Friday, January 11, 2019

Joseph Jarman, RIP

Three of the five members of the classic Art Ensemble of Chicago lineup are now gone. Here's Jarman making a joyful noise with Myra Melford and Leroy Jenkins.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Reading roundup

From best to worst...

The Goshawk
T.H. White
Filled with humor, pathos, and damn good writing, White's account of his attempt to train a hunting hawk is justly lauded as a classic. Audaciously and naively, White convinced himself that he could train this most difficult of raptors through book learning and a kind of boy-scout can-do-ism. You will have to read the book to find out whether he was correct. His realism about nature's savagery is unflinching, but it is tempered by a touching sentimentalism. He offers up live pigeons as bait for the hawks he hopes to capture, but grows oddly attached to one of them and is unable to tether it in the trap– nonetheless, a hapless substitute takes its place. He eulogizes a female badger killed by fox hunters. His description of the maggots roiling in a sheep's carcass– easily the stomach-churning equal of G√ľnter Grass's eels in The Tin Drum– displays an admiration for their work that is only partly ironic. His depictions of the English countryside– its vegetation, miserable climate, and folkways– are vivid. He cites specific passages to prove that Shakespeare really knew his falconry. I reckon I should have read The Goshawk before Helen Macdonald's very fine H is for Hawk. Both books leave you wondering whether the connection between austringer* and goshawk is true love or pure delusion. If you have read neither book before, by all means read them both, and start with White's.

A Fairly Good Time
Mavis Gallant
I have nothing against novels in which nothing really happens, but this one left me bemused. Shirley, a young Canadian woman in Paris, is trying to figure out whether her French second husband has really left her. Will you care about the answer? I can't say I did, exactly, but then, I found myself reading it to the end. There's something about this Shirley that makes you want to get to know her better.

Amnesia Moon
Jonathan Lethem
It's California sometime in the not-too-distant future, and something has happened to make everything pretty weird. It may have something to do with aliens, or maybe not– we never meet them. Everything gets more confusing, and you start skimming ahead to see if it all might make sense or have a point. Nope.

Selected Poems
A.R. Ammons
This little hardback from the American Poets Project fits comfortably in your hands and promises a selection of pieces by this most musical and thoughtful of modern poets. What's not to like? Alas, the book's compact format is its undoing. For Ammons, like many moderns, line breaks are unconventional and very important to the sound and meaning of the verse. When the page is so narrow that many lines must be wrapped, it becomes unclear which line breaks are intentional vs. arbitrary. What were they thinking?

* A falconer who uses accipiters (such as the goshawk).

Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year!

Frank Loesser wrote the song. Kacey makes it her own.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Larry Eisenberg, RIP

As an occasional writer of doggerel myself, I offer props to a prolific limerick master.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Walking the Dog

Warm up with JC and the organ trio...

Monday, December 17, 2018

Severin Borenstein on Uber and Lyft congestion

It really does seem like every other car you see in San Francisco these days is a Lyft or Uber (or both – multihoming!) on its way somewhere, or worse yet just cruising around waiting for an order. Adding to congestion on the streets? Taking riders away from more environmentally friendly alternatives? Severin Borenstein admits it may be so. So should we restrict these services? Nah. His solution is mine as well: Congestion pricing!

Many advantages come from pricing the congestion externality: Reduced congestion, of course, but also efficient allocation of the rides that do occur to their highest value, and revenue for the city that can reduce the burden of less efficient taxes or be spent on worthy projects, such as mass transit, services for the homeless, or cash transfers to low-income folks.

But here's a quiz question for you... What's the second-best solution if public officials can't or won't enact a sensible congestion pricing system? A question to ponder, Grasshopper, while you advocate for market-based solutions.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Nearness of You

One of my favorite songs. Hoagy Carmichael's simple melody could not be improved upon. Ned Washington's lyrics are more than serviceable. What is the best version? You can hear many of them on Spotify. A selection from best to worst...

And the winner is... Nancy Wilson!

[Postscript: I did not know she had died this very day, but perhaps her death pushed her rendition up the Spotify search list to where it caught my attention...]

Runners up... Of course Ella and Louie...

Dr. John pulls your leg with a little "Moonlight in Vermont" before turning to the pale moon that excites not...

Of course Frank, backed by the great great Nelson Riddle...

Norah Jones is lovely...

Rod Stewart? Why not?

Instrumental versions... there must be a billion... let's go with Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, who made everything sound cool...

The worst? You might have supposed Sheena Easton, but she does a decent job...

Pretty bad... Babs! Love ya, girl, but no...

Ruben Studdard, dude, it's Hoagy, what were you thinking when you ignored the melody?

But the very worst... Annie Lennox, PLEASE just stop!