Hit you with a flower: Best albums of 1972

I’m not fond of the Funkadelic and Waylon Jennings on this list, but these formative records captured the kind of aesthetic tumult that makes for compelling listening if uneven product. The rest are awesome, starting with the best singer-songwriter album on this list and it’s not recorded in America or England. Expect to see more of its kind as I travel backwards.

Roxy Music – Roxy Music
Aretha Franklin – Young, Gifted and Black
Gilberto Gil – Expresso 2222
Paul Simon – Paul Simon
The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street
Stevie Wonder – Talking Book
Bill Withers – Still Bill
Joni Mitchell – For the Roses
Rod Stewart – Never a Dull Moment
Van Morrison – Saint Dominic’s Preview
Al Green – I’m Still in Love with You
Nilsson – Son of Schimilsson
The Chi-Lites – A Lonely Man
Mott the Hoople – All the Young Dudes
Miles Davis – On the Corner
Lou Reed – Transformer
Waylon Jennings – Ladies Love Outlaws
Elton John – Honky Chateau
Curtis Mayfield – Superfly
Alice Cooper – School’s Out
Caetano Veloso – Neolithic Man
Funkadelic – America Eats Its Young
Steely Dan – Can’t Buy a Thrill
The Edgar Winter Group – They Only Come Out at Night
David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust
Neil Young – Harvest
Bonnie Raitt – Give It Up

Juan Gabriel — RIP

American audiences have no more than a passing acquaintance — I’m being kind — with the biggest international star that Mexico ever produced. This behemoth, whose talents made him his country’s Smokey Robinson, had a high, wracked balladeer’s tone and pitch that relished Juan Gabriel the Songwriter’s melodic changes. Until a documentary on Telemundo I watched with my grandmother at the beginning of the year, I paid scant attention to him. Here’s a performer whose catalog I’ll be spending time on over the next few days. So should you. Fascinating life too.

GOP greet Clinton presidency with relief: it’s business as usual

maxresdefault

Should Hillary Rodham Clinton take the oath of office next January, the GOP paladins whom she’s courting will return to their most comfortable posture: hating Clinton for not being a conservative, hating Clinton because she’s a Clinton. Check this dude out:

“In any other election, the majority of national security Republicans would be going after her, and I would be enthusiastically doing so,” said Kori Schake, a veteran of George W. Bush’s National Security Council and State Department, and an adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “She wasn’t a particularly good secretary of state; the lack of judgment on emails was a shock to a lot of us. She rightly criticized the Bush administration for its failures creating stability in Iraq — and made the exact same mistake herself on Libya.”

Schake is on the long and growing list of Republicans who have said they plan to support Clinton this fall. But many of those Republicans for Hillary don’t want a vote against Trump to be confused with any newfound love for Clinton.

“A lot of us would like to hold her accountable for the failures, but we are holding our fire,” Schake said. “It’s because all of us are afraid of Trump. If she wants to maintain our support after, she’s going to have to address our policy concerns about the economy and America’s role in the world.”

I won’t link to the story. Why POLITICO thinks a Bush II hack who worked for the two departments most responsible for the fiercest and most unnecessary conflagration in Middle Eastern history deserves anything but handcuffs is a question I hope the divine spheres answer someday, but then it won’t matter because George Stephanopoulos’ green room will be underwater.

This is better:

Republican operatives on the Hill, for instance, are already planning to block Clinton’s agenda by strategically targeting individual Democratic senators who will be up for reelection in 2018. “Take Joe Manchin in West Virginia,” explained one GOP operative of the strategy. “If Hillary puts up an anti-coal, pro-EPA judge for the Supreme Court, the smart play is to start pressuring him with an advocacy campaign to vote no.” Voting with Clinton would jeopardize his reelection chances, and voting against her would rob her of a Democratic Senate vote she couldn’t afford to lose without the 60 votes needed to filibuster.

His work on gun reform aside, Joe Manchin as governor of and senator from West Virginia has demonstrated fealty to Joe Manchin and the fossil fuel industries that have turned the state into your recyling bin after a party. Granting an apparatchik anonymity to utter the world’s feeblest threat is POLITICO at its finest.

Thank you thank you thank you: Best of 1973

maxresdefault

Mott the Hoople – Mott
Sly and the Family Stone – Fresh
Roxy Music – Stranded
Al Green – Call Me
John Prine – Sweet Revenge
David Bowie – Aladdin Sane
The New York Dolls – The New York Dolls
John Cale – Paris 1919
Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On
Bryan Ferry – These Foolish Things
Stooges – Raw Power
Willie Nelson – Shotgun Willie
James Brown – The Payback
Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets
Stevie Wonder – Innervisions
Yoko Ono – Approximately Infinite Universe
Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy
Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy
Spinners – Spinners
Isley Brothers – 3 + 3
Genesis – Selling England by the Pound
Neil Young – Time Fades Away
Merle Haggard – I Love Dixie Blues
Al Green – Livin’ for You
Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure
Daryl Hall and John Oates – Abandoned Luncheonette
Paul McCartney and Wings – Band on the Run

‘It’s never too late to learn from experience’

The GOP Master of Ceremonies has written his latest attempt at cogitation.

Lately I’ve been thinking about experience.

A lie. David Brooks doesn’t think. Besides, how does one “think about” experience?

Donald Trump lacks political experience, and the ineptitude caused by his inexperience is evident every day.

Throat clearing — the equivalent of reading, “My summer in Rome was definitely a great time” in the student narratives I assign.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton is nothing if not experienced. Her ship is running smoothly, and yet as her reaction to the email scandal shows once again, there’s often a whiff of inhumanity about her campaign that inspires distrust.

The ship runs smoothly despite that whiff. Before modern times sailors couldn’t use precious fresh water on baths, hence the whiff.

So I’ve been thinking that it’s not enough to be experienced. The people in public life we really admire turn experience into graciousness.

The graciousness of Dick Cheney, the sweetness of Tom DeLay, the magnanimity of Newt Gingrich.

What follows is the usual Brooksian list of names he may have read somewhere, maybe heard about them while being driven to the NPR studios (Lincoln, MLK, Jr., Mandela, the usual). He even squeezes in a Keats quote.

Such people have a gentle strength. They are aggressive and kind, free of sharp elbows, comfortable revealing and being abashed by their transgressions.

Martin Luther King lacked for sharp elbows? Did you call LBJ for comment, David?

But back to Hillary:

Hillary Clinton has experience, but does not seem to have been transformed by it. Amid the email scandal she is repeating the same mistakes she made during the Rose Law Firm scandal two decades ago. Her posture is still brittle, stonewalling and dissembling. Clinton scandals are all the same. There’s an act of unseemly but not felonious behavior, then the futile drawn-out withholding of information, and forever after the unwillingness to ever come clean.

Clinton scandals are all the same. There’s a rush to publication of stories whose leads are buried, then the futile drawn-out presentation of both-sides-do-it and worrying about the Appearance of Illegality.

If you treat the world as a friendly and hopeful place, as a web of relationships, you’ll look for the good news in people and not the bad.

A University of Chicago graduate wrote this sentence in a motley of letters for New York Times publication.

It’s tough to surrender control, but like the rest of us, Hillary Clinton gets to decide what sort of leader she wants to be. America is desperate for a little uplift, for a leader who shows that she trusts her fellow citizens. It’s never too late to learn from experience.

So facile a thinker is Brooks that he can’t figure out how Hillary’s meticulous preparation, leaden delivery, and administrative venality make her human. But it’s never too late to read your own columns.

Singles 8/26

Notes:

– As you can see, a solid week. Lady Leshurr grimes like it’s 2003, Nada Rose and Tiwa Savage spit rhymes like they just invented them. Isaiah Rasahd barely sneaked in.

– I direct P!nk fans to her Chesney collaboration, closer to a cameo, really. She up and steals the thing.

Click on links for full reviews.

Nadia Rose – Skwod (7)
Tiwa Savage ft. Dr. SID – If I Start to Talk (7)
Banks – Fuck With Myself (7)
Isaiah Rashad – Free Lunch (7)
Lady Leshurr ft. Wiley – Where Are You Now? (7)
HyunA – How’s This? (6)
Anitta ft. Maluma – Sim Ou Não (5)
Fei – Fantasy (5)
Kari Faux – Fantasy (5)
Kenny Chesney ft. P!nk – Setting the World on Fire (4)
Jagwar Ma – OB1 (4)
Biffy Clyro – Animal Style (4)
Jon Pardi – Head Over Boots (3)

Grounded: landline use during tropical storms

payphone

Phone service was scratchy in the first few hours after Hurricane Andrew made landfall, but if you were out of power for as long as many people were (my parents were lucky: only ten days) you could at least count on the land line working. The thing wasn’t even called a “landline.” During the days of expensive Motorola beauties that looked like flat irons, you were only screwed if your cordless phone required electricity. When Hurricane Wilma, our last major hurricane, hit in October 2005, many of us had cell phones and landlines; Apple would debut the first smart phone exactly two years later. The worst that could happen was running out of gas for the car and generator.

As survivors of Super Storm Sandy made clear, a hurricane during the Smart Phone Era could mess things up real good.

“I think we’re more vulnerable [in terms of communications] than we were 24 years ago,” said Norcross, who anchored the WTVJ newscast for 23 hours straight during Andrew and is now a hurricane specialist for The Weather Channel. “I remember after Andrew there were a lot of people with wrecked homes but the phone line was still working in the kitchen.”

During Andrew, Norcross’ reports were simulcast on radio. Now, for many people, the battery-powered transistor radio is little more than a nostalgic relic. Television stations also have switched from analog to digital systems and battery-powered digital TVs aren’t as readily available as the small analog models were.

Society has become dependent on devices from cellphones to tablets and laptops that need a charge to keep working — and electrical grids are often the first to go during major storms. That impact is compounded by the fact that so many people have cut the cord and use only cellphones in their homes rather than landlines, which are usually more reliable during storms.

A Florida Public Service Commission report from December 2015 said Florida residents and businesses had 3.3 million traditional phone lines last year, down from 3.8 million the previous year and 6.1 million in 2011. The most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Health Interview Survey found that 47 percent of U.S. households are now cellphone only, compared with 20 percent in 2009 and just 3 percent in 2003.

There hasn’t been a major hurricane in the United States since 2005 — the year of hurricanes Katrina and Wilma — although there have been storms that caused extensive flooding. As a result, the cellphone network hasn’t really been put to a test during the era of mobile phone proliferation. “It is a large, unexplored area,” said Norcross.

In the weeks after Andrew, payphones exploded in use; for thousands of Floridians in south Dade, it was the only way to communicate. Every time Buzzfeed or something runs an article with poorly controlled smugness wondering why anyone but drug deals would still use payphones, I must remind myself that the white lib demographic clicks on those articles.

I pay for a landline: twenty bucks a month.

I will compose in fancy rhyme: Best of 1974

Or: the triumph of British art school alumni.

Roxy Music – Country Life
Joni Mitchell – Court and Spark
Brian Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)
Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic
Neil Young – On the Beach
George Jones – The Grand Tour
John Cale – Fear
Miles Davis – Get Up With It
Linda Ronstadt – Heart Like a Wheel
Funkadelic – Standing on the Verge of Getting It On
Velvet Underground – 1969 Velvet Underground Live
Merle Haggard – If We Make It Through December
David Bowie – Diamond Dogs
Van Morrison – Veedon Fleece
Can – Soon Over Babaluma
Stevie Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale
Randy Newman – Good Old Boys
The Isley Brothers – Live It Up
Robert Palmer – Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley
New York Dolls – In Too Much Too Soon
Lou Reed – Rock n Roll Animal
Leonard Cohen – New Skin for the Old Ceremony
Bob Dylan – Planet Waves
Dolly Parton – Jolene
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Natty Dread
Nilsson – Pussy Cats
Richard and Linda Thompson – I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
Gram Parsons – Grievous Angel

Fairness, geographical precision distinguish property drama ‘Little Men’

maxresdefault

So immersive is a good friendship that its depths and contours aren’t obvious until its dissolution. Adolescent boys are less likely to plumb its depths. In Little Men, Jake and Tony’s friendship is borne of conflict: after Jake’s dad Brian (Greg Kinnear) inherits a Brooklyn apartment, he struggles with the guilt of having to evict Tony’s mom Leonor Calvelli (Paulina Garcia), owner of a ground floor dress shop. As the tension between the families intensifies, so does their bond.

Little Men was co-written and directed by Ira Sachs, who in films like Keep the Lights On and Love is Strange demonstrated how tight living spaces impinge on human relations. Just as impressive is the confidence with which he limns the limits of male relationships. The Mutt and Jeff chemistry of Jake and Tony has its own rules: the former, a reticent painter; the latter an aspiring actor whose thick Nu Yawkese suggests he should study Ratzo Rizzo’s speech patterns. Like children in Henry James fiction, their shared dream (i.e. attending Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School together) elbows out the coarseness of adult squabbling. With his thick unruly hair and lank arms that are as likely to get thrown across Jake’s shoulders as they are to cushion his head, Michael Barbieri is a terrific Tony, a kid who talks tough but hides neither his ambition nor sweetness. No less watchable is Theo Taplitz as Jake, the furtive glances at his buddy suggesting he may not be aware of the friendship’s full implications.

Never far from Sachs’ mind and camera is the nexus of class and race. Chileans who’ve gotten by because Brian’s father never charged them full rent, the Calvellis watch Brooklyn change into an extension of Manhattan; like the real New Yorkers populating In Jackson Heights, the extraordinary Frederick Wiseman documentary released a year ago, they’ve played by the rules but watch the rich discard the rules. “With the neighborhood changing…it’s a very old-fashioned store,” Brian’s sister explains to her sister in law, as if it’s a defense. Brian is an actor, on the evidence of a brief eavesdropping into a rehearsal for The Seagull a fair one (like Kinnear himself. He’s not that successful or anything,” Jake informs Tony). His wife Kathy (Jennifer Ehle) supports him. She’s in conflict resolution, a plot wrinkle too on-the-nose for a film this observant. Mondays she’s off. “I need a day to get myself organized.” “That’s right. Your day off,” Leonor will say later with quiet irony. Leonora can never take Mondays off. But they all live in New York City in 2015, where the tectonics of income are in a continuous tumult. To support themselves the Jardines must triple Leonor’s rent, thus guaranteeing that she will never take Mondays off. That’s Brooklyn in 2016. Every day another family disappears off the New York grid, who knows where; if it’s not the Calvellis it’ll be the Jardines’ turn. When all are guilty none are, Hannah Arendt wrote.

At a compact eighty minutes, Little Men has no time to dawdle. Sachs trusts the audience to get his point, such as the observation that to relax the Jardines drink wine and Leonor smokes continuously — indoors! (It’s another class distinction). Although Mr. Calvelli disappeared a cigarette expedition for Leonor, we see Sachs favorite Alfred Molina, whose proximity to Leonor is never explained other than providing occasional legal counsel. Does it matter? At all times his camera minds its manners. Brian, who is far from a bad man, gets a private moment early in the film where he quietly breaks down, awash with emotion inspired by a dead man who as Leonor avers may not have liked him much; the camera observes Kinnear with discretion from behind an eave. Discretion and mindfulness in a filmmaker are not virtues to sneeze at. Sachs doesn’t make “exciting” films, but their fairness, geographical precision, and attention to gesture are hallmarks of Hirokazu Koreeda and Jia Zhangke; not for him the received gestures learned in the Sundance lab. Points, however, deducted for the icky score, set to images of the boys skateboarding around Brooklyn as if to say, Ah, golden youth. This is the only recent movie in which a boy’s response to a girl who rejected him is, “Thank you for being honest.” He’s probably relieved. Many of us were — even those of us who turned out straight. The rest of us are relieved that Little Men is one of the year’s best.

Little Men is playing at Cosford Cinema.

When I rolled with the punches I got knocked on the ground: Best of 1975

01 terumasa-hino

An unfuckwithable top ten. Neil Young never threw together a trebly-er and dumber and smarter collection of guitar pop; Roxy Music pared down its filigrees to a weird hybrid of country and disco that was good enough for their only top forty hit in America; Funkadelic gave the impression that its most streamlined album was live; Dylan was ten times more affectionate hating his ex-wife than loving her; Bowie and the Isleys muddling and muddying politics and sex and rhythm guitars; and above it all Brian Eno, envisaging a terrarium where we hide from conflicts under silt. A quiet storm indeed.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Zuma
Roxy Music – Siren
Funkadelic – Let’s Take It to the Stage
Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks
Miles Davis – Agharta
The Isley Brothers – The Heat Is On
Joni Mitchell – The Hissing of Summer Lawns
David Bowie – Young Americans
Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night
Brian Eno – Another Green World
Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti
Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac
Allen Toussaint – Southern Nights
Smokey Robinson – A Quiet Storm
Gary Stewart – Out Of Hand
Steely Dan- Katy Lied
John Cale – Slow Dazzle
Gilberto Gil and Jorge Ben – Gil e Jorge
Bob Dylan and the Band – The Basement Tapes
Wings – Venus and Mars
Elton John – Rock of the Westies
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here
Al Green – Al Green Is Love
Patti Smith – Horses
Merle Haggard – Keep Movin’ On
Bee Gees – Main Course

The Williard Hotel standard of journalism

Willard_Hotel_-_Franklin_Pierce_inauguration_-_Illustrated_News_-_1853

While he waited for his generals in chief to get off their blue asses and chase the Confederate armies, Abraham Lincoln had his own battles. Too much of his time as presidency was taken by federal office seekers. For hours they’d hang out in the White House corridors, reminding him that a cousin Harold had contributed to Lincoln’s minority 1860 victory. Secretary of State William Seward handled them too — indeed, every Cabinet officer did.

Fifteen years later, when presidents could still take an evening stroll with a cigar down Pennsylvania Avenue, Ulysses Grant would hang out in the lobby of the Willard Hotel. Although “lobbyist” had been in use since the 1830s — I’ve seen it in Trollope novels written decades later — Grant popularized its use in America. During the Gilded Era, senators like Roscoe Conkling insisted on controlling patronage for their states. It took popular revulsion at the murder of James Garfield to spook Congress into passing (and former on-the-take expert Chester Arthur to sign) the Pendleton Act, which took steps towards creating a non-partisan civil service class immune from political pressure. One way of getting around it for years was appointing a campaign manager to postmaster general, in charge of federal patronage. Think of Jim Farley, the FDR apparatchik whom the president conned into thinking he was going to endorse him for president in 1940.

So about the Clinton Foundation and those meetings. I assume meetings and exchanges of favors, explicit and implicit, happen. If this is corruption, it’s of the venal kind. I’m not fond of Matthew Yglesias, but his essay casts a cold eye on what the AP’s purportedly meticulous reporting, reliant on passive voice constructions and assumptions presented as facts. Here is his bit on Mohammed Yunus, the Nobel laureate named in the story:

I have no particular knowledge of Yunus, Grameen Bank, or the general prospects of microcredit as a philanthropic venture. I can tell you, however, that Yunus not only won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize but has also been honored with a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Congressional Gold Medal. In 2008 he was No. 2 on Foreign Policy’s list of the “top 100 global thinkers,” and Ted Turner put him on the board of the UN Foundation. He’s received the World Food Prize, the International Simon Bolivar Prize, and the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord.

In other words, he’s a renowned and beloved figure throughout the West, not some moneybags getting help from the State Department in exchange for cash. On the level of pure politics, of course, this is exactly the problem with the Clinton Foundation. Its existence turns the banal into a potential conflict of interest, and shutting it down is the right call. But the fact remains that this is a fantastically banal anecdote.

I suspect “Clinton Foundation” will join “Benghazi,” “Vince Foster,” and “Whitewater” as a bat signal to conservatives who nod their heads knowingly and Ny-Quil for the rest of us.

I’m a fool when love’s at stake: Best of 1976

024-norman-seeff-theredlist

Garrulous, as intimate as a letter written on hotel stationary, Hejira is inexhaustible, often my favorite Joni Mitchell album. Garrulous, as intimate as a room full of revelers blowing smoke in your face, Songs in the Key of Life is my least favorite major phase Stevie Wonder. I skip around a lot. But facts are facts: it has a lot of songs, several of which would be anyone else’s diamonds and a couple of which are on the extra 45 RPM EP mixed as a 33 1/3 called A Something’s Extra (if you dislike “All Day Sucker” there’s the door). When I found my parents’ copy in 1996, the EP was pristine. It hadn’t been played once.

Joni Mitchell – Hejira
Aerosmith – Rocks
David Bowie – Station to Station
Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees
Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life
The Modern Lovers – The Modern Lovers
Rolling Stones – Black and Blue
ABBA – Arrival
Miles Davis – Pangaea
Bryan Ferry – Let’s Stick Together
Led Zeppelin – Presence
Richard & Linda Thompson – Pour Down Like Silver
George Jones – Alone Again
Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby
Joan Armatrading – Joan Armatrading
Marvin Gaye – I Want You
Steely Dan – The Royal Scam
Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band – Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band
Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak
The Ramones – The Ramones
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Donna Summer – A Love Trilogy