This week’s New Yorker cover

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“President Trump’s weak pushback to hate groups—as if he was trying not to alienate them as voters—compelled me to take up my pen,” David Plunkert, the artist behind next week’s issue, said. Plunkert seldom takes on political subject matter, but felt moved to do so in light of Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville. “A picture does a better job showing my thoughts than words do; it can have a light touch on a subject that’s extremely scary.”

How cartoons are mocking the president’s Trump Tower press conference

  The Washington Post
“I’M NOT putting anybody on a moral plane,” President Trump said Tuesdayduring his heated news conference from the lobby of Trump Tower, as The Washington Post reported, while speaking to last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville. “There was a group on this side, you can call them the left — you’ve just called them the left — that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.”Here is “the way it is” through the lens of some American cartoonists, who viewed events a bit differently:

 

by David Fitzsimmons / Arizona Daily Star (CagleCartoons.com) 2017

 

TAYLOR JONES (Cagle Cartoons):

JEFF DANZIGER (Rutland Herald):

CLAY BENNETT (Chattanooga Times Free Press):

SIGNE WILKINSON (Philly.com):

Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, and One Night in New York City ~ The New Yorker

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Since the nineteen-sixties, there have not been jazz musicians as artistically significant and generally popular as Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, or Bill Evans. Today, jazz music is a miscellaneous collection of wide-ranging and disputed genres that stands to the side of American culture. How did the train go off the tracks? A listen to Ellington and Evans both playing an Ellington standard, “In a Sentimental Mood,” on the same hot Thursday night in New York City—August 17, 1967—offers a few clues. Here is Ellington’s version at the Rainbow Grill, with the tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves, along with John Lamb on bass and Steve Little on drums. And here is Evans’s version at the Village Vanguard, with Eddie Gomez on bass and Philly Joe Jones on drums.

Ellington, in the twilight of his career, had several long residencies at the Rainbow Grill, a restaurant and ballroom on the sixty-fifth floor of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Ellington would work on new music during the day (with the passing of his collaborator Billy Strayhorn, in May, 1967, Ellington’s final decade would see a much higher percentage of original music solely from his pen) and, in the evening, would play for dinner, dancing, and listening. This functional gig was a different experience than the glamorous concert tours that the full band made during the year. Yet each night at the Rainbow Grill high society, music fans, and hangers-on came together to see Ellington. You never knew who would drop by: Judy Garland, Tony Bennett, a Rockefeller.

For the summer of 1967, Ellington brought in an octet with the legendary veteran Ellingtonians Cat Anderson, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Lawrence Brown, and Harry Carney, accompanied by a young, mainstream rhythm section. They played the hits and a few minor new pieces. (A bootleg of a complete set came out recently on the Gambit label—an imprint for collectors who don’t mind potential illegalities). Everything is enjoyable, but the highlight is the Gonsalves quartet and “In a Sentimental Mood.”

Ellington packs a whole history of composition into only two and a half choruses. The first chorus is piano in D minor/F major, the “old style,” fairly close to the first 1935 recording. After the “old-style” chorus, Duke modulates to Bb minor/Db major for Gonsalves’s entrance, the same key used for the “new-style” version of “In a Sentimental Mood” tracked with John Coltrane, in 1962. Gonsalves’s greatest fame was authoring twenty-six choruses of shouting blues on “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” at the Newport Jazz Festival, in 1956, a moment that many credit with revitalizing Ellington’s career. However, Gonsalves was also one of the greatest ballad players, and his silky, furry, almost murky legato here is pure delight.

Gonsalves’s mastery is only to be expected, but the sixty-eight-year-old Ellington is still full of surprises. Playing with Coltrane, Ellington’s “new-style” arrangement had a mournful raindrop piano part that was dramatic and distinctive. At the Rainbow Grill, Ellington doesn’t play many of the raindrops but goes all out in rhapsodic style: heavy block chords, cascades, even a long left-hand trill underneath pointillistic right-hand stabs. It would be hard to find ballad accompaniment this busy anywhere else.

Downtown, the vastly influential keyboard artist Bill Evans was enjoying another run at the Village Vanguard. He was a regular at the club, with his 1961 LP “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” well on its way to canonization. When he was in residence, Evans would put a table from the front by the back stairs, come early, and drink coffee while reading the racing news.

In 1967, you could still get a hamburger or a turkey club sandwich at the Vanguard, but there certainly was no dancing. It was a nice, quiet audience for Evans that night. This recording of “In a Sentimental Mood,” which was released on the Verve double LP “California, Here I Come,” has less audience noise than “Sunday at the Village Vanguard.”

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Van Morrison Rides Back Into The Mystic With ‘Transformation’

As with the best Van Morrison songs, “Transformation” billows out from its oft-repeated refrain. The lead single off Morrison’s upcoming Roll With The Punches (out Sept. 22) consists largely of the 71-year-old Irish singer belting “gonna be a transformation” over a triumphant soul progression. But if there’s been a transformation in Morrison over his long career, it isn’t evident here. This is a soaring bit of classic Morrison roots-soul — and his best outing in recent years.

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This song has some of the wily, indulgent excess of Morrison’s most influential work, with more organic production than much of his modern output that’s far better suited to his loose vocal style.

Morrison is an artist who’s never been afraid of risking the ridiculous in pursuit of the transcendent. For proof, see: the line “Yeah when there’s no more words to say about love I go, NNGEEEEEEEEEE” at the end of “You Know What They’re Writing About,” the various growls on the 11-minute “Listen To The Lion,” the barn-burning cover of “Bein’ Green” live at the Rainbow and various album covers including — but not limited to — Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart and A Sense of Wonder.

Here, that tendency takes the form of a moving climax, complete with some vintage scatting. The moments that simultaneously elicit a laugh at his excess and a swell of feeling at his conviction — these are his specialty. “Transformation” brings us there once again. This is yet another testament to the transportive power of music and the changing force of a righteous love. That’s a note he’s sounded before, often over and over again at the end of a song, until the words loose their meaning and the inarticulate meaning comes clear.

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Kiitella Project: Camber Outdoors “Peak Partner” Plaques

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Camber Outdoors, an organization based in Boulder, CO that is committed to “accelerating and elevating women’s leadership and participation in the outdoors, from the backcountry to the boardroom” held their inaugural CEO Pledge Roundtable in Seattle last week. Metal artist Lisa Issenberg, of Kiitella, created their Peak Partner plaques — for Arc’teryx, Burton, Patagonia and REI.

Before They Were Kings

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Scrounging for any kind of role in 60s New York, chasing girls, lending money to whichever of them was the most broke, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Duvall shared the risks, the rejections, and a fascination with the human drama. As they remember, stardom was unlikely—and irrelevant.

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Forty years ago no one—least of all the three men themselves—would have believed that out of the thousands of struggling actors in New York they would turn out to be Academy Award—winning superstars. But it happened. They did.

Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Duvall were good friends in the 1950s and 60s, when they were working menial jobs and scrounging for any sort of roles. All three survived the classic whipsaw between hope and rejection to become part of that rare breed—character actors on Hollywood’s A-list. In last year’s Runaway Jury,the movie Hackman, 74, and Hoffman, 66, made together, the nimbus surrounding them is redolent of their protean film pasts—Hoffman as an actor impersonating a bossy woman (Tootsie), a crippled street scum (Midnight Cowboy), an autistic outpatient (Rain Man), and Hackman as a raging drug cop (The French Connection), a paranoid wiretapper (The Conversation), a nutty criminal mastermind (Superman). In Secondhand Lions, Robert Duvall, 73, played a grizzled, grumpy recluse still tough enough to beat up four young men at once, but again the screen reverberated with his past heroics as a wacko, war-loving colonel (Apocalypse Now), an efficient Mafia consigliere (The Godfather), and a washed-up fugitive preacher (The Apostle).

So why did these three, who floundered into acting, find their perfect fit and obsessive passion in the profession? The answer begins in 1957 at the Pasadena Playhouse, in California. Gene Hackman—27 years old, a married ex-Marine from Danville, Illinois, rough-hewn, six feet two inches tall, a self-described “big lummox kind of person”—found himself surrounded by tanned young “walking surfboards.” He immediately latched onto a fellow misfit, 19-year-old, five-foot-six-inch Dustin Hoffman, who was burdened with a huge nose and a bad complexion and wore tattered Levi’s and a sheepskin vest over bare skin. Hackman recalls, “There was something about him that—like he had a secret. You just knew he was going to do something.” An inspirational instructor, Barney Brown, sensed the same karma. He assured Dustin, “You are going to wind up being a theater person the rest of your life,” and persuaded him to go to New York against the wishes of his parents. “When Barney died,” says Hoffman, “I felt my ideal father had died.”

All three grew up in peripatetic families where fathers and discipline loomed large. Hoffman’s stickler Russian Jewish father, Harry, lifted himself through sheer hard work from ditchdigger to Columbia Pictures propman to set designer to founder of the Harry Hoffman furniture company, which went broke. His uneven fortunes moved the family into six Los Angeles neighborhoods, and Dustin had to find his place in six new schools. Short and acne-riddled, he was mocked as “Dustbin.” “I felt ugly,” he says. “I was all nose.” He tried never to walk away from a girl in profile. When at last a pretty girl did pay a little attention to him, a boy stole up behind him and jerked down his pants, taunting, “Hit me, little Dusty.”

But his innate acting gifts saved him—sort of. He became the class clown and discovered the rush delivered by a laughing audience—though, he says, “people used to say, ‘Oh, he’s a real comedian,’ which was like saying, ‘He’s a loser.’” At home, says Dustin, “sometimes that house was as thick with tension as any house could be.” At dinners for several days following a family fight, his father, mother, grandmother, and handsome high-achieving brother would sit absolutely silent. Suddenly eight-year-old Dustin would repeat the dialogue of the fight, taking all the parts. The family would look up and begin to laugh, and the tension eased. Hoffman muses, “I had never thought about acting. It was a great feeling to break the collective anger in the room. I mattered. I had an identity in the house.”

At Santa Monica City College, Hoffman studied medicine and music. To avoid flunking out, he took an acting course for a sure three credits and found that acting was “the first subject I ever felt I could concentrate on.” After a brief period at the Los Angeles Academy of Music, he enrolled in the Pasadena Playhouse, where he and his friend Gene Hackman agreed that they detested everyone else. Gene resisted the teachers’ approach to acting, and at the end of the first semester he received a grade of 1.4—the lowest grade ever given up to that point had been 3.0—and was dismissed.

Hackman was born in San Bernardino, California, in 1930. His puritanical father worked on newspaper presses and restlessly moved the family to four states before settling in the backwater, corn-belt town of Danville, Illinois. Gene dreaded hearing his mother say, “Wait till Dad gets home.” He explains, “He always went too far. Laid it on pretty heavy.” Like Dustin, Hackman went to a series of schools, but unlike his friend he turned inward. In high school he never dated or went to a dance. At home in the basement, next to the coalbin, he built a cardboard house—“a place to hide. My own spot.”

The Dharma of Dogs: Our Best Friends as Spiritual Teachers

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We spend countless hours training our dogs, but how often do we consider what they have to teach us? “Our canine companions aren’t just our best friends,” explains Tami Simon. “Sometimes they can also be carriers of a special medicine and the wisdom lessons we most need.” The Dharma of Dogs shares the reflections of spiritual teachers and writers who have found a source of deep truth and practical wisdom beneath the furry surface of our four-legged friends.

For anyone who loves dogs—and who has learned and grown through this special relationship—these 31 essays offer humor, solace, inspiration, and insight into the life lessons our dogs make available to us, exploring such themes as unconditional love, connecting with nature, facing our fears, and much more.

 

Edited by Tami Simon, The Dharma of Dogs includes contributions by Alice Walker, Eckhart Tolle, Pam Houston, Mark Nepo, Roshi Joan Halifax, Adyashanti, Julie Barton, angel Kyodo williams, JP Sears, Lama Surya Das, Diane Musho Hamilton, Allan Lokos, Andrew Holecek, Bonnie Myotai Treace, Chris Grosso, Geneen Roth, Jeri Parker, Joan Ranquet, Lama Tsomo, Laura Pritchett, Mirabai Starr, Sarah C. Beasley, Stuart Davis, Susan Martin, Susanna Weiss, and His Eminence the 25th Tsem Rinpoche.

Portion of proceeds donated to the National Mill Dog Rescue. milldogrescue.org.