Oh Sees (2017) vs. Cream (1966). Same song (basically), different generations.
Monday, November 20, 2017
At his very core, Donald Trump is a white supremacist, banning Muslims, demonizing Latino immigrants, and attacking black athletes who don't ask "how high" when he says jump. He demands gratitude from UCLA basketball players like some paternalistic slave master, and then lashes out at LaVar Ball for insufficient gratitude. This morning, he went after Oakland Raider Marshawn Lynch with this tweet:
"Marshawn Lynch of the NFL's Oakland Raiders stands for the Mexican anthem and sits down to boos for our national anthem. Great disrespect! Next time NFL should suspend him for remainder of season. Attendance and ratings way down."
To be clear, Mexico is not the country with the highest incarceration rate in the world, disproportionately jailing citizens of color. Mexico is not the country whose police are gunning down black people with impunity!
I'll do the math for you: white supremacy + mandatory patriotism + the suppression of dissent = fascism.
This nightmare must end: the Trump/Pence regime must go!
Sunday, November 19, 2017
I've been trying to avoid talking about this year's simultaneously alarming and depressing stories about celebrity sexual predators. Not that I think it's not an important issue - it is. It's just that so much is already being said about it elsewhere and there are voices that are more important to be heard in this conversation than mine - namely, those of women, those of the victims, those of the accused, and those of the enablers.
The Zen community went through this a few years ago, with distressing story after distressing story about prominent Buddhist teachers being accused of abusing their authority and the trust placed in them by having affairs with their students - affairs that destroyed marriages, tarnished the reputations of the exploited women, and interfered with the actual teaching.
Now the entertainment and political worlds are going through the same painful experience. From what I've read of the stories and my own observations of life, my take-away and general conclusion is that all men, with very few exceptions, have been jerks at one time or another to a woman or to women in general, including myself. #metoo.
All men have been jerks at one time or another to a woman or to women in general, and as a general rule, the more powerful the man, the more deplorable the behavior.
While no level of harassment is acceptable, there is a difference in degree between unwanted teasing and chauvinistic actions, although unacceptable, and criminal coercion, bullying harassment, and outright rape.
To return to the previous theme, all men have been jerks at one time or another to a woman or to women in general, but all men are not necessarily dangerous predators.
Can you see a difference between a 30-something man who gets himself barred from a shopping mall for trying to pick up teenage girls and who's been accused of molesting at least one of those teenage girls in his car, and a former comedian who, in front of several other performers, the press, and possibly even soldiers, pretends to fondle a sleeping entertainer strictly for laughs and not for his own prurient pleasure?
Can you see a difference between a man who, when accused, denies all wrongdoing and threatens to sue anyone who challenges his denials, including the victims, and a man who admits what he did, acknowledges it was wrong, and invites an ethics investigation into his past actions?
What I'm trying to say is that it's perfectly obvious that Al Franken, while he did engage in chauvinistic, frat-boy antics in a failed attempt at "humor," is clearly not a predator or a danger to women, and that Roy Moore, a fundamentalist judge who has twice been forced from office for ignoring the Constitution and has been accused by multiple women of lewd behavior bordering on pedophilia, clearly is.
If we say it's all the "same thing," and that both parties are equally guilty, we're grossly trivializing Moore's alleged actions by equating them with the lewd horseplay of others (although that is still unacceptable in and of itself), and unduly branding Franken's actions with the far more heinous deeds of others.
I've heard it said that 2016 was the year all our loved celebrities died, and 2017 was the year our love of celebrity died.
Friday, November 17, 2017
Going further down the rabbit hole of the music we used to listen to back in the mid- to late 70s. . .
Here's the incomparable Abdullah Ibraham performing one of the many versions of the composition Ishmael he recorded over the years. If you compare this to the Julius Hemphill - Abdul Wadud compositions we also listened to back at that time, you'll get a good sense of the mystical, minimalist atmospheres we enjoyed late at night circa 1979.
For the record (no pun intended), that's Cecil McBee on bass and Roy Brooks on drums in addition to Ibraham on piano and saxophone.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go. In the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America. The Nightmare must end!
- The Nightmare: Immigrants living in terror—their next step could mean detention, deportation, being torn from children and loved ones.
- The Nightmare: Muslims and refugees demonized, banned, and cast out.
- The Nightmare: Millions—children, the elderly, the sick, the poor—denied health care, food assistance, the very right to live.
- The Nightmare: Women objectified, degraded, and denied the basic right to control their own reproduction, with fundamentalist Christian fascism increasingly being made law.
- The Nightmare: LGBTQ people stigmatized, ostracized, and denied civil rights recently won.
- The Nightmare: Black and Latino people openly threatened by the President, with maximum sentencing, stop-and-frisk going national, intensified police brutality, and murder of our youth with no holds barred.
- The Nightmare: People all over the world facing bombings, occupations, war and the threat of nuclear war with Donald Trump’s America First finger on the nuclear trigger.
- The Nightmare: The truth bludgeoned—lies and more lies—critical thinking being destroyed in education and public discourse.
- The Nightmare: The whole planet in peril from a regime that denies global warming and shreds all environmental protections.
- The Nightmare: A regime step by step discarding basic democratic rights, targeting group after group, and suppressing dissent and resistance. A regime unleashing the violence of fascist thugs. This is fascism—a qualitative change in how society is governed. History has shown that fascism must be stopped before it becomes too late.
We will. Only the determined struggle of millions of people acting together with courage and conviction can drive this regime from power.
We will gather in the streets and public squares of cities and towns across this country, at first many thousands declaring that this whole regime is illegitimate and that we will not stop until our single demand is met, that the Nightmare must end and the Trump/Pence regime must go!
Our protest must grow day after day and night after night—thousands becoming hundreds of thousands, and then millions—determined to act to put a stop to the grave danger that the Trump/Pence Regime poses to the world by demanding that this whole regime be removed from power.
Our actions will reflect the values of respect for all of humanity and the world we want—in stark contrast to the hate and bigotry of the Trump/Pence fascist regime.
Our determination to persist and not back down will compel the whole world to take note. Every force and faction in the power structure would be forced to respond to our demand. The cracks and divisions among the powers already evident today will sharpen and widen. As we draw more and more people forward to stand up, all of this could lead to a situation where this illegitimate regime is removed from power.
Spread the word and organize now. Be a part of making history. Don’t let it be said that you stood aside when there was still a chance to stop a regime that imperils humanity and the Earth itself. Join in taking to the streets and the public squares day after day and night after night demonstrating that in the name of humanity, we refuse to accept a fascist America!
(This has been a cut-and-paste public-service announcement from the National Affairs desk)
(This has been a cut-and-paste public-service announcement from the National Affairs desk)
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
It's taken me a couple of days to write about this game. I needed the time to process the emotional pain and also to learn where the Georgia Bulldogs would land in the latest College Football Bowl rankings, released only last night.
Last weekend, the Dogs, entering the game as the Number One ranked team in the nation for the second straight week, got beat by 10th-ranked Auburn. It wasn't pretty. It felt like Georgia's team didn't even showed up for the game, except to make a lot of stupid and costly penalties. It was obvious by the half they were going to lose and by the end of the game, it was a blowout.
Athens is about an hour east of Atlanta and Auburn is only about two hours southwest of here, so Monday, we Georgia fans had to face all those Auburn fans gloating about their victory, and tolerate their fantasies that they were going to be the National Champions this year. As if . . . .
The loss knocked Georgia out of the top spot and down to No. 7, one game behind Auburn who leapt up from 10th place to No. 6. For what it's worth, Miami did their part and destroyed Notre Dame, knocking NFD down to No. 8, one game behind Georgia, and most likely out of contention for the playoffs. With the victory, Miami jumped up to the No. 3 spot, behind Alabama (1) and Clemson (2). Oklahoma (9-1) and Wisconsin (10-0) are Nos. 4 and 5, respectively.
It's still possible for Georgia to make it to the playoffs, provided it wins its remaining games against Kentucky and Georgia Tech, and gets a few breaks by some teams ranked above them losing a game or two. That doesn't look like it'll happen this coming Saturday, though, as the higher-ranked teams all have unranked opponents this weekend, most with losing records at that, with the exception of No. 5 Wisconsin playing No. 24 Michigan (8-2). That's as good as it gets this weekend. Far from a sure-thing upset to be sure, but Big 10 rivalries can't be ignored. For the rest of this season, I'll be cheering for Georgia and against Alabama, Clemson, Miami, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Auburn (although I was pretty much doing that already), and this Saturday, I'm going to have to swallow my pride, hold my nose, and cheer for the Michigan Wolverines as well. Wish me luck with that.
No. 6 Auburn still has to play No. 1 Alabama this year in their annual rivalry matchup, the Iron Bowl. The winner of that game will clinch the SEC West title, so Georgia, who's already clinched the SEC East, will have to play the winner of the Iron Bowl, either Auburn or Alabama, early in December in the SEC Championship game here in Atlanta.
As I've mentioned before, it's possible that Georgia may have to beat Alabama not once but twice to win the National Championship, and if Auburn somehow manages to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl and clinch the SEC West title, Georgia may have to play Auburn two more times on top of last weekend's game to win the National Championship. First, they'll have to beat Auburn in the SEC Championship game. Georgia will have home-state advantage in that game, given that the SEC Championship will be here in Atlanta, plus they'll have a very strong revenge motive to win. But even if they do, it's still entirely possible that both Georgia and Auburn will end up among the top four ranked teams and both qualify for the national playoffs, and then Georgia may find themselves having to play Auburn a third time in a best-two-out-of-three contest.
Granted, there's a lot of "ifs" in that scenario, as there is for any scenario that has Georgia becoming the National Champ. But it's still possible - anything's possible. So, all we can say for now, is "Go Dogs!" and "Let's Go Blue" (damn, that feels weird!).
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
What with all of the stress of the trial last week and its demands on my time and attention, I went another week of cold turkey and didn't play any video games from a week ago Saturday until last Saturday. I finally got some free time last Sunday and opened Wolfenstein 2 - The New Colossus and in just a few hours I managed to finally complete the game. I was told it was a quick play-through. Even after the plot's been resolved and the main missions are complete, though, there's still gameplay to be had wrapping up some side missions, taking out various Nazi ubercommanders across the country, and competing in the shooting gallery/obstacle course.
Of course, as soon as I completed the game, Bethesda, the developer, comes out with some new DLC additions to the game, as well as a schedule for future DLCs (DLC = "downloadable content" or additional content for the game). So I should be busy killing American Nazis for the foreseeable future, although as soon as I catch up on the current DLC and have some quality time to play (like the upcoming four-day Thanksgiving weekend), I look forward on going back to medieval times and starting the game The Witcher.
Monday, November 13, 2017
There's a bad man in everyone
No matter who we are.
There's a rapist and a nazi living in our tiny hearts,
Child pornographers and cannibals and politicians too,
There's someone in your head waiting to fucking strangle you.
Those are lines from the song People II: The Reckoning by the folk-punk band Andrew Jackson Jihad, now known simply as "AJJ." I don't think the band had Louis C.K. or any of the current crop of pussy grabbers in mind when they wrote the song, as it's from their 2007 album People Who Eat People Are The Luckiest People In the World (hat's off to Barbra Streisand for the title). Despite it's age, however, the lyrics of the song fit our current situation so well, they sound almost prophetic today.
AJJ was scheduled to play People in its entirety at Atlanta's The Masquerade tonight to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the album, but the show was cancelled. A shooting last night at the downtown music venue left two people dead and two more wounded. Apparently, there was some rap show Sunday night and some idiots reportedly tried to get on stage in between the acts, and then some even bigger idiot in the audience took exception to their actions. So he shot them.
Two dead, and two wounded by incidental gunfire. As The Masquerade's still part of a crime-scene investigation tonight (they haven't caught the shooter yet), tonight's shows (it's a multi-stage venue) were cancelled.
Fatal shootings at a downtown rap show. It's tempting to say, as some already have, that's why we can't have nice things in Atlanta.
But I don't blame rap music for the violence. Rap, even gangster rap, doesn't incite violence, it's merely reporting on it, just like the the rise of sex and drugs in the 60s wasn't caused by rock music - the musicians were merely acting as sentinels chronicling an emerging scene. No, rap doesn't cause violence, it's an unfair and unjust system of economic and racial inequality that results in violence, and rappers are just telling people what life is like for many people on the streets.
Systematic prejudice, racial inequality, gentrification and displacement - that's why we can't have nice things, Atlanta.
So here's to you, Mrs. Robinson, you live in an unforgiving place.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
The adored indie rock band Luna performed last night at Atlanta's Terminal West. We were there and so was Eleanor Friedberger, who performed the opening set.
Eleanor Friedberger is the sister part of the brother-sister band Fiery Furnaces, and while the Furnaces are pretty hard to categorize, Eleanor's solo work would most correctly be categorized as "singer-songwriter." But while that category often brings to mind images of faux-sincere acoustic folk artists, Eleanor is a rocker and played her set solo (no band) but on electric guitar. To be sure, on a few songs, she played a recording of the backing music and sang the vocals karaoke style, holding the mic while singing and dancing on stage. We think that takes a lot of self-confidence, but then again, she rocks the best bangs in rock 'n' roll.
Here's one of her older songs (from 2011) but she covered it in her set last night, so we think it's fair to include it in this post.
Here's one of her older songs (from 2011) but she covered it in her set last night, so we think it's fair to include it in this post.
Following the 1991 break-up of the band Galaxie 500, dream pop/indie pop band Luna was formed by singer/guitarist Dean Wareham. The band recruited bassist Britta Phillips in 2000 and eventually broke apart in 2005. Wareham and Phillips got married in 2007 and toured occasionally as Dean & Britta and as the Dean Wareham Band.
Luna had a devoted, near fanatical, fan base, and after they got back together in 2015, we were lucky enough to have been among the audience for the reunion tour's first set, also held at Atlanta's Terminal West. Last night's audience seemed no less devout than at the 2015 set, if a little less beside themselves for the opportunity to hear the legendary band perform once again.
Luna opened the set with the instrumental GTX3 from their new EP, A Place of Greater Safety.
Since we got there early to see Eleanor Friedberger, we were one row back from the stage for Luna's set.
Britta was adorable as always, and showed everyone how to rock a jumpsuit.
The set was near perfect, and the interplay of the two guitars often created near hypnotic passages of pitch-perfect indie guitar rock. Luna's set lasted for well over 60 minutes and although a peek at the set list (one of the perks of being at the front of the stage) showed they only planned to perform two songs for their encore, they played a third solely at the request of one person in the audience.
Added old-fogie bonus points for getting home before 11:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 11, 2017
Alleged President Donald Trump says he believes Vladimir Putin "means it" when he says that Russia did not attempt to interfere with the U.S. election, and if The Donald believes it, then that's good enough for me.
NOT! Just kidding, we're going to impeach this son of a bitch and imprison him in Guantanamo for a long, long time. Treason, collusion, tax evasion, emoluments, and so on - the charges go on and on.
Meanwhile, the band POLIÇA have collaborated with the orchestral ensemble s t a r g a z e on a project called Music For the Long Emergency, and the first single is a ten-minute composition titled How Is This Happening, which singer Channy Leaneagh says was inspired by Trump’s election. On top of reflecting my political mood, it's also a lovely piece of music and well worth your listen.
Friday, November 10, 2017
This is remarkable. Something needs to be said about this - this cannot go by without comment. A four-day music festival in Knoxville, Tennessee featuring Algiers and Godspeed You! Black Emperor? The two bands who both can rightfully claim the title of The Only Band That Matters? That, plus Four Tet and Suuns? Nels Cline, Lucius, Jenny Hval, and Laurel Halo? Count me in!
But wait, there's more! The lineup includes Alice Coltrane, which is truly remarkable considering she passed away 10 years ago. Actually, I'm pretty sure that The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda will be a performance of sacred Hindu music by members of her ashram, maybe with some tape of her vocals. Still remarkable, nonetheless.
Talk about eclectic - I've been a fan of banjo maestro Bela Fleck since at least 1990 and the festival will feature performances by Fleck playing his unique brand of bluegrass-jazz fusion with his wife Abigail Washington as well as with the chamber ensemble Brooklyn Rider, and a performance by Washington with Wu Fei (whoever that is). More new music or modern classical or whatever you want to call it will be provided by the Bang On A Can Allstars, the Knoxville Chamber Orchestra, and the extraordinary singer Diamanda Galas. Medeski Martin & Wood will be there to lay down their funk-based groove, and more jazz will be provided by the Rova Saxophone Quartet. And look - there's folk musician Sam Amidon! And Steve Gunn! Arto Lindsey's in the lineup too, to do whatever it is he wants to do at that moment.
Perhaps the most remarkable name in the lineup, though (I could just go on and on just reading off all the names above) is that of Roscoe Mitchell. Roscoe was a founding member of The Art Ensemble of Chicago and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and has remained one of the key figures in avant-garde jazz ever since. I've been on an Art Ensemble kick ever since hearing a sample of theirs open Kelsey Lu's set at The Earl a month or so ago, and now I've got a chance to hear one of the few remaining members live and in concert (Lester Bowie and Malachi Favors have sadly passed, and the other reedman from the Ensemble, Joseph Jarman, is now a Shinshu Buddhist priest). I'm not sure how long either of us will remain on this planet and if our paths will ever cross again, so of course I have to go.
Here's Roscoe performing one of his compositions with The Art Ensemble Of Chicago on their live LP Bap-tizum, recorded at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival at Otis Spann Memorial Field, Ann Arbor, Michigan on September 9, 1972. I've probably bought this album two or three different times since the late 1970s, replacing damaged or worn out copies with new versions bought at used record stores and even from street vendors. It's essential listening, and a terrific showcase for Roscoe.
The Big Ears lineup hits all the right buttons for all of the unusual music I've learned to enjoy over the years, and to be perfectly honest, I don't know who else but me would even be interested in this, so I pretty much have to go. Another reason to attend is to discover if a community of people actually exists that likes the same weird shit as I do, so I went ahead and bought the full VIP Sonic Explorer Weekend Pass that gives access to all the performances and venues for all four days of the festival, that guarantees entrance at all seated venues, provides premium viewing areas at all seated venues, priority entrance at all venues, advance notification of secret shows, a Sunday Brunch experience, a private Q&A cocktail hour with the Big Ears Managing Director, an exclusive VIP concert performance, and even a commemorative gift package. Expensive, to be sure, but this really does look to be a once-in-a lifetime experience, so how could I not?
Thursday, November 09, 2017
It's easy to focus on the negative and to overlook the positive. Our brains are hardwired to always be on high alert for potential dangers and threats, and consciousness acts as sort of a radar system. However, if we identify too much with that radar system, then of course we're going to constantly feel under attack.
Tuesday was a historic Election Day, but all I could focus on was that my preferred candidate for Atlanta Mayor didn't make the cut for the special run-off election. But so much more happened that day, and almost all the rest of it good.
Democrats managed to flip enough districts blue in Georgia to break the Republican supermajority in the state legislature, positioning Georgia to be the next battleground state in 2018 and 2020.
The Georgia towns of Milledgeville, Statesboro, Cairo, and Norcross all elected their first African-American mayors.
Meanwhile, over in neighboring Alabama, Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Moore has been accused of sexually molesting girls even younger than Alabama's young age of consent of 16, creating an advantage for his democratic rival in an already tight race.
Yup, the South is changing, if slowly and behind the national timeline, but still changing nonetheless. There was more good than bad in Tuesday's election, and even the disappointing mayoral candidates aren't all that bad, they're just not as good as others in the field.
Wednesday, November 08, 2017
According to the final tallies, only 96,777 people voted yesterday in Atlanta's mayoral and City Council election. That's less than 20% of the registered voters.
To make matters worse, if I had to rank the field of 12 running for mayor, my bottom two candidates won the most votes and will be facing off in a run-off election.
Keisha Lance Bottoms, outgoing Mayor Kasim Reed's hand-picked choice for successor, has been dogged for years by ethics charges and rumors. I can't tell how much is really true and how much is just political propaganda so I won't repeat the allegations here, but it seems certain that the rumors and investigations will continue into her term as Mayor if she's elected, and Atlanta has already suffered enough from political corruption in City Hall.
Mary Norwood, the one-time front-runner in the campaign, is a Republican businesswomen from Buckhead whom many in the black community fear will continue the on-going gentrification of African-American communities and drive people out from the few remaining affordable Atlanta homes. She has said that her major reason for running was to promote "safety" in Atlanta, which many people read as a code word.s for "less black people." I've already seen #anyonebutmary hashtags on Twitter and Facebook posts.
The election comes down to a choice between the lesser of two evils - an exemplar of City Hall cronyism and corruption vs. a perennial candidate who represents Atlanta's small but wealthy conservative element.
For what it's worth, I voted for Cathy Woolard, who Atlanta Magazine described as "a policy-oriented politician who’s comfortable speaking about affordability and transit—one reason why she’s picked up support from a good number of the city’s urbanists, nonprofit pros, and environmentalists." When Ryan Gravel was pushing his vision for the Atlanta BeltLine in the early 2000s, Woolard, then the president of the Atlanta City Council, was his most enthusiastic supporter, shepherding him through neighborhood association meetings to present his plan. She was the first openly gay elected official in Georgia history and was the first woman to be President of the Atlanta City Council. According again to Atlanta Magazine, during a mayoral forum that focused on Atlanta’s arts scene, she showed that she understood that a vibrant arts culture needs affordable housing just as much as canvases and stages. Unfortunately, she came in third in the election, with 17% of the vote compared to Bottoms' 26% and Norwood's 21%, or to put it another way, a little over 9,000 votes short of the frontrunner.
20% turnout. If more of the arts community, the gay community, transit enthusiasts, or just the everyday commuter stuck in Atlanta's notoriously grid-locked traffic bothered to vote, we might have had a Mayor Woolard.
20% turnout - that's why we can't have nice things.
Tuesday, November 07, 2017
Another day spent in sequestration in Dallas (Dallas, Georgia) but this time with a twist - at around 5:00 pm, I was finally admitted into the courtroom to testify! Which really isn't as much fun as I just made it sound. The cross-examination was even worse. But the good news is that it's finally over and I can go back to life as usual. A big weight lifted off my shoulders.
I didn't get to leave Dallas, Georgia until around 6:45 and I tried to rush home because it's Election Day and I hadn't yet voted. It's an off year politically in most states, but here in Atlanta we're voting for a new mayor and are replacing something like two thirds of the City Council. By definition, this is going to be a transitional year in Atlanta politics. I tried to rush home but was faced with multiple, and by multiple I mean very, very, many, long-ass traffic lights, traffic, and some sort of rolling police barricade or something less than two blocks from the polling place. There was a very large, oversized truck, a couple fire engines, and a bunch of police cars, all with lights flashing, moving extremely slowly down the road, and I thought, as the last minutes before the 8:00 p.m. closing time for the polls ticked away, that despite my best efforts, I wasn't going to make it after all.
But I did, pulling up to the polling place at 7:59 and parking illegally because I was in a rush and didn't have time to park elsewhere. I got in and showed my licence at a nearly empty precinct just as someone announced, "Polls closed!"
But I got in first before the call, so they let me vote. I may or may not have cast the very last vote in the City of Atlanta, but I sure as hell did cast the last vote at my polling place. There are 12 candidates running for mayor this year, and the early results show my candidate (Cathy Woolard) still very much in the running, but then again, that's probably just because 0% of the vote is in.
I don't know who's going to win, but the smart money says that with 12 candidates running, no one is going to get the required 50% of the vote and this thing's heading to a run-off. But at least I got my vote in, and the best part is I don't have to go back to Dallas (Georgia) tomorrow.
Monday, November 06, 2017
I spent the day today in Dallas. Dallas, Georgia (not that I think the other Dallas would have been any better).
Or maybe it would have been, because I spent the entire day sequestered. Sequestered in Dallas. Dallas, Georgia.
I'm a witness in an environmental litigation case and I'm waiting my turn to testify in court in front of a judge and jury. But because the rules of evidence (or something) don't allow me to hear other people's testimony, I had to spend the day sequestered, just sitting in an empty room with only some chairs, a table, and an empty chalkboard to keep me company. I never got a chance to testify today and at the rate I understand the trial is going, I may not testify until Wednesday or even Thursday.
Of course, being in Dallas brings Texas to mind, even if I am in Dallas, Georgia, and the resonances between being sequestered and being in Dallas keep reminding me of the refrain in that Hold Steady song that goes "Subpoenaed in Texas, Sequestered in Memphis."
Sunday, November 05, 2017
Well, sports fans, since we last talked, the University of Georgia Bulldogs went from No. 2 in the nation to the No. 1 team - the top ranked college football team in the whole USA. South Carolina came to Athens yesterday to try and change that and while they put up a good fight, the Dogs still won, 24-10.
In that latest poll that put the Dogs in the top spot, Notre Dame (or as we abbreviate it, NFD) crept up to the No. 3 spot, right behind No. 2 Alabama. In case you've forgotten, Georgia beat NFD earlier this year in South Bend by a score of 20-19. So as we noted last week, if Georgia keeps winning and the current standings still hold by the end of the year, the Bulldogs will have to play Alabama not once but twice to win the National Championship. But now, it's possible that they may also have to face NFD a second time as well. The Bulldogs' post-season might very well just be a repeat of earlier season games.
There's one team that can prevent this. NFD travels to Miami this Saturday to play Mark Richt's Hurricanes. Miami, we beg you, please beat Notre Dame and knock them out of the top four. Coach Richt, for the sake of both your current and your former teams, for the honor of the State of Florida and in the name of whatever it is you call that duck or stork or whatever that mascot's supposed to be, get a "W" this weekend over NFD. Georgia deserves better opponents in the playoffs than the Irish. They deserve Clemson - or for that matter, Miami.
But not the team we already beat in their home stadium.
Saturday, November 04, 2017
I've gotten a good deal of the way through Wolfenstein already, even playing at only a few hours per day and at my own slow rate of play (I get killed in-game a lot). I was told it was a fast play-through.
Best of all, though, I got to ride the game version of Liesel, called a Panzerhund, through the streets of New Orleans, immolating and trampelling scores of Nazi soldiers and robots. It's more fun than it sounds like (more fun than it really should be, considering all the death you're causing). But the game is basically all about the different ways you can kill Nazis. Guns, lasers, cannons, fire, fire axes, Panzerhunds, etc. I've heard this game is really pissing off the alt-right - but to be honest, that just makes it even more fun.
Friday, November 03, 2017
Last month's Kelsey Lu set opening for Hundred Waters still has me thinking about the music I used to listen to back in the 70s.
There is probably no instrument more ungainly than the bass clarinet. Sounds like a freaking petrified squid, amiright? But Eric Dolphy, jazz visionary and performer extraordinaire, took this oddest of all instruments and played something amazing on it. As John Lennon once famously said, "I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba, I’ll bring you something out of it." Somebody gave Dolphy a bass clarinet, and this is what he did with it.
If you think that an almost nine-minute-long bass clarinet solo would be boring, guess again. For some reason, those cyclic scales he plays at the start of the piece sound to my ears like atomic orbitals and give the whole thing a very modern, nuclear-age sound. But he lands each scale, one after the other, right on the next sequential chord of Billie Holiday's 1942 hit God Bless The Child, and while it takes a while to recognize the song, it slowly emerges from the cycles. That's brilliant right there and enough to satisfy the creative urges of most improvisers, but for Dolphy it's just the starting point, a launching pad for further explorations of the emotion of the song, the variety of sounds he can coax out of his instrument, and the creative possibilities of musical expression. I especially love that the fine quality of this live recording even allows you to hear the sound of the pads hitting the instrument's tone holes. And how he almost makes the instrument sound like it's laughing at some points (listen around the 5:15 mark, for example).
It's a virtuoso performance, a one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime improvisation, and amazingly was recorded 54 whole years ago at the University of Illinois. in Champaign, but I used to hear this being broadcast by WBUR late at night while I was up studying at Boston University. I enjoy the music I listen to now, obviously, but also wish music like this was still being performed today.
Thursday, November 02, 2017
The two-week period of cold turkey seems to have tempered my addiction well. To remind y'all, after going two weeks without playing any video games at all, last Saturday I downloaded two new games, Witcher 3 and Wolfenstein 2. From what I've read of the reviews, Witcher is the far, far better game and Wolfenstein can be played through pretty quickly, so I installed Wolfenstein first so that the second game play would be better than the first and to thus minimize disappointment.
I played on Sunday, and Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and will probably play tonight, but here's the good news - instead of compulsively playing for hours and hours on end, I've only been playing for an hour or two each night, and then gladly going on to other things. I haven't been letting the compulsion get the better of me. Maybe that's the result of my abstinence or maybe Wolfenstein just isn't that good a game, but I'm more back in control of my time, and thus my life, than I was before.
Check in with me in a week or two and see how I'm holding up.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Monday, October 30, 2017
In something you can't say everyday, today the former campaign manager of the sitting American President surrendered to the FBI.
To go even further, so did the campaign manager's business partner. Both were charged with conspiracy against the United States of America.
Also today, a former advisor to the president was arrested for lying to the FBI. About his connections to the Kremlin.
Yes, it's been a bad day for the short-fingered vulgarian, and to make matters worse, on top of all that a court today overturned his ban on transgendered persons serving in the military.
In unrelated news (or is it?), today Netflix dropped the Kevin Spacey series House of Cards following discovery that Spacey sexually molested a minor.
Yes, the noose of justice is slowly tightening beneath the many chins of little Donald Trump and his pussy-grabbing ilk (or Ball Palmers, as the case may be), and lest you think by the "noose" reference we're advocating death by hanging for them, consider this:
"He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the lord." - Deuteronomy 23:1
Sunday, October 29, 2017
This season's success by the Georgia Bulldogs football team has not gone unnoticed here at WDW. Yesterday, the then No. 3 Bulldogs beat Florida by a commanding 42-7, and to make things even sweeter, No. 2 Penn State lost to Ohio State. Today, the AP rankings have Georgia at No. 2, right behind No. 1 Alabama.
The 8-0 Bulldogs have a good chance to go undefeated this season, and at this point., it seems almost inevitable that they'll face Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. That will most certainly be a tough game to win and if they do they should be ranked No. 1 in the country, but here's the rub: it's not entirely impossible that given Alabama's success, and even more their reputation, that if Alabama loses to Georgia in the SEC Championship, they may only drop down a few spots in the polls and still be ranked No. 3 or 4 in the country.
That would mean that Georgia would have to play Alabama a second time. If Georgia is No. 1 and Alabama No. 4, they'll play each other in the National Championship Playoff Game, facing each other again for a second consecutive game. Two Georgia-Alabama games in a row! If Georgia is No. 1 and Alabama No. 3, and Alabama wins their playoff game against the No. 2 team, then Georgia and Alabama will face off in the National Championship (assuming of course that Georgia wins its own playoff game), which will basically mean that the National Championship Game will be a repeat of the SEC Championship.
In other words, for Georgia to be national champion and the No. 1 team at the end of the season, they may very well have to beat Alabama not once, but twice. The road to the National Championship for the Bulldogs apparently goes through Tuscaloosa, then turns back around and goes through Tuscaloosa again (both games will actually be played here in Atlanta, but you know what we mean).
Of course, if Georgia does lose a game this season, including the SEC Championship, the chances are good they won't still be ranked in the top four and all the above considerations are off (they don't enjoy Alabama's reputation and weren't ranked No. 1 for the entire season like the Tide). If Georgia does lose and finishes out of the top four, predictions are they'll probably face Miami in a bowl game, provided that Miami, who are having a remarkable, undefeated season themselves so far, doesn't wind up in the top four and in the National Championship playoffs themselves. It will be especially interesting if Georgia and Miami do play in a bowl, as it will be a revenge match for Coach Mark Richt between his current team (the Hurricanes) and his former team (the Bulldogs, who let him go two seasons ago).
So yes, it's not all music and meditation here at WDW, and we here at the Sports Desk have been watching these games and keeping a close eye on things, and what with this season's success of the Georgia Bulldogs, and the New England Patriots seeming to regain their poise after a few early-season hiccups, it's not a bad year at all here at the Sports Desk.
Back to you, Shokai!
Saturday, October 28, 2017
For almost a year now, I have been addicted to playing video games. I know that sounds like an over-statement, and I don't want to belittle the very real struggles and problems facing those with worse addictions, say to opioids, but game-playing has become a very real compulsion and I've spent untold hundreds of hours the past year playing at the expense of many other things in my life. About two weeks ago, I finally stopped cold turkey and have been amazed at how many other things I've gotten done since quitting.
Once again, sincerely and unironically, I blame Trump for my addiction. I started playing right about at the time of last year's election, and I found the news, not just of his election, but the press coverage, his interviews, his tweets, and his rallies, not to mention the inevitable naming of a cabinet and so on, so dispiriting and depressing, that the escape to virtual worlds of post-apocalyptic zombies, medieval dragons, and charging rhinoceri was a welcome relief from the soul-crushing news coming over the television, web sites, and my phone. Even before the inauguration, I found myself jumping into the games just as soon as I got home from work, and playing all evening until way past my normal bedtime. On weekends, it was not at all unusual for me to spend 12 to 16 hours each day playing games, even at the expense of preparing meals, housekeeping, and paying bills. I even didn't go to shows for which I had already bought tickets so I could stay home and play, and if that's not addictive behavior, what is?
Oddly, the moment of clarity that led to my going cold turkey wasn't a realization of the effect it was having on my life, it was frustration with the game playing of Far Cry 4. In many ways, the game was possibly the most compelling and exciting of the games I had played earlier in the year (Minecraft, Fallout, and Skyrim), and arguably the most beautiful (above is an actual screenshot from the game), but so many of the "quests" one has to complete in order to progress through the game are so tediously difficult, having to be played over and over again in order to complete them just right, that it became more frustrating that fun. That, plus the fact that if you stopped playing during a quest, even if only to get some sleep and resume the next morning, you'd have to restart the whole quest from way earlier in the game and repeat all the battles and tricks and parkour moves necessary just to get back to that tedious, frustrating task you couldn't perform the previous night. I've blogged here about this problem before. I hate to quit at anything, but finally I admitted that it just wasn't fun anymore and that I had enough, and just like that, I went cold turkey for two weeks now.
I cleaned the house, I got my finances back in order, and I took care of the water leak beneath the house. I downloaded some music and went out to a few shows. Life was normal again.
However . . . . there was a sale on Steam (a PC game app) and tonight I relapsed and purchased The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, another medieval fantasy game, and Wolfenstein II, a World War II game set in a fictional America controlled by German Nazis. These games take several hours to download and install, so I probably won't be playing tonight, but if I don't return phone calls tomorrow, you'll know why.
Look at it this way - if I'm going to suffer through this addiction, I might as well suffer playing games that are fun.
Friday, October 27, 2017
This incredible piece was recorded during the same 1972 St. Louis recording session as Dogon A.D., but only released later on Hemphill's subsequent 1975 LP, Coon Bid'ness. I don't know why it was shelved, because the funky soulfulness of Abdul Wadud's cello and the inventiveness of Hemphill's soloing take this composition to the next level, and the combination of composition and improvisation, not to mention its epic length, arguably make this the most remarkable cut from that historic session.
I've got 99 problems, but listening to The Hard Blues makes them seem less significant. RIP, Julius Hemphill (1938-1995), you mad genius.
Thursday, October 26, 2017
There's a drain, there's always been a drain, from my hot water heater down through the floor to direct water away from the house in case the appliance ever overflowed for some reason. The drain discharged out behind the house as it was originally built.
The house was apparently expanded at some point, and the new master bedroom, my bedroom, was built out over the original foundation wall and above the discharge point for the hot water overflow. The funny part, the really hilarious part, is that they didn't extend the discharge line to out beyond the new exterior wall when they built the extension, but left it right where it was underneath the master bedroom.
That apparently worked fine for some 30 years or so, as the hot water heater apparently didn't overflow. However, it stopped working about a year ago and I had a replacement installed.
The installation didn't go well and that's a whole other hilarious story that we can get into some other time, as it will just distract us for now. But the point here is that when they hooked up the new hot water heater, the plumbers never bothered to see where the discharge line went but just hooked it up as it was, so that the outflow was still beneath my bedroom.
Next, in probably the most obvious inevitability imaginable, the new hot water heater began to overflow. Apparently, the incoming pressure valve for water to the house failed, then the water pressure in the house got too high for the hot water heater, so the heater's pressure-relief valve blew. That stopped the pressure of hot water in the holding tank from building up too high and kept the tank from exploding (that's a good thing), but it also allowed hot water to start pouring out the drain line and discharge beneath the bedroom.
I didn't notice anything at first. I still had hot water for showers, dishes, etc., so everything seemed normal,.and besides I had some kick-ass water pressure. But I did sometimes notice a trickling sound late at night when everything was very, very quiet, and then I noticed that the floorboards in my bedroom were starting to warp for some reason, and finally, when the seasons changed and I didn't need to run the AC any more, the whole house started becoming uncomfortably humid. And then I got the monthly water bill. $425.
A new plumber came by today. He diagnosed the problem, determined the history above, and redirected the discharge line away from beneath the bedroom and for some reason out to the front of the house right by the front door, where it's ugly a.f. He replaced the two busted pressure valves and the house is already noticeably more comfortable. But he told me that there's massive mold buildup beneath the bedroom, that the wood down there has been severely damaged by the water, and by the way, did I notice that my floorboards are warped?
To add injury to insult, his bill was $850, and I've got another $400-plus water bill still coming my way (I checked on line), plus whatever the mold abatement, foundation repairs, and floorboard replacement are going to cost.
I blame Trump for all this because why not? This sort of thing never happened to me when Obama was president.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
So this happened: after a four-and-a-half year absence, last night, Seattle's Pickwick (the best band you've never heard of) played a near-empty Earl. Where the hell were you?
Before we get to that, though, we had a set by Toronto's The Elwins. The Elwins play fun, high-energy rock 'n' roll, but to my tastes, they sound just a tad bit too much like some house band from an Orlando, Florida Sheraton Inn or from some suburban Chicago roadhouse, who've developed an adoring but local fan base due to their frequent appearances at said Sheraton or roadhouse, but who, when they have to stand on their own in front of an audience not already predisposed to partying down with them, don't really have that much to offer. Don't get me wrong - they were fun and they were energetic; unfortunately, they were also fairly generic.
So, Pickwick. The band's gone through some difficult times and as noted above, it's been almost five years since their last record or last tour. The last time we saw Pickwick was at the 2014 Bumbershoot Festival in their hometown Seattle, where they played unquestionably the best set I've ever heard by them, and with a five-man horn section backing them up to boot. The last time they played Atlanta was at this very same Earl back in April 2013.
They played a great, 60-minute plus set of their blue-eyed soul set at The Earl last night, including a cover of the Talking Heads' Take Me To The River, despite the fact that there were only 20 or so people in attendance, a heartbreakingly small turnout for such a great band. And only about half of that 20 were really into it, watching from near the stage for the entire set. I don't know if it was a lack of publicity by the promoters, the nearly 5-year absence by the band, or a general lack of knowledge by the Atlanta community of this band, bu I've seen more people in the clubs for open-mike karaoke nights.
We can do better than this. We are better than this.
To rub it in a little, here's what you missed:
We've been calling Pickwick "the best band you've never heard of" ever since we first heard them back in 2011, but we didn't mean it as a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don't discover this band - and soon - you're only depriving yourself.
Friday, October 20, 2017
The Dogon are an ethnic group living in the central plateau region of Mali, in West Africa, south of the Niger bend, near the city of Bandiagara, in the Mopti region. The Dogon are believed to be of Egyptian descent and their calendar goes back thousands of years to 3200 BC.
According to their oral traditions, the star Sirius has a companion star which is invisible to the human eye. This companion star has a 50-year elliptical orbit around the visible Sirius and is extremely heavy. It also rotates on its axis. The star, known now to modern astronomers as Sirius B, wasn't even photographed until it was discovered by a large telescope in 1970.
The Dogon claim they know of the twin star from the Nommos, a race of people from the Sirius star system that visited Earth thousands of years ago. The Nommos were amphibious beings that resembled mermen and mermaids. They also appear in Babylonian and Sumerian myths. The Egyptian Goddess Isis, who is sometimes depicted as a mermaid, is also linked with the star Sirius. According to the Dogon legend, the Nommos landed on Earth in an "ark," and they informed the Dogon of the existence of Sirius B, as well as the four major moons of Jupiter and Saturn's rings, discoveries not known to Westerners until Galileo invented the telescope. The Dogon also understood the heliocentric nature of the solar system.
But that's not the point. The point is that back in February 1972, the musician Julius Hemphill went into a recording session in St. Louis, Missouri and performed a composition called Dogon A.D. We used to listen to this song on the radio very late at night while studying or pulling all-nighters back in college. Forty five years later, we still consider the song to be one of the most thrilling, not to mention coolest, pieces of music ever performed. Props go out to Abdul Wadud's powerful cello on this piece as much as to Hemphill's brilliant alto and Baikida E.J. Carroll's trumpet.
We've seen Hemphill perform live several times over the years at various jazz festivals and concerts, usually with the World Saxophone Quartet, but although we were always hoping he'd break into Dogon, A.D., we never heard him perform the piece (we think you'd really need to have Wadud on board to perform it properly). Sadly, Hemphill reached the other shore back in 1995 at the age of 57.
In case you don't know how to listen to this kind of music, don't just play it in the background and then go on about your day (or night). Give it your full attention, and if you try to hum or sing or whatever along with the saxophone lines, you'll better understand the way Hemphill was expressing himself and who he was and what his spirit was like. And when you understand that, it will transform you, just like reading a novel by a brilliant author infuses your own consciousness and changes the way you are.
What we're trying to say (and here's our point) is that if you listen to this closely enough you'll hear some strange and wonderful things, and if you listen closely enough times, you may become someone strange and beautiful yourself.
Give it a chance.
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Ever since Kelsey Lu opened her set at The Earl last week with a recording of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's Certain Blacks, I've been thinking a lot about that band and the type of music I used to listen to back in college. I wouldn't go so far as to say that Malachi, Roscoe, Lester, Jarman, and Famoudou Don Moye were the John, Paul, George and Ringo of my college years (as that would omit Anthony Braxton), but that wouldn't be completely off the mark either.
I won't post the AEoC's Certain Blacks here (it's a little too avant for most people's tastes), but here's the very accessible and enjoyable Dreaming of the Masters.
Monday, October 16, 2017
Friday, October 13, 2017
Last Wednesday night, Toronto's Alvvays played a sold-out Terminal West.
We arrived before the doors opened at 7:30 and there was already a line in front of the box office, a rarity for TW, but we still managed to get a good spot from which to watch, only about one row back from the stage. If we had any doubts about whether or not we were in for a good night, those concerns were assuaged by a medley of Yo La Tengo songs played on the house PA before the show began. Anything that begins with a medley of Yo La Tengo songs is probably going to be alright.
The Halifax-based band Nap Eyes opened the show and proved we were correct.
We know Nap Eyes for only one song, No Fear of Hellfire, but we've wanted to see them for a while now. The last time they played Atlanta that we know of just so happened to be on the same Sunday night as Hinds was playing at The Mammal Gallery, so unfortunately we missed them back then, so it was good to finally make their acquaintance on Wednesday night. On their first song, they sounded like vintage Velvet Underground, and on their second, vintage Talking Heads, and for the rest of their set, they sounded like Nap Eyes. They closed their set with a blistering guitar solo that lead into No Fear of Hellfire.
So that was cool.
Part of the enjoyment of going to shows is that you, individually, can disappear and become part of a larger community - the appreciative audience of fans. We think it's the same on stage, where individual musicians disappear into the collective band. Each band member is contributing something to the overall sound, and knows the audience is there for the sum total of the parts, not their individual contribution. Even the front-person knows that she sounds good only because the other guitarist is filling in all the important parts, the keyboardist is fleshing out the sound and adding texture, the drummer is keeping it on the right rhythm, and the bass player is holding the whole thing together. We think there's a spiritual unity there, an intimacy, and it shows when ego gets in the way and one musician or another forgets their place in the collective whole.
It's like that for the audience, too Collectively, you can inspire the band with applause and timely reactions to particularly timely passages, and individually you can come to appreciate a band even more by allowing yourself to get caught up in the collective enthusiasm. Resist the enthusiasm and you're just standing there, arms crossed, out of it and not having a good time, or fantasize that you're not part of a larger crowd and the band is playing only for you and you alone, and then you're like those two drunk girls at Tuesday night's Hundred Waters show.
The truly sublime moments come when both the audience and the band enter into a shared collective identity and everyone disappears, on stage and on the floor. Wednesday night's set by Alvvays was like that.
We've seen Alvvays before, twice opening for The Decemberists during their two-night stand at The Tabernacle, and once opening for Yuck at The Earl back in 2014. They sounded pleasant enough back then, and got a nice reaction from the audience with their signature anthem, Marry Me, Archie. But since that time, they've released a new record, this year's fabulous Antisocialites, and damn if they don't sound ten times better - crisper, more melodic, and perfectly balanced. Lead singer Molly Rankin's voice not only rose nicely above the band, but her enunciation is such that you could even follow along to all the lyrics, even to those songs you hadn't heard before
Alvvays sounded great and the new songs from Antisocialites sound even better live than they do on disk (and that's saying something). As implied earlier, the audience was incredibly supportive (without being obnoxious) and everyone had a great time. Alvvays ended their set with their hits Marry Me, Archie and Dreams Tonight, followed for some reason by Party Police, although after the triumphant one-two punch of Archie and Dreams, Party Police was a bit underwhelming.
Listening to these two songs back-to-back is as good an explanation as any of the leap Alvvays seems to have made from a good band (Archie) to a great band (Dreams).
Final note: Being an old man, and a working one at that, I was pleased that I got home from the show well before 11:00 p.m.
Another note: What the hell is wrong with Archie, anyway? Why doesn't he just marry that girl, already?