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Archive for November, 2010

SOUNDTRACK: LORDI-“Hard Rock Hallelujah” (2006).

When browsing the Wikipedia entry on Gwar, I learned that the Finnish band Lordi (of whom I’d never heard) won the 2006 Eurovision song contest with what is essentially a Gwar-lite stage show.

Unlike Gwar, this Lordi song is extremely catchy and easy to digest (as all Eurovision songs tend to be).  But like Gwar it is fairly heavy and the band are in outrageous costumes (think glam period Kiss with crazy death-monster masks on–how does he sing with all that crap on his face?).

The singer has quite the voice (he sing/speaks in a cookie monster style (but audible–a sort of radio-friendly version of cookie monster) but he also hits very high notes).  The song is an anthemic sing-along like many metal songs from the early 80s (although it’s also pretty heavy).  And, if you listen closely to the bridge it’s sounds a bit like Abba’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme”.  It’s pretty cheesy and that’s clearly why it won Eurovision, and yet I find that after listening to it twice, I was humming it all day.

It’s fun to hear the comments after the song (I wish the recording was longer), but even more amazing is that they won with 292 points (the highest victory ever).  I’m so delighted for them (and for Eurovision that this preposterousness won).

A recent interview sounds like they have gotten heavier than this in recent years (“Bite It Like a Bulldog” kind of sounds like Accept).

Good on ya Finland.

[READ: November 8, 2010] “Breakup Stories”

I’ve been reading a lot of Franzen’s non-fiction in the New Yorker, so it’s nice to get back to some of his fiction.  Because even though the non-fiction is great, the fiction shows how creative Franzen can be.

This piece is, as the title suggets, a series of breakup stories.  It’s really five vignettes about how various couples broke up.  There’s “our friend Danni” and “Danni’s college friend Stephen” and “Ron” and “Stephen’s cousin Peter” and “Peter’s friend Antonia.”  The “stories” come across mostly as character studies in bad behavior.

Danni’s husband can’t admit that he doesn’t want children (and he takes the cowardly way out, what a cad).  Stephen’s fiancée hates that he devotes so much of his time to helping nuns (that’ a funny story).  Ron is a serial monogamist.  He hits it big with an inheritance and tries to settle down, but when he finds out that he can’t, he loses more than the woman he stayed with for six whole months.  Peter cheats on his wife and tries to make the three of them have a “French-style family relationship.” (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: November 18, 2010] Consider the Lobster

This was the final audio book that DFW read.  As with Brief Interviews, this is a collection of selected, unedited essays [actually it says “Text slightly edited for audio, with changes approved by the author.”  I don’t know these essays verbatim, but it seems like the changes simply acknowledge that this an audio essay and not a written one].

The only problem with the entire package is how few essays were selected.

I don’t know if it’s because this collection was recorded later and DFW felt more comfortable reading or because DFW had more fun reading these essays or that these essays lend themselves to more animated reading, but this collection is absolutely stellar.

The audio book includes

  • Consider the Lobster
  • The View from Mrs. Thompson’s
  • Big Red Son
  • How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart

and, sadly, that’s it.

Not included are (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TYLER THE CREATOR-“Bastard” & “AssMilk” (2010).

This is the third and final rapper from Odd Future that I’m going to listen to. In his New Yorker article, Sasha Frere-Jones mentions Tyler’s song “Bastard” as being noteworthy for its content (an anti-father screed).  It’s a somber song played over a rather nice but dark piano motif.  The song is about his father and the rest of the darkness in his life:  “I cut my wrists and play piano because I’m so depressed”  Woah.  It gets typically dark and violent (the whole group seems to relish in tales of violence and abuse of women and gays, which isn’t cool).  It’s a moving song but at 6 minutes, frankly this song is too long.

I picked a second song because I thought that “Bastard” was only 32 seconds long (the first video on YouTube that came up is an edited version which actually packs more of a wollop than the 6 minute version) so I found this other song whose title I thought was funny.

The song is certainly sillier and opens with “I’m not an asshole I just don’t give a fuck a lot.”  Inexplicably, at the one minute mark the song interrupts itself mid sentence.  There’s some kind of altercation and Tyler starts hitting some guy and demanding an apology.  The guy keeps saying sorry and eventually says uncle, and the song resumes.   The rest of the song degrades into more violence with yet another break in the music in which Tyler doth protest too much that “Woah, I’m not gay.”  I think maybe that’s too much life in the underground for me, and even though I think that Sash Frere-Jones is one of the best music journalists out there (his article about Pavement was exactly how I feel about them), I have to say I was a little less than impressed with this batch of suggestions.

After five songs in total from these guys, I need some good clean happy music.  Perhaps Cee-Lo’s “Fuck You.”  At least it’s not THAT mean-spirited.  Thus endeth my tour of underground rap.  Happy Thanksgiving weekend.

[READ: November 19, 2010] “Christmas Pudding”

Although I said Allegra Goodman’s story was the funniest, I’m going to change that and give the honor to Colm.  For a one page article, he really crams a lot of story in (and the ending is great).

As it opens, we learn that his family had the best Christmas Pudding in Enniscorthy.  His mother knew the chef at the Roche’s castle in town and she was given the recipe for the very pudding that the Roche’s ate.  (The Roches restored the Castle that was built by the Earl of Portsmouth and had a dungeon!  They were synonymous with wealth and fanciness).

This recipe (which came from America (hushed approval)) used butter instead of (I can’t even look as I type this) suet.  (As a person who leaves suet out for woodpeckers, I am revolted at the thought of this).  So yes, their pudding was awesome.

So what’s funny about this?  Well, that comes in the second half. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MELLOWHYPE-“Loco” (2010).

I was going to review “Earl” by Earl Sweatshirt (who I keep wanting to call Earl Sandwich).  I didn’t think much of it but I wrote a few paragraphs.  Then WordPress lost my post and I didn’t want to listen to the song again, so I switched to Mellowhype.

I was confused about Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All so I looked them up on Wikipedia.  The write up made it seem like Mellowhype might be the least aggressive/nasty/offensive of the bunch.  But that proves not to be the case at all.

This song has the styling of a Snoop Dog jam, kind of slow and menacing. The background music is pretty cool, it’s sort of a horror movie piano and keyboards with an occasional wicked cool bassline thrown in for good measure.  There’s even some female backing vocals, although where they’re sampled from I have no idea.

Of course, once he starts rapping it’s clear that he’s from the same school as the other members of the group (“Pigs raid my crib”) and lots and lot and lots of “fucks.”  Frere-Jones says in the article, that OFWGKTA has an interesting style and technique, but as for me, it’s not something I’ll listen to very often (or even again).

[READ: November 19, 2010] “Turbot”

This essay differs from all the others in that it contains an actual recipe.  Thurman explains that she used to go all out for dinner parties, preparing all manner of complete meals, including marbled roast (but the days of red meat have gone the way of the ashtray) or even spaghetti alla carbonara.  But now everyone agrees that it is fish that is the meal of choice.  And so, she offers a quick and easy recipe for turbot over vegetables presented in a delightful storytelling manner.

Because I though the recipe sounded good I’m going to copy it here (without the narrative) so that I can try it out someday. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DOMO GENESIS-“Super Market” (2010).

The other band that Sasha Frere-Jones mentions in the New Yorker article is Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All a ten-member collective from L.A.  They have released a slew of albums (all available for free on their website), but none are released under that collective name.  This song seems is released by Domo Genesis on the album Rolling Papers.

This song is really bizarre.  It’s a silly story of two guys fighting because one of them cut in line at the grocery store.  The two guys argue throughout the track with ever-escalating threats.

But the really interesting thing about the track is the backing music.  It sounds like a march from some kind of 70s TV show.  It is almost menacing but mostly it’s comical.  And when you couple that with the crazy threats: “I’m a fucking ninja and a Jedi and I’m from Compton”;   “I’ll push you into an old lady bagging plastic”;  “I’ll stab you with this fucking rocket launcher” (!), it’s hard to know what to think of them.  (I think it’s funny, but I fear that they’re serious).

It’s utterly juvenile (but then all the members of the band are teenagers, so that’s expected).  The musical choice for backing tracks is pretty inspired though, and I like to think that if the guys get some real ideas to rap about, they could really be an ungrounded sensation.

[READ: November 19, 2010] “Borscht”

It’s interesting that there is another article from an Eastern European writer in this collection.  Hemon’s family is from Bosnia (via western Ukraine), where the family developed the perfect borscht.

As with Bezgemos’ family, the recipe was never written down. Mostly, this is  because there was no recipe, it included lots of things that were in the garden, and usually at least one surprise ingredient.  But whatever the ingredients, the results were always wonderfully, vinegary tarty goodness.

The article mentions a family dinner where 42 people were counted at the table.  And borscht is a poor people’s food, where you can reasonably make enough for 42 people.  It is designed “to ensure durability.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAS RACIST-“You Oughta Know” (2010).

Since “Combination” was a such an odd and obvious novelty song I thought I’d try the other song by Das Racist that was mentioned in the New Yorker article.  “You Oughta Know” samples Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out” extensively (and is the only music in the song).  I rather like the use of the sample, although it’s not really used very creatively.

I really don’t understand the “chorus” of the song in which the guys sing/mumble/mock the chorus of the Billy Joel song.  I mean, I understand the desire to mock Billy Joel, but I really just don’t “get” that aspect of the song.

The actual rap part is kind of interesting: “sick of arguing with white dudes on the internet” but the bulk of the song is taken up with the infernal nonsensical Billy Joel mocking.

I concede that I’m absolutely not the right audience for this band.

[READ: November 19, 2010] “Linzer Torte”

Of the five food-related articles in this issue, this one made me laugh the most.

Goodman explains that her mother was the cook in the family.  And she trucked no nonsense in the kitchen: no “little children sticking fingers into the bowl.”  As a result, Allegra never learned how to cook.

This worked out fine in her own family because both her husband and her oldest son were excellent cooks themselves.  But when her son went to college…she found herself eating only leftovers. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAS RACIST-“Combination PIzza Hut and Taco Bell” (2010).

This issue of the New Yorker featured an article from Sasha Frere-Jones about two underground rap sensations.  One of them is Das Racist.  I’d heard of them especially regarding this “hit,” but I hadn’t actually heard the song until now.

This song is pretty much exclusively a novelty song.  what else could it be?  The entire lyric is about being at the Pizza Hut/Taco Bell.  It’s kind of funny, and as Frere-Jones says, I can see this being huge at college parties.  But I have to say that–as a guy who typically loves novelty songs–that this song has literally no substance.  Even the backing beats are kind of dull.

I really wanted to like this song.  The guys seem funny (all their promo photos are amusing) and yet they also seem to have serious ideas.  But it just never really did anything for me.  And yet, for all of how much I don’t get this song and really don’t like it, it’s catchy as all hell, and I know that after listening to it just twice, I will have the inane lyrics in my head for months, cropping up no doubt every time I see a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

[READ: November 19, 2010] “Pickled Cabbage”

The Thanksgiving issue of the New Yorker features five one page articles from different writers all about families and food.  And so, for the holiday I’m going to write 5 brief posts about articles about food.

I’ve enjoyed Bezmozgis’ pieces in the past although I don’t typically enjoy pickled cabbage.  Nevertheless, this was a fascinating look at Soviet life and at cooking.  He observes that many people have multiple cookbooks on their shelves but that his family cooked entirely from memory (this is a common theme in these essays).  For his family, food was for sustenance, not for pleasure. (more…)

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