books
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ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
2022 Simon & Schuster
This classic work of journalism is republished in a new 5oth anniversary edition, marking a half-century since the Watergate scandal that led to the downfall of an American president, Richard Nixon.

The updated release of this compelling book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, two aspiring reporters of the Washington Post newspaper back in the 1970s, couldn’t be more timely, as the United States today faces a very real threat to democracy in the person of another disgraced American president, Donald Trump.

“The Greatest Reporting Story of All Time,” as the book’s front-cover promo bills the intriguing plot, is a bit of literary hyperbole, to be sure. But All the President’s Men does deserve its high place in the pantheon of investigative journalism, and a new foreword to the 2022 edition of the book by Woodward and Bernstein is essential reading on what Watergate all means in the current political environment.

“As reporters, we had studied Nixon and written about him for nearly half a century, during which we believed with great conviction that never again would America have a president who would trample the national interest and succeed in undermining democracy through the audacious pursuit of personal and political self-interest,” the authors write in their new foreword. “And then along came Trump.”

From the foreword:

In a deception that even exceeded Nixon’s imagination, Trump and a group of lawyers, loyalists and White House aides devised a strategy to bombard the country with false assertions that the [2020 presidential] election was rigged and Trump had really won. …

By legal definition this is clearly sedition — conduct, speech or organizing by inciting people to rebel against the governing authority of the state. Thus, he [Trump] became the first seditious president in our history.

Fifty years earlier, Richard Nixon was intent on undermining and subverting the American system of free elections, the keystone that holds our democracy together.

The authors then present the original contents of their book as it was first published in 1974, while Nixon was still in office: the story behind their Washington Post reporting and investigation of Watergate as it originally unfolded piece by piece. It had all started, interestingly, with a routine crime story filed by Woodward in the Post about an illegal break-in at a Washington DC hotel. The scandal unraveled from there.

All the President’s Men, back in 1974, shared some new revelations with the public about the earlier Post reporting on Watergate by Bernstein and Woodward — the real identities of sources within the government who cooperated with the two reporters in their investigative efforts, and especially the existence of a deep-background government source nicknamed “Deep Throat” after a porn film of that time.

The book’s original narrative read like a crime mystery, due in great part to Deep Throat’s identity being kept strictly secret by the two reporters. Revisiting the book five decades later, though, some of the suspense and intrigue is lost since we now know that “Deep Throat” was actually Mark Felt, the No. 2 person at the FBI in the 1970s. That such a high-level source in the U.S. government would take great risks to leak the story to reporters for the Washington Post, one of the leading establishment newspapers in the U.S., shows just how deep and rampant the corruption was in the Nixon administration.

Ever the coward, Nixon escaped impeachment and prosecution by abruptly resigning from office in August 1974, just a couple months after All the President’s Men first hit the bookstores. And as Woodward and Bernstein aptly remind us in the afterword of this book, Nixon never took full responsibility for Watergate and continued trying to hide his wrongdoing as president from public view to the end of his days.

His ghost, however, lives on today in the demagogue Donald Trump, who has proudly championed Nixon as his political hero. “Both Nixon and Trump have been willing prisoners of their compulsions, to dominate, and to gain and hold political power through virtually any means,” the authors conclude in their new foreword to All the President’s Men. “In leaning so heavily on these dark impulses, they defined two of the most dangerous and troubling eras in American history.”

How this ongoing story of U.S. democracy under siege will eventually end is anyone’s guess, but we can only hope that
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward will still be around to investigate and report it for future generations as well.
音楽 music
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ANOMALY
Jasdeep Singh Degun
2022
Classical music of India meets contemporary ambience in Anomaly, the debut recording by young sitarist and composer Jasdeep Singh Degun of Britain — a musical endeavor that both pays homage to the ancient past and breaks exciting new ground in the present.

A rising young star in England’s South Asian musical community, Degun has steadily been turning heads and garnering respect for a few years now through his songwriting and live performances on the sitar.

That the new album of 12 tunes was recorded with state-of-the-art technology and released on Real World, the outstanding record label run by British rock musician Peter Gabriel, speaks volumes about Degun’s devotion to his craft as a serious student of his Indian musical heritage.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the title track, “Anomaly” (audio clip above), a binaural recording that transports the listener to another place via both its three-dimensional stereo sound and Degun’s virtuosic playing and arranging.

Joining Degun on this album are more than 30 musicians of the highest caliber, including a 16-piece western string ensemble and a dozen musicians — “the best of the best,” as Degun notes — from England’s thriving South Asian musical community.

Two of them, female vocalists Debipriya Das and Yarlinie Thana (each trained in the very different styles of North and South Indian classical music), join Degun on sitar and the strings on “Sajanava,” a soaring, lavishly arranged tune by Degun.

A crossover of western and eastern instruments is featured on “Enigma 7.5,” a bass and drum-driven piece by Degun that is built around an unusual time signature of seven and a half beats.

On “Undertow,” Degun on sitar and Francois Kirmann on synthesizer programming improvise a cinematic-sounding tune based a North Indian raag (melodic mode), which then segues right into the raag itself, “Rageshri,” as performed by a half-dozen players of traditional Indian instruments, most notably the mridangam drum.

Anomaly reaches its climax in the 21-minute-long composition “Mahogany,” featuring dueling sitars by Degun and fellow British Asian musician Roopa Panesar. The piece is dedicated to their common teacher, Ustad Dharambir Singh, a respected figure in the British-Indian musical community, where, as in all of Indian music, a high value is placed on the teacher-student relationship.

All the musicians in this session join forces on the closing track, “Redemption (Reprise),” a sweeping, majestic ballad created by Degun — a fitting coda to the album in its blending of eastern and western musical styles and traditions.

This may be the first album by sitarist and composer Jasdeep Singh Degun, but it most certainly won’t be the last. We can expect to hear more of this young lion’s work in the years ahead in audio recording sessions, motion picture soundtracks and live performances alike. The journey of a future maestro in the making begins here.
映画 film
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BILLY BANG LUCKY MAN
Markus Hansen & Jean-Marie Boulet, directors
2021 90 min.
Virtuoso jazz violinist and composer William Walker (stage name: Billy Bang) confronts the demons of his past in this newly repackaged film documenting his return to the Southeast Asian nation of Vietnam 40 years after he fought there as a young soldier in the United States army.

The purpose this time of Bang’s tour of Vietnam as an elder is to perform with Vietnamese musicians and for Vietnamese audiences. In the process he makes new connections and faces old traumas existing on both sides of what folks in Vietnam call the genocidal “American War” in their country during the 1960s and 1970s.

Independent filmmakers Markus Hansen and Jean-Marie Boulet from Europe capture on video some moving moments between Bang and the people he meets in Vietnam in 2007. “I was a lucky, lucky, lucky human being,” Bang tells a well-known Vietnamese author in one scene, recalling how Vietnamese guerrilla fighters on the battlefield during the war would shoot to kill white American soldiers but would often spare the lives of Black American soldiers.

Bang was 18 years old in the mid-1960s when he was drafted into the U.S. army. He ended up in country in Vietnam for a year starting in 1967, arriving just in time for the deadly Tet offensive of early 1968 that would decidedly change the course of the war against the American military.

Magic happens both on stage and off in the movie between Bang and his Vietnamese musical counterparts, be it jamming on traditional Vietnamese acoustic instruments, improvising with a jazz fusion band in a live club or working out an arrangement during rehearsal with the Hanoi Symphony Orchestra of an especially powerful composition by Bang titled “Mystery of the Mekong” from one of his earlier recordings.

All that said,
Billy Bang Lucky Man is not really a cinematic breath of fresh air. Directors Hansen and Boulet had originally released the film in 2008, a year after Bang’s trip to Vietnam, as Redemption Song (named after the famous tune by Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley, though Marley had nothing to do with the flick).

That film was considered part of a “Vietnam trilogy” of sorts, following Bang’s two earlier musical recordings,
Vietnam: The Aftermath in 2001 and Vietnam: Reflections in 2005, the latter standing out as a supreme recording among the rich discography of the violinist and ex-military man.

In 2021, a full decade after Bang’s death in New York, the filmmakers restored and repackaged the film intact, retitling it
Billy Bang Lucky Man (named after the famous tune by the British rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, though ELP had nothing to do with this flick either). This time around, the filmmakers released the movie accompanied by a superb musical soundtrack available in different formats.

Bang may be gone, but this latest incarnation of the film (available for
viewing on demand on Vimeo), along with other recent remasterings of his past audio recordings, show that he is still fondly remembered. He was one of a kind as a jazz violinist and left his indelible mark on the world of music — not least in Vietnam, where he was accepted in the end as a comrade and brother.

Check out the modest
YouTube channel maintained in Billy Bang’s name to savor some of his past recordings and the new movie soundtrack in full, and experience for yourself the legacy he has left behind as a well-loved, much-missed voice in the global musical community.