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Archive for the ‘John Le Carré’ Category

CV1_TNY_06_08_15_09.inddSOUNDTRACKLUCY DACUS-“Historians” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 21, 2018).

I’m looking forward to seeing Lucy Dacus live in a few weeks.  Her music is often spare but grows very intense.  For this particular song it is just her and her guitarist who is creating textures and sounds as Lucy sings clearly and starkly.  She plays the (almost) title track from her new album Historian.

The idea behind our South X Lullaby series was to offer intimate moments with musicians as an antidote to the commotion and deluge that is the SXSW music festival. When we met Lucy Dacus for her Lullaby and found out she’d perform “Historians,” a most somber song from her deeply personal and triumphant album Historian, it felt just right. It’s a song of reflection, the story of two intertwined partners and the way they document one another’s lives and preserve each other’s memories.

With simple but compelling swirls of sound, Dacus begins singing clearly with a bit of softness on the edges of her words.  It’s fascinating to watch her face illuminated by the video around her (the same video that Stella Donnelly performed in front of).

The song is warm despite the sadness inherent in it.

The setting for this performance, by Lucy Dacus and guitarist Jacob Blizard, is an interactive art installation by the multidisciplinary Israeli artist Ronen Sharabani that’s part of the SXSW Art Program. This work, titled “Conductors and Resistance,” explores human-machine interaction in our ever-evolving technological world. The images projected behind Lucy and Jacob are two coffee cups, one empty and one that’s been almost drained, both tangled in and tugged at by a complex series of wires, representing what I think is human communication and miscommunication.  This is just one of three walls onto which images are projected in this installation — you can see another wall behind Stella Donnelly in her South X Lullaby video.

[READ: April 13, 2016] “The Magic Mountain”

Back in June of 2009, The New Yorker had their annual summer fiction issue.  Included in that issue were three short essays under the heading of “Summer Reading.”  I knew all three authors, so I decided to include them here.

This essay was about Aleksander Hemon’s childhood in Sarajevo.

He says that (not unlike Angell) his family had a cabin on the mountain called Jahorina.  His family would spend winter breaks there skiing and partying.  His parents thought it was heaven up there.  But he and his sister hated to go there in the summer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SINKANE-“Jeeper Creeper” (SXSW, March 21, 2013).

sinkaneI’ve never heard of Sinkane either (was there anyone at this SXSW that I knew?).  NPR is streaming on song from this band.  It’s about 7 minutes of low-key funk with reggae-like guitars, some great bass jams and simple lyrics.  I really like the vibe that the song gives off.  They would be a great band to see live.

Sinkane later played with Usher and The Afghan Whigs, which shows a very cool range.  And evidently Sinkane leader Ahmed Gallab has collaborated with the likes of Yeasayer and Of Montreal.

Watch it here.

[READ: March 19, 2013] “Kattekoppen”

I had just finished John LeCarré’s excerpt in Harper’s when I read this short story (or possibly excerpt—it ended rather oddly).  So here was another spying operation, although this one was American and military-based.  I know very little about military operations, so this was all new to me.  And there were some things I liked about this story quite a bit. The story is set in Afghanistan where the army has just brought in a new howitzer-liaison (good job title, that) named Levi.  Levi is Dutch and yet somehow still in the US Army–and he is a good soldier.   His wife lives in Texas and is about to have a baby.

Levi gets Dutch care packages a lot.  In addition to stroopawaffles (yum!) are Kattekoppen which are cat-shaped licorice-like objects.  Levi loved them as a kid bit now he puts them on the shelf of things that people don’t want (until they desperately want them).  Eventually the narrator tries one and immediately spits it out because it tastes like ammonia.  He’s not even able to get the taste out with snow… or dirt.  It’s that bad.  I found this part of the story quite interesting.

The rest of the story was more specific to military operations.  He talks about how Levi targeted the howitzer and how he made target rings which offered an area of projection for where the shell would strike.  And that he was very good at it.  The minor problem was that Levi wanted to be home for his son’s birth.  Not a big problem except that thy Generals wouldn’t give them a new howitzer liaison in the meantime. (more…)

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HarpersaprilSOUNDTRACK: CHVRCHES-“The Mother We Share” (SXSW, March 23, 2013).

chvrchesThis year NPR doesn’t seem to be offering many full shows from SXSW for download.  But they do have a number of streaming songs.  And since I have recently reduced the amount of time I can dedicate to posts, I’m going to talk about a few songs rather than albums for a bit.

I’ve never heard of Chvrches although NPR leads me to believe they have a buzz around them.  They’re from Glasgow (I like the Glasgow scene), but this song is really way too poppy for me.  At least in this live incarnation, it’s so spare and keyboardy.  The lead singer has a great voice but it is firmly placed in the pop realm (especially with the Oh Oh Ohs).

The band is good though, and I enjoyed the synth guy making most of the sounds of the song.    I’d be curious to hear more (especially t hat cover of “Purple Rain.”  Watch it here.

[READ: March 18, 2013] “A Delicate Truth”

I have never read John Le Carré before.  Indeed, I don’t typically read any kind of spy/thriller type books.  I realized recently that I like mysteries but I don’t have a lot of time for hard spy novels (if I may use the language of sci-fi to describe a spy novel–perhaps spy-fi?).

We recently watched some of Skyfall (the Redbox had to go back so we didn’t finish it–I think I’m not down with the Redbox, it’s just as inconvenient as a video store), so this British spy-fi story seemed nicely timed.

This was an excerpt from Le Carré’s forthcoming book.  And regardless of the story itself, I’m delighted that it was a self-contained excerpt.  It is a mission and the mission ends by the end of the chapter   Obviously there is a lot more to the book, but I was pleased that the excerpt didn’t having any kind of cliffhanger.  And now I don’t feel like I have to read anymore of the story.

So this is the story of Paul Anderson or, “Paul Anderson,” a “middle-ranking British civil servant  hauled from his desk in one of the more prosaic departments of Her Majesty’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office to be dispatched on a top-secret mission of acute sensitivity.”  That pretty much sums up the story and you can tell from that sentence whether or not you’ll like the book.  I have no idea if this sort of thing happens in real life at all.  And maybe that’s not the point.  In the Afterword, Le Carré talks about The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, his first novel, which everyone assumed was all true (he says you know it’s not true because they printed it).  And he;s always been annoyed that people think of his as a spy who started writing rather than an author who did some spy work.

So I guess that means he knows of what he speaks. (more…)

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