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Is All Art Sacred Art? In a Prose Meditation, One Poet Makes the Case

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The Journey Isn t as Difficult as you fear
The Journey Isn’t as Difficult as you fear

The New York Times:

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.

(click here to continue reading Is All Art Sacred Art? In a Prose Meditation, One Poet Makes the Case – The New York Times.)

Hmm, sounds interesting.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 11th, 2018 at 2:07 pm

Bettye LaVette’s ‘Things Have Changed’ and the Take What You Need compilation

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Bettye LaVette - Things Have Changed

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.

(click here to continue reading Review: Bettye LaVette’s ‘Things Have Changed’ – Rolling Stone.)

Check it out…

Take What You Need

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.

(click here to continue reading Take What You Need: UK Covers of Bob Dylan Songs 1964-69 | The Fat Angel Sings.)

—update– April 5, 2018

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.”

(click here to continue reading Bettye LaVette Talks Singing Bob Dylan Songs, Bruno Mars – Rolling Stone.)

Written by Seth Anderson

April 4th, 2018 at 8:10 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

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Miles Davis and John Coltrane’s The Final Tour

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A Love Supreme  John Coltrane
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.”

(click here to continue reading Miles Davis and John Coltrane’s The Final Tour, reviewed..)

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
Miles The Autobiography, a great read

Amazon blurb:

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.

 

(click here to continue reading Miles Davis & John Coltrane – The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 – Amazon.com Music.)

Written by Seth Anderson

April 2nd, 2018 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

Tagged with , ,

Atget’s Paris

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Atget s Paris
Atget’s Paris

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.

Dreaming My Dreams
Dreaming My Dreams

Footnotes:
  1. professional or amateur []

Written by Seth Anderson

March 30th, 2018 at 10:45 am

Tom Waits: The Asylum Era Albums To Be Reissued

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Covers  Guess the Album 2

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.

(click here to continue reading Tom Waits: The Asylum Era Album Review | Pitchfork.)

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?

Free Jazz Aficionado
Free Jazz Aficionado

Written by Seth Anderson

March 24th, 2018 at 8:42 am

Posted in Music,Reviews,Suggestions

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Archive of Studs Terkel Radio Shows to Be Released to Public

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Zenith Phono Radio
Zenith Phono & Radio.

Excited to hear more of these:

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.

(click here to continue reading Archive of Studs Terkel Radio Shows to Be Released to Public – The New York Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 17th, 2018 at 11:04 am

The Mighty Shamrocks “Paddy”

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Sláinte–Garfield Conservatory
Sláinte – Garfield Conservatory

Today is a good day to listen to Irish music, so I queued up the mythical Irish roots album, Paddy by The Mighty Shamrocks.

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.

(click here to continue reading CD Review – The Mighty Shamrocks “Paddy” | No Depression.)

Mighty shamrocks  paddy
mighty shamrocks – paddy.PNG

and some backstory from Eric Klinger:

 

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.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Unearthing the Mighty Shamrocks – PopMatters.)

You can find a copy wherever it is you get slightly obscure music. 

Written by Seth Anderson

March 16th, 2018 at 8:20 am

Posted in Music,Suggestions

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Judge holds Martin Shkreli responsible for $10.4 million in losses

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Iron Cock Head
Iron Cock Head

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.

(click here to continue reading Judge holds Martin Shkreli responsible for $10.4 million in losses | TheHill.)

Speaking of Dirty Money, did you ever watch the Netflix 6 part series of the same name? Highly recommended…

 

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.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Dirty Money Netflix Review.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 26th, 2018 at 4:59 pm

Posted in crime,Film,Suggestions

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Uneasy About the Future, Readers Turn to Dystopian Classics

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Dystopian Future Reading
Dystopian Future Reading

It seems I had the same thought as many people.

“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.

(click here to continue reading Uneasy About the Future, Readers Turn to Dystopian Classics – The New York Times.)

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…

Written by Seth Anderson

January 28th, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Books,politics,Suggestions

Tagged with , ,

Sasha Petraske’s Regarding Cocktails Is Worth Owning

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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.

Cocktails & Dreams
Cocktails & Dreams

Wayne Curtis at the WSJ recommends the book too:

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.

(click here to continue reading Bid Adieu to 2016 With a Very Strong Drink – WSJ.)

Written by Seth Anderson

December 17th, 2016 at 11:02 am

Posted in Books,Food and Drink,Suggestions

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Fela Kuti Is Perfect For Working Out

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Fela Anikulapo Kuti - complete works 
Fela Anikulapo Kuti – complete works

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

That is all…

Footnotes:
  1. aka I.T.T., aka International Telephone and Telegraph []
  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 []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 4th, 2016 at 11:34 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

Tagged with ,

Best Music of 2015, More Or Less

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I’m Real Proud of my Record Collection

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.

Bob Dylan - 1965-1966 - The Cutting Edge

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

A Love Supreme - John Coltrane

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
  • Billy Gibbons And The BFG’s – Perfectamundo – Hispanic-bionic boogie
  • John Coltrane – A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters

Bob Dylan - Shadows In The Night

 

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.

https://i0.wp.com/farm1.staticflickr.com/647/23512590601_011cc8154d_n.jpg?resize=320%2C320&ssl=1
 

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.

Spinning

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.


Footnotes:
  1. 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 []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 31st, 2015 at 2:05 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

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Amazon Associates Linkage Dying Off

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Amazon the Everything Store
Amazon the Everything Store…

I got an email from the Amazon Associates division, reading, in part:

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.

Moving on…

Footnotes:
  1. or whatever it is that the Huffington Post model is of exploitation, a model followed by some other sites []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 13th, 2015 at 9:06 am

Bob Dylan Hates Purple Throated Vocalists As Much As I Do

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Trio of musicians
Trio of musicians

Long time readers of this humble blog might remember a discussion or two about singers who over-sing. Artists like Whitney “permanent orgasm” Houston, for instance, who constantly ululate over and around the melody until it makes your ears bleed. There’s probably a better way to describe this style of singing, but I call it purple throated, in homage to the phrase “purple prose”.1

Bob Dylan is many things, but one of my favorite aspects of his persona is his love for music, and his propensity to speak the unvarnished truths about musicians.

Such as in his speech at the MusiCares Person of the Year event yesterday:

Dylan was gracious enough not to identify by name the singer who was the recipient of his sharpest barbs. But he seemed to be referencing Ambrosius, who has had several R&B hits, most notably 2010’s Far Away, sang the national anthem at a 2012 Floyd Mayweather-Manny Cotto fight.

“Critics say I mangle my melodies, render my songs unrecognizable,” he said. “Let me tell you something: I was at a boxing match a few years ago, seeing Floyd Mayweather fight a Puerto Rican guy. And the Puerto Rican national anthem, somebody sang it. And it was beautiful, it was heartfelt, it was moving. After that, it was time for our national anthem, and a very popular soul-singing sister was chosen to sing it. She sang every note. That exists. And some that don’t exist. Talk about mangling a melody. Take a one-syllable word and make it last for 15 minutes.  To me, it was not funny. Mangling lyrics, mangling a melody, mangling a treasured song. No, I get the blame.”

(click here to continue reading Dylan disses Merle Haggard, others, in MusiCares speech.)

If you want to torture your ears, here is the YouTube of that rendition of the US National Anthem, available at the moment.

Dylan also discusses another my favorite songs, Sunday Morning Coming Down. I’m partial to the Kris Kristofferson version, but the Johnny Cash cover is pretty spot-on too.

Dylan recalled reading an interview with Tom T. Hall, the country singer and songwriter noted for story songs like Harper Valley PTA and (Old Dogs, Children And) Watermelon Wine, during a Nashville recording stint many years ago. In the interview, Dylan said, “He was (complaining) about some kind of new song coming in. And he couldn’t understand what these new kinds of songs were that were coming in or what they were about.”

“Now, Tom, he was one of the most pre-eminent songwriters at the time in Nashville. A lot of people were recording his songs, including himself. But he was on a fuss about James Taylor and a song James had called Country Road. Tom was going all off in this interview: ‘Well, James don’t sing nothing about a country road; he just says that he can feel that ole country road. I don’t understand that.”

“Now some might say Tom was a great songwriter, and I’m not going to doubt that. At the time, during his interview, I was actually listening to a song of his on the radio in the recording studio. It was called I Love. And it was talking about all the things he loves. An everyman song. Trying to connect with people. Trying to make you think he’s just like you and you’re just like him. We all love the same things. We’re all in this together.”

“Tom loves little baby ducks. Slow-moving trains and rain. He loves big pickup trucks and little country streams. Sleep without dreams. Bourbon in a glass. Coffee in a cup. Tomatoes on a vine and onions.”

“Now listen, I’m not every going to disparage another songwriter. I’m not gonna do that. I’m not saying that’s a bad song, I’m just saying it might be a little over-cooked.”

Dylan said that Hall and a few other writers had the Nashville scene “sewn up” — until Kris Kristofferson came along and started writing songs like Sunday Morning Comes Down, which Johnny Cash turned into a No. 1 single.

“That one song blew Tom T. Hall’s world apart,” Dylan said. “It might have sent him to the crazy house. God forbid he ever heard one of my songs.”

“If Sunday Morning Coming Down rattled Tom’s cage and sent him into the looney bin, my songs surely would have made him blow his brains out.”

(click here to continue reading Dylan disses Merle Haggard, others, in MusiCares speech.)

Bob Dylan - Shadows In The Night
Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night

By the way, Bob Dylan’s latest album, Shadows in The Night, is actually pretty good, in a melancholy sort of way. Very down-beat, but in a quiet mood, I like it. I’m guessing I might not have appreciated it as much when I was 17, insistent that every song I heard be guitar-driven, but now that I’ve expanded my musical palette a bit, I can appreciate songs by Frank Sinatra, Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, et al.  Also, Dylan’s voice sounds much better than it did on that lame Christmas album2 released a few years ago.

Footnotes:
  1. In literary criticism, purple prose is prose text that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself. []
  2. Christmas In The Heart []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 7th, 2015 at 11:51 am

Posted in Arts,Music,Suggestions

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Boogie Woogie Box Set

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Boogie Woogie Box Set
Boogie Woogie Box Set

Horrible documentation (like, zero, in fact), but still, 200 jazz and blues tracks on 10 CDs for around $20 US is a pretty good deal if you are into such things (“original masters” btw) . Artists range from  Blind Willie McTell, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Big Joe Turner, Artie Shaw, Louis Jordan, Champion Jack Dupree, and all points in between.

amzn.to/1u5TGo5

I can’t say I’d want to listen to all 200 in sequence, but as part of a shuffled playlist? delightful.

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Written by Seth Anderson

August 29th, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

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