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Archive for the ‘Steve Almond’ Category

bomarsSOUNDTRACK: SIGUR RÓS-“Ný batterí” (2000).

nyThe single opens with “Rafmagnið búið” a kind of brass introductory piece.  There’s lots of horns building slowly, growing louder but not really playing a melody.  By the end of five minutes, it segues into “Ný batterí” which opens with horns as well.  Then the bass comes in, a slow, deep rumble of simple melody.  After 4 and a  half minutes, the drums are a powerful counterpoint to the sweet melody.

“Bíum bíum bambaló” is a slow piece (aren’t they all) that is mostly percussion.  Apparently it is an Icelandic lullaby.  The final track, “Dánarfregnir og jarðarfarir” was a theme used for death announcements on Icelandic radio.  I love the way it builds from a simple melody into a full rock band version and then back again.  It’s very dramatic.

Both tracks were used in the film Angels of the Universe (and appear on the soundtrack).

That certainly makes this single less interesting than the first one (although I’m not sure that the soundtrack was readily available at the time).

[READ: December 1, 2013] Breakfast on Mars

This is a collection of 38 essays (and an introduction by Margaret Cho).  It also includes an introduction geared toward teachers–an appeal that essays do not need to be dull or, worse yet, scary.  The editors encourage teachers to share these essays with students so they get a feel for what it’s like to write compelling personal nonfiction.  The introduction proper gives a brief history of the essay and then talks about the kind of fun and funny (and serious) essays that are included here.

This was a largely fun and largely interesting collection of essays.  When I grabbed it from the library I didn’t realize it was essays (I was intrigued by the title and then looked at the author list and immediately brought it home).  I know it says essays on the cover, but I chose to ignore that apparently.  When Sarah saw the authors (she knows more of them than I do) she had to read it first.  This proved to be a great counterpoint to the very large novel that I was reading at the same time.

The essays each take on different topics.  And what I liked was that before each essay, they include the question that inspired the essay.  I have included the questions here. (more…)

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12SOUNDTRACK: FRANK OCEAN-“Bad Religion” (2012).

frankoI didn’t know anything about Frank Ocean until I started looking at all of the  Best Albums of 2012 lists.  He was on everyone’s list and was pretty near the top of all of them.  So it was time to check him out.

It  turns out that he’s affiliated with the Odd Future collective, whom I’ve talked about in the past.  But he’s also been on a lot of big name records.  Channel Orange is his debut album (that’s not a mixtape) and the big surprise seems to be that this song (which he sang live on Jimmy Fallon) is about a male lover.  And I guess that’s progress.

So Ocean sings a slow R&B style, and I have to say his voice reminds me of Prince a lot.  Which is a good thing.  I really like this song.    It has gospelly keyboards (but in that Purple Rain kinda way).  And a really aching vocal line.  It’s really effective and it’s really simple.  And I think that’s what I liked best about this song and others that I’ve heard–he’s really understated.  Crazy, I know.

Now I do not like R&B, it’s one of the few genres that I just don;t get.  And yet there’s something about this album (the tracks I’ve listened to) that is really compelling.  It’s not awash in over the top R&B trappings, and it doesn’t try too hard.  It’s just Frank  (not his real name) and his voice over some simple beats.  A friend of mine recently said that all of a sudden she “got” this album, and  I think I may have to get it as well.

[READ: December 30, 2012] McSweeney’s #12

At the beginning of 2012, I said I’d read all of my old McSweeney’s issues this year.  I didn’t.  Indeed, I put it off for quite a while for no especial reason.  Now as the year draws to an end, I’m annoyed that I didn’t read them all, but it’s not like I read nothing.  Nevertheless, I managed to read a few in the last month and am delighted that I finished this one just under the wire.  For those keeping track, the only issues left are 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 10, 38, (which I misplaced but have found again) and 42, which just arrived today.  My new plan in to have those first four read by Easter.  We’ll see.

So Issue #12 returns to a number of different fun ideas.  The cover:  It’s a paperback, but you can manipulate the front and back covers to make a very cool 3-D effect (by looking through two eyeholes) with a hippo.  The colophon/editor’s note is also back.  Someone had complained that he missed the small print ramble in the beginning of the book and so it is back, with the writer (Eggers? Horowitz?) sitting in Wales, in a B&B, and hating it.  It’s very funny and a welcome return.

As the title suggests, all of the stories here are from unpublished authors.  They debate about what exactly unpublished means, and come down on the side of not well known.  And so that’s what we have here, first time (for the mos part) stories.  And Roddy Doyle.

There are some other interesting things in this issue.  The pages come in four colors–each for a different section.  The Letters/Intro page [white], the main stories [pink], the Roddy Doyle piece (he’s not unpublished after all so he gets his own section) [gray] and the twenty minute stories [yellow].  There’s also photographs (with captions) of Yuri Gagarin.  And a series of drawing that introduce each story called “Dancewriting”–a stick figure on a five-lined staff.  They’re interesting but hard to fathom fully.

LETTERS (more…)

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