Monthly Archives: April 2012

Watergate: deep moat

Wondering whether Richard Nixon authorized the Watergate Hotel burglary in 1972 is at the center of the least interesting whodunit in recent American political history (the second: whether Ronald Reagan okayed the diversion of funds from the sale of TOW missiles to the Contras). A president who discussed the possibility of firebombing the Brookings Institute is not one for whom the moral disquietude of a break-in would cause him much sleep or time in the Old Executive Building with his grumblings and yellow legal pads. In anticipation of Robert Redford’s upcoming documentary, Ron Rosenbaum, however, dissects the evidence and affirms the principle of Occam’s Razor:

Magruder is referring here to evidence that ace Senate Watergate Committee investigator Terry Lenzner had turned up, evidence that there had been a $100,000 illegal “campaign contribution” (read: bribe) paid to Nixon by Howard Hughes through Rebozo, purportedly to influence government decisions about his business interests. In other words, Nixon feared that O’Brien, as Hughes’ minion, might have learned about a Hughes’ payoff to Nixon and have evidence of it in his files at his office at the Watergate. In which case, the potential revelation could sink Nixon’s re-election campaign.

Magruder is Jeb, a flak for the Committee To Reelect The President; O’Brien is Lawrence, chairman of the Democratic Party. Howard Hughes — Howard Hughes everywhere.

Art Dealer Cheeky: Miguel

R&B singer-songwriter Miguel is hungry, a flâneur who peaks through store windows, buys on impulse, regrets it, and keeps walking. His breathless tally includes 2010’s full length All I Want is You and a series of EPs archly titled Art Dealer Chic. The latest, leaked during last Friday afternoon news dump, is the weakest of the three: confused in its intentions and confusing as music. But as a workbook in which Miguel Jontel Pimentel has limned the possibilities of influences like El Debarge, Sly Stone, and Here, My Dear-era Marvin Gaye it hints at an addled Economist-addicted power-chord-mad smooch-fusion that should allay Maxwell fans mourning his comparatively indolent work habits. In other words the middling at best chart performance of “Sure Thing” on Top 40 stations versus its mind-boggling commercial triumph on R&B radio might be the last time Miguel scores a hit, any hit, reliant on the post-Stargate ethos.

Volume 3 begins with the kind of minor chord synth-drenched partyup anthem familiar to fans of Prince’s Dirty Mind and Controversy (it’s called “Party Life”). “Ooh Ahh!” boasts falsetto, handclaps, and single chord guitar vamping. By far the most interesting track is “Candles in the Sun, Blowin’ in the Wind,” a tentative step into introspection defined by Miguel’s stuttering “other-other-other” like it’s 2007 and “Umbrella” looks like the future in pop. But this element isn’t half as perplexing as the decision to interpolate a John Lennon interview in which he denounces conservatives liberals, socialists, fascists, and every other twentieth century political phenomenon. Intended as exclamation point, it also adduces Miguel’s naivete. Denounce “extremes” in the hopes of sitting one’s rump down in a self-created centrist sphere looks like bravery to Thomas Friedman types, and while I don’t expect political sophistication from a musician I do want him to offend somebody.

No “Adorn” or “Gravity.” It’s possible he’s thinking those masterpieces of sexual healing. Let’s hope his growing cult sustains him long enough for him to posit rock star moves like the video for “Arch & Point” as genuine crossover possibilities (it’s the sexiest thing I’ve seen all year). Here’s to him — us — accepting the wisdom of the truest lines he’s ever written: “Nobody’s perfect/We are alive.”

Happy Saturday

“For Once Then Something”:

Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.

“Water came to rebuke the too clear water.” Robert Frost, you keep killing me.

Singles 4/27

A banner week: the year’s first nine heralds two other singles I’ve played since acquiring them last week, including a Miguel single as sinister-sexy as anything Usher’s recorded. I’d award “Springsteen” an 8 now; the inflation was for the sake of sneaking the song into our yearly top ten. Blame guilt too: I ignored Chief last summer; its Stones riffs, Church’s expert drawling, and Sunday morning redresses would enliven recent Drive-By Truckers, Blake Shelton, and Jason Aldean albums respectively.

Eric Church – Springsteen (9)
Miguel – Arch & Point (7)
Kendrick Lamar ft. Dr. Dre – The Recipe (7)
tUnE-YarDs – My Country (7)
Carly Rae Jepsen – Curiosity (6)
Shaka Ponk – My Name is Stain (6)
Alabama Shakes – Hold On (5)
Bella Thorne – TTYLXOX (5)
Fiona Sit – 9:55 pm (6)
Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks (5)
Namie Amuro – Go Round (5)
Mystery Jets – Someone Purer (5)
Linkin Park – Burn it Down (4)
Kerli – Zero Gravity (4)
The Mars Volta – The Malkin Jewel (2)

Density…

A public service:

Sarcasm is a form of communication that relies for its effectiveness on contextual cues, a sort of “knowing wink” between the sender and receiver(s). Nowhere in Delgado’s article is there any indication that he is intending these remarks sarcastically, nor that he or Barton have any sense of the article’s possible audience, which is ostensibly well beyond those unfortunate few who find remarks conflating Jennifer Hudson’s weight and the tragic death of her family members entertaining or enlightening in a “sarcastic” way.

DJ Quik: “Right now I’m a beast!”

I’m a recent DJ Quik convert — I didn’t own one of the records under his own name until four years ago. Then the twin knockouts Blacqout and The Book of David sent me scurrying backwards. I didn’t hear another record as confident as The Book of David last year, for which I duly rewarded it — it was my number one. I acquired Rhythm-al-lism six weeks ago! But I haven’t stopped playing it, especially “Thinkin’ Bout U” and the El Debarge collaboration “El’s Interlude.”

Besides being a prodigious example of resourceful interviewing, David Drake coaxes the producer into making memorable asides, some of which are memorable only because he uses “bitches” too casually for my taste. But the memories about writing and recording “El’s Interlude” are my favorites:

The name Rhythmalism alone tells you what I was doing. I was mixing up rhythms. I was meshing R&B with hip-hop and jazz. And a little bit of comedy. I love the intro on Rhythmalism. The Rhythmalism intro is funny as shit. I’m trying to do rock and roll-grunge-metal and end up dying at the end of the song, hyperventilating, passing out.

“El Debarge, that record was really about him. I was going for Q4, I was going to do ‘Safe & Sound 2,’ after ‘Safe & Sound.’ But when I met him—I met him at the House of Blues. He was everything that I thought he was, just seeing him on TV and listening to him on the radio.

“He showed me what I was doing wrong. He would stop me like, ‘Naw, man you’re fucking up.’ I needed that. He taught me how to be a better producer. How to be more multi-faceted. Taught me arrangement and shit. Right now I’m a beast!

“Even though our music is passe. Right now, if this was still the gangster rap era, I could produce a record that’s so fucking awesome it’ll rival all the big hip-hop records. And it’s just because of some of the techniques that El Debarge taught me.

Oh?

Really?

On eight of 13 questions about politics, Republicans outscored Democrats by an average of 18 percentage points, according to a new Pew survey titled “Partisan Differences in Knowledge.”

The Pew survey adds to a wave of surveys and studies showing that GOP-sympathizers are better informed, more intellectually consistent, more open-minded, more empathetic and more receptive to criticism than their fellow Americans who support the Democratic Party.

“Republicans fare substantially better than Democrats on several questions in the survey, as is typically the case in surveys about political knowledge,” said the study, which noted that Democrats outscored Republicans on five questions by an average of 4.6 percent.

The widest partisan gap in the survey came in at 30 points when only 46 percent of Democrats — but 76 percent of Republicans —- correctly described the GOP as “the party generally more supportive of reducing the size of federal government [italics mine].”

“Correctly”? The party of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush generally supports reducing the size of the federal government? I’m sorry: I fell asleep and forgot when Reagan reduced the deficit and eliminated the Department of Education; and when Bush stopped keeping the Iraq war off the books and said no to No Child Left Behind and tax cuts.