Results for “bob dylan”
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Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate!

I had heard the rumors for years, but I didn’t think it actually would happen.  My takes on a few Dylan albums:

FreeWheelin’ Bob Dylan: One of his most listenable and underrated albums, the same is true for Another Side of Bob Dylan.

Bringing It All Back Home: The album I fell in love with as a kid.  Some of it is overwrought but mostly still amazing, perhaps his highest peaks.

Highway 61 Revisited: Half of it is wonderful, but it contains excess and some so-so judgment.

Blonde on Blonde: Many see this as Dylan’s peak, but I don’t listen to it much.  Somehow the sound is a little harsh for my taste.

The Basement Tapes: The most overrated, too much murky slush and slosh.

Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, vol.II: The perfect medley.

Blood on the Tracks: Maybe the most consistent and listenable album, though it’s not pathbreaking in the way that the mid-sixties work was.

Time Out of Mind: An amazing “late career” work.

Dylan’s memoir is excellent, and his most underrated contribution outside of creating music is the CDs he edited for satellite radio, many hours of Dylan selecting and playing classics from early American musical history, blues, country, mixed styles, perhaps the single best look at the early evolution of American popular music.  Many hours of listening pleasure.  Bob Dylan Radio Hour.  And the Martin Scorsese four-hour bio-documentary on Dylan is one of the better movies ever made, No Direction Home it is called.

If I recall correctly, three of the Conversations with Tyler turned to the topic of Bob Dylan.  Camille Paglia loves the song “Desolation Row,” Cass Sunstein is a big fan, especially of some of the early period work, and Ezra Klein feels he is overrated, I guess that means especially overrated now.

Here are my earlier posts on Bob Dylan.  Complain all you want, I say Bob Dylan is a better and more important artist than say Philip Roth.  It’s not even close.

Congratulations to Bob Dylan, polymath!

Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday

It is today,  here are a few underrated highlights of his career:

1. No Direction Home, the biopic directed by Martin Scorsese.  It’s one of the best documentaries on American music more generally, and a superb albeit hagiographic portrait of Dylan and his music.

2. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Another Side of Bob Dylan and Blood on the Tracks and most of all Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits volume II are the albums I listen to most often.  The last one sounds horrible from its name, but it was conceived conceptually, avoids the traditional problems of greatest hits albums (unlike Vol. I), and has some not otherwise available tracks; highly recommended.  Then comes Time Out of Mind.  I think of Bringing it All Back Home as the “best” Dylan album, but I enjoyed it so much at age fifteen that I don’t listen to it much today.  Blonde on Blonde is overreaching and Highway 61 Revisited is half wonderful, half embarrassment in the lyrics.

3. Dylan as disc jockey is first-rate, and you can buy his XM Satellite Radio selections of early American music.  He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the period.

4. As a singer Dylan is influenced by Al Jolson and Bing Crosby, as an acoustic guitarist he remains underrated.

5. Dylan once said that Barry Goldwater was his favorite politician.

Bob Dylan *Radio Hour*

Also known as German markets in everything, or alternatively why oh why can't we have a better U.S. copyright law?

Remember when Bob Dylan was DJ for those XM satellite radio shows, spinning a melange of blues, folk songs, vaudeville, gospel, and general bizarreness, with generally American themes, in the process proving himself one of the world's great musical infovres?  Some of those shows are collected on CD, in Germany, vol. I, II, and III, four discs a box, twelve discs in total.  The Amazon.de listings are here (they will ship to the US), or in German stores for about six dollars a disc, thank you Greece.

I own thousands of CDs, but these are among the very best and the song selection compares favorably to other collections of American music.  The sound quality and transfers are first-rate.

Here is a Bach box, his major choral works and some of the major cantatas, MP3, and CD, 42 euros, 22 discs, John Eliot Gardiner conducting, these are some of the best recordings of the chosen pieces and even with shipping costs this is an extremely favorable purchase.

Have I mentioned there are many outrageous bargains in Berlin, not just my apartment?

For five or six euros, you can buy an excellent spaghetti bolognese, better than almost anything in WDC or Virginia.  Apartments are cheaper, you don't need a car, mineral water and good bread is cheaper, gelato is cheaper, and in most social circles you're not expected to dress extraordinarily well.  I'm not sure books are cheaper but they're not outrageously priced either, even many English-language editions.  It's a strange feeling to come to Europe and have most things be cheaper, which still is not the case in Paris.

Here Angus recommends five CDs for Germany, good picks but the Dylan and the Bach round out some Alvin Curran and some gospel in my living room.

Dylan movie. Sort of.

The new Dylan biopic,  starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Ben Whishaw – all as Bob Dylan – is starting to get some coverage.  As a lifelong Dylan fan, I’m excited to see the movie.  The film is currently doing the rounds of the film festivals, and is going into wider release slowly from September through March (depending on your country).

Early reports only whet my appetite:

  1. A slew of trailers (both official and unofficial) on YouTube [HT: Cass Sunstein]
  2. This is Not a Bob Dylan Movie: a beautifully-written essay in today’s NY Times magazine
  3. A wrap-up of other reviews, from filmmaker Todd Haynes
  4. Some extremely high variance early reviews.

An aside: From many hallway conversations, I can report that Dylan is a surprisingly popular artist among the econ gliterati.

How political was 1960s music?

That question is debated at length in the comments section of this post.  There are obviously political songs, such as the protest songs of Bob Dylan, or “Revolution” by The Beatles, much misunderstood at that.  Still, much of 1960s music was far more political in its time than it seems to us today.  The mere fact that the singer had long hair, or shook his hips in a “lewd” manner, or that white stars aped black music styles…all of that was intensely political.  “I don’t want you listening to no music by no long hairs” was a common parental sentiment at the time, because people mostly did understand what was at stake, namely an overturning of a lot of societal mores.  Elvis Presley sounds to us today like another early rock star, but the black vocal affectations and the grinding hips were a big deal for some period of time.  Drug songs were political too, and there were lots of those.  Just try “Eight Miles High,” or a big chunk of Jefferson Airplane or how about Donovan?  Hippie culture also was political.  Motown carried ideas of black capitalism, and was actually somewhat of a counter to the more politically radical forms of black music.  The Beach Boys are an example of a significant period group who mostly were not very political (though you can find a superficial embrace of consumer culture at first, followed by a collapse into tragedy and sadness), and plenty of the “one hit wonder” songs were apolitical too.  Most of the stuff that has survived in collective memory was fairly political.  The Byrds album Sweetheart of the Rodeo was political too, and it is no accident that Roger McGuinn ended up as a Ben Carson supporter and a Christian.  The album was mostly hated upon its release in 1968, but now is seen as a classic.

Further Monday assorted links

6. Cicadas on the menu.

7. Yuan Longping, RIP (NYT).

8. Famous musicians pick their favorite Bob Dylan songs.  Would mine be “Highway 61”?  “Mr. Tambourine Man”?  “Tangled Up in Blue”?  “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright”?  Too many choices.  Bob is today 80 years old.  The most overrated is perhaps “Desolation Row”, with its pretentious lyrics?

9. Why the new Elon Musk rocket really will matter?

10. Why a new business surge in black communities during the pandemic? (NYT)

Monday assorted links

1. Steve Kirsch on current Covid-19 treatments.  He is attempting to maximize expected value, coming from me that is praise.

2. Ezra Vogel has passed away.

3. “…we need to vaccinate the population when the virus circulation is low to avoid selecting for a vaccine resistant strain.

4. Bob Dylan on Paul McCartney.

5. “Harvard University scientists plan to fly a test balloon above Sweden next year to help advance research into dimming sunlight to cool the Earth, alarming environmentalists opposed to solar geoengineering.”  Link here.

6. Insights on carbon pricing (which many overrate).

On audiobooks

From my email, from Robert Kwasny:

I imagine you listen to audio books rarely but, still, I wonder if you have any new thoughts on this topic.

Few thoughts of my own:

1. Shakespeare audiobooks are excellent. Much better than watching blu-rays. Unlike on real stage, Prospero (voiced by Ian McKellan in one production) can actually whisper softly to Miranda without worrying about people in the back rows. Stage directions are already included in the dialogue.

2. Pop psychology and self-help are terrible. Once cannot easily skip or skim the boring parts.

3. History books written by academics (e.g. The Sleepwalkers) are tough unless one already knows the necessary context. Otherwise it’s easy to get lost in the thicket of background facts. That’s probably true for all dense books. For example, Piketty’s books are available on Audible but I didn’t even bother sampling them. It’s just a wrong format.

4. I’ve had great experience with books written by authors with journalistic experience. Robert Caro’s works are excellent in audio form. William Manchester’s Churchill biography is good as well. Lawrence of Arabia by Scott Anderson too. Good audiobooks can’t be just one fact after another, they need to tell a story.

5. If the book’s author does the narration it’s usually bad. Voice acting is hard.

Unfortunately I don’t know of any book created specifically for audio. Where are biographies of Bob Dylan with songs included? Or books on rhetoric with audio of great speeches included? Audiobooks (and ebooks for that matter) don’t seem to be a new medium, at least so far. 10 years ago I would have not predicted that.

I have no new thoughts on audiobooks!  Though for my next book (which is co-authored), I was asked to read at least part of the AudioBook.  I will thus develop additional thoughts over time.

Sunday assorted links

1. Unpacking current Covid trends.

2. Which foreigners has New Zealand let in and not let in?

3. “I document that societies whose ancestors jointly practiced irrigation agriculture historically have stronger collectivist norms today.

4. Why contact tracing is not going well in New York City (NYT).

5. “Bill Pagel, 78, owns both of Bob Dylan’s childhood homes as well as his highchair. He explains it like this: “End-stage collecting is when you start collecting houses right before you’re committed.””  Tweet link here.

Which figures from 1968/1969 look good in retrospect?

Andrew writes to me:

I just wanted to propose a question for your blog, which I’ve read since it launched. Given how the current atmosphere seems a bit like 1968, I was curious who you think comes out of 1968 looking good (or bad) in retrospect. I’m particularly interested in people at universities (my own case), but I’d be curious in general.

A former professor of mine (George Kateb) claimed that my generation (born 1970) was embarrassed by the sixties and I guess particularly by the more radical parts. That’s my impression as well and I assumed that the more radical parts of the sixties and the intellectuals who went along with them would come out looking the worst in retrospect. Is this right? Whose position at the time looks most “correct” today?

It is tough, if only because so many people from both parties then were bad on the Vietnam War issue.  Here are a few who, in my judgment, came out of the era looking good, in no particular order:

1. Kareem-Abdul Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), Billie Jean-King, and Curt Flood.

2. Bob Dylan: pro-civil rights and anti-war, and for all of his phases he never went in for the bad, crazy stuff.

3. Paul McCartney: universalist, anti-war, neoliberal integrationist, and the saner part of the Beatles.  Some minus points on the drugs front, however.

4. Julian Bond.  And a variety of other civil rights leaders, but MLK not living long enough to “fit” the question as stated.

5. Harry Edwards (who?).

6. Seán Lemass (who?)  Elsewhere across the waters there is Raymond Aron.

7. Marshall McLuhan

9. Lucille Ball

9. Gene Roddenberry and the rest of Star Trek, including the script writers.

10. Thomas Pynchon: So many others look bad, at least he knew not to say too much or to hang around for too long.

11. Ayn Rand.  With qualifications on a number of fronts, but yes.  She was in fact good on the major issues of those years.

12. These people from the Bay Area.  They are not public figures, but still they deserve mention.

Who else?

Notes: Marxists, Maoists, and advocates of violence are not going to win.  There were plenty of excellent economists back then, but most had a different focus than commenting on the major events of those years, and if memory serves (please correct me if I am wrong) Milton Friedman’s very meritorious anti-draft work came slightly later.  I would have to reread the major feminist book authors to pick the best one, but I do mean for at least one to be on the list, I am simply not sure at the moment which one.  Ralph Nader too?  The astronauts?  They knew to keep their mouths shut once they were finished.

My Conversation with Samantha Power

Samantha Power has a new and excellent book out, The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir, which I very much enjoyed.  And so a Conversation with Tyler was in order, here is the audio and transcript, here is one bit:

COWEN: For a final closing segment, I just have some super simple questions about foreign policy again. Over the course of the last summer, Iran apparently seized two British tankers. There’ve been other incidents in the Strait of Hormuz in some way connected with Iran. From a game-theoretic point of view, why would they do this? Why does this make sense?

POWER: Well, the one thing that they would know that would give them some point of leverage is the extreme war fatigue within the United States, and really within the Western world. So, by upping the stakes, arguably — I mean, who knows why the hell they’re doing what they’re doing?

But by upping the stakes, they arguably could be sending a signal like, “You want to get in this game? It’s not as if we’re an island and you can just break the deal, penalize us gratuitously, penalize the people who are still trying to maintain the terms of the deal, and that there won’t be collateral consequences outside the nuclear space.”

Because the nuclear consequences, as they begin to enrich and violate the terms of the deal — having legitimately argued that we had violated the terms of the deal — the effects of those are not day-to-day effects in the news world. It’s a bit abstract for the public and even for policymakers. It’s an incremental abrogation.

But acts like this show that they have leverage, that they are active militarily in parts of the world where we have a vested interest in maintaining freedom of navigation. So I think they’re showing that they can hit in domains outside the nuclear domain. I think that is probably what they’re doing.

Here is another segment:

COWEN: In which ways do you feel your thought is in some manner still Irish in orientation in a way that would distinguish you from, say, American-born individuals?

POWER: It’s hard to know because I can’t run the counterfactual, so I don’t know what’s just because my mother is a physician and very empathetic toward her patients, and do I learn from that? Or am I moved by having come from a small country, at that time a poor country, that was sending —

COWEN: With a history of oppression, right?

POWER: With a history of oppression, with a history of the dignity of its people being trampled. Is that why I care so much about individual dignity? Again, I can’t run the history a different way.

And finally:

COWEN: Very simple — are baseball games too long? Why not make it 7 innings?

POWER: Why not make it 12?

COWEN: It’s boring, right?

POWER: For you and, as it turns out, for others.

COWEN: For me. So many games are over 3 hours. Shouldn’t the game be 2 hours, 17 minutes?

We also cover her first impressions of America, being a wartime correspondent, China and Iraq, Star Wars vs. Star Trek, van Morrison vs. Bob Dylan, robot empires vs. robot umpires, her favorite novel, how personal one should get in a memoir and why, and German defense spending, among other topics.

Definitely recommended.

Is this the very best book ever written?

No, I don’t mean Proust, Cervantes, or the Bible.  I mean Dave Marsh’s The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made.

To be sure, it is not the greatest book qua book, or even in the top tier (though it is very good and Marsh is very smart and knowledgeable).

It is possible it has become the greatest book of all time because of YouTube.  Scroll through the pithy, one-page or sometimes even one-paragraph reviews of the various songs, and play them on YouTube while you are reading.

I had not known of Marvin Gaye’s “One More Heartache,” or Aretha Franklin’s “Think.”  Nor had I known the live version of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” from 1966 (though is it really “Slurred and obtuse as Little Richard reading Ezra Pound”?).  I heard again many favorites as well.

Let’s be honest, amusia aside, do not humans love music more than books?  By no means does everyone read, but virtually everyone listens to music, and with some degree of passion. It therefore follows that “book + music” is better than book, right?  Whatever virtues the book may have are still contained in “book + music,” or more generally “book + YouTube.”

Have we now entered an age where all or most of the very best books are part of “books + YouTube”?

Of course I’m not trying to sell you on music or for that matter on Dave Marsh.  What about reading Abraham Pais, Niels Bohr’s Times: In Physics, Philosophy, and Polity, accompanied by these videos?  Might the possibility of YouTube combination make that the 37th best book of all time, displacing Braudel or Flaubert?

Should not at least 2/3 of your reading be books accompanied by YouTube?  And if not, why not?

Inquiring minds wish to know.  Perhaps there is a book accompanied by YouTube that gives the answer?

Is a quality book better or worse if there is no useful way to combine it with YouTube?

Addendum: You will note that the Cowen-Tabarrok Modern Principles text can be combined with our micro and macro videos on YouTube, and thus it is one of the best books, not just our favorite.

Tuesday assorted links

1. Solve for the equilibrium price of real estate.

2. Kanye + Star Wars vs. NIMBY.

3. Reputation markets in everything: “The Wall Street Journal’s Erich Schwartzel recently wrote a story revealing that none of these tough-guy actors likes it very much when the characters they play get pummeled on screen. One of them even negotiated limits on how much his character can get beat up. Another has his sister, a producer, count how many times his character gets punched, to make sure he gives as good as he gets.

Today, Erich joins us to talk about the lengths these actors have gone to preserve their ever-so-fragile reputations for macho toughness. And the incentives they have for doing so.”

4. A Straussian take on Kenyan rebellion (song, The Rivingtons, 1962).  This was the recording that prompted Dave Marsh to describe Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a Changin'” as a “dull diatribe.”

5. A new piece on Harriet Martineau.

6. Stephen Williamson on the Fed.