July 2013 Notebook


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Daily Log

Bradley Manning verdict came down today. While there is some relief that they're not going to execute him, the military trial and the use of the espionage act make it a sham. Later we heard reports that the government declassified some NSA documents, a case of opening the barn door after the horse got out. Wonder who they'll prosecute for that.

Had a cold meatloaf sandwich for lunch. Pretty good.

Laura wants to tear down the curtains on the front living room window. I suggested 2-inch wood blinds, so we went shopping and ordered a set. Also looked at tile for the kitchen sink backsplash, but found some stainless steel panels that looked like they might work. Bought one square foot to experiment with.

Watched The Bridge. Pretty remarkable show.

Music today (JP): Christian McBride, Scott Neumann; (RG): Sun Ra, George Russell.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Daily Log

Ordered records from Best Buy: Killer Mike: RAP Music; Guy Clark: My Favorite Picture of You; Gogol Bordello: Pura Vida Conspiracy. The latter was Christgau's pick today, grade A -- Tatum and some others predicted this. I was less enthusiastic when I played it on Rhapsody last week, but thought it has more potential. Upbeat, politically astute, some Tex-Mex thing entering into the gypsy punk. I liked their previous record more than Christgau did.

Bought a pound of lean ground beef yesterday, thinking about making meatloaf. Don't have my mother's recipe, so all I can do is improvise. This is what I tried today:

Improvised Meatloaf

  • 1 tsp mild olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 4 cloves roasted garlic, smashed [later: 6]
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef [later 1.5 lbs.]
  • [later: 1/4 c grated parmesan]
  • 1 egg [later: 2?]
  • 2 parsnips [later: and/or potatoes, carrots]
  1. Heat oven to 375F.
  2. Heat olive oil in skillet. Add onions, sautee a few minutes; add bell pepper and garlic, saute a few more; add tomatoes, spices, cook until pulpy; add worcestershire sauce, cook until thick. Turn fire off and let cool.
  3. Break up ground beef. Mix in egg. Fold in tomato sauce. Turn out into an 8x11-inch baking dish, and shape to leave about a two-inch margin around the edges.
  4. Peel and chop the parsnips into chunks about 1-1.5-inches long and no more than 1-inch in diameter. Coat them with a bit of olive oil, and arrange them in pan around the meatloaf.
  5. Bake 1 hour.

Mother never used bread crumbs. When I would complain about the dry, pasty meatloaf at school, she always explained that it's better without the bread crumbs. Recipe I was referring to called for bread crumbs and a carrot -- something else she never used -- and omitted the bell pepper (she used about 1/4 of a bell pepper; she kept them chopped and frozen mostly just to make meatloaf with). She used less tomato, and I've never been sure what kind -- probably canned sauce. the taste was there, but the loaf wasn't noticeably red. The worcestershire sauce was in the model recipe, and seemed like a good idea. Of course, mother always made this with potatoes, preferably new ones from the garden. I forgot to buy small white potatoes, but had some parsnips.

The recipes I saw called for mixing the vegetables in raw, but I figure it always helps to cook onion. Most recipes called for 1.5 lbs. of ground beef (or other meats), which probably would have been a better match for the vegetables I used. My reference recipe called for wrapping the whole thing in bacon, which would probably be yummy but I've never seen it done, and it strikes me as overkill. (Didn't have any bacon, anyway.)

Thought it came out a little grainy -- no idea where that came from. Tasted OK, not great. On the other hand, I always preferred my mother's meatloaf the next day, cold, on a sandwich, so that will be the test. Meanwhile, preliminary judgment is could have used that extra 1/2 lb. of meat, and probably would have been a bit better if less lean.

Hooked up the Netgear streaming box. First ethernet cable failed to connect, so I pitched it when another worked. Some aggravation to log into Netflix. Watched first episode of Orange Is the New Black, about a cute blonde sent to prison on a dubious drug money laundering charge, although presumably it will develop into something about the imprisoned cross-section of America. Best line was a warden (or something like that) explaining that he's never been able to make any sense out of the system.

Before that watched a rerun of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, about a bunch of scumbag literary agents and a writer with a trumped up fraudulent past as a criminal. Pretty awful show.

Music today (JP): Roscoe Mitchell, Steve Turre, Paquito D'Rivera, Thisbe Vos; (RG): Sun Ra.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Music Week/No Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 21779 [21748] rated (+31), 580 [587] unrated (-7).

Jazz Prospecting is a bit short this week, partly because I'm holding some things back that haven't been released yet. Not sure whether that's necessary, or even a good idea, but I know some critics and/or publications do that, and some publicists prefer that. I've rarely bothered before, mostly because it's been hard to keep track of, but the metacritic file is forcing me to pay more attention to release dates -- I've gotten into the habit of adding records to it as I unpack them instead of waiting till I get around to them, so the information is more accessible now. Four of the records I wrote up last week have future release dates -- one as far out as October 15 -- so they got held back. All were reviewed from finished copies, so I don't know what the delay in retailing them is. And I'm not holding back my grades: they show up in the year list and metacritic files -- just too much room for error if I try to delay updating those files. Two of the records below are reviewed from advances, but their release dates have come and gone without me getting final copies. No big problem, especially when they aren't very good.

May change my mind on holding records back. We'll see how it goes. By the way, as fewer and fewer actual CDs show up, I'm getting more offers for download links. They're easy for me to miss in my mail, and a hassle for me to process. They limit my listening options, and therefore my time. The only upside is that if they're average or worse I don't have to find space to store them. Some of these problems could be ameliorated if I could overcome some technical obstacles -- e.g., I still haven't figured out how to burn and package downloaded discs. So beware that any such downloads I get and manage to review will show up not here but in my Rhapsody Streamnotes column.

Andy Bey: The World According to Andy Bey (2013, High Note): Singer-pianist, cut his first records 1964-65 as Andy & the Bey Sisters; staged a comeback in 1996, and now has six albums since then. This one is done solo, just voice and piano, meant to be intimate like, say, The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album, but when this really slows down he's neither the singer nor the pianist to pull it off. Much better, however, when "The Joint Is Jumpin'." B

Kenny Burrell: Special Requests (And Other Favorites) (2012 [2013], High Note): Guitarist, one of the last remaining from the generation that gained prominence in the 1950s -- Jim Hall and Mundell Lowe are the only others I can think of offhand. Did his best work in the mid-1960s -- Guitar Forms, Ellington Is Forever -- and has been coasting through more or less charming live records lately (worst: 75th Birthday Bash Live!; best: Be Yourself). This is middling, but when he plays "Make Someone Happy" he does. B+(*)

Anna Estrada: Volando (2012, Feral Flight): Singer, "Bay Area-based," third album since 2008, more Spanish/Portuguese than English, co-wrote one song, draws on Fred Neil ("Everybody's Talking") and the Beatles ("Happiness Is a Warm Gun/I Want You"), does "Beguin the Beguine" in Spanish, works in some bossa nova (no Jobim, but Jorge Ben's "Mais Que Nada" is probably the best thing here). Musicians slip in and out -- too many for me to track, but unobtrusive to listen to. B+(*)

Steve Gadd Band: Gadditude (2013, BFM Jazz): Drummer, fifth album since 2004 although he had an earlier one in 1986. Band appellation is appropriate: guitarist Michael Landau and keyb player Michael Goldings 4 of 9 songs, with Gadd, Walt Fowler (trumpet), and Jimmy Johnson (bass) jointly offering a fifth. Two more pieces come from Keith Jarrett, one from Abdullah Ibrahim, one from Radiohead. Comes off as an attractive variation from the organ groove genre. B+(*)

Nancy Harms: Dreams in Apartments (2012 [2013], Gazelle): Singer, from Minnesota, second album. Four originals (three co-credited to producer Arne Fogel), a piece based on Erik Satie, and five standards ("It Could Happen to You," "Mood Indigo," "Never Let Me Go," "Midnight Sun," "While We're Young"). Aaron Parks plays piano, John Hart guitar on the back stretch, Wycliffe Gordon has a guest spot on trombone. She has a subdued, almost whispery voice -- doesn't grab you but sneaks up effectively on the last two covers. B+(*)

Julia Hülsmann Quartet: In Full View (2012 [2013], ECM): Pianist, b. 1968 in Germany, sixth album since 2003, third on ECM. Quartet with Tom Arthurs (trumpet), Marc Huellbauer (bass), and Heinrich Köbberling (drums), with all four writing songs, plus three pieces by others -- don't see any reason to call them standards. No rush, no clash, the trumpet providing a pivotal voice. B+(**) [advance]

Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra: Jimmy Heath: The Endless Search (2010, Origin): Saxophonist Heath is both the guest star and the composer of the title suite and another piece, roughly the first half of the album, so his name could slide over to the artist side -- or dropped out if you follow the spine. SRJO, directed by drummer Clarence Acox and saxophonist Michael Brockman, dates back to 1995, and this is their third album. Features a long list of Seattle musicians, with Hadley Caliman, Jay Thomas, and Thomas Marriott among the better known. They're a fine ensemble, Heath is a worthy honoree, and when they close out their program with "Haitian Fight Song" and "Creole Love Call," well, can't go wrong with that. B+(**)

Mort Weiss: A Giant Step Out and Back (2013, SMS Jazz): Seventy-eight-year-old clarinet player, started late, says this will be his last album, evidently blaming the economy more than his age. Solo with what I assume are some overdubs, a few originals and a bunch of standards which he uses for the basis of free improvs -- a surprise in that he's always been a swing-to-bop man -- but his command of the clarinet doesn't leave you feeling the need for anything else. Some vocal something-or-other toward the end -- he referred to something like that elsewhere as a "brain fart," and that's as good a term as any. A-

Mark Winkler: The Laura Nyro Project (2012 [2013], Cafe Pacific): Singer, has a dozen albums since 1985, typically writes much of his own material but here picks eleven Laura Nyro songs. I don't recall any of Nyro's albums (1947-97, her main run 1968-75), but she had a rep for combining pop-jazz-gospel-soul with much sensitivity and no humor. Winkler prefers cozy arrangements, using Bob Sheppard's sax sparely, switching him to flute toward the end, and closing with just Eric Reed on piano. B+(*)

Yellowjackets: A Rise in the Road (2013, Mack Avenue): Long-running group, 23rd album since 1981 with 17 Grammy nominations along the way. Only original member left is Russell Ferrante (piano, keybs), with Bob Mintzer (sax) and William Kennedy (drums) veterans, and Felix Pastorius (son of the legend) the newcomer on bass. They sound, at least here, more like hard bop than smooth jazz, except they keep piling ahead: no breaks, not many changes, little of interest other than their usual competency. B [advance]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Agachiko: Yes! (Accurate)
  • Albare: The Road Ahead (Enja)
  • Mark Dresser Quintet: Nourishments (Clean Feed)
  • Kenny Garrett: Pushing the World Away (Mack Avenue): advance, September 17
  • Oliver Jones: Just for My Lady (Justin Time)
  • Christian McBride Trio: Out Here (Mack Avenue)
  • Joe McPhee: Sonic Elements: For Pocket Trumpet and Alto Saxophone (Clean Feed)
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Red Hot (Hot Cup): September 24
  • Susana Santos Silva/Torbjörn Zetterberg: Almost Tomorrow (Clean Feed)
  • Nate Wooley/Peter Evans/Jim Black/Paul Lytton: Trumpets and Drums: Live in Ljubljana (Clean Feed)
  • Nate Wooley Sextet: (Sit In) The Throne of Friendship (Clean Feed)

Daily Log

Took Laura to acupuncture. Had to go yogurt shopping out on Maize Road, so looked for a restaurant there. Wound up at Olive Garden -- first time ever. I remember Anthony Bourdain making fun of their food, and he has a point: it's pretty easy to make better Italian at home, even using things like Contadina ravioli and Mezzetta sauce. Stopped at Best Buy and picked up a Netgear internet streaming box. Salesman said it was the only one with an RCA connector cable. I assumed he meant RGB, but turns out it's only composite. TV doesn't seem to have an HDMI port, so that seemed like the only option. I should recheck that. Also picked up the new Pet Shop Boys album.

Put Jazz Prospecting post together last night, just adding a bit to the intro today. Not planning on doing an Expert Witness announcement. Time to take a break from them.

Watched Longmire, Major Crimes.

Music today (JP): Roscoe Mitchell; (RG): Joe McPhee, Sun Ra.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links this week:

  • Jonathan Cook: Israel's thriving arms trade is a setback to peace agreement: Actually, more like Israel's arms trade is one big reason why Israel leaders have no taste for peace.

    Last month, defence analysts Jane's put Israel in sixth place [among the world's largest exporters of armaments], ahead of China and Italy, both major weapons producers. Surveys that include Israel's growing covert trade put it even higher, in fourth place, ahead of Britain and Germany, and beaten only by the United States, Russia and France.

    The extent of Israel's success in this market can be gauged by a simple mathematical calculation. With record sales last year of $7 billion (Dh25.7 billion), Israel earned nearly $1,000 from the arms trade per capita -- up to 10 times the per capita income the US derives from its manufacture of weapons.

    The Israeli economy's reliance on arms dealing was highlighted this month when local courts forced officials to reveal data showing that some 6,800 Israelis are actively engaged in the business of arms exports. Separately, Ehud Barak, the defence minister in the last government, has revealed that 150,000 Israeli households -- or about one in 10 of the population -- depend economically on the weapons industry. [ . . . ]

    Attacks such as Operation Cast Lead of winter 2008-09 or last year's Operation Pillar of Defence, the film argues, serve as little more than laboratory-style experiments to evaluate and refine the effectiveness of new military approaches, both strategies and weaponry. Gaza, in particular, has become the shop window for Israel's military industries, allowing them to develop and market systems for long-term surveillance, control and subjugation of an "enemy" population. [ . . . ]

    But the film's convincing thesis offers a disturbing message to those who hope for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As Israel has made its arsenal more lethal and its soldiers ever safer, its society has become increasingly tolerant of war as the background noise of life. If Israelis pay no price for war, the army and politicians face no pressure to end it. Rather, the pressure acts in the opposite direction. Regular attacks on Palestinians to test and showcase its military systems provide Israel with a business model far more lucrative than one offered by a peace agreement.

  • Kevin Drum: The Cost of Austerity: 3 Million Jobs: Cites the Congressional Budget Office's latest estimate of the economic benefit of eliminating sequestration.

    Spending cuts and tax increases since 2011 have cut the deficit by about $3.9 trillion over the next ten years. The sequester accounts for $1.2 trillion of that, about a third of the total. So a rough horseback guess suggests that the total effect of our austerity binge has been a GDP reduction of 2 percent and an employment reduction of nearly 3 million.

    If the economy were running at full capacity, deficit slashing wouldn't have this effect. It would be perfectly appropriate policy. Unfortunately, Republicans don't believe in cutting spending during good times and increasing it during bad times. They believe in cutting it during Democratic presidencies and increasing it during Republican presidencies.

  • William Greider: No More Second Chances for Larry Summers: Throughout its history, there's no better example of "regulatory capture" than the Federal Reserve: the Fed was even designed to be subservient to the banks. Summers is by all accounts a very bright economist, but he's also a guy who cultivates access to the rich and powerful by flattering them, and he's run up a pretty checkered legacy, including as Treasury Secretary presiding over the repeal of Glass-Steagall and severely limiting Obama's options as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers.

    These scandalous matters are relevant once again because the White House propagandists are pushing hard to make Larry Summers the next Federal Reserve chairman. If Obama makes that choice, Wall Street wins again. Summers is their candidate and at home in their money culture. As Fed chair, he would become their main watchdog.

    If so, this will be a sick joke on us hopeful voters who re-elected the president last fall. Summers worked on Wall Street after he got bounced as Harvard president and before he joined the Obama administration in 2009. During the year before, he earned $5.2 million at a leading hedge fund, D.E. Shaw.

    Then he made another $2.8 million for speeches, more than forty of them, mostly delivered to audiences at mega-banks and leading financial firms. These included JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and others. Goldman Sachs paid him $135,000 for one speech. When Summers learned Merrill Lynch was receiving federal bailout money, he gracefully contributed his $45,000 speaking fee to charity. The point is, this watchdog will know some of the swindlers personally.

    Actually, I would have been pleased had Obama nominated Summers, as was talked about, in 2009 to replace Ben Bernanke, on the theory that if Obama is going to be responsible for recovering from the deep recession he should at least appoint his own guy to the single most important relevant post, instead of giving Bush's guy another go. Since then Bernanke has managed to tick off everyone, but most of the flak he gets is from fellow Republicans furious that he has continued to do anything at all to aid the recovery. The only good news there is that no one is talking about giving him a third term. That leaves Fed vice-chair Janet Yellen as the obvious choice, and I've also seen Christina Romer mentioned, so there are alternatives to Summers -- ones without his taint of corruption and arrogance. Also see Greider's earlier piece, Stop Larry Summers Before He Messes Up Again. But also note that Brad DeLong says Summers would be "a very very good choice," which is one more "very" than he gives Alan Blinder, and two more than Janet Yellen (although he also included Yellen and Summers as "two of the four best people in the world to be Fed Chair," so I'm not sure how rigorous he's being). On the other hand, Mike Konczal compares Yellen and Summers and finds Summers MIA or worse on every issue he can think of, while Yellen was engaged and consistently worked toward expanding the economy.

    One thought I have here is that the Fed chair is a very powerful post, so one thing you should ask is how a given candidate will react to holding such power. Past chairs, with Alan Greenspan the most obvious case (although I'd add Paul Volcker here, and I'm not sure that any are really exempt) responded by becoming imperious. One thing that Summers does have is a track record of how he acts when given the reins of power, and most of that record reflects poorly on him: as Treasury Secretary, as President of Harvard, as Chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers (where, at least according to Ron Suskind's Confidence Men, his main act was to keep Obama from hearing from any other advisers, especially Christina Romer). In these roles he has been spectacularly inept, arrogant, abrasive, and tainted with corruption. Given all these negatives, the fact that anyone has anything good to say about him at all, and is saying it, suggests to me that he's campaigning hard for the job. That strikes me as yet another red flag.

    And -- the supply seems boundless -- here's a personal anecdote from Paul Krugman, recalling how in 1998 he "had a long, very unpleasant phone conversation with a Senior Administration Official who berated me for my anti-market ideas. Today, that wild and crazy idea is so orthodox it's part of standard IMF policy."

  • Paul Krugman: To the Brink, Again:

    If John Boehner is to be believed -- which, admittedly, is a real question -- Republicans are once again willing to push America into default and/or shut down the government if they don't get their way. [ . . . ]

    What adds to the awesomeness of the whole phenomenon is the absence of any halfway plausible rationale. To the extent that there ever was an economic justification for this brinksmanship -- the claim that we were on the verge of a debt crisis, the claim that slashing spending would boost the economy -- that justification has collapsed in the face of declining debt projections and overwhelming evidence that austerity has large negative impacts in a slump. [ . . . ]

    Well, my guess is that despite being drenched in reality-repellent, Republicans are beginning to suspect an inconvenient truth: Obamacare is not going to be a self-destroying train wreck. Instead, it's going to work -- not perfectly, not as well as it should, but well enough to help far more people than it hurts. And if that's how it turns out, it will be irreversible. So here comes a last-ditch effort to stop it, at all costs.

    But think about that for a moment: the cause for which the GOP is willing to go to the brink, breaking all political norms, threatening the US and world economies with incalculable damage, is the cause of preventing people with preexisting conditions and/or low incomes from getting health insurance. Apparently, the prospect that their fellow citizens might receive this help is so horrifying that nothing else matters.

  • Alex Pareene: Weiner's repellent personality: Not his worst quality!:

    Not that deeply damaged people don't sometimes make fine politicians. [ . . . ] When Clinton ran for president, or when he campaigned for Hillary Clinton, he could articulate reasons to support him. Eliot Spitzer's comeback is predicated on his history of battling Wall Street, not on nostalgia for the long-ago period when everyone loved him. But Weiner has never run on anything besides his own personality, and his personality is repellent. [ . . . ]

    The primary reason Anthony Weiner shouldn't be mayor, or anything else, is still that he's an unaccomplished opportunist with few principles and malleable views on every public policy issue besides the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a subject on which he has indefensible and insane views. But if people decide to not vote for him because of the dick pics I'm fine with that too.

  • MJ Rosenberg: No Peace Process Til U.S. Becomes "Honest Broker" Not "Israel's Lawyer": Reports of John Kerry's efforts to "restart" some sort of negotiation process between Israel and the currently unelected former Palestinian leadership have been too pathetic to bother with, largely because even if the US leaders think they want peace, they're unprepared to see it through. Rosenberg is absolutely right here:

    The Palestinians understand the role of the Israel lobby in keeping Congress in line behind Israel, with Congress doing the job of making sure the administration doesn't stray. As recently as 2012, the United States led the opposition to a resolution granting Palestine observer status at the United Nations (only seven countries voted with us). In March of this year, President Obama visited Israel to deliver, both in words and symbolic actions,the message that the United States and Israel were essentially one, a vivid demonstration of Vice President Biden's oft-repeated pledge that there must be "no daylight, no daylight" between U.S. and Israeli policies.

    Exactly why would the Palestinians trust the United States? The answer is that they don't and they shouldn't because, during two presidencies in a row, we have made not the slightest attempt to play "honest broker," remaining even more "Israel's lawyer" than we were when Clinton-era negotiator, Aaron Miller first used the term to describe our modus operandi.

    This is significant. The only successful U.S. mediation between Israelis and Arabs was conducted by President Jimmy Carter at Camp David in 1978. Carter managed to bridge the gaps that had led Israel and Egypt to go to war three times previously by being the ultimate honest broker.

    In his book about Camp David, Gen. Moshe Dayan, who was then Israel's foreign minister, described how Carter would keep the pressure on both sides equally, telling President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin, in turn, that if the talks failed, he would publicly name who was responsible. All during the long arduous process that produced a peace treaty that has survived 34 years, Carter refused to act as either side's advocate. His only client was peace and that is how he achieved an agreement.

    Rashid Khalidi's recent book, Brokers of Deceit: How the US Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East, reviews four post-Carter US-backed peace initiatives, and shows how in each and every case the US feigned then forgot about neutrality, allowing Israel to get away without making any concessions or achieving any semblance of peace. The closest Israel ever came was when Rabin jumped off the reservation and negotiated a separate deal, kept secret from the US, with Arafat, offering little and promising nothing. Perhaps Rabin intended to turn his deal into two states, but he was killed by a right-wing Israeli before he could do anything about it, and no subsequent Israeli leader went nearly that far.

    The fact is, Israel's Labor and/or Likud coalitions have never been willing to finalize borders -- except for the 1979 treaty Carter brokered with Egypt over the inessential desert in Sinai -- with a neighboring state or with the Palestinians, despite the fact that international law (UN Security Council resolutions) demands it, and that from 1967 US policy has supported those resolutions (at least up until 2000 when Clinton started to muddy the issue). See Avi Raz, The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War, for a detailed accounting of Israel's subterfuges to keep the US and the UN off their case while they made their first steps to clear and colonize the West Bank. See Patrick Tyler, Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country, for a broad overview of how Israel came to embrace militarism and adopted a permanent war culture: Tyler mostly dates this from Ben Gurion's split with his successor as Prime Minister, Moshe Sharrett, but you can find evidence of it earlier -- even as early as the period documented by Amy Dockser Marcus, Jerusalem 1913: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. And for a general overview, see the single best book yet written on how Israel has become addicted to war, Richard Ben Cramer's How Israel Lost: The Four Questions.

  • Alex Seitz-Wald: Secrets of the right: Selling garbage to your fans: For instance, is Glenn Beck a political commentator or just a gold huckster?

    Glenn Beck is the most egregious, with his partnership with Goldline International, which also enjoys endorsements from Mark Levin and, until recently, Sean Hannity and others. Beck cut tearful promotional videos for the company, hawks them passionately on his radio and TV programs, and even designed a coin for the company this year (it reads "mind your business" on the front).

    As it turns out, the company's business model is built on systematically swindling its mostly elderly clientele by talking or tricking them into buying overpriced coins or just sending them different products than they bought, prosecutors in California alleged, leading the company to settle for $4.5 million in refunds to its customers. A judge instructed the company to foot the bill for a court-appointed monitor, who was supposed to ensure the company stopped its alleged "bait and switch" scam.

    Not long after that, the company's former chief compliance officer came forward to say the company was back to its old tricks. "Goldline specifically targets vulnerable consumers with sales tactics designed to pressure those consumers into buying products that would often result in the consumer losing over one-third of his or her investment the instant the purchase is made," she said in a legal complaint filed late last year.

    And yet, Beck's support is undiminished. The company's banner ad still graces the top of TheBlaze.com and Beck still touts them on air. "Before I started turning you on to Goldline, I wanted to look them in the eye. This is a top notch organization that's been in business since 1960," Beck says in an endorsement on the company's website.

    The article has more examples. The prevalence of such fraud on the right shouldn't surprise. For one thing, their ideology starts with the assumption that everyone is out for themselves in the struggle to get rich, and that anyone who succeeds should be celebrated pretty much no matter how they got there. And there's a thick streak of sadism to it, so why not masochism too?

  • Matt Vasilogambros: Americans Increasingly Wonder: Was Afghanistan Even Worth It?

    Now, only 28 percent of Americans think the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, according to an ABC News/Washinton Post poll released on Friday. Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans, by and large, were united in wanting to track down the people responsible (as high as 90 percent in 2002). But after 2,000 deaths in America's longest war, 67 percent of Americans don't think it was worth it.

    This poll, conducted July 18-21, represents an 11-point drop since March. During that time, countless headlines about Afghanistan have been marked with the unmistakable tension between the U.S. and Afghan governments.

    The ten percent of Americans who opposed the mad rush to war in September 2001 deserve more respect. It was, at the time, entirely predictable that the war would be disastrous. (If anything, given how poorly the British, the Russians, and the Americans had faired in past and recent Afghan wars, such a prediction was if anything too easy.) While the mess in Afghanistan is readily apparent, what is harder for people here to grasp is how much damage the Bush Wars have done to the US: driving deficits and bankruptcy, accumulating a huge burden of obligations to Veterans, building an insatiable worldwide security complex, and just turning us into a meaner, more trigger-happy society. All of that could have been avoided if only the people who stampeded public opinion had stopped to consider what they were biting off.

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Brad DeLong: Mobility, Equality, Geography: Not DeLong's work, but you can dive in here. The big map shows the odds of a bottom-quintile child growing up to belong to a higher income quintile, which aren't good odds anywhere -- the range is from 4.0% in Atlanta (Detroit: 5.1%) to 11.5% in Salt Lake City (San Diego: 11.2%), so don't buy the notion that poor national totals just mask local variations. The low-opportunity areas are overwhelmingly concentrated in the southeast plus parts of the rust belt and isolated counties with Native American concentrations. Those are all depressed areas, but they also seem to be areas offering limited escape options. On the other hand, I can assure you that the only thing that makes western Kansas and Nebraska high-opportunity areas is that most young people can't wait to get the hell out of there. The Dakotas probably have some of that too, but North Dakota is likely helped by its oil boom, and Utah is indeed growing.

  • Glenn Greenwald: Democratic establishment unmasked: prime defenders of NSA bulk spying: The House rejected, 205-217, a bipartisan amendment to defund the NSA's domestic surveillance program. The program only became public knowledge when whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed it, an act for which he has been charged with crimes under the hideous WWI Espionage Act. The amendment was supported by 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats (vs. no votes by 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats), so it took the combined party leadership of both parties to prevent it. Greenwald is especially furious about Nancy Pelosi, but in this she is mostly a pawn of the White House. Meanwhile, the DOJ conceded that if the Russians would extradite Snowden, they wouldn't execute or torture him (noting only that torture is illegal in the US, as if that is assurance enough that it never happens). Given that nearly half of the House of Representatives, which isn't exactly the most representative body in the world, have voted against a policy they were unaware of before Snowden revealed it, it's really hard to see that what he did was anything other than a public service.

    Also see: Tom Engelhardt: Luck Was a Lady Last Week, which compares the US's relentless international manhunt for Snowden with the search for CIA honcho Robert Seldon Lady, who was arrested in Panama on an Interpol warrant from Italy, where he had been convicted of kidnapping and torturing a Egyptian cleric who had been granted asylum in Italy. The next day Lady disappeared again, evidently swept up by the CIA.

I don't have any particularly useful links for the turmoil in Egypt. The military coup continues to avoid US sanction, probably because they've moved hard to shut down the border with Gaza, returning Egypt to its pre-Morsi status as an outpost of Israeli occupation policy. Increased violence against Morsi's party is also very disturbing: it is very likely to push Islamists away from democracy and toward armed resistance, possibly leading to something like the Algerian civil war -- another case where the US backed a military junta against democracy. We're also starting to see problems in Tunisia, as Juan Cole explains.

Daily Log

Another home day. Rained all night, and intermittently all day. Had about half of "Weekend Update" stashed away, and had little problem filling it out.

Got tired of the usual frozen crap for dinner, so I thawed out a pound of shrimp and a bag of lima beans. Made baked shrimp with feta cheese (half a recipe), stir-fried lima beans, and sliced and sauteed half a tube of polenta. No parsley, so had to fudge the shrimp recipe a bit, but did have some Bulgarian feta left over from last time. Took about an hour from start to finish, with some puzzle time in the middle. Should cook more. As it was, wound up throwing out most of the produce drawer. Just buy stuff and let it rot.

Music today (JP): Deborah Shulman; (RS): David Murray, Georg Graewe, Manuel Mengis, Theo Jörgensmann, Joe McPhee.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Rhapsody Streamnotes (July, 2013)

Pick up text here.

Expert Comments

My announcement:

July's Rhapsody Streamnotes column up chez moi: 55 records, some previously discussed here, some (like the Puerto Rican country singer and the Buck 65 clone from Halifax) hardly ever mentioned anywhere; 9 A- (within the limits of my methodology), 14 B or worse -- most of those well-regarded elsewhere (see metacritic link), but it's hard to find anyone who likes the Jay-Z.

Post overnight got 9 thumbs up, 3 thumb bombs. Didn't generate any commentary. I'm pretty disgusted with the whole scene.

Allen B.:

"Group rallies in Idaho over 'inevitable collapse' of economy, urges self-reliance." The #1 priority: "stock up on ammunition." "It's not a crisis, it's an opportunity." I swear, if we really do go that way they're welcome to shoot me and take my food. I have less than zero interest in living in a world of thousands of tinpot dictators in compounds.

Daily Log

Another home day, except needed to go out to pick up some groceries in the evening. Rained a bit while I was in the store. Rained more later. I noticed water seeped into the garage at some point. That means my "French drain" project either isn't working or isn't enough. Another blow to my DIY self-esteem.

Posted RS. Huge amount of work there but I doubt that anything will come of it.

Music today (JP): Jimmy Amadie, Nancy Harms, Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra, Anna Estrada; (RS): Laura Nyro, David Murray (will replay tomorrow), Nyro again.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Roundup

Threw this one together quick, with no new research, mostly to drain the scratch file -- which means, sure, these are leftovers from one or possibly several previous columns. I usually just run 40 books each time, but expanded that a bit here. Again, the idea is to drain the swamp, so I figured no need to be arbitrary about it.

By the way, one thing missing here is any listing of recent conservative books. I've started diverting them into a separate scratch file for a "special" edition. Only have six at present: historically I've ignored most I've seen, but occasionally found something to comment on. Will probably find more, and look at them then. On the other hand, there are quite a few Israel books below -- mostly, I suspect, relatively minor ones since I hit up the more important ones the time before. Thought about doing an Israel special, but again didn't have that many, and I think that when I do I'll want to do a "best of" rather than just sample what's passing in the stream. (Of course, with the US right as it is, no such thing is conceivable.)

Jeremy Adelman: Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman (2013, Princeton University Press): Cass Sunstein wrote a review of this book, extolling Hirschman as one of the century's "most original and provocative thinkers." Not at all clear to me why, although he had an interesting life, narrowly escaping the Holocaust to land in academia.

Elizabeth A Armstrong/Laura T Hamilton: Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality (2013, Harvard University Press): Focuses on women, tracking their various paths through higher education, where they find that "the dominant campus culture indulges the upper-middle class and limits the prospect of the upwardly mobile."

Charles V Bagli: Other People's Money: Inside the Housing Crisis and the Demise of the Greatest Real Estate Deal Ever Made (2013, Dutton): Focuses on BlackRock as one of the more spectacular busts of the banking collapse.

Jack Beatty: The Lost History of 1914: Reconsidering the Year the Great War Began (2012, Walker): Looks like an interesting reexamination of the not-so-inevitable origins of WWI -- an evident contrast to Christopher Clark's The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. Beatty previously wrote Age of Betrayal: The Triumph on Money in America, 1865-1900 (2007), an important book on how money subverted democracy in the Gilded Age.

Walden Bello: Capitalism's Last Stand? Deglobalization in the Age of Austerity (paperback, 2013, Zed Books): Leftist author recycles various themes on how capitalism is falling apart. Deglobalization? Age of Austerity? An excerpt I read argues that Obama should have paid heed to Paul Krugman, which is true as far as it goes, but is that all the further a Marxist wants to go?

Amy J Binder/Kate Wood: Becoming Right: How Campuses Shape Young Conservatives (2012, Princeton University Press): Studies young conservatives and how they interact with universities, which for all their reputed liberalism don't seem to be very effective at brainwashing would-be right-wingers.

Joshua Bloom/Waldo E Martin Jr: Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (2013, University of California Press): Black guys with guns serving free breakfast, now what could be scarier? -- at least if you can imagine being J. Edgar Hoover. Big book (560 pp), seems to cover all the angles.

Gary M Burge: Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to "Holy Land" Theology (paperback, 2010, Baker Academic): Previously wrote Whose Land? Whose Promise? What Christians Are Not Being Told about Israel and the Palestinians (paperback, 2004, Pilgrim Press). I find the very concept of a "holy land," "holy places," even a "holy mountain" appalling, but people do get wound up in such diversions, and if you do this may help disabuse you of such nonsense. The conflict itself is real.

Christian Caryl: Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century (2013, Basic Books): One of those attempts to turn history around in a key year, one that featured the Iranian Revolution and its attendant oil shock, a Russian coup in Afghanistan that tempted the US to start the Jihadist war against the West, the key reforms that led by capitalist growth in China, the elevation of a Polish cold warrior as pope, and the disastrous rise of Margaret Thatcher -- Ronald Reagan was still a year away.

Christopher Clark: The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 (2013, Harper): Refers to the domino-like march to war following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. A more astute analysis would recognize that all the powers of Europe had been continuously engaged in war against Asia and Africa for most of the previous century, and that most had meddled in two wars in the Balkans within the last decade. Moreover, most of the imperial wars had been successful, so both sides expected only further success in bringing the war home, against their real rivals. They may have sleepwalked, but mostly they dreamed . . . foolishly. Also new and more narrowly focused, Sean McMeekin: July 1914: Countdown to War (2013, Basic Books); also new, Charles Emmerson: 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War (2013, Public Affairs).

Laila El-Haddad/Maggie Schmitt: The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey (paperback, 2013, Just World Books): El-Haddad previously wrote a down-to-earth memoir of living (and watching people die) in Gaza (Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between), so this sequel seems appropriate. Rest assured, the authors "traveled the length and breadth of the Gaza Strip to collect the recipes presented in this book" (that's 25 miles long and 3.7-7.5 miles wide, a bit larger than Manhattan).

Sylvia Federici: Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (paperback, 2012, PM Press): Scattered essays dating back to 1975, on issues that were kicked around excitedly back then, less so now. Author was involved in Telos, which I also worked on way back in the day. She also wrote Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation (paperback, 2004, Autonomedia).

John Bellamy Foster/Robert W McChesney: The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval From the USA to China (2012, Monthly Review Press): Foster is a Marxist economist who's been writing variations on this all his life. McChesney is a media critic who started out worried about the untoward influence of money -- e.g., Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times (1999; paperback, 2000) -- and wound up collaborating with the likes of Foster and Noam Chomsky -- Profit Over People: Neoliberalism & Global Order (paperback, 2011, Seven Stories Press).

Robert Gellately: Stalin's Curse: Battling for Communism in War and Cold War (2013, Knopf): Claims access to newly declassified documents tracking Stalin's strategic moves as head of Comintern and the Soviet Union, although the assumption that his regime's power interests had anything to do with communism is far-fetched and annoying. Gellately blames the Cold War on Stalin, ignoring the fact that conflict existed only if you grant that the US had interests that conflicted with Stalin's interests -- the pre-WWII "isolationist" US would have made no such claims.

Richard Hell: I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography (2013, Ecco): One of the key musicians in the mid-1970s New York rock revolution, originally a founder of Television, later ran the Void-Oids. Seems to be a good writer as well as a focal point.

Dilip Hiro: Apocalyptic Realm: Jihadists in South Asia (2012, Yale University Press): Author continues working his way around the troublespots of Asia, focusing here on the Kashmir border, which is to say India and Pakistan, although I wouldn't discount Afghanistan, which in some ways is the shadow of this long-lived, stubbornly fought dispute.

Joel Isaac/Duncan Bell, eds: Uncertain Empire: American History and the Idea of the Cold War (paperback, 2012, Oxford University Press): A dozen scattered essays, no one I recognize and no clear political bent, but a couple look interesting -- "War Envy and Amnesia: American Cold War Rewrites of Russia's War"; "God, the Bomb, and the Cold War: The Religious and Ethical Debate Over Nuclear Weapons, 1945-1990"; "Blues Under Siege: Ralph Ellison, Albert Murray, and the Idea of America" -- and one that I wonder about: "Cold War culture and the Lingering Myth of Sacco and Vanzetti."

Walter Johnson: River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (2013, Belknap Press): A history of slavery in the US South, especially after the Revolution, the opening of the west, and the cotton boom.

Daniel Stedman Jones: Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (2012, Princeton University Press): The other two pictures on the cover: Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, both looking much younger than Hayek and Friedman. Neoliberalism is a term that never caught on among its right-wing adherents, but this is about them. Idea seems to be to illustrate Keynes' famous maximum about politicians in thrall to dead economists.

Paul Kennedy: Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War (2013, Random House): WWII was won with Russian (and Chinese) blood and guts, with American industry, and with western engineering -- especially in the atom bomb project one can count a lot of significant refugees from the fascist powers. The Manhattan Project has been much written about elsewhere, so this most likely focuses on less esoteric technology, like radar, and pontoon bridges, and possibly decryption and logistics and the scientific approach to management, some stuff we've even forgotten about as the right has turned against government.

Razmig Keucheyan: The Left Hemisphere: Mapping Critical Theory Today (2013, Verso): A broad survey of Marxist thinkers in the post-Communist era (since 1993), prefaced by a brief history of the new left (1956-77) and the 1977-93 period "of decline." Not sure how important this is, but one thing that is clear is that post-Cold War triumphalism didn't have much to stand on: capitalism remained alienating, crisis-prone, and only got more so as political alternatives melted away.

Denise Kiernan: The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II (2013, Touchstone): Oak Ridge, TN, home of the Manhattan Project's uranium enrichment facility, focusing on the numerous women who worked there.

William K Kingaman/Nicholas P. Kingaman: The Year Without a Summer: 1816 and the Volcano That Darkened the World and Changed History (2013, St Martin's Press): The volcano was Tambora, in what is now Indonesia, which ejected a vast amount of ash and sulfur dioxide gas into the atmosphere, altering weather patterns all around the world.

Daniel C Kurtzer, ed: Pathways to Peace: America and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (2012, Palgrave Macmillan): "This book is the antidote to the fatalism and pessimism" -- or so says Tony Blair, who as much as anyone is the cause. Bill Clinton, Javier Solana, and Chuck Hagel also support the book. Kurtzer is a long-time US diplomat, former ambassador to Egypt and Israel, a guy with much experience talking the talk, none at walking the walk. Also wrote the lead piece in The Peace Puzzle: America's Quest for Arab-Israeli Peace, 1989-2011 (2013, Cornell University Press).

Les Leopold: How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away With Siphoning Off America's Wealth (2013, Wiley): How hedge funds work, and how their managers skim billions off nothing more substantial than bets with other people's money. Author previously wrote The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity (2009).

Bruce Levine: The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South (2013, Random House): A Civil War history that emphasizes changes in the structure of southern society, presumably the end of the slaveholder aristocracy and its replacement by, well, what exactly? By the time Reconstruction was ended and Jim Crow laws were imposed it doesn't seem like much changed, does it?

Antony Loewenstein/Ahmed Moor, eds: After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine (paperback, 2012, Saqi): The "one state" case. One should recall that it was "facts on the ground" that made the "two state" scenario plausible. Before the segregation enforced by expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians during the 1948 war and the subsequent military occupation, the only fair solution was one nation with equal rights for all.

Robert W McChesney: Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy (2013, New Press): The internet cuts both ways, opening up previously unimagined amounts of information, allowing extraordinarily wide participation, but also a tempting target of control, especially for the rich media empires and their political allies. So it's hard to overstate how important the struggle over control is. Relevant here: Rebecca MacKinnon: Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom (2012; paperback, 2013, Basic Books).

Jeffrey Melnick: 9/11 Culture (paperback, 2009, Wiley-Blackwell): Attempts to work out the reflections and resonances of the 9/11 attacks on the popular arts. Lots there to chew through, although now I think we over-indulged, aiding a political agenda intent on making the world worse than it was. My own thought from the very beginning was how do you contain this. Then Black Hawk Down came out.

Moisés Naím: The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What It Used to Be (2013, Basic Books): Every tyrant ultimately depends on willing and competent obedience, and the author detects various trends that make such obedience harder to come by. Jonathan Schell seemed to be turned into this notion when he write The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People (2003, Metropolitan), but he neither explained it well enough nor drew many implications from the insight.

Vali Nasr: The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat (2013, Doubleday): Bloomberg Review columnist, former advisor to Richard Holbrooke, author of The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future and Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World, trying to position himself as a forecaster, has managed to posit this as "a wake up call" rather than a done deal. Seems a little glib to me: the US remains crazy-dangerous, and is almost oblivious to world opinion, even in the relatively sane hands of Obama, as opposed to the nutters he beat along the way. [April 23]

Annalee Newitz: Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction (2013, Doubleday): Meteor strikes, cosmic radiation, whatever it was that ended the Permian, those are all examples of events so colossal they wiped out the majority of the world's living species, and given that they have happened, you have to concede that they could. So how would humans fare under such brutal circumstances? This is all speculative, of course, but there is a lot one can do with the set up -- like get things wrong, evidently. Still another question might be whether humans will survive the the ongoing mass extinction event they are primarily responsible for -- something for which there is no historical evidence.

Diana Pinto: Israel Has Moved (2013, Harvard University Press): Tries to provide a broad strokes portrait of Israeli society today, something likely to be surprising given how profoundly strange Israel has become: it is by far the world's most militarized society; it is perhaps the most rigidly ethnocentric and racist; it is not quite the most isolated (that would be North Korea), but its view of the map is profoundly warped; it is well educated and technologically advanced, but has a profoundly powerful and reactionary religious sector. I have no idea how this sorts out, and doubt that this is anywhere near definitive.

Sam Pizzigati: The Rich Don't Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph Over Plutocracy That Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970 (paperback, 2012, Seven Stories Press): Yeah, but what would you rather have: a boring old middle class where most people are pretty much interchangeable, or Donald Trump?

Devon Powers: Writing the Record: The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism (paperback, 2013, University of Massachusetts Press): Focuses on the early work of Richard Goldstein and Robert Christgau at the Village Voice and the founding of rock crit as a serious (as well as fun) intellectual activity. Wasn't much later when I gave up on the Frankfurt School and read little but rock crit.

Monte Reel: Between Man and Beast: An Unlikely Explorer, the Evolution Debates, and the African Adventures That Took the Victorian World by Storm (2013, Doubleday): Paul Du Chaillu, who explored equatorial Africa 1856-59, discoverng the gorilla just in time for the debate over Charles Darwin's Origin of Species.

Marie-Monique Robin: The World According to Monsanto (2010; paperback, 2012, New Press): Pesticides, PCBs, patented GMO seeds, growth hormones, etc. Focuses on one key company.

Brant Rosen: Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi's Path to Palestinian Solidarity (paperback, 2012, Just World Books): Author is a rabbi in Evanston, IL, with a blog called Shalom Rav which he has written since 2006.

Douglas Rushkoff: Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (2013, Current): Media theorist, won a career achievement award named after Neil Postman, although the only book of his that I've read was his unconventional take on Judaism (Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism). Thesis here seems to be that when you have to absorb everything at once you get overwhelmed.

William J Rust: Before the Quagmire: American Intervention in Laos, 1954-1961 (2012, University Press of Kentucky): Not so sure about the period in question, but during 1961-63 Laos was more frequently an object of US anti-communist concern than Vietnam. Same sort of muddle and overkill, of course.

Robert O Self: All in the Family: The Reallignment of American Democracy Since the 1960s (2012, Hill & Wang): Buys into the notion that American politics turns on "family values" and that was the reason for the conservative surge -- sure they'll be flattered by that magic word -- from the 1970s until the Bush crash (and later? maybe the Tea Party was just shrapnel). There's something to that, but I wouldn't bet much on it.

Yehuda Shenhav: Beyond the Two-State Solution: A Jewish Political Essay (paperback, 2012, Polity): An engineered solution, most likely astute in its critique of all other so-called solutions, then myopic on its own. What the author is looking for is some sort of binational federation combining autonomy and coexistence in a fair and reasonable way.

William L Silber: Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence (paperback, 2013, Bloomsbury Press): The architect of the biggest recession between the 1930s and 2008, done on purpose to slay inflation, which effectively translated to crippling the working class. Democrats keep recycling the same hacks over and over, so it wasn't too surprising to see Obama leaning on the man who ensured Jimmy Carter was a one-term president. Maybe not all that bad, but it sure could have been done better.

Chip Walter: Last Ape Standing: The Seven-Million-Year Story of How and Why We Survived (2013, Walker): The story of human evolution, such as we understand it, over the period of time that separates us from our nearest surviving ape kin, during which many closer species evolved and became extinct, leaving just humans as we know and love/hate them.

Ben White: Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy (paperback, 2011, Pluto Press): From 1948-67 Palestinians in Israel (those who avoided the expulsions) were subject to military rule, roughly similar to those in the occupied territories since 1967, and even after 1967 they've remained segregated, nominally citizens but constantly aware that "the Jewish State" isn't for them. And as the right wing has grown more powerful (and more extreme) they are increasingly threatened. Previously wrote Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide (2009).

Curtis White: The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answers (2013, Melville House): Previously wrote The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don't Think for Themselves (2003; paperback, 2004, Harper One), which would be important if he came up with an answer, but I gather he didn't. (Evidently the book was scaled up from an essay deriding Terry Gross as a "schlock jock.") He also wrote one called The Barbaric Heart: Faith, Money, and the Crisis of Nature (paperback, 2009, Paradigm), so you can get a sense of his sense of big questions. Science doesn't satisfy him, nor does religion, nor do "the new atheists." Nothing easy here, but that doesn't make it right.

Keith W Whitelam: Rhythms of Time: Reconnecting Palestine's Past (2013, Ben Black Books): Short (124 pp, looks like Kindle-only) essay on ancient Palestinian history. Author previously wrote The Emergence of Early Israel in Historical Perspective (1987), The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinian History (1996), and edited Holy Land as Homeland? Models for Constructing the Historic Landscapes of Jesus (2011).

James Wolcott: Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in the Seventies (2011; paperback, 2012, Anchor): Journalist/culture critic, wrote for the Village Voice in the 1970s, where he made a strong impression on me. Later went on to be one of the first successful bloggers, probably out of scope here.

Lawrence Wright: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (2013, Knopf): Author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (2006), a fine book which has no special relevance here, other than to show his skill at making a strange ideology comprehensible without undue sympathy. Still, I've managed to go through life without needing to know a thing about L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics, or Scientology, and figure I'll leave well enough alone.

No paperbacks this time.

Expert Comments

Today's picks: Lil Green: Why Don't You Do Right? 1940-1942, and Dionne Warwick: The Dionne Warwick Collection: Her All-Time Greatest Hits. Have the latter, graded it B+ long ago; also have the redundant (but shorter) The Very Best of Dionne Warwick, which I graded A-. (Christgau has both Warwick collections at A.) Warwick has a few really great songs, but turning them into a best-of has always struck me as a stretch.

For some reason I don't have anything by Green, although I've heard this record (and possibly others). Georgia Christgau is a big fan, so I commented:

Glad to see something on Lil Green. Worth noting that Georgia Christgau's piece in the festschrift, Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough: Essays in Honor of Robert Christgau, was on Green ("Turn Out the Lights," p. 215). Unfortunately, I don't have it on line.

Daily Log

Took Laura to acupuncture. Got lunch at Tanya's Soup Kitchen -- famous place but we had never been there before. Shrimp chowder was very good, club sandwich less so. Biggest problem for us is that they're rarely open when we're out: no Sunday, 11am-3pm every other day, 5-9pm Friday-Saturday. We barely got in under 3pm.

Chopped up a chunk of tree limb I removed the other day. Tried to work on car. There's a little compartment in the dashboard, and the door had broken. I repaired it once by gluing broken plastic back together, but it broke again. I bought a replacement door, but couldn't figure out how to pop the dashboard piece that holds it out. It's been sitting half-wedged for a couple months now, so I finally pushed it to a conclusion, which was: the thing is hopelessly broken. The door pivots on a couple plastic nubs, and has a spring on each side to snap it back into place. Turns out one of the nubs is bent and would break if I ever managed to straighten it out. Would also be tricky getting the springs tight, but that's secondary to getting the door to pivot.

Below the door is the ashtray, which unlike every other ashtray I've seen is (a) plastic and (b) cannot easily be removed. Futzing with it earlier, I managed to lose the spring that snaps the door shot. I eventually managed to get the whole thing out today, which made it possible to get to the bottom clips on the dashboard piece. (Still something holding it in place, or snagging it.) When I realized I couldn't fix the door, I tried reinstalling the ashtray. It, too, pivots on plastic nubs, and after I wasn't able to snap it into place I discovered that one was broken, so it was impossible to get the ashtray back in position. It also has a spring, and the hole the spring slips into looked like it was near breaking. So I gave up. Snapped the dashboard pieces back into place. The net effect for all my trouble was to lose the ashtray, leaving an opening in the dash. I may plug it up at some point, but for now I'm just disgusted. At any rate, something off my "to do" list. Just sad that it turned out this way. (And feeling 0-for-2 after yesterday's cable mishap.)

Threw the books post together at the last minute. Dumped 49 books from the scratch file, keeping 4 (+ one not published yet + 6 in the right-wing file). Sometimes I start writing these things then discover they're not that interesting. Sometimes I do a book that's off topic then don't like slotting it when time comes around.

Music today (JP): Mort Weiss, John Escreet; (RG): Jeffrey Lewis (2); (RS) rechecked Gogol Bordello, Jeffrey Lewis/Peter Stampfel, the latter improving a bit but neither strike me as A-list records.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Expert Comments

Christgau (no idea what elicited this; some typos corrected):

Fuck everybody on this blog who's sniping at Milo, a better critic than anyone else here except yours truly and Levy. Fuck everybody on this blog who thinks how hard it is for good writers to make a living is worthy of mockery. Does he peeve me too sometimes? Damn right. Do I think he's irresponsible sometimes, bitter, curmudgeonly? Absolutely. But in this case there's no question in my mind who started the fight and I would very much like to see it end.

And as for you Tegan, like most artists you demonstrate no understanding of journalism as a calling whatsoever.

So I don't rate, huh? In the struggle for making a living off my writing I've had a much rougher time than they have. As for critical insights, I don't read Milo or Joe often enough to get much of a sense -- although Milo's much more extensive input to this forum shows both vast experience and critical judgment. On the other hand, Joe shows up maybe once every other month with a rave or pan that I often wind up disagreeing with. I've met both of them, but very casually. Joe expressed an interest in having me write for him at the Voice, but that opportunity is long gone (as is the one I never got at Rolling Stone). As far as I can hazard a guess, Bob sorted his ranking by income.

I guess that whoever's posting as "Tegan Rain Quin" is a troll. Much discussion of the Tegan & Sara album Heartthrob, which Tatum graded A- but I had more doubts about: B+(**).

Daily Log

Internet went out last night shortly before I went to bed. Was still out this morning, as was the phone. Laura called Cox. They scheduled us for tomorrow, but someone came out early afternoon. Futzed with the modem, got it to reboot, swapped out a splitter, and we're back on line.

Went to a Peace Center even tonight: Maher Musleh and wife Stephanie McNew-Musleh showed pictures and talked about their recent trip to Jordan and Occupied Palestine -- included Jerusalem, but all the pictures I recall were in the old city, the Arab and Armenian Quarters. Maher has relatives in or near Nablus and Tulkarem, also in Jordan. Sounds like the level of Israeli repression has been dialed back quite a bit since Maher was last there (seven years ago). In particular, they ran into fewer checkpoints, at least around Nablus. (In Pamela Olson's book, based on her experiences around 2004-05, there were checkpoints all around Nablus, and frequent IDF patrols there and in Ramallah.) Still can't say I have the slightest interest in visiting there.

Tried hooking up a cable to connect a laptop to the TV, but the connector I bought for the purpose failed. TV has a DVI-D input port, but the passive VGA-to-DVI interfaces have four analog pins which the TV doesn't have openings for. Not sure what the next move there will be. Good chance that all the VGA-to-DVI interfaces are equally flawed. Laura's laptop doesn't have S-Video or HDMI, and the TV doesn't have HDMI. It's inconvenient for streaming Netflix on any of our computer screens -- at least for both of us to view at the same time.

Watched Copper and two episodes of Raising Hope -- beginning to think my tolerance for the latter may soon run out. A couple overly pat turns in the former, too, especially the reunion of Corcoran and Maguire -- most likely the Morehouse-Haverford split will be patched up next week, although Little Orphan Annie is getting to be more trouble than she's worth.

Music today (JP): Albert Heath, Kenny Burrell, Andy Bey, Mark Winkler, Julia Hülsmann; (RS): Van Dyke Parks.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Daily Log

I've been going through metacritic.com's magazine listings, picking out ones that I can't scan online, and work through the listings to see what I've missed. Thus far: Classic Rock, Dusted, The Quietus, Record Collector, Wire.

Music today (JP): Steve Gadd; (RS): Guy Clark, Nikki Lane, the Fall.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Annals of Hippie Punching

Jonathan Chait's Anarchists of the House makes some useful points about the today's Republican majority in the House of Representatives. For instance:

Spectacles like this have turned into a regular feature of life in the Republican House. The party leadership draws up a bill that's far too right-wing to ever become law, but it fails in the House because it isn't right-wing enough. Sometimes, as with the attempts to repeal Obamacare, the failures don't matter much, but in other instances the inability to pass legislation poses horrifying dangers. The chaos and dysfunction have set in so deeply that Washington now lurches from crisis to crisis, and once-dull, keep-the-lights-on rituals of government procedure are transformed into white-knuckle dramas that threaten national or even global catastrophe.

Having read much in the communitarian anarchist tradition of Kropotkin and Bookchin (and probably too much in the libertarian anarchist oeuvres of Rothbard) I wouldn't have picked "anarchists" as an ideology I'd like to saddle the Republicans with, but it's true that some people who called themselves anarchists (mostly about a century ago) threw bombs and caused mayhem, and if that's all you recall and consider it isn't that wrong. But the Kochs are big on the Rothbard line, and your typical anti-government euthanasiast may consider it a compliment.

Moreover, it's the kind of slander that identifies Chait as a "big government" liberal, as opposed to the kind of liberal that considers a state necessary for some things but not altogether without risks. Then Chait goes on to compound his ignorance and prejudice, in this paragraph approvingly cited by Ed Kilgore (which is how I got here, and it turns out even worse):

The Republican Party has spent 30 years careering ever more deeply into ideological extremism, but one of the novel developments of the Obama years is its embrace of procedural extremism. The Republican fringe has evolved from being politically shrewd proponents of radical policy changes to a gang of saboteurs who would rather stop government from functioning at all. In this sense, their historical precedents are not so much the Gingrich revolutionaries, or even their tea-party selves of a few years ago; the movement is more like the radical left of the sixties, had it occupied a position of power in Congress.

Kilgore stops the paragraph short, quotes Mario Savio, engages in some gratuitous hippie punching, and pronounces this "a very apt analogy," conceding only that Ted Cruz and Eric Cantor might find it "mortifying . . . to be compared to a dirty hippie." I've never seen Kilgore this far off base. I mean, for starters, how is the poor hippie going to feel being compared to Cruz and Cantor? Much less being blamed for the budget fiasco that caused the US government bond rating to be downgraded? But that's just one of many incredible brain slips that Kilgore and/or Chait have made in trying to build an argument that ultimately amounts to nothing more than calling someone else a presumably disreputable name.

It's silly to have to tear this house of cards down, and I'm not going to bother with much of it, but . . . it's not necessarily true that hippies were dirty, at least hygienically (some hippies left the city for farms, and farmers do work with dirt, but we don't routinely speak of "dirty farmers"); hippies had very little to do with the new left -- they overlap historically but one was countercultural and the other political; Mario Savio, by any stretch of imagination, was not a hippie, nor was he a persistent figure in the evolution of the new left -- he appeared, made some speeches, then got on with his life; the new left was never defined by a single coherent ideology -- it was left in the sense that we believed that all people are equal and deserve equal justice, and it was new in the sense that we didn't belong to Leninist parties conspiring to foment revolution; other than that, new left tactics varied according to situation -- direct non-violent action in the civil rights struggle, mass demonstrations against the Vietnam war, electoral activity when worthy (or even some not-so-worthy) candidates presented themselves. Some splinter groups did wrong-headed things, but they were marginal. Most new left ideas entered the mainstream, and much was done by Congress in the 1960s to secure civil rights, and again by Congress in the 1970s on issues ranging from clean air to limiting the president's warmaking powers. The one thing the new left didn't do was to grab institutional power for its own self-perpetuation. One reason for this was that the new left was always distrustful of power, having seen bad examples of its use both in the Soviet Union and in the US.

Chait is arguing that if the new left ('60s radicals) had the sort of Congressional power the Republicans currently have, we would have behaved like the Republicans do now. Surely he realizes that there is no policy reason for that. The major fillibusters of the 1960s were to prevent votes on civil rights. Then, as now, the obstructionism was done by the right (same for Truman's famous "do-nothing Congress" of 1947-49). Maybe obstructionism works for the right in ways that it doesn't work for the left? Maybe right and left have significantly different attitudes toward democratic processes? Maybe there's no moral equivalency whatsoever between far right and far left?

One clue should be that in forums where Republicans have control today Republicans -- many states, among the most notorious Wisconsin, North Carolina, North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas -- don't encourage Democrats to practice the "procedural extremism" they use in Washington. They simply go about implementing their pet policies any way they can. They are utterly opportunistic, and utterly cynical, about procedure. And -- this is the key point -- what lets them be so opportunistic and cynical is their utter contempt for democracy. (Nor should you be surprised: the Democrats actually received more votes for the House in 2012, but the Republicans were able to get more members elected, mostly due to their skillful gerrymandering in 2010. And they've gotten key support from their cadres in the courts, from Bush v. Gore to Citizens United to this year's gutting of the Voting Rights Act.)

The rest of Chait's piece is worth reading for his reporting on how the House Republicans plan to use the debt ceiling as hostage to force Obama to cancel Obamacare, maybe even to "privatize Medicare." It's a scary story, but not because Chait likened Republicans to anarchists, or Kilgore called Cantor a "dirty hippie." The Republicans are ruining their own brand name. Just hang them with it.

Daily Log

Stayed home. Knocked out a piece on someone otherwise good knocking the new left -- I'm a bit sensitive on that subject. Had a big storm blow through here tonight, unusually from the northwest. It managed to blow quite a bit of water back up the range vent, dumping on the range top. Only second time that has ever happened. Last time I bought some stuff to try to make it less likely, but never got around to installing it. Should at least take a look at it tomorrow, to see of there's is any damage. Not sure right now whether the vent pipe slants up or down (or at all) -- would have been smarter had we raised it up high enough to get a downward slant on the way out, but that's probably real hard to fix now.

Watched Dexter.

Music today (JP): Lucian Ban, Yellowjackets; (RG): Sylvester; (RS): Serengeti, Gogol Bordello, Del Lords, Sigur Rós.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Music Week/No Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 21748 [21705] rated (+43), 587 [599] unrated (-12).

Another ridiculously high rated week. For my incoming jazz queue, I have two baskets each good for 28 inches of CDs, so figure they hold about 150 CDs. (When I first set up this system I had three baskets.) Right now three rows are down to a little over half full, and the row I set up for low-priority records isn't quite full (I even pulled a few things from it below). So I've been running way ahead of what I've been getting -- which is probably seasonally depressed right now, but the longterm slope is definitely downward.

Nearly finished the week without any A-list records, then hit two in a row. Both surprises in a way: one a debut from a previously unknown musician, the other from a very famous one who's gotten some of the lowest grades I've ever handed out -- remember Some Skunk Funk? On the other hand, Brecker's previous Wlodek Pawlik album was the one that really surprised me, and this is just an extension of that -- perhaps a little more emphasis on the pianist. And really, Brecker plays in a lot of interesting contexts on other folks' albums, and even when one goes south, the trumpet's never the problem. And we'll be hearing more from Parker: he also has a quasi-dixieland group called Candy Shop Boys, and their first album is supposed to be in the mail.

Note: Made a minor correction to Brahja Waldman last week. The roll-up for July (so far) is here.

Robin Bessier: Other Side of Forever (2013, self-released): Singer, from Olympia, Washington; first album, three originals, two from producer Barney McClure, six standards. Darin Clendenin plays piano, Clipper Anderson bass, Mark Ivester drums, and Jay Thomas plays tenor and soprano sax as well as trumpet/flugelhorn. Nice, clear voice with some bounce, pays off especially on "God Bless the Child." B+(**)

Ketil Bjørnstad: La Notte (2010 [2013], ECM): Pianist, b. 1952 in Norway, has close to 40 albums since 1989, 11 on ECM. This one is built around a core of strings -- Arild Andersen's double bass, Anja Lechner's cello, and Eivind Aarset's guitar -- a combo where the volume centers in the cello range and the variation is broader than you'd get with a violin. The piano dices with the strings, Marilyn Mazur adds percussion, and Andy Sheppard adds some nice colorings on tenor and soprano sax. B+(***) [advance]

Anna Borges & Bill Ward: Receita de Samba (2012, Brasil): Duo from Boston (married), both sing, Ward also plays guitar and piano; first album, backed with flute, bass, percussion, and more percussion. Sambas by various Brazilians, none named Jobim, light and airy. B

Ron Boustead: Mosaic (2013, self-released): AMG's succinct biography: "Jazz vocalist whose sound is reminiscent of Mark Murphy." I'm far from expert on Murphy, but always regarded him as tied, however ineptly, to bop/vocalese, where Boustead is more into smooth jazz and schmaltz. AMG shows three albums; his website four, but mentions an earlier Chet Baker project from 1983. He co-wrote four songs here, and picks up "under-appreciated tunes by James Taylor, Carole King, Jon Lucien and Bill Withers." C+

Randy Brecker: Night in Calisia (2011 [2013], Summit): Title sometimes reported as Randy Brecker Plays Wlodek Pawlik's Night in Calisia. Second time the trumpeter has collaborated with the Polish composer-pianist, following 2009's Nostalgic Journey: Tykocin Jazz Suite, and I'm pretty sure they're the two best records of his career. Trumpet on top of Pawlik's piano trio backed by Kalisz Philharmonic, as swishy as they get, although the score stretches them, and someone (drummer Cezary Konrad?) minds the rhythm. A-

Gene Ess: Fractal Attraction (2012 [2013], SIMP): Guitarist, b. in Tokyo, grew up on a USAF base in Okinawa, studied at George Mason and Berklee, played in Rashied Ali's quintet, now has five records since 2003. Lineup here is Thana Alexa (voice), David Berkman (piano), Thomas Kneeland (bass), Gene Jackson (drums). Guitar is adventurously post-bop, with Alexa scatting -- a combo I couldn't imagine working but somehow does. B+(**)

Vana Gierig: Making Memories (2013, Enja): Pianist, b. in Germany, studied in Boston, based in New York. First album, all originals, the piano quick and playful. Paquito D'Rivera plays clarinet on five pieces, lifting the album, but strings (violin and cello) on three of them bring it back down. B+(*)

Art Hodes: I Remember Bessie (1976 [2013], Delmark): Pianist, b. 1904 in Russia, not sure when he moved to Chicago but he didn't start recording until he moved to New York in 1938. Smith died in 1937, so they could have crossed paths in Chicago, but most likely he remembered her from records. Solo piano, old blues with some swing to them, the style Hodes grew up on and was exceptional at. B+(***)

Alan Jones & François Théberge: Another View (2010-12 [2013], Origin): Drummer and saxophonist (tenor, soprano, also wood flute, recorder, and trombone), respectively. The drummer, b. 1962 in Washington, grew up in Portland, studied at Berklee, passed through New York, Vienna, and Paris, winding up in Portland again. The saxophonist, b. 1963 in Montreal; studied at McGill, Concordia, and Eastman; passed through Miami, New York, and Paris. They have about a half dozen albums each, not sure if they have any together before this one, which was recorded in many sessions (10 days) in Portland, Paris, and Portland again. Twenty musicians, no track credits so the implication is that all but two (a Portland viola and a Paris cello) played on all tracks, but it doesn't have a big band vibe. It does have vocals: mostly Marilyn Keller, plus Jones on one track, Rebecca Kilgore on another. B+(*)

Eugenie Jones: Black Lace Blue Tears (2013, self-released): Singer-songwriter, based in Seattle, first album, with a notable local band: Bill Anschell (piano), Michael Powers (guitar), Clipper Anderson (bass), Mark Ivester (drums). Two covers ("Take Five," "My Funny Valentine") -- manages to wring a lot of emotion out of the latter -- plus nine originals, most striking. B+(**)

Deborah Latz: Fig Tree (2011-12 [2013], June Moon Productions): Singer, third album, wrote three originals here, the rest standards (Berlin, Porter, Gershwin, Arlen, Mancini), a Jon Hendricks scat, an Alberta Hunter blues, the obligatory Jobim and a bonus samba by Ary Barroso and Luix Peixoto to show that she's not just following the template -- also a pretty Greek ballad that seems to be associated with Haris Alexiou. She moves through this range expertly, with nice touches from John Hart on guitar and Peter Apfelbaum on reeds. B+(*)

Anne LeBaron: 1, 2, 4, 3 (2002-08 [2010], Innova, 2CD): Harp player, b. 1953, AMG classifies her as classical (making it hard to sort her out), Discogs credits her with seven albums since 1979. These are improv sessions recorded with various other, no more than quartet and often less, including some reputable jazz names -- Wolfgang Fuchs, Georg Graewe, Leroy Jenkins, John Lindberg, Torsten Müller, Paul Rutherford -- and others I don't recognize, like the trio with Kiku Day on shakuhachi and Konoko Nishi on koto. Her harp is sometimes amplified, sometimes combined with live electronics. Interesting sounds, but they tend to fragment rather than cohere, making this rather erratic. B

Michael Pagán/Colorado Saxophone Quartet: 12 Preludes & Fugues (2009 [2010], Tapestry): Pagán is normally a pianist, with something like eight albums since 1995. Here he's the composer, arranger, and producer -- if the Colorado Saxophone Quartet had anything else to their name I'd file this under their name and move Pagán into the title, like I do with Bach and Mozart. The CSQ has five members, but on any given cut only four play, with the alto sax split betwen Andrew Stonerock and Kurtis Adams, Clare Church on baritone, and Pete Lewis and Tom Myer juggling tenor and soprano spots. Still, for all the jazz musicians, the classical forms win out in the end, which I don't consider a compliment. B

Matt Parker: Worlds Put Together (2012 [2013], Bynk): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Fort Lauderdale, came up through the Maynard Ferguson band (c. 2006), based in New York, first album. Basic band includes piano, guitar, bass, drums, and Julio Monterrey on alto sax, although he strips down on a couple not-quite-solo cuts and adds a party-load of vocals on another. All interesting, whether he's cooing a ballad or smashing up the joint. [Parker and pianist Jesse Elder also have a side project called Candy Shop Boys, which I'd like to hear something from.] A-

Preservation Hall Jazz Band: That's It! (2012 [2013], Legacy): Institutional band, founded by Allan Jaffe half a century ago, led by bass-and-tuba-player Ben Jaffe these days. While devoted to New Orleans trad jazz, they wrote new songs this time. The title cut is dynamite, and the gospel-blues that follows is solid enough, not that their vocalists will win any prizes. If they were all that good this would be a breakthrough, but they aren't. B+(**) [advance]

Daniel Rosenboom: Daniel Rosenboom's Book of Omens (2012 [2013], Nine Winds): Trumpet player, b. 1982, fifth album not counting a couple of "jazz-rock" groups he's been in (Plotz!, Dr. Mint), or side credits like the Industrial Jazz Group. Quintet with Vinny Golia (contra-alto clarinet, alto flute, tenor sax), guitar (Jake Vossier), bass (Tim Lefebvre), drums (Matt Mayhall). Golia is key, making a lot of noise for the trumpet to slice up. B+(***)

Laila Salins/Anne Sexton: Elevator Into the Sky (2012 [2013], Alectrona): Salins is a singer with a couple previous albums. Sexton is the poet, 1928-74. Salins wrote music for twelve Sexton poems, played by a group directed by pianist Jamie Reynolds and featuring Marty Ehrlich on clarinet, soprano and alto sax -- by far the best thing here. I've never read Sexton, and don't find the words much more intelligible sung than printed in the booklet, in microtype on a halftoned gray background. Was initially tempted to complain about her overarching (cognate: operatic) stylings but I found them growing on me. Guitarist Jim Matus is also notable. B+(**)

Reg Schwager: Duets (2002 [2011], Jazz From Rant): Guitarist, b. 1962, based in Toronto, had a 1985 album and since 2002 another handful. I wrote about his Trio Improvisations (with Michel Lambert) released this year and the label (or maybe the artist) sent me three older releases. These are all duets with bassists -- Don Thompson, Neil Swainson, Dave Young, Pat Collins. The bassists bring one or two songs each, there's a patch of original credits, and three standards. There's a sweet-toned delicacy to the guitar, and the bassists add depth and resonance. B+(***)

Reg Schwager/David Restivo: Arctic Passage (2012 [2013], Jazz From Rant): Guitar-piano duets, mostly the guitarist's tunes although Restivo's piano dominates the play, straightforward as it is. Two old-timey covers are especially notable: "Hard Times Come Around No More" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band." B+(**)

Reg Schwager Trio: Chromology (2010, Jazz From Rant): Guitarist, with Jon Maharaj on bass and Michel Lambert on drums. Eight Schwager originals, sandwiched between a trad opener ("Wayfaring Stranger") and closers from Stephen Foster and Victor Herbert. Schwager has a subtle but intriguing style, modestly and tastefully supported. B+(**)

Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: In the Spirit of Duke (2012 [2013], Spartacus): The names here, featured on the front cover, are tenor saxophonist extraordinaire Tommy Smith and pianist Brian Kellock -- their 2005 duet album, Symbiosis, remains one of my favorites. The big band is Smith's pet project. They've released a bracing version of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (2009) and now this romp through Ellington's songbook, starting with "Black and Tan Fantasy" with three Ellington or Strayhorn arrangements of Edvard Grieg. Studious at first, they eventually loosen up, especially when they hit "Rockin' in Rhythm" and Smith doing the "wailing interval" between "Dimuendo in Blue" and "Crescendo in Blue." B+(***)

The Summarily Dismissed: To Each! (2012 [2013], Laureniac Song): Ari Shagal describes herself as the "secret daughter" of Todd Rundgren and Laura Nyro (ok, maybe not literally, but she doesn't give us any more bio to go on). First album, original songs, would dub her a singer-songwriter but she only sings 4 (of 11), the other leads going to Fenma Faye (3), Matthew Lomeo (3), and Kenny Washington (1). Arrangements are jazzy, splashed with horns (Jessica Lurie is the only name I recognize), vibes, congas -- it's all a bit much to figure out, not that I mind listening to it. B+(*)

The Swallow Quintet: Into the Woodwork (2011 [2013], ECM): Electric bassist Steve Swallow, of course; 23rd album since 1975 (AMG; Discogs lists 44 and doesn't have this yet). All original compositions, although there are some quotes that can get cheesy. Quintet includes Chris Cheek (tenor sax), Carla Bley (organ), Steve Cardenas (guitar), and Jorge Rossy (drums). B+(**) [advance]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Autumn in Augusta: Songs My Mama Would Like (self-released, EP)
  • Patrick Cornelius: Infinite Blue (Whirlwind)
  • Tom Dempsey: Saucy (Planet Arts): September 17
  • Craig Hartley: Books on Tape Vol. 1 (self-released): September 3
  • Dave Holland: Prism (Dare2): advance, September 3
  • Tom Kennedy: Just Play! (Capri)
  • Ray Mantilla: The Connection (Savant)
  • Pedro Martins: Dreaming High (Adventure Music): August 20
  • Mark Masters Ensemble: Everything You Did (Capri)
  • Ricardo Silveira & Roberta Taufic: Atlânticos (Adventure Music): August 20
  • Steve Turre: The Bones of Art (High Note)

Expert Comments

Robert Dial Jr. has made several posts in education. I don't feel like quoting it all, but my post takes off from there.

Sometimes Dial makes sense to me, and sometimes I get thrown by the attitude or posture -- not sure what the right word is. His background post a while back suggests that he's pretty familiar with Germany. I used to hang out with German grad students (at Washington University, in St. Louis). I recall at one point someone asking what they could really wind up doing with a Ph.D. in German there, and another person responded: "become a German factory worker." I didn't think much of it then, probably because the US factory workers I knew -- my father, for one -- belonged to unions and made decent middle class wages, much like German factory workers, and economic prospects for future professors were if anything slightly better. Now that's all changed, except for the German factory workers, who are if anything in even better shape. But no one aspires to be an American factory worker any more. Dial's suggestion that we need more focus on vocational training makes more sense in a more equitable country -- like Germany, which I gather works just fine that way. But in a country as class-stratified as the US has become, vocational training consigns you to a dead-end career. With universities you still have a sense of having future prospects, even though they are mostly illusory and the system is increasingly rigged to auction them off to the highest bidder.

Young people today don't seem to have any good options in this system. I have four nieces and nephews, and all four graduated from college -- unlike myself or my brother -- and they've struggled ever since (where we managed to get solid jobs and did fairly well). I have a niece who took the high road, accumulated $100k in debt, passed the bar in Oregon, and currently works temp jobs. I have a nephew who took the low road, getting a BA from Wichita State. He works part-time jobs and tries to freelance writing comics. I know of people who've done better, but I doubt that many people realize how hard it's become. By comparison, I left college just shy of a BA, by which time I had wracked up $2k in loan debt. If I hadn't blown off my last two courses, I could have graduated on that.

By the way, most of what I know about Germany comes from Thomas Geoghegan's book, Were You Born on the Wrong Continent? How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life -- best case I've read for socialism as the salvation of the middle class.

Changing the subject, this week's Jazz Prospecting is up.

Daily Log

Ordered some books today:

  • Gar Alperovitz: What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk about the Next American Revolution (paperback)
  • Mark Braverman: Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land (paper)
  • David Graeber: The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement
  • Philip Mirowski: Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown
  • Jonathan Schlefer: The Assumptions Economists Make

I've linked to an interview with Braverman, and that one's been in the shopping cart ever since. Mike Konczal raved about the Mirowski book, and linked to the intro to Schlefer's (26 pages in a PDF). Alperovitz and Graeber are sort of activist strategy books more/less linked to the Occupy movement. I've read quite a bit by Alperovitz, and I'm a big fan of his work toward employee-owned businesses.

Chopped a bit off a tree in the backyard. Only used a 6-foot ladder, so didn't get very high.

Music today (RG): John Carter/Bobby Bradford, Franz Koglmann, Ellery Eskelin; (RS): Willie Nile.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Weekend Roundup

Rather little and late, but some scattered links this week:

  • Paul Krugman: Hunger Games, U.S.A.: I've been saying for some time now that the real pro-business party in DC is the Democrat. All the Republicans are is the anti-labor party, but of course their loathing isn't just for unions. They really can't stand just about everyone:

    Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party. We've gone beyond bad economic doctrine. We've even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we're talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable.

    The occasion for these observations is, as you may have guessed, the monstrous farm bill the House passed last week. [ . . . ]

    So House Republicans voted to maintain farm subsidies -- at a higher level than either the Senate or the White House proposed -- while completely eliminating food stamps from the bill.

    To fully appreciate what just went down, listen to the rhetoric conservatives often use to justify eliminating safety-net programs. It goes something like this: "You're personally free to help the poor. But the government has no right to take people's money" -- frequently, at this point, they add the words "at the point of a gun" -- "and force them to give it to the poor."

    It is, however, apparently perfectly O.K. to take people's money at the point of a gun and force them to give it to agribusinesses and the wealthy.

    Now, some enemies of food stamps don't quote libertarian philosophy; they quote the Bible instead. Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, for example, cited the New Testament: "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat." Sure enough, it turns out that Mr. Fincher has personally received millions in farm subsidies. [ . . . ]

    What is it about, then? Somehow, one of our nation's two great parties has become infected by an almost pathological meanspiritedness, a contempt for what CNBC's Rick Santelli, in the famous rant that launched the Tea Party, called "losers." If you're an American, and you're down on your luck, these people don't want to help; they want to give you an extra kick. I don't fully understand it, but it's a terrible thing to behold.

    "Pathological meanspiritedness" is an accurate enough diagnosis, but I think the rationale runs more like this: most people below the top couple percent are taking a beating, and those who aren't down yet are accumulating unprecedented and unappreciated risk, so what politically savvy right-wingers want to do is to draw lines on the hunch that people above the line will use that to feel morally superior to people below the line. You can find dirt-poor reactionaries who take pride in that they have jobs (unlike those others), that they've never gotten welfare (unlike those others), that they don't depend on food stamps (unlike those others), etc. -- anything to let you feel moral, and it's a short step from there to hating those others. And this not only works on the people who qualify, it works on more who are in denial, and on people who are desperately looking for someone to blame their problems on. What we're seeing isn't the start of this dynamic -- it's the rotten heart of having lived there too long. On the other hand, this doesn't work if you identify with the other, or even if you just recognize the other, especially if you believe no people should suffer so. This isn't a real promising strategy, but it's kept the Republicans competitive and kept their base engaged.

    Krugman didn't really get into this, but the food stamps program not only helps people avoid starvation, it helps businesses too: especially local retailers, and employers who get by with paying unlivable wages -- score two for WalMart there, plus a share of all that trickles back to agribusiness. Probably helps suppress crime, too, and may be one of the most cost-effective ways of doing that. And keeps those starving people from showing up in hospital emergency rooms -- another substantial cost saver.

    For whatever it's worth, I don't mind the subsidies on the other end of the agriculture bill. I'd probably tune them differently, but some degree of regulation is necessary because the market for agricultural produce is wildly unstable. And if some big farmers and corporations get too much, I'd rather tax that back on the other end than rail against "corporate welfare." We could all use a little more welfare, and if there's any real evidence that makes us lazy, we can deal with that then. Could be we don't really need to work so hard after all. May even be the case that if fewer of us did, there would be more (and better) opportunities for the others.

  • Sean McElwee: Steve Jobs didn't build that: On how US patent laws stifle innovation, not to mention rip us off:

    Rather than promoting innovation, patents allow for capitalists to monopolize public research and knowledge for private gain. At times, it's simply absurd; David Martin, who has made his career assessing patents, explains that "30 percent of U.S. patents are essentially on things that have already been invented." Just like the oil barons of Saudi Arabia who build their regimes by exploiting their country's vast natural resources, the tech barons of America build their wealth by exploiting a vast intellectual heritage that is not theirs to take. The implications of IPR are clear: They will be used to bludgeon poor countries, as we've already seen with trade agreements like TRIPS; they will drive a further gap between rich and poor by allowing the rich to monopolize on our shared knowledge; and they will hamper innovation by preventing new research.

  • Alex Pareene: Aspiring warlord Liz Cheney is good for democracy: She announced she's running for Sen. Mike Enzi's seat. When I heard this I guessed that she wants to run for president (or veep) before long, and figured that getting elected for something would give her credibility that she hasn't really garnered through nepotism yet.

    Liz Cheney is obviously a resident in fairly good standing of rarefied political Washington, and she is also undoubtedly a monster, but there is really no good reason she shouldn't go run for something if she wants to, even if some guy already has that seat. If we're going to give Wyoming two senators for some reason, can we really complain if they decide they want one of them to be Liz Cheney? [ . . . ]

    Liz Cheney can help make everyone notice that the Republican Party has reached rock bottom. She might also help everyone see that our electoral system is in dire need of a complete overhauling. Sure, she would be a horrible senator. But since when is Mike Enzi so great?

    If he wants to put up a fight, I doubt Enzi would have much trouble swatting Cheney down. He'd have little trouble portraying her as an interloper, something that plays especially well in the more parochial parts of the country. And even if the family name isn't as tarnished in Wyoming as elsewhere, her dad left office with an approval rating of something like 8%, about as low as has ever been measured. Plus he can point to people like Pareene giddy over Cheney running. Her only real advantage is that she can raise a lot more money, but again, almost all of it is going to come from out of state, and the only reason she can raise that is her national ambitions: ergo, this is just a stepping stone and she doesn't really want to serve Wyoming, she's just out for herself.

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Robert Brenner: What Is Good for Goldman Sachs Is Good for America [PDF]: Long piece (74 pages), and I've only read a bit of it, but let me quote part of the intro:

    The fundamental source of today's crisis is the steadily declining vitality of the advanced capitalist economies over three decades, business-cycle by business-cycle, right into the present. The long term weakening of capital accumulation and of aggregate demand has been rooted in a profound system wide decline and failure to recover of the rate of return on capital, resulting largely -- though not only -- from a persistent tendency to over-capacity, i.e. oversupply, in global manufacturing industries. From the start of the long downturn in 1973, economic authorities staved off the kind of crises that had historically plagued the capitalist system by resort to ever greater borrowing, public and private, subsidizing demand. But they secured a modicum of stability only at the cost of deepening stagnation, as the ever greater buildup of debt and the failure to disperse over capacity left the economy ever less responsive to stimulus. In a much heralded attempt to break beyond the addiction to borrowing, in 1993 the Clinton administration, and later its EU counterparts, committed themselves to balancing the budget, a goal that was more than realized by the end of the decade. The economy would henceforth be liberated from the dead hand of the state, and driven ever upwards by the all-knowing, market. But, what this dramatic shift actually accomplished was to reveal the persisting stasis of the economy system-wide, no less shackled than before by its profound problem with profitability and capital accumulation. The resulting hit to demand helped push the advanced capitalist world into its worst cyclical downturn of the postwar period between 1991 and 1995, laying bare the system's lack of an engine and opening the way to a succession of major financial crises -- from Japan to England and Scandinavia to Mexico and Brazil.

    So far, this is a fairly standard Marxist analysis of the crisis -- David Harvey's The Enigma of Capital and the Crises of Capitalism lays out a similar argument. And it's basically true as far as it goes, but rather than blaming the need for higher returns to capital, I see this as the mixed effect of increasing inequality and globalization. The capacity build-up was based on the assumption that demand would grow in and out of the third world, and political (more than economic) considerations demanded that it be built there. Both these factors tended to rot out the middle class in the US, a fact that could only be masked for so long by expanding consumer debt and the housing bubble. Will be interesting to see where Brenner goes with this. His key point, that the downturn goes back to 1973, is essential.

  • Mike Konczal: We Already Tried Libertarianism - It Was Called Feudalism: I've always been sympathetic to libertarians -- after all, there's a lot of evidence of abuse of power by states throughout history -- but I find they keep smashing into practical problems whenever they try to move from critique to program. So I doubt that what I see as best in libertarianism really matches up well with feudalism, but what's worst may well. The piece discusses this as some length, using Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia as the standard definition of libertarianism. For now, all I want to do is quote Konczal's definition of liberalism, as derived from a paper by Samuel Freeman:

    Freeman notes that there are several key institutional features of liberal political structures shared across a variety of theorists. First, there's a set of basic rights each person equally shares (speech, association, thought, religion, conscience, voting and holding office, etc.) that are both fundamental and inalienable (more on those terms in a bit). Second, there's a public political authority which is impartial, institutional, continuous, and held in trust to be acted on in a representative capacity. Third, positions should be open to talented individuals alongside some fairness in equality of opportunity. And last, there's a role for governments in the market for providing public goods, checking market failure, and providing a social minimum.

    I grew up pretty critical of liberalism, blaming liberals for all sorts of travesties, especially the Cold and Vietnam Wars, but I have to say, what's so bad about what this paragraph calls for? The trick is making government representative and submissive to public interests, but doing that promises to solve a lot of problems with markets and private fiefdoms.

  • John Lanchester: Are we having fun yet? and Let's consider Kate: Two recent articles on the UK banking system: the first a long laundry list of expensive scandals including the LIBOR manipulation and the PPI fraud, which ultimately shows how rotten the whole system is; and the second more on what, if anything, can be done about it -- mostly focusing on higher capital requirements, citing Anat Admati/Martin Hellwig: The Bankers' New Clothes: What's Wrong With Banking and What to Do About It as "the most important book to have emerged from the crisis."

    By the way, Lanchester also has a piece on Game of Thrones, in case you're interested.

Daily Log

Took Laura to acupuncture. Bought some cables to try to hook her notebook PC to the TV. Went to Abuelos for dinner -- overpriced Mexican, at least by Wichita standards, but not bad, then to two grocery stores. Came home and washed the car. Also started to trim some tree branches, but didn't get very far. Watched Endeavour and The Killing, where they caught the presumed killer then immediately splashed doubt on it, while Holder went into a self-destructive tailspin after acting like an asshole at the end of last/beginning of this episode. It's a pretty good cop show for ambience and the pacing is more realistic than it is for genius cops who solve crimes every episode, but you really feel the writers trying to kick you around: they seem to think fiction means they can make anything up as they go, instead of investing their characters with enough, well, character to be consistent and truthful. They'd rather play a guessing game with you than make sure the whole story coheres, and that eventually takes a toll.

Music today (JP): Randy Brecker, Matt Parker; (RG): John Carter/Bobby Bradford; (RS): Jay-Z. Latter got almost exclusively negative reviews, and I didn't see any real reason to quarrel with them. The two jazz records got A-. Thought I had given Brecker's previous one an A- but turns out it was just high B+, so I may have compensated a bit this time. Then the Parker was better.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Expert Comments

Cam Patterson today:

I have been out of the loop for a few days and all heck breaks loose. (Tom Hull I love you but I don't see you nucleating any new discussions here so. . . ) I listened to the new Stampfel/Jeffries record a while back and I think I even commented about it (negatively, it seemed slap-dash even by HMR standards), so I guess I need to put on my artificial leg and crawl up into the attic to pull it down and give it one more listen. But the intergenerational cover picture, with the Beach Boys/Black Flag t-shirt and the general good cheer standing out, is worth gazing at up close.

I played the Lewis-Stampfel record, which Christgau gave a full A to, yesterday and was disappointed by it -- gave it B+(*) -- probably the first time ever I didn't respond to Stampfel as favorably as Bob. (Bob gave Stampfel's The Sound of America [**] earlier this year, and I wound up at A-. Lewis is a different story: I had 12 Crass Songs at A- but Bob gave it a C-, possibly the largest grade diff between us ever; on the other hand, Bob gave Em Are I and A Turn in the Dream-Songs A- where I had them at [**] and [***], respectively. But we both had the previous Lewis-Stampfel collab, Come on Board, at A-. All my Lewis is from Rhapsody or Bandcamp, so usual caveats apply.) So I was gratified that Cam had a similar reaction to this one (don't recall his previous comment, though).

As for my not "nucleating," later.

Then there was this post from Ioannis Sotirchos:

Xgau, Hull, Miles:

Mother****ers, y'all get the blog/commentary you deserve. Suck it up.

No real idea what he meant by that, other than he could have been referring to my "boring" comment further back. Milo responded:

I disagree, of course. As I've pointed out, I think things go downhill. And all too soon, discourse is riddled with charming comments like the above.

I've corresponded with Sotirchos and he's always come off as a fan, so I don't know where the hostility comes from. Before I could, Greg Morton responded:

Second, I know I should ignore this -- "Mother****ers, y'all get the blog/commentary you deserve." And I would except for some obvious points that come to mind:

a) I'm sure the same would go for you, Ionnais should you presume to have the skill or experience to do a site of your own,

b) since it's generally agreed that this is one of the mellowest sites on the web, that's actually a compliment,

c) what did Tom Hull ever do to you? Other than listen to several thousand more albums than you have plus have the guts to put his opinions in writing, and

d) I spelled your name wrong on purpose. Be glad I left it as it is.

I finally wrote:

Woke up this afternoon to find that "all heck breaks loose" and that I, specifically, am not "nucleating any new discussions here." You know, I mostly write on my blog and elsewhere on my website -- almost 30,000 words in my July notebook so far, including 52 records in Jazz Prospecting and excluding 61 records in Recycled Goods (that's another 6,500 words). (There's also 43 records in the Rhapsody Streamnotes draft file which you are unlikely to have seen yet, but that's another 3,000 words that will be posted by the end of the month.) You can't leave comments there, for various reasons which do not include that I'm indifferent to or uninterested in feedback, but you can comment here, with the bonus that I'm certain to be reading. I can't imagine that Bob would object, even if you got into the politics. For one thing we're both interested in a great many of the same things, and while we focus differently, his respect for that is one reason he's kept me close for all these years. Moreover, I know for a fact that a lot of Witnesses at least occasionally glimpse at this stuff, so I don't feel all that responsible for the alleged dearth of "nucleating."

By the way, the "boring" comment was meant to be ironic. Sorry if you didn't get that. This has been a strange week in that three of Bob's four picks don't strike me as very good and the fourth I find to be pretty awful. I doubt that that's ever happened before -- I've certainly never failed to respond to a Stampfel record before (and yes, I will give it another shot). Of course that's all based on light exposure -- I'm not being paid for my opinion, and I have plenty other fish to fry -- so my doubts don't seem definitive enough to be worth making a point of in this forum. (You'll read all about them when Streamnotes comes out, or last month for Romano.) On the other hand, I do very much appreciate the comment on Ariel Pink by Raul Roque: it's a POV I don't share, so wouldn't have been able to imagine on my own.

As for Ioannis' blurt, one thing I've realized in 62 years of life is that virtually no one ever gets what they deserve, and that anyone who believes that fate is just simply isn't very perceptive.

I do have one question someone may be able to help with: is the new Lurrie Bell exceptional, or is it just slightly-better-than-average Chicago blues and I haven't been paying attention?

Also one comment: the Daniel Wohl record Jason Gubbels just reviewed is a real find, at least if you're at all into the post-longhair music it comes out of (as opposed to the electronica he makes use of). IMHO, of course.

Got Raul Roque's name wrong, corrected above. Sorry about that.

Christgau, obliquely referencing Sotirchos:

In re grad school: Nicky started asking my advice in this matter several years ago, when he was still at my alma mater, and I always told him the same thing: if and only if it's a first-rate program and the money's good, go for it. Jobs in the humanities are much too hard to come by in an economy run by sociopathic professional gamblers to leave stones unturned. That said, anyone who believes academia is good for a writer's prose probably didn't say it very well, because it ain't. That said, a journalistic environment that rewards instantaneity and can't afford editors often isn't much better, and certainly not what it was when me and Milo were coming up--and btw, we're about 15 years apart. Still better than academia, though.

In re taste: I only defend my taste for money. Too time-intensive to comment on up to the writing standards referred to above, because writing about abstractions is hard, jack. I will say this for the commenter with the Greek handle, however: most people who hate my taste aren't smart enough to recognize how smart I am--even the ones with high IQs.

Needless to say, job prospects for anyone in their mid-20s have gone way downhill from when we were that age. (Looks like I about split the age difference between Bob and Milo.)

Nicky got into a Ph.D. program in English at Brown, so there was some debate over how worthwhile that is, with a surprising lot of people pooh pooh-ing it. I didn't take a position, but Brown has one of the most prestigious programs in the country, so while getting a generic English Ph.D. may not be the best economic proposition, the chance to become one of the very top professors in the nation is something to pursue, regardless of the money.

From my own experience, I don't regret the career that I had, but I do sometimes wonder whether it would have been more satisfying and worthwhile to have stayed in school, gotten my Ph.D., and taught and wrote books and all that academic stuff. I didn't do that because I got caught up in a stupid personal crisis and wasn't savvy enough to figure my way out of it, and had no real help or guidance.

Sotirchos has developed a peculiar style of slang-slinging, the ineptness of which isn't fully explained by the fact that this isn't his native language (e.g., his implied equivalence of "motherfuckers!" and "kick out the jams!"). For example:

also, on a related note--and just in case anybody's even remotely curious--here's the thing concerning me and Xgau. i've been reading the man's work since 1979--oft times to the exclusion of damn near anything else--and have always been of two minds about it.

one, all due respect to the man's smarts and near super-human diligence--taste (whatever that may be) doesn't even enter into it. word.

two, boo to his apparent (and quite bewildering--i mean his dad was a firefighter fer xristsake) class bias and privileging of damn near any lame-**** inanity to sport so much as a whiff of higher learning around the edges of its barely there three-chord competence and/or beatless monotony.

i dunno, maybe this here loud 'n' proud college dropout/hard rock fiend is just a tad oversensitive when it comes to that ****. whatever. for me it smacks of self-righteous privileged escape and arrogant effrontery.

Blame the ****-shit on MSN's war on obscenity. Asked to clarify, he explains: "Basically, it breaks down to what I consider to be Bob's ridiculous overvaluing of much indie-rock/pop/rap (or what we used to call 'college rock' in the bad old days)."

Richard Cobeen wrote:

At the end of the school year I got a couple of gifts from the parents of my students. One of them was a gift certificate to Amoeba records for over $200. Lately I've been listening to quite a bit of jazz recorded in the 50s and 60s created by people who made their name in swing, and I know from previous discussions and recommendations that Hull is also a fan of these recordings. I went to his web site and started making a list of A and some A- records that I would be interested in. I also checked out a few other artists along the way, listening on Rhapsody to check out if I was interested in buying something. I looked for deals, but bought new when it something I really wanted. I've bought over 20 albums in the last month of this list of about 80 titles, and I keep adding more albums to the list as my ears expand. A couple of these I had on vinyl (Newport, Definitions), and a couple are not directly from Hull.

I now have over 3 GBs of Ellington, and Hull's recommendations of such late albums as And His Mother Called Him Bill, Far East Suite, and Such Sweet Thunder made me go to places with Ellington I never thought I would ever go (Ellington and Shakespeare? Jeez, it's got to be pretentious and a slog. What the **** did I know.). And the small group Ellington recordings from the early 40s beat the vaunted whole band recordings from the same time period.

I also have more proof, not that I needed it, that Coleman Hawkins was possibly the greatest jazz sax player of them all, even ahead of Sonny.

So, thanks go out to Tom Hull for his list and listening skills. Comparisons with All Music tells me that he is much more trustworthy (God, do they love those ill-recorded live sets). And thanks to my student's parents. Here's the list of what I've bought thus far, all heartily recommended if you don't have some of them. I still have so much further to go.

  • Henry "Red" Allen: World On a String
  • Count Basie: Count Basie and His Great Vocalists
  • Benny Carter: Cosmopolite
  • Benny Carter: Further Definitions
  • Serge Chaloff: Blue Serge
  • Sonny Clark: Leapin' and Lopin'
  • Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan: Two of a Mind
  • Kenny Dorham: Afro-Cuban
  • Duke Ellington: The Jungle Band -- The Brunswick Era Vol. 2
  • Duke Ellington: The Indispensible Duke Ellington and Small Groups
  • Duke Ellington: Ellington at Newport
  • Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges: Back to Back
  • Duke Ellington: Such Sweet Thunder
  • Duke Ellington: Blues in Orbit
  • Herb Ellis: Nothing But the Blues
  • Ella Fitzgerald: Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie
  • Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington: Ella and Duke at the Cote d'Azur
  • Dizzy Gillespie: Duets
  • Benny Goodman: The Complete RCA Small Group Recordings
  • Coleman Hawkins: Today and Now
  • Coleman Hawkins: Prestige Profiles
  • Johnny Hodges: Everybody Knows Johnny Hodges

Meanwhile, over on Facebook, Jan linked to this "Old Fashioned Custard Pie" recipe:

  • 1 unbaked pie shell (I use Marie Callendar's deep dish)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 2-2/3 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat your eggs slightly, then add sugar, salt, nutmeg, and milk. Beat well and pour into the unbaked pie shell. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Sprinkle the top of pie with fresh ground nutmeg and serve.

I think I have one of those pie shells in the freezer. Need to use old stuff there.

I posted this on Facebook, with a link to the blog:

Haven't been here in a couple weeks, since my login got tricked out. Blog has lots of recent music, news links, posts on guns and "self-defense" and the Kochs and how the super-rich think they know what's best for you (even though it's mostly best for them). Most recent, a "book roundup." I'll also note that I think I just did my first "like" here.

Daily Log

Music today (JP): Steve Swallow, Summarily Dismissed, Laila Salinas, Anna Borges/Bill Ward, Anne LeBaron, Michael Pagán, Randy Brecker; (RS): Mount Kimbie.

Obviously not much else happened.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Roundup

I accumulate these things both on bursts and occasionally when I stumble across something, but I've had trouble getting them collated into regularly timed chunks of forty. Once again, I have at least another batch's worth in the queue, and in burst mode to see what I may have missed that backlog is growing. One indication that I've waited too long this time is that I've already read two of these books (Rashid Khalidi, Pamela Olson). One more I've bought and hope to read soon (Jeremy Scahill), and three more are likely to follow (Gar Alperovitz, David Graeber, Philip Mirowski). And several more are possibles (e.g., Robert Kuttner, Michael Pollan, Hedrick Smith), and there are others I'd like to read but don't forsee the time or opportunity (e.g., Mark Blyth, William Dalrymple, Michael Hudson, Gary May, Seamus McGraw). Even George Packer might prove interesting. So one advantage of waiting so long is the opportunity to be more selective. Next books post, at least if it happens soon, won't be so lucky.

Ervand Abrahamian: The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern US-Iranian Relations (2013, New Press): Of course it was, something never much understood at the time. Previously wrote A History of Modern Iran (2008), so this is a sort of prequel, an attempt to understand where all the later mess came from.

Gar Alperovitz: What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution (paperback, 2013, Chelsea Green): Historian -- the first to take a look at what the Hiroshima bombing meant for US-Soviet diplomacy -- but by now perhaps even better known for exploring the limits of conventional capitalism in America -- cf. America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy (2004; 2nd ed, paperback, 2011, Democracy Collaborative). Especially interested in worker-owned companies, cooperatives, etc.

Mark Blyth: Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (2013, Oxford University Press): Dangerously bad, and dangerously popular, both right-of-center where wrecking the economy is viewed as a political virtue, and among centrists like Obama who don't know what's good for themselves. John Quiggin added a chapter to his Zombie Economics to try to beat it down. More here.

Samuel Bowles/Herbert Gitlin: A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution (2011; paperback, 2013, Princeton University Press): Bowles is one of the best-known leftist economists, editor (with Gintis and Melissa Osborne Groves) of Unequal Chances: Family Background and Economic Success (paperback, 2008, Princeton University Press), and author of The New Economics of Inequality and Redistribution (paperback, 2012, Princeton University Press), as well as more general texts. Gintis has written a great deal on things like game theory and education. What they're trying to do here is situate the human capacity for cooperation within evolutionary theory, a tricky task as anyone who's bumped heads with sociobiology should be able to attest. Comes with a daunting amount of math, too.

Richard Breitman/Allan J Lichtman: FDR and the Jews (2013, Belknap Press): Digs deep into this limited topic, attempting to "banish forever the notion that Franklin Roosevelt was a blinkered anti-Semite who made little effort to stop the Holocaust" -- not that there isn't some truth in those accusations too.

Andrew Scott Cooper: The Oil Kings: How the US, Iran, and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East (2011, Simon & Schuster): Focuses on the 1970s, when two "oil shocks" hit the stagflationed US economy -- the OPEC embargo of 1973 and the Iranian revolution of 1979. Using newly declassified documents, tracks how the US tried to cope with these events: not very well, no surprise there.

William Dalrymple: Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42 (2013, Knopf): Historian, has mostly written about India -- e.g., The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857 (2007) -- here turns his attention to what is now called the First Anglo-Afghan War, when the British initially occupied Kabul with ease but wound up with their entire mission army destroyed -- only one soldier escaped. I suppose the Americans think they've done better, but they haven't got out yet.

Mary L Dudziak: Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (2000; paperback, 2012, Princeton University Press): Looks at the civil rights movement in light of America's cold war crusade. Communists had been first and foremost supporters of the civil rights movement in the US, and could make good propaganda use of US racism, ultimately becoming one reason the federal government intervened. Certainly not the only reason, but one.

Chrystia Freeland: Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (2012, Penguin Press): Inequality viewed from the top, the breakaway rise of the top 0.1%, and hopefully something on what this does to the rest of us. Author previously wrote Sale of the Century: The Inside Story of the Second Russian Revolution (paperback, 2005, Abacus), on the making of the post-Soviet oligarchy.

Joshua B Freeman: American Empire: The Rise of a Global Power, the Democratic Revolution at Home 1945-2000 (2012, Viking): Parenthetically, "Penguin History of the United States," suggesting a part in a series, but the only other such book I've seen is Hugh Brogan's one-volume (up through the 1980s). Covers a big chunk of history in 512 pp. -- about the same size and subject as HW Brands' American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (2010, Penguin Books).

Eduardo Galeano: Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History (2013, Nation Books): After his classic book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, Galeano has written a number of elliptical meta-histories -- John Berger calls them "bedtime stories -- of which this is either more or perhaps some sort of summation: a vignette for each day of the year, meant to reveal much more. Other books in this vein: Genesis: Memory of Fire, Volume 1; Faces and Masks: Memory of Fire, Volume 2; Century of the Wind: Memory of Fire, Volume 3 (all three: paperback, 2010, Nation Books); Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone (same); Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World (paperback, 2001, Picador); Voices of Time: A Life in Stories (paperback, 2007, Picador).

Barbara Garson: Down the Up Escalator: How the 99 Percent Live in the Great Recession (2013, Doubleday): Not very well, but most working people have been practicing for the downfall for decades, as companies have squeezed them, cut down on benefits and kept up the pressure for more hours and more productivity. Garson talks of a "long recession" dating back to around 1970.

Martin Gilens: Affluence & Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America (2012, Princeton University Press): Another book on the effects of growing income inequality in the US, an effect that is not just reflected but amplified in terms of political power. Previously wrote Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy (1999; paperback, 2000, University of Chicago Press).

Melvin A Goodman: National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism (paperback, 2013, City Lights): Ex-CIA analyst, wrote Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA (2008), certainly a good place to start on his bigger theme.

David Graeber: The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement (2013, Spiegel & Grau): Anthropologist, wrote the widely admired (or at least debated) Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011, Melville House); was deeply involved in Occupy Wall Street, so this is first-draft history from the middle of the action, hopefully with some deep thinking tossed in, especially about democracy.

Raymond G Helmick: Negotiating Outside the Law: Why Camp David Failed (2004, Pluto Press): A Jesuit priest, Professor of Conflict Resolution, and mediator during the Camp David talks, places blame for the failure of the summit on the unwillingness of all parties to recognize applicable international law and position their goals within that framework. Based on what I know from Charles Enderlin: Shattered Dreams: The Failure of the Peace Process in the Middle East, 1995-2002 (2003, Other Press), and Clayton E Swisher: The Truth About Camp David: The Untold Story About the Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process (2004, Nation Boks), that makes sense.

Michael Hudson: Finance Capitalism and Its Discontents 1: Interviews and Speeches, 2003-2012 (paperback, 2012, Islet): Also wrote The Bubble and Beyond: Fictitious Capital, Debt Deflation and Global Crisis (paperback, 2012, Islet), and going back a ways, Super Imperialism: The Origin and Fundamental of US World Dominance (new edition, paperback, 2003, Pluto Press), an unorthodox economist who has been exceptionally sharp at predicting the 2008 collapse. This collects his map of the path to the brink, while The Bubble and Beyond shows us the chasm beyond.

Neil Irwin: The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire (2013, Penguin Press): Focuses on central banks in the US (Ben Bernanke), UK (Mervyn King), and Europe (Jean-Claude Trichet), how they've handled the financial meltdown from August 2007 forward -- and hopefully pointing out how they haven't handled it very well.

Daniel Cay Johnston: The Fine Print: How Big Companies Use "Plain English" to Rob You Blind (2012, Portfolio): Muckracker, previously wrote Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich -- and Cheat Everybody Else (2003), and Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill) (2007). Here he discovers what Woody Guthrie knew all along: some people will rob you with a fountain pen. Dylan Ratigan is stalking the same beast, but appears to have fried his brain on the title: Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires From Sucking America Dry (paperback, 2012, Simon & Schuster).

Rashid Khalidi: Brokers of Deceit: How the US Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East (2013, Beacon Press): Could be about any number of areas in the Middle East where the US has sold arms and worked against peace -- Khalidi's Sowing Crisis: The Cold War and American Hegemony in the Middle East (2009) takes such a general view -- but this one is specifically about Israel/Palestine, focusing on three episodes where the US not only failed to bring Israel to the peace table but arguably collaborated with Israel's right-wing hawks to undermine the US's own stated intentions: Reagan's 1982 plan, Bush's 1991 Madrid Conference, and Obama's 2009 initiative.

Mattea Kramer, et al. [National Priorities Project]: A People's Guide to the Federal Budget (paperback, 2010, Olive Branch Press): Basic info on what the budget is, how the process works, etc. -- subjects lots of people are woefully ignorant of. Doubt that it goes much further, but clearly fills a need.

Robert Kuttner: Debtor's Prison: The Politics of Austerity Versus Possibility (2013, Knopf): Not only is austerity economically counterproductive, at least within a recession, its attraction is purely political, as is the decision to follow its dictates. Kuttner knows this, and presumably has some worthwhile suggestions, but right now it is mainly a test of political will -- something Obama, in particular, doesn't seem to understand.

Jaron Lanier: Who Owns the Future? (2013, Simon & Schuster): Previously wrote You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (2010), and is credited as "the father of virtual reality." Argues that "the rise of digital networks led our economy into recession and decimated the middle class," and proposes some things -- short of Luddism, which probably wouldn't work anyway -- to ameliorate all that. I don't buy the causal argument, but he may have some points on networks exacerbated other trends that are primarily political.

Gary May: Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (2013, Basic Books): An important story in the civil rights movement: why voting mattered, how bitterly white supremacists fought it, how their violence turned much of the nation against them, resulting in a landmark law the Supreme Court has just gone out of its way to gut.

Mark Mazzetti: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth (2013, Penguin Press): Book cover has a helicopter but it's really the drone that has transformed the CIA's mission from gathering and analyzing "intelligence" to a rogue organization of assassins.

Seamus McGraw: The End of the Country: Dispatches From the Frack Zone (paperback, 2012, Random House): We're working through a cycle where as we deplete relatively easy oil and gas resources, we try to tap into more difficult resources with more advanced technology. One such is gas trapped in narrow seams of shale: only recently it's become possible to drill into those seams then horizontally to open up more of the seam; then a toxic chemicals is pumped into the well and an explosion set off, driving the chemicals to fracture the rock and release more gas (this is called "hydrofracturing" or "fracking"). This book focuses on Pennsylvania, where pretty much everything that could go wrong with this technology has gone wrong.

Philip Mirowski: Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown (2013, Verso): As I recall, there was a fleeting instant during the early days of the meltdown when at least a few people started to wonder whether there wasn't something seriously flawed in capitalism -- at least our recent, highly financialized version of it -- at the root of the crisis. But it turned out to be nothing like the air of revolution kicked up by the 1930s: no sooner than the banks got bailed out their apologists reverted to the party line.

Pankaj Mishra: From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia (2012, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Focuses on Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (from Iran, despite his assumed name), Rabindranath Tagore (India), and Liang Qichao (China), figures who became prominent around 1900, which is to say well before the major anti-imperialist successes following WWII. I know a fair amount about al-Afghani, who's been given wildly erratic interpretations depending on which axe which writer wanted to sharpen. Ultimately, while such early reactions (at once modernist and reactionary) to European imperialism are interesting, I suspect they are fleeting as later generations learned more about both their enemies and themselves. Mishra has several books poking at this beast; most recently, Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond (2007).

Pamela J Olson: Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair With a Homeless Homeland (paperback, 2013, Seal Press): American, from Oklahoma, graduated with a degree in physics then decided she wanted to see the world, picking Occupied Palestine in a perverse reaction to anti-American sentiments following Bush's invasion of Iraq. She lived in Ramallah for two years, collecting this informal, and increasingly politically astute, travelogue.

George Packer: The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (2013, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Character sketches: tobacco farmer turned "new economy evangelist" in the rural South; Rust Belt factory worker; Washington insider "oscillating between political idealism and the lure of money"; Silicon Valley billionaire; interweaved with "biographical sketches of the era's leading public figures, from Newt Gingrich to Jay-Z, and collages made from newspaper headlines, advertising slogans, and song lyrics" -- I mean, how else would someone who's proven himself incapable of critical thought go about taking the temper of the times?

Michael Pollan: Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (2013, Penguin): The food guy discovers chemistry. Unlikely there is a single thing here not already in Harold McGee: On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, not that he hasn't earned the right to tell the story his way.

Jeremy Scahill: Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield (2013, Nation Books): Previously wrote about US use of mercenaries in Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (2007). Here goes from Afghanistan to Yemen, Somalia, the cutting edges of American "black ops" -- the undeclared, undebated skirmishes today that will become the quagmires of tomorrow.

James C Scott: Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play (2012, Princeton University Press): Examples of anarchist values against the backdrop of state-ruled society, a pragma for the real world, skepticism about the state rather than an idealist rejection of it. Previous books include: Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance (1987); Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (1999); The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (2010).

Roger Scruton: How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism (2012, Oxford University Press): Acknowledges that environmental issues are real concerns, but insists on "local initiatives over global schemes, civil association over political activism, and small-scale institutions of friendship over regulatory hyper-vigilance." It would be easier to imagine such small-scale volunteerism working if corporations were also small-scale and local, and if communities were held together by mutual concerns instead of torn apart by the current inequitable distribution of wealth -- hitherto the main mission of conservatives.

Tavis Smiley/Cornel West: The Rich and the Rest of Us (paperback, 2012, Smiley Books): While the Middle Class is being decimated, those who don't quite rank with them are getting hit hard too, if for no other reason than to put the fear of failure into the Middle Class. Authors do some radio; they should have much to rant about.

Hedrick Smith: Who Stole the American Dream? (2012, Random House): Scottish journalist, previously wrote The Power Game: How Washington Works (1996) and Rethinking America (1995), as well as a couple books on Russia. Covers much the same material as Donald Barlett/Richard Steele: The Betrayal of the American Dream and several other books (some use Middle Class almost interchangeably).

Ehud Sprinzak: Brother Against Brother: Violence and Extremism in Israeli Politics from Altalena to the Rabin Assassination (1999, Free Press): Not a new book, but first I've seen of it, and it does cover many well known examples where Israelis resorted to murder to advance of their political agenda -- Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir being pivotal figures in wrecking the 1990s Peace Process, and one can think of other cases going back to the heyday of the Stern Gang.

Amelia Stein, ed: The American Spring: What We Talk About When We Talk About Revolution (paperback, 2012, Arcade): Brief "conversations with artists, activists, and thinkers," more or less tied to Occupy Wall Street but often notable in their own right. Occupy-themed books are starting to roll out, mostly short ones: Janet Byrne, ed: The Occupy Handbook (paperback, 2012, Back Bay Books); Carla Blumenkranz, ed: Occupy! Scenes from Occupied America (paperback, 2011, Verso); Lenny Flank, ed: Voices From the 99 Percent (paperback, 2011, Red and Black); Susan van Gelder, ed: This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement (paperback, 2011, Berrett-Koehler); Writers for the 99%: Occupying Wall Street: The Inside Story of an Action That Changed America (paperback, 2012, Haymarket); Todd Gitlin: Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street (paperback, 2012, It Books).

David Stuckler/Sanjay Basu: The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills (2013, Basic Books): Both authors are doctors, focused on public health and epidemiology. I've seen books that map out bad health outcomes from growing inequality (e.g., Richard Wilkinson/Kate Pickett: The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger). Austerity, a politico-economic doctrine that makes economics weaker, mostly at the expense of the poor, should have the same effect, and evidently does.

Cass R Sunstein: Simpler: The Future of Government (2013, Simon & Schuster): Maybe those people complaining about the Obama administration's hyperactive regulatory syndrome actually have something to talk about. The co-author of Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, the manifesto of "libertarian paternalism," has long been a prominent Obama adviser, and headed the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for three years. Here he touts all the stuff he did, or wanted to do, and why it's good for you, even if you never noticed the difference. One problem with Sunstein's brand of paternalism is that it's something liberals are always accused of, and while it may be a good thing up to a point -- the opposite camp seems to want to go out of its way to make government complex and mysterious, to sabotage any sense that it might be good for things -- it's easy for people who think they know what's good for you to get carried away.

Odd Arne Westad: Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750 (2012, Basic Books): Survey of Chinese foreign policy since they invaded Burma in the 1760s to the present, not that you'd think there was much to write about before 1948 (or 1938). This may provide some fodder for those who see China as a big threat to yet another American Century. Hard to extrapolate, but history does come back in strange forms.

I haven't done any new research here, but it occurs to me that some of the paperback notes -- reprints of books I wrote about when they originally appeared -- are so dated I should kick them out as soon as possible. Don't have any book page notes to link to -- as you may have noticed, those pages disappeared after some authors and/or their lawyers got huffy about "excessive" quoting. So here goes:

Peter Beinart: The Crisis of Zionism (2012, Times Books; paperback, 2013, Picador): Liberal pundit with bad instincts but smart enough to sometimes think past them, as he did when the Iraq War soured, faces up to his beloved Zionism and finds a nation at war with his sense of justice, and even makes a case for limited BDS. Would be more useful if he didn't seem to be even more bothered by American Jews marrying goyim.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran: Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan (2012, Knopf; paperback, 2013, Vintage): Focuses on Helmand, home of a longstanding, never fully successful US hydro-project called "Little America," showing how wave after wave of US military power never managed to do anything constructive in one of the most intensively patrolled areas in Afghanistan.

Steve Coll: Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power (2012; paperback, 2013, Penguin Press): Corporate biography from the Exxon Valdez disaster to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, with plenty of bumps along the way, as well as extraordinary profits, much on the tricky relationship between bookable reserves and stock price (with the reserves moving ever deeper into unconventional oil), tenacious defense against suits, and intense political lobbying, especially to keep the government from doing anything about greenhouse gasses and global warming.

Thomas Frank: Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right (2012, Metropolitan Books; paperback, 2012, Picador): Mostly focuses on the rise of the Tea Party movement, and how it was funded and manipulated by a few billionaires.

David Graeber: Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2011; paperback, 2012, Melville House): Anarchist anthropologist argues that credit/debt goes way back, predating money, not to mention much of what we call civilization. Consensus seems to be that he's "a brilliant, deeply original political thinker" (Rebecca Solnit) who occasionally goes off the deep end.

Michael Hastings: The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War in Afghanistan (2012, Blue Rider Press; paperback, 2012, Plume): The author's drinking binge with Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his staff in Europe got the hero of the COIN surge in Afghanistan sacked, but even more devastating is his coverage of McChrystal's succesor, Gen. David Petraeus -- who managed to get away with his incompetence in Kabul, only to blow up a few months later.

Tony Judt/Timothy Snyder: Thinking the Twentieth Century (2012; paperback, 2013, Penguin): Structured as an interview, laced with memoirs repeating others of Judt's post-ALS books (e.g., The Memory Chalet), but expanded to provide a final reckoning with 20th century European thought (and America, and Israel). His last book, one to savor.

Paul Krugman: End This Depression Now! (2012; paperback, 2013, WW Norton): Reasserts the important insights of macroeconomic theory, especially Keynes and Minsky, but he also cares about the human cost of letting the depression bottom out. Could have gone deeper into the political roots of the nonsense you hear about debt and inflation and austerity instead of just demolishing them on economic grounds.

Michael Lewis: Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World (2011; paperback, 2012, WW Norton): Thumbnail portraits of several countries suffering from the the finance meltdown: Greece, Ireland, Iceland, the United States. Very readable, draws sensible conclusions.

Tracie McMillan: The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table (2012; paperback, 2012, Scribner): Research done by working for the companies that handle America's food.

Lawrence Mishel/Josh Bivens/Elise Gould/Heidi Shierholz: The State of Working America (12th edition, paperback, 2012, ILR Press): Since its first edition in 1988, the basic stats and analysis of what it's like to work in America.

Juliet B Schor: True Wealth: How and Why Millions of Americans Are Creating a Time-Rich, Ecologically Light, Small-Scale, High-Satisfaction Economy (paperback, 2011, Penguin Books): Reissue with new (and better) title of Schor's 2010 book, Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth. Schor previously wrote several books on how we are overworked and how we've been conditioned to overspend, so this is a proper summing up.

Ben Shephard: The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War (2011, Knopf; paperback, 2012, Vintage): A history of postwar relief efforts (mostly American) to deal with people displaced by WWII -- Jews you are probably vaguely familiar with, but there were many more, moved to escape armies, moved to work in plants (both voluntarily and impressed), some with homes to go to, many without.

Ron Suskind: Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President (2011; paperback, 2012, Harper): Mostly on Obama and his inner circle of economic experts, especially the controlling influence of Larry Summers and the divided loyalties of Tim Geithner (actually, that's probably too charitable; Geithner actively sabotaged Obama orders that would have further curtailed the big banks). Could have done more with the title, since one of Obama's big mistakes was thinking that the economy would heal if only he could restore confidence in it, so therefore he projected an excessively optimistic stance, which crippled his options while fooling no one.

For the record, I've read most of the books in the paperback section (mostly in hard cover). Specifically: Beinart, Chandrasekaran, Coll, Frank, Hastings, Judt, Krugman, Lewis, Schor, Shephard, and Suskind; i.e., not Graeber, McMillan, Mishel. Wouldn't have bothered writing up the latter ones had I not been interested.

Daily Log

Another home day, hottest one in a while (95F and pretty humid), although I hear it was hotter in Boston and New York. (Yglesias thought he was being clever recommending that people move to Minneapolis, where it was only 84F, but a look at his map shows that it was cooler than that in El Paso, and cooler still in San Diego.)

Worked on the books post, not getting it done until a bit after 2AM so I backdated it a few minutes. Also listened to some music, including today's EW selections. I didn't much like anything that Christgau recommended this week: three low B+(*) and one B-. Mailed Tatum asking whether this was Bob's worst week ever.

Watched an rerun of Cold Case -- one of Laura's shows that I had only rarely watched. Found it rather creepy -- not the gay/AIDS theme but the efficiency with which they unraveled a 30-year-old case and coaxed a confession for which they had no evidence.

Music today (JP): Scottish National Jazz Orchestra; (RG): Lurrie Bell, (RS): Peter Stampfel & the Worm All-Stars, Peter Stampfel/Baby Gramps, Jeffrey Lewis/Peter Stampfel, Ariel Pink's Hidden Graffiti, Lurrie Bell.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Martin-Zimmerman Roundup

Special Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman edition links:

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates: Trayvon Martin and the Irony of American Justice: Takes "a very hard look" at the applicable law, especially as formulated in the judge's instructions to the jury, and concludes that Zimmerman's "not guilty" verdict was pretty much what the system ordained.

    I have seen nothing within the actual case presented by the prosecution that would allow for a stable and unvacillating belief that George Zimmerman was guilty.

    That conclusion should not offer you security or comfort. It should not leave you secure in the wisdom of our laws. On the contrary, it should greatly trouble you. But if you are simply focusing on what happened in the court-room, then you have been head-faked by history and bought into a idea of fairness which can not possibly exist.

    The injustice inherent in the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was not authored by a jury given a weak case. The jury's performance may be the least disturbing aspect of this entire affair. The injustice was authored by a country which has taken as its policy, for the lionshare of its history, to erect a pariah class. The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is not an error in programming. It is the correct result of forces we set in motion years ago and have done very little to arrest.

    One need only look the criminalization of Martin across the country. Perhaps you have been lucky enough to not receive the above "portrait" of Trayvon Martin and its accompanying text. The portrait is actually of a 32-year old man. Perhaps you were lucky enough to not see the Trayvon Martin imagery used for target practice (by law enforcement, no less.) Perhaps you did not see the iPhone games. Or maybe you missed the theory presently being floated by Zimmerman's family that Martin was a gun-runner and drug-dealer in training, that texts and tweets he sent mark him as a criminal in waiting. Or the theory floated that the mere donning of a hoodie marks you a thug, leaving one wondering why this guy is a criminal and this one is not. [ . . . ]

    It is painful to say this: Trayvon Martin is not a miscarriage of American justice, but American justice itself. This is not our system malfunctioning. It is our system working as intended. To expect our juries, our schools, our police to single-handedly correct for this, is to look at the final play in the final minute of the final quarter and wonder why we couldn't come back from twenty-four down.

    I don't know that the verdict itself was racist, but the examples in the next-to-last paragraph -- go to the article to get all the links -- really are racist. Moreover, I think there is probable cause to think that anyone who argues that Zimmerman was fully justified or did the right thing and celebrates him as some sort of hero is racist. Also that you will be able to get a good sense of how racist Zimmerman is by whether he embraces or distances himself from those people. (One sign is this report on TPM: "Quite telling that in the immediate aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict, Zimmerman's lawyer is going off about reverse racism and his brother is suggesting that Martin was a drug dealer and gun runner.")

  • Jason Gubbels: Burned Baby Burned: The Riots That Weren't: Quotes from right-wing hacks Pat Buchanan, Paul Huebl, Paul Joseph Watson, Rush Limbaugh, and gullible journalist Adam Nagourney predicting massive black rioting if Zimmerman is acquitted. Most people have a tendency to project their own character flaws onto others, and that's a big chunk of what's going on here: these right-wingers are bitter, violent, paranoid minds, so they assume everyone else; moreover, they subconsciously understand that blacks have good reason to be bitter and paranoid, but don't get that violence only plays into the hands of the forces capable of the most violence -- the state. Or maybe they just hope they can change the story away from self-appointed vigilante acosts and murders harmless black teenager and gets away with it, as whites have done for hundreds of years down South.

    Also see David Weigel: Who's Disappointed About the Lack of Mass Zimmerman Verdict Riots?, which focuses on the Drudge Report.

  • Ed Kilgore: Cohen Goes All Archie Bunker: That's Richard Cohen, Washington Post columnist, past winner of (and perennial contender in) Alex Pareene's Hackathon, whose column on the Zimmerman verdict amounts to a defense brief of racial profiling, both by police and by self-appointed vigilantes like Zimmerman. Kilgore:

    You'd think that in cogitating so hard on this situation it might have occurred to Cohen that in the equation -- vigilante + gun + black hoodie-wearing teenager + fight = "tragic" but not culpable slaying -- the first two items might have stood out to him as a problem. But no, we are left to infer, the danger posed by these savage young black men justifies not just racial profiling and deadly force deployed by trained and sworn public authorities, but by anyone "understandably" suspecting young black men of being savages.

    Let's be clear about this much: racial profiling is racist, and for the most part it is illegal. Police can get away with it, to a point, because they're police, and also because pretty much everyone recognizes that they have to submit to the police, even when it's clearly unwarranted harrassment. Maybe, once you're cleared and released, you can go file a complaint and argue that the cop harrassed you solely on the basis of your race, but you can't do that on the spot, and for most people it's not worth the trouble. So the police to a large extent can get away with racial profiling. But George Zimmerman wasn't police. He had no authority to follow and accost Martin, and Martin had no reason or obligation to submit to Zimmerman. In fact, had Martin been armed and shot and killed Zimmerman after the latter accosted him, he most likely would also have been acquitted on grounds of self-defense, if indeed he was charged (he would have had a much better case than Zimmerman did).

    That Cohen justifies what Zimmerman did as "racial profiling" shows that he assumes that Zimmerman had a right to police his claimed turf. The only explanation for such an assumption is racism. If the DoJ decides to charge Zimmerman with violating Martin's civil rights, they can use Cohen's testimony.

    For more on Cohen, see Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Banality of Richard Cohen and Racial Profiling:

    What you must understand is that when the individual lives of those freighted by racism are deemed less than those who are not, all other inhumanities follow. That is the logic of Richard Cohen. It is the logic of Barack Obama's potential head of the DHS [Ray Kelly, NYC police commissioner, "the most prominent advocate of profile our current pariah classes -- black people and Muslim Americans"]. This logic is not new, original or especially egregious. It is the logic of the country's largest city. It is the logic of the American state. It is the logic scribbled across the lion's share of our history. And it is the logic that killed Trayvon Martin.

  • Richard Florida: It's Not Just Zimmerman: Race Matters a Lot in 'Stand Your Ground' Verdicts: It makes perfect sense to me that had Martin as well as Zimmerman been armed, and had Martin managed to shoot Zimmerman first, he would have been justified under the self-defense doctrine, with or without the "Stand Your Ground" law. Of course, I'm assuming the law is neutral regarding race, but lots of people think race makes a difference, and I'm as aware as any of you that's been the case in the past -- indeed, we can cite many cases where white murderers far more premeditated than Zimmerman have gotten off scot free. Florida provides some statistics and charts that show that race still does matter:

    Based on this new analysis, Roman tells me via email that: "The criminal justice system is rife with racial disparities. From searches of motor vehicles during traffic stops, to stop-and-frisk encounters and arrests, to sentencing and parole decisions, black Americans -- especially young black males -- come in contact with the police and courts far more often than their share of the population would predict. The chasm in justifiable homicide rulings, however, is vastly larger than other disparities and deserves intense scrutiny."

    The Zimmerman verdict is clearly not an isolated incident. It instead reflects the deep and enduring ways that race has become entangled with how America views, treats, and prosecutes crime -- a problem that is not going away.

  • William Saletan: You Are Not Trayvon Martin: Almost didn't bother with this one -- Saletan was a Hackathon finalist, although he did lose to Cohen -- and it starts out: "His death wasn't about race, guns, or your pet issue. It was about misjudgment and overreaction -- exactly what we're doing now to the verdict." Maybe, but those "pet issues" are real issues, and are more important than this specific case. Still, this much is worth adding to the record:

    Zimmerman is guilty, morally if not legally, of precipitating the confrontation that led to Martin's death. He did many things wrong. Mistake No. 1 was inferring that Martin was a burglar. In his 911 call, Zimmerman cited Martin's behavior. "It's raining, and he's just walking around" looking at houses, Zimmerman said. He warned the dispatcher, "He's got his hand in his waistband." He described Martin's race and clothing only after the dispatcher asked about them. Whatever its basis, the inference was false.

    Mistake No. 2 was pursuing Martin on foot. Zimmerman had already done what the neighborhood watch rules advised: He had called the police. They would have arrived, questioned Martin, and ascertained that he was innocent. Instead, Zimmerman, packing a concealed firearm, got out and started walking after Martin. Zimmerman's initial story, that he was trying to check the name of the street, was so laughable that his attorneys abandoned it. He was afraid Martin would get away. So he followed Martin, hoping to update the cops.

    Mistake No. 3 was Zimmerman's utter failure to imagine how his behavior looked to Martin. You're a black kid walking home from a convenience store with Skittles and a fruit drink. Some dude in a car is watching and trailing you. God knows what he wants. You run away. He gets out of the car and follows you. What are you supposed to do? In Zimmerman's initial interrogation, the police expressed surprise that he hadn't identified himself to Martin as a neighborhood watch volunteer. They suggested that Martin might have been alarmed when Zimmerman reached for an object that Zimmerman, but not Martin, knew was a phone. Zimmerman seemed baffled. He was so convinced of Martin's criminal intent that he hadn't considered how Martin, if he were innocent, would perceive his stalker.

    This inability to understand what other people are thinking is one of the great problems of our (or probably any) time. Saletan then goes on to blame Martin for referring to Zimmerman as a "creepy-ass cracker," arguing that both were in the wrong for "racial profiling." Maybe, but only one of the two had a gun and an itchy trigger finger, and only one presumed the right to poke his nose into the other's business.

  • Steve M: I'm Not Sure Zimmerman Will Become a Full-Fledged Right-Wing Hero:

    Zimmerman is already a hero of a sort to a certain segment of the public, which thinks he did absolutely the right thing and got crucified for it. But for him to become a real right-wing rock star, I think he's going to have to own his hatred of Trayvon Martin. He's going to have to go out in public and boast of what he did. He's going to have to do things like show up at Ted Nugent shows waving his gun in sync with Ted waving one of his, in a sort of NRA version of the twin-guitar attack. He's going to have to be defiant.

    He hasn't looked that way through the trial. He's looked sheepish. Yeah, he won, and the wingnut population of America likes the fact that liberals' and African-Americans' faces were rubbed in the verdict, but he doesn't come off as having rubbed our faces in it, just because he looked cowed during the trial. Right-wingers want him to seem angry. [ . . . ]

    I think that's Zimmerman's future -- being a sad man who briefly became a hero to angry people for doing a horrible thing, but who, fortunately, will never fully exploit the situation.

    M. makes a comparison to Bernhard Goetz, "the 1980s vigilante who shot four young men he said were attempting to mug him on the New York subway in 1984." He was acquitted of attempted murder, and was lauded as a hero for a while, but has scarcely been heard from since then. Zimmerman certainly has reason to lie low now: the possibility that the feds will bring civil rights charges against him, and the greater likelihood that he will be sued in civil court for wrongful death damages. But several things make him less likely to crawl under a rock than Goetz (who did some jail time for having the gun, whereas Zimmerman gets his back): the political climate, for one. Good chance he'll brush up with the law in the future, and he's unlikely to be as lucky next time.

Other links of some interest:

Finally, there's this Dexter/Zimmerman image. If you don't immediately get the joke, you probably don't know Dexter, a TV show now in its eighth season where the hero is a psychopathic serial killer who's not such a bad guy because he's been programmed only kill other serial killers who otherwise can't be brought to justice. Some debate as to whether Zimmerman is really worth Dexter's attention -- after all, he isn't really a serial killer . . . yet!

Dexter, whose hero, by the way, works as a cop, is one of many examples of how far US popular culture has gone toward embracing real criminality. I date this back to a 1968 television series called It Takes a Thief -- I recall especially that the hero there used to describe prison time as "graduate school." He was released from jail to steal things for US government "secret intelligence agency." Of course, by then characters in I Spy (1965-68) and Mission Impossible (1966-73), not to mention the real life CIA, were doing similar things (admittedly, the CIA not as competently). It wasn't long after (1974) until Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson in Death Wish) was roaming the streets of New York hoping to get mugged so he could "defend himself" and kill the malefactors. I don't recall the first time I saw a movie where clearly identified good guys managed to get rich by ripping off drug dealers -- there must have been dozens of them, with some coming undone and others living happily ever after. Eventually you get to something like Breaking Bad where it ceases to even matter whether the hero is evil, except insofar as you wonder how evil can he really get, and how much of it you can stand. (I gave up on that one after the first season.)

I don't blame popular culture. Rather, I think it reflects the nation's declining moral state, as exemplified by the CIA, the FBI, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the War on Drugs, Iran-Contra, the War on Terror, Obama's drone war and secrecy prosecutions, alongside which we've allowed and encouraged business to be ever more greedy and rapacious, while the vast expansion of gambling shows how we've come to view money as a plaything rather than a measure of work -- a confluence of greed and violence that an earlier America strived against, but which are celebrated today.

And that's the world that made George Zimmerman, and some people -- I've already lost that Ann Coulter link, but you know she's one -- regard him as a hero. I'd worry more about them than Zimmerman.

Daily Log

Another home computer day. Tried making a frozen fish-for-two dinner (salmon), which was so-so. Grilled some polenta and stir-fried lima beans, both better. Decided to move the Martin-Zimmerman items I had stashed away, so found some more and wrote some more. I had originally written that I gave up on Breaking Bad after three seasons. Laura remembered it differently. As I think on it, she didn't start watching until the third season. We picked up the first two on DVD, and I watched the first season and some of the second on DVD, and read some shit about the upcoming third season with spoilers for the rest of the second, and decided it just wasn't worth it. (Looking at Wikipedia's episode log, I've probably seen seven, maybe eight, episodes -- not sure if I remember Saul or just read about him, or just heard Laura talk about him. Definitely didn't get up to Gus, or deal with the airplane crash, or the death of Jesse's girlfriend/neighbor/landlady.) Leaning toward picking it up when the final half-season starts in a few weeks. Wondering how far they can go, and having watched Hannibal and a bit of Dexter (and for that matter most of Revenge), I figure I can take it. Don't know what this shit is doing to our brains. Probably no good, but that's true of lots of things I can't stand, like blockbuster action movies.

On the cult of criminality, I could have pointed to a 1964-65 TV show called The Rogues, which was about an "international crime family" but was really just a series of scams to trick and fleece the very rich (often unscrupously so). The family heads were played by Charles Boyer, David Niven, and Gig Young, and while you rarely saw more than one of them in an episode, Robert Coote and Gladys Cooper provided continuity. So a marvelous cast, clever writing, more worldly than I could imagine at the time -- I don't think I've ever been so taken with a TV series. And really, they weren't much more roguish than Maverick (1957-62), but I guess it's a slippery slope.

Music today (JP): Ketil Bjørnstad, Vana Gierig, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Alan Jones/François Théberge; (RS) Daniel Wohl, Carmen Villain, Phoenix, Mayer Hawthorne.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Expert Comments

Christgau wrote:

So I give you two young guys you never heard of, which is always one of the great rewards of this critical exercise as far as I'm concerned. One of them is hot off the presses day of release. Yet with a single exception what little talk there is of Moondance outtakes and--better, absolutely--Sarah Vaughan serving Mammon instead of Muse. Sheesh. These artists are so mainstream EW, I swear.

I answered:

I wrote about Romano last month. Furman went into my metafile Monday, with am:70 the first rating. Played the latter on Rhapsody and don't much care for the sound, but he's certainly a smart guy and has some sharp lyrics. No one's commented on the 18 records in Monday's Jazz Prospecting either. Most of those are likely to be unknown to nearly everyone too -- eight were unknown by me until their records showed up, including the 78-year-old bassist-turned singer, but one name should be recognized by everyone here. This place is getting boring.

Sharpsm quoted me, writing:

"No one's commented on the 18 records in Monday's Jazz Prospecting either . . . one name should be recognized by everyone here. This place is getting boring."

Okay. But to be fair, I mentioned the David Murray album here last month, along with five other good records the adventurous might want to check out. The place is as interesting as people want to make it.

Took me a while to track it down, but here's the list:

  • The Creole Choir of Cuba: Santiman
  • David Murray Infinity Quartet: Be My Monster Love
  • James Cotton: Cotton Mouth Man
  • Van Dyke Parks: Songs Cycled
  • Vincent Peirani: Thrill Box
  • Ernst Reijseger/Harmen Fraanje/Mola Sylla: Down Deep

Daily Log

Another day wasted at the computer, listening to music and typing away -- should have a books piece before long. Watched Dexter for the first time -- in its eighth season, Laura has been following it from the beginning, although she may have missed a couple years. In case you don't know, Dexter continues America's love affair with criminality: the hero is a serial killer who only kills other serial killers, so that makes him, in the most relativistic sense, a good bad guy -- kind of like Obama, who only orders killing terrorists, although as a fictional character Dexter is a good deal more precise and artful than the CIA or US Special Forces.

Also saw the The Bridge, which seems to be about a serial killer (not revealed yet, so he's not the hero) who tries to make clever philosophical points about immigration law, corruption, and the ever-venal media. I read that it's based on a Swedish-Danish series, so they've taken some liberties.

Music today (JP): Ron Boustead, Deborah Latz, Eugenie Jones, Robin Bessier; (RS): Pet Shop Boys, Slava, Daniel Wohl (JG's pick).

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Coming Civil War

I took a look at Nate Silver: Senate Control in 2014 Increasingly Looks Like a Tossup, following a link from TPM with the grimmer title "Nate Silver Predicts GOP Holding 50-51 Senate Seats After 2014 Election." In a nutshell, he sees Democratic incumbents Begich, Hagan, Landrieu, and Pryor as vulnerable, with only the slightest chance of upsetting Republicans McConnell and Collins, and Republicans having huge edges in contests to replace retiring Democrats in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia, versus a very slight (20%) chance of the Democrats picking up the empty Republican seat in Georgia.

This is all fairly reasonable, but it's early and lots of things can change. I remember when Silver had a Kansas senate seat all but locked up for a likely Democrat -- before Kathleen Sebelius wrecked her career by becoming Obama's HEW Secretary, leaving a void that was filled by a Democrat who raised something like $20,000 against several million for Jerry Moran. And in 2012 he figured Republican seats in Missouri and Indiana were safe, and even at the very end he still had "red state" North Dakota in the Republican column. So it's still very early, and Silver knows that better than TPM.

I read through this stuff not because it's very important. At this stage it isn't, although it does suggest that the Democrats' laissez-faire attitude toward party politics continues to hurt them (and needless to say us) by not recruiting and advancing credible candidates and backing them up with functional organizations (like the ones Clinton and Obama built for their own purposes). It's just that long ago I got about as deeply into political geography as Kevin Phillips (back when he wrote that hideously prophetic book, The Emerging Republican Majority), so I have an especially informed sense of the lay of the land.

Still, I wouldn't be writing about this bit of trivia except as I was scanning through the comments I ran across this (from steelers01):

You could be correct as the numbers of worthless Americans championing the democratic party in exchange for endless entitlement programs has grown exponentially. Cash and entitlements in exchange for votes is and always will be the liberal mantra. We will see a 2nd civil war though before the nation is completely turned over to the worthless to finish the destruction. Stock up now.

Then there is bevus:

Remember Pelosi and her big gavel!!! well, 2014 the big gavel is Holder and this Zimmerman mess! if the Obama progressives keep their harassment of us law abiding citizens up we will rise up and kick butt in 2014! we are out there and you put gun control, racism, war on everyone, and the economy and things will change.

I'm struck here not just by the level of delusion but by the itch to turn these fantastical notions into a gun fight. And also with the characterization of "worthless Americans" -- one of those cognitive steps in dehumanization that turns a person into a target, although it may also be a play on "wealthless," an accurate description of most Americans. The idea that the "worthless" masses are out to destroy is an old conservative trope -- true only insofar as the old order is inflexible and violent, which seems to be the commenter's conviction.

As for the charge that liberals buy votes, I'm reminded that in 1860 the Republican Party's slogan was "vote yourself a farm, vote yourself a tariff" -- probably the best deal in American political history. (One that brought my great-great-grandfather to Kansas. He acknowledged the favor by naming his first son Abraham Lincoln Hull.) Back then the Republicans were the liberals, the Democrats the defenders and apologists of slavery -- roles that have pretty much swapped 150 years later. Indeed, in 1861 we did have a civil war, as the conservatives of the day fought to defend their racist empire from the "worthless people" who voted for farms and tariffs and an end to slavery. We haven't degenerated that far yet, but when conservatives see every attempt by voters to electe a government that serves the people's interest as a sign of their worthlessness, we aren't far off.

Not every right-wing comment is as deranged as these two, but nearly every one is misinformed and/or careless. But even there the same memes have taken deep root: the notion that the nation is being sapped by undeserving parasites, that those people are always someone one doesn't know, and that we're better off hurting ourselves than letting them get away with it. So you start with ignorance and moral superiority, add spite, and pretty soon you're stockpiling arms and ready to start a civil war against the most powerless, hardest struggling people around.

Sixty-some years ago Lionel Trilling said that the conservatism of the day amounted to nothing more than "irritable mental gestures." Today is has mutated into something far more insane, and far more dangerous. But it isn't enough to point out a few examples, like I did above. You need to understand that all this is caused by a deep breach in the trust that holds society together. It hasn't fully broken yet, otherwise you couldn't stand to go to work, to shop, to do anything outside your gated community and gun-secured house and nervous family. But we have hit the point where an awful lot of business is predatory, where companies tread all over workers and deceive customers, where no one can ever have enough money to ensure their future security, where people go around telling you you have to be armed to defend yourself against the government you voted for. Without trust our world falls apart, and once broken trust is all the harder to earn back.

Daily Log

Took Laura to accupuncture. Tried cutting out a piece of reflective bubble insulation as for the front windshield. Big, unwieldy thing, that didn't work very well. Will try to refine it a bit before I give up. Could use something to keep it tight up against the windshield -- maybe a couple pieces of foam that can be slid in above the dashboard? Went to Le Monde for lunch.

Had a couple unfortunate run-ins with publicists. The net result looks like I'll have less pull than ever. Makes me think about giving up, but also makes me think about re-launching Terminal Zone. I'm in a state of great confusion, frustration, doubt, dissatisfaction, and today has been much worse than most. Did write a short post -- actually the first time I've done that on a Tuesday in quite some time. Had a lot of trouble figuring out where to go with it after the first two quotes, and took a break. Finished the jigsaw puzzle. Watched Copper and Under the Dome.

Music today (JP): Art Hodes, Daniel Rosenboom; (RS): Ezra Furman, James Holden, The Ex.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 21705 [21665] rated (+40), 599 [608] unrated (-9).

Another big rated week, split between the Jazz Prospecting below and stuff that will go into July's Rhapsody Streamnotes column (the latter file currently at 27 titles). I'll probably try to slow down over the next month or two -- maybe do that basement remodel work I started on back in January and never did much with. Also need to work on some non-music writing: yesterday's post on the self-defense fetish, and Saturday's on the Kochs, and the one a week ago on civil rights -- Buckling Toward Injustice, you might want to re-read that with the Zimmerman trial fresh in your mind, as well as the post-Zimmerman Weekend Roundup just below -- are all things that could be expanded greatly. Also thinking about a long road trip, which would really throw a wrench into the music machinery. But the jazz queues are down to about half-full. No Monday records in the "unpacking" this week, because I didn't get any.

No A-list records this week, and only David Murray at high B+, so I'll re-run a cover from last month's Rhapsody Streamnotes. Don't have the actual record, which is why I reviewed it there instead of here. Other new jazz records I didn't get, but are in the Rhapsody Streamnotes, file: Eliane Elias: I Thought About You (Concord); Zeena Parkins: The Adorables (Cryptogramophone); John Scofield: Überjam Deux (Emarcy); Miguel Zenón: Oye!!! Live in Puerto Rico (Miel Music). I used to be on all those lists (not that it hasn't always been a chore to get Zenón's records) -- more evidence that we're in an age of diminishing returns.

Susanne Abbuehl: The Gift (2012 [2013], ECM): Singer, b. 1970 in Switzerland; third album since 2001. Group includes Matthieu Michel (flugelhorn), Wolfert Brederode (piano, harmonium), and Olavi Louhivuori (drums, percussion) -- rather spare accompaniment. Abbuehl wrote the music for poems by Emily Dickinson, Sara Teasdale, and Emily Bronte, plus one each by Wallace Stevens and Wolfgang Lackerschmid. So spare that it seems to all hang on the words, something I often have trouble following. B [advance]

Brian Andres and the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel: San Francisco (2013, Bacalao): Drummer, based in San Francisco, second album, with a large band, including several who contributed songs: Aaron Germain (bass), Jamie Dubberly (trombone), Javier Cabanillas (conga), Carlos Caro (bonga, other percussion), Gloria Amaral (vocals). B+(**)

Tim Bedner: Of Light and Shadow (2012, self-released): Guitarist, teaches at Carleton University, seems to be his first album, a trio with Norman Glaude (bass, chromatic harmonica, percussion, synth strings) and Jeff Asselin (drums, percussion). Back cover suggests the whole thing is meant as a suite. Hangs together fine, the harmonica a nice touch. B+(*)

Michel Camilo: What's Up? (2013, Okeh): Pianist, b. 1954 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; twenty records since 1985. This is solo, something he's done more than a few times in the past. Seven originals, four covers, his "Take Five" especially enjoyable. B+(**)

Raquel Cepeda: I'm Confessin' (2012 [2013], Peonia Music): Standards singer, from Venezuela, holds a degree in geological engineering and a daytime job in the Texas oil industry. First album, some in Spanish, some sambas, "How Deep Is the Ocean?" and "Dream a Little Dream of Me." Didn't care for the languorous "Bésame Mucho" but later cuts are winning. B+(*)

Ryan Cohan: The River (2013, Motéma Music): Pianist, studied at DePaul, based in Chicago, fifth album since 1997. Uses three horns for a frequently lush sound -- John Wojciechowski (tenor and soprano sax, flute, alto flute), Geof Bradfield (tenor and soprano sax, bass clarinet), and Tito Carrillo (trumpet, flugelhorn) -- and adds Samuel Torres' percussion to Kobie Watkins' drums for that Latin tinge. Still, strongest when the piano is out front, as in "Last Night at the Mannenberg." B+(**)

Dan DeChellis Trio: Strength and Anger (2013, self-released): Pianist, b. 1970, twelfth record since 1999. Nearly everything here is built on rumbling chords, a rhythm-first approach that sustains interest. With Scot Hornick on bass, Steve Decker on drums. B+(**)

Eldar Djangirov: Bach Brahms Prokofiev (2012 [2013], Motema): Pianist, b. 1987 in Kyrgyzstan; moved to Kansas City at age 10, and was touted as a prodigy at age 18 when his first Sony Masterworks album appeared (after two previous records on D&D). It may be unfair to typecast him as one of those Soviet products who moved from classical to jazz -- he's said the first piece he recalls playing was "C Jam Blues" -- but he's paid his dues on the classical repertoire, and probably figured "why not?" when the label asked for a classical release. Solo piano, moldy classics from obvious sources with no discernible jazz interest, capped with 1:07 of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee." B- [advance]

Eldar Djangirov: Breakthrough (2012 [2013], Motema): His classical album is a snore, but the trio cuts here establish both his primary interest in jazz and his prodigious command of the piano. Two cuts with a guest -- Joe Locke on vibes, and Chris Potter on tenor sax -- are even better: I'm not sure I've ever heard Potter so frenzied, and I've heard him play a lot. Also promising that his closing "Good Morning Heartache" holds your attention even after he slows it way down. Two caveats: when he gets cranking he's still more likely to remind you of Rimsky-Korsakov than Tatum or Hines; and the last time I can recall that title was on an exceptionally great Don Pullen album, and this isn't anyway near that. B+(**) [advance]

Michael Hackett Quintet: New Point of View (2012 [2013], Summit): Trumpet player, originally from Oregon, spent some time in New York but not clear where he is now -- most side credits are with Buselli/Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, so maybe Indianapolis? Second album. Quintet with sax, piano, bass, and drums -- the classic hard bop lineup but more of a postbop feel, especially in the harmonics between the horns. B+(*)

Drye & Drye: Open Letter (2011 [2013], NCM East, 2CD): Baritone saxophonist Howard Drye and trombonist Brian Drye -- the latter is better known, playing in groups like the Four Bags and Bizingas. Each wrote a full CD's worth of songs, for a sextet adding Jeff Hermanson (trumpet), Nate McGinniss (clarinet, alto/soprano sax), Dan Fabricatore (bass), and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums). Several songs have dedications, mostly to Ellingtonians, also Horace Silver, but the interplay is more free -- especially on Howard's disc. B+(**)

Alan Ferber: March Sublime (2012 [2013], Sunnyside): Trombonist, fifth album since 2001, previously with septet and nonet groups -- here he goes whole hog with a big band. Six originals, two covers -- Björk and Hoagy Carmichael, the latter the nicest piece here, perhaps because it comes off a bit lighter, but also it comes late in the album, after the postbop murk started to cohere, and the star-packed NY band -- the reed section: John O'Gallagher, Rob Wilkerson, John Ellis, Jason Rigby, Chris Cheek -- has started to shine. B+(*)

David Murray Infinity Quartet: Be My Monster Love (2012 [2013], Motéma): Paul Krugman likes to refer to Joseph Stiglitz as "an insanely great economist"; Murray, for much the same reason, is an insanely great tenor saxophonist: his solos here are monumental, taking off in flights of fancy that no one else can think of much less do. Unfortunately, he decided to do songs here, or more precisely, of texts improvised into something song-like. Three of the texts come from Ishmael Reed, whose own deadpan authority made them work on Conjure. Here, Macy Gray sings the title piece in her own idiosyncratic mien, and Gregory Porter tries to croon the others, plus a bit by Abiodun Oyewode on the importance of children. The texts mean well, but the hymn about "making a joyful noise" is doubly ironic: if only Porter would shut up and let the sax man wail. B+(***)

Carline Ray: Vocal Sides (2008-11 [2013], Carlcat): Singer, b. 1925; father played in James Reese Europe's band. She studied at Juilliard, playing piano and bass. She joined the International Sweethearts of Rhythm in 1946, sang in Erskine Hawkins' Orchestra, and eventually formed a trio with Edna Smith and Pauline Braddy. She married Luis Russell in 1956. No previous albums under her name, but I see a few widely scattered credits: Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Ruth Brown -- those three on bass -- and more recently vocals for David Berger and Catherine Russell (who took an interest and produced this album). Not a notable voice, but she can get to you, and while I don't care for the gospels, at least I've heard her vitriolic version of Williams' "Lazarus." B+(**)

Kristin Slipp + Dov Manski: A Thousand Julys (2013, Sunnyside): Singer and keyboardist, both from Maine, studied at New England Conservatory, now based in Brooklyn. First reaction was that this may be some kind of joke: Manski's arrangements of very familiar standards are sketchy at best, and Slipp has trouble finding all the notes. Then it started growing on me, partly because so many of the songs are irresistible -- "I Get Along Without You Very Well," "You Go to My Head," "The Way You Look Tonight," "I Concentrate on You," "Just One of Those Things," "End of a Love Affair," opening and cosing takes of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" -- and partly because something in her approach reminded me of Lisa Sokolov. Nowhere near that audacious, of course, and not all that unlikely this will turn plain annoying. [PS: Some further research: I have her Twins of El Dorado record at B-; also didn't like the one cut I sampled from The Adorables, but I don't have the record.] B+(**)

Rick VanMatre: Lines Above (2013, Summit): Saxophonist, lists soprano before tenor; first album, backed by piano (Kim Pensyl), bass, drums, vibes on five cuts, percussion on one. Mostly postbop, occasionally cutting in something a bit more avant. B+(*)

Brahja Waldman's Quartet: Cosmic Brahjas/Closer to the Tones (2011-13 [2013], self-released, 2CD): Alto saxophonist, from upstate New York but based in Montreal. Second album (or second and third), the quartet on the first disc including piano (Shadrach Hankoff), bass, and drums; on the second, the pianist is replaced by tenor saxophonist Adam Kinner. Both discs are loose-free, soft-edged, interesting, with a few more interruptions on the first. B+(**)

Mike Wofford: It's Personal (2012 [2013], Capri): Pianist, b. 1938, about twenty albums since 1966. Solo, four originals (including one for Earl Hines), nine covers (including a medley of two songs named "Once in a Lifetime," including the Talking Heads one). B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Cheryl Bentyne and Mark Winkler: West Coast Cool (Summit): September 10
  • Jay Clayton: Harry Who?: A Tribute to Harry Warren (Sunnyside): August 13
  • Avishai Cohen With Nitai Hershkovits: Duende (Sunnyside): August 13
  • The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band: Feelin' Good (Origin)
  • John Escreet: Sabotage and Celebration (Whirlwind): October
  • Albert Heath/Ethan Ivrerson/Ben Street: Tootie's Tempo (Sunnyside): August 27
  • Art Hodes: I Remember Bessie (1976, Delmark)
  • Roscoe Mitchell Quartet: Live at "A Space" 1975 (1975, Delmark/Sackville)
  • Scott Neumann Neu3 Trio: Blessed (Origin)
  • Mort Weiss: A Giant Step Our and Back (SMS Jazz)

Expert Comments

From Cam Patterson:

Well, it has been a crummy day, but there is a twitter exchange going on right now that's been pretty interesting/informative. Thom Yorke basically threw a hand grenade at Spotify, and Tim Quirk (should be known to all here as the lead singer of Too Much Joy and who has worked in the streaming world with Rhapsody and Google Music since the inception of these services) is deconstructing his arguments. I wish I knew more about Twitter to cut and paste the thread here (maybe someone else can?), but you can certainly go to @tbquirk to see it. I have all kinds of concerns about the changing models for reimbursement for musicians and whether they are fair or not, but Quirk's comments help me understand how we have gotten where we are. My favorite comeback by Quirk: "Dude, if someone only listens to your record two or three times IT WAS NEVER WORTH FIFTEEN DOLLARS."

I easily recoup the cost of my Rhapsody subscription by making more informed decisions as to what is really worth buying. In particular, I'm no longer buy (mostly bad) records just to find out what they sound like (usually not very good). Of course, there is a lot of stuff not on Rhapsody that I could still waste money trying out, but I don't have that kind of money (at least not anymore), and at some point I figure I have to draw a line. And, by the way, even when I was buying a dozen or more records per week, I almost never paid $15 for any of them. That was a galling price point when it first appeared twenty-some years ago as the premium for the supposed benefits of CDs (and has returned lately, plus some inflation, as the premium for the supposed advantages of vinyl).

I posted the following:

Thought I'd mention, since it's come up here, that I wrote some in yesterday's "Weekend Roundup" on the Zimmerman-Martin case and more on similar (but evidently not race-linked) "self-defense" shootings here in Kansas. There is also a link there to a piece I wrote a week ago about voting rights, and I just finished reading Gretchen Eick's history of the civil rights movement in Wichita (Dissent in Wichita) so I'm not lightly dismissive of race as a factor here. I'm just more struck by how the self-defense fetish fits into the guns debate, and indeed with the whole posture of using violence and calling it defense. (I could have noted that the US Department of Defense has from the moment of its naming been much more consistently aggressive than the old Department of War ever was. Also could have mentioned Jim Geraghty's book title which so succinctly sums up post-9/11 Republican political strategy: Voting to Kill.)

I also wrote a bit more today on the Coates piece, including this: "I don't know that the verdict itself was racist, but the examples in the [paragraph staring "One need only look"] -- go to the article to get all the links -- really are racist. Moreover, I think there is probable cause to think that anyone who argues that Zimmerman was fully justified or did the right thing and celebrates him as some sort of hero is racist. Also that you will be able to get a good sense of how racist Zimmerman is by whether he embraces or distances himself from those people."

New Jazz Prospecting up, too -- not that it contains anything especially notable.

Milo commented back (at least I got this in mail):

@Tom Hull, I thought the whole combo package of Koch/Kansas/Zimmerman-Martin was one of your finest. A welcome affirmation of sanity.

Daily Log

Monday, so put Jazz Prospecting together. Had some rain in the morning, which pulped the unbagged newspaper, so missed the Wichita Eagle today. Laura hoped to go to the "Justice for Trayvon Martin" demonstration, but didn't make it. I hear that 450 people turned out -- strikes me as a remarkably good showing. High in the 80s, so that probably helped. I cooked up a batch of curried parsnip soup -- one of Laura's favorites -- and tried a Chinese pickle recipe on some cucumbers and green beans. (I thought it best to cook the green beans, although when I finally looked at the recipe it called for raw. Good chance the cooked ones will never revert to anything resembling crunchy, but should absorb the flavored brine better.) They're supposed to sit for four days. I'd like to do more; in fact, I'd love to pick up a proper Chinese pickling vase.

Watched Endeavour (the early Morse Mystery spinoff). Went out for some groceries, then watched Longmire later.

Music today (JP): Reg Schwager (three albums); (RG): Ray Anderson; (RS): Ciara, Mavis Staples. Laura played one of Anderson's BassDrumBone records tonight, which got me to search him. Found the first Pocket Brass Band record, and had to play it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links this week. But first, this week's Richard Crowson cartoon, which would have been a fine illustration for last night's Koch post, or indeed on anything else on Kansas over the last two years:

Today's "Opinion Line" was roughly divided between comments critical of the Kochs and ones that echoed their smug lines: "I fail to understand why it is 'greed' to want to keep your hard-earned money but not 'greed' to take someone else's money." "The biggest problem with this country is that there are too many people sitting in the wagon rather than pulling the wagon. Unless our government quites giving able-bodied people free rides, we're doomed financially." Somehow I find it hard to think of Charles Koch's income as "hard-earned money," and if anyone's "riding in the wagon" it is he.

In other Wichita news, five people were shot last night, one dead, but the paper had no details. Earlier a guy was killed in his apartment, where he retreated after having fired shots in a local K-Mart. Not clear on the details there, either. Then there was this front-page article: Lawyer says robbery victim 'stepped over the line': Someone tried to rob a coin shop, using a BB gun that looked like a 9mm handgun. The clerk handed over $2,800 in loot, then pulled out a real gun, and they fought over it, leaving both clerk and robber shot, but the robber was able to break free and escape. The clerk then took another gun and shot the fleeing robber in the back. The robber survived: he was quickly caught, was convicted of the robbery, and sentenced to 12 years (a long time, but he had a history and was on probation). Hard to say that the latter act was self-defense, but for once I wouldn't be inclined to charge him (even if the robber had died). The continuity of the acts counts for something, and it's hard to recognize just when the threat ends (especially if you've been threatened with a gun, beaten, and shot).

On the other hand, I worry that the conclusion armed robbers will draw from this is to shoot sooner, and I'll note that if the clerk hadn't had the guns nobody would have been shot. Our ultra-lax gun policy is creating a cult of aggressive self-defense that will lead to a sort of arms race between criminals and target-victims, with lots of borderline cases and extraneous victims. I wrote about a case a few months ago -- Over a Barrel -- where a Wichita man named Cheever was charged with second degree murder. He took a gun and a friend with him, entered the back yard of a neighbor (Gammon) he suspected of stealing his motorcycle. Gammon challenged the intruder, and had his own gun for emphasis. The intruder, Cheever, then shot and killed Gammon in his own backyard and claimed he did so in self-defense. The trial was underway when I wrote, so I didn't know the verdict then, but the jury bought the self-defense argument, so Cheever was acquitted. Had Gammon shot first he almost certainly would have been acquitted too, if indeed he had even been charged. It occurs to me now that if Cheever had intended to kill Gammon from the start -- and they seem to have had a long history of mutual hatred -- what he did was a perfectly good scheme to get away with it.

As you all no doubt know by now, a while back a white guy in Florida, George Zimmerman, shot and killed a unarmed black teenager and claimed it was self-defense. (For a straightforward account of the uncontested facts of the case, see this piece by Roberto Martinez.) Since Florida is a state with a sordid past of allowing white guys to kill blacks and get away with it, this became a big news story, and it ultimately resulted in Zimmerman being charged with and tried for second-degree murder (with a manslaughter option). The jury acquitted Zimmerman. It's not clear what this proves: one possibiity is that Florida is as racist as ever, but another is that we've gotten very soft in the head over claims of self-defense. (Here's a thought experiment: what if Trayvon Martin, the black teenager, had his own gun and had shot first?)

TPM quoted a letter from "a criminal defense lawyer in Wisconsin," who tried to figure out what happened and attributes much of it to nuances of law specific to Florida:

I was astounded that the defense would put on a "self-defense" argument without the defendant testifying. In most civilized jurisdictions, the burden is on the defense to prove, at least more likely than not, that the law breaking was done for reasons of self-defense. I couldn't figure out how they could do this without the defendant's testimony.

I got curious and read the jury instructions Friday night and, I was wrong. In Florida, if self-defense is even suggested, it's the states obligation to prove it's absence beyond a reasonable doubt(!). That's crazy. But 'not guilty' was certainly a reasonable result in this case. As I told in friend in Tampa today though, if you're ever in a heated argument with anyone, and you're pretty sure there aren't any witnesses, it's always best to kill the other person. They can't testify, you don't have to testify, no one else has any idea what happened; how can the state ever prove beyond a doubt is wasn't self-defense? Holy crap! What kind of system is that?

Well, it's a system that we've talked ourselves into constructing because we've bought into the argument that people need to be armed to defend themselves. Lots of things go into that argument: declining respect for the law, for the police, and for the courts; distrust of government, which is often justified because the government reports to, and is preoccupied with, the rich. This is yet another area where increasing inequality has been poisoning the culture: today's mantra is we have to be responsible for ourselves, and can only depend on ourselves, which soon degenerates into the notion that the last true friend and ally we are allowed is a gun. The more people with guns there are, the more people get shot: accidentally, of course, like this incident, where two toddlers were playing "cops and robbers," or in all sorts of fuzzy gray areas, like Zimmerman and Cheever. And this, in turn, has led to all sorts of perverse scenarios, like the "recommendation" of the defense attorney above.

My own theory is that the right, attempting to cling onto power despite the fact that virtually nothing they've done in the last 30 years has worked even on its own terms, have actively adopted a program of inculcating mass stupidity. This is just one of many examples.

But I also have to admit that I can't hear the words "self-defense" without thinking of Israel. If you want some idea of how far a "right to self-defense" can go toward covering up cold-blooded murder, take a look at Israel's recent history (like ever since Qibya in 1953).

On to the links:

  • Paul Krugman: Political Inflationistas: Quotes Noah Smith suggesting that economists who predict inflation from expansionary monetary policy these days -- and we're actually talking Bernanke, so not all that expansionary -- are either fools, blowhards, or cynics (not exactly his terms), although personally I wouldn't exclude the possibility of all three.

    Look at the 23-economist letter warning Bernanke against QE, and you'll see several people who really don't fit his typology. Michael Boskin, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, John Taylor, and several others have not, historically, been equilibrium-macro types, devoting their careers to the proposition that monetary policy can do nothing but cause inflation. On the contrary, their analytical models have always, whether they admit it or not, been more or less Keynesian. The same is true for a few other monetary hawks who didn't sign this letter, e.g. Allan Meltzer and Martin Feldstein. (Way back, one colleague described Meltzer's work with Karl Brunner as "Just Tobin with some original errors")

    So what is it that makes these guys -- whose analytical framework, when you come down to it, doesn't seem very different from Bernanke's, or mine -- so hostile to expansionary monetary policy? What do they have in common? The obvious answer is that they're all very committed Republicans. And it's hard to escape the suspicion that what's really going on is that they're bitterly opposed to expansionary policy when a Democrat is in the White House.

    We could have tested that proposition if Mitt Romney had won. But doing that test would have been a clear case of unethical human experimentation.

  • Andrew Leonard: Peak oil's death has been greatly exaggerated: I haven't looked at The Oil Drum lately, but I'm sad to hear that the website is no longer being updated. I bought into the "peak oil" theory some years ago, reading Kenneth S. Deffeyes' Beyond Oil: The View From Hubbert's Peak (2005, Hill and Wang), Richard Heinberg's The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies (2003, New Society), and Matthew Simmons' Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy (2005, Wiley), among other books. The basic theory still strikes me as correct, but we've seen a temporary burst of production, especially in the US, due to fracking (but also note that demand has dropped along with the economy), and that's pushed peak oil talk to the back burner. Leonard quotes "Joules Burn" as saying:

    Closer to reality is that, while there have been some advances, it is mostly that continued high prices made the application of pre-existing technology worth the financial risk of drilling expensive, rapidly depleting wells on land that one must pay royalties on in addition. We have had some recent posts indicating that well performance has been getting worse instead of better, so even at current prices, the future is uncertain. At the same time, US consumption is still down from what it was prior to 2008, and the net result is a lot of feel-good myths about imminent US energy independence.

    Leonard adds:

    Critics of the theory of peak oil will argue that higher prices will always result in new technological advances that will increase production or otherwise improve the efficiency with which fossil fuels are transformed into energy. But if Joules Burn is right, the long-run "truth" of peak oil is currently being obscured by a short-term unsustainable boost in production. And if that's the case, one could argue that, now, more than ever, we need voices disputing the new complacency while we still have time to move more aggressively to renewable sources of energy before we hit the real crunch.

  • Catherine Thompson: Insurer Refuses to Cover Gun-Carrying Kansas Schools: When a bunch of children in Connecticut were killed by a gunman, our genius Kansas legislators rushed out their solution, which is to arm Kansas schoolteachers so they can shoot it out with would-be mass murderers. Turns out that the company that writes most of the school insurance policies in the state didn't think that was such a good idea: their actuarial models, or maybe just common sense, suggested that more guns will spell greater risks. Probably just a blip as far as the law is concerned, as other insurance companies are willing to overlook the risk issue for new business. Whether doing so lets them remain in business is an open question, but presumably the state will make up for the losses (or just pass new laws disclaiming the liability). After all, the state can always raise the sales tax, making sure everyone (but businesses) pays their fair share.

Had to cut this short because I lost a few hours to a power outage along the way -- not to mention the long preamble. Leaves that much more for later, I guess.

Daily Log

Rained today, even kept the temperature down -- if I'm reading this right, high this afternoon was 81F (but high for the day was 85F just after midnite), down from over 100F the last few days. I balked from taking a walk with Laura -- sun came out and it was pretty humid, but I did 15 minutes on the treadmill to make up. Hadn't done that in years, so basic things like balance were a bit dicey. Need to do more of that.

Wrote quite a bit on guns (above), then started to gather a few links. Then the power went out: was down about two hours, from 6:45 to 8:45, but seemed longer. Trimmed on the hedges a bit, and tried working on the puzzle using my headlamp. When power came back on, had some trouble getting the computers up right again. Finally posted the above, rather arbitrarily cutting it off. Watched The Killing and the first two episodes of Under the Dome.

Music today (JP): Alan Ferber, Eldar Djangirov, Michael Hackett, Rick VanMatre, Tim Bedner.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Land of the Economic Free

Big article in the Wichita Eagle earlier this week: Charles Koch launching Wichita campaign about economic freedom, government overreach. Koch is the billionaire who along with his brother David Koch inherited Koch Industries, the largest privately held company in America. While David Koch is cultivating his links with the power elite in New York City, Charles Koch lives in humble Wichita and runs the family company. Both Kochs are concerned citizens. They do a lot of philanthropy, but in Wichita that mostly means we have a lot of buildings reminding us who the richest guy in town is. And they spend a lot of money on politics, not just to promote their own narrow interests -- they have lawyers and lobbyists for that, not to mention Rep. Michael Pompeo and Sen. Jerry Moran -- but to share and spread their unique insights into what makes a nation rich. After all, it worked for them, so why shouldn't it work for everyone else?

OK, you may think that just because they inherited an oil company and you didn't, they had some sort of unfair advantage over you, but their real secret is that they grew up believing in the gospel of "economic freedom." (Their father, after all, was Fred Koch, who not only built their oil company but set a model for them as a big backer of the John Birch Society.) The Kochs have been pushing this line for a long time now. Their most prominent front group is called Americans for Prosperity. Given their success, and the uncontroversial cloaking they use for their message -- I mean, who in American isn't for prosperity? or economic freedom? -- you have to wonder what they're really up to. The article explains:

The point of it, Koch said, is that he believes prosperity grows where economic freedom is greatest, where government intervention in business affairs is kept to a minimum. He hopes his ideas will help the country grow, he said. In his interview he emphasized several times that he believes his ideas on economics will help disadvantaged people. Government regulations -- including the minimum wage law -- tend to hold everyone back, he said.

"We want to do a better job of raising up the disadvantaged and the poorest in this country, rather than saying 'Oh, we're just fine now.' We're not saying that at all. What we're saying is, we need to analyze all these additional policies, these subsidies, this cronyism, this avalanche of regulations, all these things that are creating a culture of dependency. And like permitting, to start a business, in many cities, to drive a taxicab, to become a hairdresser. Anything that people with limited capital can do to raise themselves up, they keep throwing obstacles in their way. And so we've got to clear those out. Or the minimum wage. Or anything that reduces the mobility of labor."

As near as I can tell (and I'll note that Koch wrote more about it here), Koch's notion of "economic freedom" is pretty much limited to the freedom of business owners (like himself) to run roughshod over everyone else. Nothing aggravates a boss more than the possibility that someone else can tell him "no" -- least of all the government he thinks his taxes supports. Maybe he accepts the limits of the market -- that a customer may choose not to buy, or a worker may choose not to work for him -- but if the market will bear it, he's saying government has no business butting in, and that when it does it's trampling on his economic freedom, undermining his prosperity. That much may be even be true, but then he makes an intellectual leap that is invalid: he assumes that when government limits his prosperity, it is limiting the overall prosperity of the whole nation. In other words, he is assuming that the gain that government denied him -- the gain that he should have been free to realize -- would not have come at anyone else's expense. That may indeed be the case, but much more likely isn't: with few exceptions, government regulations exist to protect someone against some possible abuse of power -- laws against fraud, for instance, or regulations against pollution (the victims of which are potentially all of us).

There is some reason to think that even Koch recognizes that some of his fellow entrepreneurs are up to no good. From the same piece:

Koch said it's possible that the people who criticized him for his campaign spending last year will attack him for this campaign also, saying he's merely trying to make more money for Koch Industries.

"If that is true, then why are we the only large company that's doing this?" he said. "All the other large companies, or the great majority of them, are promoting some kind of special cronyism where they're undermining economic freedom."

But if he was sincere about opposing "cronyism" in Washington -- and Topeka and Wichita, where his voice is even louder -- you'd think he'd start a campaign to get the corrupting influence of money out of politics. But he's not articulating anything like that: the only time he actually knuckles down and works against "cronyism" is when it's seen as an alternative to the oil business: when it comes to stopping ethanol subsidies and wind power, he'll stand on the highest principle available. But mention a carbon tax, which is a relatively benign way of assigning an externalities cost to the conversion of fossil fuels into a gas that turns the entire planet into a greenhouse, he goes ballistic. (As Jane Mayer recently documented, Koch is the guy pushing an "anti-carbon tax pledge" among Republicans.)

Aside from his hypocrisy about cronyism, is it really true that no other company is advancing Koch's agenda? When you get down to the actual candidates that Koch puts money behind -- Pompeo and Moran are prime examples because they invested so heavily in both -- what you get is your basic "tea party" Republican, the same sort getting backing from corporate cranks all over the country. Nor for all his ideological pretensions is Koch all that much of a purist: he's happy enough with Republicans like Sam Brownback, who's squishy on wind power and absolutely nuts on abortion, and Tim Huelskamp, who's squishy on nothing and so anti-government he feels threatened by the PATRIOT ACT. He was even on board with Mitt Romney -- he sent out memos to all his employees directing them to vote Republican.

Of course, "economic freedom" is a fine slogan. I'm for it, too, but you have to put these things into a viable context. Freedom is a wonderful state, but not at someone else's expense. You can't have a viable society if everyone is allowed to do anything they think might be in their interest. Such a society would be rife with crime, fraud, deception, and chaos: conditions under which prosperity would collapse. One might assume that even Koch wouldn't go that far, but I can't assure you. (Back in the 1970s one of my jobs was to typeset reprints of Murray Rothbard books for Koch. Rothbard was so opposed to government he proposed that justice be privatized, so each and every business would have to contract with its own police, courts, etc. How this differs from mafia cartels was never clear to me. Of course, Koch's thinking may have evolved since then, but he hasn't strayed much.)

On the other hand, it certainly is the case that some government acts -- laws, regulations, discretionary enforcement -- do inhibit economic freedom for no good reason, and I would be happy to join Koch in opposing them. The main things I can think of are patents, which create artificial monopolies and encourage trolls and other parasites (including one's own lawyers). I also worry about excess concentration of corporate power, which can distort free markets even if it is well short of monopoly, and can also leads to unfair relations with employees. Interestingly, Koch himself expressed concern about "anything that reduces the mobility of labor."

Of course, given that his statement immediately followed his complaint about the minimum wage, he may only be concerned with the downward mobility of labor. Otherwise, were we to take his statement at face value, we might decide that there was a need for more government intervention. For instance, one thing that would make labor more mobile would be to make education freely available (and not just the cost of education but a stipend to live on). That way, when new job opportunities open up, people can (relatively painlessly) flock to them. Another would be to make it easy to move from one place to another with more job opportunities. Nor should be labor mobility be limited to changing jobs. We should also encourage workers to go into business: by reducing the entry cost, by making it easier for new businesses to raise capital, by reducing and/or buffering the risks of failure. These are all examples where greater "labor mobility" would result in workers finding more productive jobs, and that in turn would directly add to the prosperity of the nation -- as well as the more equitable distribution of the nation's wealth.

But that sort of "labor mobility" isn't something the private sector can ever be expected to do on its own. Businesses see labor as an expense: something to be squeezed, automated, or outsourced. Only some benign charitable organization could deliberately decide to systematically improve the upward mobility of labor, and for all practical purposes that means government. Of course, a given government may be unwilling to help workers -- indeed, ours has largely been captured by corporate interests that differ little in this regard from the Koch brothers. But if you posited a real democracy, where every voter is free and able to understand and advance his or her self-interest, the government they would elect would work toward greater and more widespread prosperity, and it would do something much like what I just described.

The biggest intellectual con job of the last few decades is the notion that business owners are "job creators" and we should cater to their every whim else they withdraw even the paltry jobs they currently offer. There is much more to this than taxes, but tax policy offers a clear example of what happens when we follow their prescriptions. Government, at least in theory, belongs to all of the people, and serves all of the people, whereas companies belong to the tiny (and mostly rich) fraction that owns them. When we cut taxes on the rich, as we've done repeatedly since 1999 -- Clinton's big tax cut on capital gains, followed by all the Bush cuts, then the Obama cuts -- the rich keep (and accumulate) more and we (via the government) get less. And when government revenues decline, so do services -- starting with those that serve the poorest, least powerful people among us.

In Koch's Kansas this same dynamic has been carried out to even greater extremes: Brownback has cut the income tax and carved out a complete exemption for "small business" income (Koch's $40 billion empire is privately held, so it qualifies, as does the real estate and gambling fiefdom of Wichita's other billionaire); meanwhile sales taxes, which are paid by the "takers" Romney complained so about, the 47% of Americans who don't make enough money to owe income taxes on, have increased. This is supposed to make Kansas friendlier to business -- to increase our "economic freedom," to use the Koch parlance. The net result so far is that education is becoming more expensive and other services scarcer. Meanwhile, any business that will consider moving to Kansas will insist on kickbacks from a shrinking pie, and nearly every business in the country is enjoying that race to the bottom.

Boeing, for instance, left Wichita because they were getting sweeter deals in Texas and South Carolina. Pizza Hut moved to Colorado to take advantage of another sweetheart deal. Even Koch has played that game, threatening to move their headquarters to Houston unless the public provide direct air connections. But at least they're still here: nearly every other important company that was built here has either moved out or sold out -- Beech, Cessna, Lear Jet, and others have just become profit centers for global capital, which has no community interest in Wichita.

The thing I find most striking about the Kochs isn't how narrow-minded and ultimately destructive their ideology is, but how naturally they come by it. They were born rich and sheltered, moving straight into the company throne, and yet they think they earned every cent of it, going so far as to complain about "the culture of dependency" that those who weren't born rich like them are mired in. It's part of human nature to assume that other folks are pretty much like yourself. Still, it's remarkable that anyone so unique would be unaware that they're not the ideal template for the rest of the world.

"Economic freedom" works great for the Kochs. But it's not the be-all, end-all answer for everything. It's a part, possibly just a small one, but only if you get past the rest of the claptrap they spout. And all the money they put behind it just gives the lie away. They have to propagandize their ideology because you won't believe it otherwise. And they think they can because they have all that money, plus utter contempt for democracy and nearly all of the people it represents.

Here's a shorter version that approaches what I wanted to say in a slightly different way: a "letter to the editor" by Jack E. Niblack, published in the Wichita Eagle today:

I can certainly understand Charles Koch's frustration with and disdain for an economic and political system that has only allowed him to become a multibillionaire ("Charles Koch to launch Wichita ad campaign," July 10 Eagle). I've no doubt that were it not for ill-conceived, shortsighted, and unnecessary rules and regulations that make it more difficult for Koch's companies to pollute our air and water, demand that meters used to determine how much oil his companies are extracting from Native American lands be calibrated, and require him to pay workers, at a minimum, the lavish sum of $7.25 per hour, he would have attained the status of multitrillionaire. Perhaps he would then be more successful at buying national elections. He's already been quite successful at the state level.

Daily Log

Took Laura to acupuncture. Ate at Red Lobster. Did some grocery shopping. Warm and humid early on, turning to hot.

Declined a chance to see Beasts of the Southern Wild on TV: heard mixed things about it, the negatives more persuasive. Finally settled into writing the Koch post above. One thing I didn't work in was this Charles Koch quote: "We are under attack from various directions, both with threats of violence against us personally, and with threats of attacks on our businesses." Just like Koch to play the victim, just as it was just like him to insist that no other corporation is standing up against cronyism like his is.

Another thing I didn't work in: according to Steve Coll's book, ExxonMobil decided to support a carbon tax, at least as the lesser evil to cap-and-trade. Otherwise, there's not a lot of political distance between the two companies, so Koch's fanaticism on the carbon tax stands out. Coll also quotes ExxonMobil execs routinely denying that they want any special favors from Washington -- all they want is a level playing field, with no government-picked winners (least of all solar or wind), etc. Of course, the US oil industry only exists (at least as it does) because the government allowed private ownership of oil fields. The result of that law led to depletion of those fields in record time -- Spindletop dried up in something like three years -- but another result was the creation of the most conceited, self-entitled, and arrogant class of business executives in the history of mankind.

Spent pretty much the whole week dicking with the metafile, so feels good to actually write something.

Finished Gretchen Eick's Dissent in Wichita. Not sure what comes next, but one of these days I have to read Stiglitz.

Music today (JP): Dan DeChellis, Drye & Drye; (RS): Foals, more Foals, Primal Scream (big surprise, for me at least).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Expert Comments

Ryan Maffei's paean to the Expert Witness commenters ("the witnesses"). Presumably I'm one of the "light sprinkle of professional cohorts and descendents."

Also found Ryan's My Super Punctual 2012 Rundown, sensibly dated March 15, 2013; and 25 45s from the '50s (as per Christgau).

Daily Log

Saw my cardiologist today. Had an echogram first, which he says is almost "a carbon copy" of my last one, two years ago. Also said something about the heart being "stiff" which I let go since he seemed to generally be positive. Googled "stiff heart" later and found cardiac amyloidosis. Presumably I don't have that, since the life expectancy there is less than a year. I think these guys are more aggressive (not to mention too greedy) to let a dying patient wait six months until next appointment. Weight was down six pounds since six months ago, but some of that is probably clothes (July vs. January). Need to lose more.

Music today (JP): Michel Camilo; (RS): Frikstailers, Miguel Zenón, Disclosure.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Daily Log

Rained a little this morning, which broke the heat streak, at least until the sun came out -- even so, 93F seems to be the top.

Watched the third episode of Under the Dome. Guess I should catch up on the first two. (I never watched Lost, so I don't necessarily know what I'm talking about, but that's the vibe I got. Also noticed a similarity between the bearded bad-guy/anti-hero and Banshee.) Also two episodes of Futurama -- not that good.

Music today (JP): Ryan Cohan, Susanne Abbuehl; (RS): Bell X1, Anais Mitchell (bumped to A-), Hurray for the Riff Raff, Frightened Rabbit, White Mandingos, Dessa, Inc.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Expert Comments

Don't know about sharing this, but here's a mid-year list from Tiny Machine Tapes:

  • Pharmakon: Abandon (Sacred Bones)
  • Mohammad: Som Sakrifis (PAN)
  • Autre Ne Veut: Anxiety (Software)
  • 18+: MIXTA2E (self-released)
  • Portal: Vexovoid (Profound Lore)
  • L. Pierre: The Island Come True (Melodic)
  • Dean Blunt: The Redeemer (Hippos in Tanks/World Music)
  • Jenny Hval: Innocence Is Kinky (Rune Grammofon)
  • RP Boo: Legacy (Planet Mu)
  • Andrew Pekler: Cover Versions (Senufo Editions)
  • Nmesh: Nu.wav Hallucinations (AMDISCS)
  • Mark Templeton: Jealous Heart (Under the Spire)
  • Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away (Bad Seeds)
  • Foodman: Shokuhin (Orange Milk)
  • Jerusalem in My Heart: Mo7it Al-Mo7it (Constellation)
  • Tape Loop Orchestra: In a Lonely Place (Fracture)
  • Wolf Eyes: No Answer: Lower Floors (De Stijl)
  • Stara Rzeka: Cien chmury nad ukrytym polem (Instant Classic)
  • The Knife: Shaking the Habitual (Mute)
  • DJ Rashad: Rollin' (Hyperdub, EP)
  • Gobby: Lantern (UNO NYC, EP)
  • Inga Copeland: Higher Powers (self-released)
  • Fear of Men: Early Fragments (Kanine)
  • Saint Pepsi: Hit Vibes (Keats/Collective)
  • Burial: Truant/Rough Sleeper (Hyperdub, EP)
  • Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light (Constellation)
  • The Flaming Lips: The Terror (Warner Bros.)
  • Paisley Parks: [GHOST] (Pan Pacific Playa)
  • Dirty Beaches: Drifters/Love Is the Devil (Zoo Music)
  • Lucrecia Dalt: Commotus (Hem)

Also have a more conventional list from The Guardian:

  1. David Bowie: The Next Day
  2. Suede: Bloodsports
  3. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
  4. Queens of the Stone Age: Like Clockwork
  5. Everything Everything: Arc
  6. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
  7. The National: Trouble Will Find Me
  8. Laura Marling: Once I Was an Eagle
  9. Kanye West: Yeezus
  10. Boards of Canada: Tomorrow's Harvest

From Clash (link to "part three" will point you to the first two parts):

  • Savages: Silence Yourself
  • Boards of Canada: Tomorrow's Harvest
  • Young Fathers: Tape Two
  • Sigur Rós: Kveikur
  • Mount Kimbie: Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
  • The National: Trouble Will Find Me
  • Laura Marling: Once I Was an Eagle
  • These New Puritans: Field of Reeds
  • Ghostpoet: Some Say I So I Say Light
  • Tyler, the Creator: Wolf
  • Foals: Holy Fire
  • James Blake: Overgrown
  • The Haxan Cloak: Excavation
  • Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
  • Deptford Goth: Life After Defo
  • Primal Scream: More Light
  • David Bowie: The Next Day
  • Disclosure: Settle
  • Kurt Vile: Wakin on a Pretty Daze
  • The Knife: Shaking the Habitual
  • Bonobo: The North Borders
  • John Grant: Pale Green Ghosts
  • Atoms for Peace: Amok
  • Inc.: No World
  • Thundercat: Apocalypse
  • Youth Lagoon: Wondrous Bughouse
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away
  • Lapalux: Nostalchic
  • Cloud Boat: Book of Hours

From Gigwise:

  • Peace: In Love
  • Flume: Flume
  • Phosphorescent: Muchacho
  • My Bloody Valentine: MBV
  • Biffy Clyro: Opposites
  • Dizraeli and the Small Gods: Moving in the Dark
  • Lord Huron: Lonesome Dreams
  • Foals: Holy Fire
  • Colman Brothers: Remixed
  • The Neighbourhood: I Love You
  • Yo La Tengo: Fade
  • C2C: Tetra
  • Iceage: You're Nothing
  • Beacon: The Ways We Separate
  • Frightened Rabbit: Pedestrian Verse
  • Last Night in Paris: Roses
  • ASAP Rocky: Long.Live.ASAP
  • Foxygen: We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
  • Bastille: Bad Blood
  • Retro Stefson: Retro Stefson

From Paste (Josh Jackson):

  1. Phosphorescent: Muchacho
  2. Foxygen: We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
  3. Mikal Cronin: MCII
  4. Deerhunter: Monomania
  5. Josh Ritter: The Beast in Its Tracks
  6. Cayucas: Bigfoot
  7. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down: We the Common
  8. Leagues: Leagues
  9. Kurt Vile: Walkin on a Pretty Daze
  10. Frightened Rabbit: Pedestrian Verse

From Potholes in My Blog:

  1. El-P & Killer Mike: Run the Jewels
  2. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
  3. Chance the Rapper: Acid Rap
  4. Disclosure: Settle
  5. Thundercat: Apocalypse
  6. James Blake: Overgrown
  7. Boards of Canada: Tomorrow's Harvest
  8. DJ Koze: Amygdala
  9. Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge: Twelve Reasons to Die
  10. Mac Miller: Watching Movies With the Sound Off
  11. Kanye West: Yeezus
  12. Tyler, the Creator: Wolf
  13. Bonobo: The North Borders
  14. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
  15. Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience
  16. Mount Kimbie: Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
  17. The Underachievers: Indigoism
  18. Quasimoto: Yessir Whatever
  19. The Foreign Exchange: +FE Music: The Reworks
  20. Milo: Things That Happen at Day/Things That Happen at Night
  21. Statik Selektah: Extended Play
  22. Big K.R.I.T.: King Remembered in Time
  23. Denitia & Sene: His & Hers
  24. Atoms for Peace: Amok
  25. Mr. Muthafuckin' Exquire: Kismet
  26. Young Fathers: Tape Two
  27. Bilal: A Love Surreal
  28. The White Mandingos: The Ghetto Is Tryna Kill Me
  29. Kool A.D>: 19 & 63
  30. Ben Jamin: Radio Waves

From Rolling Stone (not numbered, but probably ordered):

  1. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
  2. Kanye West: Yeezus
  3. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
  4. John Fogerty: Wrote a Song for Everyone
  5. David Bowie: The Next Day
  6. Jake Bugg: Jake Bugg
  7. The National: Trouble Will Find Me
  8. Atoms for Peace: Amok
  9. Phoenix: Bankrupt!
  10. Queens of the Stone Age: . . . Like Clockwork
  11. Deerhunter: Monomania
  12. Bombino: Nomad
  13. Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold
  14. Palma Violets: 180
  15. Kacey Musgraves: Same Trailer Different Park
  16. So So Glos: Blowout
  17. Eleanor Friedberger: Personal Record
  18. Chance the Rapper: Acid Rap
  19. Boards of Canada: Tomorrow's Harvest
  20. My Bloody Valentine: MBV
  21. Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience
  22. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Mosquito
  23. Tegan and Sara: Heartthrob
  24. DJ Koze: Amygdala
  25. Natalie Maines: Mother
  26. Rhye: Woman
  27. Ashley Monroe: Like a Rose
  28. Savages: Silence Yourself
  29. J Cole: Born Sinner
  30. Fall Out Boy: Save Rock and Roll
  31. Disclosure: Settle
  32. Laura Marling: Once I Was an Eagle
  33. Waxahatchee: Cerulean Salt
  34. Snoop Lion: Reincarnated
  35. Kevin Gates: The Luca Brasi Story
  36. The Knife: Shaking the Habitual
  37. Charles Bradley: Victim of Love
  38. Kurt Vile: Wakin on a Pretty Daze
  39. The Lonely Island: The Wack Album
  40. Pistol Annies: Annie Up

From Spin (looks alphabetical):

  • Bangladesh: Ponzi Scheme
  • Chance the Rapper: Acid Rap
  • Charli XCX: True Romance
  • Mikal Cronin: MCII
  • Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
  • Deafheaven: Sunbather
  • Deerhunter: Monomania
  • Disclosure: Settle
  • Eluvium: Nightmare Ending
  • The Flaming Lips: The Terror
  • Kevin Gates: The Luca Brasi Story
  • The Haxan Cloak: Excavation
  • Inc.: No World
  • Kavinsky: Outrun
  • The Knife: Shaking the Habitual
  • Kvelertak: Meir
  • Laura Marling: Once I Was an Eagle
  • Ashley Monroe: Like a Rose
  • Kacey Musgraves: Same Trailer Different Park
  • Laura Mvula: Sing to the Moon
  • My Bloody Valentine: MBV
  • Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold
  • Phoenix: Bankrupt
  • Pissed Jeans: Honeys
  • Queens of the Stone Age: . . . Like Clockwork
  • Dawn Richard: Goldenheart
  • Caitlin Rose: The Stand-In
  • RP Boo: Legacy
  • Savages: Silence Yourself
  • Marnie Stern: The Chronicles of Marnia
  • Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
  • Tegan and Sara: Heartthrob
  • William Tyler: Impossible Truth
  • Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
  • [various]: Moombathon Forever
  • Kurt Vile: Wakin on a Pretty Daze
  • Waxahatchee: Cerulean Salt
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Mosquito
  • Young Thug: 1017 Thug
  • Zomby: With Love, Vol. 1

From State (Irish mag; I'm adding it to the metafile).

  1. Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
  2. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
  3. My Bloody Valentine: MBV
  4. Villagers: {Awayland}
  5. Boards of Canada: Tomorrow's Harvest
  6. David Bowie: The Next Day
  7. Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience
  8. Jagwar Ma: Howlin'
  9. John Grant: Pale Green Ghosts
  10. Little Green Cars: Absolute Zero

Also ran across a Chuck Eddy essential old school rap album list, from Spin.

  • The Great Rap Hits (Sugar Hill, 1980)
  • Kurtis Blow: Kurtis Blow (Mercury, 1980)
  • Live Convention '82 (Disc-O-Wax, 1982)
  • Wild Style (Animal, 1983)
  • Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five: The Message (Sugar Hill, 1982)
  • Treacherous Three: Whip It (Sugar Hill/Vogue France, 1983)
  • Jonzun Crew: Lost in Space (Tommy Boy, 1983)
  • Whodini: Whodini (Zomba, 1983)

Daily Log

Took Laura to acupuncture, then to YMCA where we had appointments with a trainer -- generally useless. Was supposed to be less hot today, but easily topped 100F (104F by the car thermometer).

Music today (JP): Brahja Waldman; (RS): Zeena Parkins, Sing Me the Songs, Cyclist.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Daily Log

Went to YMCA, and finished paperwork for joining. Have an appointment to go back tomorrow for introductory consultations. I'm not much looking forward to this. I did join a gym after Rebecca died. I went three times a week until I moved in with Laura, and lost about 40 pounds during that time: winding up the least I've weighed since then, or for that matter for twenty years before. Also went to a gym for a few months when I came back to Wichita during the 1990s. So it would probably be a good thing if I did it, but I sure don't feel like it. Went shopping for a gym bag afterwards, but didn't find anything I was willing to pay for. Did pick up a cheap keyed padlock, which will do for now.

Had dinner at Sabor. Surprised myself by ordering the "polenta vegetable tower": two chunks of crisp polenta acting as a sandwich around mushrooms and tomatos, with a pile of spinach on top and pureed black beans all around. Was pretty good. Laura had the papusas -- bit on the spicy side. Watched Major Crimes and Copper on TV.

Music today (JP): David Murray, Brian Andres, Kristin Slipp; (RS) John Scofield; (RG) John Scofield (noticed I had Still Warm ungraded in database, and it was available; surprised to find it wasn't good enough to get me interested in filling out my listings).

Monday, July 08, 2013

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 21665 [21611] rated (+54), 608 [620] unrated (-12).

Huge rated week -- I don't think I've ever done that many, except perhaps in one of those weeks where I found a lot of missing bookkeeping. Worked the first few days adding to the Recycled Goods 1960s special, and kept going long enough to collect three Young Rascals albums for some future column. At that point, was short on Jazz Prospecting, and had a few days where nearly everything resolved in one play. (The one A- record, which I did play a lot, came at the start of the week. I had just published my mid-year jazz list and fretted that this year I'm way ahead of my usual pace. But none of the high B+ albums below ever came close, and only the Ban/Maneri strikes me as something any significant number of others might like more than I do.)

I could keep plugging away at this pace -- mostly played Rhapsody today and last night, so I have that file up to 10 records now. Also fiddled with the metafile, and will note that the new Jay-Z looks like a critical wipeout -- almost as bad as Lil Wayne (whereas Kanye West has moved into the year's top five-rated albums). Or I could take a break and do something else. But it's finally gotten hot here -- 103F this afternoon -- so the cool spot may be near the stereo.

Laura Ainsworth: Necessary Evil (2013, Eclectus): Singer, website also says "comedian," father played in big bands, second album, all covers although I doubt that she left them all unscarred. Brian Piper plays keybs and produced. The "necessary evil" is sex, and she never lets it wander far from mind, either as "necessary" or "evil." B+(*)

Anomonous (2012 [2013], Prom Night): Josh Sinton (amplified contrabass clarinet), Denman Maroney (hyperpiano), Ben Miller (synthesizers, samplers). Sinton is perhaps best known for the Steve Lacy tribute band Ideal Bread, although I also liked his album with Jon Irabagon last year, Holus-Bolus. Hyperpiano is Maroney's term for a set of techniques for playing the piano from inside the box (as opposed to the keyboard). So this is a kind of electronic music with complex acoustic resonances. B+(**) [bc]

Lucian Ban/Mat Maneri: Transylvanian Concert (2011 [2013], ECM): Piano and viola, the concert recorded in Romania, near Ban's birthplace. He studied at Bucharest Music Academy, moved to New York in 1999, has a handful of records since 2002. Maneri was also b. 1969, but in New York, the son of microtonal clarinetist Joseph Maneri, and has more than 15 albums since 1995. B+(***) [advance]

Beat Funktion: Moon Town (2013, DO Music): Swedish six-piece funk band, all instrumental, Karl Olandersson's trumpet in the lead; second album, with extra studio musicians (including some vocals, plus one credit for "breathing"). B

Joel Behrman: Steppin Back (2012, self-released): Trumpet player, originally from St. Louis, studied in Miami, wound up in Bay Area. First album, a hard bop sextet with Dayna Stephens as the sax player, Danny Armstrong (trombone), Matt Clarke (piano), Marcus Shelby (bass), and Howard Wiley (drums). Has a nice mainstream vibe, especially with traditionalists like Shelby and Wiley driving the rhythm. B+(*)

Larry Corban: The Circle Starts Here (2012 [2013], Nabroc): Guitarist, based in New York, second album, a trio with Harvie S on bass and Steve Williams on drums. Soft metallic lines (some nylon), S does a fine job of beefing up the sound. B+(**)

Paulette Dozier: In Walked You (2012, PF&E): Singer, co-wrote three songs with pianist Mike Levine, adding nine standards (if you so consider Billy Joel, Bobby Hebb, and Seals & Crofts). Third album. She evidently does a stage act as Billie Holiday, but I can't reconcile the voice. Looks more like Sarah Vaughan -- doesn't have her voice either, but it's closer, more practical, good enough to salvage most of these songs, even some that shouldn't. B+(*)

Giovanni Guidi Trio: City of Broken Dreams (2012 [2013], ECM): Pianist, b. 1985 in Italy, has a handful of records since 2007, this his first on ECM, a trio with Thomas Morgan on bass and João Lobo on drums. Smartly done, but on the quiet side, something you have to stick with. B+(**) [advance]

Iro Haarla Sextet: Kolibri (2010 [2013], TUM): Pianist, b. 1956 in Finland, married drummer Edward Vesala in 1978 and only picked up her career after he died; sixth album since 2001; group has three horns -- Verneri Pohjola (trumpet), Jari Honigsto (trombone), and Karl Heinilä (tenor sax, flute, alto flute) -- plus bass and drums. Slower pieces enjoy a lot of color, but the clash of the faster ones is more interesting. B+(**)

Joel Harrison 19: Infinite Possibility (2012 [2013], Sunnyside): Guitarist, at least 14 albums since 1996; 19 is his big band, presumably 19-piece although 23 musicians are credited, with JC Sanford as conductor (tenor sax and tuba are clearly two slots with alternating musicians; the two vocalists occur on one track each, so may not be considered a slot). Mixed postbop bag, even a bit of avant chaos, some impressive passages, a lot of stuff I don't much care for. B

Ethan Iverson/Lee Konitz/Larry Grenadier/Jorge Rossy: Costumes Are Mandatory (2012 [2013], High Note): Piano, alto sax, bass, drums -- you should recognize all the names. Konitz is 85, has had a brilliant career; he doesn't break any new ground here, but is a joy to hear. Iverson, best known for the Bad Plus, has a few tricks up his sleeve. He does an interesting deconstruction of "Blueberry Hill" that breaks with the song in many ways yet remains instantly recognizable. That's in the middle of a record with two takes of Iverson's "Blueberry Ice Cream" on the ends. B+(***)

Bob James & David Sanborn: Quartette Humaine (2013, Okeh): The pianist is past 70 now, b. 1939, his first two records were called Bold Conceptions and Explosions, the latter daringly avant, but he settled into pop jazz in the 1970s and has produced very little I've listened to since. The alto saxophonist was b. 1945, has about 30 albums since 1975, mostly in the pop jazz vein. I've checked a few out, and wound up being blown away by 1991's Upfront -- he's clearly a very talented guy when he gives it a chance. Quartette here adds James Genus on bass and Steve Gadd on drums, settling into the mainstream with a little honk to the sax. B+(**)

Kikoski Carpenter Novak Sheppard: From the Hip (2006 [2013], BFM Jazz): David Kikoski (piano), Dave Carpenter (bass), Gary Novak (drums), Bob Sheppard (saxes, mostly tenor). The pianist, b. 1961, has at least 17 albums since 1989, notably with Dutch mainstream label Criss Cross, but this is the first I've heard. Sheppard only has four albums (since 1991), but has a long side-credit list -- AMG's credits list runs 222 lines, lots of singers (including Rod Stewart and Linda Ronstadt) -- another mainstream player, always a plus. B+(***)

Annie Kozuch: Mostly Jobim (2013, self-released): Singer, does some acting but nothing I've seen or heard of; second album. Only song not by Jobim is "So Nice" -- a dead ringer. Band credits are buried in a small print paragraph, beyond my eyesight to dig out, but they get a little samba groove going with flutes but not too many, and she handles all the songs, some in Portuguese. Nice, indeed. B+(**)

Dave Liebman/Michael Stephans: Lineage (2010 [2013], Whaling City Sound): Sax and drums, respectively, with Liebman listing soprano ahead of tenor. Stephans has a previous album and side credits going back to 1986, mostly with big band leaders (Bob Florence, Bob Brookmeyer). Liebman has too many albums to count, and brings along long-time associates like Vic Juris (guitar) and Bobby Avey (keybs) as well as protégé Matt Vashlishan (alto sax, soprano sax, flute, EWI, clarinet). Front cover says "Rock and Pop Classics Revisited": two Beatles songs, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, "Tequila", some surf rock, "Love Me Tender." I don't quite see the point -- it's not like they're either as clever or as cultivated as, say, the Lounge Lizards -- but it's not bad either (except, of course, for the utterly jazzphobic "Eleanor Rigby"). B+(*)

Steve Lindeman: The Day After Yesterday (2012 [2013], Jazz Hang): Credit continues: "with BYU Synthesis" -- Lindeman teaches at Brigham Young in Salt Lake City, so this is their big band, plus Lindeman on organ, some extra percussion and tuba, and a Kelly Eisenhour vocal. First album. All pieces by Lindeman, a veritable catalog of bad orchestral ideas -- although I did rather like the Latin piece ("I Remember"). C+

Michigan State University Professors of Jazz: Better Than Alright (2012 [2013], self-released, 2CD): I've run across several names here -- Etienne Charles (trumpet), Michael Dease (trombone), Rodney Whitaker (bass) -- but don't recall others -- Diego Rivera (sax), Reginald Thomas (piano), Perry Hughes (guitar), Randy Gelispie (drums). Compositions are split between Charles (4), Rivera (3), Whitaker (3), Thomas (2), plus one by "guest" Mardra Thomas (who sings two blues), and one cover. Hot solos, cohesive swing, really impeccable hard bop. B+(***)

Ben Monder: Hydra (2013, Sunnyside): Guitarist, seventh album since 1997, always seemed like a good rhythm side man but I never thought of him as fusion before. Basically, guitar-bass-drums meant to generate a strong flow. Where it gets, well, weird isn't the right word, more like unpleasant, is when he adds up to three vocalists, notably Theo Bleckmann. Only "Charlotte's Song" has lyrics, cribbed from E.B. White. B-

Chris Morrissey: North Hero (2013, Sunnyside): Electric bassist (should try to remember that come Downbeat poll time), second album, quartet: Mike Lewis (sax), Aaron Parks (piano), Mark Guiliana (drums). Lewis plays in a Minneapolis band called Happy Apple with Dave King, who produces here. Guiliana is a fair soundalike for King, Parks is a striking pianist in his own right, and Lewis is a double threat: a honker on the faster ones and a swooner on the ballads. Morrissey wrote both. A-

Chip Stephens Trio: Relevancy (2010 [2013], Capri): Pianist, fourth album since 1995, with Dennis Carroll on bass and Joel Spencer on drums. Three originals; covers from Carla Bley and Bill Evans on the ends, great American songbook in the middle. All done fast and boppy, so bright I can't find a minute to wonder whether it's really all that exceptional. B+(**)

Sweet Talk: Glitterbomb (2011-12 [2013], Prom Night): First record from New York trio: Jake Henry (trumpet), Dustin Carlson (guitar), Devin Drobka (drums). Henry was b. in Toronto, studied at McGill (in Montreal), wound up in New York. Interesting free interplay at first, but it slows down and enters a less appealing drone phase that ends abruptly, probably because there's nothing left to do. B+(*) [advance] [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Lucian Ban: Elevation (Sunnyside): September 10
  • Randy Brecker: Night in Calisia (Summit)
  • Steve Gadd Band: Gadditude (BFM Jazz): September 3
  • Nancy Harms: Dreams in Apartments (Gazelle)
  • Rebecca Harrold: The River of Life (Imaginary Road Studios)
  • Shan Kenner: The Behavior of Vibration (Guitar Lotus)
  • Pete McGuinness: Voice Like a Horn (Summit)
  • The Miami Saxophone Quartet: Four of a Kind (Fortitude)
  • David Murray Infinity Quartet: Be My Monster Love (Motéma)

Added grades for remembered LPs from way back when:

  • Stevie Wonder: I Was Made to Love Her (1967, Tamla): Still under Henry Cosby's thumb, but this opens with one of Wonder's all-time great singles, and leans on James Brown, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, and the usual suspects for filler. B+

Daily Log

Started adding loose ends from Exclaim to the metafile last night. Instead of having a single reviews queue, they have half a dozen by genre. Turns out they have an astonishing amount of metal reviews: I wound up adding 152 metal records to the file, plus they have reviews on almost everything that I already had listed. Really long, tedious slog, and since I usually say the purpose of the file is to help me find things of possible interest, entirely pointless. Their "improv & avant-garde" section barely ran one page, but includes some surprises, like Rich Halley and Nick Fraser.

Music today (JP): Laura Ainsworth, Raquel Cepeda, Carline Ray, Mike Wofford; (RS): Brandt Brauer Frick, The-Dream, Transplants, Queens of the Stone Age.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links this week:

  • Juan Cole: How Egypt's Michele Bachmann Became President and Plunged the Country Into Chaos:

    Despite Egypt's sagging economy, Morsi did not make stimulating it his first priority, and instead tried to please the International Monetary Fund with austerity policies, rather on the model of the Mariano Rajoy government in Spain. The Brotherhood's class base is private business, whether small or large, and Morsi has been distinctly unfriendly to the demands of labor unions and to those of the public sector, which account for half of the country's economy. In 2009, economists such as Paul Krugman warned that Barack Obama's stimulus was far too small. Morsi, steward of a much more fragile economy, put forth no stimulus at all. [ . . . ]

    In November 2012, Morsi abruptly announced on television that he was above the rule of law and his executive orders could not be overturned by the judiciary until such time as a new constitution was passed. He seems in part to have been trying to protect the religious-right-dominated constitutional drafting committee. His announcement enraged substantial sections of the Egyptian public, who had joined to overthrow dictator Hosni Mubarak precisely because the latter had held himself above the rule of law.

    In response to the massive demonstrations that his presidential decree provoked, Morsi pushed through a constitution that is unacceptable to a large swath of Egyptians. Even though two dozen members of the drafting committee resigned to protest key provisions of the draft constitution, which they saw as back doors for theocracy, Morsi accepted the Brotherhood/Salafi draft and presented it to the nation in a countrywide referendum. Egypt's judges, who are supposed to preside over and certify the balloting, went on strike, but the president forged ahead anyway. Only 33 percent of voters went to the polls, many of them supporters of the president. The constitution was passed, but much of the country clearly was uncomfortable with it. Morsi's promise of a consensual document was hollow. The referendum could not be certified as free and fair by international standards.

    Also see Robert Fisk:

    In that dodgy 2009 speech in Cairo -- in which he [Obama] managed to refer to Palestinian "dislocation" rather than "dispossession" -- Obama made the following remarkable comment, which puts the events in Egypt today into a rather interesting perspective. There were some leaders, he said, "who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others . . . you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy."

    Obama did not say this in the aftermath of the coup-that-wasn't. He uttered these very words in Egypt itself just over four years ago. And it pretty much sums up what Mohamed Morsi did wrong. He treated his Muslim Brotherhood mates as masters rather than servants of the people, showed no interest in protecting Egypt's Christian minority, and then enraged the Egyptian army by attending a Brotherhood meeting at which Egyptians were asked to join the holy war in Syria to kill Shiites and overthrow Bashar al-Assad's regime.

    I don't have much to say about the coup in Egypt. It does appear (see this New York Times article) that the US was excessively involved in the coup. The region, and for that matter the US, would be much better off if the US could develop real indifference to every country's internal affairs. As it is, we regularly work off bad information and prejudices with no sensitivity to how our actions are viewed -- time and again, a recipe for disaster.

  • Ed Kilgore: "Getting Over" Jim Crow:

    What makes this "oh, get over it" attitude especially maddening is that the extraordinary effort that culminated in the enactment of the Civil Rights Act (and then the Voting Rights Act the next year) was necessitated by the refusal of the South to accept defeat in a war a century earlier and its successful resistance to the Civil Rights Amendments enacted to ensure the region didn't just revert to its antebellum racial practices. The entire history of race relations in the South has been a story of racists taking the long view and outlasting the wandering attention span of those demanding change -- who out of fatigue or competing priorities or their own prejudices "got over it" and left the South to its own devices. [ . . . ]

    The ultimate point is that the "discriminatory" special rules governing the South that conservatives find so offensive is actually pretty light penance for centuries of systematic denial of human rights to (depending on the particular time and place) nearly half or more than half the local population -- which from the perspective of history just ended the day before yesterday, over the violent resistance of the perpetrators, who more or less continued their political and economic hegemony over the South without serious interruption.

    How long should the South have to put up with the terrible indignity of being treated differently? Well, at least until most of the last victims of full-fledged, unapologetic Jim Crow persecution are laid to rest: maybe until 2031, the date when the last congressional extension of the Voting Rights Act (the extension casually pushed aside by Shelby County v. Holder) expires.

    I'd like to add two things. One is that it is common in America to subject criminals to a period of probation where they have fewer rights than other people, so why not apply this to the criminal acts of states? Jim Crow was a severe violation of the US constitution and of the basic principles of human rights, and as such should be viewed as a crime, one that by its magnitude is all the more despicable. The other thing is that the limitation specified by the Voting Rights Act is not onerous: it lets the federal government review and intercede before illegal state laws can take effect, rather than have to wait until they can be challenged in the courts. If all the Roberts court wanted to do was to remove the "stigma" of a law which was limited to the set of states that had previously (and repeatedly) violated it, they could have extended the limitation to all states. Indeed, there would be good reason for such a ruling: the Voting Rights Act prevented "voter ID" laws in Alabama and Texas from disenfranching minority voters, while very similar laws in Arizona and Kansas were allowed to go into effect. Moreover, by extending the law, the Court wouldn't have overturned the intent of Congress in passing the Voting Rights Act.

    Also see: John Sides: Race and voting after the Voting Rights Act: What you need to know. Six point, most showing that the "covered areas" the Supreme Court let off probation were covered for good reason and are still problem areas.

  • Paul Krugman: On the Politican Economy of Permanent Stagnation: Not as clear as he could be, a lot of hem and haw on austerity, "dubious reasons for monetary tightening," sustained high unemployment, and so forth, raises the question "how does this end?"

    Here's a depressing thought: maybe it doesn't. [ . . . ]

    But won't there be an ever-growing demand from the public for action? Actually, that's not at all clear. While there is growing "austerity fatigue" in Europe, and this might provoke a crisis, the overwhelming result from U.S. political studies is that the level of unemployment matters hardly at all for elections; all that matters is the rate of change in the months leading up to the election. In other words, high unemployment could become accepted as the new normal, politically as well as in economic analysis.

    I guess what I'm saying is that I worry that a more or less permanent depression could end up simply becoming accepted as the way things are, that we could suffer endless, gratuitous suffering, yet the political and policy elite would feel no need to change its ways.

    Don't we already know that "the political and policy elite" has already decided that there's no need for change? The recession has been over for the rich for several years now -- a signal that was clearly sent when the stock markets started posting new record highs. They've been able to push all their depression-extending proposals because they've discovered that slowing down the economy doesn't really hurt the rich. All it does is to depress the labor market, and that just makes the rich feel -- relatively speaking, but that's what matters most to them -- that much richer. And that isn't going to stop until people take increasing inequality seriously and stop it politically.

    For a long time, there's been an implicit social contract around the importance of economic growth. In a nutshell, business said that if you give us more freedom to operate worldwide, we'll be able to grow the economy more, and that will be good for everyone. That may have seemed like a good deal as long as labor got their share and the public got taxes and converted them into public goods, but all that has changed over the last couple decades. Business has abused their "freedom" and kept ever more of the profits, so that growth no longer benefits labor and the public -- it all goes to the owners. Moreover, they've found that they don't even need growth to get a bigger cut: they can obtain it directly by impoverishing labor and the public. Of course, they couldn't do that in the old days when labor was organized and able not only to challenge business directly but also to elect labor-friendly governments. But for the time being that's not a problem. What is a problem is that their impoverishment of labor and the public has made the economy stagnant: there can't be growth because there isn't sufficient demand because money is ever more concentrated in the hands of people who save rather than spend.

    Seems to me this has to break sooner or later, because it's a self-destroying strategy.

  • Jane Mayer: Koch Pledge Tied to Congressional Climate Inaction: Another way the Kochs aim to subvert democracy in the US:

    Fossil fuel magnates Charles and David Koch have, through Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group they back, succeeded in persuading many members of Congress to sign a little-known pledge in which they have promised to vote against legislation relating to climate change unless it is accompanied by an equivalent amount of tax cuts. Since most solutions to the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions require costs to the polluters and the public, the pledge essentially commits those who sign to it to vote against nearly any meaningful bill regarding global warning, and acts as yet another roadblock to action. [ . . . ]

    The 2010 mid-term elections were a high watermark for the pledge. The Kochs, like many other conservative benefactors, gave generously to efforts to help shift the majority in the House of Representatives from Democratic to Republican. Koch Industries's political action committee spent $1.3 million on congressional campaigns that year. When Republicans did take control of the House, a huge block of climate-change opponents was empowered. Fully one hundred and fifty-six members of the House of Representatives that year had signed the "No Climate Tax Pledge." Of the eighty-five freshmen Republican congressmen elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, seventy-six had signed the No Climate Tax pledge. Fifty-seven of those received campaign contributions from Koch Industries's political action committee. The study notes that more than half of the House members who signed the pledge in the 112th Congress made statements doubting climate-change science, despite the fact that there is overwhelming scientific consensus on the subject.

    There is a common problem in economics called externalities, where producers are able to escape paying for public costs -- the prime example is pollution -- and therefore have no reason to minimize or limit their actions. The simplest way to compensate for externalities is for the government to levy a tax on them, which moves (a part of) the public cost back to the perpetrator. For instance, a carbon tax would help level the real costs of burning fossil fuels vs. non-carbon-burning energy sources (like wind and solar). This is precisely what the Kochs aim to keep from happening.

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Walden Bello: Obama should have listened to Paul Krugman: An excerpt from Bello's book, Capitalism's Last Stand? Deglobalization in the Age of Austerity (paperback, 2013, Zed Books): Makes the usual Krugman bullet points, then adds:

    Related to this absence of a program of transformation was the sixth reason for the Obama debacle: his failure to mobilize the grassroots base that brought him to power. This base was diverse in terms of class, generation, and ethnicity. But it was united by palpable enthusiasm, which was so evident in Washington, D.C., and the rest of the country on Inauguration Day in 2009. With his preference for a technocratic approach and a bipartisan solution to the crisis, Obama allowed this base to wither away instead of exploiting the explosive momentum it possessed in the aftermath of the elections.

    Of course, Obama was faced with the bad example of the Tea Party movement, but what they did was create an illusion of popular support for even more extreme policies than the Republicans wanted, whereas with Obama sacking Dean and putting the nationwide Democratic Party to sleep all he pad to point back to were election results -- old news in a Washington that's built to lay down for the lobbyists. Obama did get a pick up when Occupy broke out: even though it could be viewed as against him, it showed that there are people out there who support progressive policies. Obama did little to earn their votes other than to be less noxious than the other guy, which wasn't hard.

  • Kathleen Geier: Your semi-regular reminder: Chris Christie is a) a hardcore conservative and b) a jerk: Just in case you had doubts:

    I can understand Republicans' infatuation with Christie. To conservative dweebs like George Will and David Brooks, Christie is sort of like a theme park version of a white ethnic. He shares those pundits' nightmarish politics, especially the slavish devotion to servicing economic elites, but scores fake populist points with his unslick appearance and tell-it-like it is Jersey-ness. In this context, the fact that Christie is a nasty bully is a feature, not a bug. He's a thug, but they think of him as "their" thug. Honestly, I think the guy's size and his affinity for tracksuits may have them confused, and on some level they mistake him for Tony Soprano.

    Reminds me that the funniest scene I recall from The Sopranos was Carmela reading a book by Fred Barnes.

  • Paul Krugman: Regions of Derpistan: Krugman and Brad DeLong have recently adopted the word "derp" in a big way. Urban Dictionary defines it as "a simple, undefined reply when an ignorant comment or action is made," and refers to a South Park character named Mr. Derp. Krugman cites Noah Smith describing it as "the constant, repetitive reiteration of strong priors," and translates that as "people who take a position and refuse to alter that position no matter how strongly the evidence refutes it, who continue to insist that they have The Truth despite being wrong again and again." Given how prevalent such people are, I guess we're going to be stuck with the word for quite a while. Too bad, but Krugman's effort to map out the various reaches of "Derpistan" offers a helpful overview of macroeconomic follies at the moment.

Daily Log

Lazy day at home. Added a couple items to my Weekend Roundup stash and posted that.

Music today (JP): Lucian Ban, Sweet Talk, Beat Funktion, MSU Professors; (RS): Hermitofthewoods, Thundercat, Mac Miller, Austra.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Buckling Toward Injustice

I could have held this for tomorrow's "Weekend Roundup" but didn't want it to get lost in the shuffle. You should make a point of reading Louis Menand: The Color of Law. It refers to several recent books -- especially Gary May's Bending Toward Justice: The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (2013, Basic Books -- and spells out in detail how bitterly white supremacists fought the challenges of democracy, and how their violence eventually disgusted enough Americans to pass the Voting Rights Act. Menand details three murders of civil rights workers: Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Reeb, and Viola Liuzzo, all centered on Selma, Alabama and the marches first John Lewis and Hosea Williams then Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery.

And Menand reminds us of the background:

Before African-Americans were disenfranchised, they were enfranchised by the Fifteenth Amendment. The era of Jim Crow began, around 1890, with states erecting obstacles to voting, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, with loopholes exempting many whites. In 1896, in Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was constitutional; in 1898, in Mississippi v. Williams, and, in 1903, in Giles v. Harris, it upheld voting laws that operated to disenfranchise African-Americans. Those were the judicial pillars of legal segregation. Their effect was immediate. In 1896, there were 130,334 African-Americans registered to vote in Louisiana. In 1904, there were 1,342. Estimated black turnout in Virginia and South Carolina in the 1904 Presidential election was zero.

The greatest voter suppression was often in areas where blacks were in the majority. Selma was more than fifty per cent black; in 1965, only 383 of the fifteen thousand African-Americans living there were registered to vote. Marion (where Coretta Scott King went to school) had no black voters. In nearby Lowndes County, where almost half of the lynchings in Alabama between 1880 and 1930 took place, and where stores refused to sell Marlboro cigarettes because of rumors that the company had donated to the N.A.A.C.P., four out of five residents were black. None could vote. Mississippi was almost fifty per cent black; 6.4 per cent of eligible African-Americans there could vote. [ . . . ]

The South became a one-party bloc, standing for one principle above all, expressed by the logo of the Alabama Democratic Party: a white rooster with a banner above it reading "White Supremacy." It was as though the purpose of holding elected office was to perpetuate the system that made one's election possible. Voting rights went to the very heart of the Southern "way of life." [ . . . ]

And there were methods of discouragement that did not bother with the color of law -- that is to say, terror. In 1963, Hartman Turnbow became the first African-American of the century to try to register to vote in Holmes County, Mississippi. A month later, his farmhouse was firebombed. Turnbow engaged in a gunfight with men surrounding the house and drove them off. When the sheriff arrived, he arrested Turnbow and charged him with bombing his own house.

The nadir was the reaction to the Mississippi Summer Project, in 1964. Thirty-five churches were burned and thirty buildings were bombed that summer in Mississippi. Eighty people were beaten, and there were at least six murders, most notoriously the lynching, by a group that included members of the Neshoba County sheriff's office, of the civil-rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Civil-rights leaders in Selma, eight months later, had little reason to expect a complaisant response to their demands.

We're not talking about ancient history here: I was 14 at the time and recall much of this, and Anthony Kennedy, who should be ashamed for his Supreme Court ruling cutting out a key part of the Voting Rights Act, was 28: of sufficient age that he, too, should have been aware of what was happening. You don't hear much talk of "white supremacy" these days, but the parts of the south that were singled out for special treatment in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 still vote solidly for the self-selected white folks party, and that party is still up to all sorts of tricks to strips blacks and others of their franchise. Or, as Menand concludes:

Finally, with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Congress gave the executive branch the tools and the authority to enforce the law.

With the decision in Shelby v. Holder, the Supreme Court has taken much of that authority away. Claims of Fifteenth Amendment violations must again be pursued through the courts, a lengthy and expensive process that shifts the burden of proof to the plaintiffs. As Richard Pildes, a voting-rights expert at the N.Y.U. School of Law, and others have argued, some of the blame for the decision should go to Congress. In 2009, the Court sent Congress a signal, in a case called Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder, that it needed to revisit the act's definition of which areas were covered by the requirement that they clear changes in voting regulations with the Justice Department. That provision had not been revised since the mid-nineteen-seventies. But it has been politically expedient for Congress to renew the act, rather than add places where discrimination is a problem today.

"Our country has changed," Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., said, a sentiment echoed by Justice Thomas. They could not mean that race is no longer an issue. The Times reported that one place eagerly awaiting the Court's ruling was Beaumont, Texas, where the Justice Department has blocked several attempts by a group of white citizens to change voting regulations for the explicit purpose of unseating a black-majority school board. What's so changed about that?

The US civil rights movement is usually held up as an example where non-violence paid off, although one can argue that it did so only by appealing to the conscience of a power capable of much more violence than its opponents could muster. The Selma-to-Montgomery march, for instance, was stopped once by a white police riot, and was stopped a second time by the threat of another. It only succeeded when the National Guard was called up to protect the marchers. Had it not been for the appeal the civil rights movement had to federal power, the South would never have voluntarily given up white supremacy. It wasn't, after all, the conscience of white Southerners that recognized the injustice. And indeed even today, when you look at the solid white Republican voting block all across the South, it's hard to say that anything real has changed.

For another case, consider the Palestinians in Israel's Occupied Territories. During the Second Intifada various Palestinian groups tried to match Israeli violence, peaking in 2002 when Palestinians killed 419 Israelis. Since 2005, the numbers of Israelis killed by all Palestinian factions have declined: { 51, 23, 13, 35, 9, 9, 11, 7 }, up through 2012. (The corresponding number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces peaked in 2002 at 1032, then topped that again in 2009 with 1034 -- figures from B'Tselem, probably accurate for Israelis but undercounted for Palestinians.) So for the last 5-7 years, Palestinians have challenged Israel non-violently and have paid a significant price -- for the same years, the Palestinian death series is { 190, 665, 385, 887, 1034, 82, 118, 254 }. Or, if numbers seem too cold for you, watch films like Budrus and Five Broken Cameras, where demonstrators are repeatedly met with tear gas and rubber bullets. But where for the Palestinians is the conscience of a higher power? The US has turned a deaf ear. The Europeans -- the elites who run countries, at least -- are more afraid of offending the US than they are committed to justice. Russia doesn't much care and doesn't much matter. The UN cannot function. It makes you wonder whether one of the key assumptions of the civil rights movement -- that in the long run the moral compass "bends toward justice" -- is still true. The Supreme Court decision is just one example of bending the wrong way.

There are good reasons to stick with non-violence even if it has no foreseeable chance of winning -- at least it keeps you from becoming like them. In the meantime, it is all the more important to recall past struggles, both for their setbacks and victories. Menand's piece recounts essential history. Read it.

Daily Log

Worked on the piece above, plus a lot of music stuff since I had shortchanged Jazz Prospecting early in the week. Went out to dinner at Cafe Asia, then shopped for Diet Coke.

Music today (JP): Chip Stephens, David Kikoski, Larry Corban, Joel Harrison, Giovanni Guidi, Anomonous, Joel Behrman, Annie Kozuch, Paulette Dozier, Dave Liebman.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Recycled Goods (110): July, 2013

New Recycled Goods: pick up text here. Total review count: 3746 (3302 + 444).

Daily Log

Decided to wrap up and post Recycled Goods: the big 1960s edition. Seems like the explorations there have been pretty arbitrary -- that I ought to come up with some sort of systematic plan. Maybe next time (probably September).

Music today (JP): Ethan Iverson; (RG): Isaac Hayes, Bobby Bland, Young Rascals.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Expert Comments

Some EW comments appeared on the subject of grading scales. I wrote:

I've always assumed that all Christgau HMs are B+ records, but when Christgau decides to write at CG length about one, he reverts to his old "B PLUS" spelling: for the most part, post-1990 B+ and *** are equivalent. (His recent "upgrade" of a Wussy EP from *** to B PLUS is the only suggestion I've seen that B PLUS rates above ***). As I read the "CG Stats" page, for most years the number of B+ + *** records ≤ the number of ** records, although there are other factors: e.g., an increase in B+ records over 2011-12 most likely due to him having to write more paragraph reviews (4 per week, vs. about 12 per month pre-EW).

I can speak more authoritatively about my own grade scale. I started using the star-division of B+ because I found I not only had too many B+ jazz records, I didn't have the space to treat all of them as HMs. In fact, I wound up only using B+(***) as HM (and even slipped some A- records into the HMs). Had I been a meaner grader I could have spread those levels down, turning ** into B and * into B-, but that wouldn't have been consistent with my previous practice, or with my hearing. It's important to understand that the quality distribution of recorded music isn't anything near normal -- and that, by the way, is even more true in jazz: very few jazz records are inept, uninspired, or ordinary (excepting pop-jazz, of course, but as an old disco fan I find things I can enjoy even there). Of course, one can create an arbitrary curve to normalize the distribution, and if I were to switch to numeric ratings I'd do something more like that. But letter grades carry more semantic baggage -- I know that in my own college experience I never got a B for a course, although I did get a couple C's when I really ticked a professor off, which may be one reason I'm more conscious than most that grades can reflect on the prejudices of the giver as much as on the work being graded.

Christgau replied:

Briefly, briefly. B PLUS is the very top of the B plus iceberg. It's been 23 years, but my bet would be that there are B plusses that never made HM. That's certainly the case in this format, where the fewer I write the better. Most possible *s I give up on because grading them is no fun. End of communique. No further elucidation. Yankees swept as I read Ed Sanders and listened to never mind what. Now I'm having a drink.

As best I recall, for the 1970s CG book Bob had the ambition of finding every B+ record (US released, rock). That ambition proved elusive, and eroded during the 1980s. He switched to the "A-List" format in 1991 -- the ambition there was more modestly to find as many A- records as possible, and the HMs were prospects that fell short: a few words to salvage several hours of listening. But I've found that lots of solid B+ records never sounded like serious A- prospects. Presumably Bob culls those immediately, so, yeah, he doesn't write about some/many of the B+ records he hears (as well as the many more he doesn't).

Daily Log

Just music nonsense until we went out to dinner chez Rannfrid Thelle, along with her husband Stuart Lasine, Alice Powell, Janice Bradley, and Laura. Kafta, hummus, potato salad, spinach salad, ice cream spiked with cinnamon and served with berries. All good. Served coffee after dinner -- something I never do but should probably get the hang of.

Ran across something called "Key Wiki" which uses Mediawiki to try to build some sort of worldwide database of leftists, probably for no good purpose. They talk about "unlocking the covert side of U.S. and Global politics," but most of their data is scrapped from open letters, like "A Open Letter to Barack Obama on Iran." They have a page on Laura but nothing other than that letter. They have a page on Rannfrid including a picture.

Music today (JP): Bob James/David Sanborn, Steve Lindeman; (RG): Temptations, Mama and Papas, Barry Sadler, James Brown, Albert King.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Daily Log

Took Laura to acupuncture. Went to Hanna Wok for lunch. The bulgogi wasn't spectacular but nicely filling, and they serve a kim chi plate with pickled green beans and cucumbers as well as cabbage. Went to Target for groceries -- they only store in town that still carries Yoplait Thick & Creamy vanilla yogurt. Came home and rewrote my short Temptations squib as a top section review. Occurs to me that since the 1960s is a much deeper pool than I can explore in the next week or so, I should cut the Recycled Goods column loose soon, then return to the 1960s in a couple months.

Jason Gubbels' post today picked MOPDTK and Harris Eisenstadt, albums I had previously picked, with Kenny Barron a "near pick" -- another basic agreement.

Music today (JP): Iro Haarla; (RG) Temptations.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Expert Comments

Christgau finally weighs in on Yeezus, listing it first in an Odds and Ends. I didn't like it that much myself, but then I didn't give it much of a chance. Review: "Sign spotted on church in the wild: Death Grips--Be Lke Them." Death Grips is a group I like far less than Christgau does, so maybe more chance wouldn't have helped much.

Christgau asked if any other reviewers had made the connection to Death Grips. Joey Daniewicz:

After SNL, all I heard was comparisons to Death Grips.

I think Kanye wanted to do a Death Grips album so bad, he sent those bitches at Def Jam a picture of his dick. They responded by revoking his right to any cover art.


My review was written at least 10 days ago, probably 12, after a few days of frequent listening, a day off, and a return that convinced me I'd had enough. Decided it would be more effective in the wake of a week of full-length hip-hop reviews, although all the others in this batch were also done then and I could have run it a week ago easy. Read a few reviews post-release and haven't looked at one since. Just as well, 'cause if I'd known DG had become a trope I would have felt obliged to can it, and in the long run the review says exactly what I want to at a length that says more.

Oh yeah--I liked the SNL performance too.

Daily Log

Felt blah all day. Finally went to Home Depot: took back a bathroom shower splash guard that I had bought a week earlier, but it didn't fit well, and was plug ugly. Looked to see if I could figure out a way to build something that would work. Wound up picking up a piece of Lexan (32x16 inches, I think), a piece of vinyl moulding with a 90 degree angle and a slot the Lexan fits snugly into, some silicone adhesive, and a plastic cutter. I figure I can cut the Lexan down to something 32-inches high, 5-inches wide, with a wider base, and glue it into the moulding, then attach the whole thing from the front corner of the bathtub up along the wall. Not sure whether the adhesive will be enough to hold it up, especially since tile and ceramic aren't the best of materials to glue to.

Also picked up a couple tools: a small nail puller and a ratcheting adjustable wrench.

Watched The Killing and the 2-hour pilot of Crossing Lines, about an international "super police" force working for the ICC in Belgium, trying to find a serial killer who takes each victim to another capital city in Europe. Laura seems to have lost interest in the show. I thought that the European locales and cast (aside from two pivotal Americans) was refreshing, but agree that the lack of humor weakens the show.

Music today (JP): Chris Morrissey, Ben Monder; (RC): Stevie Wonder, the Temptations.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Music Week/Jazz Prospecting

Music: Current count 21611 [21584] rated (+27), 620 [625] unrated (-5).

Backed off a bit on Jazz Prospecting to wrap up last week's Rhapsody Streamnotes, and will probably spend much of next week working on Recycled Goods: if I don't carry through with my 1960s project there, I'll wind up with an empty file. But I still don't have a good sense of what I should try to cover there, or indeed how much is possible.

I've seen some midyear lists like this one by Matt Rice. I've heard and rated 454 albums released so far this year, which hasn't left a lot of time for living with them or really enjoying the best ones. I don't have a good sense of how non-jazz records sort out, but I can offer this mid-year jazz list. Only curious thing about it is that it's much longer than the non-jazz split of the A-list: 37 to 24 (usually my lists break out about 50-50).

  1. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Slippery Rock! (Hot Cup)
  2. Billy Martin's Wicked Knee: Heels Over Head (Ambulet)
  3. Barbara Morrison: A Sunday Kind of Love (Savant)
  4. Rudresh Mahanthappa: Gamak (ACT)
  5. Peter Evans: Zebulon (More Is More)
  6. Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Functional Arrhythmias (Pi)
  7. Roscoe Mitchell: Duets With Tyshawn Sorey and Special Guest Hugh Ragin (Wide Hive) **
  8. Trio 3 + Jason Moran: Refraction: Breakin' Glass (Intakt) **
  9. Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran: Hagar's Song (ECM)
  10. Barry Altschul: The 3Dom Factor (TUM)
  11. Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom: No Morphine No Lillies (Foxhaven/Royal Potato Family) [**]
  12. Rich Halley 4: Crossing the Passes (Pine Eagle)
  13. Ceramic Dog: Your Turn (Northern Spy) [**]
  14. Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio + Jeb Bishop: The Flame Alphabet (Not Two)
  15. Ivo Perelman: Serendipity (Leo)
  16. Ross Hammond Quartet: Cathedrals (Prescott)
  17. Ehud Asherie with Harry Allen: Lower East Side (Posi-Tone)
  18. Dave Douglas Quintet: Time Travel (Greenleaf Music) *
  19. Joe Lovano Us Five: Cross Culture (Blue Note) [**]
  20. John O'Gallagher: The Anton Webern Project (Whirlwind)
  21. Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense: Moment & the Message (Pi)
  22. Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Somewhere (ECM)
  23. Harris Eisenstadt September Trio: The Destructive Element (Clean Feed)
  24. Melodic Art-Tet (1974, No Business)
  25. François Carrier/Michel Lambert/John Edwards/Steve Beresford: Overground to the Vortex (Not Two)
  26. Billy Bang: Da Bang! (TUM)
  27. Nick Fraser: Towns and Villages (Barnyard)
  28. David Greenberger/Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound: They Like Me Around Here (Pel Pel)
  29. Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of the Duet, Volume One (Leo)
  30. The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Phalanx (Aerophonic, 2CD)
  31. Correction With Mats Gustafsson: Shift (No Business) *
  32. Colin Stetson: New History Warfare, Vol. 3: To See More Light (Constellation) [**]
  33. Anthony Branker & Word Play: Uppity (Origin)
  34. The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 2 (Driff)
  35. Ellery Eskelin: Trio New York II (Prime Source)
  36. Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton: Live at Maya Recordings Festival (No Business)
  37. Thomas Borgmann/Wilber Morris/Reggie Nicholson: Nasty & Sweet (1998-99, NoBusiness)

Unpacking way down this week. Probably just a blip. Finally asked for the new David Murray album, and I'm told it's coming. Also have emails for a new batch of Clean Feeds, which should show up eventually.

Billy Bang: Da Bang! (2011 [2013], TUM): Probably the late, great violinist's last recording -- in Helsinki, about two months before he died. Quintet, with trombone (Dick Griffin), piano (Andrew Bemkey), bass (Hilliard Greene), and drums (Newman Taylor-Baker). Six cuts -- one original, the title cut by Barry Altschul, other pieces from Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, and Sonny Rollins. Far from his greatest work, but his solos are unmistakable, and trombone is a nice contrast. Plus you can't go out on a more ecstatic note than "St. Thomas." I'm in no mood to quibble. A-

Bill Frisell: Big Sur (2012 [2013], Okeh): Nineteen-piece suite commissioned by Monterey Jazz Festival, composed over ten days in retreat at Glen Deven Ranch, played by the group previously known as the 858 Quartet -- Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kang (viola), Hank Roberts (cello), Rudy Royston (drums) -- plus Frisell on guitar. Typical of his recent work, but heavier. B+(**)

Guillermo Gregorio/Steve Swell/Pandelis Karayorgis Trio: Window and Doorway (2011 [2013], Driff): Clarinet, trombone, and piano, respectively, everyone contributing pieces. The clarinet-trombone combo is attractive but soft-edged and the lack of a rhythm section lets them amble, noodle, splatter color about, at least until the piano gooses them along. B+(*)

Drew Gress: The Sky Inside (2011 [2013], Pirouet): Bassist, fifth album since 1998, about 170 side credits since 1989, a major figure although his intricate postbop compositions have yet to make much of an impression. But his connections give him an all star band: Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Tim Berne (alto sax), Craig Taborn (piano), Tom Rainey (drums). They have their moments here, as does the bassist. Runs long, 72:23, not that the title cut doesn't justify its 11:48. B+(**)

Gregg Kallor: A Single Noon (2012 [2013], Single Noon): Pianist, has two previous albums, one a trio with Kendrick Scott, the other a duo with "mezzo-soprano" Adriana Zabala of "Dickinson and Yeats Songs"; so has staked out ground straddling classical and jazz. This is solo, all originals, something he calls "a nine-movement suite." Fred Hersch admires it. B+(**)

Pandelis Karayorgis Trio: Cocoon (2012 [2013], Driff): Pianist, b. in Greece, moved to Boston to study at New England Conservatory in the 1980s and stuck around, with a dozen or more records since 1994 -- his 2007 album as Mi3, Free Advice, was a pick hit here. This is a piano trio with Jef Charland on bass and Luther Gray on drums, not as difficult or explosive as the pianist gets, but vigorous and inventive by any standards. B+(***)

Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet: Circuitous (2012 [2013], Driff): Recorded in Chicago, with bassist Nate McBride the link between the Boston-based pianist and the Chicago-based all-star band: Dave Rempis and Keefe Jackson (saxes/clarinets), and Frank Rosaly (drums). Sounds great one moment, questionable the next, in an oscillation that's almost an aesthetic. B+(**)

Rob Mazurek/Exploding Star Electro Acoustic Ensemble: The Space Between (2013, Delmark, CD+DVD): Mostly electronics, intriguing to start, with Mazurek's cornet as a counterpart, a text, then it builds up to something ungainly; bits of flute, piano, electric cavaquinho; another text. The DVD presents the same music with a video by Marianne M. Kim, mostly abstractions with bits of her dancing. Can't say as I enjoyed it, but the music is ambitious and adventurous. B+(*)

Gary Peacock/Marilyn Crispell: Azure (2011 [2013], ECM): Not sure why the bassist comes first, although he is older and more famous (especially given his long tenure with Keith Jarrett). The pianist has a slight edge in compositions, plus the louder and more traditionally leading instrument, although she plays so softly here that it's almost a wash. Crispell's name came first on two previous ECM meetings, but they were trios with the no-longer-available Paul Motian. The record could use some of his misdirection, but gets by with remarkable tastefulness. B+(**) [advance]

RJ & the Assignment: The Stroke of Midnight (2013, self-released): Keyboard player from Chicago, based in Las Vegas, group rotates bassists and the record is chock full of guests, including singers Jocelyn Winston and Windy Kairigianes and "spoken word" rapper Khari Bowden. B

The Michael Treni Big Band: Pop-Culture Blues (2013, self-released): Trombonist, originally from Maine, studied in Miami, taught there and at Berklee; went into tech business in 1985, left in 1996 and returned to music. Big band, old school verities, first song is called "One for Duke," rest have "Blues" somewhere in the title. B+(*)

Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: Latin Jazz-Jazz Latin (2013, Patois): Bay area Trombonist, ninth album since 2000, moved quickly into Latin jazz and has served up a steady diet of it. Quintet includes piano, guitar, drums, and percussion, plus he draws on a long list of extras, featuring flute and violin on three songs. B+(*)

The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 2 (2013, Driff): Sextet, an interesting Dutch-Chicago-Boston hybrid: Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax, lyricon), Pandelis Karayorgis (piano), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Mary Oliver (violin, viola), Nate McBride (bass), Han Bennink (drums). Eleven songs by Steve Lacy, plus one by Monk. First volume was terrific, and the new one, a new session (not leftovers from the first), carries on. A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ryan Cohan: The River (Motéma Music)
  • Ghosts of the Holy Ghost Spermic Brotherhood (self-released)
  • Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: Imagery Manifesto (self-released)
  • Alex Sipiagin: From Reality and Back (5 Pasion)

Expert Comments

Tatum put up a big note on metacritic.com: specifically, making fun of Wonder Years: The Greatest Generation being their top-rated record of the year (aside from that Fleetwood Mac box), with Deafheaven's Sunbather second. Shit! When I checked last Deafheaven was on top! I assume this had something to do with the "metacritic" list I posted earlier.

Tatum is referring to metacritic.com. As with all statistical averages, it's important to consider the sample size. Wonder Years has an average weighted score of 96 based on 4 reviews. Deafheaven is at 95 based on 15 reviews, which is a good deal harder to do. (Actually, when I reviewed the latter, it was the top-rated record, 97/8.) Every year you'll find a handful of metal albums at or near the top of metacritic.com's average score list, usually with about one-third as many reviews as alt bands get, but that's usually about 10 reviews, not 15. I've noted some expansion there as places that didn't use to cover metal (like Pitchfork, PopMatters, and Spin) have not only started but are employing metal-head critics, pushing the numbers up.

When I refer to "metacritic file" I'm talking about a file that I maintain, which starts with metacritic.com data but counts high reviews (>= 80) and adds a few things that metacritic.com doesn't bother with but I think worthwhile, like Free Jazz, Downbeat, Tatum, Gubbels, Monsen, and myself. That file produced the list I posted earlier. It still has flaws: for one thing there are more UK pubs than US ones (evidently the Brits read more than we do, even about metal and especially about electronica); for another, I don't collect the data automatically, so there are all sorts of lags (probably why Yo La Tengo leads Vampire Weekend, something I don't expect to last). I haven't talked much about this because I decided it was too much work to bother with this year, but wound up finding it too useful to dispense with.

Sunbather, by the way, is a remarkable record. Not my thing, but I was impressed, and some of you will like it more than I do -- maybe even Bob. I haven't listened to Wonder Years, but I find the review sources among the most unreliable that metacritic.com surveys.

Daily Log

Took Laura to acupuncture, then we went to movies. We had hoped to see Mud, but they shifted the time 45 minutes later, so we got impatient and saw This Is the End. The set up is a bunch of Hollywood actors playing themselves, attending a lavish party at James Franco's mansion, when the rapture (cf. "Revelations") happens. The party empties out when a huge chasm opens up in Franco's front yard, sucking in all but Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson. They retreat to the house, barricade it against the mayhem, and are joined by uninvited Danny McBride and, temporarily, an axe-wielding Emily Watson. Not without laughs, but it degenerates into a horror movie of monsters and demonic possession, where the only escape is sacrifice yourself and be sucked up into heaven, where there's another party happening. [B].

Went to dinner at Dave's Famous Barbecue. Worked on my weekly Jazz Prospecting post. No TV. Didn't even get this note done until the next day.

Music today (RS): Wilson Pickett, the Byrds.

Jun 2013