Thursday, January 30, 2014

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 38

Don't everybody like the taste of apple pie?

Mostly Other People Do the Killing

A great band with a great name that plays unabashed, Ornette-worthy avant-jazz. Avant, yes, but as such a bit of a throwback. Excellent stuff. And here is a video that complements their freewheeling virtuosity.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


So, if not Pete Seeger, is there any folk music that I like? Oh yeah...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pete Seeger, RIP

His music: not my cup of tea. But what can you say? “The key to the future of the world,” he said in 1994, “is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.” Hear, hear.

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 37

In the right hands, baritone is the most expressive sax. But it takes a lot of wind just to get out the notes. At 2:52 Mr. Carter shows off a little circular breathing and bent tones. Showing off being his thing... along with beauty.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

The preceding post made me think of the saddest, scariest, most beautiful children's book I know of. It has a happy ending, if such a thing is possible after the existential terror of the plot...

Jeremy Steig

Dick Conte played this track on KCSM today. I'd never heard it, nor--ashamed to say--heard of Mr. Steig. Not only is it the most amazing jazz flute track I've ever heard, or can even imagine hearing, but he's William Steig's son, and Margaret Mead's nephew!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Reading advice from our greatest living novelist

NY Times: If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

E.L. Doctorow: He’s a reader and doesn’t need my instruction. On the other hand, if I could require Republican members of Congress to read one book it would be Keynes’s “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.”

Something tells me they wouldn't get through it...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Can Music Be Perfect? Vol. 36

Who made America's truly indispensable music? Armstrong, Holiday, Sinatra... JB if you like. But what is American music's most fertile era? I'll vote for the Blue Note recordings of the 1960s. So many riches to choose from. Go ahead, pick one out at random and take a listen. Here's one. Billy Higgins plays drums. He gets a couple paragraphs in Wikipedia. His face should be carved into Mt. Rushmore. Did as much for us as Mr. Jefferson.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Stunning creepy crawlers from Singapore

Photos by Nicky Bay. Not for everyone, I suppose. Hat tip to Boing Boing.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Janet Yellen, Yay!

Unlike Ben Bernanke, Yellen was never one of my teachers, but she seems to share some of the qualities I admire in Bernanke: namely, she is a very smart economist who cares about how the world actually works. I have read and admire her papers on efficiency wages, out-of-wedlock childbearing, and the implications of quasi-rational behavior. Whether she shares Bernanke's political savvy and nerves of steel in the face of chaos is unknowable. One hopes she is never put to the test on that. Once a century is enough.

Friday, January 3, 2014

An estimated one in four North American birds was a passenger pigeon...

... on the eve of European settlement. By the end of 1914 they were all gone... every last one. Their flocks could, famously, darken the sky... and apparently also whiten the earth. For some reason the story I remember from childhood was that farmers shot them in large numbers to protect their crops, but they were in fact killed for food, and also suffered from habitat destruction as the continent was deforested. Their catastrophic decline after 1870, interestingly, coincided closely with the near-extermination of the American bison. The railroad plays a key role in the conventional wisdom about both events: trains allowed large numbers of hunters to travel to where the massive herds or flocks were passing, and pick them off with rifles or capture large numbers in nets. When it comes to the buffalo, however, this story is decidedly incomplete, if not wrong, as economist Scott Taylor has shown in his excellent article, "Buffalo Hunt...." The discovery of a new tanning process facilitated an export market for bison hides and thus an elastic (nearly limitless) international demand. With the price maintained by the export market, and absent regulation, mass extermination was the likely and eventually actual outcome. Presumably there was no international trade in pigeon meat or feathers, but the domestic market for meat was sufficiently large to maintain a profitable price. Hunting proceeded all the way to the point where the number of these highly social birds fell below the critical level, and the population imploded.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A perfect afternoon at Venice Beach

Venice Beach in Half Moon Bay, CA, that is. Plenty of sun, but the water was, well, freakin' cold... sea temperature 43 degrees?!

Alexi and I tried to keep warm with a nice chai from HMB's so-called "chai Nazi," Raman. He seemed pleasant enough to me. Very sweet and creamy, good and spicy!

Venice Beach is quite flat at low tide. As the sand drains, every pebble, sand dollar, piece of seaweed, or footprint creates a little fractal landscape.

Conflict of interest: update

Regarding the NYT story on potential financial conflict of interest in academia and in particular Craig Pirrong at U. of Houston, here's a pretty damning take-down of the article from Jim Hamilton. The question of what the norms for disclosure should be in scholarship remains, but there is pretty clearly no smoking gun here... will the Times follow up?