I say no, in my latest Bloomberg column. Here is one bit:
We live in a country where very often the concession stands don’t stop operating during the anthem, nor do fans stop walking through the concourse. We’re fooling ourselves to think that current practices are really showing respect for the nation or its military.
Anthem practices shouldn’t be viewed as sacrosanct, and no one would think the absence of an anthem unpatriotic if expectations were set differently. Professional sports don’t start their competitions with the Pledge of Allegiance, and that is hardly considered an act of treason. Nor do we play the anthem before movies, as is mandatory in India. Furthermore, “The Star-Spangled Banner” wasn’t sanctioned by Congress as our national anthem until 1931. Earlier in the history of baseball, the anthem was played during the seventh-inning stretch. It was only during World War II that the anthem was played regularly at the beginning of each game, rather than for special games alone, such as the World Series.
Might we consider moving back to some of these earlier practices? To play the anthem before the players are present or during a mid-game break, or perhaps to cease the practice altogether?
The awkward, hard-to-admit truth is that the American national anthem is a form of right-wing political correctness, designed to embarrass or intimidate those who do not see fit to sing along and pay the demanded respect.
Here is a piece by Cass Sunstein also on the theme of right-wing political correctness.
From my email:
Hi, Mr. Cowen. I recently read The Complacent Class recently and enjoyed it. I’m writing because there’s an another example of American complacency that’s only come to light in recent weeks…
Specifically: the Billboard music charts..
Shape of You by Ed Sheeran last week broke the record for most weeks in top 10, with 33 weeks. The song it beat, Closer by The Chainsmokers and Halsey, set the previous record less than a year ago. http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/7948959/ed-sheeran-shape-of-you-record-most-weeks-top-ten
(And yet another song in last week’s top 10, That’s What I Like by Bruno Mars, currently holds the 8th-longest record on that metric — and potentially still rising.)
Meanwhile, Despacito by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber tied the all-time record with its 16th week at #1: http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/record-labels/7942315/luis-fonsi-daddy-yankee-justin-biebers-despacito-ties-for
Meanwhile, the biggest country song in the nation right now, Body Like a Back Road by Sam Hunt, is currently in its record-extending 30th week at #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart: http://www.billboard.com/files/pdfs/country_update_0905.pdf
This did not happen in decades past. Look at the Billboard charts from the ’80s — it was a new #1 song almost every week! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Billboard_Hot_100_number-one_singles_of_the_1980s
Just like how you describe in your book how people are moving less and want to stay in the same town where they were before, or how they’re switching jobs less and want to stay in the same job where they were before, people apparently just want to listen to the same songs they’ve been listening to already.
That is from Jesse Rifkin, who is a journalist in Washington, D.C. who writes about Congress for GovTrack Insider and about the film industry for Boxoffice Magazine. Jesse sends along more:
And if you want links for statistical evidence, here are two — one about which movies have spent the most weekends in the box office top 10, the other about which songs have spent the most weeks in the Billboard top 10:
They are expected to sell for between £2,000 and £4,000.
They will go under the hammer alongside the original handwritten score for the song, which is expected to fetch £20,000.
The jar by the door, however, is not up for sale. Via Ted Gioia.
Apple, LinkedIn, Spotify and Twitter have joined a growing chorus of technology companies to hit out at the far right and Donald Trump’s attempt to put white supremacists and leftwing counter-demonstrators at Saturday’s Charlottesville protest on the same moral plane.
Following the lead of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google, Go Daddy and others, Apple CEO Tim Cook pledged $1m donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League and sent a strongly worded memo to staff, quoting Martin Luther King, about the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday.
“We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it,” Cook wrote. “This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality.
Amid the ongoing fallout from the violence that saw a civil rights activist killed, music subscription service Spotify began removing so-called white power music, flagged by the SPLC as racist “hate bands”.
A Spotify spokesperson said: “Illegal content or material that favours hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us. Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention.
“We are glad to have been alerted to this content – and have already removed many of the bands identified, while urgently reviewing the remainder.”
Addendum: Some of you have given me grief over my posting of yesterday defending PayPal’s decision to stop serving some political groups. I see it this way: giving PayPal its way passes a freedom of association test, and it also passes what I call a “first order Coasean test,” namely that Paypal and its affiliates wish to stop the relationship more than the cut off parties are willing to pay to maintain it. Of course this development might have troublesome secondary consequences, due to slippery slopes, and also due to the spread of the practice to more monopolized sectors of the American economy. Still, until major negative consequences emerge in verifiable and durable form…I am going to stick with the Coasean and freedom of association metrics for policy evaluation. Should I have to deal with “extremist” groups if I don’t wish to? No. Is there a prima facie case for extending this same freedom to PayPal? Yes. But absolutely, I am all for vigilance to keep an eye on whether things start to go wrong in a big way. And no, I don’t count all these “day after” reactions as nearly sufficient to establish that conclusion.
Here is the transcript and audio (no video).
We discuss what makes Florida special, why business writing is so terrible, Eddie Murphy, whether social conservatives can be funny (in public), the weirdness of Peter Pan, how he is so productive, playing guitar with Roger McGuinn, DT, the future of comedy, and much much more. Here is one excerpt:
COWEN: If I look at old slapstick, it doesn’t seem funny at all. Intuitively, you would think slapstick, being only physical, would have a much longer half-life. What I find funny is very culturally specific references. Now, am I strange?
BARRY: Well, not about slapstick. When I was a little guy, I maybe thought that the Three Stooges were kind of funny but that stopped a long time ago. Some physical humor is still funny to me. Abbott and Costello were pretty physical, but they were funny without being slapstick. Just hitting each other in the nose and going, “nyuk, nyuk, nyuk” never struck me as funny at all. I have forgotten the second part of your question.
On different comedians and what’s not funny anymore
COWEN: You mentioned Abbott and Costello. If you’re willing, I’ll talk about a few comedians, or mention a few, and you can tell me what you found funny with them, didn’t find funny.
Let’s start with Abbott and Costello. Favorite of my father. I’ve watched almost all the movies. As I kid, I didn’t find them funny, but I actually started to find them funny in retrospect after having watched a bit of Seinfeld and Larry David. What’s your take on Abbott and Costello?
BARRY: Yeah, I can see the connection there. It more relies on you letting it — the humor — slowly develop and the characters themselves being the humor without coming right out and saying what’s funny about it: The one who never understands what’s going on, the one who’s always losing his patience with the other one. The first, maybe, three or four times, it’s just mildly amusing. But after a while, when you see it coming, that becomes very funny to you.
It’s very rare to find that kind of patience in humor anymore. I don’t think the audience is as generous as it used to be, allowing humor to build the way it did in an Abbott and Costello sketch.
COWEN: And is Abbott or Costello funnier to you? Abbott being the straight man.
BARRY: Yeah, I think Abbott is funnier.
COWEN: I think he’s much funnier.
Most of all, I was impressed by Dave Barry as a managerial force for his own career. Again, here is the link.
Let’s cut to the chase:
1. Symphonies #1, 5, and 7 are dominated assets, the latter two being too sprawling. #8 is meant to be seen live, and #10 isn’t Mahler’s finished version. #4 is attractive, but somewhat lightweight.
2. #2 requires a very good recording, my favorite is Stokowski with the London Symphony Orchestra, even though he changes the score. If you can’t find that, try Abbado or Levine, both of those two being good default choices for Mahler. Those two conductors are also good choices for #3, another symphony in the Mahler pantheon.
3. #6 is the most nerve-wracking and insane and requiring of full volume. I’m still looking for the perfect recording of that one, sometimes I like Barbirolli.
4. #9 is the best music, I recommend von Karajan.
5. Pierre Boulez offers an alternative perspective on any of these symphonies, plus he has one of the very best Das Lied von der Erde recordings, that song cycle being part of the canon of essential Mahler works.
6. The quality of your listening conditions is especially important for Mahler. And during any listen a) try to spot the Austrian folk tunes, and b) think of Mahler as one of the greatest opera conductors, including for Mozart, of his time.
7. A short piano piece by Mozart, as a palate cleaner, sounds especially good after a Mahler symphony.
That’s what you need to know.
There’s no point in doing a complete survey, but here are a few observations and suggestions:
1. I am not intrigued by much Mozart written before K330 or so. Piano Concerto #9 is one exception to this. But Toscanini was right to claim that too much of it sounds the same.
2. The string quintets are the best Mozart pieces you might not know, but skip K174.
3. The string quartets and Requiem might be the most overrated Mozart, though the latter would be wonderful if he could have finished it. It is better to listen to the fragmented version, without the artificial Süssmayr ending.
4. The Milos Forman Mozart movie is worth a viewing, if you don’t already know it. I thought I would hate it, but didn’t. Don’t try to learn history from it, however.
6. The operas reign supreme. Try Currentzis or Colin Davis for Don Giovanni, Haitink or Klemperer for The Magic Flute, Boehm for Cosi Fan Tutte, Giulini for Figaro, and Rene Jacobs for Idomeneo. I don’t know of a definitive version of Abduction from the Seraglio, but Beecham and Krips are good and Harnoncourt does the overture best, as he never lets up on the rambunctious in it. If I had to choose the operas, or all the rest of Mozart put together, I would go for the operas.
In the 1960s, an average hit song on the Billboard Top 10 had an average of 1.87 writers and 1.68 publishers each year. Songwriting duos were common, and creativity a simpler endeavor…
During the LP era (60s-80s), the number of songwriters and publishers on hit songs didn’t rise as dramatically. Based on the Songdex analysis, in the 70s, hit songs on the Billboard Top 10 had an average of 1.95 writers and 2.04 publishers each. During the 80s, the number of average publishers in top 10 songs slightly rose to 2.06. The number of writers remained the same.
In the 90s, the number spiked to an average of 3.13 writers and 3.49 publishers per top 10 song. Incidentally, the change coincides with the rise of digital music formats, such as the MP3. Napster also launched in 1999. All of which ushered in an era of massive data overload (and that’s before streaming took hold).
Consumers quickly adopted digital music formats, resulting in a “market need for registration, licensing and reporting systems,” says Music Reports. In the 2000s, Billboard Top 10 hits had an average of 3.50 writers and 4.96 publishers each year.
This past decade, streaming has emerged as a major source of revenue for record labels. Using its Songdex catalog registry, Music Reports noted that Billboard Top 10 hits saw an average of 4.07 writers and six publishers.
Here is the full story, I am glad Beethoven never did much co-authoring, with apologies to Diabelli.
Too many people think of him as ordinary and earthy, compared to Mozart or Beethoven. Yet he composed amazing amounts of pathbreaking, first-rate music, and it wears remarkably well upon repeated listenings.
My approach to Haydn is pretty simple:
1. Some of the early piano music is boring, but a simple availability metric will point you to the best material. The deepest are the six last sonatas, and most well-known performances are quite good. Ax, McCabe, Kalish, Richter, and Brendel are among the first choices, Jando (Naxos) and Buchbinder are good enough to listen to but not preferred. By the way, piano > pianoforte, there was no great stagnation.
2. Listen to as many of the string quartets as you can, with preference given to Opus 76. On average, the later opus numbers are better, yet Op.9 and Op.20 still are worthwhile.
3. Listen to the London Symphonies. Again and again. All of them, Dorati being one option for conductor.
That’s hardly the only wonderful Haydn, but those are the pieces that work best through recordings. See the choral and vocal music live. Most of the concerti bore me, as do the piano trios. Many of the earlier symphonies are good, including the Paris set and the “Sturm und Drang” period, but unless you have lots and lots of time I say focus on the London ones for now.
As the years or decades pass, you will realize you have been underrating Haydn.
The latest instance of the musical death and resurrection show is none other than Ronnie James Dio, who died in 2010. Thanks to a hologram (actually a high-tech version of an old parlor trick), the former Black Sabbath frontman will start touring Europe the November 30th before hitting the States next spring. “His” set will change nightly, according to Rolling Stone, and audio recordings were pulled from his entire career. “He” will play each night with a backing band and some dates will have singers Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest) and Oni Logan (Racer X) on stage as well.
Age 46, a Torres Strait Islander, here are various obituaries.
I am in Delaware only briefly. I have not covered the state before, so here are some of my picks:
1. Chemicals manufacturer: I think that one has to go to the Duponts, I enjoyed the Gerard Zilg biography of the Dupont family and history.
2. Economic historian: Alfred Chandler.
3. Monetarist who studied policy instruments and uncertainty: William Poole.
4. Semi-libertarian journalist: Dave Weigel.
Hmm…music? I don’t like George Thorogood. A quality novelist? How about a painter or sculptor? Some big time NBA star? Biden is my favorite of Obama’s VPs. It is claimed that the movie Fight Club is set in Delaware. So many special dishes too, in the local cuisine.
The bottom line: Small wonder it is!
Here is a new interview with Gladwell, much of it focusing on the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. Here is one excerpt:
I was more than interested to discover how much of the work on these effects—which in education they call “same race effects”—has been done by economists. If I’m a social psychologist, the economists are eating my lunch. They’re doing very persuasive, very elegant studies using these data sets that come out of the education reform movement. The economists are the first to jump on it. I feel like that is rich hunting ground for social psychologists as well, and they can bring a perspective to the analysis of that data that the economist can’t.
I’m not criticizing the work that’s been done by economists, but if you read it, you will notice that there is a beat that’s missing—they’re economists, so they come at it from a different perspective. I would love to see social psychologists go over that same data and interpret it their way. And that again would be something that would be insanely useful to the conversation we have in this country about how to make schools better.
And here is Malcom on his next book:
MG: Yes. I’ve started a new book, and it very explicitly comes out of the world of psychology. There was a paper that Lee Ross wrote 50 years ago, maybe 45 years ago, called “Shortcomings of the Intuitive Psychologist.” It’s a famous paper, and I’m tearing off a little, tiny piece of that argument and having fun with it.
DN: And what piece is that?
MG: I’m interested in how we deal with strangers. How good are our intuitive ideas about dealing with strangers? I haven’t thought it through entirely, but I’m fascinated by what it means to deal with someone who you don’t know and, most importantly, whose credibility you cannot assess easily. Strikes me as a very contemporary problem, and from a psychological perspective, super interesting. There’s just so much fantastic psychology on that question.
The brief discussion on rock and roll vs. country music was interesting as well.
What’s bad for [the now trade-restricted] K-pop is excellent for Chinese musicians, who are seizing on the opportunity. One group skyrocketing in popularity in the absence of K-pop “idols” is SNH48, a Shanghai-based girl band that has a rotating cast of members—somewhere around 220, depending how you count the generations—and just raised more than $150 million from investors last month. If the idea of girl-band investors seems odd, you should know that SNH48, whose performers are voted in and out by fans, is far more of a corporate business than a music group. Per the Financial Times (paywall):
“Unlike western pop, which trades on authenticity and the idea of performers singing from the heart, SNH48 is run more like a tech start-up than a musical group. Taking its inspiration from Japanese group AKB48, instead of a core group it runs on teams of interchangeable singers—a strategy managers hope will allow it to build generations of young female stars and longer-lasting revenue streams.”
Fans use a mobile app to track their favorite singers, send notes to them, and watch their livestreams. The band’s managers carefully curate new teams of performers every year, which is similar to how South Korea’s massive K-pop factory is run.
Is this a good idea? A whole station devoted to Beatles music and Beatles music-derived products, plus a few early musical inspirations? I ask as a fan, not a critic. Based on about a week of listening, here are my impressions:
1. No Beatles songs were better live. Paul McCartney had a few gems in concert, most notably the 1976 Wings over America “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Oddly, “Magneto and Titanium Man” is also better live, perhaps because it was silly to begin with.
2. There are too many extant versions of “Here Comes the Sun,” though Nina Simone had a good one.
3. Ringo songs from the early 1970s, while you would never listen to them voluntarily, hold up OK in this context.
4. The worst feature of the channel is how they use short bursts of Beatle songs to advertise the channel itself. To play only the first few chords of “Getting Better” is an abuse of the ear and maltreatment of the art, like seeing Mondrian designs on shopping bags. Why can’t the station just advertise itself by…playing Beatle and Beatle-derived songs? In their entirety.
5. The last sequence of “Rain” still seem to me their finest moment. “Let it Be” remains the most overrated major Beatles song.
6. The early solo songs are what are most welcome to hear, at the margin.
7. The way this station operates doesn’t mesh well with the rest of satellite radio. No single station on satellite radio is that good, except for the classical music station. Yet the medium as a whole works because you can always switch to another station, especially with voice activation. Yet one is reluctant to switch away from the Beatles station. Even if the current song is bad, you feel something wonderful always might be coming up, and besides most of the songs are pretty short and so they will be over soon. But if it’s just the Beatles you want to hear, you don’t need satellite radio to achieve that end. So a funny kind of intransitivity kicks in, and maybe the Beatles satellite radio channel can nudge you away from satellite radio altogether, precisely because it is better than all the other channels, and it thus pushes you away from an approach based on a diverse menu of DJ-driven choice.
8. Would it hurt to play more Dylan, a major influence on the Beatles?