Archive for March, 2016

july2015 SOUNDTRACK: DAVID WAX MUSEUM-Tiny Desk Concert #103 (January 9, 2011).

waxI know of David Wax Museum from NPR’s coverage of The Newport Folk Festival back in 2010 (audio from their show is no longer online, sadly).  They played a wonderful set of interesting, somewhat Mexican sounding music.

David Wax plays a tiny Mexican jarocha guitar and Sue Slezak plays percussion on a donkey jawbone–which sounds great and is quite unusual to see.  The band is rounded out with Sam D’Agostino on saxophone and percussion and Mike Roberts on guitar and upright bass.

“Yes, Maria, Yes” opens the set with a lot of fun (how does that little guitar sound so buoyant?)  Wax and Slezak sing wonderfully together, and that jawbone introduces such an unusual sound.  About 1:20 into the song, the bass comes in and adds a whole new low end.  But then there’s a crash as the bridge from the bass collapsed!  Thus ends the bass in the song, although it’s not really missed.

For “Let Me Rest,” a far more mellow song, Wax switches to a full-sized guitar, Roberts switches to electric guitar (and they bemoan the loss of his bass) and Slezak plays fiddle.

Wax says that they have been in Washington DC playing house concerts every night, perhaps they have graduated to office concerts.

“Unfruitful” is one of my favorite of theirs.  The opening is interesting with the band kind of warming up (and Wax bouncing all out of frame).  It’s a raucous fun song with the fun chorus of “Tunnels in the sand.”  With Slezak wailing on the fiddle and Wax singing his heart out, it’s a great conclusion

I really enjoy David Wax Museum and I’ll get to see them at a Festival this summer.

[READ: January 6, 2015] “One Day Less”

I have been aware of Clarice Lispector for years, although I have never read her work (I recently got a free copy of her gigantic collected stories, so I hope to read that some day).

This story was the last one she wrote (it was found on her desk after her death–creepy)

It is an unusual story in which a woman, Margarida Flores, wonders how to fill the time in her day.

As the story opens, she wonders if death will come, if her endless days will ever end.  Perhaps death is a bluff?

She had a long day ahead with no plans.  She doesn’t even have the will to read or watch TV.  Then the story is filled with a section where the text reads: (more…)


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octSOUNDTRACK: ENORMODOME-“The Way We Burn” (Tiny Desk Contest Fan Favorite 2016).

enormo Last week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  Last year, Enormodome made it to the top ten runner ups, but sadly, they did not this year.

However they did make a fan favorite vote and I like the song, so there.  Last year their concept was awesome—they played in the office of the mayor of Flagstaff (where they are based).  This year, they took their desk outside and set it on fire.

Enormodome is just two guys, a guitarist and drummer and they get a big rocking sound out of their tiny set up.  They’ve got a fuzzy guitar and lots of high hats to keep the song from ever sounding spare.  And both guys sing–often in harmony–so the songs stay interesting.

The song is a kind of heavy classic rock—a big catchy riff, and a wonderful chorus.

Beyond the flaming desk, the video is fun to watch–there’s circus performers everywhere and lots and lot so fire!   Which makes sense given the title of the song.

Check it out:

[READ: February 21, 2016] “Late”

I really enjoyed this story.  I thought I’d read a lot more by Millhauser, but I see that I’ve only ever read a few short pieces by him.  Well, after this I’ll have to read more.

Because Valeria is always later, the narrator tells her to arrive at a restaurant an hour earlier than he wants to eat.  He figures, if she’s 35 minutes late for a 6 o’clock dinner, she will actually be 25 minutes early for a 7PM dinner, which is when he wants to eat anyhow.

However, he doesn’t want her to arrive on time and wonder where he is, so he arrives at the restaurant a little before 6 to secure a window table with a view of the front door.

He orders a coffee and tells the waiter that he is awaiting somebody. (more…)

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octSOUNDTRACK: CACTUS TRACTOR-“Jelly Donut” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2016).

cactus Last week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  I want to draw attention to a couple of them.

Cactus Tractor also have a lot of fun with the desk part of the tiny desk.  There’s a small purple desk and from behind it comes the lead singer and guitarist.  He is dressed crazily–this song and band are definitely a little goofy.  He pulls out a cactus and a tractor and then starts whistling.  It doesn’t seem like he’s whistling the song but he is. He starts playing along to the song a kind of old jazzy sound.  And it reminds me of “Mister Sandman” at times.

There’s some fairly complicated lyrics, “like reading Chinese, like choosing wine based on the cheese.”

And then a ukulele player comes out from behind the desk.  She is followed by a fisherman (it has to do with the lyrics). Then an accordionist sneaks out and she’s followed by an acoustic guitarist and an upright bassist.  The drummer comes out (they wheel his drums over)  And then finally a saxophonist and 2 trumpeters.

The song is funny and bouncy and catchy with several parts.

Eventually, the song switches to German (Berliner-jelly donut) and they sing many verses in Deutsch.  There’s no explanation for the fisherman by the end of the song (expect that he holds the jelly donut).  But that’s irrelevant because then some acrobats appear at the side of the stage and the camera pulls back as jugglers, stilt walkers and the like fill the screen.  It’s pretty extraordinary and it was done in one take (I expect the music was prerecorded, although I’d love to be wrong).

The song has novelty written all over it (they do lots of visual jokes about the lyrics) and yet it is really catchy and…unexpectedly, it is nearly six minutes long!

[READ: February 20, 2016] “The Cornucopia”

This is a short story that is set in Australia (the author is Australian, so that makes sense).

It is about a woman, Julia Holt, who is never impressed.  No matter what exciting things her friends tell her, she never shows appropriate excitement.  She is happy for her friends’ successes, but nothing seems to make her excited.

Perhaps it is because she is powerful and rich and has everything she needs.  Indeed, she even has her friends do a lot of her work for her–she is quite busy, after all.  But her friends (carefully cultivated by Julia, it must be said) do benefit from her friendship.  And honestly she was a little afraid of their successes because she didn’t want to lose any of them.

She and her husband are wealthy.  They are one of Australia’s millionaire couples.  Ralph, despite this wealth was never arrogant or showoffy.  He also had no time for games or hobbies.  He just did financial work all the time  And Ralph will always acknowledge that Julia is the more powerful one of the two oft hem.

So far so good as stories go.  But there has to be a crisis of some kind, right? (more…)

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septSOUNDTRACK: HAZARD TO YA BOOTY-“Movers and Shakers” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2016).

hazardLast week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  I want to draw attention to a couple of them.

Hazard to Your Booty, in addition to having a great name, have the most fun with the Tiny Desk setup.  They begin with two members, singer Dr Music and bassist Professor Funk chatting as if it were a talk show.  They have a fun intro and once the song starts, the scene behind them lights up and the full band appears-two sax, a trombone, a funky guitarist and a drummer.

Professor Funk plays an awesome bass and it’s clear why he is up front—he really holds the song together.  He’s got a great, clear sound (with some amazing low notes) and the whole band plays a cool riff at the end of each section—fast and complicated.

I love how committed they are to the Tiny Desk with Dr Music even using note cards and drinking from a coffee mug.

And what about the song?  It rocks, it’s funky, it’s a lot of fun.  And I’ve listened to it a bunch of time, risking my booty each time.

[READ: January 4, 2013] “Tremendous Machine”

Scibona continues to surprise me as a writer.  His last story was set in Iceland and this one is set in Poland.  And just to make things different, the main character is a Danish model name Fjóla Neergaard.

We learn a bit about Fjóla.  Her modelling career has more or less abated, although she continues to starve herself.  And she has more or less fled to Poland to get away from it all.  Why Poland?  Because her wealthy parents bought a plot of land there (the house was something of liability) once they saw how cheaply land could be gotten in the once communist country.

The house is basically a box, but Fjóla decides to buy a couch so she has something to lounge on in front of the fire.  She drove into town to a warehouse that might sell her a couch.

Her Polish is poor and after talking with a man for several minutes she winds up buying a piano instead.  She can’t play the piano–she knows nothing about the instrument in fact.  The warehouse man sells her a piano and then gives her the name of an instructor–Mrs Kloc. (more…)

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augSOUNDTRACK: SCOTT MULVAHILL-“Begin Againers” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2016).

beginLast week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  I want to draw attention to a couple of them.

Mulvahill is a double bassist, and his double bass sounds outstanding.  He slides notes, he plays chords, and he keeps up a really fun, jazzy riff.

He also slaps the strings which provides some percussive sounds.  One of the nice features of this song is that he keeps playing a low open note so the song never sounds empty.   And that’s all there is to the song–just his voice and his bass (and a proper verse/chorus structure of course).

The song s(and his voice) reminds me of a kind of stripped down Paul Simon song. It’s not really my thing, though and I wouldn’t choose to listen to it a lot, but I love his bass sound and I think the song itself is really good.

[READ: February 16, 2016] “Measure for Measure”

This is an excerpt from Moshfegh’s novel Eileen.

This excerpt (and presumably the whole book) is about a woman who I assume is anorexic  She doesn’t eat and seems to relish in her boniness.

I took such poor care of myself. I knew I should drink water, eat healthful foods, but I didn’t like to drink water or eat healthful foods. I found fruits and vegetables detestable, like eating a bar of soap or a candle.

She is reflecting back on her younger days when at 24 she was considered a spinster and had indeed had only one kiss from a boy when she was 16.  It was a prom date that had gone rather awry–she wound up biting him on the neck (and can’t recall is she drew blood).

She concludes the memory by saying “He’s probably dead..Most people I know are dead.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 24, 2016] Peter Pan

peterEvery year, the fifth grade in our town puts on a play.  Clark volunteered to be in the stage crew, so of course we went to see the production.

It’s funny going to see a play to watch your son who is meant to be invisible in the play.  Fortunately, there was enough light between scenes so I could see him moving furniture and carrying bongoes.  He even got to held the rope to make the pirate ship at the end.

A few weeks ago, Tabitha and I went to see a high school production.  I was curious to see how good the quality would be in fifth grade.  And I was delighted by how good the show was and how well the creators used their lack of production values to their advantage.

The high school show had been amazing–they had an orchestra pit, the had kids on wires–I was really amazed.  This production was much more bare bones.  The play was performed in the combination gym, cafeteria, auditorium–so there was no wire work, no orchestra pit, no orchestra, in fact.  Just kids who worked hard.

And the way they made the kids fly was awesome.


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augSOUNDTRACK: TUTLIE-“The Bison” (Tiny Desk Contest Runner-Up 2016).

tutl;ieLast week, a Tiny Desk Contest winner was announced. This week, All Songs Considered posted ten runners up that they especially liked.  I want to draw attention to a couple of them.

I started out liking this song so much.  It opens with a singer singing beautiful notes.  And as the camera passes we see a harp (!) then keyboards, drums, bass, trumpet and glockenspiel.

There are many different parts to the song and lots of interesting harmonies.  And its starts beautifully.  I was surprised by the shift in tone (and the trippy end of the chorus).  And their harmonies are truly wonderful.

I also liked that they were all filmed under a staircase.

But the song was a little too drifting and slow for me.  It reminds me a lot of a slower song that might appear on a 70s prog rock album.   The song that I would tolerate while I waited for the faster heavier song to come along.  Of course, after many listens I would grow to appreciate it.  And I’m sure I would grow to appreciate this song too.

[READ: February 10, 2016] “Untitled (Triptych)”

The August 2015 Harper’s had a “forum” called How to Be a Parent.  Sometimes these forums are dialogues between unlikely participants and sometimes, like in this case, each author contributes an essay on the topic.  There are ten contributors to this Forum: A. Balkan, Emma Donoghue, Pamela Druckerman, Rivka Galchen, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Lerner, Sarah Manguso, Claire Messud, Ellen Rosenbush and Michelle Tea.  Since I have read pieces from most of these authors I’ll write about each person’s contribution.

I am pretty sure I have read stuff by Ben Lerner but I didn’t expect a poem from him.  Especially such a long one.  And what can a poem teach us about parenting?

I was daunted by this piece, and the poem even helps address why.  It talks about how “poems are great places to make information disappear, dissolve.”

And it also covers pretty much everything that has to do with art. (more…)

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