I confess and lament my cluelessness about Cuban music, and I've been working at repairing the historical part of the deficiency by a careful reading of Ned Sublette's Cuba and Its Music: From the First Drums to the Mambo. It's a wonderful book on many counts, not least for its careful weaving of history (political, economic, ethnic) with musical disquisition. I (like most Americans) knew very little of Cuba's history and woes, and little of the importance of Cuban musical ideas in American popular music --some names, but not much of the profound entanglements that are context for the last 50 years (which are not covered in Sublette's book). I can't recommend the book highly enough, though I do wish (on practically every page) that recorded snippets were available to illustrate the text. Some bits can be imagined, thanks to Sublette's felicitous prose:
The intensity of Pérez Prado's music came not only from its dissonance but from its rhythmic tension, the clarity of his writing, the physical impact of its brilliant, forceful timbre, the discipline of the ensemble, and the leader's sense of humor. The breaks in Pérez Prado's tunes were typically silences, punctuated by his sonic signature: a head-resonated grunt that some have romanticized as Ungh! and that sounded rather like someone undergoing a prostate exam. And then the trumpets assaulted again, as if to say: this is serious. (pg. 559)
Doc Searls has some great pictures of Powder River coal lands (see his Flickr set), and he points to John McPhee's 2005 articles in the New Yorker. After I'd read the articles in 2005 I did a bit of link-gathering and Google Earth messing, and it's still worth a look as an addendum to Doc's photos. As I updated the links on that page I realized how rusty I am with the mechanics of FTP... and in fact a lot of my former skills seem to have gone walkabout.
I recall a late-60s season of fascination with the sound of Richard and Mimi Farina, but I never saw them live. Here's a nice bit:
and it goes on:
Now THIS is great teaching:
(file under numeracy, data, visualization, anthropology, Nacirema, anthropology, argybargy)
Compare and contrast:
(via Crooked Timber)
This one wandered out of my mind and onto a piece of paper yesterday, and sat around for a day expecting to be posted:
I grew up wondering
if I'd live to see the Millenium
and here it is almost a decade beyond,
the last of the Noughts.
What should I wonder now?
Kate and Shannon are at the Family Home in Nova Scotia, where the weather can be a bit dramatic: