I am fascinated by the music of Xenia Rubinos. Every song in this Tiny Desk Concert has something interesting going on. But for two of the songs, I can’t stand her voice. Rubinos seems to sing in a free form jazzy / R&B/ improvised manner. And it bugs me. No matter how fun she is to watch (and she is), I just don’t like the way she sings (except on the second song).
But the music! I love the way “Lonely Lover” opens with some interesting drumming and occasional weirdo samples. But the main melody is created by two bassists! (no guitars or anything else). It’s such a great melody, slinky and smart, with each bassist playing a different aspect of the melody. It’s super catchy (and when she sings actual words it works well). It’s just the moaning and groaning that I can’t stand.
Between the first and second song she takes a dance break. Then “Mexican Chef” open with a cool staggered bass line that is echoed by the guitar (the guitar (not the riff) sounds kind of 80’s punk) and some funky drums. The lyrics of this song are right on, too. It’s a ruthless critique of the way brown people are treate. It’s sung in a kind of rap style, with no room for soaring vocals. It’s a really great song:
French bistro, Dominican chef/Italian restaurant, Boricua chef/Chinese takeout, Mexican chef …. Brown walks your baby/Brown walks your dog/Brown raised America /Brown cleans the house/Brown takes the trash/Brown even wipes your granddaddy’s ass … Brown breaks his back // Brown takes the flack / Brown gets cut coz his papers are wack. … Brown has not / Brown get shot brown gets what he deserves coz he fought.
For the final song, “Laugh Clown,” Rubinos plays solo bass and sings. The bass is just occasional notes as Rubinos scat/sings. It’s less interesting than the other two songs, but it makes for a nice change of pace.
Once I got past her vocal delivery, I found I really liked these songs a lot.
[READ: November 18, 2016] Three Stories
Back in 2014, I ordered all 16 books from Madras Press. Unfortunately, after publishing the 16 books they seem to have gone out of business (actually they are switching to non-fiction, it seems). They still have a web presence where you can buy remaining copies of books. But what a great business idea this is/was
Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors. The format of our books provides readers with the opportunity to experience stories on their own, with no advertisements or miscellaneous stuff surrounding them.
The format is a 5″ x 5″ square books that easily fit into a pocket.
Proceeds from Kalfus’ book go to the Free Library of Philadelphia.
As the title suggests, there are three stories in this book.
“The Moment They Were Waiting For”
This is a compelling story that starts as one thing and turns into something else entirely. The story begins with the upcoming execution of Lester Ganz, a man who was manifestly guilty of unspeakable crimes. He was guilty. He was found guilty. He was unrepentant. Until he was given the date of his execution. It seemed that once the actual date of his death was confirmed, he realized that his time was limited. It’s a pretty good story. And then there’s the twist.
The next morning everyone in the town wakes up with a date in the mind. And that date turns out to be their own death date. The story looks at how people deal with their time left–some who want out right away (but are foiled each time), people who make the best of it, and people who try to resist those dates. Also, how does the community deal with this–even children know their death dates. It is only this community who faces this problem–and, they soon realize, only this one generation. What a great concept and story.
This story was also interesting, although I didn’t like the first part of it. It is about Professor Arecibo who is taking a train to work. He sits across from a woman who tells someone she loves (on the phone) that she is at the airport landing shortly. He wonders why she lied to this person. That was interesting, but for the rest of this section he can’t take his eyes off of this woman (it’s kind of creepy) until he can follow her no more.
It’s the second half that is more interesting. He is sitting at a bar and the man next to him says his name. He’s about to respond to the man when Arecibo realizes that the man is on the phone, calling his department at the school and asking for him. At first he is intrigued, and then he learns that the man has a problem with him and starts relating his gripe to the Arecibo’s secretary. He believes that everyone knows that he is the person the man is talking about. He grows increasingly paranoid. The ending is somewhat anticlimactic, but the premise is great.
This is a story about writer’s block. It looks at Joshua Glory and his desire, no his need, to get published. But he has nothing to write, nothing to say. It goes into pretty great detail about how he monitors the mailman and the ways he distracts himself from the fact that he’s not getting published. He was published once in a magazine that folded, published by a school that lost is accreditation (I liked that joke).
Mostly it is the story of a writer who can’t think of anything to write, which isn’t really that interesting. It’s also a little too long. But there are some good moments. Like when he tries to soothe his colleague about her own writing skills and inadvertently insults her. The end section where he goes to the bookstore and asks if they have any books by him is a wonderfully existential moment.
Overall I enjoyed the first story the most bit all three had really interesting aspects that I liked.