Monday, December 31, 2012
These are tonal nightmares. And the straining voices, forever breaking, are an embarrassment. NPR, always quick to play the stupid card, did a story in 2012 about how songs were using minor keys. They never get it at NPR. We're not getting the full, warm, full bodied notes because we don't have many people who can sing that way (and also meet the label's notion of what is 'hot'). So instead we get caterwauling and keening.
When I started covering music here in 2004, I was always convinced that rock would somehow save us. That, as rock in the 60s replaced pop, and as punk rock revived a dying genre in the 70s and as grunge did the same in the 90s, rock had to be just around the corner waiting to save us again.
Note to YMCAs, country clubs and public pools, don't hire Evan Dando as a lifeguard.
Watching the documentary Hit So Hard: The Life and Near-Death Story of Drummer Patty Schemel, I was reminded yet again of the power and glory of rock. And I wondered yet again why it has forsaken us? Maybe because rock can't rock when it's busy licking the boots of power? And Ani DiFranco certainly demonstrated how awful a whore to power can sound.
2012 did have some good moments. They were individual moments. They weren't allowed to build to anything for various reasons and they couldn't redeem the crappy year.
Topping the year's best was Let It Bee Roberta: Roberta Flack Sings The Beatles. Roberta's amazing vocals are still worth noting but getting far less attention (but still deserving of praise) was her skills arranging and producing. Stevie Wonder may have been the only other 70s artist to navigate the sound board as skillfully as Roberta. This album would have been a godsend any year. She finds her own way into these Beatles classics and gives them new life and meaning in a way that only true song masters (Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, etc.) can. My favorite track remains "I'm Looking Through You" but I wouldn't argue loudly with anyone who selected something else from this rich album.
Second place goes to Heart's Fanatic. When I feel like giving up on rock, along come the Wilson sisters who believe in its power even more firmly than I do. I still marvel over the layers and textures and "Marshalla" has become the song to beat on the album for me after many listens. At a certain point, many bands begin to sound like pale copies of themselves. To avoid that, they may do something like Rod Stewart and go off into another genre. Leave it to Ann and Nancy Wilson, the most underrated of rock stars, to demonstrate that rock is alive and kicking (and let me plug their book from 2012, Kicking and Dreaming).
Third place is Animal Collective's Centipede HZ which again demonstrates that the group is at its best when it's not following any patterns or trying to achieve standard success. If they can follow the rabbit fully down the hole for the next album, they may become the biggest band of the decade.
I never got to do a review for the album at fourth place, Neil Young's Psychedelic Pill. It came out at the very end of October. I listened and liked it but didn't feel the need to review it because (a) I'm naturally lazy and (b) I liked it, I didn't love it. Then I heard C.I. singing a great song and when she noticed I was staring and took out her ear buds, I asked what it was? "Driftin' Back." The opening cut from Neil's new album with Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse brings energy and life but sometimes it can be at the expense of what Neil's saying. I never really got, for example, "After The Gold Rush" until Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton did a cover of it. So that was right before Thanksgiving and I knew I had to give the album a fresh and closer listen. I did for two weeks and toyed with including it in the review of the awful Rolling Stones collection but thought maybe I'd find time to give it its own review. No such luck. But this is a great album and another classic from Neil.
Bonnie Raitt slips in at number five with Slipstream. This was a confident and welcome return from an artist who has a lot to say. I have a feeling it would be higher on many best-of-the-years lists (it would be higher on mine) had the press around the release not focused so much on what was left off the album and what was planned for the follow up. In other words, Bonnie served up a delicious album. But what's being promised is a lot more than delicious.
Number six is Teramaze's Anhedonia. A guy I was dating turned me on to this back in June. There;s not really a way to review the groove and power in words. This is an Australian band and I like to think of them as a jam band working in the heavy metal genre. If radio had any guts today, the title track would have been the soundtrack of 2012.
Number seven found Susanna Hoffs returning as a solo act and finally nailing it with Someday. This is the album her fans always hoped she'd make, assured and sparkling like the grass after a light rain. If you haven't heard the album yet, check out Susanna on NPR's World Cafe and see if that doesn't make you want to download.
Number eight is Alanis Morissette's Havoc and Bright Lights. As noted in my review:
The original queen of the f**ked up, the woman who wanted the world to know she would "go down on you in a theater" after -- after -- you dumped her for another woman, the woman who name-checked and, yes, thanked disillusonment, who offered "Versions of Violence" has returned. And as Alanis demonstrates on "Havoc," she's still more interested in what lies underneath than in the shiny surface.
I honestly think this is one that will be ranked even higher by me in another year. Repeat listens have only made me love it more. If it had come out earlier in the year, I'd probably have it higher but it's still growing on me.
Grafiti6, if only they could make an album that sounded like the way singer Jamie Scott looks.
At number nine chiefly for the track "Free" from their album Colours. Hopefully, the follow up will contain more of the sexual abandon and pain of "Free." The rest of the album had some strong tracks but only "Free" lived up to the image Jamie Scott's projecting in the photo above.
Number ten? Not Your Kind of People. Garbage. There's no denying Shirley Manson's talent. She's got range, she's got pitch, she's got power. Sadly, she's also got this band. Specifically Butch Vig. The awful producer who harmed and destroyed many a grunge rock band, put together Garbage and though Shirley is much more than the parts, it's hard to take the band too seriously as a result of Vig. Which is a real shame because Not Your Kind of People was the most cohesive statement the band's had yet and makes their classic "I'm Only Happy When It Rains" sound like "Walking On Sunshine" by comparison. Another album like this one and even I'll have to take the band a lot more seriously.
Click here for my 2004 music piece, here for 2005, 2006 in music, 2007 in music, here for 2008, here for my 2009 piece, my look at the decade, here for my 2010 piece. and here for my 2011 piece.
Other 2012 year in review pieces include Ruth's "Ruth's Radio Report 2012," "2012 in Books (Martha & Shirley)" and Ann's "2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)" and Stan's "2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)" which we reposted "2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)."
the common ills
That was national programming, that was local programming.
Dallas community members begged me to give Krys Boyd's Think (KERA) a listen. I did. I heard nothing to praise as a supposed 'discussion' on the two major party presidential campaigns took place with both guests, and the host, agreeing Mitt Romney was an awful person. A point Ava and C.I. would make later, taking on a different broadcast of the same show, was that this aired in an area where Mr. Romney would do very well in the vote (he carried Texas). So, to them, it was very surprising that supposed public radio, local, regional public radio, was not representing local voices.
And that really describes the problem with public radio today.
The audience is not recognized. The truth is not told.
Supposed public affairs programs will (and did) book a man who wrote an almanac of made up facts, but they will not cover the issues that matter. They will laugh and giggle and all try so hard to offer their own version of The Daily Show, but they will not do their job.
They will choose sides. They will reduce, in an hour long 'discussion,' issues to the most cartoonish and simplistic terms. They will not elevate the audience because they are too busy flattering the audiences built-in prejudices.
And this will all take place while we, the U.S. taxpayer, foot the bill.
Is it any wonder that the common theme of e-mails to me about radio this year can be boiled down as follows:
Look, Ruth, I want to stay informed. That is why I have tried to keep listening to NPR/Pacifica but I just cannot take this whoring/nonsense. Life is too short. I am switching over to a music station and will spend the rest of this year with tunes.
And who can blame them?
Or who can blame them for their growing fear of what the media will be like in a few short weeks when they get the visuals for the coronation they have been 'reporting' for months now?
We have a Drone War going on. We still have U.S. service members in Iraq. Even after 'withdrawal,' President Obama will be leaving U.S. service members in Afghanistan. The U.S. government continues to allow torture and practice extraordinary rendition -- most recently with Mahdi Hashi.
But instead of calling that out, we get programs with guests like the disgusting Glenn Greenwald attacking Kathryn Bigelow's new film Zero Dark Thirty. My grandchildren and I saw the film December 25th at the AMC Loews on Third Avenue in New York.
I loved the film. I was surprised by how much. But I was also surprised to learn that others did too. There were serious conversations about torture taking place as the film ended and people began leaving the theater. I see that some serious critics can also praise the film.
Ty Burr (Boston Globe) noted:
The most thrilling aspect of Kathryn Bigelow's black-ops procedural is how unmelodramatic it is -- how smartly it avoids hollow flag-waving and the sort of Hollywood suspense clichés that even get "Argo" in the end. The film doesn't just follow the decade-long narrative of how Osama bin Laden was located and killed, it tracks an evolution of intelligence-gathering, from punishing force to reason and instinct to the surgical application of military might. The torture scenes early on are meant to be controversial: We're in that room with the new CIA recruit played by Jessica Chastain, as horrified as she is and thrown back on our own response. "Zero Dark Thirty" is a drama of one woman's stubbornness, but, more than that, it calmly shows us bureaucracy, breakthroughs, cruelty, commitment, the reality of collateral damage, and a national desire for revenge slaked at last. And then it asks, well, how do you feel about that?
Susan King (Los Angeles Times) reported earlier this month that Ms. Bigelow's film "was named best film of 2012 by the African-American Film Critics Association." Dana Stevens (Slate) explained that "this is a vital, disturbing, and necessary film precisely because it wades straight into the swamp of our national trauma about the war on terror and our prosecution of it, and no one -- either on the screen or seated in front of it -- comes out clean."
Is that what the Greenwalds are rejecting when they attack this movie?
The opening torture scene? It is graphic and it is disgusting.
If Glenn Greenwald cannot grasp that it is not an endorsement of torture, that probably tells us the kind of porn Mr. Greenwald is into.
I have largely ignored the sexism involved in the attacks in this report because I believe Ava and C.I. addressed it fully in "Media: The allure of Bash The Bitch." I want to note one section of that article:
'Explaining' why he felt it was okay to attack Bigelow, Bret Easton Ellis wrote, "The Hurt Locker also felt like it was directed by a man. Its testosterone level was palpable, whereas in Sofia Coppola's work you're aware of a much softer presence behind the camera."
Does he not get how sexist and insane that sounds?
He is not the only one who does not get how sexist his words were. In the last week, I heard two different NPR programs cite that belief by Mr. Easton Ellis as if it were factual and non-sexist. The sexism behind the attacks cannot be ignored nor can it be ignored how casually NPR embraces sexism.
Should that surprise us? In the last years, Ann has teamed with Ava and C.I. to call out the gender imbalance when it comes to guests on NPR programs. With Talk of the Nation, they found "30% isn't 50% (Ann, Ava and C.I.);" with The Diane Rehm Show, they found "Diane Rehm's gender imbalance (Ann, Ava and C.I.)" to be only 34.48% of guests were women; and with Fresh Air, they found "Terry Gross' new low (Ann, Ava and C.I.)" was 18.54%. With these kind of figures for public radio which is mandated to strive for diversity, is it any wonder how casual the acceptance of sexism has become?
Back to Zero Dark Thirty, the film is attacked by three U.S. Senators as well. Three U.S. Senators who, Third has pointed out, make criticism about the information being inaccurate and the film embracing torture when, in fact, if information is a problem, that falls on the Senate which can release any information on these secretive operations, and, if torture is being embraced, that falls to the Senate which should have demanded the Justice Department prosecute torture and should have held open hearings about the U.S. government's use of torture.
If I were Senator Dianne Feinstein, for example, I would be thrilled that the focus was on a film and not on my own actions as Chair of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee for the last five years.
Equally true, the C.I.A. is denouncing the film. If that was supposed to make me avoid it, sorry, it only made me more interested in the film. But then I do not worship the C.I.A.
It really is amazing what people will allow themselves to get righteously indignant over. As the year wound down, we saw that they would get appalled by a film, World Can't Wait would even stage a protest, but the reality that the film conveyed, the actions of the U.S. government, they would not protest, they would not criticize.
It is so much easier, in this endless coronation, to attack a film and a director for putting on the big screen what the U.S. government has been doing for years and continues to do -- so much easier than attacking the criminals in charge. Yet again, we want to kill the messenger.
Ruth also covered radio in 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008, .
Other 2012 year in review pieces include "2012 in Books (Martha & Shirley)" and Ann's "2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)" and Stan's "2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)" which we reposted "2012 Best in Film (Ann and Stan)."
iraq radio zero dark thirty npr pacifica the boston globe ty burr the los angeles times susan king slate dana stevens
the common ills
Let's do the math. At least 20 are reported dead and at least fifty injured. AP tries to track the violence here, Reuters here, RT here and BBC here. All need to work a little harder. AFP counts 12 dead. Through Sunday, Iraq Body Count tabulates 236 deaths this month in Iraq from violence.
In other news Nouri and his thugs are attempting to crack down on the protests -- because that's what tyrants do. And notice that the US government doesn't say one damn word. As usual. He is there puppet. AFP explains that Nouri's Cabinet secretary has declared that the protests are illegitimate and illegal (while admitting they are Constitutional -- the thickness of State of Law's stupidity will never surprise). By State of Law's 'logic,' the Civil Rights Movement was illegal. You can't have protests without disruptions -- you can't even have a parade without disruptions. Shame on the White House for their continued silence and they better start looking at the Iraqi press because this silence is not going unnoticed.
I didn't plan to do an entry this morning. A friend with a wire service called and asked, "Did you see all the bombings?" So I asked Ruth to wait a minute before posting her year-in-review here so I could do a quick entry on the violence. (Thank you, Ruth.) She will post her report as soon as this goes up.
Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Princess and President" went up last night. In addition, "2012 in Books (Martha & Shirley)" went up yesterday. On this week's Law and Disorder Radio, an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed include torture and rape in Iraqi prisons, the Eurpoean Court of Human Rights labeling CIA interrogration procedures as torture, the one and only Tariq Ali joins the hosts for a discussion of a number of important issues and the one and only Jim Lafferty was among those speaking at the National Lawyers Guild's recent 75th anniversary celebration and some of his speech is played.
The e-mail address for this site is firstname.lastname@example.org.
alsumaria all iraq news al mada
law and disorder radio
michael s. smith
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts "Princess and President." Barack does a ta-dah! while David Gregory grins. Barack declares, "Notice my single tear. I turn it on when I need sympathy. I'm a big crybaby and a princess. Today I told Meet The Press the worst day of my presidency was the shooting at Newton that killed 26 people. I didn't say Benghazi when 4 Americans were killed even though, as president, I am responsible for those deaths. I didn't list the over 2000 people killed in my over 300 Drone Strikes in Pakistan or the 1543 US service members killed in Afghanistan since I became president and princess in 2009. I'm a big frilly princess! Did I mention my single tear?" Isaiah archives his comics at The World Today Just Nuts.
the world today just nuts
princess and president
meet the press
the common ills
Al Jazeera has a text and video report of today's protests here.
In October, allegations of torture and rape of women held in Iraqi prisons and detention centers began to make the rounds. In November, the allegations became a bit more. By December, Members of Parliament on certain security committees were speaking publicly about the abuses. This led to a fist fight in Parliament. Then Nouri's State of Law stormed out. Then Nouri declared that anyone talking about this topic was breaking the law. He continued on this tangent for weeks claiming this past week that he would strip MPs of their immunity. (The Constitution doesn't allow for that.) Also this past week, it was learned that at least four females were raped in a Baghdad prison.
Whether Nouri is doing this in an effort to respond to protesters or in an effort to bury the scandal (and the accompanying outrage) isn't known at this point.
Meanwhile, Ramadi's getting a lot of press attention. Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq went there today. Chen Zhi (Xinhua) reports that al-Mutlaq's office issued a statement claiming there was an assassination attempt on him while he was by the protesters and, following the assassination attempt, his bodyguards fired on the protesters. His office also claims that his bodyguards were injured. Citing witnesses and video, AP states that the bodygaurds fired on protesters who were making demands and throwing "rocks and bottles." AP notes that two protesters were injured by the gunshots. Reuters speaks with local witnesses and ends up with the same sequence of events AP has. Salma Abdelaziz, Yousuf Basil and Mohammed Lazim (CNN) report:
All Iraq News counts 1 protester dead and four injured. Samantha Stainburn (Global Post) observes, "It is not known if the injured protests were shot intentionally or accidentally." The statement al-Mutlaq's office issued can be seen as an attempt by the politician to cover what happened. Why he was stupid enough to go to a protest is beyond me. Yes, he is Sunni and, yes, he is in the Iraqiya slate. But Saleh al-Mutlaq is not popular. He and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi (also Sunni and Iraqiya) were both targeted by Nouri in December of 2011. While Tareq ended up having to leave the country and being convicted of 'terrorism,' Saleh sailed right through. In May, Nouri dropped his efforts to strip Saleh of his office.
By that point, there had been months of speculation in the Iraqi press that Saleh al-Mutlaq had cut a deal to save his own ass, that he was now in partnership with Nouri al-Maliki. This seemed to be even more true when Saleh was seen as undermining efforts to get a no-confidence vote against Nouri as spring was winding down.
Saleh al-Mutlaq is seen -- rightly or wrongly -- by Sunni Iraqis as someone who protects himself and does nothing for other Sunnis (whether they're politicians or average citizens).
He went to a Sunni area, Ramadi, where protests had long been taking place and was immediately greeted with a demand that he resign from the Cabinet. (That would not have taken him out of his MP status. He just would no longer be a Cabinet member.) He was appalled by the idea and rejected it outright.
Nouri's first term was notorious for one Cabinet walk out after another.
But Saleh wouldn't even entertain the idea?
You've got provincial councils going on strike but Saleh can't even do a walk out?
Of course they threw rocks and bottles at him. He was already seen as a sell-out. And people want to believe that's not the case but then he appears before them and acts like that? He destroys his own image.
He never should have gone and it's a sign of just how out of touch with Sunni public opinion he is that he did show up.
Alsumaria notes that today's violence included a Kirkuk roadside bombing which left two people injured and All Iraq News notes that unknown assailants in military uniform stormed the home of Baghdad gas station owner Mohammed Fadel and shot him dead and left his sister injured.
I'm traveling in some vehicle
I'm sitting in some cafe
A defector from the petty wars
That shell shock love away
-- "Hejira," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name
The number of US service members the Dept of Defense states died in the Iraq War is [PDF format warning] 4488.
New content at Third:
- Truest statement of the week
- A note to our readers
- Editorial: Nouri is a tyrant
- TV: The New Conformity
- 2012 Killer of the Year
- 2012 TV Person of the Year
- 2012 Movie of the Year
- 2012 Person of the Year
- Kennedy Trait of 2012: Racism
- 2012 Book of the Year
- 2012 Trend: Bad attempts at make overs
- Success in Iraq!
Isaiah's latest goes up after this. The e-mail address for this site is email@example.com.