April 12, 2007

so it goes

Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007, RIP

Excerpt from a 1987 interview:

Vonnegut: I suppose that every writer is a gadfly; the crude term that every writer would like to do is mind-fucking. It's to get into somebody else's head. In a Bible-belt area like here it would be a felony to mind-fuck somebody. I heard Norman Mailer talk the other night. He was talking about the fact that most people don't have much time to think about life. They don't think about it because their jobs set such stern requirements and all that. So you have this specialized class of persons who thinks about life itself and thinks strategically while nobody else has time to do it.

Interviewer: If a message came over the loudspeaker that a nuclear warhead was but twelve seconds away from obliterating us, what are your last words:

Vonnegut: It's a swan song. It ought to be a very special thing. My favorite is a Cook County [Illinois] electric chair story. They go tthe guy strapped in and everything, but before they put the hood on him they asked him if he had anything to say. He said "Yes. This will certainly teach me a lesson." The ideal is to say the last thing God himself ever expected to hear.

* New York Times. excerpt:

"Four years ago this week, as American troops made their first, triumphant entrance into Baghdad, joyous Iraqis pulled down a giant statue of Saddam Hussein. It was powerful symbolism — a murderous dictator toppled, Baghdadis taking to the streets without fear, American soldiers hailed as liberators.

"After four years of occupation, untold numbers killed by death squads and suicide bombers, and searing experiences like Abu Ghraib, few Iraqis still look on American soldiers as liberators. Instead, thousands marked this week’s anniversary by burning American flags and marching through the streets of Najaf chanting, 'Death to America.'

"Once again, tens of thousands of American troops are pouring into Baghdad. Yesterday the Pentagon announced that battle-weary Army units in Iraq would have to stay on for an additional three months past their scheduled return dates.

"Mr. Bush is desperately gambling that by stretching the Army to the absolute limits of its deployable strength, he may be able to impose some relative calm in the capital. And he seems to imagine that should that gamble succeed, the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki will, without any serious pressure from Washington, take the steps toward sharing political power and economic resources it has tenaciously resisted since the day it took office a year ago."
"Two months into the Baghdad security drive, the gains Mr. Bush is banking on have not materialized. More American soldiers continue to arrive, and their commanders are talking about extending the troop buildup through the fall or into early next year. After four years, the political trend is even more discouraging.

"There is no possible triumph in Iraq and very little hope left."

* LA Weekly on David Axelrod. excerpt:

"David Axelrod suffers a fate shared by many great American creative minds: The Los Angeles producer-arranger-composer, who oversaw a long string of albums by Lou Rawls and Cannonball Adderley for Capitol Records, is celebrated in Europe, but has been all but forgotten here at home. (The U.K. label Mo’Wax coaxed him back into the studio for a self-titled CD in 2001.) These days, Axelrod’s American audience is mostly made up of the hip-hop cognoscenti who zealously sample from his wildly unorthodox, psychedelicized solo albums from the late ’60s — specifically, the cult-prized, William Blake–inspired releases Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. This, at least, ensures this odd bird a steady flow of royalty checks.

"'Odd' may be something of an understatement: Axelrod’s aesthetic is opulently eccentric, expressed through lushly orchestrated, severely cerebral arrangements. And while Axelrod speaks with the same musical vocabulary as Burt Bacharach and Ennio Morricone, his art is dreamt in deeper atmospheric shades and, significantly, pays far greater attention to the rhythm section (hence its ongoing appeal to Dr. Dre–hipped hop-head recyclers)."
"This 13-track, 93-minute performance scrapes the sky and digs deep into the composer’s personal realm of offbeat yet profoundly communicative elements. As displayed through these selections, primarily from the Innocence and Experience albums, Axelrod’s kinship with visionary Blake — an artist who not only created his own, other world, but seemed to actually inhabit it — is no mere pretense or indulgence. A gaunt, black-clad firebrand with a crown of untamed, dead-white hair, Axelrod comes off as — in the very best sense of the term — a real weirdo. (He halts for an intermission 'because I need a cigarette and I think the bass player does too — he’s been looking at me.') And the music never fails that description, either: Purely instrumental, except for a version of 'Holy Are You' (respectfully delivered by the Verve lead singer Richard Ashcroft), each of the numbers featured are uniformly engrossing, a mesmerizing course of sound that waxes from elegant austerity to incendiary evocation. Illuminating it all are mood-altering, gut-bucket drum and bass solos and earthy, intense sax breaks — all cradled within Axelrod’s characteristic orchestral frameworks. Vividly etched, painstakingly crafted and definitely — gloriously — not of this Earth."

* "If it has more than three chords, it's jazz." -- Lou Reed


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