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Archive for the ‘Etgar Keret’ Category

SOUNDTRACKCROON AND SWOON: A Classic Christmas (1998).

I grew up listening to big band and crooners.  Bugs Bunny taught me a lot about crooners, too.  So if there’s a Christmas album dedicated to them, I’m all over it.  It’s amazing how many songs are here that are not on other compilations as well (even though it’s really hard to tell since all of the singers basically did all of the songs at some point).

BING CROSBY & THE ANDREWS SISTERS-“Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”  This is a pretty traditional take on the song with a but of fun from the Sisters.

LENA HORNE-“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”  This is done with Lena’s typical zest and verve.  It’s a really fun version.  I have come to really appreciate Lena this year.

JOHNNY MATHIS-“Winter Wonderland.”  This version sounds a bit fast, frankly.  It doesn’t quite sound like his smooth voice although he still sounds great.  The middle section includes an extra verse I don’t know

Over the ground lies a mantle of white
A heaven of diamonds shine down through the night
Two hearts are thrilling
In spite of the chill in the weather, ooh the weather
Love knows no season, love knows no clime
Romance can blossom any old time
Here in the open
We’re walking and hoping together
Together, together, together

Although I understand that other singers have included it as well.  He has a lot of fun with the song after this including a wonderful run through some octaves after the other kiddies knock him dooooooooooowwwwnnnnn.

LEROY ANDERSON-Sleigh Ride.  This is the classic instrumental that is used all of the time.  It’s awesome and comes complete with the woodblocks for horse hooves and a horn whinney.

ANDY WILLIAMS-“Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  Pure Christmas spirit wrapped around a singer.

PERRY COMO-“There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” This is sung by a big group of happy people.  Classic-feeling.  Although the line “gee the traffic is terrific” is always hilarious.

ANGELA LANSBURY-“We Need a Little Christmas” This is taken from the musical “Mame”  Its a fun musical version with a full cast which really adds to the song.

BING CROSBY-“It’s Beginning To Look a Lot like Christmas.”  A classic crooner from Bing.

GENE AUTRY -“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”  This one sounds sweet and cute, almost like a children’s version.  Even the instrumentation feels kid-friendly.  I love it.

DORIS DAY-“Here Comes Santa Claus.”  I associate this version with children as well, but Doris Day is kinds of sexy right?  I don’t know much else by her, but this song is sweet.  She has a chorus of men singing with her. They sing the “Santa knows that we’re Gods children.”  That and “gives thanks to the Lord above ’cause Santa Claus comes tonight” is always a weird disconnect.

TONY BENNETT-“My Favorite Things”
Not a Christmas song in any way.  It’s a crazy over the top Tony Bennett croony version.  I don’t care for what he’s done to the song and it doesn’t belong here anyhow.

JUDY GARLAND-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”  A Christmas song by Judy was on the other day.  I can’t recall the song but I hated it, it sounded so mournful and depressing.  For this song she sounds so wavery and frail that I can’t stand it.  I don’t know if this is just how she sings all the time or if it’s a particularly bad recording but it hurts! it hurts!

RAY CONNIFF-“Silver Bells” This is a strangely stiff version of the song.  The men in particular are very dull but the women add some spark

MABEL MERCER-“The 12 Days of Christmas”  No idea who she is but she is operatic and formal and over the top and its fairly strange–the way she rolls her rs on “five golden r-r-r-rings is pretty funny.  But i know she is deadly serious despite the absurdity of the song

GENE AUTRY-“Frosty the Snowman” is also cute and kid-friendly.  It’s very sweet with a clopping feet rhythm.

PEGGY LEE-“Days of Christmas.”  I don’t know this song at all..  How is there an old-timey Christmas song that I don’t know?  It’s very sweet.  I like that it starts with the melody of “The First Noel” and then turns into something else entirely with the lyric:  “This song of mine in three-quarter time.”

PERRY COMO-“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” This version is slow and croony and lovely.

ROSEMARY CLOONEY-“White Christmas.”  This is a lovely straightforward version of this classic song.

Overall this is a great collection of songs.

[READ: December 10, 2018] “One Gram Short”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

This story appeared in the New Yorker on December 1, 2014.  I enjoyed it then and I think I enjoyed it more this time.  here’s some of what I wrote then: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SABA-Tiny Desk Concert #791 (October 1, 2018).

I have been thinking about why I have never heard of many of these new artists. Since I don;t pay active attention to the pop charts, it makes sense that I wouldn’t know many of these artists.  I just assume that anyone riding high on the pop chart will worm his or her way into my consciousness.

So maybe it makes sense that I haven’t heard of Saba as his fame seems to be forthcoming:

Every Tiny Desk is special, but sometimes the stars align and we’re treated to an artist just as he’s coming into his own. Six months after releasing Care For Me — a sophomore studio LP on which Saba transforms his survivor’s guilt into something equal parts traumatic and transcendent — the Chicago native paid a visit to Tiny Desk. His performance at NPR’s Washington, D.C. headquarters came just two days after he announced his first tour of Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Korea, scheduled to begin in November. It’s an incredible achievement for an independent artist who released one of 2018’s best hip-hop albums without the benefit, or creative constraints, that come with major-label backing.

The live band does a great job with this music (although it is a little too lite/lite jazz sounding for me).  But the choice of two keyboards, bass and trumpet is interesting if not inspired.

To help translate Care For Me live, Saba brought along a band consisting of the same musicians who helped bring his album to life in the studio — including Daoud Anthony [keys, with the dreads] and daedaePivot [keys, with the shaved head], who produced the entire LP with him; instrumentalists Cheflee [bass] and Brandon Farmer [drums]; theMIND and Kaina [Castillo], who contributed vocals on the record; and another featured vocalist and special guest that Saba took extra pride in introducing.  [And Tahj Chandler on trumpet].

“You’re not gonna believe me when I say it,” he prepped the crowd, turning to the tall man wearing the Saba tee and Panama hat. “This is Chandlar, my father.” Fans of the album may be familiar with Saba’s references to his dad on the songs “Life” and “Prom / King” — the epic seven-and-a-half minute eulogy to Saba’s cousin and Pivot Gang rap collective founding member, John Walt, whose 2017 murder serves as the impetus for Care For Me. But Chandlar is also an accomplished soul singer, songwriter and producer in his own right, as well as one of Saba’s earliest musical influences.

Saba himself is a really nice guy (it seems).  He’s funny and self depricating and his rap skills are impressive.

I didn’t like “Busy/Sirens” as it started because Saba’s delivery is oddly affected (he has that Chicago-style of rapping which I’m mixed on).  The chorus is very mellow and with that trumpet sounds very smooth jazz.  But there’s something fascinating about his delivery.  And the lyrics are really good–tons of words covering all kinds of personal topics with great rhymes.  theMIND sings a verse and he has a nice voice.  It switches to “Sirens” which is an interesting shift.  I hate the repeating keyboard sound, but again the lyrics are great. I wonder if the album version is different.

Hands behind your head
And they won’t let up out they lead
But if I move thats disrespect
But if they shoot then that’s just that?
And if I run then that look bad?
Drawing they gun right off their hip
I’m probably deservin’
‘Cause I know they serve and protect
But they think I’m servin’
Or they think my cellphone’s a weapon
Heard that the robber wore a black mask
I fit the description, a.k.a. “nigga”
What is the difference? It’s an enigma

After a lengthy and thoughtful introduction of everyone, he says, “I very rarely have to introduce this many people… So I feel like I did okay so make some noise for me for doing it.”

For “Logout” he shifts his delivery a little bot and I really like it.  The first verse has a great rhythm and the second verse has amazing speed.  I love how with the chorus (chorus?) it ends with four beat where every gently sings a different staggered word each time.  It’s very cool, especially that it ends so dramatically as well.

In a live set that proved to be as resonant as Care, Saba and his band showcased the album’s emotional depth and range with stark juxtaposition, like the sound of the bright hook on album closer, “Heaven All Around Me,” set against a particularly haunting version of “Life.” It’s a Tiny Desk testament from an artist whose future feels as promising as his pen.

“Heaven All Around Me,” has a cool middle section breakdown with a trumpet fill that switches into the much darker “Life.”

After some more terrific powerful verses, we get the direct chorus

Life don’t mean shit to a nigga who ain’t never had shit.

I wish him and his father a great trip to Europe and beyond.

 

[READ: January 2, 2017] “To the Moon and Back”

About the last Keret story I wrote:

Sometimes a very short, very well written story can really make your day.  I read this story this morning (because it was so short–a page and a quarter) and I was immediately hooked.

I feel like all of his stories are very short and compact.  This one wasn’t quite as enjoyable as the previous one, primarily because it was much darker and full of aggressive language (like his other stories, this one was translated from Hebrew by Sondra Silverston).

This is the story of a man who has been divorced from his wife.  He opens the story by telling us that he can only celebrate his son’s birthday n the day before or the day after his actual birth day because of the restraining order. “The botch.”  He asks if he can just come by and give Lidor a kiss on his birthday she says she’ll make his life hell if he does.

So he has to make up by buying expensive presents, like the $89 multi-copter drone he picked up in duty free.  However, he forgot to buy batteries for the thing.  And rather than disappointing his son, he lies and says they are going to the mall first to buy some candy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANNA MEREDITH-Tiny Desk Concert #713 (March 2, 2018).

I have never heard anything like this.  From sound to melody, to intensity, to instrumentation, this whole thing just rocked my world.

The melody for “Nautilus” is just so unexpected.  It opens with an echoed horn sound repeating.  And then the melody progresses up a scale, but not a scale, a kind of modified scale that seems off kilter just as it seems familiar.  The cello plays it, the guitar plays it, the sousaphone (!) plays it.  And it continues on in like fashion until only the high notes remain and then a menacing low riff on sousaphone cello and guitar breaks through–a great villain soundtrack if ever there was.  While everyone plays this riff, Anna returns to the keys to play the modified scale.

Meanwhile, the drummer has looked like he’s asleep behind his small kit.  And then 3 anda half minutes in he wakes up and starts playing a loud but slow rhythm.  The guitar begins soloing and as it fades out that main riff begins, now with a simple drum beat–not matching what anyone else is playing, mind you.  The sousaphone (which must have an echo on it or something and the cello pick up the low menace and it seems like everybody is doing his and her own thing.  But it all works amazingly.

So just who is Anna Meredith?

Anna Meredith was a former BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Composer in Residence. Two of the three songs performed here come from her 2016 release called Varmints.

Bob Boilen was also impressed when he first saw Anna Meredith live:

I first saw this British composer a year ago, in a stunning performance at the SXSW musical festival. It was one of the best concerts of my life. The music I heard sent me into a state of reverie. If music could levitate my body, this is how it would sound. It carried me away and thrilled my soul. I was giddy for days.

Now, I know this isn’t music for everyone. … But if you know and love the music of Philip Glass, King Crimson or Steve Reich — music that’s electrifying, challenging and sonically soars and ripples through your body — then crank this up.

Lest you worry that she couldn’t translate it to the Tiny Desk (she says they normally have 23 suitcases full of crap so this has been an exciting challenge to squeeze in here)

Out of nearly 700 performances at the Tiny Desk, this is simply the most exhilarating one I’ve experienced. The instrumentation is unusual, with pulsing bass sounds produced by a wonderful combination of cello, tuba and electronics. It’s all rhythmically propelled by an astonishing drummer and Meredith pounding a pair of floor toms. And much of the repetitive melody is keyboard-and-guitar-driven that morphs and erupt with earth-shaking fervor.

The second song, “Ribbons” is quieter.  It’s and new song and it has vocals.  Her vocals aren’t great (“hard when you’ve got the voice of a five-year old boy”) but the melody she builds around it shows that her  voice is just one more instrument (albeit saying interesting words).  Actually, that’s not fair, they are just so different from the noise of the other two songs that it feels very faint in comparison.

It opens with a quiet guitar and electronic drum.  And slowly everyone else joins in.  A nice string accompaniment from the cello (Maddie Cutter), bass notes on the sousaphone (Tom Kelly) and even backing vocals from everyone.  By the third go around the drummer (Sam Wilson) is playing the glockenspiel.  By that time the song has built into a beautiful round and the quietness of her voice makes complete sense.  As the song nears its end, Sam has switches to a very fast but quiet rhythm on the floor tom.

She introduces the band and wishes a happy birthday to guitarist Jack Ross.  She says this is a great present as “so far all we’ve gotten him is an apple corer, the gifts have been a bit low grade.”

They make some gear switches, “we have a bit of a logistics problem with all our gear we can’t quite afford to bring enough glockenspiels, we pass the pure crap glockenspiel  around ans everyone gets to go ‘my turn!'”

“The Vapours” opens with a wonderfully wild guitar riff–fast and high-pitched and repeated over and over.  Anna Meredith adds waves of synths and then in comes the sousaphone and plucked cello.  Then fast thumping on the floor tom propels the song along.  The song slows a bit a Anna plays the clarinet (!).  The song dramatically shifts to some complicated time signature while Anna plays glockenspiel.  After a few rounds, while this complex guitar riff continues the drum and sousaphone start playing a pretty standard beat the contradicts everything else that’s going on and then Anna just starts pounding the crap out of some more toms.

All through this there are electronic sounds adding to the chaos and I have no idea who is triggering them, but it’s really cool.

The end is almost circusy with the big sousaphone notes and yet it’s like no circus anyone has every heard.  When the camera pulls back and you can see everyone working so hard and yet smiling ear to ear (especially Maddie), you know this is some great stuff.

The end of the song winds up with a hugely complicated tapping melody on the guitar and everyone else working up a huge sweat.

I couldn’t get over how much I loved this.  I immediately ordered Varmints and checked her touring schedule.

How disappointed was I to see that Anna Meredith had played Philly just last month and has now gone back to Europe!  I do hope she comes back soon.

[READ: August 30, 2017] McSweeney’s 48

For some reason, I find the prospect of reading McSweeney’s daunting.  I think it’s because I like to post about every story in them, so I know I’m in for a lot of work when I undertake it.

And yet I pretty much always enjoy every piece in each issue.  Well, that explains why it took me some three years to read this issue (although I did read Boots Riley’s screenplay in under a year).

This issue promised: “dazzling new work; a screenplay from Boots Riley with a septet of stories from Croatia.”

LETTERS

GARY RUDOREN writes about using the Giellete Fusion Platinum Razor every day for 18 days and how things were good but have gotten a little ugly.  On day 24 he had a four-inch gash under his nose.  Later on Day 38 it was even worse–a face full of bloody tissue squares.  By day 67 he is writing to thank McSweeney’s for whatever they did perhaps it was the medical marijuana but now his face is baby butt smooth even without shaving.  He wants to change the slogan to Gilette Fusion the shave that lasts forever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE LEMON TWIGS-Tiny Desk Concert #694 (January 17, 2018).

I first heard The Lemon Twigs on All Songs Considered and found their albums to be quite a lot of retro pop fun.

So it’s no surprise they wound up  at a Tiny Desk Concert, although this one is in support of an EP which I haven;t heard yet.

Bob Boilen notes: It’s as if brothers Brian (20) and Michael (18) D’Addario fell from the sky, victims of a transporter beam gone awry in 1971, and landed here at my desk with guitars in hand.  It was almost eerie seeing two young adults at my desk who look an awful lot like I and many of my friends did back around 1970. It’s uncanny, almost as if Brian and Michael have been somehow shielded from the 21st century

I really loved the production excess on The Lemon Twigs’ album, so I was a bit taken back at this stripped down version (no drums!).

At this Tiny Desk Concert, the layers of sound found in The Lemon Twigs’ recordings are stripped away, which makes the lyrics more noticeable, words that at times feel destined for a Broadway stage.  It’s fair to say that the strength of The Lemon Twigs is in the songwriting and the way they layer their recordings with their multi-instrumental talents. I love what they do, not as nostalgia but for its explorations of melody, harmony and lyrics that are memorable. Even stripped down, they are a whole lot of fun.

After the surprise of the stripped down sound wore off, I really started to like these songs for what they are.  Amusingly all three songs were written by Brian, which Michael is somewhat snarky about.

“Beautiful” is a delicate ballad with Brain singing and playing acoustic guitar.  The addition of simple electric guitar licks and backing harmony vocals really elevates the song.  Despite the pretty melody, the lyrics are rather dark

He concludes that it all is a dream
Can’t accept that sometimes a life is just destined for pain
I can’t do anything
I am nothing
Our lives are meaningless
Swim in the sunshine

But there’s a surprise twist at the end: I am nothing / I’m no one / It is wonderful

“Why Didn’t You Say That” is far more upbeat with bouncing piano.  It sound s bit fuller with the piano chords and a full electric guitar (chords and a solo).  The addition of some minor chords adds a dramatic twist to this mostly happy sounding song.  I enjoyed him sliding his pick up the strings at the end for an extra bit of noise.

Because their album is called Do Hollywood, I had it in my head that they were from California.  But hearing Michael talk, they are clearly from Long Island.  Especially when he jokes that they’re doing another one of Brian’s songs.  Brian says, “you’re the spokesperson.”  Michael says, “You’re so quiet.  Is something wrong?”  Brain brightly responds, “everything’s right!”  After some silence, Michael says, “No, I’m fine” to much chuckling.

“Light and Love” ends the set back on the acoustic guitar with some nice falsetto vocals.  The ending is a bit sloppy, but in a charming way.

Evidently when they play live, they do have a full band.  I’d be interested in seeing them live, but not as a stripped down project–I like their production too much.

[READ: October 5, 2017] “September All Year Long”

I have enjoyed many stories from Etgar Keret.  This is the first one I’ve seen illustrated.

And to have it illustrated by Novgorodoff  is pretty great too.   She uses her watercolor and pen style to create a feeling of lightness within heaviness.

The story talks about NW: nice weather, the status symbol for wealthy families.  As the ads say:

If you lived in Arctic Greenland and the snow and grayness were driving you crazy, swipe your credit card and they’ll set you up with ‘a perfect autumn day in Cannes’ on your balcony every day of the year

Novgorodoff illustrates this with a man drinking an umbrella drink on his balcony–a ray of sunshine beaming down on him while a blustery cold wind is blowing in the gray night sky. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PERFUME GENIUS-Tiny Desk Concert #627 (June 12, 2017).

Perfume Genius is a delicate-sounding band.  Singer Mike Hadreas has a gentle voice.  Oon the first song he’s almost drowned out by the (relatively quiet) guitar from Tom Bromley.  The songs are also deeply personal–he wrote most of the new album as a love letter to his boyfriend (the keyboardist Alan Wyffels).

Hadreas’ voice is really affecting, especially when you can hear him clearly.

“Valley” is in waltz-time (with the guitar keeping rhythm for much of the song before the drums and keys come in).  The drums (by Herve Becart) are simple but wonderfully deep and resonant

“Slip Away” reminds me (and I can’t believe how many singers have sounded like this guy to me) of the band Dear Mr. President, a kind of aching falsetto.  The guitar is a little louder, rockier.  But the best part of the song (and the part that does not remind me of DMP) is the gorgeous chorus where everyone sings along to some “ooohooh.”

The final song is an older one called “Normal Song” it is just Hadreas and Wyffels and it is the most tender and delicate song yet.  Hadreas plays some simple, quiet chords (in waltz time again) as he sings:

“Take my hand when you are scared and I will pray,”

“… And no secret, no matter how nasty, can poison your voice or keep you from joy.”

The delicate ringing keys in the middle of the song are really pretty and I like the way they don’t play while he is singing–it’s just him and his guitar.

[READ: December 28, 2011] “Fly Already”

The premise of this story is at once humorous and horrifying.

And on a reader’s note: as an American unless told otherwise, I imagine all stories are set here (I assume that’s not an uncommon reaction to fiction).  So even though I know that Keret is not writing in America, often his stories don’t really need a location (which is awesome).  But then he gives away one detail that makes you realize the story isn’t set here.  That detail will come in a moment.

As the story opens, a man and his son, P.T. are walking to the park.  En route they see a man on top of a building.  The boy (who is 5) says, “he wants to fly!”  But the father knows a more reasonable (and terrible) reason why the man is on the roof of the builidng looking over the edge. (more…)

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slowreadSOUNDTRACK: DIRTY THREE-Tiny Desk Concert #245 (October 15, 2012).

dirty-3For a Murakami collection I should really have picked a jazz Tiny Desk Concert.  But none jumped out at my on my list.  So I decided to do something that might be jazzy in spirit, even if it is nothing like jazz at all.

Dirty Three are a three-piece band which consists of violinist Warren Ellis (who works closely with Nick Cave), drummer Jim White (who I had the pleasure of seeing live with Xylouris White), and guitarist Mick Turner (who has released a string of gorgeous instrumental solo albums and worked a lot with Will Oldham).

I’ve liked Dirty Three for years, although I kind of lost touch with them back around 2000.  So it was fun to see that they are still working.  (They’ve released all of 3 albums since 2000).

Jim White plays an eccentric but very cool style of drum–it always feels improvised and random, and maybe it is, but it’s never “wrong.”  Turner is the only one who is keeping the song, shall we say, “stable.”  He’s got the rhythm and melody both with his strumming.  And Ellis is all over the place with melody lines and bowing.

For this Tiny Desk, they play three songs.  Their music is ostensibly instrumental although Warren Ellis is not above shouting and yelling and keening when appropriate.

The first two songs are from their 2012 album and the last one is from Ocean Songs.

“Rain Song” opens with Ellis strumming the violin while Turner plays slightly different chords.  Then Ellis takes off on a series of spiralling violin rolls.  As always, White is back there waving his arms around with the loosest grip on drumsticks I’ve ever seen.  He plays brushes on this song but the drums are far from quiet.  Meanwhile Ellis is soloing away, yelling where appropriate and doing high kicks when White hits the cymbals.   As the song comes to an end, White is going nuts on the drums and Ellis takes off his jacket (revealing a wonderful purple shirt) .  He starts screaming wildly as he physically gets into his violin playing.

“The Pier” is about realizing that it’s the rest of the world that is driving you crazy.  It’s about “trying to undermine Facebook and realize a new way of communicating with people beyond the internet.”  It’ about… are you ready Mick?  Okay.  “The Pier” is a slower song with some plucked violin.  Ellis climbs up on the desk and dances around as he plays.  This one feels a but more controlled but in no way staid.

For “Last Horse in the Sand,” white switches to mallets and adds a tambourine to his cymbal.  It’s really interesting to watch White play around with things–moving his gear around as he plays.  He switches sticks and seems to be not even paying attention, but without ever really losing momentum or timing.  For this song, Ellis and Turner are the mellow ones while White is just all over the place with his amazing drumming.

I haven’t said anything about Turner because he is really the grounding of the band, while the other two are taking flights of fancy.

This is a wild and untamed set and it’s a lot of fun.  It’s also amusing to watch the audience witnessing this seeming chaos.

[READ: December 16, 2016] Slow Reader Vol. 1

Madras Press had released 16 small books, which I enjoyed reading quite a lot.  I have posted about some and will post about more in the new year.  But word is that they have given up on the small books and have switched their attention to a new magazine/journal called Slow Reader.  The first issue came out this month and it collects stories, essays, poems, illustrations, and other things that center around novelist Haruki Murakami.

Support this small press!  You can order this issue directly (and name your price, although I think the asking price is $6).

From an article elsewhere I’ve learned that future issues will cluster around M.F.K. Fisher, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Patricia Highsmith.

This issue contains essays, fiction and illustrations, some dating back as far as 2000.

CHIP KIDD-cover illustration (wind-up bird)
Chip Kidd is awesome

GRANT SNIDER-Murakami Bingo Board
This bingo is hilariously apt–covering most of the bases of Murakami’s writing: cats, jazz, running, and even a Chip Kidd cover.

JESSE BALL-Sheep Man
A line drawing of a sheep standing upright with the caption “The sheep man’s peculiar tail was never visible to me.”

HARRIET LEE-MERRION-Diner illustration
A nice line drawing of a corner diner

KAREN MURPHY-Sputnik and two moon illustrations
Two simple drawings of Sputnik and two moons.

BEIDI GUO-Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World map
A cool map of the locations of the novel.

DINA AVILA–Murakami Tasting Menu at Nodoguro in Portland, OR
I don’t really get if the menu items are related to the stories but it’s a neat idea that there are foods named after his works. But why are so many called IQ84?

EUGENIA BURCHI–IQ84 menus
A drawing of foods with what I think are character names (I haven’t read the novel yet).

FABIO VALESINI-train illustrations taken from the book trailer for Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
No idea what the original context is, but it’s a neat, clean drawing of a train station.

JEFFREY BROWN-“In Conversation” What Jeffrey Brown Thinks About
The first piece is an amusing cartoon in which Brown scores a job at an indie bookstore by mentioning Murakami.  The little blurb says that it is an only slightly exaggerated account. There’s also a later picture by Brown of Murakami’s face posted on a bulletin board (with a lost cat flier), that’s really great.

DANIEL HANDLER-“I Love Murakami”
Handler begins his piece by apologizing to dozens of authors before saying that Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction.  He mentions a few books but heaps a ton of praise on Wind Up Bird Chronicles and mentions his excitement at  finally getting Norwegian Wood in English (it had been untranslated for many years).  He wrote this essay in 2000.

YOKO OGAWA-“On Murakami’s “The Last Lawn of the Afternoon” [Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder]
Ogawa writes about a house in her neighborhood which has a lawn that she finds unsettling–it’s perfectly manicured and a pale, cool shade of green.  She is reminded of the Murakami story in which a boy mows a woman’s lawn and she asks him an unexpected question.  Ogawa imagines a woman in that home asking the same kinds of questions.

ETGAR KERET-“What Do We Have in Our Pockets?”
This was inspired by Murakami’s story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning.”  This story is about a man whose pockets are always bulging with unusual items.  People often say to him, “What the fuck do you have in your pockets?”  And his answer is that he carries things that he imagines the perfect woman needing–a stamp or a toothpick.  It is a wonderfully charming story.

RIVKA GALCHEN-“The Monkey Did It”
Of all of the items in this collection, this is  the only piece I’d read before.  I remembered parts of it (particularly the excerpts from “A Shinagawa Monkey,” and her talking about Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.  I also recalled her saying that she liked his short stories better than his novels, but that she was perhaps wrong in thinking that.  The one thing I didn’t pick up on last time was that in the beginning of the essay she writes about Toricelli’s Trumpet or Gabriel’s Horn–an item with finite volume but infinite surface area.  She says this perfect describes Murakami’s work.  And I love that she ties it to translator Philip Gabriel who is a gentle and modest translator–perfect for the watery novel.

TESS GALLAGHER-“Murakami and Carver Meet at Sky House”
Before he had written any substantial works, Murakami translated Raymond Carver’s works into Japanese.  Ray was excited and bemused that Haruki and his wife Yoko would travel from Japan to meet with him.  This essay tells us that the following poem came about as Ray tried to imagine how his poems could possibly be appreciated in Japan.  Murakami told him how both the Japanese and American people of the 1980s were experiencing humiliation at being unable to make a decent living.  Gallagher says that if they were to meet today Ray would be awkward about Haruki’s stature.  But he would have loved knowing that Murakami had translated everything he had written.

RAYMOND CARVER-“The Projectile”
This poem is wonderful. It begins with Carver speaking about his meeting with Murakami and then flashing back to when he was 16 and was hit with an ice ball.  It was thrown from someone in the street through a small crack in the window of the car he was riding in–a chance in a million.

RICHARD POWERS-“The Global Distributed Self-Mirroring Subterranean Neurological Soul-Sharing Picture Show”
This is the most abstract and “intellectual” of the essays here.  It speaks of a team of neuroscientists discovering a lucky accident–that neurons in the brain fire when someone else makes a motion that we recognize.  Similarly, in Murakami–representation is the beginning of reality.  He speaks of the parallel narratives in Hard Boiled Wonderland.  He wonders at the universality of dreams and ideas in Murakami.  “But if his own stories are steeped in the endless weirdness hiding just inside everyday life, how then to account for Murakami’s astonishing popularity throughout the world?”

MARY MORRIS-“The Interpreter”
I loved this story.  An American business woman is giving a series of lectures in Japan.  She is assigned a translator who goes with her nearly everywhere.  She is a little annoyed that he is always there, but he is very respectful of her and only speaks when spoken to.  She assumes he is translating her speeches correctly, but during one, the audience laughs where there was nothing funny.  She doesn’t want to disrespect him, but she can’t imagine what he said to them.  In the next one, they are practically doubled over with laughter at what he says.  Finally she has to confront him about it.  He reveals astonishing insights into her personal life.  And the next day he is called away–just as she has begun to feel close to him.

In the author’s note, she says that the she was at an writer’s meeting in Princeton (where she teaches) and Murakami was there eating with them. He was by himself, and she talked to him because she was a fan of his work.  She relates a story of holding up a sign for him when he ran the New York City Marathon.  She says that the part about the translator and his family (which I didn’t mention) is from an actual translator she met in Japan.

AIMEE BENDER-“Spelunking with Murakami”
Bender speaks of trusting Murakami.  She says when the cat started speaking in one of his books, she began to mistrust him.  Nevertheless, she says, she loves a lot of writers but only trusts a few of them.  She’s not trusting Murakami’s honesty or his ability to make her smarter.  Rather, she trusts him like a man with a torch in a cave–someone who is willing to explore–and to be in front leading the way.

SUMANTH PRABHAKER-Editor’s Note
Prabhaker would like to ask the world’s philosophers why some things seem to happen to us in a random fashion.

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dec12014SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People (2003).

animalsWhile the EP section oft he release was disappointing, the DVD portion was fantastic.

In addition to all of the band’s videos (which have held up quite well), there’s commentary for all three guys on some of them.  But beyond that, they have compiled most of the footage from the previously released VHS recordings: Cheesy Home Video and Horrible Men, as well as the fan only Horrible Swill.

And for the real fan, there’s all kinds of live performances, some dating all the way back to 1986, with the original band playing together.

  •      “To Defy the Laws of Tradition,” “Too Many Puppies” and “Frizzle Fry” from a campus radio show in 1989.
  •      “Groundhog’s Day” and “Mr. Krinkle” from New Years Eve 1993.
  •      “Those Damned Blue Collar Tweekers” and “My Name is Mud (Bootleg Quality)” from Woodstock 94.
  •      “Pudding Time” and “Southbound Pachyderm” from 1995.
  • “Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread” for HBO in 1998.
  • “Lacquer Head” Family Values Tour 1999.

and these rarities:

  • “Sgt. Baker” – Recorded at a rent party  sometime between 1986 and 1988
  • “Groundhog’s Day” – Recorded at the Omni in Oakland in late 1988
  • “Tommy the Cat” – Recorded by Bob Cock and the Yellow Sock.

That’s a great collection of stuff for any Primus fan.

[READ: January 20, 2015] “One Gram Short”

Keret seems to specialize in short stories.  This one was just over two pages (translated from the Hebrew by Nathan Englander).

It opens with a man who confesses to only going to a certain coffee bar because he thinks the waitress is cute.  He wants to ask her out but is afraid that “the movies” sounds like too big of a commitment, plus if she says no, that’s the end of them.  He understands that she likes smoking pot so he figures he’ll ask her to share a joint with him.

The problem is that he doesn’t have any.  So he contacts his old friend (whom he hasn’t talked to in years).  The friend immediately tells him that he’s dry–the whole country is dry.  “They closed the Lebanese border on us because of the trouble in Syria, and they closed Egypt because of all that al-Qaeda shit.”  The narrator is a bit put off that his friend assumes he’s calling for pot (even if that is why).  He emphasizes that all he wants is enough for one join so he can smoke with this girl but the friend can’t help him.

The next day though, his friend calls back with a deal.  He knows of a guy who has a prescription for medical marijuana.  But he doesn’t like the stuff, so he’s not using it–he has like ten grams.  And he wants to meet with the two of them. (more…)

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