Category: Popular Culture

The Perspective of a Tiny Jazz Record Label

I run a tiny jazz record label called FreeHam Records, which recently released new albums by Zaxariades (“Mr. Z”) and Charmaine Clamor (“Searching for the Soul”). Hundreds of individuals like me dedicate much of their life (and most of their savings!) to jazz music, with no realistic expectation that it will ever earn a penny...

Colorblind Music

No matter how insistently racism tries to insert itself into our social interactions, a few transcendent arenas remain where the truth is immune to strenuously repeated stereotypes and preconceived notions. One of these rare places is music. Either you swing or you don’t; you’ve got soul or not. There’s no faking it. Jazz and blues...

Arab Madness

The recent fuss over Dubai Ports World, a well-known shipping company based in the United Arab Emirates, illustrates once again that the facts never get in the way of a good story. Or, depending on your outlook, a bad one. Sadly, our news media, increasingly rabid for the ratings that drive corporate profits, seems more...

American Idol Crib Notes

If, unlike me, you don’t have a partner who forces you to watch the Fox karaoke competition “American Idol,” you may be living in a state of blissful ignorance, utterly unaware of what’s happening on America’s most-watched television program. You may not know that after weeks of schmaltzy build-up the shrinking talent pool questing to...

Judging Athletics

Let us consider the absurdity of judged sports now, before the inevitable scandal sure to arise sometime before the current installment of the Olympic Games have concluded, before nationalist passions and hometown prejudices cloud the discussion, and before headline writers ask “Was She Robbed?” Let cool heads prevail. Diving, gymnastics, and figure skating are athletic...

Waiting as a Social Bond

The great rock band The Sex Pistols had a song back in the 1970s that railed — railing being the primary function of all Sex Pistol songs — against their former record company, EMI. Watching a massive queue the other day outside a neighborhood hotdog stand brought back memories of John Lydon (aka “Johnny Rotten”)...

A Tale of Two Venues

Last night in Los Angeles, the Grammy awards were distributed at Staples Center, the basketball/hockey arena downtown. The vital business of marketing jesters ennobled by the moniker “musical artist” went smoothly from what I gather; the festivities were broadcast all over the world, and demure statuettes were disbursed to those who played along with the...

A Punky Revelation

In the early 80’s I played in a “hardcore punk rock” band. This means our music was super-fast, loud, angry, rebellious, and disinclined to follow mainstream rules. (I realize in retrospect that we were willing to follow a different set of rules, a parallel code informally understood to delineate “authentic” hardcore punk rockers from “posers.”)...

The Rolling Stones: I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

The 40th Super Bowl was held this weekend, in case you’ve been in Antarctica and were successfully shielded by the foghorns of mass culture blaring the news at you from every possible media outlet. There was, as usual, a not very compelling football game, expensive advertising, and a gala entertainment spectacle before during and after...

The Prize Industry

Our friend Tierney Sutton’s latest album, “I’m With the Band,” has been nominated for a Grammy award in the category of vocal jazz. Although she probably won’t win, simply being recognized by the recording industry has been (and will continue for some time to be) a boon to her career. It’s effective shorthand: Grammy nomination...