RIP, Ric Ocasek

Ric Ocasek died yesterday at the age of 75, and it made me very sad. The Cars are a quintessential American rock band from an era that is long gone- with short singable songs and good guitar with a nice mix of synth, and when I listen to them it always brings me back to a good place when I was a kid and listening to them on the jukebox at the college inn or listening to their albums while lying on the floor of the college radio station. They are probably best known for their 1984 album Heartbeat City which featured the song Drive, among others, but for me The Cars, Candy-O, Panorama, and Shake it Up are a pretty amazing four album stretch, and there is literally not a bad song on their debut self-titled album The Cars.

I’ve always considered myself a closet Cars fan, as I have all their albums and frequently have them on my iphone rotation. When I say “secret,” I don’t mean out of embarrassment, but because no one ever comes out and says “OH MAN I LOVE THE FUCKING CARS THEY ARE THE BEST BAND IN THE WORLD” because everyone, including me, will look at you and say “No, they’re not.” But what they were was a GREAT band that really fit the time and the zeitgeist, and after listening to five albums from The Cars (1978) to 1984’s Heartbeat City, it is a timeless sound that will still be worth a listen in another 30-40 years. That’s something pretty impressive, and there is something to be said for music like the Cars, which is very accessible to the masses (Marshall Crenshaw comes to mind). You don’t have to be a pretentious music snob to like the Cars- you just have to have ears.

RIP, Ric. Thanks.

Respite Open Thread: A Crack In Everything

I spent a couple weeks in Montreal last month as a half-working half-vacation. I’d never been, but I’d heard such good things, and we got a very good deal on a sublet. Lovely city; I’d happily settle down there, though I’d have to learn French for real, which isn’t la fin du monde.

Anyway–they seem to be very proud of one of their local boys who made good:

A mural of Leonard Cohen fills the side of a building in Montreal's Plateau neighborhood.

Taken in the Plateau neighborhood

I share their love of Leonard Cohen. There’s actually a much bigger mural downtown, but I couldn’t get a good shot of it. I’ve been meaning to share this with y’all, and this gloomy-slow-day-at-work seemed like the right time.

So, without further ado, here’s a song that I find calming and centering, even (especially?) when the world is on fire.

Below the fold, a deep cut live video featuring Sonny Rollins, and a picture from a visit I made to his grave…

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Late Night Open Thread: But Who Was the Target Audience?

Could we cynics have been wrong in assuming that Trump’s support of A$AP Rocky was nothing but a cheap ploy to reassure his white Base that he was Not A Racist? Well, with so many grifters inveterate self-promoters each telling a different story, it’s hard to be sure:

According to new details provided by sources involved, Trump’s role in pushing for Rocky’s release started with a reality television megastar calling the West Wing, a mysterious entertainment industry “fixer” and two Trump supporters. The president’s allies who connected Rocky’s team with the White House hoped to facilitate a scene that would bolster Trump’s image among African-Americans. Instead, they say they were left angry when Rocky failed to thank Trump or those around him…

Darrell Scott and Kareem Lanier entered the picture a few days after Rocky was detained. Scott, an Ohio pastor, was one of Trump’s highest-profile African-American surrogates during the 2016 campaign and went on to serve on his transition team. Lanier is the co-chairman of the Urban Revitalization Coalition, a nonprofit led by Scott dedicated to promoting elements of the Trump agenda to the black community. The two men, who were hardly household names, have become a regular presence at the White House at events focused on addressing African-American issues.

Scott and Lanier said they became involved after hearing from a man named Hassan Muhammad, who describes himself as a “fixer” for high-profile figures in the entertainment industry. In a pair of phone conversations this week, Muhammad, who has no web presence and was unwilling to name any of his contacts, said an associate of Rocky’s reached out to him about the rapper’s situation…

TL, DR: These two high-profile surrogates seem to have convinced Jared Kushner that the Oval Office Occupant making a huge public fuss (always one of Trump’s favorite things) would improve his status with The Blacks. And Jared, publicity expert, jumped at the possibility! It’s not as though guys like this might’ve had ulterior motives, right?…

… Both Lanier and Scott were upset that Rocky never acknowledged the assistance he had gotten. Lanier attributed this to the potential blowback that an African-American celebrity like Rocky could face for embracing Trump.

“One of the problems that we have as a culture — and I’m talking about black Americans — is herd mentality,” Lanier said. “Right now it’s popular for those guys to bash President Trump.”

The two men said they were left disappointed that Rocky didn’t thank the White House — even behind the scenes.

“All he had to do was do a two-minute call to say thank you,” said Scott. “Rocky hasn’t even called us and said, ‘Hey, man, thank you guys. I appreciate it,’ in private. Just in private.”

Afternoon Open Thread with More Mountain Goats Content

The Mountain Goats (who you may remember from such posts as this one) played a free show in East River Park yesterday. This was great for me, since none of the other tour dates worked out. It was a beautiful day with lovely weather. The concert was very good, as well.

The Mountain Goats play at East River Park

Really just a perfect evening. This was the first time I’d seen them at a venue that had seats, which is important since Millennial fans can no longer stand for three hours straight.

Anybody else been doing outdoor summer activities?

A couple of songs they played below the fold. Studio versions, of course. Open thread!

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Late Night Open Thread: The Trump / A$AP Rocky Conundrum

Normally I would have been relieved not to be required to have an opinion on rapper A$AP Rocky’s innocence or guilt. But I did wonder, as a very white person and an old one at that, if Trump’s indignant ‘appeals’ to the Swedish justice system went beyond You don’t understand our folkways! He’s a celebrity! He has money! Eugene Scott’s report at the Washington Post was illuminating:

A$AP Rocky, whose legal name is Rakim Mayers, has been accused of beating a man in the street on June 30 in central Stockholm.

In a video of the alleged assault, the rapper and those with him apparently threw a man to the ground before kicking and punching him.

Another video posted to A$AP Rocky’s Instagram account claims that the men followed him for four blocks and had repeatedly been asked to leave the artist alone…

Trump, a celebrity before he was a politician, appears to give more credence to the words of black musicians than he does black people working in policy and advocacy. He tweeted that he got involved with the effort to release A$AP Rocky after a request from Kanye West. Last year, he demonstrated his commitment to sentencing reform by commuting the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson after Kim Kardashian West advocated for that.

He views entertainers as the most influential voices in black America. That could be in part because Trump does not have a black person working in a senior position in his White House. Some of the people the president mentions most when addressing issues like criminal justice reform and the black unemployment rate are hip-hop artist Kanye West and conservative activist Candace Owens, supporters of the president with no expertise in these areas…
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