1. What, me worry?
Our own election has been almost totally eclipsed by the US election, so once theirs is all over - late on Wednesday NZ time - there may be a scurrying to establish points of difference. But one thing is inescapable: whoever wins New Zealand's election on Saturday night is going to present a cabinet of mostly tired faces from the 1980s to 2000s. So while there are just nail-biting polls to come from the States, a last piece of excellent election writing. In "Obama & Sweet Potato Pie" Mark Danner compares small town outdoor election meetings from both camps (from the November 20 New York Review of Books). He covers a lot of political territory with complete ease, and an extended riff on potato pie that comes to a neat conclusion in an encounter with a Republican pie-maker. For light relief, the Village Voice has a slideshow parodying the era-defining Obama "Hope" posters designed by Shepard Fairey. And just in from wacky Canada, Palin is victim of a phone call from pranksters posing as Nicolas Sarkozy.
2. Bus Stop
For an impassioned, clear-sighted explanation of why others should vote the way a black, female Democratic super-delegate is expected to vote, here is Donna Brazille saying "Don't ever put me in the back of the bus!" The clip is from a New Yorker festival panel early in October, in which she stole the show while on stage with a group of campaign strategists from both parties. Warming up, she says that yes, US society has changed since she became politically aware aged eight when Martin Luther King was assassinated:
"This is a more tolerant, open, progressive society. And yet, we're having this conversation because [Obama] is biracial. He spent nine months in the womb of a white woman. He was raised...by his white grandparents...He got out of school and went to Harvard, and all of a sudden he's "uppity" and there's something wrong with him? What is wrong with us?...You can vote against him, but don't ever put me in the back of the bus. I'm not going to the back of the bus! I'm not going to be afraid! My black skin does not make me inferior! And may I add: being a female does not make me dumb!"
3. Dancing to architecture
The extraordinary breadth and usefulness of Graham Reid's Elsewhere is even more apparent - and accessible - since the site's makeover. It acts as a one-stop music and cultural magazine when so many printed on paper are no longer worth picking up, let alone your dollar, and with an RSS feed anything new on Elsewhere is home delivered. Just posted is Reid's account of a 1988 press conference in Wellington with conductor Maxim Shostakovich and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich: I can't imagine anyone else present would have put together something of such substance from the event. It includes this aside from Rostropovich about the acoustic difficulties faced since his audiences had expanded from 200 in a hall to 4000, say, in an events centre:
“It’s significant that modern architects can make a condominium with many apartments and on the 10th floor you can hear anything said on the third. But if the same architect made a concert hall you could not hear anything from some seats. That’s a miracle.”
Elsewhere on his site Reid writes of the pointlessness of press conferences. When we were together at the same events in the 1980s, 90 percent of those present only warmed their seats, five percent asked asinine questions, any good questions had their answers poached, and the Auckland Star's Oscar Kightley could be relied upon to derail pretensions by always asking "Will the Beatles get back together?" I wish I could remember Billy Joel's excellent, cheerful response.
4. Grumpy Old Men
Ringo Starr recently announced that, 38 years after the demise of the Beatles, he will no longer be giving autographs. Now he can attempt to eat in restaurants and walk through airports in peace (flash V-sign here). A month before, Van Morrison banned alcohol from his concerts because he finds it "off-putting" when fans walk around the venue to visit the bar during his shows. Both understandable, though if you're paying $300 US for a seat at the Hollywood Bowl later this week when Morrison performs and records his legendary Astral Weeks in concert for the first time, you can probably afford table service or a hip flask. The occasion means that Morrison will have control over a version of Astral Weeks, after years of battles which have only added to his bitterness about the music industry. The concert features two of the musicians who played in the original sessions, guitarist Jay Berliner and the great double-bassist, Richard Davis. Yet, even in a rare interview in the LA Times this week - his most extended ever about the album he usually doesn't wish to discuss - Morrison remains churlish while plugging the concert. (And it's odd the interview reveals he didn't know the Astral Weeks arranger Larry Fallon has been dead for some time, yet Morrison's legal team surfs the net daily to check for unauthorised use of his music on YouTube, etc.) Part of the continued attraction of Morrison, apart from the timelessness of his great albums, is the incongruity that for someone so notoriously grumpy and introspective, he has also come up with some of the sunniest moments in pop. Here he is with 'Brown Eyed Girl' - not a pop song, according to the new interview - from the legendary 1973 concert at London's Rainbow Theatre with his Caledonia Soul Orchestra. About time this became a DVD. Update: in today's Observer an excellent essay by Sean O'Hagan backgrounding Astral Weeks.
Meanwhile, here's Ringo making toast: