Friday, March 13, 2009

Michael Simmons previews the next Bob Dylan album.

Michael has listened to several tracks of an as yet untitled Dylan album reportedly scheduled for late April release, and has written a piece for Mojo about it. I'm encouraged by this observation, in connection with the song "Shake Shake Mama":

Some artists retreat to servile reasonableness and bourgeois banality as they get older. Not Bob. He got Las Vegas out of his system at Budokan.
Michael's comment about the "hideous New Age cliché" Dylan skewers in "It's All Good" made me think of the wedding scene from Little Murders.

3.19 update: It's called Together Through Life, it's due out on April 28, and it has a very sexy cover photo.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Saks Fifth Avenue responds to the economic crisis.


There! This oughta do something about that declining marginal propensity to consume.

In the immortal words of Sy Britchky, "Makes your mouth parch, doesn't it?"

The banality of Bernie Madoff.

I didn't want him to say he was sorry. I wanted him to stand in front of the judge and say "I did it because I hate the human race", or "America", or "capitalism", or "my father", or whatever. Instead, it seems that it started, as do so many very bad things, not with lust to destroy, but with longing to please. Today's AP story quotes him:

"While I never promised a specific rate of return to any client, I felt compelled to satisfy my clients' expectations, at any cost," he said.
Somehow, in my view, the motive should fit the crime, and spectacular crimes should have spectacular motives.

3.13 update: The aptly named Gabe Pressman has this to say about the man he calls the "aptly named" Madoff. Pressman wonders, "Are MBA candidates taught to follow an ethical and moral framework in their careers?" If the MBA program I all but completed fifteen years ago is typical, the answer is "Yes." The problem isn't, in my opinion, a failure to teach ethics in MBA or other higher education programs. By then it's way too late to have much effect.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cross-currents on the Brooklyn Bridge


This morning, on the return leg of my Brooklyn Bridge walk, I encountered this group heading from Brooklyn towards Manhattan. As I passed them, a man handed me a leaflet explaining that they are members of the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order, walking from Leverett, Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. to advocate "Abolition of Nuclear Weapons; Renunciation of War; Conversion from War to Peace Economy." Admirable goals, all.

Also on the Bridge this morning, going in the opposite direction, were groups of people, many decked out in colorful Tibetan dress, some waving Tibetan flags, and some wearing headbands that said "Free Tibet". When I got back to the Brooklyn side, I found them massing in Cadman Plaza Park for a demonstration.


I wondered if the Tibetans and their fellow Buddhists from Leverett had greeted each other as they passed on the Bridge. I'm sure the Tibetans want to get their freedom by peaceful means. Given the stark parameters of their situation, their only non-suicidal option may be moral suasion. But, in some circumstances, might it be necessary to choose between the ideals of peace and freedom? In the back of my mind, I was hearing the words of Patrick Henry.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Postscript to apostrophe abuse: the Grammar Gods strike!



Did two blatant violations doom this store? There are lots of others yet unpunished; still, it's a start.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Adolph Hofner: Czech Texan Western Swing

Adolph Hofner (1916-2000) was, along with Bob Wills, Milton Brown, and others, one of the principal exponents of Western Swing, a highly syncretic style of music that evolved in Texas during the 1930s. I first heard him and his group, the Texans, doing "Gulf Coast Special", on OKeh Western Swing (highly recommended if you can find a copy) back in the 1980s. I later acquired a copy of South Texas Swing, which includes examples of Hofner's work with various groups, ranging from 1936 to the early '50s. Among the cuts is Hofner's classic version of "Cotton-Eyed Joe", along with the Mexican-influenced "Maria Elena", and such typical Western Swing fare as "Better Quit it Now", "Dirty Dog", and "Joe Turner Blues", which reflect in varying degrees the country, jazz, blues, and Hawaiian influences on that style of music. What surprised me on this album were the cuts, such as Star Kovarna, Na Marjanse, and Strashidlo, that are adaptations of Czech folk songs Hofner no doubt learned from his parents and other Czech immigrants in his hometown of Moulton, Texas, and are sung in Czech. An excellent biography of Hofner is on this website.