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Posts Tagged ‘music

“In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull”*…

 

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No one news source is trusted by a majority of U.S. adults, and Republicans trust Fox News far more than any other news outlet, according to a report out Friday from Pew. Democrats trust CNN about as much as Republicans trust Fox News, Pew found, but the difference is that while “no other source comes close to rivaling Fox News’ appeal to Republicans, a number of sources other than CNN are also highly trusted and frequently used by Democrats.”

Pew surveyed 12,043 U.S. adults about their trust of 30 news sources in November and December 2019. It found that, for political and election news, “greater portions of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic express trust than distrust in 22 of 30 news sources asked about. More Republicans and Republican leaners distrust than trust 20 of the 30 sources.”

Republican distrust in news has also risen over time. When Pew conducted a similar study in 2014, Republicans still distrusted the majority of sources asked about — but over the past five years there’s been “notable growth in Republicans’ distrust of CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times,” which also tend to be Trump’s favorite news sources to bash. Democrats’ trust levels have shifted significantly less since 2014.

It’s worth noting, though, that not trusting a news source is not the same as not watching or reading it. A previous Pew study found that 14 percent of Americans say they get news from a source they distrust; among conservatives, that number is 26 percent. Scholars have their theories why…

The bifurcation of civil discourse: “Republicans and Democrats live in “nearly inverse news media environments,” Pew finds.”  Read the Pew Report (part of their Election News Pathways Project) in full here.

* “In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great god was aroused by the clamor. Enlil heard the clamor and he said to the gods in council, “The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the babel.” So the gods agreed to exterminate mankind.”   – The Epic of Gilgamesh

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As we seek common ground, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that the Beatles gave their last public performance– an impromptu concert from the roof top of Apple Studios in London.  Neighbors complained about noise, and police broke up the concert…  at which point John Lennon closed with: “I’d like to say thank you very much on behalf of the group and myself, and I hope we passed the audition.”  Get Back!

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Written by LW

January 30, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Here, are the stiffening hills”*…

 

Mason Street

 

The San Francisco street grid dates to the 1839 plan of Swiss ship captain and surveyor Jean-Jacques Vioget, who laid out the city on a north–south, east–west grid without regard to its topography. Subsequent plans extended the grid, except for its inflection south of Market Street…. and continued the practice of honoring geometry over topography, resulting in some of the steeper streets in the world.

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Photographer Dan Ng explored…

What would San Francisco be without its steep hills?

Well for one, if would be much easier to walk around and without much effort. It would be easier to park a car and not have to curb the wheels. We would not have runaway vehicles and tennis balls.

On the other hand, we would not have cable cars, beautiful views and quaint neighborhoods. We would not have the many movies and postcard images to view. In fact, San Francisco would not be San Francisco.

By tilting the camera, I attempted to “level” the hills. These images whimsically portray the streets of San Francisco…flat. But thank goodness it isn’t!

See his more of “leveling” photos: “The Streets of San Francisco… but Flat?

And on the subject of city streets: using OpenStreetMap, Andrei Kashcha’s City Roads project lets you enter any town or city in the world and generates a map of all the streets within its city limits.

* Mervyn Peake, “Rhondda Valley,Collected Poems

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As we seek balance, we might spare a thought for Paul Lorin Kantner; he died on this date in 2016.  A musician, he’s best known as co-founder, rhythm guitarist, and occasional vocalist of Jefferson Airplane, a seminal San Francisco psychedelic rock band of the counterculture era.  He continued these roles as a member of Jefferson Starship, Jefferson Airplane’s successor band.

Coincidentally, one of his his Airplane co-founders, Signe Toly Anderson, died on the same day.

200px-Paul_Kantner_Jefferson_Starship_1975 source

 

“I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but I liken myself to the robber barons”*…

 

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In the spirit of the Razzies and the “Golden Fleece Award,” The Lown Institute initiated “The Shkreli Awards”…

A top ten list of the worst examples of profiteering and dysfunction in health care, named for Martin Shkreli, the price-hiking “pharma bro” that everyone loves to hate…

Nominees for the Shkreli Awards are compiled by Lown Institute staff with input from readers of Lown Weekly. Winners are determined by an esteemed panel of patient activists, clinicians, health policy experts, and journalists…

Browse the list of 2019’s (genuinely astounding, but sadly all-too-real) “winners” here.  Also see the 2018 and 2017 winners.

* Martin Shkreli

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As think healing thoughts, we might recall that it was on this date in 1854 that Anthony Fass, a Philadelphia piano maker, was awarded the first U.S. patent (#11062) for an accordion.  (An older patent existed in Europe, issued in Vienna in 1829 to Cyrill Demian.)

“Music helps set a romantic mood. Imagine her surprise when you say, ‘We don’t need a stereo – I have an accordion’.”  – Martin Mull

“A gentleman is someone who can play the accordion, but doesn’t.”  – Tom Waits

accordion_patent source

 

“This land is your land, this land is my land”*…

 

Willie Nelson

 

“City of New Orleans” isn’t a song about New Orleans. It’s a song about a train called the City of New Orleans. Willie Nelson didn’t write it. But he made it a Grammy Award-winning hit in 1984.

Looking back, it’s easy to see how Willie Nelson came to it. Over the course of his career—a five-decade ramblin’ run that spans recordings as far back as 1962 and as recent as last year—Willie has written endlessly about his affection for (and occasional vexation with) cities across the land…

No one map could track all the sites and cities Willie sings about. He’s recorded songs about rivers: the Rio Grande and the Pedernales, the Mississippi and the Ohio, the Rhine and the Jordan. He’s played songs about trains: the Midnight Special, the Wabash Cannonball, the Golden Rocket, the City of New Orleans. (And, of course, a song about rainbows.) Georgia, Montana, Tennessee, and Texas all loom large over his songbook…

Still,  the map above does contain a  great many of them… An appreciation: “On the Road Again: Mapping All the Cities in Willie Nelson’s Songs.”

* Woody Guthrie

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As we celebrate one red-head, we might also celebrate others: it was on this date in 1887 that the (fictional) action began in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes short story, “The Red-Headed League”– a piece that Conan Doyle ranked second on his list of his twelve favorite Holmes stories.

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Sidney Paget‘s illustration of Watson reading the newspaper to Holmes and Wilson in “The Red-Headed League” in The Strand Magazine, where the story first appeared.

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Written by LW

December 9, 2019 at 1:01 am

“A man is worked upon by what he works on”*…

 

Jobs

 

Further to last week’s “The most perfect political community is one in which the middle class is in control, and outnumbers both of the other classes”*

The numbers tell one story. Unemployment in the US is the lowest it’s been in 50 years. More Americans have jobs than ever before. Wage growth keeps climbing.

People tell a different story. Long job hunts. Trouble finding work with decent pay. A lack of predictable hours.

These accounts are hard to square with the record-long economic expansion and robust labor market described in headline statistics. Put another way, when you compare the lived reality with the data and it’s clear something big is getting lost in translation. But a team of researchers thinks they may have uncovered the Rosetta Stone of the US labor market.

They recently unveiled the US Private Sector Job Quality Index (or JQI for short), a new monthly indicator that aims to track the quality of jobs instead of just the quantity. The JQI measures the ratio of what the researchers call “high-quality” versus “low-quality” jobs, based on whether the work offer more or less than the average income.

A reading of 100 means that there are equal numbers of the two groups, while anything less implies relatively lower-quality jobs. Here’s what it looks like:

Job Quality

So, what is this newfangled thing telling us? Right now the JQI is just shy of 81, which implies that there are 81 high-quality jobs for every 100 low-quality ones. While that’s a slight improvement from early 2012—the JQI’s 30-year nadir—it’s still way down from 2006, the eve of the housing market crash, when the economy regularly supported about 90 good jobs per 100 lousy ones.

Or, in plainer English, the US labor market is nowhere near fully recovered from the Great Recession. In fact, the long-term trend in the balance of jobs paints a more ominous picture…

Quality vs. quantity: more at “The great American labor paradox: Plentiful jobs, most of them bad.”

Resonantly, see also: “Job loss predictions over rising minimum wages haven’t come true.”  The higher minimum wages in question are still below the average that separates high- and low-quality jobs; but they are a step in the direction of narrowing the gap.

* “A man is worked upon by what he works on. He may carve out his circumstances, but his circumstances will carve him out as well.”  – Frederick Douglass

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As we “Get a Job,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that serendipity yielded one of the coolest collectibles ever: rockabilly legend Carl “Blue Suede Shoes” Perkins was recording at Sam Phillips’ Sun Records in Memphis; Perkin’s buddy Johnny Cash, a Sun artist and a country star by virtue of his recent hits “I Walk The Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” was hanging out in the booth; and soon-to-be-famous Jerry Lee Lewis was playing piano (for a $15 dollar session fee– “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” was set for release a few weeks later).

A couple of years earlier, Phillips had launched Elvis Presley with “It’s Alright Mama”; but in 1955, as Elvis’ career exploded, Phillips had sold his contract to RCA, and Elvis moved on.  But The King was back in Memphis that fateful day; he stopped by Sun to say hello… and an impromptu jam ensued.  Phillips had the presence of mind to order his engineer, Jack Clement, to roll tape– a tape that was promptly shelved, forgotten, and unheard for 20 years.  The recordings of what was arguably the first “supergroup” were found in 1976 and finally released in 1981… since when, they’ve been treasured by fans– a new crop of which has emerged with the success of the Broadway musical Million Dollar Quartet.

https://i2.wp.com/farm9.staticflickr.com/8200/8239430651_733906291d_o.jpg source

 

 

Written by LW

December 4, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Turn the page”*…

 

 

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Like elevators, page turners are only remarkable when things go awry. And go awry they do…

 

But then…

There are breakout moments in musical history where turners become visible and audible through neither accident nor error. In Ravel’s two-piano version of his Introduction and Allegro, he calls for a mysterious “third hand ad lib.” to perform an impossible trill—a part that could only be executed by an especially daring page turner, reaching across the keyboard and right into the middle of the action. In the middle movement of Charles Ives’s Violin Sonata No.2, a raucous hoe-down, the composer’s manuscript features an additional stave with a drum-like rhythm instructing the page turner to smash out noisy cluster chords at the bottom end of the keyboard. It’s a strong reaction to anonymity…

Why pager turners matter (with an number of very amusing examples): “Turning Over.”

* Metallica (from the 1988 album “Garage, Inc.”)

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As we keep time, we might recall that it was on this date in 1897 that Alexander Scriabin’s piano concerto premiered in Odessa, with Scriabin as soloist.  Already a renowned pianist, the then-24-year-old Scriabin was making his debut as a composer for the orchestra (with what turned out to be his only concerto).  While this early work was influenced by Chopin, Scriabin went on to develop (independently of Schoenberg) an atonal musical system, and was one of the most innovative– and most controversial– of early modern composers.  The Great Soviet Encyclopedia said of Scriabin that “no composer has had more scorn heaped on him or greater love bestowed.”

Scriabin pf source

 

Written by LW

October 23, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Saint: A dead sinner revised and edited”*…

 

Johann Sebastian Bach

 

When eminent biologist and author Lewis Thomas was asked what message he would choose to send from Earth into outer space in the Voyager spacecraft, he answered, “I would send the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach.”  After a pause, he added, “But that would be boasting.”

You can hardly find a more sanctioned and orthodox insider than Johann Sebastian Bach, at least as he is typically presented. He is commemorated as the sober bewigged Lutheran who labored for church authorities and nobility, offering up hundreds of cantatas, fugues, orchestral works, and other compositions for the glory of God. Yet the real-life Bach was very different from this cardboard figure. In fact, he provides a striking case study in how prickly dissidents in the history of classical music get transformed into conformist establishment figures by posterity…

Fighting, drinking, organ loft liaisons… and then there’s the music– the subversive practice of a canonical composer: “J.S. Bach the Rebel.”

* Ambrose Bierce

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As we interrogate our idols, we might send harmonic birthday greetings to John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie; he was born (in Cheraw, S.C.) on this date in 1917.  A jazz pioneer– performer, bandleader, composer, and singer– he was a trumpet virtuoso and a style-setting improviser.  His combination of musicianship, showmanship, and wit made him (with Charlie Parker) a leading popularizer of (the emerging new music) bebop.  His beret and horn-rimmed spectacles, his scat singing, his bent horn, his pouched cheeks, and his light-hearted personality became emblematic of the form.

220px-Dizzy_Gillespie01 source

 

Written by LW

October 21, 2019 at 1:01 am

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