And now four years later, I’m catching up on him and finding it all pretty great.
This Tiny Desk Concert is interesting for a number of reasons. All of the backing females vocals are prerecorded, but the trumpet is live (I gather that’s Lewis on the mixing board). And he and the audience really get into it–I’m not sure when he was in his rise at the time of this show.
I gather that all three of these songs were well-known at the time. But I’d never heard “Same Love” at all before. It is a surprisingly powerful and moving song about gay rights and human rights. It seems to start out with a different tone altogether—he is scared that he is gay. But it quickly turns into something much sweeter and loving. It’s actually quite a tear-jerker. Then he changes the mood entirely.
“Thrift Shop” has an amazingly catchy melody for the chorus. The vocal line is a sample as well. And while I have heard the song before I never noticed the “this is fucking awesome” final line, which has been stuck in my head for weeks now. This song is really funny. The R Kelly line is hilarious [Probably should’ve washed this, smells like R. Kelly sheets (Pissssss…) But shit, it was 99 cents! ] and the whole bit about paying $50 for a T-shirt is spot on. He hops around and is full of infectious energy. There’s a live trumpet solo at the end. Lewis plays with a set of sleigh bells and then knocks them off to much laughter.
As the song ends he grabs the Emmy and says, “Thank you, we’re outta here. Peace.”
The final song is “Can’t Hold Us.” The chorus of that song sounds so familiar. I’m sure I’ve heard it before but I can’t imagine where (maybe roller skating?). But man, is it catchy. For this version, Ray Dalton sings with them. I guess maybe he’s the guy who sang the original? It sounds like there’s also a recording going with it, though, so who knows, and who cares. The live trumpet is a nice touch.
As Bob notes: “The live, sweet, soulful sounds of singer Ray Dalton belting, ‘Like the ceiling can’t hold us’ had Macklemore standing on my desk and shaking the dust off the ceiling tiles.” It is fun an exhilarating. And as the show fades, you can hear him ask, “You guys have a shower?”
[READ: February 8, 2016] The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil
Saunders wrote this novella during the Bush administration. But it feels shockingly more relevant now. This is the story of an unqualified buffoon who takes charge and attempts to force his will on a country.
But in typical Saunders fashion it is over the top and somewhat absurd, except that it is all quite real.
The story is about a small country called Inner Horner. Inner Horner is so small that only one citizen can stand in it at a time. The other five citizens must stand in The Short-Term Residency Zone. Outer Horner is huge with lots of empty space. The Outer Hornerites don’t really mind the Inner Hornerites being in the Zone, but they didn’t want to offer any of their own land to Inner Horner because, well, what if other countries wanted land too.
Then one day, a seismic shift makes Inner Horner even smaller. Now only 1/4 of a citizen can fit in Inner Horner at a time. Leon, an Outer Horner Border Guard noticed that this citizen (whose name was Elmer) was mostly in Outer Horn and he sounded the alarm that meant Invasion in Progress.
The Outer Horner Militia (Freeda, Melvin and Larry) came over and glared at Elmer. They don’t believe in the shrinking–decent countries don’t shrink. But the militia doesn’t know what to do. And then Phil, a guy standing nearby, says why not tax them?
Phil was in love with Carol, a citizen of Inner Horner. But she had married Cal (another Inner Horner citizen) and they had a child, Little Andy. This made Phil very bitter.
So Phil said it again–tax them. How much did they have? The Inner Hornerites gathered all their money–four smolakas. Phil said that their daily tax will be four smolakas. And the militia took their money.
So, it’s a slightly exaggerated story about a real situation. But then a few pages in we learn what these folks look like:
Carol has glossy black filaments and transparent oscillating membranes, an exposed spine (with a delicate curve) and has a habit of demurely scratching one bearing with a furry glovelike appendage.
Cal is a gigantic belt buckle with a blue dot attached to it and which looked like it was stapled to a tuna fish can.
Phil has a bolt holding his brain in position on a tremendous sliding rack. This brain occasional falls out. When Phil’s brain falls out (which is often) he takes on a stentorian voice and starts talking very loudly. But as Larry knew (they went to school together)–the longer Phil’s brain stayed off, the less sense he would make until finally his brain rack would spasm and he would run totally out of juice.
You get the picture (sort of).
The next day Phil takes all of their land’s features–the apple tree, the stream and a chunk of dirt. Now they have nothing left. So they write to the President of Outer Horner for help.
The President was an affable old man with five white mustaches and seven ample belies. He had spent a semester abroad in Inner Horner and rather liked the country. But it is clear when he arrives that he is addled. He is easily persuaded by Phil that he had put Phil in charge to do just what he was doing. The President is a pretty funny guy who goes on an on reminiscing about hings that just happened.
Then Phil sets about securing his newly acquired position. He hires some bodyguards (the scene with them is absurd and funny).
Most of the citizens of Outer Horner agree with the loud-talking Phil–believing things he says are true–even when they are patently false. But the citizens go along with it. Until one of them finally speaks out:
Dear Mr. President
Today Phil, whom I previously so much respected, disassembled a fellow, an Inner Horner fellow, who seemed nice enough and even had a family. Is this what we stand for here in Outer Horner? I hope not. Our country is big, let us be big. Phil is out of control, sir and must be stopped. Please do something. We’re all counting on you.
The President summons Phil, but the President is even more feeble, and now Phil has strongmen and he rather cleverly assumes the mantle of President without any kind of election.
At Phil’s inauguration they sing the nation drinking song: “Large Large Large, Beloved Land,(If not the Best, Why so Very Dominant).”
And President Phil’s first address also sounds strangely familiar:
My saying it so well proves what I have just been saying, namely that our ancient noble stock has, over many centuries of right living, evolved into the highest and most advanced nation there is, a nation that has after many years of misrule by that chubby old guy, finally gotten the leader it deserves! That chubby old guy, in addition to being criminally forgetful was recklessly flagrant. Knowing these inner Hornerites were prone to unmotivated spasms of violence, he daily proclaimed, via that pathetic mere string of a border: Come in, invade us, feel free to commit your unmotivated violent spasms all over our sleeping innocent babies, while I obsess about my bellies and mustaches. Well, I am not flagrant or forgetful, I have one belly and no mustache, and my only obsession is the safety of my people, which is why I hereby proclaim as my first Presidential Act, my innovative Border Area Improvement Initiative! Who is on board? Who will sign this Certificate of Total Approval sanctioning my Initiative? [which includes]: Section D: When Disloyalty occurs (to be determined at the discretion of PHIL) the consequence for that Disloyalty will be determined by PHIL and PHIL alone.
The lackeys fall over themselves to sign it quickly.:
I’ll sign it right now, without even reading it.
I’ll sign it without even looking at it.
I’ll sign it with my eyes closed.
I’ll sign it with my eyes closed facing away from it.
Then the media (who speak in all caps) come along and after shouting gibberish, they fall in line:
NEW PRESIDENT VOWS TO ELIMINATE BORDER THREAT!
NEW PREZ TO NATION: YOU SHALL KNOW PEACE!
VISIONARY LEADER DAZZLES NATION WITH DECISIVE GREATNESS!
Meanwhile, outside of Outer Horner was a country that encircled it called Greater Keller. The citizens there were huge and did nothing but walk in circles. They were very happy and were concerned primarily about their National Enjoyment Level which was usually quite high. When they heard of the new president they sent their fastest runner to meet him. But he saw what Phil was doing to the Inner Hornerites and he ran back letting everyone know what was going on. They realized that if another race was being destroyed their National Enjoyment Level would go down. Not to mention the possible threat to them as well.
The President of Greater Keller arrived near Inner Horner just as things were about to go down. But the citizens of Greater Keller were so big that the bodyguards fled and Phil stood there gibbering. The President of Greater Keller proclaimed
“Life is full of beauty. Why fight? Why hate? Learn to Enjoy and you will have no need to fight and no desire to! Love life!”
Phil is easily subdued by this truth and the media quickly jumps on that:
HOW WAS NATION SO EASILY DUPED?
WHY DID NATION IGNORE REPEATED WARNINGS BY MEDIA?
But that’s not the end of the story. The denouement shows a giant hand come out of the sky. It disassembles and reassembles the citizens of Inner and Outer Horner, mixing the parts from both countries. The Creator tells them:
This time, be kind to one another, remember each of you wants to be happy and I want you to. Each of you wants to live free from fear and I want you to. Each of you are secretly afraid you are not good enough. But you are, trust me, you are.
So how will the citizens of New Horner react to their new situation?
I know that Saunders is warning people against fascists and not predicting the future. Perhaps it’s simply more frightening that what he predicted has come to pass. Is there a Greater Keller that can remove our tyrant before he disassembles our country? I hope so.