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Archive for the ‘Chang-Rae Lee’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CHAD VANGAALEN-Live at Massey Hall (May 27, 2015).

The name Chad VanGaalen sounded familiar to me, and it turns out I know a couple of his songs from NPR.  But I didn’t recognize them here.

As the show opens, he says he only recently heard of Massey Hall and he was blown away by the architecture

He’s glad he’s playing acoustic but even more so that he’s dong the whole one man band and not just a guy with a guitar–he never been that good at playing guitar, so he needs more.  He is playing with Julie Fader “saved his ass on multiple occasions.”   She is one of his favorite people to play with–she does harmonies very well plus it’s nice to play with a  female….  I’m always playing with a bunch of dudes its nice to temper the energy a bit.

“Pine and Clover” opens the show.  Chad play a pretty guitar intro (not power chords-which is what he claimed was all he could play).  As the camera pulls back, you see that he is also playing bass and snare drum with his feet.  Julie sings backing vocals and plays flute.  Next up is “Broken Bell.”  It’s a pretty, slower song.  I love the lyric: “I sit and do a drawing, a portrait of my dad, I should really visit him before he is dead.”  This lyrics gets a big reaction: “Should I take the advice of the graffiti on the wall telling me to go suck it? / should Ii listen to the voices ringing in my head like a broken bell?”

“Hangman’s Son” slows things down a little further, but “Weird Love” is kind of a stomper with some interesting slightly dissonant flute (or maybe its the guitar that is dissonant).

“Peace on the Rise” gets some applause from the start, as does “Willow Tree” which is a quieter, picked guitar song.  For “Cut My Hair” he switches to capo 7 and plays a lovely melody.  But it soon becomes a real stomper: “I will never learn my lesson.”

The final song is dedicated to his daughters. He says he has been teaching them to fish.  Which is “way more fun than doing this….  Not saying this isn’t fun….  It’s really stressing me out…  Holy shit.”  He says he doesn’t like killing he fish but his 7-year-old is like “oh yeah!’  She’s the henchman and he’s in charge of the barbeque, “Which is what you should do with kids–don;t let them run the barbeque.”

“So ‘Burning Candle’ goes out to my girls….  If I fuck this up I’m the worst dad in the world.  It’s pretty and quite short and no, he doesn’t fuck it up.”

[READ: June 2, 2018] “My Father’s Face”

This issue of the New Yorker had a section entitled “Parenting.”  Five authors tell a story about their own parents.  Since each author had a very different upbringing the comparison and contrasting of the stories is really interesting.

Chang-rae says that a clear childhood memory of “my father washing his face.”

His father was very particular about it–“with a vigor and thoroughness that made me feel somehow cleaner for simply having watched him.”  This was the early 1970s and his father was settling into to his first doctoring position as a Bronx V.A. hospital.

Their flat was small but suitable with a place for he and his sister to play. (more…)

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nov3SOUNDTRACK: TREY ANASTASIO-Tiny Desk Concert #414 (January 5, 2015).

treyI’m introducing this delightful little Tiny Desk Concert here because Trey Anastasio joined up with Les Claypool and Stewart Copeland for the band Oysterhead, coming up next.

Anastasio is the lead singer and guitarist of Phish (and several side projects).  Because I tend to hear him amid the noise and jamming of Phish, it’s easy to forget that Trey has a very nice, delicate voice.  It’s also easy to forget amid all of his jamming guitar solos that he plays a lovely acoustic guitar as well.

He plays 3 songs in 12 minutes and is as affable as ever.

“Sleep Again” is a really pretty song.  In introducing the second song he says that he and his wife lived in a farmhouse in Vermont and listened to NPR all the time–the radio was tuned to Vermont Public Radio 24 hours a day.  And he says that NPR entertained his family for so many years that it’s an honor to do something for them.  This song, “Summer of ’89”  is a tribute to his 20th anniversary of being married to his wife Sue.  It’s quite lovely and moving.

He ends with a sweet version of “Backwards Down the Number Line,” one of my favorite new Phish songs.  I don’t think I ever quite realized what the lyrics were before.  I prefer the album version (mostly because of the gorgeous backing vocals) but this is a really nice version.

As they say in the write up, it’s interesting to hear him in this very quiet setting rather than in big arenas or in collaboration.

Check it out here.

[READ: January 20, 2014] “Immovable Feast”

This week’s issue of the New Yorker was its semi-annual food issue.  As such there were four food-related essays by writers who I’ve written about before.  The section was called “Rations.”

The third was by Chang-Rae Lee.

Lee talks about eating in the dorms at Phillips Exeter and how the food was universally disgusting.  [When I was in school there were rumors that the meals were consistently labelled Grade D But Edible (this from our food provider: ARA (which we named American Retards of America–such is the cleverness of college)).  Of course, now that I work at Princeton, I can report that the food here is outstanding.]

He offers one of my favorite quotes about dining ever: “You could fix yourself a basic salad or a bowl of cornflakes, but I always wanted hot food for dinner, and still do.  A cold supper for me is like being dipped in a melancholy sauce.” (more…)

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CV1_TNY_12_03_12Thiebaud.inddSOUNDTRACKDEERHOOF-Live on KEXP, February 1, 2007 (2007).

deer2Deerhoof is noisy and chaotic, indeed much more noisy and chaotic here than on their 2008 set.  The introduction has the band posing a very funny question in which they asks the DJ about how the show will be streaming in various formats.  He imagines easy listening–a good joke for this uneasy listening band.

There are five songs in this set, although “The Eyebright Bugler,” “+81” and “Wrong Time Capsule” are played as a medley.  This is an interesting set because they play songs from various albums, not just their newest release.  The set opens with “Milkman” (from Milkman) with a quick jump to “Twin Killers” (From The Runners Four).  Then there’s an interview which is, as always, very funny, they’re a very enjoyable band.    It also reveals that a middle school has taken Milkman (I assume the whole album) and made a ballet out of it.

“Eyebright Bugler” (from Reveille) merges easily in “+81” (from Friend Opportunity).  “+81” is one of the most catchy oddball songs I know–a simple riff that seems to project excitement and yet not a full rocking sound.   The DJ even says that people have called up and asked not to play that song because it is such an earworm they can’t get it out of their head (the band takes this as a compliment .  Finally “Wrong Time Capsule” also comes from The Runners Four.    It merges all of the sounds-noisy guitars , conventional bass and the always enchanting vocals.

 Check out the strangeness here

[READ: December 6, 2012] “Manhattan”

The final “Gut Course” in this issue isn’t about food at all but about a drink.

Chang-Rae Lee remembers the summer when he lived with his girlfriend Nina in her parents Fifth Avenue apartment.  He lived in a maid’s quarters while Nina and her friend Carol shared Nina’s room.

This was just before his senior year of college, when the opportunity of living with your girlfriend must have been mindblowing.  But what he remembers most is her father’s request for a nightly Manhattan.

He explains that his family (indeed I have to assume most families in 1986) did not have a cocktail hour.  Chang says that his own father had an occasional Genesee Cream Ale, and hardly finished it.  But Nina’s father (who was a New York sophisticate) taught him how to prepare the perfect Manhattan. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SUPERCHUNK-1,000 Pounds (2000).

This EP has four tracks: an acoustic version of the title song and, for the first time that I’m aware of, a cover track.

“1,000 pounds” is another great Superchunk single.  It’s boppy and catchy and there’s more and more instrumentation thrown into the mix–acoustic guitars, more strings, a crazy sounding guitar solo with effects I don’t recognize.  It’s also another song where the title is sort of thrown into the chorus without making it sound like the focus of the chorus–another fun Superchunk trick.

The acoustic version subverts the original somewhat with a strange swing vibe.  And speaking of vibes, there are actual vibes in the song.  It almost sounds like a different song entirely.

The second song, “White Noise” is a no longer novel twist to a Superchunk song (they’ve been throwing in so many twist to their sound that it’s impossible to pin them down to anything).  There’s a cool guitar and bass line that sound, somehow, unlike anything else they’ve done.  The soloing is also pervasive, running throughout the verses.  It’s a very cool song.

The big surprise comes in their cover of David Bowie’s “Scary Monsters.”  Their version is noisy and feedback-filled with crazy guitar solos throughout some of the choruses.  It’s full of reckless abandon and is one of their craziest track in some time.  And really it sounds almost nothing like the original.

It’s a great EP and worth tracking down.

[READ: October 10, 2010] “The Volunteers”

Chang-rae Lee is the next writer in the New Yorker’s 1999 20 Under 40 collection.

This story is set during World War II.  However, unlike most WWII stories that I have read, this one is told from the point of view of Japanese soldiers (specifically, it is narrated by a Korean-born, Japanese-raised medic).

The narrator, Lieutenant Kurohata, is friendly with an inferior soldier, Corporal Endo.  He and Endo are from the same town so they have a friendship which, when they are alone, supersedes their ranking differences (although Kurohata is a little uncomfortable about that).  Endo, like many soldiers, is somewhat obsessed with a series of photos of naked women.  He is constantly trading for new ones and then showing them (surreptitiously) to Kurohata.  Kurohata is not terribly impressed with the behavior–he seems more mature in general–although he also implies that he is not very sexual–and he finds the whole proceedings somewhat beneath him. (more…)

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While I was looking around for Jonathan Franzen pieces in the New Yorker, I stumbled upon the first 20 Under 40 collection from 1999.  Since I had received so much enjoyment from the 2010 version, I decided to read all of the 1999 stories as well.  It was interesting to see how many of the authors I knew (and knew well), how many I had heard of but hadn’t read, and how many were completely off my radar.

I initially thought that they had published all 20 authors in this one issue, but there are five stories (including Franzen’s) that were just excerpted rather than published in full.  And I will track down and read those five in their entirety.  But otherwise, that’s a lot of fiction in one magazine (a few of the stories were quite short).  And it features a cover by Chris Ware!

So here’s the list from 1999.

**George Saunders-“I Can Speak™”
**David Foster Wallace-“Asset”
*Sherman Alexie-“The Toughest Indian in the World”
*Rick Moody-
“Hawaiian Night”
*A.M. Homes-
“Raft in Water, Floating”
Allegra Goodman-
“The Local Production of Cinderella”
*William T. Vollmann-
“The Saviors”
Antonya Nelson
-“Party of One”
Chang-rae Lee-
“The Volunteers”
*Michael Chabon-
“The Hofzinser Club” [excerpt]
Ethan Canin-
“Vins Fins” [excerpt]
*Donald Antrim-
“An Actor Prepares”
Tony Earley-
“The Wide Sea”
*Jeffrey Eugenides-
“The Oracular Vulva”
*Junot Diaz-
“Otra Vida, Otra Vez”
*Jonathan Franzen-
“The Failure” [excerpt]
***Edwidge Danticat-
“The Book of the Dead”
*Jhumpa Lahiri-
“The Third and Final Continent”
*Nathan Englander-
“Peep Show” [excerpt]
Matthew Klam-
“Issues I Dealt with in Therapy” [excerpt] (more…)

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