William Hazlitt on a Sporting Life

C.L.R. James mused in “Beyond a Boundary”–his far out book on cricket and “what men live by”–that he hoped to “write of the game and its players as Hazlitt wrote of fives and Cavanagh.”  James knew his 19th C. Brit culturalists and his praise led your editor to the following swatch from Hazlitt’s “Table Talk,” in which the eminent pre-Victorian paid tribute “to the best fives-player that perhaps ever lived…” 

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Merrill Garbus & The Wokeness Unto Death

For being an “outside artist,” Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards has never lacked in critical applause. The lo-fi Afrobeat of her 2009 debut Birdbrains immediately established her as a singular voice in the freak-folk music world. The gigantic production and stylistic leap of Whokill, her 2011 sophomore effort, landed her on many year-end best-of lists. More recently she was commissioned to create the theme music for the New Yorker Radio Hour. As a fan, I’ve worried with each new release she’d morph her authentic weirdness into easily digestible hipster marketability. But she’s resisted that impulse. Unlike the manufactured weirdness of a Lady Gaga, her introspection and restlessness have kept her music from becoming self-help dance muzak. Her defiant neuroticism resists any easy boxing-in.

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An Eye for Comedy

The second half of the HBO documentary, “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling,” made me want to be a kinder, more generous, and more forgiving person. The doc, directed by Judd Apatow, lifts the edges of the napkin covering GS’s life without revealing much. We come to know him from his eyes.

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“Sidewalks, Fences and Walls”

Solomon Burke cut “Sidewalks, Fences and Walls” long after he sang songs that made him “King of Rock and Soul” in the 60s. There’s a good cover by Bob Dylan (on a bootleg) which steered your editor to the original. Other Firsters had already heard and loved it. More from one of them below…

“What man isn’t a Solomon to some missing-Mary in his life?
I can’t fucking believe she married Billy.
Billy!”

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Game Theory

Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August, by Oliver Hilmer (Other Press. 2018. Trans. from the German by Jefferson Chase) begins on the first day of that summer’s Olympics and ends on their closing. But the Olympics were a smokescreen, a puppet show, a diversion of less significance than the fireworks which concluded Joseph Goebbels $800,000 last-night party, bloodying the sky red.

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