Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Blegvad in a Box

Chris Cutler's ReR Megacorp has just released a snazzy boxed set bringing together the four albums that Peter Blegvad has recorded for the label, packaging them along with a two-CD compilation of live performances, previously unreleased tracks, and "eartoons" entitled It's All 'Experimental,' as well as an attractively designed illustrated 70-page booklet of notes and musings*, and (if you've plumped for the limited edition) an autographed CD of a radio play entitled The Impossible Book.

I came to Blegvad's musical output (he's also a cartoonist and graphic artist) first via Choices Under Pressure, a mostly solo recording from 2001 that I love but that many aficionados are lukewarm about, and then moved on to his fine 1990 Silvertone CD King Strut and Other Stories. The ReR recordings in this Peter Blegvad Bandbox, loosely focused on a core trio of Blegvad, Chris Cutler, and John Greaves, meticulously document one of the most sustained partnerships of his career, and contain much of his best work as well as some material that is perhaps only for the true devotee.

The most recent of the four ReR CDs, Go Figure, was reviewed briefly in this space when it was released last year. Of the other three, Just Woke Up , from 1995, seems the strongest, both musically and lyrically. Hangman's Hill, from 1998, is the weakest (despite the likeable title track), and 1988's Downtime falls somewhere in the middle. (The last features several Blegvad compositions that were originally recorded by Anton Fier's Golden Palominos during Blegvad's association with that shifting ensemble; by and large the Palominos versions are stronger.) The two-disc It's All 'Experimental' is a valuable omnium gatherum featuring, among other things, two versions of "King Strut," two versions of "Shirt and Comb," and a Blegvad-sung rendition of "A Little Something," originally sung by Dagmar Krause when she, Blegvad, and Anthony Moore made up a trio called Slapp Happy.

As for The Impossible Book, it will have to wait until the CD player in my car starts functioning again.

* The designer is Colin Sackett of Uniformbooks, and the booklet includes liner notes and annotations by Blegvad, Chris Cutler, John Greaves, and Karen Mantler, as well as photographs, Blegvad drawings, and whatnot.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Life force

Images for a prospective re-reading of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, July 2018.

It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


These are not normal circumstances. Nancy LeTourneau:
What we are watching is a complete reorienting of the foreign policy of the United States, and most Republicans are going along because they're too afraid of blow-back from their base. It just so happens that this reorientation is exactly what Vladimir Putin has always wanted. It not only weakens our allies, it weakens us and turns Russia into a player on the global stage. At some point, we all are going to have to recognize that either Trump is a madman swinging wildly in a way that could destroy this country, or he is, as Hillary Clinton once pointed out, a puppet of Putin's. Perhaps some of both.

Our founders attempted to provide us with tools to deal with a situation like this. What they didn't count on was that an entire media apparatus would be developed to enable this kind of madness and that a political party would sit back and watch it happen because they were too drunk with power and/or too cowardly to do anything about it.
"Why Would Trump So Viciously Attack Angela Merkel?," from Washington Monthly.

It's now sadly impossible to avoid the conclusion that the US president has become, for motives that can be speculated on if not known with certainty, the instrument if not the engineer of a conspiracy designed to destroy liberal democracy. One doesn't need to be a particular admirer of Angela Merkel — or Hillary Clinton, for that matter — to understand that everything we ought to value in common — government by consent of the people, human rights, equal treatment under the law, compassion, reason, our own future — is being betrayed. And the right wing in this country is cheering it on. Stay alert.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Summer in the woods

The longer days of late have meant that I'm spending more time outside, often in the early hours before the temperature hits the 90s, and as a result (and, to be honest, also a bit from lack of inclination), I've been posting infrequently here. What interior landscape can match these outlandish colors and patterns?

From top: efts, box turtles, Laetiporus, Russula, unidentified mushroom, possible Tubifera magna slime mold.

Like Blood from a Cut

You've got a lie underneath your tongue where it can't be seen
'Cause you wanna put the truth on a guillotine
But you might as well put out a fire with gasoline

Well you can serve dirty water from a golden cup
You can try to lock up the truth but the door won't shut
'Cause the truth just keeps comin' out like blood from a cut

Buddy and Julie Miller are a married couple who have been making records, together and separately, since 1980 or thereabouts. He's a fine guitar player, singer, songwriter, and producer who has worked with Emmylou Harris, Richard Thompson, and many other people; she's a gifted songwriter and performer who originally emerged from the Christian music scene, though much of her work has a ferociousness and grit that is anything but stereotypically "churchy." She seems to have retreated from the limelight in recent years for health reasons, but Buddy is still very much active.

"Dirty Water," one of a number of Miller compositions that employs imagery involving fluids, first appeared on the couple's self-titled 2001 record. I've taken the lines above out of context, but they seem germane at the moment.

A Point of Crisis

Former Border Control agent Francisco Cantú, writing in the New York Times:
No matter what version of hell migrants are made to pass through at the border, they will endure it to escape far more tangible threats of violence in their home countries, to reunite with family or to secure some semblance of economic stability ...

The logic of deterrence is not unlike that of war: It has transformed the border into a state of exception where some of the most vulnerable people on earth face death and disappearance and where children are torn from their parents to send the message You are not safe here. In this sense, the situation at the border has reached a point of crisis — not one of criminality but of disregard for human life.

We cannot return to indifference. In the aftermath of our nation's outcry against family separation, it is vital that we direct our outrage toward the violent policies that enabled it.
"Cages Are Cruel. The Desert Is, Too." (June 30, 2018)

Further reading: Jason De León, The Land of Open Graves.

Of related interest: "The Real Story Behind a Janitor's Border Photos of Combs, Toys and Bibles" (NYT, July 2nd, 2018)