Thursday, July 27, 2017

My 2¢, or $50

More nightmare. More money to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Holiday version

I’m still making my alphabetical way through my dad’s CDs: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Ivie Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Mildred Bailey, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Art Blakey, Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins, Clifford Brown, Dave Brubeck, Joe Bushkin, Hoagy Carmichael, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Charlie Christian, Rosemary Clooney, Nat “King” Cole, John Coltrane, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Matt Dennis, Doris Day, Blossom Dearie, Paul Desmond, Tommy Dorsey, Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Stéphane Grappelli, Bobby Hackett, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, and now, Billie Holiday.

Here’s “A Sailboat in the Moonlight” (Carmen Lombardo–John Jacob Loeb), in two recordings. I first heard the Guy Lombardo recording in Woody Allen’s Zelig. I’ve had the Holiday on LP for ages.

[Guy Lombardo and Royal Canadians, with vocal by Carmen Lombardo. Recorded in New York, May 28, 1937. Billie Holiday and Her Orchestra: Buck Clayton, trumpet; Edmond Hall, clarinet; Lester Young, tenor sax; James Sherman, piano; Freddie Green, guitar; Walter Page, bass; Jo Jones, drums. Recorded in New York, June 15, 1937.]

The liner notes that accompany the Holiday recording suggest — with no evidence — that the faintly audible conversation during the first chorus may be “the first rumblings of a mutiny against the material.” I think it far more likely that someone was checking the sequence of solos, or asking whether the out-chorus was a full or partial one. Because “A Sailboat in the Moonlight” is to my ears a beautiful song, especially in the chord changes of the first three bars. But I think it takes Holiday and company to make the song’s beauty felt. Playing these two recordings back to back would be a good way to introduce a new listener to the pleasures of jazz and to the ability of gifted musicians to breathe unexpected life into a tune.

So many highlights: Clayton’s brief fanfare, Sherman’s Teddy Wilsonisms, Clayton’s and Young’s solos, Jones’s varied percussion, the way the tune lifts in the partial out-chorus, and above all, in the first chorus and out-chorus, the interplay of Holiday and Young. They make me think of dancers whose partnership feels effortless in its intimacy and tact.

One more detail: a 1937 recording of the song by Johnny Hodges and His Orchestra borrows the descending background figure from the second chorus of the Lombardo recording and runs it through every chorus. In other words, there’s good to be found everywhere, even in a Guy Lombardo arrangement. But lest there be any question: there’s no Guy Lombardo in my dad’s CD collection.

Today would have been my dad’s eighty-ninth birthday.

Also from my dad’s CDs
Mildred Bailey : Tony Bennett : Charlie Christian : Blossom Dearie : Duke Ellington : Coleman Hawkins

[One more thought: The plaintive statement of the melody in the Lombardo recording makes me think of the Bix Beiderbecke—Frankie Trumbauer recording of “I’m Coming Virginia.” Coincidence?]

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Being transgender
and serving with honor

“Being transgender did not affect my ability to serve my country with honor. I served this country to protect everyone’s rights and freedoms and one would think that would include my own”: Jessie Armentrout, a Naval engineer, quoted in a New York Times column by Jennifer Finney Boylan.

Flaunt for flout (PBS, sheesh)

From the voiceover narration for Summer of Love (2007), a PBS American Experience episode about Haight-Ashbury in 1967, recently reaired:

The hippies openly flaunted the law.
Make that flouted.

Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say about flaunt for flout:
Although the “treat contemptuously” sense of flaunt undoubtedly arose from confusion with flout, the contexts in which it appears cannot be called substandard. . . . If you use it, however, you should be aware that many people will consider it a mistake.
This reasoning puzzles me. Even educated speakers and writers make mistakes, yes, but I can’t agree that “contexts” legitimate mistakes. And why would “many people” consider flaunt for flout a mistake? Perhaps because it is one? Apply M-W’s reasoning here to spelling: if you misspell this word, many people will consider it a mistake. Yes, those who know how to spell the word, because that’s not how it’s spelled.

Garner’s Modern English Usage takes a swipe at M-W:
One federal appellate judge who misused flaunt for flout in a published opinion — only to be sic’d and corrected by judges who later quoted him — appealed to W3 [Webster’s Third] and its editors, who, of course, accept as standard any usage that can be documented with any frequency at all. . . . Seeking refuge in a nonprescriptive dictionary, however, merely ignores the all-important distinction between formal contexts, in which strict standards of usage must apply, and informal contexts, in which venial faults of grammar or usage may, if we are lucky, go unnoticed (or unmentioned). Judges’ written opinions fall into the first category.
Which category does the voiceover narration for a PBS documentary fall into? That of formal contexts, I’d say, even if the documentary is about the Summer of Love.

And now I feel like Sergeant Joe Friday: “Distinctions in usage may not mean much to you youngsters, not when you’re flying high on goofballs and LSD and taking refuge in a nonprescriptive dictionary. But generations of grammarians and lexicographers and writers have thought hard about these questions, and some of them weren’t willing to say that we should all just do our own thing,” &c. I think that’s a pretty good Sergeant Friday.

Related reading
All OCA sheesh posts (Pinboard)

[Among the definitions of flaunt in W3: “to treat contemptuously.” The usage note appears in M-W’s Collegiate, 11th ed., and online.]

Local man voices criticism

Our household gave up our subscription to the local newspaper in 2008, with no regrets. We’d had enough. But I still look at the paper online, where I’ve noticed what looks like a deliberate effort to increase click-throughs by means of headlines that refuse to say where: “City to rezone property,” “City to vote on annexation.” Which city? The paper covers a large area, and city could refer to any one of several locales. But the local paper often refuses to be local in its headlines.

A more cynical trick: the paper will present a lurid headline from the national news without a where, and with no indication that the news is not local: “Babysitter sentenced in death.” That’s low.

As I began by saying, our household gave up our subscription to the local newspaper in 2008, with no regrets.

Snoopy TV

[Peanuts, July 26, 1970. Also July 23, 2017.]

Snoopy recently cautioned Woodstock about sitting too close to the television, but now he’s doing so himself. He joins Henry, Linus van Pelt, and Nancy Ritz in risking permanent damage to his eyes. Or at least that’s what I was led to believe as a child.

Related reading
All OCA Peanuts posts (Pinboard)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

An Eagle Scout’s response

In The New York Times, Jonathan Hillis, an Eagle Scout and a co-founder of Scouts for Equality, offers his thoughts about yesterday’s disgraceful performance by Donald Trump. An excerpt:

Even after prefacing his remarks by saying he “shouldn’t talk about politics,” he couldn’t stop himself from devoting the bulk of his speech to an unfortunately predictable combination of grandstanding, politicking and lewd inappropriateness. Seemingly egged on by a mass of adolescent boys, he became even more extreme than he is in his usual campaign speeches.

Reading through dozens of Facebook posts from my Scouting friends after the speech, I discovered an outpouring from across the political spectrum of disappointment and sadness: a nostalgic feeling of innocence lost. For myself, and I’d imagine for millions of other scouts who consider Scouting to be the greatest influence of their childhood, the president was breaking a sacred barrier we never thought he would cross.

A Kafka bridge

Franz Kafka, Amerika (The Man Who Disappeared), trans. from the German by Michael Hoffman (New York: New Directions, 2002).

Also from Amerika
An American writing desk
A Kafka highway

A Kafka highway

Karl Rossmann and two companions are walking along the edge of the highway to New York City. The cars moving past them are “usually enormous, and so striking in appearance and so fleetingly present there was no time to notice whether they had any occupants or not”:

Franz Kafka, Amerika (The Man Who Disappeared), trans. from the German by Michael Hoffman (New York: New Directions, 2002).

A five-lane highway with tower-like elevations: it makes me think of Bruce McCall’s retro-futurism.

Also from Amerika
An American writing desk

Monday, July 24, 2017

Another take on Jared Kushner

Jennifer Rubin, also writing in The Washington Post:

If not evidence of malicious deception, the story reveals a young man who is in over his head and out of his depth to such a degree that he does not know he is in over his head and out of his depth.
A Dunning-Kruger defense. The Dunning-Kruger effect is the subject of a number of OCA posts.

[Did you know that a .mil, .gov., or .edu e-mail address gets you a free subscription to The Washington Post ?]