Cerebral Decanting

Music Reviews every Wednesday .....

Art/Lit (& Politics) other days......

by Jason Gubbels

Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 123) Winter 2014 Bombs


Let’s usher in spring by sweeping out some of the most over-hyped/over-praised/over-baked releases of winter 2014.

Also, another reminder that “Listening Notes” is shifting over to its new home at Odyshape —    http://www.odyshape.com

Bruce Springsteen, High Hopes     (Columbia)

Nobody has more of a right to revisit their back pages than this perennially forward-looking workaholic. And perhaps no song in Springsteen’s mighty back catalog is more deserving of revisitation than the Live In New York City-consigned “American Skin (41 Shots),” recent events having magnified the song’s relevancy beyond municipal outrage to encompass the lonesome deaths of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. But even that song seems undone by the fussy studio sheen ladled over it, a fate befalling every other tune here, none of which are standouts. From the synth-choked wiseguys number and the cluttered Celtic jig to the Saints cover muddied with “Penny Lane” horn charts and a title track bloated by Audioslave pyrotechnics, this grab bag’s mushy center cannot hold. Yet there’s a unifying factor in place - showboating guitarist Tom Morello, or as Bruce likes to call him, “my muse”. Morello certainly goes for finger-flurrying broke on yet another version of “The Ghost of Tom Joad”. Still, somebody should remind Bruce’s ax-wielding afflatus that Steinbeck’s metaphors are generally ham-fisted enough to render window-dressing superfluous.

Hospitality, Trouble    (Merge)

Having loved the baroque-pop flourishes of single “Friends of Friends” without ever quite connecting with the sweet melancholy informing the entire song cycle, I’ll admit underrating this Brooklyn outfit’s 2012 debut, although not by much. Or maybe the art-prog archness of their scattershot follow-up simply helped throw the debut’s harmless twee into sharp relief. Hospitality have indeed discovered guitars, as see the rather catchy “I Miss Your Bones,” complete with spiky solos that at least one wishful thinker has compared to Marquee Moon. They’ve also discovered vintage synthesizers, which helps explain the daft twaddle of the nearly seven-minute “Last Words”. Frolicking amidst cascading mellotron and crescendoing moog, savoring every thudding silence or downshifting tempo, Amber Papini and co. will clearly give anything a shot. What is it that bands have too much of these days? Right - ambition.

Rick Ross, Mastermind     (Maybach / Slip-n-Slide / Def Jam)

Of course this is ponderous cheese - it’s Rick Ross, self-inflated pomposity is what he’s pushing. Amid grandiose production and soaring strings he doth bellow and hector, so committed to pursuing his South Florida crime narrative that listeners get treated to both gunshots and a Scarface shout-out within the opening seconds. No regrets, no second thoughts, no insights, really. Not even many jokes, unless you snicker when the mastermind compares scarfing sushi at Nobu to Afghan soldiers wired with explosives. Just the self-pitying soliloquies of a fictional drug lord, complete with audio verite clips proudly documenting that one time he got shot at. Fucks the game raw, he wants you to know: “Pussy boy, we all could die tonight”. 

Sun Kil Moon, Benji     (Caldo Verde)

Back in his Red House Painters prime, Mark Kozelek applied thick dollops of distortion to flesh out his skeletal compositions, and the results were generally engaging in a rainy afternoon kind of way. Lately, he’s mostly just skeletal, pursuing formless musings in sluggish all-acoustic formats. As befits an artist nearing 50, Kozelek’s thinking a little bit about death, which means sweet if hardly distinguished tributes to his parents. But his conception of mortality seems commingled with morbidity, as it so often does in the minds of men younger and more callow than Kozelek.  Which means James Oliver Huberty, Adam Lanza, and Richard Ramirez The Night Stalker all make grisly appearances, while the album opens with a low-energy narrator drawling out a family tragedy’s gory details: “Carissa burned to death last night / in a [pause] freak accident fire / in her yard and Brewster her daughter came home from a party and found her / same way as my uncle / who was her grandfather”. Sure got a way with words, don’t he? And we haven’t yet considered the ten-minute “I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same”.

Linda Perhacs, The Soul Of All Natural Things     (Asthmatic Kitty)

I know the guy from Opeth has raved over Parallelograms, this dental hygienist’s 1970 freak-folk obscurity. That doesn’t mean the private press crowd is onto something. Yet those adherents marvel over the way Linda Perhacs’s cosmic wonderings haven’t aged a day after forty-odd years out of the studio, as if New Age blather has never ripened into a stinky cheese before. I sorta prefer 2014’s string-choked merely corny Linda (“True as the light of a new day / I want to be freely with you”) to 1970’s folkie-guitar animal magnetism Linda (“Dolphin / take me with you”). Gotta say, though, she’s definitely lost her knack for snappy song titles. If Parallelograms boasted “Chimacum Rain,” “Hey Who Really Cares,” and “Porcelain Baked-Over Cast-Iron Wedding,” things are sounding a lot more teleological these days. “River Of God”. “When Things Are True Again”. And, uh oh, “Song Of The Planets”.

Cole Swindell, Cole Swindell     (Warner Bros)

Anybody wearied by Eric Church’s chest-thumping mythos or turned off by Eric Paslay’s business degree should attend to this objet d’art as a graphic reminder of what it’s like to really sink your teeth into a Nashville shit cake. A living breathing bro-country cut-out evincing zero personality, there’s no Florida Georgia Line table scrap Swindell won’t slurp up. Does he cruise some back roads? Does he kick it with a couple of down home boys? Does his girlie dance in his truck bed under the Tennessee moonlight? Does he pop the cork and tap the keg? Does he rhyme “tonight” with “damn right”?

The Hold Steady, “Teeth Dreams”

Craig Finn’s the kind of rock and roller who references W.B. Yeats and John Berryman because he’s dog-eared their paperbacks, not just because he likes the way the syllables roll off his tongue. So when Finn named an entire Hold Steady album after Jack Kerouac’s On the Road soliloquy about boys and girls in America having such sad times together, you could tell he held the line in high esteem, enough to pit it against the foreboding presence of Berryman the Confessional Poet, who takes the plunge off Minneapolis’s Washington Avenue Bridge midway through “Stuck Between Stations.” Finn’s a smart reader: he knows Kerouac’s literary reputation wilts before that of Berryman’s. Yet Kerouac got the pull-quote while Berryman merely symbolized artistic exhaustion in the face of “colossal expectations.” Finn’s always preferred tales of pensive youth to snapshots of depressive adulthood.


From my SPIN review of the new Hold Steady album Teeth Dreams. You can read the rest of the review at SPIN’s site, here:


Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 122) + News


Very excited to announce that my weekly tumblr / music column [“Listening Notes”] has a new home on the website ODYSHAPE (yep, that’s a Raincoats reference), where it will share space with other weekly columns from several other talented writers. The site is a lovely thing, all my past columns are easily searchable, and you can leave comments. Please take a look, not just at my latest notes (uh, dance music of the Chicago/Baltimore/Detroit circuit) but at the other good stuff going on over at ODYSHAPE.



Hardcore Traxx: Dance Mania Records 1986-1997 (Strut)

Anybody bewildered by electronica’s micro-genre tendencies should take a simple maxim to heart: follow the disco beat. Because when we’re talking stateside dance music of the African-American variety, that’s what lurks behind all those 909s and 303s, the 4/4 kicks and the 2/4 claps and the 8/4 hi-hats. And we all love disco, don’t we? The good folks at Soul Jazz have expertly (not cheaply) traced the first line of Chicago’s acid house scene as it emerged from discotheque ghettos, and now Strut adds to the discussion via this two-disc overview of Ray Barrey’s scrappy house label Dance Mania. If you want to ease in, the most obviously disco-indebted cuts are Victor Romeo’s full-on diva club mix “Love Will Find A Way” or the too-fast-for-soft-porn soft-porn haze of Vincent Floyd’s “I Dream You”. Then take your pick from Chicago house’s many strains: the funky (a killer organ hook cementing “Ride The Ride Rhythm”), the noisy (DJ Funk’s brutal street mix of “The Original Video Clash”), the weird (Strong Soul’s disjointed “Twinkles,” glitchy as Autechre), and the it’s-1986-and-we’re-gonna-sample-James-Brown (Duane And Co channeling Eric B on “J.B. Traxx”). Perhaps the notes overstate Dance Mania’s raunchiness - most tracks here are in fact instrumental. Yet there’s plenty of evidence supporting Barrey’s contention that singles were progressively sleazed up to get the men onto the dance floor alongside their ladies, which helps contextualize “Feel My M.F. Bass,” “Hit It From The Back,” and most especially Jammin’ Gerald’s “Black Women,” a comedy record of epic proportions. I prefer Parrish Mitchell and Wax Master’s 1995 disco/hip-hop crowd-worker “Ghetto Shout Out!!,” which shuffles along a clipped “Billie Jean” bassline while the DJ jacks thusly: “Cabrini-Green in this muthafucka / [Hell yeah!] / Jane Addams in this muthafucka / [Hell yeah!]”.

Blaqstarr, The Blaq-Files 2002-06 (Jeffree’s / Mad Decent)

This isn’t the Blaqstarr who brought the global squelch to M.I.A.’s Kala, nor is it the Blaqstarr who tripped psychedelic on his own underrated Divine EP. This is four cuts from a local guy still employing the DJ prefix, back when he was just another Baltimore drill-blast king dropping one-note club bangers into a fiercely competitive and insular dance scene. Who knows why these decade-old tracks are being newly remastered and released - the man himself mentions a kick-off for the new stuff he’s been promising for years, while electronica adepts note these joints have been circulating as crummy mp3s for nearly as long. Whatever the story, this is winningly obnoxious noise: single-minded, harsh, insistent, sometimes even hooky. And admirably committed to making sure his targets follow proper dance steps, which lends the entire enterprise an old school charm. “Slide To The Left” morphs three years later into “Lemme hump U/ from the right,” and then it’s “Hands Up Thumbs Down”. Don’t worry, the instructions will be repeated. And repeated.


Moodymann, Moodymann (Mahogani)

Meandering far too much for those uncommitted to parsing second-wave black Detroit dance culture, Kenny Dixon’s sprawling self-indulgence nevertheless betrays a method. Every obscure soul snippet or Richard Pryor punchline wedged between Moodymann’s grooves helps suggest the free-form jumble of Motor City pirate radio, hence a chopped-and-screwed Lana Del Rey vocal tag (“Born 2 Die”) alongside Ray Charles (dancefloor pulser “No”) and Muddy Waters (a percolating “Sunday Hotel”). If such contact points don’t suggest the level of anti-purism on display here, consider the red solo cup / rollerskate antics of the blaxploitation cover art and Dixon’s predilection for offhand vocals, most of them his own. Rasping along like Gil-Scott Heron, he’s salacious if rarely insightful on matters not pertaining to his beloved home town, which you’d best believe he cares about. Whether hovering atop delicious synth-bass on “Freeki Muthafucka” or running a dirt-funk throwaway hook into the ground on “I Got Werk,” this is junk of the gloryhallastoopid variety. And while the 11-minute dissection of “Cosmic Slop” is neither sloppy nor cosmic enough, that metalloid Clintonian riff retains its primacy.

La Fheile Padraig: John Millington Synge Rides To The Sea


The Aran Islands form a small group of three, Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer, set far out in the Atlantic between the coasts of Galway and Clare. The land is poor and stony; small fields intersected by stone walls which retain this shallow soil, itself formed in part from rotten seaweed. 

There is not timber or turf for fuel, or grass for the horses in the winter months. Prolonged storms meant that the islands were inaccessible for long periods of time, and, for lack of the fishing, might bring families near to starvation. 

The islands shelve upwards from east to west, rising to high cliffs on the open Atlantic; there are many monuments, among them the massive Bronze Age forts of Dún Aonghasa, ruins of castles and oratories, relics of early Christian settlements. 


In 1897, when Yeats advised John Millington Synge to go there, the communities of the islands were probably among the most primitive in western Europe. Synge’s temperament, his ‘negative capability,’ and his study of Gaelic made him the friend of the people. It is not too much to suggest that he found himself and his genius among them.

It is thus that Yeats speaks of him in the elegy ‘In Memory Of Major Robert Gregory’:

… And never could have rested in the tomb

But that, long travelling, he had come

Towards nightfall upon certain set apart

In a most desolate stony place,

Towards nightfall among a race

Passionate and simple like his heart.

- which we may set against this passage:

"They live in a world of grey, where there are wild rains and mists every week in the year, and their warm chimney corners, filled with children and young girls, grow into the consciousness of each family in a way it is not easy to understand in more civilized places."


"As they talked to me and gave me a little poteen and a little bread when they thought I was hungry, I could not help feeling that I was talking with men who were under a judgment of death. I knew that every one of them would be drowned in the sea in a few years and battered naked on the rocks, or would die in his own cottage and be buried with another fearful scene in the graveyard I had come from."

Since the sea takes them, the islanders do not learn to swim, for that would only prolong suffering. And there are strange stories connected with the ritual of drowning; of a man’s hands being smashed with a stretcher as he clings to the gunwale, for you must not take back what the sea has claimed; how, if your cap blows off, you must not look at it, but ask another whether it is floating crown or brim uppermost, and if the brown is on top, you must leave it, for the sea may think that you are beneath it, and take it as a simulacrum of you.

All are aware of an immanence of the supernatural, of omens, far older than Christianity:

"Before he went out on the sea that day his dog came up and sat beside him on the rocks, and began crying. When the horses were coming down to the slip an old woman saw her son, that was drowned a while ago, riding on one of them. She didn’t say what she was after seeing, and this man caught the horse, he caught his own horse first, and then he caught this one, and after that he went out and was drowned."


Riders To The Sea is unique in dramatic history, for it is the only one-act play that can be described as a tragedy in the fullest sense. At first sight the plot would seem to be too simple, the characterization too faintly sketched, to enable the playwright to build up and communicate the typical momentum, the high seriousness, proper to the form. 

Some critics have found, indeed, that it is too fatalistic to be tragic, that it affords no scope for conflict. From the outset the protagonists seem to be enclosed in an inflexible circle of destiny, in which the prayers and consolations of Christianity are powerless; the resolution of the play rests upon a resignation that is more stoic than Christian, a sense of relief that further loss is possible, when humanity confronts the ultimates of death:

"No man at all can be living for ever, and we must be satisfied".


What, then, can make the play great tragedy?

It has something of the simplicity in depth of much Greek drama, and of the Scottish ballads, where the conditions of the essential conflict are known and accepted as an aspect of the human situation; so that we can dispense with detailed exposition of plot or character. The conflict is between the sea and humanity, singly and collectively. 

And we may quote from Yeats’ essay “The Emotion of Multitude”:

"Indeed all the great Masters have understood, that there cannot be great art without the little limited life of the fable, which is always the better the simpler it is, and the rich, far-wandering, many-imaged life of the half-seen world beyond it. There are some who understand that the simple unmysterious things living as in a clear moonlight are of the nature of the sun, and that vague many-imaged things have in them the strength of the moon."

—T.R. Henn, from “John Millington Synge: The Complete Plays,” Methuen Drama World Classics, 1963. Synge’s one-act play “Riders To The Sea” was first performed February 25, 1904 in Dublin by the Irish National Theater Society.



Autumn Sonatas: Ingmar Bergman And Musical Inspiration


Questioned about his relationship to music in an interview from 1982, Bergman asserts, “Music has always been […] one of the most important sources of inspiration for me, perhaps even the most important.” Even if no musical references appear in Winter Light, the film’s origin is nonetheless musical. According to Bergman, the film began with his discovery of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, which he heard on the radio, giving him the idea to shoot a film in an isolated church in the Swedish countryside.

Music not only gave birth to Winter Light, but also to The Silence, which Bergman claims was born out of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. “My original idea was to make a film that followed musical rules, instead of dramaturgical ones, a film that functioned through association – rhythmically, with themes and counter-themes. As I was putting it together, I thought much more in musical terms than I had done before. All that remains from Bartók is the very beginning. The film follows Bartók’s music rather closely, with the dull continuous tone, then the sudden explosion.” The film begins in the muggy atmosphere of a train, where the passengers fall into torpor. The rhythm is slow and heavy. Then comes the “explosion” – a restless city, with its cacophony of car horns and people shouting. Hour of the Wolf, according to the filmmaker, is based on The Art of Fugue. As in Bach’s work, with its open ending, Bergman’s film stops in the middle of a sentence and remains unfinished (we’ll never know what happens to Johan).


How does music inspire Bergman? “I don’t know exactly, but sometimes a piece of music creates an emotional link, a situation. […] Music frees up something that wants to be expressed and told.” An emotional discharge sets the imaginary into motion. Käbi Laretei tells, for example, how Chopin’s Mazurka in A Minor gave birth to the final scene in Cries and Whispers (where the Mazurka is featured). The title of the film can be linked to an expression used by the critic Yngve Flyckt, when speaking of the final movement in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 14 in E-Major.

'If I had been given that gift and hadn't become what I am, I would most probably have become a conductor,' writes Bergman in The Fifth Act. Indeed, the filmmaker considers his work similar to that of a musical conductor, and he continuously resorts to musical metaphors. First and foremost, he enjoys comparing scripts to music scores. In the preface to Persona, he states, “I didn’t write a film script in the usual sense of the word. What I wrote seems to me to be more like a music score that I will conduct during the filming.”


“You write down a melodic line and after that you work out the instrumentation with the orchestra.” The actors are compared to valuable instruments. “You know, just as I have hugely enjoyed working with these actors, so does a violinist enjoy playing a Stradivarius.” The beat, dynamics, articulation and expression, rhythm and musicality – these words are frequently used during rehearsals.

When asked about Bergman during the shooting of The Touch, Max von Sydow replies, “He gives you a rhythmic sketch of your role – the pauses, the increasing speed of the action, the point where the explosion comes, or where it should have come when it doesn’t. You think of musical similes.” Also, “I have witnessed him as a man who intrinsically feels the rhythm of the text, and very early on communicates this to the actors.” Once again, music is used as a model. “It is such a precise art, everything is in the score. We must try to work with as much precision, with silences and accentuations.”
Therefore, Bergman claims to be very attentive to the precision of the voices and intonation used on the set. “Hearing is the most important sense of all. When studying a scene, I often close my eyes and listen. If it sounds right, it looks right.” He further extrapolates, “Your hearing is always more sensitive and in tune with your feelings than your sight.” This method caused confusion on the set of Autumn Sonata, with Ingrid Bergman blaming the filmmaker for not looking at her during the filming.


Bergman confesses, “Cinema has much to learn from the pulse of music and its rhythmic dimension. Everything is rhythm, more so in film than in anything else. As a creator of films, I have learned an enormous amount from my devotion to music.”

—- Charlotte Renaud, from “An unrequited love of music,” IngmarBergman.se, 2008


Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 121)


Laura Cantrell, No Way There From Here     (Thrift Shop)

From her pleasant solo albums to her expert Kitty Wells tribute, nothing in this Nashville-born, Queens-based performer’s corpus suggested she had the resources for a country/folk-pop collection this remarkable. Yet there’s nary a duff track in sight. “Country/folk-pop” may seem a mouthful, but that’s what it is, crisply acoustic and hook-laden, replete with variety yet never once ostentatious (a tricky feat when one considers a jangly opener mixing clarinet with a guitar riff reminiscent of “Wish You Were Here”). Another quality lacking in ostentation: Cantrell’s vocals, so unadorned they risk merely pretty, yet capable of a simplicity and grace that can bring to mind none other than Dolly Parton (“Driving Down Your Street” is a sweet stalker anthem Dolly and Porter might once have traded verses on). And while her co-writes get bolstered by the not-inconsiderable likes of Franklin Bruno and Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell, the dominant narrative voice is all her own - understated tales of smart women maintaining dignity in the face of disappointment. They drink black coffee, they write perfect songs, they send out unanswered letters and bemoan crummy set lists. In Cantrell’s able hands, even crying in front of the washing machine assumes a nobility. But she’s nobody’s victim, as made clear when she takes a stance against the casual calumny faced by her fellow sisters-in-heartbreak. “All the girls are complicated,” she avers. “They’re just working out who they are”.

Drive-By Truckers, English Oceans     (ATO)

This isn’t the arrival of Mike Cooley - he’s been an able-bodied contributor for well over a decade (just try and imagine Brighter Than Creation’s Dark without him). Yet there’s still something unprecedented about his casual domination here, trading credits and vocal turns with Patterson Hood at a speed more appropriate to Mould/Hart, his observational details so pinpoint perfect (girls as plain as primer coats, the speed of a stream of tar) you hope songwriting rivalry won’t soon send him the way of Jason Isbell and Shonna Tucker. Musically, this is ragged-but-right, sloppy enough to justify those reckless Exile On Main Street comparisons (“Shit Shots Count” practically blushes at its brazenness), yet career-peak lovely on “First Air Of Autumn” or “Hanging On”. As always, their concerns remain rooted in working class southern gothic, “the moral lessons of a charmed life,” except for the many lives that aren’t charmed at all. Which means you’ll hear of cross-shaped swimming pools and doomed couch-ridden women drinking Tab by the liter. But both Hood and Cooley know uncharmed lives have root causes, and as proud relics of the once-Solid South, they put politics front and center. Not just the easy stuff, like bosses who aren’t nearly as smart as they’d like to be, but the roots of disenchantment and the cultural devastation wrought by divide/conquer. That’s why the title number outlines Lee Atwater’s calculated power grab, and why “The Part Of Him” follows with a present-day Atwater disciple whose own Nixonian tendencies prove his downfall.  “Wingnut raised and corn fed / Teabags dragging on the chamber floor” - that’s Hood at his least generous. But as they say, shit shots count if the table’s tilted. 


Hamell On Trial, The Happiest Man In The World    (New West)

Like his idol Bill Hicks, one-man-band Ed Hamell can be a bit of a crank, and like too many men in general, his fascination with prostitution and strippers risks paternalistic sentimentality. Yet he loves whores for the same reason he despises lawyers, and harbors few illusions as to why individuals settle for demeaning jobs: that clerk who moonlights as a pole dancer has a special needs child. The homeless, charitable organizations, health care, unemployment, mastectomies, dementia - all get touched upon within these ragged tales of blue-collar blues. But Hamell’s sick jokes, dreadful puns, and sheer goodwill help ensure the triumph of spiritual uplift. And those wary of one-man-band limitations will be cheered by the full-band fiddle/drums/piano/etc backing that roughly grace the majority of these thirteen tracks. He’s disappointed in his fellow man, sure: “Ain’t it a stone-cold bitch what the country’s going through”. But a little fellowship helps, as when he pledges his retirement community heart to Kimya Dawson on the woozy folk-rap of “Together”: “I’m gonna love you ‘till your bones are weak / I’m gonna love you ‘till the veins show through your cheek”.

They Help And They Don’t: Dana Spiotta Writes Of Food Stamps

[taken from Dana Spiotta’s 2001 novel “Stone Arabia”. Narrator is leading character Denise Kranis] 

1.  "Food stamps, don’t kid yourself, they help and they don’t.

When I was pregnant with Ada, they asked me if I wanted WIC coupons. (I don’t remember what WIC stood for. Women in Calamity? Wombs in Crisis? Whiners in Christ?) They told me my income qualified me for WIC pre- and postnatal care and WIC essential food items. I used them for a long time.

I got cheese and juice, and later, after she was born and I discovered that my postpartum migraine meds made it a problem to breastfeed, I used WIC for the very expensive formula Ada required. I needed the help.

2.  But the coupons were a pain. Each month you had to pick them up in person. You could only go to the supermarkets that accepted them. You could only buy certain things with them. And everyone in line saw you use them. And you knew whatever else you bought (God forbid you bought cigarettes or beer or even a candy bar), even though you paid your own money for it, would be scrutinized by everyone in line.

It didn’t have to go like that — but it did, and the message was clear to me. I used to drive all the way over to the west side so I could use the Albertson’s there. I dreaded running into people I knew.

First I had to get someone to open the locked case where the formula was kept. (I never asked why baby formula had to be kept in a locked case. I din’t want to know.) Then I felt helpless as I watched the checkout girl sigh when I showed her the coupons — using them was a complicated transaction involving signatures and product codes and manager approvals. 

More than once I would drive out of my way, find the smallest line, go last, and then discreetly hand over the coupon to have the checkout girl call over the intercom loudspeaker for the manager and then wait, holding up the line as the girl held my coupons aloft.

3.  Later, when I got health insurance through another state program, one that issued a regular insurance card that didn’t identify how it was funded, I remember how the nurse at my doctor’s office asked me, “WIC, right?” I said no, and I handed her my new insurance card, and she said, “Good for you!” with a big smile. I smiled back, because what else was I supposed to do?

So the food stamps may not have been the whole story, but they certainly made up some significant chunk of the story.”

— Dana Spiotta, from “Stone Arabia: A Novel,” Scribner, 2011

No Such Thing As A Free Lunch: Paul Ryan Aims For The Stomach


“Look, Maurice, I don’t want you out there hungry on the nights I don’t see you, so this is what we can do. I can either give you some money for the week–and you’ll have to be really careful about how you spend it–or when you come over on Monday night we can go to the supermarket and I can buy all the things you like to eat and make you lunch for the week. I’ll leave it wih the doormen, and you can pick it up on the way to school.”

Maurice looked at me and asked me a question.

“If you make me lunch,” he said, “will you put it in a brown paper bag?”

I didn’t really understand the question. “Do you want it in a brown paper bag?” I asked. “Or how would you prefer it?”

“Miss Laura,” he said, “I don’t want your money. I want my lunch in a brown paper bag.”

“Okay, sure. But why do you want it in a bag?”

“Because when I see kids come to school with their lunch in a paper bag, that means someone cares about them. Miss Laura, can I please have my lunch in a paper bag?”

—- from Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski’s An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny, Howard Books, August 2012.


"My thought has always been around the SNAP program even when it was called “food stamps” is, why do you have this program, school program, school breakfast, school lunch, school dinner, when do we start asking parents to be responsible for their children?

You know, a little boy told me once that what was important to him is that he didn’t want school lunch, he wanted a brown bag because the brown bag that he brought with his lunch in it meant that his mom cared about him. Just think what we have done. If this kid tells me a brown bag was more important than a free lunch, we’ve missed the whole notion of parents being there for their children because we’ve taken over that responsibility, and I think we need to be very careful about how we provide programs to families that don’t undermine families’ responsibilities.”

—- Eloise Anderson, Secretary of the Wisconsin Dept. of Children and Families, taken from a congressional hearing, July 31 2013


“The left is making a big mistake here. What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. The American people want more than that.  

This reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my buddy, Governor Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a very poor family, and every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.

This is what the left does not understand.”

—- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), from a speech given to the Conservative Political Action Conference, March 6, 2014


"It’s important to note that there is no discussion in the book about the school lunch program, and we could find no interview with Mazyck in which he said that. He simply repeats the story as told in the book, without any larger political context about federal programs to help hungry children. Moreover, this incident happened more than 25 years ago; Mazyck is no longer a boy but in his late 30s.

Kevin Seifert, a spokesman for Ryan, said: “It’s unfortunate to learn that while testifying before the House Budget Committee, Secretary Anderson misspoke, but we appreciate her taking the time to share her insights.” After our inquiry, Ryan posted a notice on Facebook saying, “I regret failing to verify the original source of the story.”

Here at The Fact Checker, we often deal with situations in which people misspeak. But this is a different order of magnitude. Anderson, in congressional testimony, represented that she spoke to this child—and then ripped the tale out of its original context. 

But what about Ryan? Should he get a pass because he heard this from a witness before Congress? It really depends on the circumstances. In this case, he referenced the story in a major speech. The burden always falls on the speaker and we believe politicians need to check the facts in any prepared remarks.

In this case, apparently, the story was too good to check. We appreciate he is regretful now. But a simple inquiry would have determined that the person telling the story actually is an advocate for the federal programs that Ryan now claims leaves people with “a full stomach and an empty soul.” 

— Glenn Kessler, “A story too good to check: Paul Ryan and the story of the brown paper bag,” from The Fact Checker column, The Washington Post, March 6 2014




Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 120)



Max Johnson Trio, The Invisible Trio     (Fresh Sounds Records)

Trumpet/bass/drum trios are a hard sell for the unconverted, since received wisdom suggests brass delivers mere flurries while reeds can tear roofs off the sucker. But the aim here isn’t to tear off any roofs. Among other things, including a greater adherence to composition than was obvious on Johnson’s 2012 Elevated Vegetation, there seems to be an interest in accessing the chilly unconventionality of Ornette Coleman’s Golden Circle trio, a comparison heightened by Johnson’s resplendent bass tones, at times suggestive of Ornette compatriots David Izenzon and Charlie Haden. The Haden connection goes deeper, though, especially given the leader’s catholic tastes: a player in both the NYC avant-garde and uptown bluegrass scene, he claims stints with talents as disparate as Henry Grimes and the Butthole Surfers. Don’t let such contacts scare you off, though - cornetist Kirk Knuffke and drummer Ziv Ravitz swing hard when they need to (check out the percolating “Bizza”). While Johnson notes vamps aren’t the point this time out, I hear enough of a steady pulse at the heart of his solo excursion within “Bizza” to think he vamps plenty, and love the way he takes a long walk over Ravitz’s slowly burning propulsion on freebop standout “Moving Vehicle”. The final moments get a little avant. But if you like the idea of an exploratory melody-loving acoustic trio that names one of its hardest swingers “Don Wrinkles,” this is the trumpet/bass/drums project for you.

Billy Hart Quartet, One Is The Other     (ECM)

There’s something deeply moving about Billy Hart’s long journey towards leadership, the way decades of sidework and stints in academia finally gave way to the master drummer’s name splashed across the marquee. Not that the DC native has been laboring away in obscurity - you think Herbie Hancock’s Sextet and On The Corner were low profile gigs? Still, as this democratic and deeply communicative quartet enters its second decade, it’s clear Hart has found the perfect ensemble with which to explore the elliptic possibilities of pulse, mood, color, and tone. Mark Turner’s glorious high range and dry martini cool melds effortlessly with Ethan Iverson’s dense phrasing and blues abstractions, especially on the series of numbers paying explicit tribute to a wide panoply of fellow musicians, jazz and otherwise: Lennie Tristano (Turner’s increasingly-legendary workout “Lennie Groove”), Stevie Wonder (a swinging “Sonnet For Stevie”), Charlie Parker (funky vamp “Yard”). The homages are undeniably abstract, although note how Iverson opens the Tristano cut with his own descent into the maelstrom before making way for Turner the Warne Marsh disciple. And the attention to production detail pays off: Hart’s skittering cymbals on “Tuele’s Redemption” and expert brushwork on “Maraschino” could win over any ECM agnostic. As this famously Eurocentric label makes more room for North American talent with each quarter, their roster grows equally idiosyncratic. Long live the cool.   

Matt Bauder And Day In Pictures, Nightshades     (Clean Feed)

Bauder’s a youngish tenor sax player from Chicago who can play way out or well within the tradition, and that versatility has paid off - dude studied with Braxton and sits in with His Name Is Alive. This here is mostly in-the-pocket stuff, his quintet Day In Pictures reconvened with Nate Wooley returning on trumpet and Kris Davis added as pianist. Both paint just outside the lines a bit more than the boss, especially an always-intriguing Davis who veers off nicely at times into atonality. But even with Wooley spitting out his solos and Davis rumbling away on hers, the vibe remains edgy Blue Note circa 1966 in all its various manifestations: Joe Henderson groove (“Octavia Minor”), Tony Williams boogaloo (“Rule Of Thirds”), New Thing dirge (“August And Counting”). The dirge impacts the flow. But stick around for the lengthy closer, a jaunty quasi-New Orleans second line strut in which Bauder leaps into full-on Black Arthur mode around the 4:40 mark. 

Despite All My Flange: Oneohtrix Point Never Reviews Siddhartha


i will now do live play by play of billy corgan’s live ambient thing

some bossy lady laying down the groundrules

funny joke about airplane mode

corgan declares - HAVE FUN

corgan looks concerned but also confident

oh shit just got all F.S.O.L

im gonna be doing this for 8-9 hours so feel free to unfollow me

corgan patching shit

sux because i had plans to watch Nashville tonight

i never really understood the story of siddartha. anyone care to expound? in 100 char or less

not the holy sacrificial songs, not the silvery wall of synths, the origin of PUMKIN SMASH!

im now just google image searching Gish

looking fwd to the Racks Of Authenticity box set of this. with forward by ME

not sure this is ambient

interesting melodic convention. I call it the Corgan Question Mark

the question all synth maniacs ask at some point during a jam… “where do i go from here?”

clear it out baby clear it out

when u take the delay down, its like when u see athletes rinse gatorade and spit it out on their trainer’s face or chest

reel it in corgie

chillass corgan groove

kanye just texted me

corgan on that pentatonic

damn i just opened garageband by accident

looking up ‘putrefaction’ on http:// dictionary.com. thought i knew what it meant but was a little off

Corgan Space 9

beats by Corg


chill Neu groove

RUINED by the Siddartha stuff. coulda been NEU, Corgan

u know corgan is rocking a Neu tee under the cardigan

wtf is that synth on the right?! cant get a read. robocop readout blurry

its not a minicorg


woah FLANGE ?

siddartha on the flange bus

bus that flanger over to that neu groove bro

woman with headband asking questions of corgan

she demands answers


i thought ambient was supposed to be chill

siddartha getting processed the fuck OUT! 50/50 mix

damn dude in red shirt blocking the cam

here’s the thing guys

its not cool to do anything under the guise of “ART” for more than the status quo allotment of time necessary to convey point

its a shitty fad.


corgan is an unreal synth jammer so im in. im fucking IN

corgan taking a edgar winter style solo

patch it back into the fucking patch

corgan has hit an impasse

tune in immediately

corgan just texted, he’s down

"quietly dangling hand" its as if Hesse knew Corgan would one day patch that OSC!


corgan really showing some versatility here

im psyched on this tinyass groove

an older person couldnt do this hardcore art shit without a bedpan. think on that

corgan just dosed

one thing i learned in art school…. DONT LOOK AT THE CLOCK

the synth cops are coming corgie



what was that board room meeting like, when they had to decide which audiobook to jam to

harold budd just texted me “i love it’

corgan playing w/ THE SPEED OF SHIT


we’re experiencing some turb. buckle up for a bit

just realized that Graham Lambkin is totally getting ripped off right now

bust out the mountain dew

shit just got jacked into the HD channel

people dont realize that trent reznor is actually a floor down from corgie doing all the work from Ableton Live running Omnisphere

despite all my flange

dropped it an octave… def helps

this sounds like music from BurgerTime


"when i came to you in your bro, i took the bro step"

-herman hesse

i dont know whats going w this one loop. its like psychic TV editing room floor shit

light reflecting off corgan

the days are getting longer

"i am without possessions"

CORGIE IS LIKE fuck that i possess the shred

cant tell whats music and what’s google anymore

scott weiland just texted me asking if i borrowed his copy of Halve Maen

corgan needs to do a hard restart

sequencer CHECK

obama warns Corgan not to use any secondary VCOs on this jam

dont know why he reset that jam. it was the single

someone just said cool

corgan’s lawyer just followed me

i really hope shit is about to get Slowdivey. guitars are getting busted out

e-bow or ebow or whatever

corgan says he likes reacting off the text. shit is getting real

anyone with a phone on their bodies will have to leave. the lady from before is bummed . airplane mode wont save u

too much for kanye apparently, unfollowed.

posi / dysfunctional sequencer jam. a problematic vibe

hard restart that sequence and set the guitarbro free

all is lost

final hours

corg sits down under a mango tree

Corgo Mago

Corge Bamyasi

Future Corgs

Corgs Over Babaluma

Corgan Duul II

Corgeu! 2

i think both guitarbro and corgan gotta take one for the team at this point. cut your losses and get back to that real shit from 1.5 hours ago

Jazz Odyssey

"and so he was, filled with the feeling of being sick of it"

-hesse just now



do cycorgs dream of electric sheeps?

emerging out of the pricorgial goo… a single vibe… A VIBE!


stretching this throbbing pulse wave

polyrhythms going down

u guys feeling this hard beat or wat

im on the phone with the ghost of Dino DeLaurentis , he just signed to hyberdub but is inquiring about possible corgs collab

u guys want a free masterclass in ambient music TUNE THE FUCK IN

House of Woo

im stressed about the the “8-9 hours” thing, the implication being that it might not be over in 25 min

haiku format is what, 7-10-7?


corgan river flow

no desire to rest or eat

he is my hero

i will miss this :/

gonna watch Nashville tonight

corgan moving the roland over.

not sure what is going on . seems drastic

D’arcy where r u

distorted squiggles vs. hesse . even orangebro seems skeptical

nothing musically tubular for a while now. prob going on 30 min since the last good vibe

imagine this vibe score for Lego movie 2

ok that roland is getting moved back to its original position

beats by corg about to go down

i eat so many corg i get ambient poisoning

i like this melody. first phrase is like question second part, fucking ANSWER

for all we know this might be the fucking coda

heres my lyrics to this jam

who - where am i?

i -dont- know - that

this is like final scene of sopranos

didnt realize hess was so portentous

girlfriend just asked me ‘does he not show a countdown?’

A 2500 foot reel recorded at 15 ips gives you a total of about 75 minutes

there were moments tonight where corgie was def channeling shnitzler

at other times not


and we’re done. GOODNIGHT

its back on

this is fucked

can someone please tell me if this is live for real

i dont understand what i saw. there was some point about 20 min ago i saw dudes packing up

if time doesnt exist then why does corgan age?

even peter gabriel not this crazy baby

one at this juncture must note that corgie is channeling Vangelis - Invisible Connections (1985)

its officially a tune in alert SITUATION

weird pendersczki shit going down

gesture alert 

corgan just shrugged like ‘i dunno’

gotta ditch this patch corgie. all life is suffering caused by desire and attachment brah

at this point i would say just crank that eventide to 100% wet and let it rain

graveyard shift

"this patch is just a stone.

it is worthless”


he hasnt eaten

down to 9 views

we’re going down


the never ending corgie

beats by corg is back. 



corgan just emailed me. hes got lara bars. also there were some groundrules he laid out for obro. no checking twitter. 1 lara bar per shift

at 49:36 Corgan declares , FINITO

i just broke google and went forward 20 min.have no idea when this performance actually started or ended. they are talking abt raffle again

corgan announces raffle winner


"this is like riding a weird wave. sometimes it works and sometimes it didn’t. having you here creates a time urgency…"

so sick

that was fun. 

-- from Daniel Lopatin’s Twitter feed, February 28 2014. Lopatin records under the name Oneohtrix Point Never. On Feb. 28, Billy Corgan, formerly of Smashing Pumpkins, presented/live-streamed an “8-9 hour” “synth jam” interpretation of Herman Hesse’s 1922 novel Siddhartha at his Highland Park, IL tea shop, Madame ZuZu’s.