“one should . . . admit how problematic it is to anchor one’s political demands to status of victimhood. Is the basic characteristic of today’s subjectivity not the weird combination of the free subject who believes themselves ultimately responsible for their own fate and the subject who bases their argument on their status as a victim of circumstances beyond their own control? Every contact with another human being is experienced as a potential threat – if the other smokes, if he casts a covetous glance at me, he already hurts me; this logic of victimization is today universalized, reaching well beyond the standard cases of sexual or racist harassment.”
Slavoj Žižek, “Sex and ’68: Liberal Movement Revolutionized ‘Sexuality’ But at What Cost?”
Bonus link: “The Politics of Identity”
Link to a book review by Mike Beggs of In the Long Run We Are All Dead: Keynesianism, Political Economy and Revolution by Geoff Mann:
“The Keynesian Counterrevolution”
Bonus links: “The Left in a Foxhole?” (excerpt from Mann’s book) and “Liberalism: An Ideology of Exclusion” (this article rebuts Begg’s discussion of classical and modern liberalism, indicating that the archetype of all forms of liberalism is a politics of exclusion; in this case, merely elevating “the bourgeois and the intelligentsia” above others) and War and Revolution. Rethinking the Twentieth Century and Domenico Losurdo on Two Epidemics and “The Class Struggle on Wall Street” (“The problem [with Keynesianism] is, the rentier doesn’t want to be euthanized. Capital is not going to say, ‘okay, our work here is done, goodbye.’ So to maintain the social position of money-owners, you have to create an artificial shortage of money, and that’s another way of looking at the job of the central bank.”)
“class struggle is ultimately the struggle for the meaning of society ‘as such’, the struggle for which of the two classes will impose itself as the stand-in for society ‘as such’, thereby degrading its other into the stand-in for the non-Social (the destruction of, the threat to, society).
“To simplify: Does the masses’ struggle for emancipation pose a threat to civilization as such, since civilization can thrive only in a hierarchical social order? Or is it that the ruling class is a parasite threatening to drag society into self-destruction, so that the only alternative to socialism is barbarism?” Slavoj Žižek, Afterword to Revolution at the Gates: Selected Writings of Lenin From 1917 (pp. 209-10).
“A political Left with a brain would be busy thinking through strategy for when the internet becomes completely unusable for organizing and communication. The unifying factor in the initial ‘fake news’ purge was criticism of Hillary Clinton. Print media, a once viable alternative, has been all but destroyed by the move to the internet. This capability needs to be rebuilt.”
Rob Urie, “Why ‘Russian Meddling’ is a Trojan Horse”
Thelonious Monk – Monk. Columbia CL 2291 (1965)
Well, I’ve said before that It’s Monk’s Time is my second favorite Monk studio album on Columbia Records. But that was only because I hadn’t yet heard Monk. yet. This is another good one from the otherwise somewhat underwhelming Columbia years. Charlie Rouse is really stupendous. There was a quality in Monk’s playing during this time period that tended toward the dry and lethargic, and when the energy in his playing started to flag Charlie Rouse seemed to come in to the rescue. That is an admirable thing. And it shows in the music. At least I hear it and welcome it. Oh, and “Children’s Song (That Old Man)” is a folk song whose melody was later used for the “I Love You” song by Barney the purple dinosaur — a target of much ire in the “cynical 90s.” Maybe Monk. falls a bit short of the man’s very best albums, but it is a dark horse for the top of the second tier.
Thelonious Monk Quartet – Misterioso Riverside RLP 12-279 (1958) and Thelonious In Action Riverside RLP-12-262 (1958)
Thelonious Monk lost his cabaret card in 1951, which prevented him from performing live in New York for a number of years in the 1950s. But he regained it and undertook a long stand at the Five Spot Café in 1957. He returned to the Five Spot in 1958 with another band, documented on two albums: Misterioso and Thelonious in Action. The Five Spot was a small club in the Bowery. Monk’s appearance there was crucial in establishing the club as a congregation point for bohemian types like the Beats and assorted hangers-on — a good description of the club’s clientele and their motivations is found in the book The Battle of the Five Spot. It was around this time that Monk enjoyed some of the widest critical acclaim of his career, and, relatively speaking, his music was commercially successful too.
The 1958 Five Spot band played hard bop, of a kind that sort of epitomized its hip bohemian qualities. As usual, Monk was reprising a lot of his own songs he had played and recorded before, along with some standards. But “Light Blue” and “Coming on the Hudson” were original compositions that appeared on record for the first time on Thelonious in Action as was “Blues Five Spot” on Misterioso.
Johnny Griffin was the group’s tenor saxophonist. While both albums are well-respected, Griffin’s performances tend to draw more split opinions. That may be because his style of playing, on the one hand, deploys a kind of showy exposition of lighting fast fingering, and, on the other hand, quotes trivial pop melodies and floats away from the songs in a modernistic way the points beyond hard bop conventions. His more loose and freewheeling solos appear on Misterioso. The drums and bass are fine, but are mostly anchored in a very conventional hard bop style, especially the walking bass. Monk’s own playing is more gregarious than usual here. Compared to the free jazz explosion just starting to appear — Cecil Taylor‘s group was booked at the very same Five Spot Café in late 1956 and Ornette Coleman‘s quartet would kick start the revolution from the club the following year — this stuff is comparatively tame, but it still points in that direction. In a way, it is possible to look at these albums as a kind of breaking point that map out the limits of where conservative and reactionary jazz listeners and critics started to bail out, as the overall commercial prospects for jazz music began to erode in the face of the growing popularity or rock ‘n roll (and folk).
These are some of the most beloved albums in Monk’s entire discography. I do think some go overboard with praise for these — nothing here quite matches Monk’s best Blue Note sides, for instance. But there is also plenty of room for a lot of great Monk albums, and these two certain belong somewhere among the best of them — “Misterioso” and “Blues Five Spot” are perhaps the best individual songs here.
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Thelonious Monk – Brilliant Corners Riverside RLP 12-226 (1957)
Considered by many to be Monk’s single best album. You’ll get no argument here. This is a great one from the Riverside years, at the height of the hard bop era. I think this has a few particular things going for it that separate it from many other really good Monk albums. One is that it is recorded well. Monk’s earliest recordings featured great performances but the recording technology was rather lo-fi by comparison. This also has good energy. It may not be the frenetic energy of the be-bop era proper, now softened a bit for the hard bop era, but energy is still there in a way that would dissipate quickly in the 1960s. Last, but most importantly, this album is quite varied. It opens with the title track, which was so difficult for the band to play that it actually is presented as an assemblage of excerpts from different takes. It has a great horn riff, played with a kind of teetering machismo that suits the horn players. “Pannonica” is a tribute to Monk’s patron Nica — Baroness Kathleen Annie Pannonica de Koenigswarter (née Rothschild) — featuring him on the celeste rather than piano. It has that unmistakable Monkish quality of playful irreverence, simple and complex at the same time. It sets a completely different mood than “Brilliant Corners.” “Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are” is also something of a de Koenigswarter tribute, named after the Bolivar Hotel where she lived in New York City. There is one standard, “I Surrender Dear.” The album concludes with the great “Bemsha Swing,” a tangly composition that is one of my favorites. Monk’s compositional style is immediately recognizable in the song. Drummer Max Roach plays tympani, which adds depth to the performance. Across the whole album, Monk is present as a performer but his own playing is hardly a dominant or overriding presence. Despite the many great ides expressed in Monk’s solos, there remains plenty of space for the other performers to express themselves too. This album was greeted with decent sales and a glowing critical reception. Monk regained his cabaret card and launched a famous stand at the Five Spot Café in New York City’s Bowery neighborhood upon its release, which helped raise his recognition within the jazz community at the time and reinforce his continued relevance.
Thelonious Monk – Monk in France Riverside RS 9491 (1966)
A good live album recorded April 18, 1961 with the same small combo Monk worked with through much of the 60s. But, by comparison, there just isn’t much to distinguish this from the many other good-to-great live Monk albums out there. So, this one ends up being more for the obsessive completist, though on the other hand there isn’t much to fault fault here other than redundancy.