How Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz Freed Rock and Roll

Photo by  
Mike Licht, Flickr

It’s said that James Brown’s great innovation, one drawn deeply from African-American musical tradition, was that every instrument in a band could be a drum. Likewise, Coleman saw that every instrument in a band could be a human voice, the drum’s longtime companion—singing, but also chattering, yelling, moaning, crying. And while Coleman was never the kind of Black Power firebrand many of his successors were, his insight did come with a political subtext: Because they are human, all those voices should be equal and free.

Bassist Jack Bruce of Cream, who had a jazz background, told the Independent in 1992 that by the late 1960s the group that did “Sunshine of Your Love” and “White Room” was secretly “an Ornette Coleman band, with Eric [Clapton] not knowing he was Ornette Coleman, Ginger [Baker] and me not telling him. But there he was, doing these unaccompanied solos for 20 minutes, incredible stuff.”

Carl Wilson writing at Slate about the way avant-garde jazz musician Ornette Coleman influenced everyone from the Velvet Underground to MC5 to to Patti Smith. Coleman died on June 18th, 2015.
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The Celebrities of Vine Take the Stage

Photo: YouTube
Photo: YouTube

Perhaps for this reason, the DigiTour show itself seems mostly designed to enable the boys to mug for the crowd as much as possible and the crowd, in turn, to scream as much as possible…Roughly once every show, a booming voice prods, “Now, let’s — take — some — SELFIEEEES,” in the way another announcer might implore a crowd to make some noise. The fans oblige.

— Reporter Ellen Cushing goes behind the scenes on DigiTour, a concert? performance? party? tour that brings seven young social media phenoms and their hundreds of thousands of fans together.

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What Jacques Pepin Would Eat for His Last Meal

Photo: YouTube
Photo: YouTube

I can think of no better summary than an interview conducted by the photographer Melanie Dunea for her book ‘My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals.’ His answer to the question of what his final meal would be begins:

“The menu for my last meal would be eclectic, relaxed, informal, and would go on for a very, very long time—years!…I cannot conceive of anything better than the greatest baguette, deep golden, nutty, and crunchy, with a block of the sublime butter of Brittany and Bélon oysters. I would consume tons of the best beluga caviar with my wife, dispose of the best boiled ham and the most excellent Iberíco ham, and would eat eggs cooked in butter, scrambled, mollet-style or sunny-side up, with the ham.”

And the list continues: fingerling potatoes cooked in goose fat, pâté of pheasant with black truffles, a lobster roll, a hot dog, apricots, cherries, white and wine peaches, “I would pile homemade apricot jam onto thin, buttery crêpes, hot from the pan and accompany them with a Bollinger Brut 1996 champagne.”

— Brett Martin in GQ, writing about his life-changing meeting with Jacques Pepin.

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What Happens When a Doctor Decides to Battle a Drug Cartel

Cartel Land, the new documentary by director Matthew Heineman in theaters July 3, follows Dr. José Manuel Mireles, a small-town physician known as “El Doctor,” who leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar drug cartel in the state of Michoacán in Mexico. The above clip, exclusive to Longreads, features Mireles attempting to gather volunteers and support from one town.

Things have changed for both the Knights Templar and the vigilantes since the film’s completion. As Heineman told Variety: “Very, very quickly I realized that this story was much more complex and much more gray, that the lines between good and evil were not that clear. I became obsessed with trying to figure out what was really happening, who these guys truly were, where the movement was going, what the endgame was.”

More Stories from Mexico’s Drug War:

1. “The Hunt for El Chapo” (Patrick Radden Keefe, The New Yorker 2014)

2. “The Murderers of Mexico” (Alma Guillermoprieto, New York Review of Books 2010)

3. “The Mistress and the Narcotraficante” (Ricardo C. Ainslie, Texas Monthly 2013)

Arabs, Jews, and Israel’s Pork Industry

Photo by Pixabay
Photo by Pixabay

Surprisingly, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and a staunch secularist, opposed pork consumption. He viewed eating pork as a recent Jewish diasporic cultural development that Israelis needed to shed in order to forge a united Israeli identity. In 1962 the Knesset officially outlawed the breeding and selling of pigs, except for in Arab-Christian areas, such as the villages around Nazareth. In 1994 the import of non-kosher meat was also banned. That action, ironically, fortified what was once a black-market system of smuggling pork from the Arab-Christian pig farms into Jewish areas. Today that market is a legal, flourishing industry reliant almost exclusively on those few original farms.


While the consumption of pork is becoming more mainstream, the production of it by Jews is still rare and sometimes still requires some justifying loopholes. Kibbutz Lahav in southern Israel, which, like many kibbutzim, started as a radically secular project, is the only one of its kind to contribute to Israel’s pork industry, albeit as a byproduct of a program to breed lab animals. Because pigs are physiologically similar to humans, they are the best animals for medical research, explains Moshe Tayar, a kibbutznik and spokesman for the kibbutz’s research institute, where they work to advance treatments for ailments ranging from diabetes to various types of cancer. Excess pigs are processed at the kibbutz factory, which sells to shops and hotels around the country.

Their workers include observant Muslims and Jews who don’t eat pork themselves, explains Tayar. (In a rare example of Muslim-Jewish agreement among Israelis, Islam also views “swine” as a particularly unhygienic and thus spiritually toxic animal, and its consumption is explicitly deemed “haram,” or forbidden, in the Quran.)

Shira Rubin writing for Roads & Kingdoms about Israel’s deepest culinary taboo, and how pork has recently taken Israel’s secular foodie scene by storm.

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The Time Al Letson Got What He Wanted

Photo: Bart Everson

Radio producer, writer, and storytelling all-’rounder Al Letson (State of the Re:Union, Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal) recently launched a new podcast called Errthang. The show is a personal outlet for Letson’s stories and diverse passions — a venue for “errthang” he wants to do. Kicking off in style, the first episode is built around the story of how Letson’s life changed when, at 7 years old, he got what he’d long wished for: a brother — but an older brother, who brought some strong older-brothering skills to his adoptive family: Read more…

How an ‘American Girl’ Character Is Born

Photo by Terren, Flickr
Photo by Terren, Flickr

The company is meticulous when it comes to product development, particularly for the BeForever line. “It takes about three years to launch a new character because you do a lot of research,” explains Opland. The BeForever books tackle a range of difficult issues—Addy Walker is an escaped slave, Samantha speaks out against child labor—and so American Girl enlists historians, museum curators, and linguists to carefully craft each character’s narrative. Research trips are taken (to Santa Fe for Josefina, New York’s Lower East Side for Rebecca) and advisory committees are formed.

In the case of Kaya, a nine-year-old Native American girl in the Northwest, American Girl worked with the Nez Perce tribe to ensure that her story, as well as her appearance, were as authentic as possible. As a result, she’s the only American Girl doll without her two front teeth showing; the tribe explained that Kaya would have never shown her teeth like that, as it’s considered a sign of aggression in the Nez Perce culture. They ensured that everything from the positioning of her braids to the patterns on her “pow-wow outfit” were historically accurate. A visit to the Rocky Mountains’ Lolo Trail also contributed to the development process.

Julia Rubin writing for Racked about the business model and enduring appeal of American Girl dolls.

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