Saturday, September 19, 2020

Friday, September 18, 2020

Blind Willie Johnson (1897 to 1945)

Today is the 75th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest rural blues musicians the United States has ever given the world, Blind Willie Johnson

So little can be firmly documented about Johnson's life that even if there is officially a biography about Johnson reader consensus is that the biography adds little to nothing you can't find out in liner notes.  It "may" be better to run with Jas Obrecht's book Early Blues instead.  There is now agreement that he died September 18, 1945, although an earlier account placed Johnson's death in 1949, so there's an outside possibility that if the later date could be confirmed as correct this wouldn't be the 75th anniversary of Johnson's death, after all.  Still, to go by contemporary consensus, today is that day.

If you have never heard Blind Willie Johnson's music and have any interest at all in early blues then do yourself a favor and get his complete recordings, whether through Amazon or maybe preferably your local music shop.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Vox Switched on Pop series discusses Beethoven's 5th and gets pushback ... thoughts on canards about B's "breaking the rules" that he didn't exactly break and on the elevation of a more modern B whose gotten criticism for her Americanist pan-African symbolism that ignores contemporary Africa

Although in terms of sheer airplay and exposure Michael Jackson's Thriller is more prominent, at a cultural-symbolic level Beethoven's Fifth Symphony has had it said in its favor that "we didn't know we needed the Fifth until Beethoven wrote it".  That could, as far as assertions go, be said about Michael Jackson's Thriller.  By way of reports of abusive fathers the King of Pop and the crowned king of the symphony seem to have had some things in common, one of which can be the searing loyalty of their cultist-devotees.

Someone could argue Michael Jackson was "the greatest of all time" because he wrote songs, he could sing, and he could dance while Stevie Wonder could sing and write songs but wasn't a dancer; Marvin Gaye could sing and write songs but couldn't dance like Michael and before long I notice that there's a distinctly post-Wagnerian total-work-of-art argument that is explicit in the case for Jackson being superior to Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye.  That such a set of claims on behalf of Jackson reflect what are ultimately and paradoxically Wagnerian ideals of the total work of art transposed on to a single human life as mediated by the cumulative reception history of music journalism and scholarship is only paradoxical in the sense that Wagner's views on race are not those of twenty-first century Americans, by and large.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Alex Ross' book Wagnerism is out and I will, of course, read it ... if not perhaps at a speedy pace. :)

Fifty years after the initial publication of the first book in his trilogy, Francis Schaeffer's legacy of attempting to grapple with cultural change in the West arguably fell short of contending with the scope of what happened in the long nineteenth century for the simple reason that he never once dealt with the legacy of Richard Wagner and to not deal with the legacy of Richard Wagner is, perhaps even more than with Beethoven, to not really deal with the scale of Wagner's influence in Western European art and thought since his death.

So ... if you want to take a long but not-so-long-as-could-be trek through Wagner and his legacy Alex Ross' new book Wagnerism "might" be the book for you.

And a few reviews, because sometimes you can pick up things from reviews that help you decide whether you want to read the book to begin with.  I made that decision as soon as Ross mentioned he was writing the book but your experience may vary so ...

PNW on fire--an unprecedented number of fires in the region, rumors of arson circulating

There's a startling number of fires burning across the Pacific Northwest.  I have lived in this region my whole life and the sheer number of them is disturbing.  Air quality is at outright hazardous levels in Eugene, OR, for instance.  Air quality here in Seattle is bad, not officially hazardous but in the very unhealthy to breath it category.

Down in Oregon the fire marshal has resigned and is under investigation for entering an active fire zone without authorization from zone overseer, which is relatively late-breaking news for someone in the Seattle area.

Monday, September 14, 2020

a Canadian tale of loss of click-through rate due to algorithms at The Walrus

I have something like a tenth of the readership now that I had in the summer of 2014, which is fine.  I don't monetize this blog; don't plan to monetize the blog; and have explained why (more or less).

I know that in the past some folks have claimed that what bloggers do is post stuff that gets more clicks to get more attention but I have at various times taken the opposite approach.  There would be times where readership was high and related to Mars Hill stuff and I would decide to drop all of that kind of blogging to discuss the guitar music of Ferdinand Rebay (which I enjoy and plan to blog about again in the future) or about something like the tenth anniversary box set of The Powerpuff Girls (still a great show!).  I've also adopted a writing style that, I admit, deliberately punishes readers who want to jump straight to the pull-quote or the bottom-line.  I'll even admit that I formulated a writing style as a contrast to Driscoll's public speaking style, if he went Carlos Mencia then I'd go for written fusion of Jane Austen and Joan Didion (who are two of my favorite authors, as a matter of fact).

But because I've never monetized the blog I've never had to worry about "losing the job".  If it were a job I would have lost that job years ago.  I can't say how many people will even bother to read the blog posts I eventually want to write about the guitar sonatas of Angelo Gilardino ... but I'm not looking for audience size and click-through-rate as goals that inform what I write about.  I do agree with the above piece that algorithms that vanish content people could otherwise read has some problems.

Terry Mattingly writes (again) at GetReligion on how, in contrast to the axiom that white evangelical votes turned the election in `16 for Trump, Rust Belt Catholic voters turned out to have done that

In Seattle it has been axiomatic that white evangelicals tipped the scales in favor of Trump's electoral victory in 2016.  For various reasons it has since been popular to hold that one group as symbolically responsible for Trump's win and books have come out describing how and why evangelicalism but specifically white conservative evangelicalism (as distinct from black or Latino or Asian evangelicalism, which does exist, too) turned the election.

As time has gone by, however, more detailed study of the election patterns has revealed, as Terry Mattingly has written before, that research into the demographic spread of voting shows that Rust Belt working class Catholics shifted the election in favor of Trump in 2016.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

links for the weekend: Social Media use as Freudian death drive; David French on use and abuse of critical race theory; The Critic on nepotism in the arts; Joseph Horowitz plugs Alex Ross' Wagnerism

once again, some links for the weekend

Fredrik deBoer on "Here's a Thing That Used to Happen";a tangential riff from Ellul on how the right of the present (1970s) repurposes myths originated in the left

Since he has a custom of often self-destructing posts I sometimes consider posts that stick with me for posterity.  The whole process of preserving content posted to the internet for the sake of posterity was a habit I picked up on a ... very different author/speaker and set of topics a few years ago but, anyway ...

September 10, 2020

the fires in Oregon are bad, there are at present 34 uncontained fires burning across the state. update from Phoenix Preacher

I grew up in western Oregon and so it's very bad news to see fires raging down there where friends and family from my younger years still are.

As of this morning there are no indications any of the 34 fires across the state are to any degree contained.

Also down in Oregon is Michael Newnham, aka Phoenix Preacher.

He and his family are okay but a lot of homes and businesses have burned down to the ground and things are still terrible down there.

I have heard of evacuations and pending evacuations in my loop.