Archive for April, 2013

Burn-This-House-175x250SOUNDTRACK: THE KNIFE-“Heartbeats” (2002).


I learned of this song from the José González cover that was featured in the (very cool) Sony video with the bouncing balls.  The song turned me on to González, but not necessarily the song itself.  I knew The Knife did the original  and I remember when I first heard it, I didn’t like it nearly as much as the González version.

It’s been a few years and there’s a new The Knife album out and in the New Yorker review of it Sasha Frere-Jones mentioned this song again.  So I wanted to listen to it without the cover so prominent.  And indeed, the González cover is quite straightforward (acoustic guitar rather than mega synth, but otherwise pretty spot on). The Knife’s version is very retro synth-sounding .  It reminds me of a wacky 80s song.  Or perhaps a 2000’s Europop song.

The vocals are high-pitched and a wee bit over the top, but all in all it’s very catchy.  Frere-Jones said that The Knife version was very popular but evidently I didn’t travel in those circles because I don’t recognize it as being huge.

And I still like José’s version better.

I know it’s not really cool to show the video of the cover version when I’m talking about the original, and it’s really not that cool to use a commercial as a video, but it is still very fun to watch.

[READ: April 30, 2013] Burn This House

For the last day of April, the last day of poetry month, I read a new book of poetry that came across my desk today.  This is Kelly Davio’s first collection.  She is an MFA and quite an accomplished poet (managing editor and Pushcart nominee).  I also thought that I would see if she was a “modern, weird” poet or a more traditional one (I secretly hoped for more traditional as I’d burnt out on wacky ones).  For the most part she is more traditional and I liked most of her poems quite a lot.

The book was divided into five sections.  And I have to admit that the final few sections contained poems which seems a little forced to me (more on that later).  For it was in the early pages that I thought the poetry was most magnificent.

Although when I first started reading I was afraid that the poetry was going to be ponderous without enough concrete detail.  Like in “auguries” which showed a series of potential omens (Davio seems to have a thing with birds crashing into windows) which were effective, but I didn’t like the ending: “To what /significance such eroded things?” It seemed too vague to be powerful.

But the poems that came right after were just wonderful with detail like in “The First Lines” which had this description of a scarecrow: (more…)


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freegalNot only am I a librarian, I’m also a patron of libraries (we currently use four!).  I’m also a huge advocate of library usage.  Everyone knows you can get free books at the library.  And many people know (but many people don’t) that you can get free CDs and DVDs from the library.  Well, I’m advocating a new service that many libraries have implemented (both the library where I worked and my local library have it).

It’s called Freegal and it allows you to download (and keep) three songs a week.  The selection is quite impressive, as they have made agreements with 10,000 record labels.  That’s 10,000 LABELS, not artists, so huge numbers of songs are available. I did a few random searches and was delighted by how much was there.

Even their genre divisions are impressive.  Just check out this sample selection from the B’s: BeBop Big Band Black Metal Bluegrass Blues Bolero Bollywood Brasil Soul Brazilian Breakbeat BritPop Broadway.

So check out to see if your library subscribes.   You get three free songs every Monday morning!  Not bad for the price of a free library card.

[READ: July 3, 3011] Five Dials Number 27B

I haven’t posted about a Five Dials in a couple of issues, primarily because I find writing about anthologies is very time consuming (I have recently read three McSweeney’s which I haven’t had the time to edit together into posts).  The good news is that I have only missed two issues, but I know that at least one of them is pretty large.  I was a little bummed to see another new one already, but then I saw that this issue was not only short, it was full of poetry.  And, since this is my poetry month, why not end the month with a little more poetry.

I enjoyed the offputting cartoon on the cover of this issue which is creepy and funny at the same time.  (Illustrations are by Sophia Augusta, Hannah Bagshaw, Kyle Platts, Tom Rees and Joe Prendergast.  I assume Augusta did the cover).

There was no letter from the editor or any of the usual suspects in this issue.  Rather this issue opens with a Letter from the Poetry Editor.  It is shaped like a poem but isn’t one.

SAM BUCHAN-WATTS-On Parenting Poems
Mentioning a 1954 parenting guide (from Elizabeth Longfellow), Buchan-Watts says that they asked eight young poets to choose a chapter heading from Longfellow’s book Points for Parents, and to make a poem starting from that title.

And it’s now that I admit that these poems have set me back terribly in my appreciation of poetry which I have been nurturing all month.  If ever there was a collection of seemingly random words, it is these. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: April 2013] Frindle

frindleI went to the Princeton Public Library looking for audio books for the kids (we’ve exhausted most of our town library’s books).  There was a nice new selection of audio books at PPL, and this was one of them.  I wasn’t familiar with the story but Sarah knew it already.

So in Frindle, (which was Clements’ first chapter book after several picture books), Nick Allen is upset to find out that he has Mrs Granger as his English teacher this year.  You see, Nick is beloved by his classmates for his ability to ask the perfect and perfectly timed question that will distract the teacher so he or she forgets to give homework.  He has even sidetracked teachers so that they barely taught any lessons at all.  But Mrs Granger has been around and has a reputation as being a really really tough teacher.

One the first day, Nick comes up with the perfect question.  He learns that Mrs Granger loves dictionaries–she has one propped up on a lectern in the front of the class–so he waits until there’s about six minutes left and he asks her how all those words got in the dictionary.  It was genius, it was brilliant.  It didn’t work.  She turned it around on him and asked him to give do research and give a report about the question.  Tomorrow.  Ack!

Nick is distraught.  But then he decides to get really into it.  And the next day he gives a presentation that lasts over thirty minutes. Mrs Granger knows what he’s up to but she is impressed by his tenacity.  They have a kind of friendly stand off.  But she makes a small comment that sets the rest of the book in motion.  She tells Nick that it is him, and really everyone, who decides what words mean.  If everyone agrees that a word means something, then it does.

And a light goes off in Nick’s head. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 25, 2013] MOMIX Botancia


I didn’t realize that we attended a Momix show almost exactly one year ago.  But that’s when it was.  That show was called Remix, and it was a collection of great bits from Momix shows.  This year’s show, Botanica, is an older show and there were bits of it in Remix.  This gave me the most unique (for me) experience of seeing a dance troupe perform things that I had already seen!  What was fun was that the dancers were (I believe) different and, it felt like perhaps the pieces were performed a little bit differently too.

One of the fun things about the show was how the pieces segued into one another–most routines didn’t end so much as meld into the next one (and you can see how picking pieces out for a Greatest Hits might require some restructuring).

We saw this show at the McCarter Theatre, where, once again we had the $20 seats (knocked down to $18 with a AAA discount!).  For this show the seats were a bit of a hindrance because Momix is definitely about spectacle, and there were a few pieces where the spectacle was lost from our angle (which was a little below the stage and off to the right).  On the plus side, being able to see the dancers up close (we were literally three rows from the stage) brought a new level of experience to the show that you don’t get when the performers are interchangeable (hey, that’s the sweaty guy, that’s the blonde lady, that’s the guy with the amazing muscles).

The show opened with a waving sheet which looked like snow.  As the sheet began rippling dancers revealed themselves underneath and starting popping up, like flowers or dolphins or gravity defying skiers.  It was very cool.   Then a giant flower-like item came out on stage and women danced around it.  There followed a wonderful sequence with black light paint as three performers with neon arms and legs made wonderful shapes–animals, faces, bodies–using their limbs.  Our cheap seats hindered this piece somewhat. (more…)

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bartelbySOUNDTRACKOS MUTANTES-” Picadilly Willie” (2013).

Iosmut enjoyed this album so much (thanks NPR for the stream) that I had to talk about this song and how radically different it was from yesterday’s track.  “Picadilly Willie” is this wonderful old-sounding rock song.  It’s got a very classic rock riff, but there’s something slightly off-kilter which makes it sounds more like Frank Zappa classic than radio classic.  And when the vocals come in (with a sinister laugh) it sounds more like Mr Bungle than anything else (I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike Patton was a fan of Os Mutantes).

The song ends with what sounds to me like Middle Eastern sitar music and echoed chants of “Bra-zil!”

And these are just two of the styles of music on this wonderfully wild and diverse CD.  I can’t wait for its release.

[READ: April 22, 2013] Bartelby & Co.

I read about this book in the Bolaño interview book.  Vila-Matas was one of many authors that Bolaño highly recommended–this book ion particular.  And, it was one of the few books on that extensive list that has been translated into English.

This book follows in the rich tradition of books that are more or less lists about people and not really novels at all. (This seems like a peculiarly Latin American pastime, at least in my experience, as there are nearly a half dozen books that seem to do this, including several by Bolaño).

The key to this book is in the title: Bartelby.  The narrator is a hunchbacked loner, and he decides to catalog all of the instances of writers who have in the grand tradition of Herman Melville’s Bartelby the Scrivener said “no, I would prefer not to” write anymore.  And so this book becomes a series of notes without a text.  The glorious list includes many famous and not so famous writers (the most famous being Salinger) who whether famous or not, decided to write no more.  And thus we have 86 “sections” in which the narrator writes about writers who stopped writing.  For most of the he gives their reason for no longer writing, for others he simply likes talking about how they stopped writing or what their circumstances were before they stopped. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OS MUTANTES-“Fool Metal Jack” (2013).

Iosmut have known about Os Mutantes for years.  I never knew anything about them (and never really understood their name–although now that I have been working with Brazilian books at work I realize that their name is Portuguese for The Mutants (it was the Os that always threw me off).  I had no idea that a) they’d been around since the 60s and were part of the psychedelic scene or b) that they were still around (after some breakups and with a largely new lineup) or c) that they sang in English (which they do on several songs on this album) or d) that their new album kicked so much ass.

The album is called Fool Metal Jack and it is a fantastic mixture of fast heavy rock, Brazilian traditional sounds, what I assume are Native Brazilian chants and a heavy dose of weirdness.  All wrapped up in an anti-war stance, like on this track “Fool Metal Jack.”

A creepy, distorted  bassline introduces this song which sounds like the guy from Gogol Bordello singing a Tom Waits march.  It’s about a soldier in the middle of a war.  The bridge means more voices come in, bringing in an even more disorienting sound.  And the chorus chanted “Yes.  No More War” completes the song.  By the time the wailing guitar solo comes in the chants of “This is the war of hell” have even more impact.

This stomping song was a great introduction to this band who I now need to explore further.

[READ: April 18. 2013] The Last Interview

I enjoyed Kurt Vonnegut’s “Last Interview” and since I had always intended to read Bolaño’s I was delighted to see that our library had it.  Bolaño is a fascinating interview subject because you never really know what he is going to say.  There are even serious questions about the veracity of his life story which many people believe he fabricated for more dramatic effect.

But the one thing that is absolutely consistent about Bolaño is that he always praises writers whom he respects (and will trash those he doesn’t, although that seems to come more from the interviewer’s  instigation (not that he needs a lot).    So the last interview that he did is the one from Mexican Playboy which has been collected in Between Parentheses.  But the other three are earlier and, it seems, a little more “truthful” or at least less naughty-seeming.

What’s fascinating about this book is that the introduction by Marcela Valdes (“Alone Among the Ghosts”) is over 30 pages long!  The article originally appeared in The Nation on Dec 8, 2008 (read it here).  As such it’s not an introduction to this book, it’s introduction for English readers to Bolaño circa 2666.  And it’s a great read.  It is primarily about 2666, which Valdes has read many times.  She goes into interesting depth about the story but mostly she relates it to Bolaño’s own experiences while writing the book.  It focuses especially on his research about the real murders.  His interest was genuine and he sought help from a reporter who was doing genuinely decent work (ie. not accepting the word of the state about what was going on).

Bolaño has said he wished he was a detective rather than a writer, which explains The Savage Detectives and Woes of the True Policeman.  But Valdes also points out how almost all of his shorter novels have some kind of detective work involved–seeking someone who is lost or hiding.  The article was really great and is worth a read for anyone interested in Bolaño, whether you have read him or not. (more…)

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vormSOUNDTRACK: DEAD CAN DANCE-“Children of the Sun” (Live at KCRW, April 24, 2013).

deadcandanceDead Can Dance are timeless.  Their music sounds ancient and modern at the same time.  And Brendan Perry’s voice has an unearthly majesty to it that never seems to age.

I’ve known the band for decades (during which time they have broken up and reunited and broken up and reunited).  And in all that time, while their sound has changed in subtle ways, the band is instantly recognizable.  I’ve never really thought of them as a live entity–they just seem like such a creation of the studio that it would be impossible to do justice to their wash of music live.  Of course that was truer three decades ago before it was easy to fit an entire orchestra on an iPod.

You can watch this song on NPR.  It’s fun to watch a band with two keyboardists (and Lisa Gerrard on…autoharp?) and see all of them making very different sounds.  The only disappointing thing about watching this is that they have so many cool instruments strewn about which do not get used on this song (you can see the whole show here and watch him bust out that bouzouki).

This song is a new one and it doesn’t have quite the ponderous nature as their older material.  Which is a bit of a shame, as they were so over the top it was fabulous, but maybe they’re just settling into New Old Age.

[READ: April 20, 2013] Trinity

Sarah brought this book home because it was on YALSA Hub Reading Challenge for 2013. I’m unlikely to do the challenge as I have so many other books to read, but I have already read 5 of the required 25.  Not too bad, although since the challenge is from Feb to June and I read a couple last year, I don’t even qualify for some of the ones I DID read.  Anyhow, she told me I’d like this and she was right (as usual).

Trinity is the story of the development of the atomic bomb done as a graphic novel.

It outlines how we came to develop and test the bomb and of course, the aftermath of its use.  What I liked about the story is that leading up to the detonation of the bomb, the quest for its discovery is presented in a fairly neutral way.  Essentially, once it was discovered that we could split the atom, it was deemed inevitable that someone would make a bomb out of it.  It stood to reason that if Hitler or the Japanese figured it out before us they would use it on us (since we were at war with them).  The intention was that America would be decent and not use it with impunity (which is not to say we wouldn’t use it at all).  The book presents that American can do spirit that the forties seem to be all about–a sort of gee whiz, let’s figure this out mentality.

I knew some of the history of the bomb, but there was a lot here that I didn’t know: that thousands of people moved to New Mexico to work on the bomb—housing was put up and families moved in, some 80,000 people in all.  And most of the people had no idea what they were working on.  It’s hard to fathom that there were thousands of people whose work helped to create a nuclear bomb and yet they can feel neither pride nor shame because they had no idea that’s what they were doing.  Weird. (more…)

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