Finally saw the long-awaited and long anticipated Deadwood film. The original HBO show remains among my favorites of all time, especially the first two seasons. By the third season, tensions between HBO and David Milch1 caused the season to have some gaps in the story. But still, watch all three seasons if you haven’t already, or haven’t watched recently.
The film is rather bittersweet, several of the actors have died in the 13 year interim of the end of the tv show in 2006 and 2019, and mortality is one of the main themes, no doubt informed by David Milch‘s own illness. Still, I was happy to spend another 90 minutes with those who survived.
Powers Boothe, Ricky Jay and Ralph Richeson died between the conclusion of the series and production of the film. Boothe’s small role in an early version of the script was written out. Titus Welliver, who portrayed Silas Adams, was unable to appear in the film due to scheduling conflicts as he was filming his Amazon Prime series Bosch. Garret Dillahunt and Larry Cedar, who played characters who were killed in the original series, returned as background characters; Dillahunt plays a drunk who throws something at Hearst, yelling: “Hope you die in the street, like my dad did.”
Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit Buffy Sainte-Marie’s cosmic, groundbreaking 1969 album, an ecstatic invocation of pain, pleasure, and divinity.
Illuminations is a potent artifact from those early days when the synthesizer conjured audible awe and limitless possibility. (Even Giorgio Moroder’s first Moog-driven hit, “Son of My Father,” was not released until 1972.) Illuminations would have been a tough sell in 1969 regardless, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that Sainte-Marie learned another factor in its commercial failure: Because of her activism with the recently formed American Indian Movement (AIM) and her outspoken Vietnam-era pacifism, the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations had both led campaigns to blacklist her music from American radio stations and record stores. “Buffy thought that the decline of her record sales was just part of legitimate changes in American public taste,” her biographer Blair Stonechild wrote in 2012’s Buffy Sainte-Marie: It’s My Way. But years after the release of Illuminations, when an American radio DJ was interviewing Sainte-Marie, he shocked her by apologizing for abiding by a government mandate to stop spinning her tunes. She recalled, “He had a letter on White House stationery commending him for suppressing this music, which deserved to be suppressed.”
As the years went by, Illuminations developed something of a cult following; in 1998, the experimental music magazine The Wire put it on a list of “100 Records That Set the World on Fire When Nobody Was Listening.” (“If Dylan going electric in 1965 would have turned folk purists into baying hyenas,” they wrote, “Buffy Sainte-Marie going electronic would have turned them into kill-hungry wolves.”) But, like Sainte-Marie herself, the bewitching, utterly transporting Illuminations has still not gotten a fraction of its due. It is a record overripe for reevaluation—for reasons not limited to but certainly including pissing off the ghost of Richard Nixon.
In the early years of her life, Sainte-Marie experienced much to work in spite of, much to travel beyond. She was born on a Cree reservation in Saskatchewan, though she’s not sure when, or under what circumstances she ended up in an adoption agency. She knows, at least, that she was born sometime in the early 1940s, and that the traumatic practice of ripping indigenous babies from their homes would continue to be common practice in Canada for decades; the phenomenon is sometimes referred to as the “Sixties Scoop.” She was adopted by a white family in Wakefield, Massachusetts and given the name Beverley Sainte-Marie.
Buffy had a creative and encouraging mother, but through the Sainte-Marie family she also came in contact with several male relatives, including her adoptive brother, who inflicted upon her years of sexual and emotional abuse.
The Buchla, which would become Sainte-Marie’s instrument, was another beast entirely.
“It wasn’t even as though there was an electric keyboard, it was too early,” she recalled. “We just called it a matrix, a bunch of possibilities you could connect in various ways to modify sound waves.” Subotnik and Don Buchla, who developed the Buchla 100 together in the mid-1960s, were less interested in futurizing recognizable instruments like the piano than they were giving people a blank slate to create new forms. “My basic thought was to be creative with this new instrument,” Subotnik said in a 2017 interview, “to show people how, without black and white keyboards, you could create a new kind of music.” Sainte-Marie—an artist who’d always seen beyond simple binaries—was enamored of this strange new machine.
I don’t know much about Buffy Sainte-Marie, but I’ve owned this LP for a while, and it is quite intriguing. Give it a spin! Piss off the rotting corpse of Richard Nixon!
Thom Jurek, Allmusic:
In the year 2000, the Wire magazine picked this spaced out gem from Native American folksinger and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie as one the “100 Albums That Set the World on Fire.” Released in 1969, and now on CD, as of 2001, it was reissued as an import on 180 gram vinyl with its original glorious artwork and package. Interestingly enough, it’s a record Sainte-Marie doesn’t even list on her discography on her website. It doesn’t matter whether she cares for it or not, of course, because Illuminations is as prophetic a record as the first album by Can or the psychedelic work of John Martin on Solid Air. For starters, all of the sounds with the exception of a lead guitar on one track and a rhythm section employed on three of the last four selections are completely synthesized from the voice and guitar of Sainte-Marie herself.
This is poetry as musical tapestry and music as mythopoetic sonic landscape; the weirdness on this disc is over-exaggerated in comparison to its poetic beauty. It’s gothic in temperament, for that time anyway, but it speaks to issues and affairs of the heart that are only now beginning to be addressed with any sort of constancy — check out the opener “God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot” or the syncopated blues wail in “Suffer the Children” or the arpeggiated synthesized lyrics of “The Vampire.” When the guitars begin their wail and drone on “The Angel,” the whole record lifts off into such a heavenly space that Hans Joachim Rodelius must have heard it back in the day, because he uses those chords, in the same order and dynamic sense, so often in his own music. Some may be put off by Sainte-Marie’s dramatic delivery, but that’s their loss; this music comes from the heart — and even space has a heart, you know. One listen to the depth of love expressed on “The Angel” should level even the crustiest cynic in his chair. Combine this with the shriek, moan, and pure-lust wail of “With You, Honey” and “He’s a Keeper of the Fire” — you can hear where Tim Buckley conceived (read: stole) the entirety of Greetings From LA from, and Diamanda Galas figured out how to move across octaves so quickly. The disc closes with the gothic folk classic “Poppies,” the most tripped out, operatic, druggily beautiful medieval ballad ever psychedelically sung.
HE HELD RADICAL LIGHT The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art By Christian Wiman
With all the stonings, smitings, beheadings and bear maulings in the Bible, it is easy to miss the rather staid death of Eutychus. As recounted in the Book of Acts, the young man nods off during a long sermon by St. Paul, and falls three stories from a window in Troas. In a reprieve for dozing parishioners everywhere, Paul resurrects him.
Poor Eutychus comes and goes in only a few verses, but I thought of him while reading the poet Christian Wiman’s curious new book, “He Held Radical Light” — not because it’s in danger of putting anyone to sleep, but because, like Acts, it’s an episodic account of equally strange encounters, in this case, with apostles of verse. A. R. Ammons shows up for a reading in Virginia but refuses to read, telling his audience, “You can’t possibly be enjoying this”; Seamus Heaney winks before stepping into a cab in Chicago; Donald Hall orders a burger for lunch, then confides to Wiman, who was then 38: “I was 38 when I realized not a word I wrote was going to last”; Mary Oliver picks up a dead pigeon from the sidewalk, tucks the bloody carcass into her pocket and keeps it there through an event and after-party.
Wiman had met a few poets by the time he finished college at Washington and Lee and completed a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford, but he really started to collect them at Poetry magazine, where he was editor for 10 years. The most straightforward version of those years would be a literary tell-all, along the lines of the former New Yorker editor Robert Gottlieb’s “Avid Reader.” But “He Held Radical Light” is something else: a collection of private memories, literary criticism and theology, plus an eccentric anthology of poems Wiman holds dear, all drawn into an argument about art and faith.
I’ve only listened to this album once, but I like it a lot. Sultry, gritty, emotional readings of songs I know well.
Joe Levy of Rolling Stone writes:
On the title track of this remarkable collection of Bob Dylan covers, Betty LaVette wraps her voice – full of grit, brass and soul when she started recording at 16 in 1962; worn and sharpened by experience now at 72 – around a lyric about sitting on the lap of strange man with pale skin and an assassin’s eye. The way she tells it, that man could be the song’s author or a villain in an epic of intrigue, or maybe there’s no difference between the two. She makes the song so alive with consequence and possibility, it’s able to transform into whatever she or the listener needs it to be in the moment: a spy movie, a romance novel, a Biblical parable of reckoning, a bittersweet memory of a time when caring mattered or a way of drinking away the pain of that memory.
The tricks and miracles of Things Have Changed are manifold. Half of its 12 tracks restore life to songs that were dead-on-arrival on Dylan albums from 1979 to 1989; the rest reshapes more essential parts of the legend. The grooves constructed by drummer and producer Steve Jordan have both the booming precision of hip-hop loops and the flexible responsiveness of classic R&B. This is tradition-based music that extends the heritage it draws from. “It Ain’t Me Babe” sways over a slow soul pulse as LaVette’s phrasing pulls the song in different directions, opening up unexpected pockets of defiance or mourning. LaVette and Jordan reframe “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” as swamp-rock, its talk of the rising waters of change suddenly connecting to all of Dylan’s apocalyptic tales and its new reverbed guitar hook suddenly definitive.
On Oh Mercy, Dylan delivered “Political World” like an end-days shopping list. What was once an inert litany of decay rolls and tumbles here over a spare bass line and guitar punctuation from Keith Richards.
Coincidentally, I also picked up a copy of Take What You Need this week, another album of Bob Dylan covers…
From a blog called The Fat Angel Sings:
Any of Dylan’s songs were up for grabs and the enlightening, entertaining new 22-track compilation “Take What You Need: UK Covers of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69” charts the early days of these endeavours on this side of the Atlantic. The oldest track is The Fairies’ version of “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright”, issued on 31st July 1964. The latest are five tracks from 1969 which range from Joe Cocker to Sandie Shaw, and Fairport Convention to the Tim Rice/Andrew Lloyd Webber-sponsored The Mixed Bag.
Britain, though, was initially resistant to Dylan’s charms. He had been in London at the end of 1962 and appeared on television, as well as live at The Troubadour and other folk clubs. As the fine liner notes say, “few on the British scene were taken with Dylan; most were at best indifferent or, in the case of arch traditionalists Peggy Seeger and Ewan MacColl, completely dismissive.” There was one exception: the open-minded Martin Carthy. He alone was not going to help Dylan’s recognition.
Take What You Need kicks off with The Fairies’ bouncy “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright”, which features session-era Jimmy Page on guitar. It’s followed by Marianne Faithfull’s Baez-style “Blowin’ in the Wind” (on which Pageprobably also appears). She sings preciously, as if afraid of the song. The Fairies blast away with nary a care for the nature of the source material. This twin-track approach courses through the compilation: wholesale reinterpretation versus on-eggshells respect for what’s being recorded.
Should have included this great interview with Ms. LaVette
I didn’t learn anything about me as an artist. If I didn’t know all about me as an artist I wouldn’t have taken on the project in the first place. I did, however, find out more about him. I know him so much better now because I had to, with him writing these vignettes, I had to get into them to put them into my mouth, and there’s no way I could get into them without getting into the writer. If you listen to 12 songs, then you really have a crash course on Bob Dylan. And so I found out that I finished his arguments for him. He’s always arguing in his songs all the time, and he’ll go all the way up to the line and say “Go jump off the ledge,” or whatever. “I’ll push you.” And so, what I did was I pushed people off the ledge that he wanted pushed off.
I also found that Bob could be tender but he can’t be tender. I had to be tender for him. “Emotionally Yours,” actually, makes me cry at this point, and so does “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight.” I mean, he is actually begging someone not to do something. When my keyboard player started slowing down the tempo a little, I said “Oh, my goodness, he’s begging!” I never heard him do that before. So I had to go and beg for him. “Emotionally Yours” is just a surrender: “I always will be emotionally yours. No matter what happens, he will come. Do anything you want to do with me.” I said, “Oh, you sneaky little rascal, you!” I never knew he could feel like that. He made me find it out by myself. He won’t tell it to me on his recordings. I had to go to bed with these songs to find out what these songs are about. But I am telling you, if I ever do get this little rascal in a room alone, I’m going to say, “Do you know what I know about you?” But that was all I could do. The songs had to belong to me. I don’t tributize anyone. This is my 57th year in show business, and I don’t cover nothing. If you cover stuff … I don’t know why you would cover stuff.
He writes these vignettes. He writes arguments. He writes grievances. He doesn’t write any love stories. It’s not, “We met, we kissed, it wound up like this.” With Bob, it always winds up badly, even if they did meet and kiss. And so he doesn’t write poetry, he writes prose, and by that I mean that it’s always logical or practical. It’s “I’ve given you all the ins and outs and I’ve done nothing but make you sad, so why don’t you go on and leave?” There’s no poetry in that. That’s the logic and practicality of it: “Why don’t you leave, because I’ve already said I don’t want you.”
A Love Supreme – John Coltrane – one of my desert island discs…
Well, I know what I’m buying myself for my upcoming birthday…
Fred Kaplan writes:
A new box set captures Miles Davis and John Coltrane’s final tour together. It challenges the conventional wisdom about both of them.
This is the wonder and delight of The Final Tour, a four-CD box set of live concerts in Europe, from March 1960, by jazz trumpeter Miles Davis’ quintet featuring John Coltrane—none of which have ever been released in the United States.
The tour took place a full year after the band laid down Kind of Blue, one of the greatest jazz studio albums and still the most popular of all time, having sold more than 4 million copies. The band on The Final Tour is much the same as on that album, and so are many of the tunes, but the music—the way the tunes are played—is radically different. It’s such a jarring departure that it demands we revise the conventional wisdom about these two musicians and fills in some blanks—which, until now, we didn’t know were blanks—in the story of jazz, and where it was going, in those pivotal years.
Coltrane didn’t want to make the tour with Miles in 1960. He was determined to leave the band and start his own, but Miles prevailed. And the tour was a big deal—the first time Miles had played in Europe as a leader.
The opening night, March 21, took place at the Olympia theater in Paris. That concert also constitutes the box set’s first disc. The set begins with “All of You,” the Cole Porter song, which Miles had covered, with Coltrane as a sideman, on his album ’Round About Midnight(recorded in 1955, one year after the song was composed). Miles blows with a vigorous but lyrical swing, in Sinatra phrasing, with jaunty comping from the rhythm section—Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums, all of whom had played on Kind of Blue. It’s very elegant, as befits the continental setting. (Photos in the album’s booklet show the band members decked out in tuxedos.)
Then, Coltrane enters with his solo. He starts out in a simpatico spirit, a harder tone but a gentle sway. In the second chorus, he throws in a few very fast triplets. By the fifth chorus, he’s unleashing volcanoes of notes—chords on top of chords, scales zipping through the stacks, so dense, so ferocious, so fast. A few years earlier, the critic Ira Gitler had described Coltrane’s style as “sheets of sound,” but these are blizzards of sound, implosions of pure energy. Four minutes in, he spends an entire chorus experimenting with multiphonics (sounding two or more notes at the same time), then he goes back to the blizzards, or languishes on a single chord, turning it a dozen ways in as many seconds, as if sifting all the angles of a prism.
Yet at the end of each chorus, he rings out some phrase of the melody, and it doesn’t sound out of place because, through all the frenzy (this becomes startlingly clear on repeated listening), he never lets go of the song, he stays tethered to some harmonic or rhythmic hook. He may seem to be unleashing chaos, but that’s the opposite of what he’s up to.
Many years later, the tenor saxophonist Branford Marsalis heard a bootleg album of the 1960 Stockholm concert—which took place the night after the Paris concert—and experienced what he later called “one of the worst nights of my life.” Coltrane’s playing, he remembered in an interview with the New York Times Magazine, “was massive, intense. I wanted to quit. It wasn’t like I could say, ‘Well, if I start to do this or that, I might get there.’ Forget it.”
Two of my favorite artists, touring together, music heretofore unreleased. What’s not to love? I’ll let you know if it is any good but I assume it will be awesome.
Miles The Autobiography, a great read
The latest entry in the award-winning Miles Davis Bootleg Series focuses on the final chapter in the landmark collaboration between Davis and saxophonist John Coltrane: their last live performances together, in Europe in the spring of 1960.
Miles and Coltrane first collaborated in 1955, when Davis recruited the tenor saxophonist alongside pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones. This “first great quintet” made their Columbia Records debut in 1957. Those early recordings showcased the stunning contrasts between Miles’ spacious, melodic lines and Trane’s cascading high-energy solos, famously described by the critic Ira Gilter in 1958 as “sheets of sound.”
While the quintet disbanded shortly after the release of ‘Round About Midnight, Coltrane was back in Miles’ ensemble in early 1958. A year late, the Miles Davis Sextet (Davis, Coltrane, Chambers, saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, pianists Bill Evans or Wynton Kelly, and drummer Jimmy Cobb) recorded the historic Kind Of Blue, the best-selling jazz album of all time. And for this final tour the rhythm section of Kelly, Chambers and Cobb backed Miles and Trane.
These historic performances marked Miles and Trane’s last outing together and showcased both musicians’ incredible influence on the changing sound of jazz. The beautiful music they made together is presented here officially for the very first time.
The 4CD set The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series Vol. 6 includes concerts recorded in Paris, Copenhagen and Stockholm.
An acquaintance flattered me and compared a photo of mine to Eugène Atget’s work, so I had to learn more. In school, and in my life, I’ve studied the painting masters, visited art museums all over North America and Europe, but I haven’t filled in the photography part of my art education as thoroughly, yet. A friend suggested I consider Berenice Abbott next; I plan on doing so.
I have not studied Atget’s photographs extensively, yet, simply browsed this quite intriguing book. There are a lot of contemporary photographers1 documenting urban environments who have been influenced by Atget, whether consciously or unconsciously. Photos of store fronts, workers, mannequins, streets, etc.
This was the photo of mine that initiated this exploration, btw, a snapshot taken with Hipstamatic/iPhone. I printed a 10”x10’” version on metal and hung it in my hallway.
Good news, Tom Waits is reissuing his first seven records, remastering them. I’ll admit I’ve played all seven today, and on many days in the past. Waits weirder, later material is good too, but tbh, I cannot listen to it all in a bunch, rather picking out a side or two at a time.
Anyway, Stephen M. Deusner reports:
Tom Waits had one of the wildest trajectories of any rock artist in the 1970s—or possibly ever. A regular presence in San Diego’s coffeehouse folk scene in the late 1960s, he was living out of his car when Herb Cohen, the manager for the Mothers of Invention and Linda Ronstadt, discovered him and helped to secure a record deal with the fledgling Asylum Records. David Geffen and Elliot Roberts had just opened the label in 1971, but already it was a home to some of Southern California’s finest singer-songwriters, including Jackson Browne, Judee Sill, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young. Waits was plugged as a like-minded artist, based on songs like “Martha” (covered by Tim Buckley) and “Ol’ 55” (covered by labelmates the Eagles).
As the decade progressed, Waits grew weirder and woolier, indulging his penchant for weapons-grade schmaltz as well as his fascination with Beat jazz and the seedier byways of Los Angeles. With each album his voice curdled more deeply into a whiskey growl, often sounding like Louis Armstrong after a bender. His songs sprawled into strange recitations about gutter characters: strippers and barflies, hucksters and grifters, vagrants holding up lampposts and waitresses slinging hash. During it all, Waits maintained strict control over his craft—his music rarely seems haphazard—but bent his songs into new shapes to portray characters and convey emotions that didn’t have much of an outlet in pop music at the time. If his peers and labelmates were Laurel Canyon, Waits was the more sordid Tropicana Motel.
Waits’ current label, Anti-, is reissuing his first seven records, first on CD and on LP over the next few months, chronicling his time at Asylum. Newly remastered but without any bonus material, they form something like a road trip through an America that maybe never existed except in Waits’ own head, or perhaps a novel about an artist defining himself against pretty much every major trend. However, just because they show Waits getting comfortable in his own skin and learning how he could present himself to his fans, these albums comprise more than simply a prelude to his remarkable run of records in the 1980s and 1990s. These seven albums constitute the first act of a remarkable career, even as these reissues complicate that trajectory from assembly-line singer-songwriter to eclectic iconoclast.
and then gives a brief review of each of the seven (most of which I agree with). Queue up all seven albums in sequence, then read the rest of this referenced article. What else are you doing this morning?
More than 5,600 of Studs Terkel’s radio interview programs on the Chicago station WFMT will be released to the public.
The Studs Terkel Radio Archive will launch May 16, the 106th birthday of the late author, activist and oral historian. Terkel died in 2008 at age 96. The archive will be available on studsterkel.org.
For 45 years — 1952 to 1997 — the legendary Terkel elevated oral history to a popular genre by interviewing both the celebrated and everyday people for books and on WFMT. Among the radio interviews to be released are those with Martin Luther King Jr., Simone de Beauvoir, Bob Dylan, Cesar Chavez and Toni Morrison.
Final release for mythical and influential Irish Alt-Country bootleg. This has been a long time coming. After several years slogging around the Irish dancehall circuit The Mighty Shamrocks came to the attention of Terri Hooley of Undertones fame and the owner of Good Vibrations Records in 1979. He immediately offered them the opportunity to record their debut album but; by the time they’d completed it in 1983 the label had gone bankrupt and the Masters have been gathering dust ever since, with bootleg copies falling into the hands of several Irish, Northern Irish and American-Irish musicians who have all gone into print citing its’ influence on their music.
Why all the fuss, you ask? Well; when this was recorded The Mighty Shamrocks sounded like nothing Ireland had heard before as they carefully/accidentally fused Country with some Blues and a healthy dose of nascent Punk and the end result could easily be a template for Alt-Country.
Northern Ireland. The late 1970s. The violence and turbulence of the Troubles are everywhere, along with IRA hunger strikes and crippling unemployment. Meanwhile, the straight ahead three-chord punk model was already revealing itself to be generally unsustainable, and shrewder bands were looking to other forms as a way forward. And in Northern Ireland, a way forward could mean a way out of the turmoil. Against that backdrop emerged the Mighty Shamrocks: singer/guitarist Mickey Stephens, guitarist Dougie Gough, bassist Roe Butcher, and drummer Paddy MacNicholl.
Taking cues from a wide range of music — the New Wave that was ubiquitous at the time, country elements from the pub rock scene, and a hint of reggae (their moniker is a play on roots reggae group the Mighty Diamonds) — the Mighty Shamrocks made their regional name on the strength of songs that brought the political turmoil of the times to a personal level. In 1983, the group recorded an album for the Good Vibrations label, and it looked like the group might well be on their way. But as it so often happens on the road to rock glory, fate made other plans. The Good Vibrations label went bankrupt just as the album was due for release, and the band collapsed under the pressure.
Over the years, the Mighty Shamrocks became something of a local legend, and the songs — mostly penned by Stephens, who had settled into an academic career in the United States — made the rounds on bootleg cassettes. It wasn’t until 2012 that the master tapes found their way into the right hands, enabling Paddy to receive the official release that for nearly 30 years had been out of reach.
This would be a nice enough story even if the music were only OK, but Paddy (named in honor of drummer MacNicholl, who unfortunately didn’t live to see this release) lives up to its legend. Stephens has a reedy, punchy quality to his voice, which complements the lyrics well. “Everyone had PTSD during the Troubles”, Stephens writes in the disc’s liner notes, and with that understanding lines like “I can’t sleep because I’m afraid of nightmares / I can’t stay up ’cause I’m afraid of ghosts” from “Dance the Night Away” take on a new urgency. Even “Coronation Street”, Stephens’ ode to the long-running British soap opera, becomes a meditation on simpler times that recalls the more pastoral side of Ray Davies.
Not sure anyone will get choked up about something or anything bad happening to Martin Shkreli or his smirk.
A federal judge ruled Monday that former drug company CEO Martin Shkreli will be held responsible for $10.4 million worth of financial losses related to his time as head of Turing Pharmaceuticals.
Judge Kiyo Matsumoto rejected Shkreli’s argument that he did not cause any losses for investors because they eventually came out with a profit, Reuters reported. The total losses will likely play a factor in Shkreli’s sentencing on March 9.
Matsumoto ruled Shkreli should not get credit for the money that was repaid to investors because he only returned it after they became suspicious.
Erin Lee Carr’s “Drug Short,” my candidate for a nonexistent Best in Show award, shows how big pharmaceutical companies jack up prices on lifesaving drugs, and how renegade short sellers with a pretense of social conscience get rich by trying to undermine companies they believe are spreading harm. The use of graphics in this one is particularly impressive; I’ve had short selling explained to me many times in the past, but I don’t think I ever really understood it on a fundamental level until Carr’s series laid it out.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” is among several classic dystopian novels that seem to be resonating with readers at a moment of heightened anxiety about the state of American democracy. Sales have also risen drastically for George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984,” which shot to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list this week.
Other novels that today’s readers may not have picked up since high school but have landed on the list this week are Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel, “Brave New World,” a futuristic dystopian story set in England in 2540; and Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel “It Can’t Happen Here,” a satire about a bellicose presidential candidate who runs on a populist platform in the United States but turns out to be a fascist demagogue. On Friday, “It Can’t Happen Here” was No. 9 on Amazon; “Brave New World” was No. 15.
The sudden boom in popularity for classic dystopian novels, which began to pick up just after the election, seems to reflect an organic response from readers who are wary of the authoritarian overtones of some of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric. Interest in “1984” surged this week, set off by a series of comments from Mr. Trump, his press secretary, Sean Spicer, and his adviser Kellyanne Conway, in which they disputed the news media’s portrayal of the crowd size at his inauguration and of his fractious relationship with American intelligence agencies. Their insistence that facts like photographs of the crowd and his public statements were up for interpretation culminated in a stunning exchange that Ms. Conway had on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” when she said that Mr. Spicer had not lied about the crowd size but was offering “alternative facts.”
To many observers, her comment evoked Orwell’s vision of a totalitarian society in which language becomes a political weapon and reality itself is defined by those in power. The remarks prompted a cascade of Twitter messages referencing Orwell and “1984.” According to a Twitter spokesman, the novel was referenced more than 290,000 times on the social network this week. The book began climbing Amazon’s best-seller list, which in turn drove more readers to it, in a sort of algorithm-driven feedback loop. It amounted to a blizzard of free advertising for a 68-year-old novel.
1984 was out of print, but I bought a copy of it from Amazon that will arrive whenever. Of these eight books, I have read several, but it had been years and years. For whatever reason, I have not ever read Sinclair Lewis’s, “It Can’t Happen Here”, nor Czesław Miłosz’s,”The Captive Mind”, nor more than a couple of excerpts of Hannah Arendt’s “The Origin of Totalitarianism”.
In comments to the above photo of dystopian books on Flickr, I asked what other books I should add to the list, commenters suggested “We”, by Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin, completed in 1921 as well as “The Road” by American writer Cormac McCarthy. Any others you can think of?
So if I’m grimmer than normal about Trumpism, you’ll know I’ve been reading from this pile…
I never went to Milk & Honey, but I’d heard much about it, and its creator, Sasha Petraske. I bought this book in November, and while I haven’t made every cocktail in it (that will take a few more years), the ones I have made have been delicious. I wasn’t able to attend my family’s Thanksgiving bash this year, but Sasha’s Petraske’s recipe for The Bizness and The Bee’s Knees did, and were apparently a great hit.
But perhaps it’s best to end this year on a quieter, more reflective note, and there’s actually a cocktail book for that—Sasha Petraske’s understated and impressive “Regarding Cocktails” (Phaidon, 251 pages, $29.95). It’s a book Petraske, the founder of the pioneering Manhattan cocktail bar Milk & Honey, was compiling when he died suddenly last year at the age of 42. The gaps have been filled in by his widow, Georgette Moger-Petraske, and a community of like-minded bartender friends.
The book is filled with a low-key joy and embraces a no-nonsense, non-splashy approach to drink-making, focusing chiefly on adaptations of classic cocktails with few ingredients, such as the martini, daiquiri and sour. Each featured drink is paired with an austere graphic on the opposite page, composed of a pattern of glyphs representing the ratio of various ingredients. The key printed on the accompanying bookmark contains some 120 wee symbols, from absinthe and Demerara rum to ginger beer and white peach purée. I suppose with enough memorization, one might know at a glance what the drink would taste like, much like a trained musician can hear a melody by glancing at sheet music. In any event, it’s calming to just contemplate the graphic.
The book concludes with brief, introspective essays about Petraske. He was famous—and sometimes mocked—for the rules he cast in bronze on the bathroom doors at his bar. These included “No name dropping” and, for women, “If a man you don’t know speaks to you, please lift your chin slightly and ignore him.” He also subscribed to more general rules of living, which invariably revolved around civility. On the subway: “No man should ever sit before every woman who wishes to rest has been offered a seat.” “Regarding Cocktails” is as much about human connection as it is about jiggers and bitters. And Petraske’s sort of civility seems something we all could use more of in the new year. Well, that and a stiff drink.
Songs by Fela Kuti are perfectly suited to listening to while exercising. One queues up Sorrow, Tears and Blood, and maybe Zombie and then International Thief Thief1, and suddenly an hour has passed. Driving, deep rhythms of bass and drums, interwoven with horns, guitar, electric piano, chanting choruses, and so on, and of course, searing politically edged lyrics by Fela Kuti. His lyrical inventions don’t always translate into English, but if you concentrate, you’ll get the gist. Sorrow, Tears and Blood is the Nigerian version of KRS-One’s “Sound of Da Police”, or N.W.A.’s “Fuck The Police”, Junior Murvin’s, “Police and Thieves”, or even the Dead Kennedy’s “Police Truck”.2
or Furry Lewis’, “Judge Harsh Blues”, The Clash’s song, “Guns of Brixton”, Prince Buster’s “Judge Dread”, you could go on and on. Suffice to say, the police have been frequently agents of oppression as long as they’ve had the power to [↩]
Every year I make the attempt to write about the best new-to-me music I’d discovered the previous year, I think I’ve published a post maybe twice since 2003. Part of the problem is that I’m a glutton for music, and thus spend more than I should purchasing new tunes. Often I’ll be interested in some new LP, purchase a copy1 but not listen to it closely for a year or two.
Anyway, instead of trying to scratch out mini reviews for the hundreds of new albums I added to my library in 2015, here are an arbitrarily selected few, plus a few duds. There are certainly others that I’m accidentally omitting, such is the hazard of working without an editor…
Also, obviously quite a lot of these albums were not first released in 2015, but that isn’t the standard I adhere to, only that these albums were added to my iTunes library this year.
Albums I Listened To The Most
Verckys Et L’Orchestre Veve – Congolese Funk Afrobeat & Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978 – a great album, worth tracking down if you like to dance.
Bob Dylan – The Cutting Edge (1965-1966) – I didn’t splurge on the massive boxset that included even more music later, but 6 discs is a lot of classic Dylan, and mostly good!
Baba Commandant & The Mandingo Band – Juguya – another winner, hailing from Burkina Faso in West Africa.
Led Zeppelin – reissues of Physical Graffiti, Presence, In Through The Out Door, and Coda. Coda has some of the best new stuff, including the famous recordings with a Bombay Orchestra.
Pentangle – Sweet Child – Bert Jansch is a genius, eventually I’ll have every record he ever played on.
Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django and Jimmie – some great tunes here, Willie Nelson seems immortal
Old Crow Medicine Show – Big Iron World – OCMS really grew on me this year, as I also had other albums by this band in heavy rotation. Modern string music, folk-rock, bluegrass, who knows. Toe tapping stuff, with clever lyrics.
Waterboys – Room to Roam – don’t know how I missed this LP all these years, I really love it
Albums That I Liked
The Staple Singers – Uncloudy Day & Will The Circle Be Unbroken
Pop Staples – Don’t Lose This
Brian Eno & Karl Hyde – High Life
Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane – Rough Mix – Ronnie Lane is a genius
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters
Albums I Probably Will Grow To Like
Tame Impala – Currents
Björk – Vulnicura
Steve Earle and the Dukes – Terraplane
Meicio Askanasy, José Prates, Ivan De Paula – Tam…Tam…Tam…! Brazilian jazz reissue from 1958.
Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night – crooning tunes actually suit Dylan’s voice these days
Funkadelic – first ya gotta Shake the Gate – George Clinton keeps keeping on
Grateful Dead – Blues for Allah – occasionally, I do like to listen to the Grateful Dead noodle
Wilco – Star Wars
The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily – I could get bored with this, but it isn’t bad
The Internet – Ego Death – seems promising, but I’ve only had it a month or so
Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color – same
Richard Thompson – Live at the BBC – box set, some with Linda Thompson.
Albums I Wanted To Like But Did Not
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress – maybe it will just take a while…for this, and the others in this section.
Lotion – Nobody’s Cool
Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves
My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall
Van Morrison – Duets: Re-Working The Catalogue – sounds too much like elevator music for my taste. Original versions are all better, by far, so why bother? Money I guess, but I wish I had saved mine.
Jack White – Lazaretto
New Kingdom – Paradise Don’t Come Cheap
Newsom, Joanna – Divers – come to think of it, I didn’t really groove on Have One on Me either.
Albums That I Used To Own, And Now Own Again
Hair Original Soundtrack – don’t ask me why, but I did buy this in a moment of weakness. There are actually a few catchy tunes on here, but limited replayability, no?
The B-52s – Cosmic Thing – classic from my formative years
Devo – Freedom of Choice – another classic from my formative years
Bert Jansch & John Renbourn – After the Dance – awesome collaboration with two great guitarists, both sadly deceased as of 2015.
Motörhead- No Sleep ’Til Hammersmith – damn, Lemmy died
Gregory Isaacs – Night Nurse – classic Reggae LP from circa 1982
Sonny Boy Williamson – Don’t Start Me Talkin’ I’ll Tell Everything I Know – classic Chicago blues from the Chess label
Poi Dog Pondering – Poi Dog Pondering – I was walking around this summer, and encountered a marquee announcing a 25 year anniversary of some album of Poi Dog Pondering, remembered seeing them play all over Austin back in my callow youth. Cheery pop still has its place.
I will note that I have zero problems buying used music, especially in the era of compact discs, which means I can find a lot of new-to-me albums for a couple bucks [↩]
As part of our continuing effort to improve the Associates program’s products and services, we are making some changes to our technology platform. This platform change will require you to replace some older product links, banners, and widgets you currently have hosted on your website as they will no longer be supported after July 31, 2015. Text links are not impacted by this deprecation.
Action Required We ask that you replace or update the impacted ad units prior to July 31, 2015. The links require the following update that can be facilitated through your CMS (content management system). You may make these replacements at whatever scale you are comfortable with. – Find and replace ws.amazon.com with ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com – Find and replace rcm.amazon.com with rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com
Keep in mind that starting August 1, 2015, any remaining legacy product links (text + image, image-only), banners, and widgets will be served with non-clickable public service announcements that will not send traffic to Amazon, impacting your referring traffic and potential earnings, if not addressed. On September 1, 2015, these legacy ad units will no longer render, thereby creating a broken link on your website.
The thing is, I probably won’t bother. When Amazon decided to kill off the Illiniois affiliates program rather than give the state a taste of the tax revenues, as we’ve discussed previously, I stopped posting as many reviews of Things I Discovered That You Might Like Too. Coincidentally, this was also around the time I became a half-hearted blogger, posting less frequently and decidedly less enthusiasm. My daily traffic plummeted, probably because there are now many alternative blog-like media outlets, places like Gawker and Deadspin and Curbed, and so on – not written by hobbyists and part-timers like myself, but paid writers1.
After a couple of years, Amazon decided that paying taxes to all the state governments was not as big a deal as they had once complained about, and reinstalled the Affiliate program. However, they wouldn’t give me my old affiliate link back, nor would they merge the two accounts I had, so basically I stopped using Amazon links much.
I don’t think I’m going to go back through the thousands of posts I’ve made to correct the Amazon links, they will just become dead links, and I no longer will get a 3% bonus from Amazon if you clicked through one of this blog’s links and purchased something. Possibly, I’ll fix a few, if I happen to run across the post for other reasons; I doubt I’ll create replacements on a global level. I stand to lose dozens or more cents, but there are more important items on my agenda.
or whatever it is that the Huffington Post model is of exploitation, a model followed by some other sites [↩]