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June 6, 2007

'Talking Jazz: An Oral History From the Men and Women Who Made the Music Happen'


24 CDs with 60 conversational interviews conducted by musician and writer Ben Sidran.

Listen to excerpts here.


I came across these interviews by way of Mike Hobart's story about them in the April 11, 2007 Financial Times, which follows.

    Music and the meaning of life

    It’s easy to think that when you hear a musician play he is exposing his inner self, but perhaps there are revelations to be found too in the more mundane dealings of life. An intriguing collection of recorded interviews with jazz players by the American musician and writer Ben Sidran marries both artistic and quotidian insight — so while drummer Art Blakey tells Sidran that when you perform, “you are in the nude... people can see clean through you,” Sidran elsewhere notes the fascination of watching musicians “trying to get paid... how they deal with the club-owner disappearing” and of “look[ing] at them in their daily round”.

    Sidran’s conversations with major jazz figures — he throws in the odd club-owner and recording engineer for good measure — do precisely that. In the 1980s he did a mammoth series of interviews for US public service broadcasting, of which he has now edited 60 for release on 24 CDs.

    Sidran’s punctilious research tempers the infectious enthusiasm of his insider status (he is also a respected pianist, arranger and producer), and these conversations explore creative processes, social backgrounds and musical biographies, revealing a singular mix of the prosaic and the profound.

    After a battering in the 1970s, the 1980s were a turning point for jazz. The decade witnessed the jazz renaissance, the birth of smooth jazz and the consolidation of jazz academia. It was also the last decade when many leading figures of be-bop and even the swing era were still working flat out. Sidran talks to them all, from veterans such as Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie to young Turks such as the Marsalis brothers; from commercially minded producer/composers such as Bob James to radical academics like Archie Shepp.

    Many express unease at the future of jazz, at the way that younger musicians seem almost interchangeable. Some blame the loss of a hard-knock apprenticeship in the clubs — playing 40 minutes on, 20 minutes off until three in the morning, recalls bassist Richard Davis — that with cut-throat jam sessions after hours encouraged innovation and individuality. Other musicians blame jazz schools for pouring out technically proficient musicians lacking a personal voice.

    For recording engineer and one-time optometrist Rudy Van Gelder, earphones have a lot to answer for. They were part and parcel of the process of multi-track recording — “a machine of mass destruction”, he chuckles — that helped separate musicians and did away with risk. But technology answers problems as well as creating them, and new direct-to-disc technology has brought risk back into the equation, with state-of-the-art sound. And anyway, as bass player Marcus Miller says, you still “have to play with some kind of feeling”.

    The conversations also illuminate the huge and early influence of family and friends – the record collections of musical parents, childhood music lessons, a shared album — but all of Sidran’s interviewees reveal a near-obsessive focus on jazz as the centre of daily life. There’s something heart-warming about super-hip Miller enthusing about an album sleeve-note, or hard-bitten club-owner Max Gordon reminiscing about hanging around record shops.

    But jazz goes way beyond music, lifestyle and economics. Vocalist Ken Nordine — who does a passable impression of T.S. Eliot reading poetry — insists rather grandly that “musicians are closer to God than anybody”. Though few of Sidran’s interviewees go this far, most believe that jazz has much to teach the world, and manage to explain both insights and technicalities without sounding pedantic. Gravel-voiced Miles Davis muses on creativity, blackness and Ravel; Dizzy Gillespie chuckles about art and world peace; Art Blakey lays it down straight: “This is an artform and you are going to have to work for it.”

    Much of the work that Blakey refers to took place in the grubby world of nightclubs and cabarets, with racism to the fore and drug addiction lurking in the background. But this is dealt with in a matter-of-fact way. Drug addictions conquered are in the past, but racism, though ameliorated, is not forgotten. Saxophonist Johnny Griffin recalls problems in the army; blues singer Charles Brown gave up a career as a chemist, finding “problems he didn’t like”; Blakey went along with the idea that any publicity was good publicity, even when a reviewer referred to him as “the little black pygmy sitting back there”. Richard Davis, reminding us of the colour bar in symphonic music, recalls that “black musicians were out of the question, but I still went to auditions.” He eventually landed a gig with Igor Stravinsky.

    At the time of clubowner Max Gordon’s interview with Sidran, in December 1986, he had owned New York’s longest-running jazz club, the Village Vanguard, for more than 50 years. This minute venue — holding an uncomfortably packed 125 — is probably the most often-used location for live jazz recording in the world. The famous “Live at the Village Vanguard” tag attaches to seminal works ranging from John Coltrane to Bill Evans.

    Gordon reflects that, essentially, little has changed over the years: his advice is to “find the band and find the money to pay ’em”. He booked Evans because “I could afford him”. The club’s name came when a bill for plumbing work was deferred on the understanding that the plumber could name the club.

    Economics is, as ever, a constant spur to innovation. Charles Brown’s sophisticated blues came from playing in supper clubs to an aspiring black working class audience, while the Kansas City bandleader Jay MacShann — Charlie Parker’s first major employer — learnt blues style to hold down a well-paid gig.

    Business sense is probably a prerequisite for survival, but in the early years at least, a supportive family certainly helps. Van Gelder took this to extremes, building his first studio in his parents’ Hackensack living room — “it had a nice sound” — from where he recorded classic albums for Blue Note and Prestige.

    Sidran is a sympathetic, if sometimes strict interviewer. He ruthlessly corrects Gil Evans on the personnel of the hugely influential Birth of the Cool recordings — the ensuing longueur speaks volumes. Rightly picky and properly focused (he even has himself interviewed, so we know where he’s coming from), Sidran still lets the interviewees roam round their personal quirks and philosophies. The result is that listening to this collection is rather like eavesdropping on a particularly eloquent and focused chat.

June 6, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Telescoping Marshmallow Fork



From the website:

    Telescoping Fork

    You can toast marshmallows or other foods safely with our telescoping fork.

    Fork extends from 14-1/2" to 28" for a long reach to keep hands safely away from the heat source.

    It then collapses for compact storage and easy transport.

    Perfect for camping or use in your own backyard fire pit.

    Features a rosewood handle with copper hanging loop.


$14.95 (No — marshmallows are not included. But I know where you can get some).

June 6, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

TED Conference — Episode 2: Giving even more away

In Episode 1 on March 8, 2007 came news of the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) organization's decision to offer a number of its previously high-priced talks (admission is $6,000) as free online videos.

Now comes Bob Tedeschi reporting in the April 16, 2007 New York Times that TED's decided to put up about 100 of its 20-minute TED talks for whomever cares to watch and listen.

In June of last year a handful of free videos went up as an experiment, which proved so popular that by January 2007 a total of 44 were online, viewed so far over three million times.

Don't think TED's doing it out of the goodness of its heart: June Cohen, director of TED Media and the driving force in its move to the web, told Tedeschi that "the same year we started releasing most of our content for free we raised our conference price by nearly 50% and still sold out in 12 days."

In the YouTube video up top Jeff Han presents his Multi-Touch sensing work at the TED Conference 2006.

Here's the Times article.

    Giving Away Information, But Increasing Revenue

    Those who don’t have $6,000 or enough prominent connections to get into a TED conference can take heart. The price of admission just went to zero, provided you can settle for a more remote experience.

    The TED organization (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design) runs an invitation-only conference in Monterey, Calif., every year for movers and shakers in business and nonprofit circles.

    Yesterday, TED introduced a Web site that offers about 100 of its TED Talks, the polished 20-minute presentations for which the conference is renowned.

    The new site will generate more advertising revenue for TED, but more important, conference leaders said, it will expose TED’s content to millions of people who would otherwise never attend the event.

    In so doing, TED is at the vanguard of a trend in the conference industry, where organizers have begun to exploit assets that in years past evaporated as soon as speakers left the stage.

    “I’m so struck by it anytime I’m at a great event,” said June Cohen, director of media for TED, a nonprofit business based in New York. “That was so wonderful, but now it’s gone. It’s a shame they’re not captured and preserved.”

    Ms. Cohen said TED’s organizers began posting last June a handful of free videos from past conferences on TED.com, with “fairly aggressive goals for how I thought they’d do. But we blew past those pretty quickly.” By January, the number of TED Talks on the site had grown to 44, and they had been viewed more than three million times.

    Based on that success, Ms. Cohen said that the organization pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into its video production operations and into the development of a Web site to showcase about 100 of the talks.

    The presentations are arranged thematically on the site’s home page. For example, visitors can browse on “Spectacular Performance” to find one of 11 TED presentations chosen for the category by TED editors (like a piano improvisation by the 14-year old prodigy Jennifer Lin in 2004), or find 22 TED Talks roughly related to “The Rise of Collaboration.”

    “We’re creating a TED experience online,” Ms. Cohen said, “and that’s not about watching a single talk, but watching several in succession that relate to each other in unexpected ways.”

    With the new site, each presentation has its own Web page that includes an overview of the Talk, a biography of the speaker, comments from users, links to related Web pages and a way to rate the presentation that differs from conventional methods. Users choose three characteristics from a list that includes “long winded” and “courageous,” among others.

    Three of the more than 50 presentations from last month’s conference, including high-definition video of former President Bill Clinton’s speech, are featured on the new site.

    From a business standpoint, Ms. Cohen said that giving away the conference’s content in such a highly polished manner has “completely transformed” the organization.

    “Conventional business logic would tell you that in a community like TED you have to keep your commodity scarce and expensive to retain brand value,” she said. “But the same year we started releasing most of our content for free we raised our conference price by nearly 50 percent and still sold out in 12 days.”

    “This has actually created a huge challenge for us, in how to manage our growth,” Ms. Cohen added. “We have a waiting list of a couple thousand people for the event and we can’t grow it more. So the question is how to expand it in other ways and do more online.”

    Jack Pitney, head of marketing for BMW of North America, said visits to the company’s Web site have jumped strongly in the last year, to about 1.7 million people a month. “That’s due to a confluence of a lot of things, but the TED Talks certainly contributed to a lot more people coming to the site,” he said.

    Of the 11,000 or so trade shows and corporate events each year in the United States, about 10 percent in the last year have begun to use videos from their shows to generate more revenue, according to Darlene Gudea, publisher of Trade Show Executive Magazine, an industry publication. “Show organizers are realizing that only part of the industry comes to a trade show, leaving a lot of educational opportunities, and revenues, on the table,” Ms. Gudea said.

    And trade shows themselves are a booming business. According to a recent report from American Business Media, a business-to-business media industry group, revenue from trade shows last year grew by 10 percent, to $11.3 billion, and for the first time exceeded revenue from industry magazines.

    One example of a company that is capitalizing on the trend is Reed Exhibitions, a unit of Reed Elsevier, which organizes about 60 large-scale conferences in the United States each year. Two weeks ago, Reed introduced out ISC365.com, a site devoted to ISC West, an Internet security conference held in March in Las Vegas.

    In a test that could eventually extend to all of the company’s events, Reed will soon begin posting videos from some of the roughly 90 sessions held during the three-day event on ISC365.com. Dean Russo, a Reed Exhibitions group vice president who oversees the company’s Internet activities, said subscribers would pay about $300 to $350 to download five of those videos. Other sessions, he said, would be supported by advertising and will be offered free.

    Mr. Russo said that about 25,000 people attended ISC West, and about 1,200 paid $400 to $1000 to attend educational sessions. “We’re thinking in the first six months we could bring in at least that many people with the online subscription, and it could potentially be many, many times that,” he said.

    Depending on the objectives of the conference speakers, that approach could meet little resistance. Those who earn a living speaking on the conference circuit may have to negotiate different agreements with trade shows that seek to capitalize on those speeches in perpetuity.

    But for others, like the New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell, the exposure is enough payment.

    Mr. Gladwell, who spoke at the 2004 TED conference, said his talk was “a riff that was taken from a New Yorker piece just before it came out. Certainly more people have read that story as a result of my talk being online. If I can get people to read my stuff more, that’s all a plus.”

June 6, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Crocheted Grape Vase


Created by French designer Aurélie Mathigot.

Grapes hand-crocheted over a glass vase.


June 6, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: What Degas saw


As the impressionist painters Claude Monet and Edgar Degas aged, their vision failed.

Thus, their later work was markedly different from that earlier in their careers. resulting in ambivalence about its relative value among both their contemporaries and today's critics.

Nicholas Bakalar, in an April 17, 2007 New York Times section story, wrote about a paper published in the Archives of Ophthalmology in December, 2006 exploring what the artists might actually have seen as their vision declined.

In the graphic up top, works by Degas in 1886, left, and 1905, center. Right, an image altered to show what Degas would have seen while working on the 1905 piece.

The Times article follows.

    A New Look at Impressionists’ Failing Vision

    The later years of both Claude Monet and Edgar Degas were marked by failing vision and corresponding changes in the style of their paintings, creating an ambivalence about their later work among both their contemporaries and today’s critics.

    Monet had cataracts that severely limited his color discrimination, which may help explain the increasingly muddied tone of his paintings from 1912 to 1923, when he had a cataract removed. After his surgery, he destroyed many later canvases.

    And in Degas’s work, the shading lines and details of the faces became increasingly blurred as his disease, probably a form of macular degeneration, progressed over 20 years. A French critic called his later sketches “the tragic witnesses of the battle of the artist against his infirmity.”

    In a recent article in The Archives of Ophthalmology, Dr. Michael F. Marmor, a professor of ophthalmology at Stanford, used computer simulations to create images of what these artists might have seen as their vision declined.

    “Here we can see ourselves what they were seeing through their eyes,” Dr. Marmor said. “Critics have known that these men had failing vision, but I don’t think they could appreciate what it meant to these artists. It gives both new respect for what they could do with limited vision, but also gives us reason to re-examine perhaps what these paintings mean in the evolution of these artists’ style and work.”

June 6, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here


this time tomorrow.

June 6, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

statastic.com — 'Odd numbers in an uneven world'


You could spend an awful lot of time here.

Fair warning.

June 6, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Terra Bathtub


Designed by Naoto Fukasawa for Boffi.

Voted "Best Bathroom Product" when it was unveiled at the 2006 Milan Furniture Fair.

"First large mono-block molded tub without jointing points."

That means it won't leak.

The only thing that will leak is your bank balance when you write the check.

More like a hemorrhage.

"Comes with the luxury of a waterfall water supply."

Dimensions: 550mm H x 1710mm W x 1510mm L.


Price on request.

June 6, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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