Tuesday, May 18 2021

I made the first mix of 2021 (dirty aqua, awkward, active), and then the second one (flat, composed, freaky), and then the third one (preposterous, optimistic, square). Nothing locked or paywalled—listen and share. It’s some of the year, sort of!

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In the same way that something new rose up in the air last summer, the responses to the violence in Palestine feel different this time. Palestinian struggle has been minimized to fit inside the U.S. pro-Israel narrative for all of my conscious life, but something in that containment cracked after the recent displacements in Sheikh Jarrah. There is so much to read and watch, all of it simultaneously very old and bursting up through the concrete in a single day.

There is this remarkable Kaleem Hawa piece on the ongoing Nakba, this Zoom roundtable on Palestine, and Raja Shehadeh’s piece on Sheikh Jarrah. Somebody revived these television interviews from 2017, for which you need no context: pure bloodlust and ignorance.

Then, on the weekend, a flood of pieces appeared in concert with the Saturday protests all over the world. The Killing Gaza documentary went up for free on Vimeo, the LRB ran Tareq Baconi on Shekh Jarrah, and the Washington Post published this editorial, “Israel has chosen a two-tiered society,” which wouldn’t have happened ten years ago. This Fabian Wolff piece in Zeit, now translated into English, speaks to how he finds alignment as a Jew in Germany, and it is not a series of thoughts I have ever read before. Fares Akram of AP wrote this piece only hours before Israel destroyed his employer’s headquarters in Gaza City.

The New Inquiry has posted a helpful primer and Perry Anderson’s “The House of Zion,” from 2015, is available in the New Left Review. It is long and typically exhaustive and deeply helpful for understanding the sheer number of political cables running through this relatively small region. This Twitter thread on military tech is worth reading. I also recommend following N.A. Mansour.

Last thing: for a week, Elia Suleiman is streaming all of his films for free. Highly recommended.

A free-but-compositional thing is happening, and one thread is Japanese. I am thinking of the remarkable albums Eiko Ishibashi has been putting out recently, and this new Atsuko Hatano album, Cells#5 (which Eiko appears on). This work reminds of the leggy Mingus compositions like Black Saint and the Sinner Lady as well as Morton Feldman and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s film scores. The haunted and the placid are duking it out in an unrestricted setting.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Radiohead started posting live shows from their archive. This has gone on somewhat steadily, although they took nine months off in the middle of this process. They are back with fairly steady uploads and I reckon it’s not a bigger story because Radiohead, we know them, who cares. I think it bears a bit of attention. This show in Montreal from 2016, just added a few days ago, is a perfect example of their recent live work, which finds them generally loose and strange and beautiful. If you are somehow agnostic, this would be a decent place to start.

A band I love very very much and have never written a word about is XTC. From the ages of roughly 13 to 17, they were the absolute apex of goodness for me. In 1982, Andy Partridge stopped performing live, a moment generally put down to “stage fright.” It is now clear that Partridge was suffering benzo withdrawal, and it seems likely that in a different environment that was more conducive to discussing substance use disorder, this would not have been the end of the live band. This show was recorded in Amsterdam only 10 days before the final panic attack, in Paris, and it’s a heartbreaker. The band is promoting a brand new album, English Settlement, and are blazing through some of the trickiest arrangements they ever wrote. Really inspiring shit.

Father Michael Casey, an Australian monk, talking about his monastic cowl.

Don’t get too upset about media nonsense. Remember the words of Alonzo Harris.

This post is from Patti Smith’s newsletter: “I was living in Greenwich Village down the street from Bob Dylan. He had been pretty nice to me, attending our performance at the Bitter End and offering encouraging words. When I ran into him on the street one afternoon he asked me to join him at Gerde’s folk City that evening. I showed up and as he was sitting with his people, including Sarah, Joan Baez, Rambling Jack Elliot and Allen Ginsberg, I maneuvered on my own. There were a lot of well-known musicians there and the atmosphere was mysteriously electric. I was told that everyone was expected to do something, such as read a poem or sing. I wasn’t sure what to do as I didn’t play an instrument and had nothing prepared. Suddenly, my name was called and with everybody looking I had to come up with something. Under pressure, I made up a story about an archer and his sister in 16th century Japan, and the singer-songwriter Eric Anderson mercifully joined in on guitar. Afterwards, I took off and went crosstown to CBGB’s, the stronghold of the unknown, to be with my own people. 

“I never knew that the night was being filmed until Martin Scorsese asked for permission to include my impromptu performance in his Rolling Thunder film. Though I dreaded it, I arranged to meet him and watched my segment in a small screening room. Sitting in the dark, what struck me was that I still contain aspects of the hubris and humor of that stumbling South Jersey girl. In the credits of the film I was identified as the punk poet. I guess in a way that was true and most possibly why I didn’t make the cut in the Rolling Thunder Revue. I was too raw and irreverent, but none the less it was quite an experience. Bob Dylan treated me well and I was proud that he saw something in me, which I held as a secret weapon through the challenging times ahead. I found the clip from that night, performing before some of the best minds of my generation. That night, though difficult, validated that I could think on my feet, and provided me with an unexpected gift. The lyric refrain, initially spit out as an act of improvisational survival, developed as a propelling build in the song Ain’t It Strange. The song went through several metamorphosis until it found its final form on the album Radio Ethiopia, shedding its stages from caterpillar to moth to another dimension.” Here is the footage of Smith from that night.

This video for “Cowboy” by Bill Callahan could get lost in the stream of Callahan things that are worth your attention. I imagine Bill at the center of a Kelly Reichardt movie and I also imagine that if I look it up, it will already exist.

I was working on this piece about Adam Curtis for ages and it finally went up last week at The New York Review of Books.