Archive for the ‘Will Self’ Category

fivedials_no28SOUNDTRACK: PHINEAS AND FERB-The Twelve Days of Christmas (2010).

phineasWhile The Bird and the Bee has become my new favorite serious version of The Twelve Days of Christmas, this Phineas and Ferb version is my new favorite silly version of the song.  Sure it’s especially funny for fans of the show but, as anyone who has seen the show knows, Dr. Doofenshmirtz is comedy gold and so his wishes for Christmas and his updates and concessions (and the fact that he is a traditionalist) absolutely make this worthy of repeat listens.

[READ: December 19, 2013] Five Dials Number 28

Five Dials #28 is vaguely thematic–about heroes.  Some items are literal (the writers-as-heroines drawing), some are speculative (my favorite conceit–the stories of quickly killed side characters in movies), and some are unrelated at all–the guy who helped out Will Self.  This issue was launched from Sydney, Australia.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Heroes and Convicts
Taylor talks about everything mentioned above and then talks about Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore and his primer on modern art: The Shock of the New (which has an accompanying documentary series). (more…)

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I’ve enjoyed My Morning Jacket since I bought their live album Okonokos.  I’ve enjoyed all of their releases since, but I never listened to Z, the album that forms the basis of much of Okonokos. Finally, I saw it cheap and picked it up.

And I was really surprised.  The reason I hadn’t gotten it was because I figured I had all of the songs already in live format, so who needed the studio?  Well, it turns out that the studio versions are quite different from the live ones.  In fact, on my first listen, I didn’t really like the studio versions all that much.  After a few listens of course, I like them just fine, but they are indeed quite different.

There are three songs here that didn’t make the live record: “Into the Woods,” “Anytime” and “Knot Comes Loose.”  But the other seven songs appear (often in slightly longer form) on the live disc.  And the live disc is fuller, louder and more energetic than the studio.  That’s what a live album is supposed to sound like.

Z, on the other hand, sounds a bit more polished, more almost dancey–reflecting the kinds of sounds they would incorporate down the road (like on Circuital).  But Z isn’t quite as full-sounding.  Despite that, the songs are top-notch.  And Jim James’ voice is truly a thing to behold (check out that crazy high note at the end of “What a Wonderful Man”).

I hate to sound like I’m down on this disc, because indeed, I am not.  It’s a really fascinating mix of psychedelia and Prince-inspired keyboard rock (I’m not going as far as funk, but it’s certainly Prince-y.  There’s some folk tracks, there’s the amazing “Wordless Chorus” which has a kind of 70;s soft rock feel, which is followed by the Prince-titled “It Beats 4 U” which sounds nothing like Prince, but has a great subtle guitar intro.  “Gideon” doesn’t match any of the over the top epics of earlier records, but it sure feels close.  And “Off the Record” is a practically ska.  The album even has a near 8 minute closing track, the awesome “Dondante.”

All in all, Z is pretty great.  But I still like the live versions better.  That’s what happens when you listen to things out of order, I guess.  But when do live albums count for anything?

 [READ: July 11, 2011] 3 book reviews

According to Five Dials, Zadie Smith is an official member of Harper’s staff now (funny I found out about it from Five Dials, but they really do have tentacles in all aspects of my life).  Congratultions, Zadie.

I can’t imagine having to review two or three books a month (I know I review a lot here, but most of them are short stories).  Zadie plows through a lot of books for this column, but what is wonderful is that the diversity of what she reads is really pronounced.  Just witness this months’ books.

MELA HARTWIG-Am I a Redundant Human Being?
Zadie takes a great angle on this novel.  She (with the help of an online reviewer) compares the protagonist of this novel (written in the 1930s) with Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City.  Why?  Because both protagonists seem to live their lives in the male gaze.  And yet they both also continue on their merry way regardless of what the men say or do.  True, Hartwig’s novella has much more angst, but really, there is a similar attitude present.

I especially like Zadie’s argument that women writers have never really had they way to express the bragging rights that men have employed time immemorial “We can’t, as the saying goes, pull it out and slap it on the table.”  And as such, women have had to achieve their victories through more roundabout means.  I rather liked this analysis.  And, I think it makes for more interesting reading most of the time. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BASIA BULAT-“In the Night” (2008).

I recently came across Basia Bulat via NPR.  She played a Tiny Desk concert and I discovered that she had several other entries in the NPR canon.

Basia is Canadian (of Polish descent); she has a beautiful strong mid-range/throaty voice and a great sense of melody.  She also has a bit of a gimmick: she plays all kinds of instruments (guitar, piano, sax, etc) including some really weird and unexpected instruments: Zither, pianoette (!) and autoharp–a couple of years before PJ Harvey brought it back to the mainstream.


“In the Night” is a wonderfully chipper poppy song.  And that autoharp gives it just a tinge of “huh?’ that makes it more than just a simple pop song.  The beat is fast and energetic, the harmonies are wonderful and the melody is top-notch.

I really like this song a lot, and the other snippets of songs that I’ve heard from her are equally wonderful.   I’ve even noticed that lately she’s been singing a song in Polish!

[READ: July 12, 2011] “Gastronomania”

I’m not going to go crazy reviewing all of the book reviews in Harper’s (that way lies madness), but occasionally an author I like writes a bit that I want to mention.  So Will Self, who I like but have not read a lot of, wrote this essay/book review about food.  He reviews three books, but what I especially liked about it was his introduction, which uses Luis Buñuel’s Le fantôme de la liberté [The Phantom of Liberty] as its starting point.  In the film (which I have not seen), the house’s dining room is actually a well…watch this clip:

It’s a wonderfully bizarre introduction to an essay about food.

It was unclear to me what made Will Self suitable to review three books about cooking.  And then (news to me) he revealed that he used to be a food critic (columns are collected in his book Junk Mail) and that Anton Ego in Ratatouille (yes that Ratatouille) bears “an uncanny, if not legally actionable” resemblance to him.

This essay was so much fun.  Self is as viciously negative about these books as he apparently was about food back in the day.  But he’s not dismissive of them as cookbooks per se, he’s more about trashing the current worship of food (and many other things too of course). (more…)

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believerA few years ago I was visiting my friend Roman.  He asked me if I read The Believer.  I told him I hadn’t heard of it.  He silently reproved me, knowing that it would be right up my alley and being quite displeased that I wasn’t keeping up with the hip.  I was very impressed with what I saw.

The Believer is put out through McSweeney’s.  It seems to have filled in for the non-fiction niche that McSweeney’s slowly removed from its pages.

And since then, I have become a devoted follower.  At some point (probably around issue ten or eleven) I decided that I was going to read every word in every issue.  And so, (this was pre-kids) when I went to an ALA conference with Sarah, I spent a lot of the down time reading all of the back issues’ articles that I hadn’t read.

Since then, I have read every issue cover to cover.  The thing that I love about the magazine (in addition to all of the stuff that I would normally like about it) is that every article is so well written that even if I don’t care about the subject, I know I’ll be interested for the duration of the piece.  Whether or not I will go on to read anything else about the person or topic is neither here nor there, but when I’m in the moment I’m really hooked. (more…)

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