racial and religious bigotry -- you could even call it "Crusader zeal" -- and as the wars have unfolded, most of what you actually see is Americans killing Muslims, the "good" inevitably mixed in with the "bad" -- and this results in a polarization that undermines the original premise. For someone like Bachmann, the enemy winds up being all of Islam. Romney is more of a neocon, so he has to keep the notion that we're helping "good Muslims" in play, even though he doesn't always remember that before he speaks.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Downloader's Diary Guide to the Smiths

Pick up text here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 20416 [20383] rated (+33), 664 [676] unrated (-12).

Ratings count looks healthy enough, but nearly all of that was inertia from Recycled Goods: still have a big shelf unit of unplayed records, and they're much easier to deal with than new jazz: I must have played the Konitz album five times before I could write something about it, and I had trouble with Feinberg last night and Cantrall today. (Most of what follows was actually written some weeks back.) Shouldn't have so much trouble with the new Hairybones, which is assaulting the speakers as I type.

Not sure how I feel at the moment -- I suppose we can count that as an improvement, given how bad I've felt for the last six weeks. I don't think there will be a Rhapsody Streamnotes this month, or if there is one it will be pretty short (draft file only has 4 records so far). A Downloader's Diary and Recycled Goods also lost a month this summer -- unintended, but it's been like that.

Joe Alterman: Give Me the Simple Life (2011 [2012], Miles High): Pianist, originally from Atlanta, moved to New York in 2007 to study at NYU. Second album, mostly piano trio with James Cammack on bass and Herlin Riley on drums, joined on four cuts by the redoubtable tenor saxophonist, Houston Person. Wrote 2 (of 12) tracks, with "Georgia on My Mind" the only cover I was sure of. Nice, spry piano, and of course the guest is superb. B+(**)

Angles 8: By Way of Deception: Live in Ljubljana (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Swedish alto saxophonist Martin Küchen's big group, expanded from six to eight this time -- Eirik Hegdal (baritone sax, soprano sax) and Alexander Zethson (piano) are the adds, although he's also swapped trumpeters (Goran Kajfes replaces Magnus Broo). The piano pays dividends, and Mattias Stĺhl's vibes glitter throughout, but the horns are rich, vibrant, triumphant. A-

Bill Cantrall & Axiom: Live at the Kitano (2010 [2012], Up Swing): Trombone player, from and based in New York, studied at Northwestern and Queen's College. One previous album, Axiom, named his band -- basically a hard bop quintet with trombone instead of trumpet -- after it: Stacy Dillard (tenor/soprano sax), Rick Germanson (piano), Gerald Cannon (bass), Darrell Green (drums), plus he picks up Mike DiRubbo (alto sax) and Freddie Hendrix (trumpet, comes as a surprise) for a 23:57 expansion of "Axiom." B+(***)

Michael Feinberg: The Elvin Jones Project (2012, Sunnyside): Bassist, b. 1987, second album, takes the Coltrane Quartet as his starting point, starting and ending with Elvin Jones compositions, covering Coltrane, Steve Grossman, Frank Foster, and Jimmy Van Heusen ("Nancy With the Laughing Face") in between, with one Feinberg original. Group is overloaded with talent: George Garzone, Tim Hagans, Leo Genovese, Billy Hart, plus guitar (Alex Wintz) on two tracks. Lots of superb runs, and the drummer has fun. B+(**)

Lee Konitz/Bill Frisell/Gary Peacock/Joey Baron: Enfants Terribles (2011 [2012], Half Note): The drummer, at 56, is the youngest here, so "enfants" as much of a joke as "terribles." The eldest is the alto saxophonist, at 85 -- presumably he's the guy at the end who can't remember his bandmates names, although you'll recognize them. I kept listening for Konitz, and hearing Frisell, playing Konitz-like twists on the standards repertoire. Not that the alto sax isn't present. He just works a around the lines, letting the band for this "Live at the Blue Note" disc support him. B+(***)

Igor Lumpert Trio: Innertextures Live (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1975 in the future Slovenia, studied in Austria, spent some time in Munich playing for a group that won a "Best Jazz Group of Germany" award, wound up in New York. With Chris Tordini on bass (presumably "Christhopher" is a typo) and Nasheet Waits on drums. All originals, smart free jazz, shies away from excessive drama and volume. B+(**)

Pat Martino: Alone Together With Bobby Rose (1977-78 [2012], High Note): Pre-aneurism, previously unreleased, Rose adds a second guitar but is more rhythm accompaniment than duet partner. B+(*)

Michael McNeill Trio: Passageways (2010 [2012], self-released): Pianist, b. 1982, based in Buffalo, first album, a trio with Ken Filiano (bass) and Phil Haynes (drums). I often despair of my inability to sort out the vast wave of piano trios that come my way, but sometimes I'm caught by surprise -- just rarely by someone I've never heard of before. First clue here is the bassist, who never plays on uninteresting albums. Filiano kicks off the 20:34 opener -- that length another sign that something is up here -- but when the pianist takes over he darts in and out, never settling for something ordinary. The other four pieces range 5:48-9:58. A-

Platform 1: Takes Off (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): New Ken Vandermark group, with Magnus Broo (trumpet), Steve Swell (trombone), Joe Williamson (bass), and Michael Vatcher (drums). All but the drummer contribute songs -- Vandermark's two dedicated to label head Pedro Costa and Roswell Rudd, good news for the trombonist, who has the hot hand here. When the horns are flaring, as impressive as any band working, including Vandermark's previous Five. Don't quite get the dead spaces, though. B+(***)

Trespass Trio [Martin Küchen/Per Zanussi/Raymond Strid]: Bruder Beda (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Like Angles, Exploding Customer, Sound of Mucus, another Martin Küchen group, a trio with Küchen on alto sax, Per Zanussi on double bass, and Raymond Strid on drums. Second group album. Slowly, cautiously navigates the free jazz shoals, at once daring and moderate. B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • LaVerne Butler: Love Lost and Found Again (High Note)
  • Coat Cooke/Joe Poole: Conversations (Now Orchestra)
  • Coat Cooke/Rainer Wiens: High Wire (Now Orchestra)
  • Jeff Davis: Leaf House (Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • Grupo Los Santos: Clave Heart (OA2)
  • Jon Hamar: Hymn (Origin)
  • Hood Smoke: Laid Up in Ordinary (Origin)
  • Kalle Kalima & K-18: Out to Lynch (TUM): October 14
  • Luce Trio: Pieces, Vol. 1 (Museum Clausum): advance, October 2
  • Ron Miles: Quiver (Enja/Yellowbird)
  • Russ Nolan: Tell Me (Rhinoceruss Music)
  • Eric Person: Thoughts on God (Distinction)
  • Houston Person: Naturally (High Note)
  • Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo: Ancestors (TUM)
  • Sean Wayland: Slave to the Machine (Seed Music, 2CD): advance, October 9
  • Weasel Walter/Mary Halvorson/Peter Evans: Mechanical Malfunction (Thirsty Ear): advance, October 23
  • Katherine Young: Pretty Monsters (Public Eyesore)

Miscellaneous notes:

  • The Best of B-Boy Records (1987-88 [2002], Landspeed, 2CD): The house that launched Boogie Down Productions rounds up a couple years' worth of singles and EP cuts, with BDP's three cuts relegated to the end; nobody else you're likely to have heard of -- Levi 167? JVC FORCE? Busy Boys? Cold Crush Brothers? those are ones that make the cover; same sound, same beats, plenty of shout outs to the South Bronx and Scott La Rock, DJ Drew's "She's a Dog" -- old style returns incognito. B+(**)

Expert Comments

From SG Headphones, 50 Albums That Built Prog Rock (not a numbered list, so I'm transcribing lines left-to-right, top-to-bottom, which works out close to chronological; my grades added in brackets):

  1. The Mothers of Invention: Freak Out! (1966) [B]
  2. The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds (1966) [A+]
  3. The Beatles: Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) [A]
  4. Procol Harum: Procol Harum (1967) [ ]
  5. Pink Floyd: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (1967) [A]
  6. Moody Blues: Days of Future Past (1967) [C-]
  7. The Nice: The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack (1967) [ ]
  8. King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King (1969) [ ]
  9. Fairport Convention: Liege & Lief (1969) [B+]
  10. The Soft Machine: Volume Two (1969) [ ]
  11. Curved Air: Air Conditioning (1970) [ ]
  12. Van Der Graaf Generator: The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other (1970) [ ]
  13. Magma: Magma (1970) [ ]
  14. Barclay James Harvest: Once Again (1971) [ ]
  15. Jethro Tull: Aqualung (1971) [ ]
  16. Caravan: In the Land of Grey and Pink (1971) [B]
  17. Emerson Lake & Palmer: Tarkus (1971) [D+]
  18. Focus: Making Waves (1971) [ ]
  19. Yes: Fragile (1971) [B]
  20. Genesis: Foxtrot (1972) [ ]
  21. Gentle Giant: Octopus (1972) [ ]
  22. Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon (1973) [A+]
  23. Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells (1973) [B]
  24. Mahavishnu Orchestra: Birds of Fire (1973) [B+]
  25. Genesis: Selling England by the Pound (1973) [ ]
  26. Emerson Lake & Palmer: Brain Salad Surgery (1973) [C+]
  27. Gong: Angels Egg (1973) [ ]
  28. Rick Wakeman: Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1974) [ ]
  29. Supertramp: Crime of the Century (1974) [ ]
  30. Electric Light Orchestra: Eldorado (1974) [ ]
  31. Kraftwerk: Autobahn (1974) [ ]
  32. Hawkwind: Warrior on the Edge of Time (1975) [ ]
  33. Renaissance: Scheherazade (1975) [ ]
  34. Camel: Moonmadness (1976) [ ]
  35. The Alan Parsons Project: Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1976) [ ]
  36. Kansas: Leftoverture (1976) [ ]
  37. Peter Gabriel: Peter Gabriel (1978) [B]
  38. Rush: A Farewell to Kings (1977) [ ]
  39. Kate Bush: The Kick Inside (1978) [ ]
  40. Asia: Asia (1982) [ ]
  41. Marillion: Misplaced Childhood (1985) [ ]
  42. Yes: 90125 (1983) [ ]
  43. Queensr˙che: Operation: Mindcrime (1988) [ ]
  44. Dream Theater: When Dream and Day United (1989) [ ]
  45. Radiohead: OK Computer (1997) [B+]
  46. Opeth: Blackwater Park (2001) [ ]
  47. The Mars Volta: Deloused in the Comatorium (2003) [ ]
  48. Porcupine Tree: Deadwing (2005) [ ]
  49. Muse: Black Holes and Revelations (2006) [ ]
  50. Mastodon: Crack the Skye (2009) [B]

Turns out I only have 14 of the 50 graded (28%), which doesn't make me much of a genre expert. Those I have graded are all over the place, the median not very high: A+ (2), A (2), B+ (3), B (6), C+ (1), C- (1), D+ (1). Also note that the better records are front-loaded. I actually had an avowed interested in prog back in the 1970s: even so, I only have 30.7% of the pre-1980 albums (12/39), not much difference; back a bit further, only 33.3% of pre-1975 (11/33).

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Expert Comments

Didn't plan on voting in Bradley Sroka's 1992-2012 poll, but it seems to still be open, so might as well see if I can come up with a top-twenty list. Pretty arbitrary: some things I'm inclined to root for have risen a bit, some more conventional choices slip a bit, some A+ records fall below mere A's. The squeeze into the top twenty was particularly arduous; the break at 100 even more arbitrary, but at least by that point I had run out of records that simply had to be listed.

  1. Lily Allen: It's Not Me, It's You (2009, Capitol)
  2. Pet Shop Boys: Very (1993, Capitol)
  3. Cornershop: When I Was Born for the Seventh Time (1997, Warner Bros)
  4. Buck 65: Talkin' Honky Blues (2003, Warner Music Canada)
  5. Sonic Liberation Front: Ashé a Go-Go (2004, High Two)
  6. Manu Chao: Proxima Estacion: Esperanza (2001, Virgin)
  7. Sonny Rollins: This Is What I Do (2000, Milestone)
  8. Pavement: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1993, Matador)
  9. Iris Dement: My Life (1994, Warner Bros)
  10. Ornette Coleman: Sound Grammar (2006, Sound Grammar)
  11. Sonic Youth: Dirty (1992, DGC)
  12. James Carter: Chasin' the Gypsy (2000, Atlantic)
  13. The Roches: A Dove (1992, MCA)
  14. Bruno Mars: Doo-Wops and Hooligans (2010, Elektra)
  15. Billy Bang: Vietnam: The Aftermath (2001, Justin Time)
  16. Nelly: Country Grammar (2000, Universal)
  17. Amy Rigby: Little Fugitive (2005, Signature Sounds)
  18. NERD: In Search of . . . (2002, Virgin)
  19. DJ Shadow: The Private Press (2002, MCA)
  20. Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Spinning Around the Sun (1993, Elektra)
  21. Beck: Odelay
    (1996, DGC)
  22. John Prine: In Spite of Ourselves (1999, Oh Boy)
  23. Maria Muldaur: Richland Woman Blues (2001, Stony Plain)
  24. Todd Snider: The Devil You Know (2006, New Door)
  25. Billy Jenkins: True Love Collection (1998, Babel)
  26. James Carter: The Real Quietstorm (1995, Atlantic)
  27. Loudon Wainwright III: High Wide and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project (2009, 161)
  28. Cornershop: Handcream for a Generation (2002, Beggars Banquet)
  29. Orlando Cachaito Lopez: Cachaito (2001, World Circuit/Nonesuch)
  30. William Parker: Sound Unity (2005, AUM Fidelity)
  31. John Prine: Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings (1995, Oh Boy)
  32. Todd Snider: East Nashville Skyline (2004, Oh Boy)
  33. Iris Dement: The Way I Should (1996, Warner Bros)
  34. Leonard Cohen: Live in London (2008, Columbia)
  35. Van Morrison: Down the Road (2002, Universal)
  36. The Coup: Party Music (2001, 75 Ark)
  37. Lucinda Williams: Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (1998, Polygram)
  38. OutKast: Stankonia (2000, LaFace)
  39. Manu Chao: Clandestino (1998, Ark 21)
  40. Dave Alvin: King of California (1994, Hightone)
  41. Lucinda Williams: Sweet Old World (1992, Chameleon)
  42. David Murray: Creole (1998, Justin Time)
  43. K'Naan: The Dusty Foot Philosopher (2008, IM Culture)
  44. Roberto Juan Rodriguez: El Danzon de Moises (2002, Tzadik)
  45. Los Lobos: Colossal Head (1996, Warner Bros)
  46. Mavis Staples: We'll Never Turn Back (2007, Anti-)
  47. Spaceways Inc.: Version Soul (2002, Atavistic)
  48. Adam Lane: New Magical Kingdom (2006, Clean Feed)
  49. Lyrics Born: Later That Day . . . (2003, Quannum Projects)
  50. David Murray: Like a Kiss That Never Ends (2001, Justin Time)
  51. Amy Rigby: Diary of a Mod Housewife (1996, Koch)
  52. Rachid Taha: Made in Medina (2001, Ark 21)
  53. Nils Petter Molvaer: Solid Ether (2000, ECM)
  54. Blackalicious: Nia (2000, Quannum Projects)
  55. Buck 65: Man Overboard (2001, Metaforensics)
  56. Billy Bang: Prayer for Peace (2010, TUM)
  57. L7: Bricks Are Heavy (1992, Slash)
  58. Hayes Carll: Trouble in Mind (2008, Lost Highway)
  59. Paraphrase: Pre-Emptive Denial (2005, Screwgun)
  60. Youssou N'Dour: Rokku Mi Rokka (2007, Nonesuch)
  61. Leonard Cohen: The Future (1992, Columbia)
  62. Alexander von Schlippenbach: Monk's Casino (2005, Intakt)
  63. Moby: Play (1999, V2)
  64. Don Pullen: Ode to Life (1993, Blue Note)
  65. Sufjan Stevens: Illinois (2005, Asthmatic Kitty)
  66. Rudresh Mahanthappa/Steve Lehman: Dual Identity (2010, Clean Feed)
  67. Jewels and Binoculars: Ships With Tattooed Sails (2007, Upshot)
  68. Sue Foley: Without a Warning (1993, Antone's)
  69. Mzwakhe Mbuli: Resistance Is Defence (1992, Earthworks)
  70. Triage: American Mythology (2004, Okka Disk)
  71. Gogol Bordello: Super Taranta! (2007, Side One Dummy)
  72. John Fogerty: Revival (2007, Fantasy)
  73. The Streets: Original Pirate Material (2002, Vice/Atlantic)
  74. David Murray: Long Goodbye: A Tribute to Don Pullen (1998, DIW)
  75. William Parker: Raining on the Moon (2002, Thirsty Ear)
  76. Kelis: Tasty (2003, Star Trak/Arista)
  77. Randy Newman: Harps and Angels (2008, Nonesuch)
  78. Orchestra Baobab: Specialist in All Styles (2002, Nonesuch)
  79. The Beautiful South: 0898 Beautiful South (1992, Go! Discs)
  80. Vandermark 5: Target or Flag (1998, Atavistic)
  81. Mekons: OOOH! (Out of Our Heads) (2002, Quarterstick)
  82. Todd Snider: Live: Near Truths and Hotel Rooms (2003, Oh Boy)
  83. The Perceptionists: Black Dialogue (2005, Definitive Jux)
  84. Matthew Shipp: Harmony and Abyss (2004, Thirsty Ear)
  85. Tommy Smith/Brian Kellock: Symbiosis (2005, Spartacus)
  86. Steinski: Nothing to Fear: A Rough Mix (2002, Soul Ting)
  87. Handsome Boy Modeling School: So . . . How's Your Girl? (1999, Tommy Boy)
  88. Buck 65: Square (2002, Warner Music Canada)
  89. Liz Phair: Exile in Guyville (1993, Matador)
  90. Robyn: Body Talk (2010, Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope)
  91. Ghostface Killah: Fishscale (2006, Def Jam)
  92. William Parker: Scrapbook (2003, Thirsty Ear)
  93. Public Enemy: Rebirth of a Nation (2006, Guerrilla Funk)
  94. Brian Wilson: Presents Smile (2004, Nonesuch)
  95. Jimmie Dale Gilmore: One Endless Night (2000, Rounder)
  96. Cachao: Master Sessions Volume 2 (1995, Crescent Moon/Epic)
  97. Kanye West: Late Registration (2005, Roc-A-Fella)
  98. Massimo Urbani: The Blessing (1993, Red)
  99. P.J. Harvey: To Bring You My Love (1995, Island)
  100. The Roots: Rising Down (2008, Def Jam)

Friday, September 07, 2012

Expert Comments

Milo Miles:

I'd like to go on the record as to how much I despise the current notion -- usually trotted out as though it was common sense -- that huge numbers of hits, comments, tweets or buzz and activity in general are positive things in and of themselves. It's more insidious than popular = good. It's a denial of quality itself. Goes along with the dispiriting propaganda that if you have heaps and heaps of material goods, it doesn't matter that they are shoddy junk. And at the most fundamental level, that misery and poverty are acceptable if life is jammed with cheap distractions.

[Changed presumed typo "despite" to "despise."] I know of at least one publicist who only uses Alexis ratings to decide which music critics to serve.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Expert Comments

Recycled Goods came out yesterday. Got some nice feedback on Facebook and in personal mail, but nobody noticed at EW until Jason Gubbels piped up:

Did anybody yet mention Tom Hull's latest edition of Recycled Goods? It's a big 'un.

Shortly later, he added:

What a shame that a brief mention of a new column by the man responsible for assembling the indispensable Robert Christgau website gets two thumb bombs within 30 minutes.

His comment is up to four thumb bombs now, vs. 16 up. Allen B. responded:

Well what do you expect, Jason? He doesn't like "Jungleland." And I disagree with his Firesign Theatre review, so his credibility's shot.

(Due to the limitations of internet communications I do want to be sure every last person here knows that the above is a joke).

Cam Patterson:

Tom's Recycled Goods this week is indeed useful. I'm glad to see some love for Boards of Canada, who have a catalog worth exploring beyond Music Has a Right to Children. Also the Ohm compilation, which I've had since it was reviewed in the Voice in 2000 and which Tom neglects to mention was compiled by Jason Gross (although you can find that fact elsewhere on his wonderful web site if you dig enough). Arthur Alexander's Lonely Just Like Me has the live version of "Anna" that Jonathan Letham included on the Fortress of Solitude mixtape, but you really need to have his Greatest on Ace, which is the earliest Muscle Shoals swamp soul music. And the Lotte Lenya disc looks like a wonderful companion to the Tom Moon-recommended Seven Deadly Sins:Berlin Theatre Songs that is also on Sony Classical -- wine-drenched cabaret genius.

Peterike164 posted a comment including a Springsteen quote which, he says, "means something very real to you, or it's just silly romantic bombast."

I've done my best to live the right way
I get up every morning and go to work each day
But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold
Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode
Explode and tear this whole town apart
Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart
Find somebody itching for something to start

I wondered at first whether this was a reference back to the "Jungleland" thread, but I've never been much good with lyrics, and they play a fairly minor view in how I react to records. But I looked this up; turns out it comes from "Promised Land," a song on Darkness on the Edge of Town, a record I have very low regard for (basically, it's Born to Run redux, except without anything very good on it). Peterike164 goes on:

Sorry, but if you're some trust-funder born in a two story Soho loft who casually lunches at Per Se, then you really don't know anything about what this means. That doesn't make you a bad person, it just means you can't possibly get it. You can intellectualize it, but you can't emotionalize it. It won't move you. On the other hand, you can probably see the flaws better than someone who feels Springsteen is speaking for him. I'm not trying to romanticize the working class or engage in any sort of Lefty class fetishisation (cuz I ain't a Leftist for one thing), but where you come from and when you come from there makes a difference. It's why Nirvana left me cold: I was too old for that stuff when they showed up. I can imagine had I been younger, they would have been the most important band in the world for me. Back when rock bands were still "important" for me at all.

This is also why Springsteen isn't what he used to be and can never be again. Money changes everything.

Some of this is right, and some of it is off base. True that people from different times and/or different classes or other significant experiences relate to any given music variously. But the Springsteen lyric doesn't only break down to "real" or "silly romantic bombast": for me, it posits a character that I might recognize but wouldn't like (and Springsteen's first-person doesn't help my view of him here). But music also breaks out of those boxes, and much of it can be stretched many ways.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Recycled Goods (100): September 2012

New Recycled Goods: pick up text here. Total review count: 3407 (2992 + 415).

Expert Comments

Someone mentioned Bruce Springsteen's "Jungleland" and I popped:

Since you mentioned it, hard to think of a song in the last 50 years I despised more than "Jungleland". Liked less, maybe. Despised more, I doubt it.

LazyOldSon (Peter G.) responded:

Tom, your "most despised" tag for "Jungleland" surprised me enough that I googled your name and Born to Run - discovered that you gave the album a B-. In that context, knocking "Jungleland" makes sense. If you don't like "Born to Run" the album, then "Jungleland" represents the album's romanticism or lyricial/musical operatic overload at its apex.

I'm a fan myself, but in this case I think I can hear what the detractors are hearing.

Tatum pointed out that my current grade for Born to Run is B+ (Darkness on the Edge of Town is the B-, although I would have guessed lower). I added:

Don Malcolm and I wrote a lot about Born to Run in and around the first issue of Terminal Zone -- most of my stuff is online, and I should really add Malcolm's pieces some day. My "yellow notebook" grade, more or less at the time, was indeed B-. "Jungleland" aside, I've softened up on the record since then, giving it a B+ in the current ratings database (as Tatum mentioned; Darkness at the Edge of Town is listed as B-). We got an awful lot of flak at the time, and that's one (but by no means the only) reason Terminal Zone wasn't continued, so I don't feel like re-litigating this.

I started liking Springsteen with The River, though my grades often slightly trail Christgau's (the Seeger album is an exception).

Alan Baker responded:

Maybe the reason you got alot of flak, Tom Hull, is the fact that you are wrong. But I see how you could despise "Jungleland," since there's nothing between your ears from which the music flows. And yet give Dark Side of the Moon an A PLUS. It's pretty obvious why your little criticism site tanked, since you were such a failure at discerning great music. Just like what happened to the illustrious Dean at the Village Voice. Who, by the way, is so relevant in this age that he has resorted to using a blog to place his tripe about how much he worships his afropop idols. Oh is that a new afropop album coming from Franco? A PLUS.

Checking next day, I had 14 thumbs up, 3 down. Baker had 5 up, 28 down. Baker went on to pick a fight with Milo Miles over Layla. When asked to put up or shut up, he retreated. Of course, he's right that I could have been wrong about Born to Run, but citing only one more data point, Dark Side of the Moon, to prove "there's nothing between your ears from which the music flows" isn't much of a case.

Interestingly, Christgau is often attacked on similar judgment disagreements, and his pan of Dark Side of the Moon is by far the most often cited. In both cases I think we were swayed by a combination of antihype -- Dark Side of the Moon was a huge bestseller, on the charts for over 10 years; Born to Run didn't sell that well, but was huge, and the print hype was even more extensive, including the Time cover -- and the fact that the records veered uncomfortably close to personal pet peeves. (His was anti-prog, anti-Europe, and anti-FM; I hated the dramatized mythmongering of "Jungleland," not to mention how it reminded me of West Side Story; on the other hand, I was heavily invested in pub rock, which came from the same impulse as, and was competitive with, Springsteen's neoclassicism -- an insight I only came to much later.) As for Christgau's take on Springsteen, see his piece on the rock critic establishment, which was his principled way of navigating through the hype.

Christgau later wrote more favorably of Pink Floyd, especially Wish You Were Here, and he wrote a nice Riffs piece on a concert following Animals which I saw with him. My grades on those albums (and The Wall) are a notch above his, much as my Springsteen grades are commonly (but not always) a notch below his. I'd credit him with planting the idea in my head that helped me reevaluate Springsteen more favorably. (I doubt that I had any influence the other way, but he did assign the long Pink Floyd piece I wrote for the Voice in 1977; much later I wrote the Rolling Stone Album Guide entry on Pink Floyd, here.)

Next day, but it belongs in this thread: Chris Drumm:

I once said somewhere that I wasn't a big Springsteen fan. Not that I wasn't a fan at all, just not a big one. And I caught flak. Heavy flak. It's worse than if you might doubt the primacy Quadrophenia, or Pink Floyd, or Radiohead.

I'll add that his fans were even touchier back in the day, before he had it made.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Music Week/No Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 20383 [20337] rated (+46), 676 [706] unrated (-30).

Didn't do any Jazz Prospecting this week. Still feeling bad, but I've actually been more productive, as you'll see tomorrow when I post the 100th edition of Recycled Goods. I've pretty much given up on trying to track current reissues -- cf. the metacritic file for a fairly exhaustive list, in most cases either stuff I'm not interested in or items I can't get hold of -- and instead decided to dive into my own sagging shelf of unplayed/unrated CDs. Most of these were picked up during store closeouts while I was still buying not indiscriminately but liberally, before I resumed writing about music, which is to say c. 2002. Still adding stuff to it, but last count was 82 records. Like I said, tomorrow. Should have some jazz next week.

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Live (ECM, 2CD): advance, October 2
  • Jim Bedner: Of Light and Shadow (self-released)
  • Roman Filiu: Musae (Dafnison)
  • Michael Formanek Quartet: Small Places (ECM)
  • Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti/Charlie Haden: Carta de Amor (ECM, 2CD): advance, October 2
  • Gerald Hagen Trio: Song for Leslie (Surf Cove Jazz)
  • Marc Johnson/Eliane Elias: Swept Away (ECM): advance, September 25
  • Manu Katché (ECM): advance, October 30
  • Bill Laswell: Means of Deliverance (Innerhythmic)
  • Low Cut Connie: Call Me Sylvia (self-released)
  • Vincent Lyn: Wing Sing (Budo)
  • Ferenc Nemeth: Triumph (Dreamers Collective)
  • Avery Sharp: Sojourner Truth: ". . . Ain't I a Woman?" (JKNM)
  • Bobo Stenson/Anders Jormin/Jon Fält: Indicum (ECM): advance, October 30

Miscellaneous notes:

  • My Rough and Rowdy Ways, Vol. 1 ([1998], Yazoo): B+(**)

Aug 2012