Saturday, December 15, 2012

Screw Homicide, let's talk about Heart Disease!

Actually, what I have to say is (hopefully) more nuanced and useful than my headline implies :-)

This started out as a Facebook post as I wanted to respond to the voices I saw filling up my screen in reaction to the tragic shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

Humans are hardwired to try to explain things, and when tragedies such as this occur, the impulse kicks into overdrive.  It's a club I wish I didn't belong to, but as someone who's lost a young relative to violent crime, I *can* imagine what they're going through in Newtown, and my thoughts are with them in ways that would take too long to express in a FB or Blog post.  So, where I go to try to "make sense" of things after events like this is the aggregate data.  Some facts:

  • of the 15 major causes of death that the CDC tracks, Homicide ranks 15th (with about 16,000 homicides in 2009)... and this level has held steady for about the last decade
  • of Homicides, "mass homicide" deaths have averaged about 150, also holding steady for the last decade
  • Heart disease, the #1 cause of death, took about 600,000 lives in 2009, two orders of magnitude greater than homicide, 3 orders of magnitude greater than mass homicide

Ok, so what?  Well, I guess this info, particularly the trend data, helps stop me from going down the road of "things are getting worse" thinking.  This is not say that "things are just fine".  My personal opinion is that guns are too easy to get. ( Heart disease was definitely not the top cause of mortality for young men in Chicago this past summer. )  We should have a debate on Gun Control, or "Gun Rights", if you prefer.  But I'm dubious that anything short of UK Style restrictions would have much impact on homicide rates.  Again, that's not say we shouldn't consider that, but it's politically untenable.

And perhaps, more importantly, looking at the aggregate data, I think it's awesome that we can move forward on less contentious issues, such as helping our kids be more active and eat more healthily, and really make a difference as it relates to our "top killers".


Crime Statistics since 1960:

CDC Mortality data for 2009 (table on page 5):

Information of "Mass Homicide" Rates:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nashville Record Stores

Nashville... "Music City"... stands to reason that the music shopping would be good, and Nashville did not disappoint.

Ernest Tubb's 

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a country music expert (which is not to say that I'm not a fan, but aside from some alt-country stuff like Robbie Fulks and Jeff Tweedy, I haven't moved much beyond the Dixie Chicks in terms of my depth of knowledge about the genre)

The great thing about not knowin' shit is that you can't go wrong!  Thusly, I picked up a "grab bag" to advance my study in the ways of Country Western :-)

The friendly clerks chatted me up about being from Chicago ("there's been a lotta' y'all down here recently...") and referred to my laptop bag as a "satchel"... it was all I could do not to hug them.

Copped (via the grab bag):
  • Comedy for the Road feat. Red Sovine, Johnny Bond, Ben Colder, and Others (CD)
  • Live Ones: Classic Country Radio Hits (CD) - Compilation featuring tunesfrom the likes of The Gatlin Brothers, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson
  • Men in Bluegrass (CD)
  • Loretta Lynn - Making More Memories (Cassette - that's right, we keeps it real!)
 Third Man Records

The headquarters of the Jack White's (as in, the White Stripes) record label, with a super-tiny, almost museum gift-shop-like retail annex.  Even though it was tiny, it was a blast.  All of the merchandise was Jack White/Third Man related, but was made with such care and attention to detail that it was great just window shopping.  And the clerk reminded me of a taller, cuter, Meg White, seriously.

  • The White Stripes - Elephant (CD)
  • The White Stripes - Icky Thump (CD)
Grimey's New and Pre-Loved Music

"best for last" is perhaps a bit trite, but Grimey's most definitely deserves its rep as one of the best stores in the Region.  If you believe Rolling Stone, it's one of the best shops in the country.  A broad, deep and well curated selection... and, as is a hallmark of all the best shops, I had to force myself to leave.

  • RZA - The Man with the Iron Fists Soundtrack (CD)
  • RZA - The Man with the Iron Fists Score (CD)
  • Sliver Convention - Save Me  (Vinyl)
I'll keep the musicology brief... but even if one is steeped in different traditions (for me, it would be the lineage of blues to R&B and its offshoots, hip-hop, disco, what have you...) it's undeniable that in the delta lies the beating heart of what we know today as American Popular music.  Game recognize game.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Reason #3 Why Stevie Wonder is a Musical Genius

Reason #3 - If enough people believe it's true, it must be!

A quick word of background:  The idea of this series of blog posts comes from a good friend who was compiling a list of "Musical Geniuses of the 20th Century" and sought my input.  When I volunteered that, in my opinion, Stevie's presence on the list was mandatory, she was skeptical.  I know, right?!?  She's otherwise a nice, sane, well-educated person ;-) Since my friend clearly didn't take me at my word, I figured I'd give a brief catalog of 3rd party sources that buttress my opinion on the matter.  So, who believes Stevie is a genius?

Allmusic Guide
 - The comprehensive online music database and blog (and possessor of *millions* of CDs at their Michigan headquarters) says that Stevie is:
"…a much-beloved American icon and an indisputable genius
 not only of R&B but popular music in general"

NPR, who concluded their "NPR 100" series with Stevie's album Talking Book.  The objective of the NPR 100 is no less than to present the stories behind 
"100 of the most important American musical works of the 20th century, across all styles and genres"

The Guardian, the London newspaper, who have the following to say about Stevie's album Songs in the Key of Life
"This influenced virtually every modern soul and R&B singer… No other R&B artist has sung about the quandaries of human existence with quite the same grace."

Rolling Stone Magazine , the notoriously Rock-centric publication, who rank 4 of Stevie's albums among their "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".  The albums:
  • Innervisions
  • The Music of My Mind
  • Songs in the Key of Life
  • Talking Book
By way of reference, these are the Artists with the most albums making Rolling Stone's List

  • Bob Dylan - 10
  • The Beatles - 10
  • The Rolling Stones - 8
  • The Who - 7
Other Artists, according to one source, Stevie has written 131 songs for artists such as:
  • Luciano Pavarotti
  • Julio Iglesias
  • Neil Diamond
  • The Beach Boys
  • Quincy Jones
  • James Taylor
  • Jeff Beck
  • Marvin Gaye
  • Diana Ross
  • and many, many others
Music Nerd General Consensus, my proof?  The excellent 33 1/3 Book series has a volume on Songs in the Key of Life (volume 42, in case you're curious)

I'm only an expert in my own mind, but it bears repeating that
I think he's a genius too.

< Reason #2 | Reason #4 >  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Stockholm Hearts Detroit (even if it thinks it's Chicago)

I had the good fortune to be in Stockholm last summer. Went out for work.

After I finished my work out there, I spent the weekend checking out some Museums and Record Stores.

I visited this Record Store called Pet Sounds. After being greeted in Swedish, and sheepishly admitting that I didn't speak the language. I had a chat with the record store clerk, who amiably switched to English for me.

He asks me where in the States I'm from, I say Chicago... the following dialogue ensues:

Clerk: "I love Juan Atkins!"
Me: (smiling) "I love him too, but he's from Detroit."

Clerk: "Oh! Right! Moodymann is awesome!"
Me: (smiling more) "I know, he's great. He's from Detroit too!"

(I'm glad he didn't mention Theo Parrish or it would've gotten really confusing, lol! I tick off the names of few chicago folks until I mention Marshall Jefferson and his eyes finally light up.)

Clerk: "Marshall Jefferson, Ten City! Great Stuff!"

It's great to see how much love Detroit gets, even when it's misplaced by a hundred miles or so :-)