Laughter

the human race has one really effective weapon


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Despite WordPress offering a lot of extra features that Tumblr can’t even touch, I’m posting to Tumblr instead of to this site right now, just to see how it feels. One thing Tumblr has going for it: browsing other sites is a snap and interacting with other bloggers is simple and direct. WordPress could learn a lot looking at how Tumblr handles their dashboard and the distribution of content.

You can find me here: http://laughtercs.tumblr.com/

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Today’s Reads 004 (Michael Brown, Pt. 1)

Articles covering Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri and Robert McCulloch’s abuse of the grand jury system. Includes photographs of Darren Wilson’s alleged injuries following Brown’s death:

  • It’s Incredibly Rare For A Grand Jury To Do What Ferguson’s Just Did (FiveThirtyEight)
    Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” The data suggests he was barely exaggerating: According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them.
  • Ferguson tragedy becoming a farce (Washington Post)
    One might give McCulloch the benefit of the doubt, if not for his background. His father was a police officer killed in a shootout with a black suspect, and several of his family members are, or were, police officers. His 23-year record on the job reveals scant interest in prosecuting such cases. During his tenure, there have been at least a dozen fatal shootings by police in his jurisdiction (the roughly 90 municipalities in the county other than St. Louis itself), and probably many more than that, but McCulloch’s office has not prosecuted a single police shooting in all those years. At least four times he presented evidence to a grand jury but — wouldn’t you know it? — didn’t get an indictment.
  • These Are the Photos of Darren Wilson’s “Injuries” (Gawker)
    In the aftermath of Brown’s death, as Wilson essentially turned himself into a missing person, various reports were circulated about the severity of his injuries. One, passed around conservative circles, purported to show Wilson with a broken eye socket—that story was quickly debunked. ABC News reported that a source said Wilson suffered a “serious facial injury,” but these photos certainly seem to refute that characterization.
  • Why We Won’t Wait (Counterpunch)
    The criminal justice system is used to exact punishment and tribute, a kind of racial tax, on poor/working class Black people. In 2013, Ferguson’s municipal court issued nearly 33,000 arrest warrants to a population of just over 21,000, generating about $2.6 million dollars in income for the municipality. That same year, 92 percent of searches and 86 percent of traffic stops in Ferguson involved black people, this despite the fact that one in three whites was found carrying illegal weapons or drugs, while only one in five blacks had contraband.
  • The St. Louis County Prosecutor Implicitly Conceded the Need for a Trial (New Republic)
    The problem with this is that we already have a forum for establishing the underlying facts of a case—and, no less important, for convincing the public that justice is being served in a particular case. It’s called a trial. It, rather than the post-grand jury press conference, is where lawyers typically introduce mounds of evidence to the public, litigate arguments extensively, and generally establish whether or not someone is guilty of a crime. By contrast, as others have pointed out, the point of a grand jury isn’t to determine beyond a shadow of a doubt what actually happened. It’s to determine whether there’s probable cause for an indictment, which requires a significantly lower standard of proof.
  • St. Louis Prosecutor Bob McCulloch Abused the Grand Jury Process (New Republic)
    In effect, McCulloch staged a pre-trial trial in order to vindicate his personal view of Wilson’s innocence. But grand juries simply aren’t the proper forum for holding a trial. The most obvious reason is that they’re not adversarial settings. The prosecutor gets to present his or her view, but there’s no one to present the opposing view—a rather key feature of the criminal justice system. This isn’t a problem when the prosecutor believes the defendant is guilty, since the result is an actual trial. But when the prosecutor stage-manages a grand jury into affirming his view of the defendant’s innocence, that’s it. That’s the only trial we get.


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Three Concerts: Michael Pisaro, Kevin Drumm + Jason Lescalleet, Joe Panzner + Greg Stuart

Photos from three shows in Boston, Massachusetts: November 6th, 7th, and 11th (2014). Music by Michael Pisaro, Antoine Beuger, Eugene A. Kim, Teodora Stepančić, Assaf Gidron, Adi Snir, Kevin Drumm, Jason Lescalleet, Joe Panzner, and Greg Stuart. Photos include program details. Click for larger versions.


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Today’s Reads 003

More collected articles, posted here for sharing and easy reference.

  • The ALEC Problem Is Even Worse Than John Oliver Thinks (Media Matters)
    In August, ALEC launched an initiative to take its model legislation beyond statehouses and into city councils and county commissions. This new spinoff, the American City County Exchange, “will push policies such as contracting with companies to provide services such as garbage pick-up and eliminating collective bargaining, a municipal echo of the parent group’s state strategies.” The corporate influence of the initiative is poignantly illustrated by the group’s membership fee disparity: Local council members and county commissioners are required to pay a nominal $100 for a two-year membership. Meanwhile, prospective private industry members must choose between a $10,000 and $25,000 membership fee.
  • The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare (Rolling Stone)
    But the idea that Holder had cracked down on Chase was a carefully contrived fiction, one that has survived to this day. For starters, $4 billion of the settlement was largely an accounting falsehood, a chunk of bogus “consumer relief” added to make the payoff look bigger. What the public never grasped about these consumer–relief deals is that the “relief” is often not paid by the bank, which mostly just services the loans, but by the bank’s other victims, i.e., the investors in their bad mortgage securities.
  • Triumph of the Wrong (New York Times, Paul Krugman)
    In short, the story of conservative economics these past six years and more has been one of intellectual debacle — made worse by the striking inability of many on the right to admit error under any circumstances.
  • Obstruction And How The Press Helped Punch The GOP’s Midterm Ticket (Media Matters)
    Why would the president, who’s had virtually his entire agenda categorically obstructed, be blamed and not the politicians who purposefully plot the gridlock? Because the press has given Republicans a pass. For more than five years, too many Beltway pundits and reporters have treated the spectacular stalemate as if it were everyday politics; just more “partisan combat.” It’s not. It’s extraordinary. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
  • Are you reflected in the new Congress? (The Guardian)
    Despite the record number of women and the first black senator elected in the south since Reconstruction, the new US Congress will still be largely male and largely white. A person’s gender, race, sexual orientation, or age doesn’t necessarily mean they represent the views of a whole demographic, but lack of diversity could result in certain concerns not being heard – or not heard loudly enough. Click the categories below to find yourself in the new Congress. This graphic will be updated as more seats are called.
  • Michael Pisaro blurs edges of performance, perception (Boston Globe)
    “The idea of affect and of emotion, I really think that’s why we write music, or one of the main reasons why we write music, and I’m always conscious of that,” Pisaro said. He paraphrased a former teacher, Ben Johnston: “You have to be clear about what you want to hear, but that doesn’t automatically mean that everybody else will want to hear it.
  • The Best Baby Picture Ever of a Planetary System (WIRED)
    Astronomers have taken the best picture yet of a planetary system being born. The image, taken by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in the high-altitude desert in Chile, reveals a planet-forming disk of gas around a young, sun-like star, in great detail.


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Today’s Reads 002

A collection of articles read over the last couple of days actually. Collected from the Internet for sharing and easy reference:

  • How Did Gandhi Win? (Dissent Magazine)
    That the Salt March might at once be considered a pivotal advance for the cause of Indian independence and a botched campaign that produced little tangible result seems to be a puzzling paradox. But even stranger is the fact that such a result is not unique in the world of social movements. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s landmark 1963 campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, had similarly incongruous outcomes: on the one hand, it generated a settlement that fell far short of desegregating the city, a deal which disappointed local activists who wanted more than just minor changes at a few downtown stores; at the same time, Birmingham is regarded as one of the key drives of the civil rights movement, doing perhaps more than any other campaign to push toward the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. This seeming contradiction is worthy of examination.
  • Effects of climate change ‘irreversible,’ U.N. panel warns in report (Washington Post)
    The report said some impacts of climate change will “continue for centuries,” even if all emissions from fossil-fuel burning were to stop. The question facing governments is whether they can act to slow warming to a pace at which humans and natural ecosystems can adapt, or risk “abrupt and irreversible changes” as the atmosphere and oceans absorb ever-greater amounts of thermal energy within a blanket of heat-trapping gases, according to scientists who contributed to the report.
  • The IPCC is stern on climate change – but it still underestimates the situation (The Guardian)
    At this point, the scientists who run the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change must feel like it’s time to trade their satellites, their carefully calibrated thermometers and spectrometers, their finely tuned computer models – all of them for a thesaurus. Surely, somewhere, there must be words that will prompt the world’s leaders to act. This week, with the release of their new synthesis report, they are trying the words “severe, widespread, and irreversible” to describe the effects of climate change – which for scientists, conservative by nature, falls just short of announcing that climate change will produce a zombie apocalypse plus random beheadings plus Ebola.
  • Inventing Climate Change Literature (The New Yorker)
    Climate change has occasioned a lot of good journalism, but it poses as tremendous problems for imaginative literature as it does for electoral politics, and for many of the same reasons. The worst effects aren’t yet here, and even when global warming is the suspected culprit behind a hurricane or a drought, its fingerprints are never to be found on the scene of any particular disaster. Fictional characters, like flesh-and-blood citizens, have more urgent concerns than the state of the climate twenty years hence. Nor is it easy for people, real or imaginary, to feel any special moral relationship to the problem. Oil-company executives may be especially guilty, and environmental activists especially virtuous. The rest of us, in the rich countries, are culpable to such a similar degree that we might as well be equally innocent. So it is that a crisis at the center of our collective life exists for us at the margins of individual consciousness, as a whisper of dread or a rustle of personal implication. The main event of contemporary civilization is never, on any given day, the main event.
  • Science Graphic of the Week: How Magic Mushrooms Rearrange Your Brain (Wired)
    Investigating psychedelia wasn’t the direct purpose of the experiment, said study co-author Giovanni Petri, a mathematician at Italy’s Institute for Scientific Interchange. Rather, psilocybin makes for an ideal test system: It’s a sure-fire way of altering consciousness. “In a normal brain, many things are happening. You don’t know what is going on, or what is responsible for that,” said Petri. “So you try to perturb the state of consciousness a bit, and see what happens.”
  • Sweden Gives Recognition to Palestinians (The New York Times)
    The Palestinian leadership welcomed the move, which came amid growing criticism and frustration in Europe and the United States of Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel fears that the move by Sweden could lead other influential European countries to follow suit, a trend Israeli officials say would pre-empt the results of future negotiations over a Palestinian state with agreed borders. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of Israel said in a statement Thursday that the decision by the Swedish government to recognize a Palestinian state was unfortunate and would strengthen radical elements and Palestinian recalcitrance.


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Today’s Reads 001

Articles I read today, pulled from the Internet for sharing and easy reference.

  • The Cowardice of Bill Maher’s Anti-Muslim Bigotry (The Nation)
    With powerful media personalities like Maher perpetuating the notion that Americans should associate the horrible atrocities committed by ISIS with their Muslim-American neighbors, it shouldn’t be surprising if anti-Islamic sentiment continues to grow. That possibility alone is enough reason to condemn Maher’s fear-mongering. When one delves deeper and uncovers the simplistic, reductionist nature of Maher’s argument, it is clear he is also guilty of intellectual laziness, if not dishonesty.
  • Why Do We Keep Thanking the Troops? (TomDispatch)
    Will the “Concert for Valor” mention the trillions of dollars rung up terrorizing Muslim countries for oil, the ratcheting up of the police and surveillance state in this country since 9/11, the hundreds of thousands of lives lost thanks to the wars of George W. Bush and Barack Obama? Is anyone going to dedicate a song to Chelsea Manning, or John Kiriakou, or Edward Snowden — two of them languishing in prison and one in exile — for their service to the American people? Will the Concert for Valor raise anyone’s awareness when it comes to the fact that, to this day, veterans lack proper medical attention, particularly for mental health issues, or that there is a veteran suicide every 80 minutes in this country? Let’s hope they find time in between drum solos, but myself, I’m not counting on it.
  • Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required (The New York Times)
    There is nothing illegal about depositing less than $10,000cash unless it is done specifically to evade the reporting requirement. But often a mere bank statement is enough for investigators to obtain a seizure warrant. In one Long Island case, the police submitted almost a year’s worth of daily deposits by a business, ranging from $5,550 to $9,910. The officer wrote in his warrant affidavit that based on his training and experience, the pattern “is consistent with structuring.” The government seized $447,000 from the business, a cash-intensive candy and cigarette distributor that has been run by one family for 27 years.
  • Coming Soon To A Coast Near You: Vertical Tsunami Shelters (Popular Science)
    In the wake of the devastating Japanese tsunami in 2011 and the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, other communities on the West Coast have begun considering similar structures to shelter the thousands of people who live in low-lying areas. Other places around the world are also looking into vertical evacuation strategies. In Japan, a few different structures have already been built, and in Indonesia, researchers at Stanford are looking into reinforcing existing buildings to make them safe spaces in the event of a tsunami. 
  • The Fruit of Another (The Paris Review)
    Hilarion’s temptations inspired two very striking—and very different—French nineteenth-century paintings, both of which testify to his suffering more acutely than Jerome’s storytelling. The first, by Dominique-Louis-Féréol Papety, sees an almost catatonic Hilarion visited by a topless seductress with an elegant array of fruits, wine, and hors d’oeuvres, a surreal counterpoint to the forbidding landscape. What a brilliant thought on Papety’s part to have Hilarion’s arms outstretched—in protest as much as in longing, it seems—his face sick with fear and confusion [includes images].


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Quote of the Day: “Why are beggars despised?”

Then the question arises, Why are beggars despised? – for they are despised, universally. I believe it is for the simple reason that they fail to earn a decent living. In practice nobody cares whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable. In all the modern talk about energy, efficiency, social service and the rest of it, what meaning is there except ‘Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it’? Money has become the grand test of virtue. By this test beggars fail, and for this they are despised. If one could earn even ten pounds a week at begging, it would become a respectable profession immediately.

A beggar, looked at realistically, is simply a businessman, getting his living, like other business men, in the way that comes to hand. He has not, more than most modern people, sold his honour; he has merely made the mistake of choosing a trade at which it is impossible to grow rich.

George Orwell, from Down and Out in Paris and London (1933)


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I’m still tinkering with the layout of the site and familiarizing myself with the new post formats in this WordPress theme. Things may change or jump around in the next couple of days but hopefully I’ll have everything figured out by the end of the week.


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A Painting for the Day: Paul Klee’s “Die Zwitscher-Maschine”

Die Zwitscher-Maschine, by Paul Klee. Click for a large version.

Die Zwitscher-Maschine, by Paul Klee. Click for a larger image.

I saw this painting posted, appropriately enough, on Twitter and fell in love with it. Here’s the Wikipedia summary for Paul Klee:

Paul Klee (German pronunciation:[paʊ̯l ˈkleː]; 18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940) was a painter born inMünchenbuchsee, Switzerland, and is considered to be a German-Swiss.[a] His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionismcubism, and surrealism. He was also a student of orientalism.[1] Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually got deep into color theory, writing about it extensively; his lectures Writings on Form and Design Theory (Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre), published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks, are held to be as important for modern art as Leonardo da Vinci‘s A Treatise on Painting for the Renaissance.[2][3][4] He and his colleague, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, both taught at the German Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture. His works reflect his dry humour and his sometimes childlike perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and also his musicality.

And this is the summary for the painting, also from Wikipedia:

Twittering Machine (Die Zwitscher-Maschine) is a 1922 watercolor and pen and ink oil transfer on paper by Swiss-German painter Paul Klee. Like other artworks by Klee, it blends biology and machinery, depicting a loosely sketched group of birds on a wire or branch connected to a hand-crank. Interpretations of the work vary widely: it has been perceived as a nightmarish lure for the viewer or a depiction of the helplessness of the artist, but also as a triumph of nature over mechanical pursuits. It has been seen as a visual representation of the mechanics of sound.

Originally displayed in Germany, the image was declared “degenerate art” by Adolf Hitler in 1933 and sold by the Nazi party to an art dealer in 1939, whence it made its way to New York. One of the better known of more than 9,000 works produced by Klee, it is among the more famous images of the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It has inspired several musical compositions and, according to a 1987 magazine profile in New York Magazine, has been a popular piece to hang in children’s bedrooms.

The section on critical analysis is worth looking over just to see how very different various interpretations of the piece have really been. Now that we have social media sites like Twitter and Facebook (or blog sites like WordPress), it’s difficult not to read the painting as satire. It could easily be the image of an endlessly chirping machine cranking out wave after wave of babbling, chirpy noise. I suppose that’s a cynical reading, but it’s easy enough to make the way those birds look, their tongues hanging out like they’re being choked.

Then again, the whole setup could be a musical instrument. Maybe you’re supposed to turn the handle in your head and imagine what the mechanical birds would look like as they moved up and down on the wire, singing who knows what kind of song.

According to Wikipedia, at least a couple of composers have written music inspired by the painting:

The son of a musicologist, Klee himself drew parallels between sound and art, and Twittering Machine has been influential on several composers.[15] It inspired the 1951 orchestral work Die Zwitschermaschine by Giselher Klebe, and one of the pieces in David Diamond‘s “The World of Paul Klee”, which debuted in 1958, as well as one of the seven in Gunther Schuller‘s “Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee”, composed the following year.[15][16]

And as it turns out a rendition of David Diamond’s “The World of Paul Klee” is available on Youtube. Enjoy:


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Friendly Advice from Patti Smith

patti_smith_william_burroughsFriendly advice from Patti Smith and William S. Burroughs, via Brain Pickings:

Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises, don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful — be concerned with doing good work… What matters is to know what you want and pursue it, and understand that it’s going to be hard.

Patti tosses a few cliches out there, but it’s good to hear her reaffirm that basic principle: don’t worry about the money, don’t worry about the trends, don’t worry about what other people want or think—concentrate on doing your work and making it good.

[vimeo 57857893 w=640&h=360]

 


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Photo of the Day: Heroes

photo credits: Kylie Atwood/CBS News

photo credits: Kylie Atwood/CBS News

I’ve watched the video of the first explosion too many times to count. I knew some people who were nearby, who watched it all unfold. The first images of the injured and the blood-stained sidewalks were almost too surreal to believe. The sight of that fireball in downtown Boston, where I’ve walked many times, turned me numb.

But now all I see and think about are the people who ran toward the explosion to help.

That’s what bravery, selflessness, and heroism looks like.

Thank you for giving us all some hope in this mess.


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The Rise and Fall of Physical Media, or the Music Industry in 40 Seconds

40-years-of-music-industry-change

From Digital Music News, an animated GIF showing how people have purchased and listened to music over the last 40 years. The numbers are based on RIAA revenue figures starting in 1973 and continuing through 2012.

If you look at the original post, you can view each slide one at a time. It’s hard to believe that in 2002 CDs represented 95% of all music sales—records barely even registered then. And though we read that vinyl sales are ever increasing, in 2012 LPs and EPs accounted for only 2.3% of the industry’s revenue. One thing these pie charts don’t show us is how much the entire pie has shrank since 1973. If you want info on total dollars, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

I do wonder how these numbers fit into overall music sales and listening habits. I don’t know, for instance, how the RIAA collects this data, nor do I know who contributes the information. I’m guessing some of my favorite labels aren’t represented, and so whether or not they’ve benefited from apparently positive growth within the industry is unclear. This data only gives us an idea of how certain labels and artists might be making money. The numbers won’t line up with everyone’s listening habits, in part because they don’t account for illegal downloads, but also because they don’t show just how much the industry has shrank in the last 40 years. Record sales might be up, but are artists actually making more money? Can they afford to be musicians full time or do they need another job? Do they have health insurance? The numbers are all raw as is, and need to be filled in.

Months ago I went to the record store, bought a handful of CDs and took them to a bar where I could look over the liner notes. The bartender remarked about the CDs, saying that she never saw anyone buy them anymore. When I asked her how she got her music, she said she used iTunes most of the time, but that she also downloaded music and listened to streaming radio.

At Boston College I often got the same response: students downloaded music, listened on their iPods, and generally avoided records and CDs. There were students who wanted to DJ at the college radio station but who had never touched a turntable. Many of them didn’t understand why the record player had to be grounded; some couldn’t even operate it properly and chose to shun the record library because the spinning platter presented too many queuing difficulties.

Revenue numbers clearly show more people are buying records—at least, records of a certain kind—but who are they?

I can find articles documenting the LP’s small resurgence, but I can’t find anything that breaks those consumers up into age groups. Many of my friends, between 28 and 40-something, still buy albums from to time to time, even if they are using other services like iTunes. The people I know who are younger, many of them in college, have an almost completely digital collection. How much of it was purchased is another question.

I wonder if the supposed hip, young new audiences I read about aren’t just a fiction sold by an industry hungry for good news. But I’d love for it to be true. Anyone with some solid information about who is buying music should leave a comment.

Looking at that 2012 data, I see that the CD still brings in close to 36% of the industry’s revenue—that’s almost as much as downloaded singles and downloaded albums combined—but I also notice that, as CD sales shrink, revenue from streaming and subscription services continues to grow; up 3% from 2011.

I’m inclined to think these services will continue to grow and become more popular, especially with companies like Apple and Twitter investing a lot of money into new streaming platforms. But I have almost zero faith in them because, even if they help the industry make money, they’re not very likely to help artists. I’ve posted about those services before, but I still think Damon Krukowski’s article for Pitchfork is one of the best places to go for a reality check. According to him, the sale of 1,000 7″ singles made his band more money than over 13,000 plays on Pandora and Spotify. How are these services supposed to save the industry if they can’t help an artist buy groceries for the week?

Until I see downloads and streams generating as much profit for an artist as a limited edition 7″ single, I’ll be skeptical of their ability to help anyone but CEOs and investors make a living. Compact discs, vinyl records, and generally material media are still the best way to support songwriters and performers. And while it’s exciting that so much great music has become more readily and easily available, it’s discouraging to see that same availability eating away at the income of touring, hard-working musicians who actually give all their time—some of them their entire lives—to a craft that they love.

Despite increased sales and a generally hopeful attitude, I think we still have to ask the questions David Lowery asked NPR’s Emily White:

“Why are we willing to pay for computers, iPods, smartphones, data plans, and high speed internet access but not the music itself? Why do we gladly give our money to some of the largest richest corporations in the world but not the companies and individuals who create and sell music?”


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The Music Industry’s So-Called “Good News”

spotify_logo

The New Yorker’s Nick Traverse reported “happy news” for the music industry today: global music revenue is up for the first time since 1999. Up a whole 0.3 percent in fact. The catch is that streaming services like Spotify and Pandora figure into the equation more than ever. Continue reading


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The New-ish Photo of Robert Johnson

Photograph: Robert Johnson Estate/Getty Images

From Photograph: Robert Johnson Estate/Getty Images

Last Saturday, The Guardian posted a story about a new photograph of blues legend Robert Johnson discovered on eBay by Steven Schein eight years ago, but only recently authenticated. The now restored photograph shows Johnson holding his guitar next to Blues Hall of Fame inductee Johnny Shines, who died in 1992. This is only the third verified image of Robert Johnson ever discovered, though others have claimed to be such.

As it turns out, forensic artist Lois Gibson actually confirmed Johnson’s identity in the photo years ago, after being commissioned by the Robert Johnson Estate in 2007. You can read a little about that process by checking out this Vanity Fair article, posted in 2008. It’s a supplement to Frank DiGiacomo’s story, Searching for Robert Johnson, which is online here:

Because the image had just recently been listed, by a New York–based antiques dealer, bidding was still at a reasonable $25, but Schein guessed that the ending bid was going to be many times that initial figure. He had just sold a beautiful 1920s Stella acoustic guitar—a favorite among the old country-blues musicians—and when he added together the money he’d gotten for that and some extra cash on hand, he came up with a budget of $3,100. If someone spends more than that, he figured, the bidder will also know it’s a photo of Robert Johnson, so it will be protected.

A co-worker of Schein’s set up a computer “snipe” program that automatically bid on the picture up to the specified limit, and Schein held his breath. Approximately $2,200 later, he held the photo in his hands. What had he gotten for his money? An extremely fragile, three-inch-by-four-inch photo that bore no identifying marks that could be traced to a photographer’s studio, no date stamp that could establish when the picture had been taken, no provenance whatsoever save for a note from the seller saying he’d purchased the photo in Atlanta. Schein was still convinced that he had found and purchased a photo of Robert Johnson and Johnny Shines. The question was, could he convince anyone else?

It’s a great read, and as much about Johnson as it is about the photo. Anyone wanting to see or hear more should check out the UK documentary The Search for Robert Johnson, which you can watch on Youtube below. Eric Clapton and Keith Richards make an appearance, as does Johnny Shines.


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Photo of the Day: An Unusual Pair

credit: drifterManifesto, see below

credit: drifterManifesto, see below

After seeing this image a week ago, I was finally able to track down the artist responsible. You can visit drifterManifesto’s Deviant Art page by clicking here. A full sized version of the image, along with comments, can be found here. Other than a caption that reads “Brothers?” there’s zero info about where the photo was taken, or whether the pair are actually family.

Prints are available from the artist should you want one. Please leave a comment if you know anything else about the photo.

If you’re the artist and want the image taken down, just email me and I’ll remove it immediately.