Frank Sinatra – Sings His Greatest Hits

Sings His Greatest Hits

Frank SinatraSings His Greatest Hits Legacy CK-65240 (1997)

This album makes an excellent introduction to Frank Sinatra’s music.  It’s not a perfect collection, but it features some great songs from the 1940s and early 1950s.  There are a few alternate versions and previously unreleased tracks included. I would recommend this album over the more popular Sinatra Reprise: The Very Good Years if you only want a single disc Sinatra collection, and also over the bloated box set The Best of the Columbia Years 1943-1952.  However, The Capitol Collectors Series and Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits are also good collections for later time periods (picking up both of those along with Sings His Greatest Hits would provide a fairly complete overview of his entire career — they cover basically non-overlapping periods).

Interesting aside:  did you know that “The House I Live In” was the title song to short film Sinatra starred in that was organized by the communist party?  Or that as a consequence of those sorts of activities he was barred from performing for troops during the Korean War?

A Critique of Michael Schwalbe’s “Brief for Equality”

Professor Michael Schwalbe wrote an essay entitled “A Brief for Equality.”  The basic thrust of his argument is a good one: liberal insistence that egalitarianism is too extreme is really about maintaining certain inequalities, which are not morally justified.  However, there is a curious flaw in his argument.  He writes:

“equality would produce a flourishing of creativity and constructive diversity. The cultivation of talent that is possible now for only the privileged few would be possible for all. What’s more, an equal sharing of resources would by no means hinder the appreciation of virtuosity. There would in fact be more virtuosity and accomplishment to appreciate.”

Why is this a logical flaw?  Well, there are different types of capital (as a sociologist, Schwalbe should be well aware of these concepts; though they appear in fiction too).  Yet his brief is written only in regard to economic capital.  He asserts that a better society flows from equality of economic capital.  But he then praises an inequality of cultural capital (virtuosity, accomplishment).  Why is it that the liberal position that relies on a core of (economic) inequality is wrong but Schwalbe’s reliance on a core of (cultural) inequality is better?  He does not address this point about second level (cultural) hierarchies.  This seems to be a flaw in his underlying theory — by failing to account for different types of capital, and associated hierarchies, his argument lacks persuasiveness.  Really, this is perhaps a pure expression of ideology, revealing the disavowed assumptions behind his argument.  It is somewhat customary for academics to have more cultural capital than economic capital.  So does Schwalbe’s argument really amount to self-interested promotion of the type of capital that he possesses over that which he does not possess?  And will inequality of cultural capital simply reproduce inequalities of economic capital over time?  These are the lingering doubts clouding his argument, which is far more self-interested than it admits.

Michael Scott Christofferson – May 1968’s Black Sheep

Link to an interview with Michael Scott Christofferson conducted by Daniel Zamora:

“May 1968’s Black Sheep”


Bonus quote:

“The anarchist denunciations of [state power] from Foucault to James Scott are less worried about transnational monopolies than about the (now defunct) Soviet party state or even the social-democratic nanny state. And as for the intellectual and cultural polemics, they always end up denouncing Marx and Marxism. I think these battles on the left are unproductive politically and intellectually . . . .”

Fredric Jameson, “Afterword: On Eurocentric Lacanians”

Mapping Police Violence – 2015 Report

Link to the group Mapping Police Violence‘s report:

“2015 Police Violence Report”

Bonus links: Interview with Sam Sinyangwe, Campaign Zero (mostly good ideas, with some flaws:  the persistently proposed requirement that “community organizations” nominate civil servants/overseers is flawed [would the KKK qualify as a “community organization”?  If not, then which groups?  And who decides which groups?], and the “fair union contracts” aspect includes important points but then goes too far [banning contacts that allow officers to “receive paid leave or remain on desk-duty during an investigation following a police shooting or other use of deadly force” is anti-due process and anti-worker]; lastly, “unconscious bias” research is still in its infancy and relies on many troubling ideological assumptions [the research has its own bias of the cognitivist and/or liberal variety: “PC anti-racism is sustained by the surplus-enjoyment which emerges when the PC-subject triumphantly reveals the hidden racist bias on an apparently neutral statement or gesture“] making it difficult and premature to implement as a mandatory process).



Metropolis (1927)

Universum Film A.G.

Director: Fritz Lang

Main Cast: Gustav Fröhlich, Brigitte Helm, Rudolf Klein-Rogge

A classic of the silent era.  Epic in proportions yet simple in story, this has influenced countless films that followed.  Some (Elysium (2013)) are practically remakes.  The special effects were groundbreaking.  This — along with the likes of Brecht/Weill‘s The Threepenny Opera and Döblin‘s Berlin Alexanderplatz and even Hilferding‘s Finance Capital — represents one of the great achievements of Weimar Germany.

Kitty Wells – The Kitty Wells Story

The Kitty Wells Story

Kitty WellsThe Kitty Wells Story Decca DXS-7174 (1963)

Kitty Wells was arguably the first major female solo recording star in country music.  Before, women tended to be part of a group (think Mother Maybelle and Sara Carter of The Carter Family) or “girl singers” rotated in and out of predominantly male bands.  Her music was proto-feminist, and an inspiration to many who came after her.  Many of the songs on this early collection are sort of response songs, adding a woman’s rebuttal to a possibly male chauvinist song.  That goes for the opener, her first big hit, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” But that only amounts to “proto-” feminism in some ways, because it cedes to men the ability to set the terms of debate, offering only a rebuttal.

Wells grew up in Nashville, and her voice relies on an urban diction.  Loretta Lynn was a huge Kitty Wells fan, and Lynn’s early recordings are cut from the same cloth, though many are even better than Wells’ because Lynn carried more sassy rural weight in the tone and timbre of her voice.  But regardless of which female country star of the 1960s or beyond is your favorite, most owed some debt to the ways Kitty Wells (and Patsy Cline) made possible a market for independent-minded solo artists who weren’t male.  This music also occupies a special place in which it is unmistakably country, with “sophistication” like having The Jordanaires on backing vocals, and elegant traded solos from instrumentalists (especially with pedal steel guitar), yet without the dumbed-down hypocrisy of the countrypolitan style that came to prominence in the 1960s.

There are a lot of great songs here, from It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” to “Lonely Side of Town” to “Making Believe” to “A Wedding Ring Ago.”  And of course there is one of the most famous country songs, too, in “Makin’ Believe.”  The balance between sophisticated vibrato and half-growled words like “I’ll” and “ain’t”, against plaintive guitar, bass and often wordless vocal backing harmonies, it has just about a perfect confluence of consonance and contrast.  Wells earned the title of the Queen of Country Music with these recordings.  Over a half-century later they still sound great.