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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Daily Log

Michael Biggs commented on my Music Week digression on hearing music at various ages/times:

"by the time I became aware of Presley he was a mediocre actor". ?? EP was there; what was the delay?

Neither "16 Tons" nor "Mack the Knife" were novelty songs. They were good and I liked them then and I like them now. OK, as a '49 I may b able to bring a more mature ear to the process. But I doubt that other class of '50 stalwarts such as Greg Morton or Clifford Ocheltree missed Presley ... and I'm sure heard the good music he recorded after he became a mediocr actor.

That's all I could read.

Q: If you look like sex on a stick, who cares if you are a mediocre actor?

Q: if you sing like sex on a stick, who cares if you are a mediocre actor?

I don't think Wanda Jackson or Ann-Margaret cared. I doubt that Jame Burton cared. I don't care.

You can "Rocket 88" etc all you want: Elvis Presley made rock 'n' roll and opened the doors. Music thereafter would not have been the same or, at least, not have had the same exposure and impact. What a shame to have missed the train.

But that was in the day. He was no BTO or BOA or KOA.

I replied:

My parents had no interest in music (or literature or art). I was the oldest child, and had very little contact with older children or young adults. I don't recall any of them having any interest in music. (I did have a cousin who got me interested in baseball, and later in politics.) We did have a toy record player that could only play 45s, and I remember a stack of 3-4 dozen singles. I was older than 7, closer to 10-12, when those records started to make an impression. One record I did plea to buy was "The Monster Mash," but that didn't come out until 1962. I loved Dr. Seuss and Ogden Nash, so even that late what appealed to me was mostly humor (hence my novelty remark). The only movies I remember going to were comedies (Abbott & Costello, Ma & Pa Kettle, Jerry Lewis). I had no clue about "sex on a stick." I no doubt heard some Presley songs before he was drafted, but they didn't make much of an impression. I knew Ricky Nelson much better, because we watched the Nelsons on TV. Aside from such scattered vague memories, I didn't hear the 1950s until the 1970s (or in some cases the 1990s). I eventually remembered seeing Armstrong, Cole, Sinatra on TV, but very little (if any) Presley (except for the movies). I couldn't relate to Sinatra's music until much later, but thought he was a superb actor. ("The Man With the Golden Arm" left me with a permanent terror of heroin.) But by the time the Beatles came around, I was ready. I got my own record player, and started buying albums as well as singles (not many, as I was basically scrimping from my lunch money).

Biggs replied:

Tom Hull You were lucky to be able to watch O&H and see Rick(y) Nelson - good looking and good music; our reception was so bad that the sceen was mostly a snow storm. I bought the 45 of "The Monster Mash" and never have regretted it. I didn't really know what sex was, only knew that there was something called sex and that it was the big deal and that with the passage of time it would still be a mystery. My "Beatles" record player cost $19 and was a piece of junk: but it played the few LPs I managed to buy. I am scared to death of heroin. I guess that whatever route it takes, if we find some part of the promised land then we are lucky.

Phil Overeem:

Tom, none of my relatives had ANY interest in the arts, beyond my mom lusting after Glen, Neil, and Tom and occasionally getting their records (not that arty). I believe the vacuum created my lifelong drive. Born in '62.

Dwight Bemisderfer:

I can appreciate the sentiment about, musically speaking, feeling lucky to be born in 1950. I was born in 1970 and have recently considered what a magnificent vista I had for listening to '70s AM radio as an elementary school kid; looking back to what were deemed "oldies" ('50s & '60s) when I was a tween; experiencing firsthand the eruption of pop music in the mid-80s on the radio (we didn't have cable TV, so the only music videos I saw were on NBC's Friday Night Videos and PBS's ColorSounds); and discovering "classic rock" in high school. Not to mention what I got to live through and experience as a young adult going to concerts in the '90s and beyond.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (finished).

Music: Current count 35715 [35664] rated (+51), 205 [211] unrated (-6).

June Streamnotes (link above) wraps up this week. I'll do the indexing later, but a quick fgrep shows 203 albums for the month. I started last week thinking about 1971, which explains old music by Curtis Mayfield, Ike & Tina Turner, and Archie Shepp. I came up shorter in A- records this week, but a couple of those Shepp albums could merit further listening. I haven't been able to follow Hat's Ezz-thetics series, but noticed that they have a new Blase and Yasmina Revisited reissue. I should also note that I decided to go with reissues of the individual BYG albums, not the twofers that later appeared on Affinity.

The Joe Newman reissue got me to take a look at his back catalog, which in turn led me to two of my favorite 1950s tenor saxophonists: Illinois Jacquet and Budd Johnson. Nothing I found there blew me away, but I did enjoy every minute of the search. Johnson's Let's Swing remains one of the all-time great tenor sax albums. Newman's 1955-56 albums, The Count's Men and I Feel Like a New Man, are highly recommended, and there is a lot of primo Jacquet to choose from.

Listened to more new music last week, but non-jazz forays were few and far between. Main find was an EP that didn't show up in any of my 2020 lists, but its videos have gotten a lot of notice. See this one to get the key song, "Rät," in real time, then look at this one for the annotation. I got the tip from Phil Overeem, who also recommended Ashnikko, another young woman who knows a lot about the world. I shouldn't be surprised, but following politics I'm constantly bombarded with staggering levels of stupidity.

Many thanks to Dave Everall for posting Music Week notices on Facebook's Expert Witness thread -- something I've never gotten the hang of. Last week's post elicited a few comments, mostly about Elton John in the 1980s. I wrote about the documentary series 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything and its Univeral-delimited soundtrack album last week. The series was based on David Hepworth's book, Never a Dull Moment: 1971: The Year That Rock Exploded, so Clifford Ocheltree posted a link to a 283-song Spotify playlist based on the book. I asked for opinions on the book, but only after doing a bit of due diligence. I quoted one line I found in the book: "I was born in 1950. For a music fan, that's the winning ticket in the lottery of life." Several readers took offense at that line.

Of course, it resonated for me because I was born in 1950. But also because I've thought quite a bit about the effect of age at time. For instance, I was significantly different in 1957, 1964, 1971, and 1978, which were four pivotal years in the history of rock. My first memories of popular music date from around 1957, but they don't include emerging rock stars like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Buddy Holly. What I remember from the late 1950s are novelties, including my longstanding love for "16 Tons" (Tennessee Ernie Ford) and "Mack the Knife (Bobby Darin) -- versions that neither older nor younger critics would still prefer. I eventually filled in the gaps, but older critics like Robert Christgau (b. 1942) and Greil Marcus (b. 1945) experienced the birth of rock and roll in real time -- like I did the Beatles and the British Invasion as a teenager in 1964. By the time I became aware of Presley, he was a mediocre actor whose career was interrupted by the Army, so he meant little to me (whereas he meant the world to my elders, especially to Marcus). I know all the songs now, but have little sense of how the chronology played out. On the other hand, I lived through everything from 1964 on, fully conscious of who broke new ground and what followed up.

I suppose it's possible that I imposed that 7-year cycle on the available music, as opposed to it fortunately synching up with my life. I don't see anything comparable looking back to 1950, 1943, 1936, 1929 (although the crash did end the "roaring '20s"). Going forward there's some evidence for 1985 (Michaelangelo Matos wrote a recent book on 1984 as a pivotal year in music) and 1992 (grunge and gangsta take over), but what's groundbreaking about 1999, 2006, 2013, 2020? Maybe the music, like me, is getting old? Maybe as old people we just don't notice the changes? What is certain is that we don't live them the same way.

It's also possible that change is changing. Kurt Andersen, in his book Evil Geniuses, argues that the decadal changes in fashion and design which made it easy to date artifacts from the 20th century have largely vanished in the 21st. My 2006 car doesn't look far removed from 2021 models, unlike the differences between my father's series of cars (1932, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1979, 1987 -- that '73 Maverick was a real lemon). Progress was dramatic in the 20th century, but it's harder to discern in the 21st: technological changes are more esoteric and harder to grasp, and often turn out to be mixed blessings (e.g., climate). But also blame politics for increasing inequality, which makes affluence harder to come by and hope for.

Aside from music, I've long been conscious of the peculiar blessings and handicaps of my age. Nearly all of my cousins are older than me, some a mere two years younger than my father, so they offer a sample group of birth dates from 1925-50, and the second-cousins start up in 1949. What I concluded was that the ones born in the late 1930s were most fortunate: they didn't remember the Depression, were too young for WWII and Korea, and too old for Vietnam; they came of age during the postwar boom, included the first in our family to go to college, many started businesses and prospered, and retired with a fair degree of comfort (several touring the country in RVs, which is sort of a generational calling card). They all lived much longer than their parents, and were generally better off. On the other hand, most are dead now, or getting pretty old, so younger generations do have that advantage.

Long ago it occurred to me that there never before was a generation gap as large as the one between my cohort and our parents. The obvious point at the time is that we grew up in a time of sudden affluence and expanding horizons, whereas they grew up during the Great Depression and had to surive World War. But as I thought more about it, I realized that a lot of things started shifting between the end of the war in 1945 and the stalemate in Korea in 1952. The very week I was born, China entered Korea and drove American forces back from the border. Americans didn't realize that they had switched sides, ceasing to be liberators and turning into the backstop of western imperialism. The decline wasn't instantly obvious. We grew up thinking we were on top of the world, and became increasingly cross when the world had other ideas. I recently saw an Elizabeth Warren meme that dated the war on the middle class to "thirty years ago," but there were earlier stages: fifty years ago domestic oil production peaked, and the US started running trade deficits. A sensible choice then would have been to tax oil (like Europe was doing), but we pretended nothing was happening (after all, domestic and foreign oil were controlled by the same international corporations). In the 1970s, capitalists (increasingly financiers) plotted to take over the government and get rid of all the countervailing power/public interest "nonsense" -- with slower growth the only way they could maintain profits was to take more -- and in 1980, they managed to get Ronald Reagan elected.

It's been all down hill from there, so of course people growing up now view the world much differently than we did.


Rapper Timothy Parker died last week, at 49. He called himself Gift of Gab, started with the group Blackalicious. I wrote about them for Rolling Stone. I thought his 2018 EP Rejoice! Rappers Are Rapping Again! was terrific.

Two more major musicians died last week: Jon Hassell (84), played trumpet over "fourth world" electronica; and Frederic Rzewski (83), pianist/composer.

I will have answers to some questions later in the week. Also the indexing on Streamnotes. Don't know about Speaking of Which, but it's hard not to find things to write about these days.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Rebecca Angel: Love Life Choices (2021, Timeless Grooves): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ashnikko: Demidevil (2021, Parlophone, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steven Bernstein: Community Music (2020 [2021], Royal Potato Family, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dopolarians: The Bond (2021, Mahakala Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Robert Finley: Sharecropper's Son (2021, Easy Eye Sound): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fire in Little Africa (2021, Motown): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sean Michael Giddings: Red Willow (2021, Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Pedro Giraudo Tango Quartet: Impulso Tanguero (2021, Tiger Turn): [r]: B
  • Ben Goldberg: Everything Happens to Me (2018 [2021], BAG Productions): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • John Hart: Checkmate (2019 [2021], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kevin Hays/Ben Street/Billy Hart: All Things Are (2020 [2021], Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • David Helbock: The New Cool (2020 [2021], ACT Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cassandra Jenkins: An Overview on Phenomenal Nature (2021, Ba Da Bing): [r]: B+(**)
  • Julian Lage: Squint (2021, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lorraina Marro: Love Is for All Time (2021, self-released): [cd]: B+(**) [07-15]
  • Jason Nazary: Spring Collection (2020 [2021], We Jazz): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Pluto Juice: Pluto Juice (2019 [2021], Contagious Music): [cd]: B+(*) [07-16]
  • Samo Salamon/Hasse Poulsen: String Dancers (2020 [2021], Sazas): [cd]: B+(**) [09-01]
  • Penelope Scott: Public Void (2020, Tesla's Pigeon, EP): [r]: A-
  • Senyawa: Alkisah (2021, Burning Ambulance): [bc]: B
  • Chris Speed: Light Line (2018 [2021], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Natsuki Tamura: Koki Solo (2020 [2021], Libra): [cd]: B+(**) [07-09]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Hamiet Bluiett: Bearer of the Holy Flame (1983 [2021], Strut): [r]: A-
  • ICP Orchestra: Plays Herbie Nichols in Nijmegen 7 May 1984 (1984 [2020], ICP): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Joe Newman: Joe Newman at the Atlantic (1977 [2021], Phontastic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cecil Taylor Ensemble: Göttingen (1990 [2021], Fundacja Sluchaj, 2CD): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Cecil Taylor Quintet: Lifting the Bandstand (1998 [2021], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: A-
  • Barney Wilen Quartet feat. Tete Montoliu: Barney and Tete Grenoble '88 (1988 [2020], Elemental): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Illinois Jacquet: Swing's the Thing (1957, Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Illinois Jacquet: Bottoms Up: Illinois Jacquet on Prestige! (1968, Prestige): [r]: B+(***)
  • Illinois Jacquet: Bottoms Up [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1974 [1997], Black & Blue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Illinois Jacquet: God Bless My Solo [The Defiitive Black & Blue Sessios] (1978 [2001], Black & Blue): [r]: B+(***)
  • Budd Johnson: The Chronological Budd Johnson 1944-1952 (1944-52 [2003], Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Budd Johnson: French Cookin' (1963, Argo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Budd Johnson With Joe Newman: Off the Wall (1964 [1965], Argo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Curtis Mayfield: Curtis/Live! (1971, Curtom): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jason Moran: The Armory Concert (2016, Yes): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Joe Newman With Frank Foster: Good 'n' Groovy (1961, Prestige Swingsville): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joe Newman: I Love My Woman [The Definitive Black & Blue Sessions] (1979 [2000], Black & Blue): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man (1971, Flying Dutchman): [r]: B+(***)
  • Archie Shepp: Life at the Donaueschingen Music Festival (1967, SABA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Archie Shepp: Blasé (1969, BYG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Archie Shepp: Yasmina, a Black Woman (1969, BYG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Archie Shepp: Poem for Malcolm (1969, BYG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Archie Shepp: Live at the Panafrican Festival (1969 [1971], BYG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Archie Shepp: Things Have Got to Change (1971, Impulse!): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ike & Tina Turner: 'Nuff Said (1971, United Artists): [r]: B+(*)
  • Barney Wilen: Jazz Sur Seine (1958 [2000], Gitanes Jazz): [r]: A-


Further Sampling:

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

  • Milford Graves/Jason Moran: Live at Big Ears (2018-20 [2021], Yes): [bc]: +
  • Jason Moran: Bangs (2016 [2017], Yes): [bc]: +
  • Jason Moran: Mass {Howl, Eon} (2017, Yes): [bc]: +
  • Jason Moran and the Bandwagon: Looks of a Lot (2017 [2018], Yes): [bc]: +
  • Jason Moran: Music for Joan Jonas (2017 [2018], Yes): [bc]: ++
  • Jason Moran: The Sound Will Tell You (2021, Yes): [bc]: +


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Alex Collins/Ryan Berg/Karl Latham: Together (Dropzonejazz)
  • Roy Hargrove/Mulgrew Miller: In Harmony (2006-07, Resonance, 2CD) [07-17]
  • Bob Mintzer & WDR Big Band Cologne: Soundscapes (MCG Jazz)

Friday, June 25, 2021

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

In Tuesday's Music Week, I noted that I didn't have anything written for a links/comments post this week. But Wednesday's local newspaper was so depressing that I figured I should at least take a quick look around. A quick synopsis of news items from the Wichita Eagle (sorry, no links; the paper comes as download images):

  • Started with a page one piece on how Wichita and Sedgwick County agreed to merge their parks and recreation departments, to facilitate public-private ventures. That might be a theoretically defensible idea, but any time you hear "public" and "private" together, the public is getting fleeced by private interests. (Last week, there was an article on how Wichita paid $10 million for a Topgolf facility, while Oklahoma City got the same private investment for nothing.) There is something to be said for decentralizing and depoliticizing decision-making, especially about the arts, but the likely net effect will be that no new public projects will be undertaken, leaving us with only those options investors think they can make money from.

  • The Police Chief reported on "a busy weekend": nine people were shot, including an AR-15 attack on a police officer. They're joining a federal "crackdown" program, aimed at arresting more suspicious people. The jails are already full, but the Police Chief says that's not his problem.

  • The last grocery store in "Wichita's historically African-American neighborhood" is closing, adding to the city's "food deserts."

  • A privately owned zoo-plus-water-park (Tanganyika Wildlife Park) was closed when people who used the pool came down with diarrhea (later identified as shigella). Lawsuits ensue.

  • DC bridge collapses, injuring several. Photos and video. Then there was the Condo collapse near Miami.

  • "U.S. seizes Iranian news sites for unknown reasons." A second version of the article "alleges disinformation." They also blocked the sites of Palestine Today (linked to Hamas) and El-Masirah (linked to Houthi "rebels" in Yemen).

  • The paper reprinted a Bloomberg editorial calling for the federal gasoline tax to be replaced by a VMT (vehicle miles traveled tax), which is just wrong on so many levels. This is related to the Republican push for "use taxes" to fund infrastructure projects -- anything to avoid taxing the rich, although given that VMT also works as a subsidy for gas guzzlers and a penalty for electric cars, you can guess which business interests are involved.

  • "Australia's runaway mouse plague forces mass evacuation from prison." I started with local pieces, and didn't plan on going this far afield, but couldn't resist the title.

  • "A record buyout is just start as wealthy flee US tax hike." Something the wealthy are uniquely positioned to do, but doesn't selling out depend on finding greater fools to buy up? And aren't such fools equally rich?

  • Finally, I saw a piece on the Aston Martin Valkyrie, a cutting edge sports car that can accelerate 0-60 in 2.6 seconds, and sells for $3.5 million. There was a day when I was enchanted by high-end sports cars, but they were never this inaccessible or useless. (Cue the Buzzcocks: "Fast Cars.") I'm not sure which is worse: that they would build such a thing, or that some people are so filthy rich there's a market for it. (Admittedly, compared to the latest in boats and planes, or thanks to Bezos and Mus, space ships, it may still be viewed as a cheap trifle.)

There was also the usual bad political news, as Republican senators filibustered the voting rights bill, and the Supreme Court handed down various rulings, including a particularly nasty (6-3) one against unions (see Ian Millhiser's articles, below). Also severe drought news from the western US, and record-setting heat waves from Finland across Russia and into Washington/Oregon. But what's more depressing about the items listed above is how far we seem to be from making the mental adjustments to live in our very complex and possibly fragile world.


Bret Bachman: DeSantis signs bill requiring Florida students, professors to register political views with state. Title doesn't do a very good job of clarifying what the fuck is going on here, but you have to be in a rather peculiar frame of mind both to see what the problem is that the bill is trying to rectify, and how the bill is supposed to actually achieve its purpose. You have to understand that Republicans believe that any young person who doesn't share their beliefs has somehow been indoctrinated with left-wing anti-American propaganda, and that college professors are among the chief conduits of this evil scheme. But what leads them to such a conclusion is their own belief in the efficacy of propaganda, because that's how conservative ideology has become so deeply, irrationally maintained. And if you look closer, you'll discover that what really unnerves them about professors (and knowledgeable people in general) is that they encourage people to research issues and think for themselves. A telling phrase in this article is the characterization of Florida universities as "socialism factories."

Debbie Downer: : Trump wanted his Justice Department to stop 'SNL' from teasing him. For four year, about the only saving grace from the day-to-day news was to watch sharp and sometimes brutal takedowns of Trump and his mob night after night on late TV -- the icing on the cake, until the pandemic hit, was the live audiences cheering every jeer. It's not necessary, or even the point, but it's nice to know that they got under Trump's thin skin. His reaction was typically authoritarian, a fancy 14-letter word for asshole, and it's totally in character for a guy who campaigned in 2016 for a law which would allow rich folk to sue anyone who offends them. I never heard any more about that after the election, but the idea is true to his heart, brain, and pocketbook.

Kansas City Star Editorial Board: Swamp 101: Joe Manchin asks billionaire donors to get Roy Blunt to do their bidding. Manchin was trying to push the January 6 Commission bill past a Republican filibuster, having already tied his shoelaces together by keeping the filibuster in force. That seems to matter to Manchin a lot because he thinks it would show bipartisan legislation is possible without ending the filibuster rule. Still, it's revelatory that he thinks a few donors could sway Blunt on a matter of partisan survival. Blunt isn't as far gone as his junior Senator Josh Hawley, but he's been reliably in lock step with McConnell all the way.

For what it's worth, Manchin doesn't bother me much. David A Graham (Joe Manchin was never a mystery) sums him up nicely: "It's always been pretty obvious who he is: a middle-of-the-road guy with good electoral instincts, decent intentions, and bad ideas." Democrats need politicians like him, especially in areas where Republicans tend to win. It's not so much that they counterbalance the left, as that they represent people the left can still talk to, and share values with. On the other hand, they do seem stuck in a lot of obsolete mental ruts. Manchin's plea for a bipartisan voting rights act failed because Republicans don't have any qualms about pursuing blatantly partisan advantage. A few years ago, Manchin tried to organize a bipartisan agreement for a very modest level of gun control, and again he failed as he found all Republicans in lock step with the NRA. His continuing support for the filibuster may be little more than an instinct not to rock the boat too hard, but sooner or later he'll have to realize that it's preventing him from accomplishing anything he or his precious "centrists" want. Even more than liberal/left Democrats need politicians like Manchin to reach out into Red States, he and they need more progressive Democrats to get their own modest interests represented. Because the Republicans for damn sure aren't going to help them at all.

Sarah Jones: It looks like Buffalo will have a socialist mayor: India Walton, who defeated incumbent mayor Byron Brown in the Democratic primary. Ever since my cousin moved to Buffalo around 1970, it's been one of my favorite travel destinations, and she's become such a booster that I've never come away with a bad impression of the city -- well, maybe that one Spring Break when it snowed every day -- although it has a reputation as a city in long decline. (I do remember the iron-red sunsets from 1971, but the plants that caused them are long gone.) So this feels personal in a way that, for instance, Milwaukee isn't. Haven't checked with my cousin yet, but good chance she knows, and supports, Walton.

Paul Krugman: Why won't Republicans rebuild America? After beating around the bush, he finally concludes: "The modern GOP just won't do public programs unless they offer vast opportunities for profiteering." The Reagan mantra was "greed was good," but even that was framed in such a way as to suggest that it would be good for more than just the greedy. Krugman cites the Bush-Rove Medicare D law, which required beneficiaries to buy private insurance for prescriptions, promising that the magic of competition would keep costs down, but it's mostly led to shady formulary manipulations meant to offload costs and increase profits, so now it's a prime example of how government creates markets for predatory companies. Infrastructure was one of Trump's most popular campaign planks, but all his Republican staff could come up with were private sector carve outs, because they've fully bought into the Reagan-era mantras about magic markets, incapable government, and the denial that there even a public interest.

Krugman also wrote Yellen's new alliance against leprechauns, about the proposal Biden pushed at the Group of 7 summit (and found a welcoming audience) to limit how companies use their international footprints to evade paying taxes. Back when I first read about such ideas in a 2019 book by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay, they seemed unspeakable -- not just while Trump was president, but it was hard to imagine Obama or Clinton promoting them either. Indeed, the driving force behind globalization had much less to do with market efficiencies (which in a truly free and open market should net benefit customers) than with flipping the power dynamics between companies and states. Krugman's example is Apple, which conspicuously uses Ireland as a tax and asset haven (whence the titular leprechauns).

Damian Paletta/Yasmeen Abutaleb: Inside the extraordinary effort to save Trump from covid-19: Adapted from the authors' book, Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration's Response to the Pandemic That Changed History. Several points here: one is that Trump was very ill, and his recovery depended on experimental medicines applied massively, under extraordinary intense medical care; another is that he didn't learn anything from the experience. I'd revise that: after surviving, his ego exploded, making him extraordinarily arrogant and dismissive. He gave no credit to how exceptional his care war, claiming all credit for his willpower and genes. When I first heard of his illness, I felt a pang of sympathy, but quite frankly we'd all be better off had he died. The rest of his campaign was built on his personal triumph over the disease. His message was to not let the pandemic tell us how to live, and his fans were moved by his ersatz bravery, even as more and more of them succumbed. Even today, he's the poster boy for those who refuse the vaccine. We're still a long way from herd immunity, and the main reason for that is he survived the virus. Of course, the book covers much more, as he and his administration failed every step of the way.

Among the related links, note Timothy Bella: Coronavirus outbreak killed two at Fla. office, official says. A vaccinated person was spared. Stories like this should have an effect, but won't. I'm getting increasingly upset with unvaccinated Americans. (Of course, elsewhere in the world few people have the opportunity to be vaccinated, but increasingly in the US it is only people who are selfishly ignorant who haven't availed themselves of their privilege.) In particular, I don't see how anyone can claim any understanding of patriotism and refuse to get vaccinated. I'm close to the least jingoistic person in the world on that score, but isn't the one thing that all patriots claim is their willingness to sacrifice themselves for the community? By the way, see Marion Renault: Being vaccinated isn't a private matter. It's everyone's business.

Assal Rad: Iran's presidential election demonstrates the limits of US pressure campaign. Iran just held elections to choose a new president. As has been widely reported, most "moderate candidates," including logical successors to President Hassan Rouhani, were denied a chance to run, leaving the field open for "right-wing" Ebrahim Raisi to win easily. I put these camps in quotes, because they're little more than relative tendencies within the permissible Iranian political spectrum, which is ultimately controlled by Ayatollah Khamenei. One might think that Rouhani would have been easier for Americans to deal with, and the JCPOA "nuclear deal" that Obama negotiated and Trump tore up seems to be evidence of that, but the fact is that American security wonks (and more importantly, their Israeli masters) hate both camps, and don't want to see anything reduce the level of antagonism between the Iran and the US (and Israel and Saudi Arabia, whose separate hatred for Iran is what binds then to the US). (Indeed, there is evidence that anti-Iran hawks prefer Raisi; see Ryan Costello: US hawks push hardline presidential candidate in Iran.) I've seen arguments that Supreme Leader Khamanei (81) is grooming Raisi as his successor (although Muhammad Sahimi, in The who's who of Iranian players behind the new president, see Raisi as a facilitator to allowing Khamenei to be succeeded by his son, Mojtaba Khamenei). That all suggests that re-opening the JCPOA negotiations is secondary to domestic political considerations -- no matter how central they may seem to the Biden administration. Indeed, Khamanei has always been calling the shots, and that's the one thing the election won't change. But isn't the US the real variable in this equation? Rad's point is that sanctions don't work to force countries like Iran to behave as the US wants, but relieving sanctions is something to negotiate over. The problem with the JCPOA treaty was that soon after it was signed, the US came up with a bunch of new sanctions to impose on Iran, making sure that the rapprochement wouldn't develop into anything more. Under Trump, there was no chance of peaceful coexistence. Under Biden there is a slim one, but his people are going to have to break out of the moribund mindset that has routinely failed since 2001 (or 1989, or 1948).

Also see: Trita Parsi: What to take away from new Iranian president's debut; and Gary Sick: What the election of Ebrahim Raisi tells us about the future of Iran.

Alexander Sammon: The Supreme Court is closer to a 9-0 corporatist supermajority than a 3-3-3 split: "No amount of regrouping can obviate the need for Supreme Court reform." Although I'd caution that it's impossible to reform the Supreme Court until you can build a strong political consensus on what needs to be reformed. That means that Democrats have to start winning landslide elections, which doesn't seem likely to happen any time soon (with or without voting tweaks, which despite all the rhetoric about saving or destroying democracy is all current legislative efforts will do). The 6-3 conservative/liberal split over "culture war" issues is the one that gets the most publicity, but this week's judgments have split variously. One common denominator: "The Roberts Court, including its 'liberals,' has been an outstanding ally of corporate power."

David Sirota makes the same point: Today's Supreme Court isn't moderate. It's pro-corporate and anti-worker. For last week's Supreme Court decisions, see Ian Millhiser:

Walter Shapiro: Why are Democrats acting like the sky is falling? "The Biden administration has already accomplished a lot -- and the party is in a better position than many on the left claim." I don't like everything they've done, especially in the foreign policy realm, but I am pleased with a lot of things, and pleasantly surprised on some. Biden certainly compares favorably to Obama at this point in his presidency, and has had to work without large Democratic majorities in Congress (like Obama had, and blew). I don't even mind this piece of news: Biden claims bipartisan win with deal on infrastructure. Sure, it's only half a loaf (well, more like a third), and even at that it's not a done deal. And sure, Republicans (and even now, only a handful) are only agreeing because they realize that infrastructure is overwhelmingly popular, and they figure this will give them a better campaign story than their usual die-hard obstruction. But I'd be happy to see this much get through and turned into work, and I'd also be happy to campaign in 2022 on the need for more infrastructure investment, and on the taxes to properly support it. On the other hand, I don't see a case for fretting about the left. That's where the ideas that are making Biden look good come from, and that's the energy base. We need to be smart about politics, as well as principled.

On the other hand, it doesn't hurt to check the fine print: e.g., Kate Aronoff: The bipartisan infrastructure bil is a gift to Wall Street, at the planet's expense.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 35664 [35610] rated (+54), 211 [214] unrated (-3).

Ran a day late in posting this. The cutoff was on schedule, late Sunday evening, but I got distracted by the busy work noted below.

More mid-year best albums lists (including country and hip-hop specialists, and one short jazz list):

If I had to construct a jazz list at the moment, it would be something like (scraped from my Year 2021 list):

  1. Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future (Impulse!)
  2. James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: Jesup Wagon (Tao Forms)
  3. Magnet Animals: Fake Dudes (RareNoise)
  4. Barry Altschul's 3Dom Factor: Long Tall Sunshine (Not Two)
  5. Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die Live (International Anthem)
  6. Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Joshua Abrams/Tim Daisy/Tyler Damon: The Covid Tapes: Solos, Duos, & Trios (Aerophonic, 2CD)
  7. Ivo Perelman Trio: Garden of Jewels (Tao Forms)
  8. Aki Takase/Christian Weber/Michael Griener: Auge (Intakt)
  9. Wadada Leo Smith: Sacred Ceremonies (TUM, 3CD)
  10. Irène Schweizer/Hamid Drake: Celebration (Intakt)

If we were running a Jazz Critics Poll at the moment, only my top two are likely to wind up top ten, with outside shots for Jaimie Branch, Wadada Leo Smith, and maybe one of the Intakt pianists (neither has placed high before, but the label gets attention). Other big names you might see: Miguel Zenón (A-), Vijay Iyer (***), Charles Lloyd (***), Thumbscrew (***), Floating Points/Pharoah Sanders (**), although my guesses are increasingly suspect as you go down my list. Is Joe Lovano (with or without Dave Douglas) a cause célèbre any more? Does the other 3-CD Wadada Leo Smith box overcome its solo trumpet limits? Has anyone actually heard the 10-CD William Parker box? I haven't, although I did finally check out the sampler (below). I'm not seeing much else I haven't heard yet that strikes me as likely contenders. But I should take a look through here: several things that interest me (at least) on just the first page.

I've added the records mentioned to my tracking file (haven't tracked down all the labels and dates yet), so it now has more unrated (442) than rated (328) records. I haven't tried to compile the lists, and haven't gotten very far in checking them out, although a few albums I noticed there made it into this week's list.

We recently watched 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, an 8-episode Apple TV+ documentary series made by Asif Kapadia in England, based on David Hepworth's book Never a Dull Moment: 1971 the Year That Rock Exploded (see: Rotten Tomatoes, no Wikipedia?; reviews in Guardian, Under the Radar, and a rather pissy piece in the New York Times). Reviews inevitably focus on who got included or left out, and whether 1971 was really more important than 1970 or 1972 (or 1967 or 1977), but I don't want to get mired in that (although one should note that they not only featured albums released in 1971, but also singles that were recorded in 1971 but didn't appear on albums until 1972 (like Exile on Main Street and Ziggy Stardust). [PS: I did review the soundtrack tie-in product after my cutoff, but decided to slip it in here. And yes, I did comment on what was and wasn't included.] I will say that there was some remarkable footage. For me, it was most interesting to recheck my memories and nostalgia. In my case, 1971 was something of a low point in my interest in music, which had been waning during several years of self-imposed confinement, and was rekindled once I went to college in St. Louis in 1972, although I was very much aware of key events, like Nixon's escalation in Vietnam, Kent State, and Attica. And while I didn't notice much music in real time in 1971, I made up for it in the next several years, as I found that music was the common denominator of the society I was struggling to enter. Hence, there was very little in the series that I didn't know, or at least catch up on over the next few years (which makes it not 50 years old to me, but 45+).

As this is 50 years after 1971, we're constantly running into anniversary reminders. (The one I'm most looking forward to is the release on HBO Max of my nephew Mike's documentary, Betrayal at Attica; see notices in Realscreen and C21 Media.) The most pedestrian of these tie-ins is the appearance of "best of 1971" album lists, like this one (the first I saw) at Yardbarker: Albums turning 50 in 2021 that everyone should listen to. These are 1971 releases. My grades are in brackets.

  1. Janis Joplin: Pearl [A-]
  2. Carole King: Tapestry [A-]
  3. The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers [A]
  4. Paul & Linda McCartney: Ram [B-]
  5. Marvin Gaye: What's Going On [A-]
  6. Carpenters: Carpenters [C]
  7. Rod Stewart: Every Picture Tells a Story [A]
  8. Funkadelic: Maggot Brain [B+]
  9. The Who: Who's Next [A+]
  10. The Bee Gees: Trafalgar [C-]
  11. Dolly Parton: Coat of Many Colors [A-]
  12. Billy Joel: Cold Spring Harbor [B]
  13. Elton John: Madman Across the Water [B-]
  14. MC5: High Time [B+(***)]
  15. Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV [A]
  16. Sly and the Family Stone: There's a Riot Goin' On [A]
  17. Harry Nilsson: Nilsson Schmilsson [B+(**)]
  18. David Bowie: Hunky Dory [A]
  19. John Prine: John Prine [A]
  20. John Lennon: Imagine [A+]

When I jotted that list down, I didn't have grades for 5 albums, so I scrambled to listen to them. Four were sensible decisions to have ignored, at least in an era where one actually had to buy albums. Reviews below.

Spin also has a better (and more obscurantist) 1971 list, 50 albums deep, so it catches some important titles missing from above, as well as dropping in more ordinary albums and a few genuine obscurities. Ones from their list I'd rate A- or better:

  1. The Stylistics: The Stylistics [A-]
  2. Curtis Mayfield: Roots [A-]
  3. Al Green: Gets Next to You [A]
  4. The Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin: The Inner Mounting Flame [A]
  5. Joni Mitchell: Blue [A-]

I thought I might add a list of A-list albums they missed, then decided I should try my hand at compiling a fairly comprehensive annual list, like I've been compiling since 2002. That project got a little out of hand. It wasn't too hard to scan through my database for "1971" and pick out the actual releases, but most of my jazz records are listed by recording (as opposed to release) date, and I wanted to limit the list to actual (preferably US) releases that calendar year, so I had to do a lot of error checking. I also decided to go with original (preferably US) labels, whereas the database mostly had reissues. In some cases, I thought I should add notes contrasting the original releases with the reissues I actually listened to -- but I kept the database grades. I also decided to flag the jazz albums (J).

As I was error-checking, I added a section called "unheard records of some note." Obviously, there are thousands of 1971 releases that I haven't heard, so getting onto this list is pretty arbitrary. (Discogs has something like 120,000 1971 releases, but expect a lot of redundant entries for trivial differences, as well as tons of reissues from previous years. I started looking at the 12,000 jazz releases, and got about 25% into it.) While I was doing all this, I listened to a few 1971 albums I had missed, so I kept shuffling albums around.

A few quick observations:

  • The A/A+ lists are much longer than in recent years. Partly that's because those grades demand that records "stand the test of time," but also it's because these are records I've lived most of my life with.
  • On the other hand, the A- list is shorter, which reflects the fact that fewer albums were released back then. But also the share of jazz records is much smaller than in recent years (12/46, vs. about 50% in recent years). Other grade slots are similarly reduced.
  • The B+ category reflects albums graded before I started using the 1-3 star subdivisions. I've placed these after B+(*), but realistically they should be evenly distributed among the B+ grades.
  • The sharp fall off below B is, as it is today, the result of not bothering with records I didn't expect to like. It may also reflect the fact that I wasn't regularly keeping track of grades before 2000, so a number of records that I did listen to way back when never got graded.
  • I've kept the division between New Music and Reissues/Compilations/Vault Music, even though I don't have much to show for 1971. I've also loosened up the time requirements I've been using lately (10 years for vault music), especially where the artist has passed (Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane).

In theory, I could do this for other years, but looks like a lot of work. My guess is that 1970 would have a larger A-list, especially up top. Probably 1972 too. I started buying significant quantities of albums around 1974, so everything picks up from there, to about 1980. From then, the lists would slacken off, then pick up again around 1986, and more so when I started buying CDs. I started buying a lot of jazz and oldies c. 1995, and everything exploded when I started reviewing oldies in 2003 and jazz in 2004, and again when I started streaming around 2010. That finally made it cheap to listen to crap, and I've done plenty.

Jazz took a dive around 1970, aside from the fusion fad, which very few musicians showed any real skill at (Miles Davis, for sure, but not Herbie Hancock or Wayne Shorter, who still passed as pretty big successes). Jazz started to rebound in the US in the 1990s, but as art had been saved by small labels in Europe and Japan, and in any case it remains a music of small niches (definitely plural), despite being enormously creative. The thing about 1967-72 was that a lot of the innovation in those years was genuinely popular: we listened to the same records, and they were a common bond. I grew up in that environment, but by the time we published Terminal Zone we were starting to plot the fragmentation. Like the real universe, it's never gotten smaller, nor easier.

One more week before we wrap June Streamnotes. It's a 5-week month, so the monthly file is likely to be a big one (currently 162 records). Don't know whether I'll do a Friday news/opinion post. Scratch file for that is currently bare. Got virtually no reaction last week.

Got both of the porch rail projects done, thanks largely to Max Stewart, who always seems to be able to bail me out when I get in over my head. I spent what seemed like a lot of money (including a $50 shipping charge), and I'll never do business with them (Simplified Building) again. The hardware fit very loosely and/or awkwardly to the tubing, which was heavy but unattractive. The "self-tapping" screws weren't up to the job. Their instructions were wrong several places, resulting in drilling some holes too big, others too small. First thing I ever bought off an ad in Facebook, and may be the last.

I have one more rail piece on order from Amazon (item had a very long lead time). Assuming it fits right, it should be much easier to install. Also bought some small grab bars to locate by the doors, so you can hold on with one hand while opening the heavy screen doors. They came late today, so I still have to install them, but they should be easy.

Lots more making life difficult, but occasionally we make a bit of progress.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Rodrigo Amado This Is Our Language Quartet: Let the Free Be Men (2017 [2021], Trost): [cd]: A-
  • Armand Hammer & the Alchemist: Haram (2021, Backwoodz Studioz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bicep: Isles (2021, Ninja Tune): [r]: B+(**)
  • Abraham Burton/Lucian Ban: Black Salt: Live at the Baroque Hall (2018 [2021], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Charette: Power From the Air (2020 [2021], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
  • J. Cole: The Off-Season (2021, Dreamville/Roc Nation): [r]: B+(*)
  • Czarface/MF Doom: Super What? (2020 [2021], Silver Age, EP): [r]: A-
  • Dan Dean: Fanfare for the Common Man (2017-18 [2021], Origin Classical): [cd]: B-
  • John Dikeman/Hamid Drake: Live in Chicago (2018 [2020], Doek Raw): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Silke Eberhard Trio: Being the Up and Down (2020 [2021], Intakt): [r]: A-
  • Michael Formanek: Imperfect Measures (2017 [2021], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Garage A Trois: Calm Down Cologne (2019 [2021], Royal Potato Family): [r]: B+(*)
  • Doug Lofstrom: Music for Strings (2018-19 [2021], Origin Classical): [cd]: B-
  • Mach-Hommy: Pray for Haiti (2021, Griselda): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tobias Meinhart: The Painter (2021, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • William Parker: Trencadis: A Selection From Migration Into and Out of the Tone World (2019-20 [2021], Centering): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jeremy Pelt: Griot: This Is Important! (2020 [2021], HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Nate Wooley: Polarity (2020 [2021], Burning Ambulance): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Tom Rainey Obbligato: Untucked in Hannover (2018 [2021], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Skyzoo: All the Brilliant Things (2021, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(**)
  • Will St Peter/Steven Heffner/Steve Barnes: Honestly (2020 [2021], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The 2021 Jazz Heritage Series (2021, self-released): [cd]: C+
  • Jennifer Wharton's Bonegasm: Not a Novelty (2020 [2021], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything (1971 [2021], Island): [r]: A-
  • Gary Bartz NTU Troop: Live in Bremen 1975 (1975 [2021], Moosicus, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tim Berne/Chris Speed/Reid Anderson/Dave King: Broken Shadows (2018 [2021], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Julius Hemphill: The Boyé Multi-National Crusade for Harmony (1977-2007 [2021], New World, 7CD): [r]: A-

Old music:

  • Bee Gees: Trafalgar (1971, Atco): [r]: C-
  • Anne Briggs: Anne Briggs (1971, Topic): [r]: B+(***)
  • James Brown: Super Bad (1970 [1971], King): [r]: B+(***)
  • James Brown: Hot Pants (1971, Polydor): [r]: A-
  • James Brown: There It Is (1972, Polydor): [r]: A-
  • James Brown: Get on the Good Foot (1972, Polydor): [r]: B+(*)
  • Carlton and the Shoes: Love Me Forever (1978, Studio One): [yt]: B+(**)
  • Carpenters: Carpenters (1971, A&M): [r]: C
  • Grin: Grin (1971, Spindizzy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Grin [Nils Lofgren]: 1 + 1 (1971, Spindizzy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Grin: All Out (1972, Spindizzy): [r]: A-
  • Billy Joel: Cold Spring Harbor (1971 [1983], Columbia): [r]: B
  • Elton John: Elton John (1970, Uni): [r]: B-
  • Elton John: Madman Across the Water (1971, Uni): [r]: B-
  • Elton John: Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player (1973, MCA): [r]: B
  • Elton John: Caribou (1974, MCA): [r]: B
  • Elton John: Elton John's Greatest Hits Volume II (1971-76 [1977], MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Elton John: Elton John's Greatest Hits Volume III 1979-1987 (1979-87 [1987], Geffen): [r]: B
  • Curtis Mayfield: Curtis (1970, Curtom): [r]: A-
  • Curtis Mayfield: Roots (1971, Curtom): [r]: A-
  • MC5: High Time (1971, Atlantic): [yt]: B+(***)
  • MC5: Babes in Arms (1966-71 [1983], ROIR): [bc]: A-
  • Helen Reddy: Helen Reddy (1971, Capitol): [r]: B+(***)
  • Helen Reddy: Helen Reddy's Greatest Hits (1971-75 [1975], Capitol): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Stylistics: The Stylistics (1971, Avco): [r]: A-
  • The Stylistics: The Best of the Stylistics (1971-74 [1975], Avco): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ike & Tina Turner: River Deep Mountain High (1966 [1969], A&M): [r]: A-
  • Ike & Tina Turner and the Ikettes: Come Together (1970, Liberty): [r]: A-
  • Ike & Tina Turner: What You Hear Is What You Get: Live at Carnegie Hall (1971, United Artists): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rodrigo Amado This Is Our Language Quartet: Let the Free Be Men (Trost)
  • The Mark Masters Ensemble: Masters & Baron Meet Blanton & Webster (Capri) [06-18]

Friday, June 18, 2021

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

We gave up the paper edition of the Wichita Eagle six months or so ago. It had become extremely thin, was often misplaced by the delivery person, and then they killed off most of the comics I regularly read, adding new ones I had little interest in. During the cold snap, I wound up going to the computer instead of trekking outside, and eventually we decided that was good enough. This changed my daily routine: I get up, get some yogurt, and eat breakfast at the computer now, clicking my way through the news. Sometimes I'd see things that wind me up, and occasionally I wound up tweeting about them, but often that seemed insufficient and too transitory. I still don't want to revive Weekend Roundup, but as I was collecting open tabs, it occurred to me that it wouldn't hurt much to kick out a weekly post, not to round up news but to get a few things off my chest.

One decision was to release on Friday, instead of Sunday. This leaves my weekends free, and there's really not much news then anyway. I wanted to use the links purely as scaffolding for comments, not as something to collect for its own sake. I started collecting a few items last week, and found myself writing more than I've been doing in some while.

No guarantee this will be a regular feature. But it is bigger than expected, and surprisingly easy to assemble. I'm a lazy person, so it's likely I'll fall into the rut of doing easy things.


Zachary D Carter: The end of Friedmanomics: First, allow me a shout out to the author, whose The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes was one of 2020's best books. Less than half of that book was biography of Keynes -- a person as well as a set of ideas you should know about (I haven't read Robert Skidelsky's big biography, but did very much enjoy his shorter Keynes: Return of the Master) -- and the larger half gave an accounting of Keynes' legacy. Part of that was his supposed vanquishing by Milton Friedman in the 1970s, which has since come to look pretty shabby. One point worth reiterating is how conservative "prophets of freedom" remained closely aligned with the segregationist opponents of civil rights -- usually so explicitly you hardly needed to study critical race theory to figure out what they were doing.

Rebecca Heilweil: The controversy over Bill Gates becoming the largest private farmland owner in the US. There are probably a lot more stories like this, the best known probably being Ted Turner's bison ranches (see Is Ted Turner playing cowboy or hogging land?, from 2007). My parents grew up on farms, and were economically driven off the land in the 1930s, as farmers heeded the mantra, get big or get out. Since then, both people and riches have gone elsewhere, but given the limited opportunities for investing surplus profits, it was inevitable that the rich would start collecting farmland.

Doug Henwood: Take me to your leader: The rot of the American ruling class. Long article, covers a lot of history, and I haven't digest it all. But what the title suggests to me is illustrated by this: From George Washington to Jimmy Carter, most presidents have been rich, but most of them were bound by a sense of public trust and interest, and by a personal ethic that insisted on putting that public interest above their own personal enrichment. They haven't always understood public interest well, and they haven't always behaved as scrupulously as Washington and Carter, but nearly all of them tried to fit into that tradition. From Reagan on through Trump, you certainly can't say that about the Republicans, and Democrats Clinton and Obama did much better for themselves than for their voters. Jury's out on Biden, but so far he'd rather be seen as the un-Trump than as the Clinton-Obama successor. But we're not just talking about presidents, or indeed about politicians. Business has been taken over by egomaniacs and predators, with little interest in building and much in stripping wealth, including the creativity of workers. The twin conceptual pillars of the rise of the conservatives in the 1980s are Reagan's "greed is good" and Thatcher's "there is no society." The Democrats' failures are directly attributable to their eagerness to play along with such sociopathic notions, and have only served to reinforce those creeds among Republicans.

Tony Karon: Israel and the United States: Thinking about apartheid and the struggle for freedom. This puts Israel's struggle to establish and persevere within the broader context of settler colonies. I've been thinking along those lines for some time, concluding that colonies which establish >70% demographic dominance survive, and ones that fail to top 30% (Algeria came close) fail. The Zionist settlement in Israel as of 1948 had about 30% of the population, so it was borderline. Israel won out by surrendering a third of Palestine to Jordan and Egypt, and by driving 700,000 Palestinians into exile, leaving it with a demographic majority, which soon reached 70% with their campaigns to force Arab Jews (e.g., from Yemen and Iraq) into immigrating. Israel spent the next 20 years building up its military and police state, then swept up the rest of the Palestinian land, plus a slice of Syria, plus chunks of Egypt and (in 1982) Lebanon that they later abandoned. The result is that they're back to about a 50-50 demography, which they manage through an extremely discriminatory legal system, brutal enforcement, and impoverishment of their unwanted subjects. Americans have always sympathized with Israel, implicitly recognizing their common origins as settler colonies, but in the early 1900s, the US started to let up on its discrimination against its much-reduced aboriginal population, to the point that when Israelis liken Palestinians to American Indians, hardly anyone gets the point. Although it is perhaps significant that US Army strategists still model anti-guerrilla war operations on 19th century Indian wars, which is probably the last time they were successful -- again, while racism and genocidal weapons favored the US Army, demography was the most decisive factor. It's hard to tell right now what's driving Israeli politics so hard right: Is it hubris, thinking that they can continue to control all challenges internal and external? Or is it desperation? And if the latter, are there any limits to the violence they're likely to unleash in order to maintain order? They missed their opportunity in the 1990s to secure a state with a firm demographic majority, and the right has systematically wrecked any possibility of partition. The right, which you may recall was led by Netanyahu before Sharon out-maneuvered him, was convinced that might would win out, and compromise was not just undesirable but unnecessary. Also because average Israelis were seduced by the idea that they would always have to keep on fighting. But also because they couldn't count, and because they couldn't fathom the long-range impact of Israel's brutality on world opinion. [PS: For an indication of where the right-wing is moving, see Yumna Patel: 'Death to Arabs': Israeli 'Flag March' features racist anti-Palestinian chants.]

Eric Levitz: The limits of a wealth tax: This piece doesn't really address its subject, beyond mentioning the political difficulties in implementing any sort of wealth tax. The bigger problem is measuring wealth, and that's because most of it is unrealized, and as such is likely to be inflated (a word Yglesias objects to -- see my discussion below -- but we do need a word that is more substantial than "imaginary" but less burdened than "bubble-fied"). There is one important form of wealth tax where that would not be a problem: the estate tax. Were we to get serious about taxing etates, the simple solution would be to seize the estate, liquidate it, and split the proceeds (whatever they may be) between the government(s) and heirs (possibly including foundations). We don't do that, but other than political will, and some thorny issues with spouses and minor children (to the extent they are dependents, as opposed to heirs), we could do that. Otherwise, a wealth tax is like property taxes, based on an assessment of possibly dubious merit. (Example: my late father-in-law's house, purchased for $8,000 in the 1950s, was assessed by the property tax collector at $38,000 before his death. After he died, we wound up selling it for $10,500.)

The other topic of the article is whether we can pay for a robust social democracy by only raising taxes on the rich. Many pundits try to make the point that we cannot, as if that's supposed to deter us from trying. The rich have been chronically undertaxed, at least in the US, since the 1980s, and all we've gotten to show for that is an ever-widening chasm of inequality and an ever-growing public debt. The latter may not matter much, but raising taxes on the rich starts to reverse the inequality trend, and is the obvious place to start to fund much-needed public works. On the other hand, if we decide we need more public works than the rich can reasonably fund, the approach that most decent social democracies have followed is to adopt consumption taxes like the VAT. While not progressive, a VAT puts some downward pressure on prices and profits. I'd like to see a nationwide VAT replace local and state sales taxes -- comparable revenues could be funneled to the states, with the provision that should the states not spend the revenues, they could redistribute them equally.

Hamilton Nolan: Words that mean nothing, or "our political discourse is dominated by issues that don't exist," or "if you can push a bullshit issue into 'everybody knows' territory, you can get away with never having to define it at all." Examples range from "cancel culture" to "socialism" -- the latter, at least, used to mean something, but not what attackers on the right seem to think. Then there is "critical race theory," which was never more than a curious term for a methodology for findingracism in laws that weren't explicitly about race. The problem with vagueness and meaningless here is that Republicans in many states are seeking to ban the teaching of "critical race theory" in public schools. As those laws pass, courts will be asked what they apply to, as well as whether facts and ideas can be banned at all. Most likely, vagueness will end in those laws being overturned, adding to the right-wing's grievances against the courts, as they move on to their next outrage scam. (For an example a couple years past its shelf date, see the sharia law bans some states passed.)

For what it's worth, "critical theory" was a broad (and vague) term for a current in philosophy and social science developed by western Europeans (mostly Germans) in the 1920s-1950s, drawing on Marxians but not generally aligned with the Soviet Union. They were very skilled at discerning deep structures and resonances between culture/ideology and and more pervasive politico-economic forces. I studied their work, and got to where I could discern their patterns almost intuitively, but I rarely credit it these days, because they never were an authority -- they were profoundly subversive of all authority, including their own. I'll offer one brief example: Walter Benjamin wrote that "Baudellaire was a secret agent -- an agent of the secret discontent of his class with its own rule." [Fact check: Amy King.] Not only does this a new angle for analyzing 19th century poets (and other artists), it struck me that Marx himself could be profitably viewed as just such a secret agent.

The founders of "critical race theory" were aiming for fundamental insights, but their subject matter hardly required such depth. Their domain was law, and their object was to show that much law, even without explicit mention of race, was framed with racist intent. But really, who needs critical theory when you got overwhelming empirical proof? After all, so many laws backed by more-or-less clear expressions of racist intent and used to racist purpose that the patterns are obvious. Well, it's the right that needs to call any reference to racism from 1619 to the present a mere "theory." The right has conditioned its followers to dismiss "theory" as unproven speculation ever since Darwin. Calling it a "theory" suggests they can box it up, put a lid on it, and store it away, out of sight and out of mind. Of course, their problem isn't with any "theory" of racism. It's with any mention of the history of racism, with any implication that past racism has consequences in the present, and above all any suggestion that public policy should try to do anything to ameliorate the lingering effects of four centuries of racial discrimination and oppression.

But that in itself doesn't explain why they want to ban teaching about "critical race theory." To undestand that, you have to realize that the right has a peculiar understanding of education. They view it as indoctrination (or training), and indeed when given the chance, that's how they teach it. Their political success depends on people blindly following their dicta, no matter how incoherent or irrational. They may fear liberals seizing power and practicing indoctrination as well -- indeed, they often disparage liberal/left ideas as propaganda, repeated rote -- but what they really dread and hate is the notion that people should learn to think for themselves, and that education should give students the tools for analyzing and solving problems. Or as people like me used to put it: of thinking critically.

A couple more pieces on the "critical race theory" fracas: Alex Shephard: The specter of critical race theory is rotting Republicans' brains, and Jake Bittle: The Fox News guest behind the Republican frenzy over critical race theory (Christopher Rufo). Note "brain rot" again (see Doug Henwood, above). Less clear to me whether it's cause or effect. I'm tempted to argue that it's a good thing that Republicans are offended when they're called racists, but their preferred solution isn't to never talk about race, all the while making side comments that sure sound racist. Also on Rufo: Benjamin Wallace-Wells: How a conservative activist invented the conflict over critical race theory. Related here is Kerry Eleveld: Republicans don't even know how to talk to reality-based Americans anymore. Also He'd kill us if he had the chance: "As we've known for a long time, with conservatives everything is 100% projection."

Aldous J Pennyfarthing: The dumbest man in Congress wonders about FBI's role in planning Jan. 6 insurrection. No, really: Clickbait. Had to see who they referred to, given so many plausible contenders. Louis Gohmert. Duh! On the other hand, his fellow Republicans are trying harder; e.g., see Ed Kilgore: Andrew Clyde challenging Marjorie Taylor Greene for mantle of most extremist Georgian in Congress. Also Josh Kovensky: Inside Tom Cotton's insane world of DNA theft, Olympic athletes, and anti-China conspiracies.

Luke Savage: Novelist Cory Doctorow on the problem with intellectual property. Interview with the Science fiction writer, blogger/journalist, "not related to novelist E.L. Doctorow" (I had to look that up), a proponent of Creative Commons, interested in post-scarcity economics, author of You Can't Own Knowledge. The interview provides a good general overview of the various "intellectual property" (IP) issues, putting them into the proper context of monopoly grants, and includes useful history, especially on Bill Gates and Microsoft. Evidently, Doctorow has been working in this area for some time. My own views were first shaped by Richard Stallman, although I doubt I ever supported the idea of patents: the government-granted right of some people to sue other people for thinking independently (or thinking further about thoughts others had legal monopoly to). I'm always astonished at how a great many economists simply assume that patents are generally beneficial (although I wonder how many still would if they were described as monopolies or rents instead of as property. The main exception to this rule recently has been Dean Baker, who writes often on the issue: e.g., Patent monopolies and inequality: When we give rich people money, why does inequality surprise us? (Also see his free download book, Rigged, especially Chapter 5.)

Matt Stieb: What's driving the surge in ransomware attacks? There are lots of things wrong with the world these days, but I find few more aggravating than cybercrime. That's because it seems like something that shouldn't be so hard to detect, disable, and punish, but it isn't, seemingly because the authorities tolerate it -- one suspects that's largely because they enjoy participating in it, often glorifying it as cyberwarfare. Russia is a case example, as they seem to find it sporting to attack entities in country which arrogantly attack them with sanctions. Indeed, many nations -- Israel and Iran are good examples -- seem to have decided they can conduct cyberwarfare with no real risks of escalation, except that's their inevitable trajectory. The solution here, as in many other areas, requires cooperation, respect, and trust, things the US, with its either-you're-with-us-or-against-us mentality, is especially bad at. However, the fact that the US has historically been one of the world's worst offenders should offer some leverage if only we'd only change our minds and decide to negotiate an end to our own worst instincts. [PS: Evidently Biden at least broached the subject of a possible cybersecurity deal with Russia at his summit with Putin.]

Reis Thebault/Joe Fox/Andrew Ba Tran: 2020 was the deadliest gun violence year in decades. So far, 2021 is worse. I don't regard gun control as something Democrats should focus on -- I'm generally opposed to prohibition of anything that has fairly widespread attraction, but also I think it's an issue that divides Democrats from potential rural and working class allies, at least in the area I live in. But this is a sobering report. What I would like to see people look into and think about is what factors other than the insane number of guns Americans keep buying contribute to the staggering death toll. Twenty-plus years of non-stop war is certainly one of them. Republican efforts to discredit government -- no least through their own malfeasance -- is another. While culture often gets a bum rap for contributing to public delinquency, it is pretty obvious that ours has normalized and glorified gun violence -- going back at least to the 1960s westerns I grew up on. But also something relatively specific to 2020-21 is increasing lawlessness and anti-social behavior on the right, exemplified by the fatuous criminality of Donald Trump, extending throughout his followers.

By the way, I copied down this gun story by Jason Tidd in the Wichita Eagle (I can't link to it, and most likely you couldn't read it if I could):

Police: Wichita boys hurt in accidental shooting had messed with gun

Two boys were hospitalized late Monday night after accidentally shooting themselves while "messing" around with a gun, Wichita Police said.

Officer Charley Davidson said a WPD officer was patrolling through an apartment complex in the 8800 block of East Harry when he heard shouting at around 11:20 p.m. The officer found a 12-year-old boy with a gunshot wound to his hand and a 15-year-old boy with a gunshot wound to his leg.

The boys were taken to a hospital for medical treatment. Their injuries were not life-threatening, police said.

"The investigation revealed that the boys were messing with a handgun when it discharged, striking both of them," Davidson said. ". . . This case is a reminder that guns and kids don't mix."

Davidson, citing research from Nationwide Children's Hospital, said that "guns lead to thousands of deaths and injuries among children every year. Specifically, 1,300 children younger than 18 years of age die from shootings every year."

The organization reports that, "Most of the victims of unintentional shootings are boys. They are usually shot by a friend or relative, especially a brother."

Last week, a 6-year-old Wichita boy was hospitalized after a reportedly accidental shooting. In January, a Wichita teenager accidentally shot himself and a 3-year-old child. In 2019, a 9-year-old boy was accidentally shot and killed by his 11-year-old friend while they played with what they thought was a BB gun they had taken out of a malfunctioning safe.

The article ends with some "gun safety" tips, like "Kids who find a gun should leave it alone and tell an adult." In 2014, I wrote up a post called Guns: The Laundry List (started with a story "about a woman who was killed while doing laundry: a gun fell out of a sock and fired, hitting her"), and provides links for 60 more similar stories (although reading the titles is probably all you need to do), plus some more general background and personal experience. I may not be in favor of banning guns, but I sure wish they would go away. The first step is realizing how stupid, careless, and useless they are.

Matthew Yglesias: "Asset price inflation" is not a thing: During his tenure at Vox, I probably linked to Yglesias more than to anyone else, but I didn't buy his book, and I didn't pony up for his Substack newsletter (even though I would probably read it if it's free). But Mike Konczal linked to this piece and seemed to endorse it, and I've kept it open ever since -- maybe some day I'll approach Konczal and ask, WTF? Reading the piece carefully, I sort of understand that Yglesias is saying that when economists write about inflation, they're only talking about goods and services, and not assets. ("Asset prices going up is not a kind of inflation, just because by definition, that's not what inflation is.") Still, assets have prices, and those prices fluctuate, mostly due to supply and demand. Assets are mostly bought by rich people, so when rich people have more money, their demand for assets should bid up asset prices. So what do you call that? As near as I can tell, most economists don't call it anything. They assume that markets set the perfect prices for assets (and everything else), so when an asset gains value, that can only mean it really is worth more. (It's rather like the notion that when someone walks toward you, they physically get bigger.) Sure, some economists talk of bubbles, but mostly after the fact, when those perfect market gains suddenly disappear. I'm willing to concede that it may be difficult to calculate inflation of assets: sometimes appreciation is real (as when a company finds a new oil field), sometimes it is fraudulent, sometimes it is driven by currency inflation, and often times it merely reflects increasing inequality. Such factors imply different problems and solutions, but each is interesting. Still, Yglesias wants to ignore all that just to focus on conventional definitions, which were politically designed to protect banker profits at the expense of worker jobs and benefits.

I wonder whether both the rich and the left find it politically convenient to accept inflated assets at face value. The former feel richer than they are, even as their relentless pursuit of wealth seems more futile than ever, and the latter can point to even vaster degrees of inequality. On the other hand, if the levers of inequality mostly result in illusory wealth, maybe their political attempts to rig the economy will eventually be seen as futile and self-destructive.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Daily Log

Disassembled front door pinhole camera. Model 2D56A 620066, made in Taiwan. Six straight wire connectors:

  1. GND
  2. AUDIO OUT
  3. +12V IN (disconnected, there is a loose red wire)
  4. GND
  5. VIDEO OUT
  6. GND

DIN connectors are used for 6-pin connections, where: 1: +12V; 2: Audio to Camera; 3: Alarm Signal; 4: NC (no use); 5: Audio from Camera; 6: Video from Camera.

Other camera cables use BNC or RCA connectors. We're using some sort of hybrid cable, which combines a power cable and a video cable. I'm not seeing an exact match for what I understand we have.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 35610 [35564] rated (+46), 214 [217] unrated (-3).

Turned my attention to new music this week, drawing on sources too numerous to recall, but one was Robert Christgau's June 2021 Consumer Guide: I already had graded Gyedu-Blay Ambolley (**), Dry Cleaning (**), Loretta Lynn (A-), Mdou Moctar (A-), and Olivia Rodrigo (A-) graded, and Chai earlier in the week. Bumped up Dry Cleaning's grade, and checked out old EPs. The other "old music" entries were background for current records, unlike the last month-plus, when I've been working off old music lists.

Another source was the highest-rated 2021 album lists at AOTY and Metacritic, although they rarely led to significant finds. Working as fast as I do, I rarely spend enough time on a record to get a deep feel for whatever's unique about it. So what I offer are first impressions, hoping that breadth makes up for lack of depth.

Finally, it occurred to me that there must be some mid-year best-of lists popping up. I searched out a few, and added the records mentioned to my hitherto skeletal tracking file. The lists I consulted are (unranked, unless noted):

In past year, I would have been tempted to tote them up, but I've given up on that sort of tracking this year. I doubt I can even guess most of a top ten, but most likely are (in alpha order): Julien Baker, Nick Cave/Warren Ellis, Japanese Breakfast, Olivia Rodrigo, St. Vincent, and/or Wolf Alice, with J. Cole about the only hip-hop breakout, and Floating Points and Sons of Kemet possible jazz crossovers. My own picks, which include two of the above (Rodrigo and Sons of Kemet) are here. (Note that with 26 A/A- in what we'll generously call 4 months, I'm on track to wind up with 78, which would be my shortest list since the 1990s, if not much farther back. The current jazz/non-jazz breakdown is 16/10.)

I did an update of the Christgau website tonight, picking up five months of Consumer Guides (although the timelock is, if memory serves, eight months, so you can't read them there, but the records do show up in various indexes, like this 2021 release index. Christgau has 13 A/A- grades on new music releases.

I especially want to point out Perfect Sound Forever's Ed Ward Tribute, with Jason Gross interviewing Greil Marcus. Would be lovely if Marcus were to follow up with an anthology of Ed's writings (and broadcast transcripts?), like he did for Lester Bangs.

I've had a number of horribly frustrating days, which I realize would probably sound silly if I tried to enumerate my complaints. One thing clear is that as one gets older, little things get ever more troubling. The biggest of the little things was that I spent a couple hours working on installing some porch railing, and wound up behind where I was when I started. Doesn't help that it's gotten so hot the least exertion fails me.

One thing I can announce is that I'll return with a new version of my links-plus-comments post. I'm thinking it will come out on Fridays, and the focus will be on picking pieces I want to comment on, as opposed to ones I merely wanted to keep track of. I won't call it Weekend Roundup, or any kind of Roundup, as that isn't the intent. Tentatively I'll revert to my old Weekly Links, but I hope I can come up with something better.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Susan Alcorn/Leila Bordreuil/Ingrid Laubrock: Bird Meets Wire (2018 [2021], Relative Pitch): [r]: B+(*)
  • Michael Bisio/Kirk Knuffke/Fred Lonberg-Holm: The Art Spirit (2018 [2021], ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(***) [06-25]
  • Black Midi: Cavalcade (2021, Rough Trade): [r]: B
  • Namir Blade: Namir Blade Presents Aphelion's Traveling Circus (2020, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chai: Wink (2021, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(**)
  • DJ Black Low: Uwami (2021, Awesome Tapes From Africa): [bc]: A-
  • Nahawa Doumbia: Kanawa (2018-20 [2021], Awesome Tapes From Africa): [bc]: B+(***)
  • James Francies: Purest Form (2021, Blue Note): [r]: B-
  • Girl in Red: If I Could Make It Go Quiet (2021, AWAL): [r]: B+(***)
  • Japanese Breakfast: Jubilee (2021, Dead Oceans): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jonathan Karrant/Joshua White: Shadows Fall (2021, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kuzu: The Glass Delusion (2018 [2021], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Andy Fairweather Low & the Low Riders: Lockdown Live (2020 [2021], Secret): [r]: B+(*)
  • Vic Mensa: I Tape (2021, Roc Nation, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ashley Monroe: Rosegold (2021, Mountainrose Sparrow): [r]: B
  • Naeem: Startisha (2020, 37d03d): [r]: A-
  • Larry Ochs-Donald Robinson Duo: A Civil Right (2018-19 [2021], ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(***) [06-25]
  • Genesis Owusu: Smiling With No Teeth (2021, Ourness/House Anxiety): [r]: B+(***)
  • Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble: Warszawa 2019 (2019 [2021], Funcadja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ralph Peterson: Raise Up Off Me (2020 [2021], Onyx Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chris Potter Circuits Trio: Sunrise Reprise (2020 [2021], Edition): [r]: B
  • Dave Rempis/Tomeka Reid/Joshua Abrams/Tim Daisy/Tyler Damon: The Covid Tapes: Solos, Duos, & Trios (2020 [2021], Aerophonic, 2CD): [cd]: A- [06-15]
  • Serengeti: KDxMPC (2020, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Serengeti: Curse of the Polo (2021, self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Squid: Bright Green Field (2021, Warp): [r]: B+(**)
  • St. Vincent: Daddy's Home (2021, Loma Vista): [r]: B+(**)
  • Thomas Strønen/Ayumi Tanaka/Marthe Lea: Bayou (2018 [2021], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jazmine Sullivan: Heaux Tales (2021, RCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Too Much Joy: Mistakes Were Made (2021, People Suck Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Marta Warelis/Frank Rosaly/Aaron Lumley/John Dikeman: Sunday at De Ruimte (2020 [2021], Doek RAW): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Wolf Alice: Blue Weekend (2021, Dirty Hit): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Duck Baker: Confabulations (1994-2017 [2021], ESP-Disk): [cd]: A- [06-25]
  • Billy Bang: Lucky Man (2008 [2021], BBE, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hailu Mergia & the Walias Band: Tezeta (1975 [2021], Awesome Tapes From Africa): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Duck Baker: There's Something for Everyone in America (1975, Kicking Mule): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duck Baker: The King of Bongo Bong (1977, Kicking Mule): [r]: A-
  • Duck Baker: Les Blues Du Richmond: Demos & Outtakes 1973-1979 (1973-79 [2018], Tompkins Square): [r]: B+(**)
  • Duck Baker: Plymouth Rock: Unreleased & Rare Recordings, 1973-1979 (1973-79 [2020], Tompkins Square): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duck Baker: Spinning Song: Duck Baker Plays the music of Herbie Nichols (1995-96 [1996], Avant): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duck Baker: The Roots & Branches of American Music (2009, Les Cousins): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dry Cleaning: Sweet Princess (2018 [2019], It's OK, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dry Cleaning: Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks (2019, It's OK, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lisle Ellis: What We Live Fo(u)r (1994 [1996], Black Saint): [r]: B+(*)
  • What We Live: Never Was (1996 [1998], Black Saint): [r]: B+(***)
  • What We Live: Trumpets (1996-98 [1999], Black Saint): [r]: B+(***)
  • What We Live: Quintet for a Day (1998 [1999], New World): [r]: B+(**)


Further Sampling:

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

  • What Goes On: The Songs of Lou Reed (1967-2019 [2021], Ace): [r]: ++


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Dry Cleaning: New Long Leg (2021, 4AD): [r]: [was: B+(**)]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rebecca Angel: Just the Two of Us (Timeless Grooves) [04-23]
  • Rebecca Angel: Love Life Choices (Timeless Grooves) [06-11]
  • Samo Salamon/Hasse Poulsen: String Dancers (Sazas) [09-01]
  • Natsuki Tamura: Koki Solo (Libra) [07-09]

Friday, June 11, 2021

Daily Log

Tweeted today:

Headline today: "The Endless Cycle of Outrage and Reform Over Policing in America." I can see where outrage can lead to reform, but not the opposite. Isn't it the failure of reform that leads to more outrage? And isn't failure a sign that the reform was inadequate to start?

Marianne Cowan Pyeatt posted a meme which showed a picture of a QT gas station price board with unleaded at $1.569, and read: "BACK IN THE GOOD OLE' DAYS." and "7 MONTHS AGO......." I've never commented on her memes or posts, but did this time:

You've got to be kidding. The only good thing about 7 months ago was that Trump had lost, but he was still in office, plotting his insurrection. He said you'd never hear about Covid again after election day, but daily case count had increased from 150,000 in early November to 200,000 in early December, on its way to a peak of 300,779 on January 8. The economy was in a coma, so of course gas was cheap. We were locked down so hard I spent 2-3 months between refills, so the price of gas meant nothing to me and many others. I'm not sure there were any "good old days" in my 70 years, but 2017-20 was the worst. I thank God every day that Trump lost. I only wish he had taken more Republicans with him.

I shared the meme, and wrote this:

This meme appeared in a friend's feed, and I thought it was so spectacularly wrongheaded I should not only comment (first time ever for this friend) but share, with my own comments. First, I'm not sure that in my 70+ years there have been any "good ole' days" -- I'm working on a memoir, so I've been thinking a lot about that -- but there have been bad days. Two earlier stretches stand out: the escalation of the American war in Vietnam from 1965 to 1972, and the "War on Terror" from 2001 on were more calamitous, but for general, pervasive rot (both mental and moral) nothing else comes close to Trump's 2017-2020. So using this phrase, where the emphasis is usually on old, to describe the tail end of Trump's presidency is perverse. Also, if you do the math, 7 months only gets you back to early December, after Trump's loss, but while he was still in the White House, planning his insurrection. I can't imagine why a Trump fan would pick that moment, other than to highlight the relatively low gas prices, as if that's the difference between then and now that matters. Gas prices dropped over the course of 2020 because the economy was mired in a coma -- we traveled so little that I could go 2-3 months between refilling. Millions of Americans had come down with Covid-19, and more than 500,000 had died. You may recall Trump saying that after election day nobody would mention Covid again, and this meme is testimony to the blinkered memory of his fans. But for the rest of us, by early December we were seeing 200,000 new cases per day, on way to peak at 300,779 on January 8. Gas prices are rising now (still way below where they were under GW Bush) because people are getting vaccinated and rejoining the economy. As I noted in my comment, I thank God (and an absolute majority of American voters) every day for Trump's loss. I only wish we had taken more Republicans with him.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Daily Log

One of my rare political tweets:

Lesson from the Keystone XL pipeline cancellation and the political tantrums that followed: Republicans want the environmental degradation more than the company wanted the marginal returns on a large and risky investment in a declining industry.

Monday, June 07, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 35564 [35522] rated (+42), 217 [208] unrated (+9).

Saddened to hear that Frederic J. Fleron, Jr., died last week. Odd that I haven't found an obituary yet -- I did find one for his mother, Esther, from 1998, but it always seemed like fame was his due. He came into my life as Fritz, when he married my cousin, Lou Jean, and was a huge influence until they divorced. He got a Ph.D. in political science at Indiana, and taught at Kentucky and SUNY Buffalo. His specialty was Soviet Studies, and has his name on several academic books, but seemed to slow down with tenure. He came from a ritzy family, and struck me as a boisterous bon vivant, as well as a serious intellectual. He broadened my horizons, and inspired me to persevere through a very tough period in my life (not that my cousin didn't have even greater influence).

I became reacquainted with him sometime after 2000. I was visiting my cousin. He recognized me in a Buffalo record store, and came up and started talking. I remember him as being into old blues, which now included a fair sampling of folk and country. He occasionally sent me mixtapes. I didn't reciprocate, because I've never done that sort of thing, but I did return occasional tips and reviews. I follow him and their daughter Ingeri on Facebook, which is where I learned of his death. He was quite a character, and will be remembered and missed.

[PS: Here's an obituary for Fred Fleron.]


I made a minor change to the Christgau website recently: I was fixing a security issue with the "Google Search" widget, and decided it would be better to target a new tab for the search results, since going to them would lose the website's navigation menus.

A bit later, I thought I should have that same functionality on my website. Turns out I had implemented it some time back, but it was only showing up on some pages. It shows up on more now, although the historic sprawl has left some pages with older framing. Reminds me that a redesign is in order, but unlikely any time soon.

Redesigning the Christgau website is a higher priority -- one that I've made very little progress towards. I did catch up the Consumer Guide database last week (still not public; probably later this week, but the new stuff is embargoed, anyway; may wait until his June CG comes out).

I started this week off by noticing a Randy Sandke reissue in Napster's featured jazz list. Turns out that a lot of Nagel Heyer releases are now available, so I took a dive, which shortly led me to saxophonist Harry Allen. Nagel Heyer is a German label which released a fair amount of retro-swing in the 1990s and afters. One problem with their discography is that they have a bad habit of reissuing old records under new titles, often changing the artist credits as well. I ran across several such cases below, finally noting it on the Butch Miles release(s).

Harry Allen is one of my favorite saxophonists, so his dive went further. He developed a big following in Japan in the 1990s, with BMG releasing 3-4 records per year there -- only a few appeared in the US on RCA. I've long been frustrated by inability to find those titles, but Slider reissued the Japanese BMG/Novus records in 2007, and they're now on Napster (and probably other streaming sources).

Still, half of this week's A-list records are new music. Having listened to very little new non-jazz over the last couple months, it was easy to pick promising candidates off lists presented on the Expert Witness Facebook Group (one from Sidney Carpenter-Wilson proved most useful: his only A-list album I didn't check out was Black Midi, and the others scored *** or better, while a couple items from his B-list beat the odds). [PS: Gave Black Midi a B: "started better, ended worse."]

I'll follow up on more tips next week, including the latest from Phil Overeem, plus whatever Christgau comes up with. (Meanwhile, enjoying Awesome Tapes From Africa at the moment, especially DJ Black Low.)

Unpacking up this week, after a recent drought, so suddenly I'm behind on new jazz. Still not much there (other than Dave Rempis' The Covid Tapes) I'm really looking forward to. When I do bother to check sources, it seems like I'm getting very few of the top-tier albums (i.e., by artists I'll check out because everyone else will). I didn't have to look beyond Napster's featured list to find Tony Allen, Jaimie Branch, Dave Holland, and Sons of Kemet -- only two of those I knew were coming.

Managed some minor home projects, including a couple bathroom items (faucet aerator, grab bar mounted on tile) that had vexed me for a long time. Trying to figure out what to do about a faulty air conditioner this week -- troubleshoot, repair or replace? I'm already bothered by the heat, and it hasn't hit 90F yet (although it will by Wednesday).

Approaching the end of Jack E. Davis' The Gulf, where he gets into the chemical pollution allowed by the right-wing political regimes in the region, especially in Texas and Louisiana. This after the environmental destruction in Florida, which was mostly the work of developers. One might hope that some of this has been reversed, but for four years Trump gave clear signals to pollute all you want, and the impact of that takes time to accumulate. How much we will pay for the folly of letting his corrupt regime take power is still unfathomable. (Of course, it's not just the Gulf. Look at Turkey this week.)

Part of the reason is that it's hard to see where real change might come from. While the right-wing gets ever uglier, we're still beset by people (especially in the media) willing to patronize them. Especially ugly this week is Netanyahu's panic over the agreement to make someone else (Naftali Bennett, if that matters) prime minister of Israel. Looks like the intent there is to show Trump what a real coup looks like. (See: Shin Bet chief warns against Netanyahu incitement to political violence.) And speaking of ugly, consider this: Younger brother of Michael Flynn takes command of US Army Pacific.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Harry Allen/Mike Karn: Milo's Illinois (2021, GAC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tony Allen: There Is No End (2020 [2021], Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Aly & AJ: A Touch of the Beat Gets You Up on Your Feet Gets You Out and Then Into the Sun (2021, Aly & AJ Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die Live (2020 [2021], International Anthem): [r]: A-
  • The Chills: Scatterbrain (2021, Fire): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Holland: Another Land (2020 [2021], Edition): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jack Ingram/Miranda Lambert/Jon Randall: The Marfa Tapes (2021, RCA Nashville): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gabor Lesko: Earthway (2021, Creativity's Paradise Music): [cd]: B
  • The Linda Lindas: The Linda Lindas (2020, self-released, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • L'Orange & Namir Blade: Imaginary Everything (2021, Mello Music Group): [r]: A-
  • Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victime (2021, Matador): [r]: A-
  • Maria Muldaur With Tuba Skinny: Let's Get Happy Together (2021, Stony Plain): [r]: A-
  • Olivia Rodrigo: Sour (2021, Geffen): [r]: A-
  • Paul Silbergleit: The Hidden Standard (2018 [2021], BluJazz): [cd]: B-
  • Ches Smith/We All Break: Path of Seven Colors (2015-20 [2021], Pyroclastic, 2CD): [cd]: A- [06-11]
  • Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future (2021, Impulse!): [r]: A

Old music:

  • The Harry Allen-Keith Ingham Quintet: Are You Having Any Fun? A Celebration of the Music of Sammy Fain (1994, Audiophile): [r]: B+(**)
  • Harry Allen: Tenors Anyone? (1996 [1997], BMG Novus): [r]: A-
  • Harry Allen: Here's to Zoot (1997, BMG Novus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Harry Allen/Randy Sandke: Turnstile: Music of the Trumpet Kings (1997 [2007], Nagel Heyer): [r]: B
  • Harry Allen: Day Dream (1998, BMG Novus): [r]: A-
  • Harry Allen: When I Grow Too Old to Dream (1999 [2000], BMG Novus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Harry Allen: One Upon a Summertime (1999, BMG Novus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Harry Allen: Cole Porter Songbook (2001, BMG Novus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Harry Allen: Dreamer (2001, BMG Novus): [r]: B
  • Harry Allen: I Can See Forever (2002, BMG Novus): [r]: B+(*)
  • Harry Allen: I Love Mancini (2002, BMG Novus): [r]: B
  • Harry Allen: The Harry Allen Quartet (2003, self-released): [r]: A-
  • Harry Allen/Joe Cohn: The Harry Allen & Joe Cohn Quartet (2005, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Harry Allen/Rossano Sportiello: Conversations: The Johnny Burke Songbook (2011, GAC): [r]: A-
  • Harry Allen: Love Songs Only! (1993-2001 [2013], Nagel Heyer): [r]: B
  • Alan Barnes/Harry Allen: Barnestorming (2006 [2007], Woodville): [r]: B+(*)
  • Butch Miles and Friends: Cookin' (1995, Nagel Heyer): [r]: B+(***)
  • Butch Miles and Howard Alden: Soulmates (1995 [2002], Nagel Heyer): [r]: B+(***)
  • New York Allstars: The Bix Beiderbecke Era (1993, Nagel Heyer): [r]: B+(**)
  • The New York Allstars: We Love You, Louis! (1995 [1996], Nagel Heyer): [r]: B+(*)
  • Randy Sandke: Randy Sandke Meets Bix Beiderbecke (1993 [2002], Nagel Heyer): [r]: B+(**)
  • Randy Sandke and the Buck Clayton Legacy: All the Cats Join In (1993 [1994], Nagel Heyer): [r]: B+(***)
  • Randy Sandke and the New York Allstars: The Re-Discovered Louis and Bix (1999 [2000], Nagel Heyer): [r]: A-
  • Vladimir Shafranov Meets Harry Allen With Hans Backenroth/Bengt Stark: Dear Old Stockholm (2016, Venus): [r]: B+(**)
  • Shaolin Afronauts: Flight of the Ancients (2011, Freestyle): [r]: A-
  • Shaolin Afronauts: Quest Under Capricorn (2012, Freestyle): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rossano Sportiello/Matthias Seuffert: Swingin' Duo by the Lago (2005-06 [2008], Styx): [r]: B+(*)
  • Allan Vaché and Harry Allen: Allan and Allen (2001 [2002], Nagel Heyer): [r]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Duck Baker: Confabulations (1994-2017, ESP-Disk) [06-25]
  • Keshav Batish: Binaries in Cycle (Woven Strands) [07-10]
  • Michael Bisio/Kirk Knuffke/Fred Lonberg-Holm: The Art Spirit (ESP-Disk) [06-25]
  • Dan Dean: Fanfare for the Common Man (Origin Classical) [06-18]
  • Sean Michael Giddings: Red Willow (Origin) [06-18]
  • Doug Lofstrom: Music for Strings (Origin Classical) [06-18]
  • Jason Nazary: Spring Collection (We Jazz) [06-25]
  • Larry Ochs-Donald Robinson Duo: A Civil Right (ESP-Disk) [06-25]
  • Pluto Juice: Pluto Juice (Contagious Music) [07-16]
  • Will St Peter/Steven Heffner/Steve Barnes: Honestly (Origin) [06-18]
  • Marta Warelis/Frank Rosaly/Aaron Lumley/John Dikeman: Sunday at De Ruimte (Doek RAW)

Friday, June 04, 2021

Daily Log

Sidney Carpenter-Wilson May 2021 listening report:

A-List
Sons of Kemet: Black to the Future [A]
The Chills: Scatterbrain [***]
Mdou Moctar: Afrique Victime [A-]
No-No Boy: 1975 [A-]
Khaira Arby: Live in New York 2010 [A-]
Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert & Jon Randall: The Marfa Tapes [***]
James Brandon Lewis: Jesup Wagon [A-]
black midi: Cavalcade [B]
Olivia Rodrigo: SOUR [A-]
B-List
Aly & AJ: a touch of the beat gets you up on your feet gets you out and then into the sun [*]
Bachelor, Jay Som & Palehound: Doomin' Sun
serengeti: curse of the polo [*]
DUDA BEAT: Te Amo Lá Fora
Rochelle Jordan: Play With the Changes
L'Orange & Namir Blade: Imaginary Everything [A-]
CHAI: WINK
Maria Muldaur & Tuba Skinny: Let's Get Happy Together [A-]
Honorable Mentions
81355: This Time I'll Be of Use
Mannequin Pussy: Perfect - EP
Iceage: Seek Shelter
Young M.A.: Off the Yak
Mach-Hommy: Pray for Haiti
CZARFACE & MF DOOM: Super What?
easy life: life's a beach
Weezer: Van Weezer
Allison Russel: Outside Child
Serengeti: Keep Winning 
Tee Grizzley: Built for Whatever
Mustafa: When Smoke Rises
But Not For Me
The Black Keys: Delta Kream
Juliana Hatfield: Blood
St. Vincent: Daddy's Home
Jorja Smith: Be Right Back
Squid: Bright Green Field
J. Cole: The Off-Season

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Daily Log

Jim Marsh posted this on Bobby Jenkins (photo link):

Sharing a post from H. David Pendleton to old childhood neighborhood friends about Bobby Jenkins. Linda may be too young to remember Bobby. We also called him R.E. Thank you for your service and sacrifice Bobby.

"Sergeant (SGT) Robert Earl "Bobby" Jenkins was born on 3 August 1947 and listed Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas as his Home of Record with the military. He died on 19 May 1968 in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam at the age of 20 due to an explosive device He is buried in the White Chapel Memorial Gardens in Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas.

Bobby was an Infantryman (MOS 11B) in the Army and must have been proficient having been promoted to SGT with so little time in service. He arrived in Vietnam on 6 October 1967 and joined B Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Infantry Regiment, 198 Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. The 52nd is a relatively young regiment whose history only dates back to World War I. Units of the 52nd are still around and fought in Afghanistan. The unit was given the nickname "Ready Rifles" and its motto is Fortis et Certus (Brave and True)

"Bobby is carrying the M-60 Machine Gun in the photo. The M-60 Machine Gun was the most important weapon in an infantry platoon. The platoon's 2 M-60s provided as much firepower as all other M-14s/M-16s combined. This must have been taken when he was not a sergeant because he would have relinquished his position as Machine Gunner when he became a Team Leader."

SGT Jenkins military decorations include the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Division, and the Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB). SGT Jenkins place on the Vietnam Wall is on Panel E63, Line 11."

Steve Hull commented:

Thank you for posting this. Bobby picked on and teased me relentlessly. I am better for his time. He was a top athlete. Loved fast cars and knew how to fix them. He was supposed to be on leave that week. He traded with someone who needed it more. He was smart, tough, and a leader. A bright future lost too early.

Linda Appelhans [Joplin] commented:

I do remember Bobby, we were next door neighbors. He was older than me so we didn't really know each other very well. I remember how his death in Vietnam shook our neighborhood. Thanks for sharing this, Jim.

I commented:

Thanks for sharing this post. Virtually all the kids, at least on our side of the street, were younger than me: Wayne and Bobby were the exceptions, but Wayne was so much older I never had much to do with him. Bobby used to come over and shoot baskets -- trying to play against him was ridiculous, so we mostly played HORSE. As he got older, he pulled away. He got a Pontiac GTO, and always burned rubber from his driveway to Blake, hitting 50 before skidding around the corner. I never thought of him as being smart -- just a big jock who could be a lout. He left, got married, had a kid, got sent to Vietnam, and died senselessly. I was already totally against the War, but his death made it personal, and I've often thought of him. (There was, by the way, another guy, who grew up just on the other side of Blake, who got killed in Vietnam -- can't remember his name, but have a vague picture in my mind.) I hated every aspect of the American War in Vietnam, but the one that Bobbie's death signified to me was how callously the generals wasted the lives of draftees. One last point is that Tony worshiped Bobby, and was hugely affected by his death. Tony once told me that he was haunted by death. His parents were gone by then, maybe Wayne too, but I took that as mostly about Bobby.


May 2021