Peripatetic Postcards

Paris! Is . . .

Where I am today. And so should you be, too!

Everyone should come to Paris. For some time -- the longer the better. For Paris is . . . so many things. Wonderful things. Dreamy things. Undreamable things. Lyrical things. Things never before seen -- or smelled or thought (or done!). Everything. At once.

Of course, there certainly must be dark things, uncomfortable things, things to grouse about and things one would wish to improve. But, that is (generally) not to think about today. Not in this space. For us, the peripatetic touristes who are simply busy thinking and viewing and talking about Paris in a positive light. And even as we encounter one or more things less light along the way, well -- that can be revealing in a way not altogether so awful (since revelation is good!)

Everyone has some sense of what Paris is. We have all heard a song or watched a movie during our lifetime.

"I love Paris / in the summer / when it sizzles . . . "

"We'll always have Paris . . . "

"Paris is for Lovers"

Is Paris Burning?

"It never rains in Californ--" (no, wait, that's not right. I guess there are other cities and states and countries with their own mythologies. . .

But, still, you get the idea.)

Paris has mystique (it even has its own word for it in English!). And image aside, a lot is said about it. But . . . what is Paris? Actually? (That sounds like a good movie title; "Paris, Actually" -- or, at the very least, a good photography book). Anyway, what Paris is actually is . . . easy! Paris! is:

  • Men in business suits, biking down mid-evening streets at high speed.

  • A father striding casually, pridefully, with his seven year-old daughter, across the boulevard, hand resting on her flaxen head

  • A store that declares: "the night is a color".

  • A Renault whose engine won't turn over until the fifth time. After the fourth, the driver retires to a cafe to drain a Pernod before returning to key the engine one more time.

  • A city where the art is incomparable, the number of museums incalculable and, incomprehensibly, they stay open as late as ten p.m.

  • A place where policeman only grugingly approach the open window of a cab, and respond to a cabby asking for directions, after a long hesitation. Is it because the guy in uniform perceives himself as possessing a higher status? Is it because police cannot be troubled offering directions? Or is it possibly because the cabbie is a person of color?

  • A place where you can hear "Can't Buy Me Love" on the radio.

  • A place where you still have to watch your feet when you walk. Too many dogs and, despite being the home of fraternite, not enough diligent, community-oriented owners.

  • Where young men in their early twenties still wear "Jordan 23" jerseys.

  • Where, contrary to popular mythology, people you ask directions of in the streets will try hard to assist you to find the metro station you are seeking. And if they can't help you they might even struggle to locate a passerby who can.

  • Where an ensemble of musicians play Andes music and sell their CDs at one of the transfer points inside the metro.

  • Where a couple of twenty year-old guys sit on a park bench in the mid-evening quietly conversing, pulling on green Heineken talls.

  • Where a couple of mid-fifty year-old bums sit on the ground with their earthly possessions in a few tattered bags outside the metro sharing a bottle of red.

  • Where teenage couples shout after one another and giggle hystericaly as they rollerblade along the parkline under the amber light.

  • Where two little girls, no more than age 5, dressed in white maids-in-waiting gowns dance along the curb, to celebratory Arabic music coming from an inner courtyard. Above them a large Lebanese flag sways in the breeze.

Paris! is . . . all this . . . and, of course more. And like all (good) things in life Paris eludes perfect description, proper categorization, simple codification. So rather than try, perhaps it will simply be better to leave the task for further, other, words, pictures, impressions. Postcards of Paris which might somehow help convey what this incomparable place is . . .

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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Long eclipsed by the works of many country contemporaries, Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge's first album, Full Moon, gets a new look.

Why is it that 1973 albums by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson have become classic country staples (see: Jennings' rough-hewed landmark Honky Tonk Heroes and Nelson's before-its-time Shotgun Willie), while Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge's duo debut from that same year has been relatively overlooked?

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Mike Stern: Trip

Photo: Sandrine Lee (Concord Music Group)

Mike Stern has fallen. Trip shows that he can get back up just fine.

Mike Stern


Label: Heads Up
US Release Date: 2017-09-08
UK Release Date: 2017-09-08
Label website
Artist website

Guitarist Mike Stern suffered from a big owie last year. It seems that, while trying to cross a street in Manhattan, he tripped and fell, breaking both of his shoulders in the process. He underwent surgery and reports that "I still have to use glue so I can hold a guitar pick." While you're busy trying to figure out just how a jazz-fusion guitarist needs glue to hold a pick, keep in mind Stern is an embodiment of a working musician, and his chosen genre of expertise is famous for its pay-to-play, sink-or-swim business model. Such a setback can really eat into one's career. Gigs need to be canceled, which sometimes leads to venues blacklisting you in the future. And in a world where most people listen to their music via streaming services, gigging may be your only reliable source of income. Thankfully, Mike Stern, who was 63 at the time of his injury, has made a full recovery and is back to work with an impressive array of professional help. His new album is ironically named Trip. Apart from the title,

Trip makes it sound like nothing ever happened to Stern. At all. In the same way that John McLaughlin and his current Fourth Dimension band sound like a bunch of barnstormers who haven't hit 40 yet, the powerful performance of Stern and his colleagues coupled with the high quality of the material belie both age and medical condition. Now I'm aware that our very own Steven Spoerl did not care for the writing on Mike Stern's 2012 All Over the Place, but there's no way I can sling the same criticism at Trip. The opening title track alone is enough to nullify that. Stern plays the melody in unison with saxophonist Bob Franceschini, and it's all over the place. The song slinks into a B section where the chords shift from a minor vi to a major IV, and again, Stern and Franceschini drive an even meaner melody down the scale with plenty of sharply punctuated intervals. This guy fell, broke his shoulders, and now needs glue to hold a pick? Are we all sure he wasn't just replaced with Steve Austin?

Another number that, to me, offsets any concerns about the able-bodiness or strength of the material is a spunky one named "Watchacallit". This time, the B section brims with even more tension with Franceschini flying high and bassist Tom Kennedy doing little divebombs at the start of each bar. When it's all put together, it's truly a moment for you to crank your listening device of choice (in the past, we would say "stereo" right about here). But that's just two songs. There's a total of 11, spanning an hour and six minutes. Stern doesn't use every bar of every number to punch us in the gut. He still goes for the smooth bop ("Emelia"), the funky intersection of Miles Davis and Funkadelic ("Screws"), and the soothing ballad ("I Believe in You" and "Gone").

No review of Trip would be complete without mentioning the musical pedigree of Mike Stern's friends. When it comes to drummers, he managed to net Dennis Chambers, Lenny White, and Will Calhoun (yes, that Will Calhoun). Those names alone give you a money-back guarantee that the rhythm section will never, ever falter. But just to be sure, Stern summons Victor Wooten to play bass. Top shelf names like Randy Brecker and Bill Evans, in addition to Franceschini, provide Trip with soulful wind. Pianist Jim Beard pulls double duty as the session pianist. Normally, I'd wrap this up by saying that Mike Stern is under the process of pulling himself up by his bootstraps and dusting himself off after a major boo-boo. But after listening to

Trip over and over again, I'm convinced that he's beyond that. The straps are up, and the dust has cleared. He's back, playing and composing just as well as he ever did. Better than he did before the accident, perhaps? You can be the judge of that meaningless hairsplitting exercise because Trip is worth the journey no matter where your expectations may lie.

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