Monday, August 14, 2017

A Great Insight Into Overly Racialized Politics And Culture


Great point by Glenn Loury: actually it's an amazing point, something I cop to never having thought through as he has.

I wrote this to a friend after sending him the statement:

....What Loury says, embedded in a basic truth about our common humanity, that bedrock notion underlying an essential premise and promise of liberal democracy and underlying such notions as equality, justice, equal protection and the rule of law, is the best concise account I've ever come across on the terrible reductive logic of extreme identity/racial  politics and race as a cultural imperative as they show themselves these days. Content of character not color or skin idea. It's not that there ought be no identity politics. Politics will always be interest groups vying for their interests. But when the balance  between that and some notion of the common good rooted in our common humanity is so disjointed as it now is, Loury's statement is a big, incisive point of wise light...

The statement itself:

I recently spoke with the social scientist Glenn Loury, who teaches at Brown University. As he sees it, if race becomes an irreducible category in politics, rather than being incorporated into universal claims of justice, it’s a weapon that can be picked up and used by anyone. “Better watch out,” he said. “I don’t know how you live by the identity-politics sword and don’t die by it.” Its logic lumps everyone—including soon-to-be-minority whites—into an interest group. One person’s nationalism intensifies tribal feelings in others, in what feels like a zero-sum game. “I really don’t know how you ask white people not to be white in the world we’re creating,” Loury said. “How are there not white interests in a world where there are these other interests?” He continued, “My answer is that we not lose sight of the goal of racially transcendent humanism being the American bedrock. It’s the abandonment of this goal that I’m objecting to.”

Sent from my iPad

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Romney vs Obama Revisited: Dan Balz's Collision 2012


I just finished Dan Balz's Collision 2012 on the nomination lead up to and the presidential campaign itself.

It's like seeing the whole shmeer reflected in a mirror, a selective mirror to be sure--there's no way to reflect it all, but fair, neutral and disinterested in its selection. The book is crisply written and incisive and shows off well the good shoe leather reporting  behind it. "Reporting," that's one good encapsulation of the book.

One thing restruck me. I've always thought that a big turning point in the Romney Obama race was the second debate when Ben Ghazi came up. Romney backed off pressing on with the debate criticisms on Ben Gahzi that he began to thrust with, after his own and general pre debate scathing criticism of Obama for it even happening and the (non)response to it, criticisms coming from any number of angles.

Balz recounts Ben Rhodes "going  back" and noting that Obama initially used the word "terror" describing the attack. Rhodes urged stressing that in the debate against the criticism that the Administration played politics with Ben Ghazi by (infamously) claiming an anti Muslim video spontaneously caused the attack rather than it being a concerted terrorist one. Obama did that. And it led to the famous Candy Crowley-the moderator-affirmation that Obama had indeed said "terror" while a perplexed and taken aback Romney kept denying Obama had said it and demanded proof. 

Romney, in my view, internally fell apart by the clear image of the deflation of his criticism. Team Obama outpointed Team Romney in debate prep by coming up with that answer. And Romney in that instance didn't have the agility or wherewithal to parry Obama's combo of parry and thrust. 

Romney's consternation showed. 

Not discussed by Balz, but I remember that Romney then began a ridiculously formulated criticism of an alleged Administration stand down order to the U.S. military, it allegedly being a politically motivated decision, a reverse Wag The Dog. Romney was awkward in beginning that line of criticism and Obama acted like he couldn't believe what he was hearing. Rearing up some, he looked sternly at Romney and said, I paraphrase, "Are you saying I, as Commander in Chief, ordered a stand-down for political purposes?" 

Romney backed off, tail tucked.

My thought watching the debate was that the whole Ben Ghazi thing was an opportunity lost by Romney. His team, as I note, should have anticipated Obama's answer using the word "terror." Even if unanticipated, Romney shouldn't have been so flummoxed and needn't have lost the gist of the "video critique," which the one early use of "terror" didn't really displace. 

Moreover, there were many ways of getting in the stand-down order point without directly accusing Obama of it. The  rationalized use of the video for political purposes could have evoked the theme of Obama's generally raising politics over meritorious action. Obama's delegation of command and control of the response to a couple of people and then virtually taking himself out that c and c loop save for the odd check in and briefing could have been a criticism in itself; and it might have been surmised to have been layering in a buffer between him and any such order, let alone any debacle in the response to the attack. 

The issue could have been framed as "There are questions we don't know the answers to such as....and here are concerns that raise the questions..." The anchor of these approaches would have been the fact that there was no military response. Maybe framed too as res ipsa loquitur/the act speaks for itself, as lawyers say.

My sense is that the first debate Romney won had the makings of transforming the race. To continue those winning ways in the second debate would have rolled transformation right along. But with the debate collapse over Ben Ghazi, which done right could have been politically maiming if not lethal, Romney floundered, then and there support of resistant Rs who were starting to come around cooled off and the framing idea of the race's ongoing transformation into Romney winning and Obama losing ruptured.

I was put in mind of examinations I have done, especially cross examinations, when carefully thought through questions leading to specific mini coups de grace of sorts paid sizable rewards and, too, sad to say, just as many, when an unexpected answer or something missing in my analysis sent me internally reeling and set me back. I can't think of a case, mind you, that ultimately turned on opportunity lost,  but then again of course every win and loss within a trial either helps or hurts.

In my way of seeing it, flubbing Ben Ghazi in the second debate hurt Romney a lot and can credibly be seen as an election costing opportunity lost.

Balz's book brought all those thoughts flooding back to me.

If anyone likes this kind of thing, retrospective looks at campaigns, I recommend this book to them.

Friday, August 4, 2017

An Argument For Beauty As Truth I Made To A Guy

So let's try it this way:

Truth: a transcendent fundamental or spirituality reality; fidelity to an original or a standard.

Beauty: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit; an excellent quality; a brilliant instance. 

We commonly speak of a "true" any number of things, a true shot, a true gentleman, a true lady, a true friend, as in real, genuine or authentic or as in of the right kind, such as it should be, proper. We can derive from these uses of true one idea of true as the exemplification of the ideal or of a standard. So what exemplifies an ideal or a standard is a form of one meaning of what is true. 

Beauty has on the above definitions, among other meanings, the idea of exalted excellence, of the high instance of an ideal or a standard. For example, it would be odd to deny that a perfect rose, a perfect body, a gracefully executed athletic move and other exemplifications of an ideal or standard and that exalt us in mind or spirit are beautiful. 

Therefore on the above definitions, all from standard dictionaries, beauty is a form of truth....

Monday, July 31, 2017

All The Way (With LBJ)


All The Way (with LBJ):

Finally, finally we, I and Mrs Basman, watched Brian Cranston in All The Way, about LBJ's first year as President after Kennedy's death.

I think he and it are just terrific.

His acting led me to forget I was watching an actor and made me think I was watching LBJ in all his passion, earthiness, personal political brilliance, distresses and successes given the problems he faced and. the solutions he devised and generally how he balanced ideals with the art of the possible.

In a phase, Cranston's acting got me to suspend disbelief. 

I learned new things too. I simply wasn't aware of the potential problem LBJ faced with Southern states walking out on him and the Democratic Party at the Democratic convention over the demand that the Mississippi delegation be integrated. 

I thought I detected one brilliant dark touch in the movie. In the short scene that included McNamara, Humphrey and Johnson himself and involves Johnson, over Humphrey's impassioned position otherwise, on the spur of the moment okaying a retaliatory strike for what, as the scene has it, may or may not have been an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin. 

In that decision, as I saw it in the movie, is the beginning of the end of Johnson politically as the combination of Vietnam and his bad health led him out of the 68 race. And, as I further saw it, that dark moment is implicit in what qualifies Johnson's exuberance at thrashing Goldwater, that as sure as the sun rises in the morning, as he says, the knives will come out in the morning.

There are a few nits I suppose I can pick, but why: it's overall so excellent.

I'd give it 5 out of 5. Just great.

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Second Note On Nolan's Dunkirk


In rebuttal, I think the absence of personal backstories was intentional and meant not to detract from the real objective - to immerse the viewer into the middle of the horror and feel it without the comfort of a movie gloss. If you see war movies evolving from post WW2 good guy-bad guy/American heroes to Vietnam-era war is hell and one side is not better than another to Spielberg/Hanks resurrecting the greatest generation with moving backstories, this is another evolution - using cinema to make you feel the fear, desperation, panic,commitment and then heroism without being side-tracked by any other agenda. It's true that he focused more on the horror than the rescue but in a way that made the audience finally feel that they were being rescued as wel.

Not as much fun as Hollywood's other war genres, but a more meaningful experience.


I wouldn't take on anyone's view of this movie different from mine. It's in the end a subjective call. The best thing to do more than argue and say "You're wrong" is to share perspectives and offer reasons for the different view. 

I didn't worry too much about the absence of back stories as I think part of the point was to show the leading figures of each of three stories in relation to what aspect of Dunkirk each was microcosm for. The confusion I have over one line of thinking about the movie, not yours as I read your note, is the complaint, even Podhoretz makes it in his good review, of the lack or absence of story telling. 

I can't see that point as a factual matter about the film: there are three distinct story lines which form the spine of the film and they come together at the end. I think Nolan apart from wanting to give an immersive sense of what Hell comprised Dunkirk wanted to give an immediately personal sense of it all by having each story line operate, as I say, as a microcosm for different aspects of it: the rescue by modest civilian boats; the air battles, since aerial bombing was the prime means of the Germans trying to kill the hundreds of thousands of stranded allies; and the story of the one surviving soldier who runs the gamut of most of what Dunkirk involved. 

For me the constant cross cutting among narratives, the intrusively loud climax-signaling music, the difficulty understanding a lot of what was being said and some other things blunted the dramatic impact of the stories. But stories involving specific individuals, albeit without back stories, there were. 

Nolan was effective in his desire to immerse the audience in his recreation of the carnage of Dunkirk--I didn't see the IMAX version--but after a point I found it arbitrarily repetitive, one more dog fight, one more ship blown up, one more bomb falling near the soldiers on the pier, one more scene with soldiers trying to swim for dear life, some making it, some not. I started to get fidgety with it all and that too blunted the impact of the three stories, I thought. 

I think the strongest point Podhoretz makes is the ahistoricalness of the movie. We didn't need a history lesson to be sure, but there had to be a way of dramatically showing what was at stake, what led up to Dunkirk other than a few words from the unfazed, spic and span clean and laconic Branagh character. That to my mind doesn't involve rooting for good guys in the white hats and booing the bad guys in the black hats. It rather involves the dramatization of more context including what the Axis powers were about, what the Allies were fighting against and what decisions high command was making and why. I mean to put it baldly there actually were good guys and bad guys, but in my admittedly weird take on the movie, Germany wasn't the enemy--war itself was (and is) the enemy. 

Semi-finally, it struck me, and I read Podhoretz to say it struck him too, that the amazing feat of the Dunkirk rescue was understated and that that understatement is in disaccord with with how history and culture understand what a monumental thing the Dunkirk rescue was. The addition of some context would have helped illuminate that. Of course the bravery and fact of the rescue is present. But I  think there's some tendentious distortion in understating it. 

So, finally, my own theory, probably idiosyncratic, as to the why of that distortion is that, as I noted in my own note about the film, in fact Nolan had an agenda, which was to show the carnage as outstripping the importance of the rescue in order to give, at bottom, his own version of the war is Hell theme, and that no part of war is to be overly-valorized. The numbers, given the situation, to my mind, belie that outstripping: about 40,000 casualties against 340,000 saved in the most perilously near to impossible circumstances; about 750 small civilian boats with about 220 sunk by the Luftwaffe. 

Anyway that's me on it. I don't know enough about the history of war films to say how Dunkirk relates to the traditions of them. 

On Benjamin Black's Holy Orders


Holy Orders: No spoilers, 


In Benjamin Black's (real name John Banville) Holy Orders, set in Dublin, an out and about couple discover a brutally murdered young  journalist in a canal. The chief cop, Hackett, gets his pathologist friend Quirke, the protagonist, involved in the investigation. 

It turns out that at part of the heart of the case is the Catholic Church. Trouble for Quirke is that his own childhood was spent in an orphanage run by priests who beat, abused and terrified him. The investigation leads Quirke to relive his past trauma. It torments him psychologically and sickens him physically. He desperately needs release from his torment. Solving the murder may hold some promise of that.

In the story, Quirke's family ties get implicated within the outer perimeter of the crime as Quirke recognizes the murder victim to be Jimmy Minor, a friend of his daughter Phoebe, with whom he has a tenuous, complicated relationship. Tying the ties tighter, Jimmy Minor's sister, Susan, comes back from London to Dublin and befriends Phoebe, lives with her for a while and thereby tracks Quirke's progress in the investigation. Eventually she becomes an actor in what might be thought of as the crime's resolution. The family ties become tightest when Phoebe becomes the subject of certain efforts by the Church to ward off Quirke's investigation.  

Black's prose  is vivid and sure as the story slowly and surely unfolds. Quirke, known only by his surname,  is a complicated, suffering, fallible and falling apart character. He's an alcoholic and a loner even as women are drawn to him. His personal life including such family life as he has and had is steeped in illegitimacy, adultery, mystery of parental origins and cruel mistreatment. 

He's not an anti hero but rather a counter hero and stands against the typical crime novel protagonist. Typically, the hero cop or the PI thrives on being an outsider and stands taller, is more compelling  and more authentic than the people and their conventional ways that he (usually he's a he, not always) thinks, works and fights his way through and past to solve the crime. There is in that by the way some of the tradition of picaresque. 

As he joins Hackett in investigating the murder, Quirke as counter hero begins to hallucinate and experience strange feelings out of the pressure created by his reliving the misery of his past. When the investigation takes Quirke and Hackett to Trinity Manor, that triggers his memories of his terrible orphanage bound childhood of beating, abuse and terrifying fear. In these memories and in the story itself Blacks's pillorying of the Church's horrible misdeeds is savage, unremitting and unforgiving. 

Quirke basically stumbles through the investigation and virtually by happenstance gets finally to understand what all occurred. In my way of seeing it, the solving of the crime is secondary to what Quirke suffers from and tries to work through personally as he deals with his own falling apart. 

Just to give a small taste of the flow, easiness and vivid lyricism  of Black's prose:

Page 32:

...The mother was a wisp of a thing, with hardly a pick on her...She wore old fashion spectacles with circular wire frames and thick lenses through which she peered about her frowningly, making constant tiny movements of her head, nervous and birdIke. She seemed more preoccupied than grief stricken, and kept sighing and murmuring in a vaguely distracted way. Her husband, a spry little fellow with rusty hair growing gray, was the dead spit of his murdered son...

Page 80:

He fetched a tumbler from the kitchen and poured a measure of whiskey and handed it to her, his fingers brushing hers; her skin felt cold and slightly moist. He had an urge to take her by the arm and drag her behind him into the bedroom and strip her of her clothes and clasp her against him, the chill long length of her, and smell her hair and her perfumed throat, and put his lips to hers and forget, forget everything, if only for s few minutes....

Page 145:

...Quirke stood up and went to the bar and asked for two more whiskeys. There was a constriction in his chest and his heart was doing its muffled, trapped bird thrashings. Was this, he wondered in alarm, the preliminary to another bout of alienation and fantasy, like the one he had undergone at Trinity Manor? He had been in the presence of a priest on that occasion too. Maybe he was developing an allergy to the men of the cloth. Or maybe he was just angry at the thought of Costigan and his endless machinations...

Page 251:

...Cinnamon, that was what he had been smelling: cinnamon, a soft brown fragrance. For a moment in his mind he saw a desert under moonlight, the clifflike dunes glimmering their edges sharp as scimitars, and in the distance, at the head of a long plume of dust, a line of camels and their drivers, and mounted on the camels swarthy sharp-faced  men in turbans and behind them their women, veiled, bejeweled, plump as pigeons...

I recommend this novel as a crime story that is more about personal suffering and the onset of failure than crime, that is psychologically penetrating about a complex man and is savagely indicting in its description of priestly depredation. It's wonderful in its giving the feel of Dublin and it's fluidly lyrical in its prose. In a word, it's literary. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Some Back And Forth On Popular Culture: Movies And Music: Mimickry And iteration


Department Of We Need The Real Thing:


....Finally saw La La Land last night.

Either I saw a different film with the same name, plot and cast as that film that won all those Oscars, or that’s gotta be one of the most overhyped pieces of tripe I’ve seen in a long while.  The leads can certainly act, but they can’t sing, and they can’t dance.  Supposed to be a nod/tribute to the great MGM musicals of the 40s and early 50s and the RKO musicals of the 30s?  More like a nod off - in those films the leads could act, but also sing and dance – the kind of thing you expect from leads in a musical.  Ryan ‘n Emma, you ain’t no Fred ‘n  Ginger.  Fred  and Ginger awed George Balanchine.  Ryan ‘n Emma wouldn’t awe a high school dance.  

The music?  Why bother - unlike the forgettable guy that wrote the forgettable numbers for this forgettable film, the classic musicals had unforgettable guys like Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Yip Harberg, Richard Rogers, Johnny Mercer, etc. - writing unforgettable music for unforgettable films.

The choreography? Hermes Pan, Stanley Donen, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly did the choreography.  Mandy Moore, you ain’t no Hermes Pan...


....Honestly it was a piece of shit.

Irrational at it core. Let singers and dancers sing and dance.

The question is: what lies at the root of a culture that goes nuts for such mediocrity?

Moonlight was ok but wasn't Oscar worthy. Still, I was glad it bumped La La Land out of the best picture limelight....


....Very much agree – I was also left cold by The Artist, a silent film nod to silent films, which only reminded me of how much better they made silent films back when they made silent films.  I think tribute films are Elvis impersonators – why settle for an imitation when you can enjoy the real thing?


...You are so right. 

Truth to tell I never saw The Artist, could have but just didn't want to. For precisely the reason you say. 

Same thing btw with tribute records and shows. They can be fun in a campy way, Elvis impersonators, but that's not their typical premise, campy fun. It's rather homage. But the performances are usually second tier, if that high. Why not just hear the real thing? 

My wife once took me to the play based on the music of Leiber and Stoller. It was ok but couldn't touch the real thing, those songs sung by the artists who recorded them. They're invariably better. I am going to see the Carole King play Beautiful. Maybe it'll be an exception and do justice to the original, the way Jersey Boys does. (Only saw the movie.) 

The odd time a cover or tribute surpasses the original. It's like finding a diamond in a pile of detritus. 

Go to You Tube.

Listen to ZZ Top's original version of Sure Got Cold After The Rain Fell then listen to Alan Jackson's version, which is on a ZZ Top tribute record but you can hear it on You Tube. AJ out ZZs ZZ. 

Cassandra Wilson does that too. She can take so so pop hits and make real evocative art out of them. Like with Last Train To Clarksville or Harvest Moon. Ray Charles too. He turns anything he sings into gold. I use the present tense for because he's an eternal presence.


....I think you’ve identified the difference between mimicry and creativity.  No one listening to Alan Jackson would think he’s trying to imitate ZZ Top.  It’s Alan Jackson’s version of the same song.  It’s Stevie Ray Vaughan’s performance of “Little Wing”.  It ain’t Stevie Ray Vaughan imitating Hendrix.  It’s not a tribute.  It’s Stevie Ray Vaughan’s version of “Little Wing”.

Irving Berlin’s “Isn’t This A Lovely Day?” was written for and first appeared in “Top Hat” (1935), one of the finest Fred and Ginger RKO musicals (my all-time favourite is 1936’s “Swing Time”).  In “Top Hat:, the song was sung by Fred Astaire.  Aside from movie junkies, few people would know that the song comes from the 1935 film, and no one would know that it was originally sung by Fred Astaire to Ginger Rogers.  That’s because “Isn’t This A Lovely Day” doesn’t belong to any one performer.  As part of the “Great American songbook”, it belongs to everyone who has the ego or chops (sometimes both) to perform it and be held to account against all the greats who have recorded it (and I’d certainly include Fred Astaire among them). 

Along with Fred’s original, I’ve got five versions of that song in my music collection, by Art Tatum, Billie Holiday, Oscar Peterson, Tony Bennett and Diana Krall.   No one remotely sounds like Fred Astaire, and none of the arrangements are remotely like the film’s.   Every artist makes the song their own.  No one sounds like anyone else, because no one is imitating anyone else.

I think maybe that’s the key.  If you don’t have anything new or different to say, why bother?  You’re always going to suffer by comparison to the real thing.


Interesting point distinguishing between imitation and mimicry.

All I can say to it is that mimicry would be to singing as is mimicry/impersonation to comedy, which is to say, mimicry can be a unique mode of comic entertainment, Rich Little, Frank Gorshin or whomever. No singer worthy of their salt tries in tributes or in covers to mimic the original nor would they admit to it. They try and would say they try to impart themselves, their own voice, their own sensibility, into what they cover. It's just that in my listening experience they rarely do the original justice. It's a rare pleasure when they do. 

Btw, here's a hilarious attempt to impart a unique group sensibility to a great song, best sung, imo, by Bobby Hatfield:


P.S. On this theme, isn't Janis Joplin's version of Little Girl Blue magnificently the best one?


I’ve got multiple versions of Little Girl Blue – by Janis Joplin, Nina Simone (who does a achingly beautiful version to the arrangement of Good King Wenceslas?(!)), Frank Sinatra, Coleman Hawkins, and Oscar Peterson and Diana Krall.   Janis’ version is nothing like any of the others.  I’d say I think it’s certainly the best blues version, but they’re all so different, I’d rather just say it’s  a great performance by a great artist that ranks right up there with the great performance of other great artists (except for Krall, who I think is derivative, syrupy and boring).


......That's fairly enough said.

I may be too eager to turn my enthusiasms into "objective", as if, rankings. But I've spent some time listening to many, many different versions of Little Girl Blue and can't find anything that, at least for me, touches what Janis Joplin does with it. You mentioned Stevie Ray Vaughan before. A thing that's amazing about him, for all the guitar slinger he can be, is how delicately fine his touch becomes when need be. Same with Janis Joplin and markedly so on Little Girl Blue, how she ranges from pathos to empathy and sympathy to the strength of hope in what she conveys is so good. I can't think of anyone who imparts such drama and feeling to the song. For me hers transcends just being a blues version.

By the way, if you haven't ever, check out Radio Deluxe, a two hour weekly radio show hosted by John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey, his wife. It's dedicated essentially to jazz and popular singers with a lot of pleasant and musically competent chatter. Wonderful show. I think you'd love it. You can find it online too...

And me:

....Also, further on this theme and its tributaries, I got into an argument with someone about Joni Mitchell. Two points I made only the first is a source of contention:

She cannot sing ballads and songs that call for big emotion. I said this with specific reference to her album Both Sides Now and I used At Last as a case in point. I think Etta James wins the gold on that one and our country woman doesn't make the cut to the finals.

Non contentious is the point that when she sings her own material and, too, songs that suit the way she sings, she's uniquely at her best and no one come close to what she does so uniquely well. In fact the same said Jessica Molaskey is putting out a tribute record to her and the show has played a few tracks. They're ok but here for me it's as you say, why bother?

Collateral issue: we also fell out over Little Green on Blue. The subject matter, her giving up her kid for various reasons including being able to travel and sing unencumbered put me away. I formed such a dislike for her from that song. Something a tad precious, self satisfied and self indulgent about our feted fellow citizen. 

It never came up with the guy I was arguing with but I just heard a version of her singing Summertime, maybe recorded 15 years ago or so. At first I thought it was Diana Krall, who I generally like but find tending to being vocally one dimensional, and I thought this is a pretty but still a stiff version that suffers from a certain flatness. Then I thought maybe it's not Diana Krall, the voice has a different quality. It turned out not to be Elvis's wife but rather Joni Mitchell. The singing was unimpressive. 

Finally, I think it was Kurt Elling I heard doing The Lady Is A Tramp. Again I came to it already underway and thought for a while it was Sinatra till I thought maybe it wasn't. It wasn't. On your distinction between mimicry and iteration this may veer close to the former. But I didn't care. He sounded glorious.


.....Thanks for the tip – that indeed sounds like something I’d love.  Re: versions, I know what you mean - the cleanest example for me is a classical music solo piano work.  The composer tells the performer not only what notes to play, but usually also the tempo in which he wants them played.  Every performer plays the same notes (unless they’re making a mistake).  But they don’t sound the same.  They don’t play the same notes the same way.   Great pianists perform not only in how they play the notes, but in how they play the silences between them.  That’s what separates the plunkers from the Paderewskis....

Me: (final note)

...Bob (Robert Palmer) is best known as the author of Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History of the Mississippi Delta, which was published in 1981 and is still in print. It remains essential reading for anyone interested in the indelible music that, drawing on its African roots, originated in the Delta, moved to Chicago, and made an inestimable contribution to the creation of rock & roll. In his conclusion to that book, Bob writes of the blues, "A literary and musical form...a fusion of music and poetry accomplished at a very high emotional temperature...these are different ways of describing the same thing. A gigantic field of feeling...that's a way of describing something enduring, something that could be limitless. How much thought...can be hidden in a few short lines of poetry? How much history can be transmitted by pressure on a guitar string? The thought of generations, the history of every human being who's ever felt the blues come down like showers of rain."

The notion that "pressure on a guitar string," the singular tone of a musician's playing, could convey all that is important in human history lies at the center of Bob's thinking, writing, and playing — at the center of his being, really. He was not a religious person in any traditional sense; he was probably closer to a pagan. But music was one of the means through which he sought transcendence. "For Bob, music was a religion," says Robbie Robertson, the former guitarist and main songwriter in the Band, who knew Palmer for many years. "It would stream out of him in the same way that somebody would be trying to impress you with their knowledge of God."