Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Robert Frank, RIP

Gosh, so many obit blog posts lately. Anyway, I own a reprint edition of Frank's The Americans, and I have had the privilege of seeing the actual prints, in book order, in a museum setting. I love his approach to photography, and I love his take on America: critical, leftist, but open-minded and big-hearted, and with a real sense of humor: Why not obscure the faces of your subjects with jingoistic iconography? But when he wanted to capture faces, he didn't mess around...

Democratic National Convention, 1956, 1996.147.1

Monday, September 9, 2019

Jimmy Johnson, RIP

Even if you've never heard of him, you've heard him. The Swampers... Art and commerce vs. racism? Sometimes it even worked...
“We didn’t know we were making history,” he said of this interracial affinity in an interview with Southern Rambler magazine. “Black or white, we had the same goal: to cut a hit record.” 
After the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, the all-white Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section’s work on soul music sessions for Atlantic and Stax, two of the era’s most influential record companies, was suspended. To Mr. Johnson’s relief, the suspension was temporary. 
“We were an integral part of Atlantic and Stax and thought that might be it,” he recalled in that interview. “We were told we wouldn’t be cutting any more black records, and those were our favorite records.”

Friday, August 30, 2019

Pedro Bell, RIP

Not always PC, but always visually funky.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Tuxedo Junction

Dr. Lenzy Wallace, who directed our high school jazz band, must have had his moments of frustration and doubt. We weren't very good, through no fault of his. I'm no racial essentialist no-how, so I don't for a moment think that white folk are less capable of swinging than black folk, but the suburban white kids in Storrs CT did NOT swing, for whatever reason. Perhaps Lenzy should have forced us to listen to recordings of the tunes he selected for us to play, such as "Tuxedo Junction." Erskine Hawkins, who co-wrote it and made this 1939 recording with his once-college dance band, knew how to swing and chicken-scratch his way to perfection. Who knows, a little bit of the humor and easy elegance might have sunk in with us.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Across the divide

One of my favorite day hikes follows the Pacific Crest Trail from Carson Pass up to Meiss Col and down into beautiful Meiss Meadow, from which you can proceed to lovely little Showers Lake and/or elsewhere. An interesting feature of Meiss Col, which had not occurred to me until this visit, is that it lies along the divide between the Pacific and the Great Basin watersheds. So at the point where the first picture below was taken, looking roughly southward toward Round Top, any rain or snow melt in front of me would run downhill into various creeks and eventually into the American River, the Sacramento River, and the Bay, before emptying into the Pacific; whereas behind me, the water drains into the Upper Truckee River (e.g. from the snowfield in the second picture), into Lake Tahoe and then out of it into the Truckee proper, which finally drains into Pyramid Lake, an endorheic lake within the Great Basin. Endorheic is a new word for me: water checks in but it doesn't check out. Well, evaporation notwithstanding. Two raindrops or snowflakes that fall quite near one another on Meiss Col could end up thousands of miles apart. Of course there may be some hapless little raindrop that falls at the very divide and languishes there, like Buridan's ass, unable to decide which great watershed to join. Such a drop may happily end up nourishing one of the many western blue flag irises that flourish in the col. (The map below thanks to Wikipedia... don't forget to send them money.)

This being a family-friendly blog...

... I feel obliged to provide wholesome information about the birds and the bees... or in this case the sphinx moths. This pair were removed (gently) from my tent at Woods Lake yesterday. Lovely.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Sons of Kemet, My Queen is Ada Eastman

We heard them live at San Jose Jazz on Saturday. Something new under the sun: An hour-and-a-half of ultra-high-energy... what?... acoustic jazz-funk-afropop? There's a punk sensibility in there as well. No breaks, no let-up. Theon Cross on tuba is a force of nature. If they come to your neighborhood, don't miss them. The music starts at 1:38.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Toni Morrison, RIP

John Leonard, on when she received the Nobel. A more optimistic time, perhaps, not so long ago.