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Archive for the ‘Babysitters’ Category

McSweeney’s 49: Cover Stories: Contemporary writers reimagining classic tales (2017)

SOUNDTRACKBIG K.R.I.T.-Tiny Desk Concert #714 (March 5, 2018).

A while back I downloaded one of Big K.R.I.T.’s mixtapes and rather liked it.  Since then he seems to have become pretty huge and I feel like he has really expanded on his style.

K.R.I.T. sings/raps three songs from his new album.

4eva Is a Mighty Long Time, a double album in which he covers everything from blessings to depression while plumbing the carnal and spiritual depths of his own duality. All three songs performed here come from side two, titled after his birth name Justin Scott.

The first song “Mixed Messages” is really thoughtful.  He sings and raps

I gotta whole lotta mixed messages / in my songs am I wrong / to feel this way
I got me a lover but I still wanna cheat / I wanna be saved but its fuck the police
i never really liked the fake shit / but I’m attracted to the fake ass and fake tits
i really wanna sing but id better rap

K.R.I.T.’s backing band, which includes Burniss Travis II on bass and Justin Tyson on drums, also features on keys Bryan Michael Cox — the hitmaking producer and songwriter behind a slew of Billboard chart-toppers. Together, the trio delivers stripped-down versions of the latest thought-provoking material in Big K.R.I.T.’s catalog.

Introducing the second song, “Keep The Devil Off” he says his grandmother introduced him to gospel.  She brought him to church and “she would wake me up when i fell asleep saying wake up you gotta hear this.”  He sings beautifully.  And then the rapped verses are really well structured.

And when he stops to pay homage to his church-going grandmother before performing “Keep The Devil Off,” it’s clear that everything she instilled in him is keeping him alive, too.

Definitely in these times we need to keep the negativity away–keep the devil off.

His grandmother was clearly very important to him.

Big K.R.I.T. has kept her spirit alive through his music since his breakout mixtape, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, which he released in 2010, the same year she died.  So it only makes sense that he would bring her with him for his Tiny Desk concert.

Halfway through his three-song set at NPR Music headquarters, K.R.I.T. stops to pull out an old-school tape recorder — the same one his grandmother would use to record him singing and reciting poetry as a child. “I have to feel like my grandmother was my first mix engineer,” he says before pressing play to reveal him and his brother as kids singing a duet of R&B crooner Donell Jones’ 1999 slow burner, “Where I Wanna Be.”

He plays the tape and cracks up listening to it.  He gets the audience to sing the refrain with his younger sell.  And then his grandmother introduces he and his brother as an R&B singer, “but I’m sticking with the rap thing.”

It’s a sublime interlude — one that resonated so strongly with K.R.I.T. that he had to start his last song, “Bury Me In Gold,” over to catch the proper beat. “I’m super emotional from this, too,” he says, laughing in a moment so genuine it was only right to leave it unedited.

He says “Bury Me in Gold” is not about gold really, it’s about having something so that in the event he gets to heaven he’ll give everything away.

He tells us to remember that peace of mind and your soul are more important than gold.

I’ve always enjoyed thought provoking rap and K.R.I.T.’s lyrics combined with his voice really work wonders.

[READ: May 29, 2017] McSweeney’s 49

It has been a long time (three years or so) since the previous McSweeney’s volume.  During that silence, the publishing house went non-profit and that seems to have taken up a lot of their resources.  They even address this a bit in the interdiction to this book.

But regardless of the reasons why, it is great to have them back.

As the subtitle says, this is a book of “cover stories.” What that means is a little vague–the contemporary writers model their story after a classic story.  I try to compare it to music covers, although in music covers the music and words are typically the same with some kind of variations.  Typically, the words are the same but the music is different.  I liked to flip this idea on its head for describing these stories in that the words are different by the music is the same.

Since I don’t know most of the original stories here I don’t know how similar these are to the originals–same character names?  Same ideas?  Same plot?  I don’t know.  And perhaps it would affect the way I read these stories if I was familiar with theory original pieces.  But without knowing them, these just turned out to be good stories from good writers.

Interspersed between the stories were poems and, in a wonderful commentary on our current shitty president and the cowardly house of representatives who on the day I finished this voted to strip 24 million people of health care, are comparisons of classic historical figures’ speeches with the petty garbled tweets of out current crap in chief.  Can we impeach this motherfucker already?  And send the whole lot of them to jail, please.  #ITMFA

As many McSweeney’s do, this one opens with letters.  And of course they aren’t really letters at all, even if they are addressed to McSweeney’s.  Many deal with cover songs, but a few are much more serious, political and right on.

WAJAHAT ALI writes from Camp FDR in Washington DC where he and his fellow prisoners were finally able to cobble together WiFi.  Ali explains that the Executive Order was inevitable the ban, the vetting, the registry were all just prelude. The need to protect against terrorism outweighs the individual rights and the rights of American Muslims…read the Supreme Court decision.

NICK JAINA writes about the Sept 23, 1970 episode of The Johnny Cash Show in which Ray Charles appears and plays “Walk the Line” and then “Ring of Fire.”  The letter states that the creator of “Ring of Fire” is actually mis-attributed.  The story is that June Carter wrote it after seeing a page in her uncle’s book of Elizabethan poetry.  But Johnny first wife claims that Johnny wrote it while drunk about a certain female body part: “all those years of her claiming she wrote it and she probably never knew what the song was really about.”  Then it reverts back to Ray Charles’ performance with an unseen band playing behind him–especially a great baseline–and as the song ends he lets out one last shudder and cackle like he just invented the orgasm.  “Johnny returns to the stage looking like a man who just watched someone have sex with his wife but was so in awe of how good he was at it that he could only thank him.”

ROBIN TERRELL talks about trumpmania in the Czech Republic from the perspective of a black woman, lesbian, child of civil rights activists, mother of a black man living in Prague.  The look in the eyes of people after the election: The U.S. is going to fuck us over again.  It stunned Europeans that the U.S. could generate someone fouler than Europe’s own crop of white male extremists.  She is now a refugee from her own country.  #RESIST #ITMFA

KIMBERLY HARRINGTON says she always believed that even in the darkest times humor has its place.  But lately she’s been bursting into tears rather than cracking a smile.  She hopes she can find things to laugh at–even death in these horrible times.

MARY MILLER says that for the longest time she thought her uncles wrote “Stagger Lee.”  Her uncles were musicians who wrote songs but also threw some covers into their shows.  She believed that “Stagger Lee” was one of theirs. She realizes that they are not famous and that no one will remember them–but she promises them that she will remember them.

RICK MOODY writes at length about Elektra’s 1990 tribute album Rubaiyat: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary.  I remember it coming out and I remember not getting it because it was too expensive. But Moody talks about what a great conceit this collection was to have contemporary artists cover classic songs.  He also talks about how the tribute album was quite popular in the 1990s (was it ever).  Some thought: He loves Bjork, but he thinks of the Sugarcubes as a cheeseball imitation of the B-52s (and that their “Motorcycle Mama” is pretty bad.  He mentions a few great tracks, like Kronos Quartet covering “Marquee Moon,” Metallica doing “Stone Cold Crazy,” and even a Howard Jones cover of “Road to Cairo” by the cult hero David Ackles.   But he says fully half of the collection is bad, some of it even awful–not worth its list price at the time but it has a great number of masterpieces on it.

Will Buttler (from Arcade Fire) wishes to make some amusing corrections: some errors during concerts, and apologizing for singing “I’m So Bored” with the USA because he is not.

ARIEL S. WINTER-This is an interesting philosophical question wondering whether or not Marty McFly actually created “Johnny B. Goode.”  How could he cover it before Chuck Berry had released the original.  As a child this blew her mind.  This facile beginning then goes on to say that before recorded music the notion of a cover didn’t really exist.  And indeed in the 1950s people recorded songs without concern for copyright.  It’s also true that when Chuck Berry plays Johnny B. Goode live, it’s not considered a cover of his original.  She concludes by that the Back to the Future is probably the first time she ever heard Johnny B. Goode.  So Marty McFly’s is the original to her (as it is to all the kids at the dance).  So in addition to a song having an original for the performer there is also an original for the listener.  Anyone who has loved a song for years before finding out that it’s a cover has had that experience.

INTRODUCTION BY THE EDITORS

This introduction talks about how the first time they did a “cover story” was in 1999 in issue 4.  Rick Moody covered Sherwood Anderson’s “The Egg.”  They had been planning to do an entire issue of covers as far back as two years ago and then things happened in the McSweeney’s universe to delay it.  And now : this issue is being born in a moment of racial, social and economic reckoning and imminent fascism…into a country that looks much different from the one in which it began, fronted now by a mean and disingenuous imitation of a president.   As such: Tucked between these thirteen beautiful renditions of thirteen classic stories are instances when a cover is not an homage but rather a perversion of its predecessor”  And by that they offer examples of eloquent speeches by former leaders and then tweets from our pervert in chief.

GARY BURDEN-excerpt from Nobody Knows (an autobiography)

Gary Burden created the cover images for this issue.  I had no idea who he was, but this autobiography tells me just how interesting a fellow he was.  He has been responsible for some of the most iconic album covers of the last 60 years!

These excerpt shows his origin story–he was 8 on December 7, 1941 and he has had vivid memories of WWII.  When he was 16 he joined the Marines.  But he was restless, got involved in bad things, was dishonorably discharged and got mixed up with even worse people (he says he can’t believe the things he did back then).  In 1964 he met “Mama” Cass Elliot. They spent a lot of time together and this opened him up to meeting all kinds of people: David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash.  Eventually he met and hung out with Jim Morrison and designed Morrison Hotel (a fascinating story that).  In one of the nicer things I’ve heard someone say he says that Jim was a real poet, someone who was unafraid of delving deeply into life irrespective of the personal cost.  Then he met Neil Young. He says that Buffalo Springfield has been his favorite band and then one day Neil came to Mama Cass’ house in his 1948 Buick Hearse.  He was also hanging around when CSN decided to become CSN&Y and then he and Neil became friends. and Neil sold him his house in Topanga.  Eventually he made the cover art for After the Gold Rush (and he gives a little story about the old lady there on the cover).  I’m kind of curious to read this whole book now, especially if it includes album covers.

EMILY RABOTEAU-“The Babysitter” after “Some Women” by Alice Munro
This is the story of a babysitter for Mrs Fagan.  She is a young girl and her employer is very rich and locally famous.  And quite eccentric (she went to East Africa and allegedly witness the Ark of the Covenant and then wrote a controversial book about it).  But in their town she was known as the white lady with black kids (Maya 3, Eddie 10 months old).  The story reflects back on the babysitter as child (she is now the same age as Mrs Fagan was when the babysitting began.  The babysitter’s mother is kind of jerk and is very sarcastic about this babysitting arrangement.  She is also a very strict Jehovah’s Witness, so when the narrator gets her first period rather than tell her mom, she just takes products from Mrs Fagan.  As the story opens Mrs Fagan’s son has just arrived and that changes the dynamic in the house.  How will Mrs Fagan take it when the narrator accidentally sets fire to the kitchen? I really enjoyed the way the end of the story plays on the notions of memories and the impact people have on others.

MEGAN MAYHEW BERGMAN-“The Lottery, Redux” after “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
“The Lottery” seems like a pretty easy story to cover–I think everyone knows everything about it and it has been covered in things like The Hunger Games in their own ways.  I don’t know if this story references the original (with the redux),  for this story the people of the island of Timothy were exiled from America fifty years earlier for crimes against the environment.  They were gathering on July 27th, the day of the lottery.  And indeed the lottery is a death sentence, although it’s not entirely clear why.  Interestingly, the story is more about the girl chosen and what her life up to that point has been like.

ANTHONY MARRA-“The Tell-Tale Heart” after “The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
This story doesn’t diverge all that much from the original except for the wonderful modern twist on the beating heart.  It’s hard to say more without giving things away but I loved the modernization.

JESS WALTER-“Falling Faintly” after “The Dead” by James Joyce
I didn’t know all that many stories before hand, but I knew this one very well and this is wonderful homage.  It is not in any way rewriting the story–it’s a very different story, but it alludes to the Joyce story and directly mentions it and it is quite clear where the connection between them is.
Michael is a writer.  He is married with kids but has moved temporarily out to New York to write for this new police procedural.  The show is doing well and the female star is quite beautiful.  They bond over cigarettes–she is foreign and smokes like a European, he recently started again.  As stories like this tend to go, Micheal gets the wrong idea about this young, hot actress.  And given that she is not American she misunderstands the subtleties of his behavior (which isn’t very subtle admittedly).  But he wants her to know that his story is a tribute to Joyce’s “The Dead.”  When he talks about the dead she thinks he means real dead people and is pretty freaked out.  This leads to a restraining order and a police intervention–not how he thought his life in New York would go.  What doe sit have to do with “The Dead”?  Well they are standing smoking in the snow as it gently floats to the ground falling through the universe, faintly falling.

LAUREN GROFF-“Once” after “Wants” by Grace Paley
I loved the way this story started.  I saw my enemy at the beach.  With that as a groundwork we slowly learn just how this woman has an enemy (it’s an old boyfriend’s mother) and how they have grudgingly begun to respect each other decades after the two broke up. I really enjoyed this short piece.

ROXANE GAY-“Men on Bikes” after “Rape Fantasies” by Margaret Atwood
I can’t imagine what the original of this story is.  The actual story of this is pretty peculiar itself.  Basically, the men in town have all started riding bicycles everywhere.  It started when one of them was arrested for drunk driving.  He didn’t lose his license but his wife took it away from him.  He dug out a bike and began riding it.  She thought he looked ridiculous, but when another man had his license taken away, they began riding together.  It was quite a sight, although I’m not sure what the point of it was.

NAMWALI SERPELL-“Company” after “Company” by Samuel Beckett
I like Beckett, and I know that he can be confusing.  I don’t know what “Company” is about so I have no idea how it relates to it, but man I did not get this at all.

It was confusing and really long.  It is broken into many small sections which might be connected.  The first is about the brightening which happened although many people missed it. Then we learn about the ship which is electro epidermal, which is cool but not really explained  and then the story turns into a quest for melanin and just when you think it’s a sci-fi story, it becomes a story about race.  There is a pale man tied to a tree hitting a sack (pound pound).  There’s a lot of vomit.  If the white man inseminates even one person, finding pure stem cells is impossible.  Dark skin marked you as  lucky when the darkening came.  But then she says the mission is over.  There’s more vomiting.  A fellow is supposed to be invisible in the village but Pound sees him.  There’s more vomit, a section titled rape, where Pound rapes Lila every once in a while and then who the hell knows what happens at he end.

KIESE LAYMON-“And So On” after “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway
Weeks ago 64 black folks changed the world.  You are the 11th.  Aside from the direct address to the reader the story is pretty straightforward and interesting.  Chanda Stewart was 8th, the narrators research assistant was 9th and Doug E., Chandra’s boyfriend was 1st.  They are at a fancy restaurant, Chandra, the narrator and you.  She swears that Doug is a porn star, but the narrator argues that having 1089 twitter followers and awkward consensual sex with a few white women filmed on an iPhone 2 in his fake Timberlands, blue knee brace and yellow wrist bands makes you a porn participant, not a star.  The story comes down to which side the narrator is going to choose.   sides or run for our lives.  Because while they were talking, Doug E. and about sixty young black kids were marching down the street.  To the school.  They each had an ax and a shovel.

MEG WOLITZER-“If You’re Happy and You Know It” after “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” By J.D. Salinger
I haven’t read this Salinger story in a long time, so I don’t really know how it connects to this, but I really enjoyed it.  I enjoyed the way that it was written which was a little confusing but in an intriguing way.  Set in a hotel on Miami there is the young woman in 609 who arrived with her new husband.  She’d sent him off to the beach.  We see her telling her parents that he is taking it easy, but they want to know if he is taking the Klonopin.  Later that night in the lobby, a four year old girl, Chloe, is in the lobby of that hotel watching a man play piano.  The man is a guest also and he is playing and really getting into it.  Another boy asks if he can play This Old Man and the player jokes about the boy calling him old.  But Chloe asks if he can play “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”  He says he might be happy but he may not know it. She is puzzled by that.  He says she is breaking his heart.  We soon realize that the pianist is the Klonopin man, and while things don’t get dark exactly, they certainly get strange.  And Chole’s parents have foisted her off on a poor babysitter the whole time.  This was one of my favorites in the book.

T.C. BOYLE-“The Argentine Ant” after “The Argentine Ant” by Italo Calvino
I can’t imagine what the original story is like, but this one from Boyle was really icky and really fantastic.  Its’ a fairly simple premise–a family moves to a rental property in Argentina, only to find that it is swarming with ants.  The ants are everywhere–even crawling all over their baby.  They run to the next door neighbor’s house only to see that they know about the ants and might have a secret weapon.  But mostly they just seem to be putting their furniture in jugs of water–presumably as a deterrent.  There is also an Ant Man who might be fighting the ants or who might actually be bringing more.  What is great about the way Boyle writes this is that the guy renting the house is working on an academic theorem that his wife thinks is rather frivolous.  And that tension underpins everything.

ALICE SOLA KIM-“One Hour, Every Seven Years” after “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury
Again I don’t know the original, but this story was great, and also weird. The weird part is that the story seems to start over multiple times. And that’s because there is a kind of time travel component to it.  The title refers to how often the sun comes out on Venus.  There is a girl, the main character, named Nargit. She was born on Earth and so she saw the sun.  The other kids are pretty angry at her for it (as if it’s her fault).  They are abusive to her, and the time travelling is the girl’s attempt to protect her younger self.  Many things go wrong but they bring about different results.

CHRIS ABANI-“Sleepy” after “Sleepy” by Anton Chekhov
This story was pretty horrific.  Kemi, a sixteen year old black girl who is now an orphan is working for a white family.  The family has two little children, one of whom is a baby.   The family is horrible to Kemi.  Pretty unrelentingly horrible.  Kemi is tired and never gets a break and the baby cries all the time.  She can’t soothe the baby and the family blames her for her failures.  Her exhaustion builds and builds until you pretty much know the ending several pages before it happens.

TOM DRURY-“The Yellow Wallpaper” after “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
I know the original story although not super well.  But this version feels almost exactly the same. I honestly can’t tell what the difference is (without having re-read the original again to compare).   Jane and John are renting a place on an island for the summer.  John thinks Jane is not strong and keeps her hidden away in a room with yellow wallpaper.  He more or less runs everything in her life until she starts seeing people through the wallpaper.  You know things can’t go well from there.

POETRY:

REBECCA LINDENBERG-“Having a Coke with You” after “Having a Coke with You” by Frank O’Hara

MATTHEW ZAPRUDER-“Poem for Keats” after “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats

STEPHEN BURT-“A Nickel on Top of a Penny” after “Piedra Negra Sobre Una Piedra Blanca” by César Vallejo

BRIAN TURNER-“The Metaphor Program” after “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams

STEPHEN BURT-“Roofers” after “The Armadillo” by Elizabeth Bishop

MATTHEW ZAPRUDER-“Poem on the Occasion of a Weekly Staff Meeting” [the first two lines are taken from “A Poem on the Occasion of the Consecration of Sandford and Shippon Churches” by Rev. F. Wilson Kittermaster, 1855]

STEPHEN BURT-“Suspense” after “To Brooklyn Bridge” by Hart Crane

KEVIN MOFFETT-“Second Wonder”-a monologue that will air on The Organist.
I found this puzzling at best.

PATTY YUMI COTTRELL-excerpt from Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
I read this book not too long ago.
This except was about two young children who invented a game called “Confession” in which the boy confesses his real or imagined sins to his sister.

~~~~~

The comparison quotes are called Great Speeches from History vs. the Tweets of Donald J. Trump:  I can’t bring myself to write any of the jerks tweets.

Mahatma Gandhi from the “Quit India” speech, 1942 vs. a Feb 4 2017 tweet

Abraham Lincoln’s “The Gettysburg Address” 1863 vs. a Feb 18 217 tweet (about fake news)

Martin Luther King Jr from “Letter from Birmingham Jail” vs. Feb 21 2017 (crowds planted by liberal activists)

Frederick Douglass from “The Hypocrisy of American Slavery” 1852 vs. Feb 6 2017 (negative polls are fake news).

Franklin D. Roosevelt, inauguration speech 1933 vs. Jan 22, 2017 (including all my enemies)

 

The bad thing about this issue is that the last four or five stories were all real downers, making it a pretty tough slog.  But I loved the idea, and I liked that they found the time and space to point out how stupid trump sounds and looks and is.

For ease of searching, I include: Cesar Vallejo

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Fall Nationals, Night 7 of 10, The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (November 17, 2004).

The Rheostatics, live at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, November 14, 2004. This was the 7th night of their 10 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.

I compared all of the setlists from the nine shows and was somewhat surprised to see just how much repeating they did. Most of the rep

 Two versions are available – Mark Sloggett’s soundboard recording and 8 track files provided by Steve Clarkson.  The Sloggett download has 8 minutes of pre show intro music, which I assume is on the PA.  It starts out kind of synthy and cool then turns into piano music then a big horn-filled jazzy song then back to piano as mike starts playing some drums and that’s the official start of “Who Is This Man, And Why Is He Laughing?” even with the PA music still playing.   Despite this being guest vocalist night, this song is instrumental with accordion and clearly spoken Polish.

Martin says they’re not supposed to sing tonight so they’ll do an instrumental version of “Four Little songs.”  No one sings their verse, but Chris String on keyboards plays a lengthy sample: you gave this to, me but you cannot escape, not this time.”  They play the song really well without the vocals and for the end someone is ringing bells in tune.

Dave welcomes everyone to the 4th annual Fall Nationals and introduces their first guest vocalist Robin Lowe from Pittsburgh, PA.  She sounds great singing “Introducing Happiness.”  She’s followed by Melissa McClelland who asks, “Can I do something on this?” and someone jokes, “no don’t touch the keyboard.”  “Can I do some beat boxing on the mic?”  “Absolutely.”  She doesn’t beatbox but she sings a beautiful version of “Aliens (Christmas 1988).”  It’s a bit of a different vocal melody than martin sings and is quite wonderful.

Mike Bell comes out to sing “Beerbash” guessing that they haven’t done this in a while.  It’s rocking and fun/sloppy.   Then Paul Linklater and Donna Orchard
come out to sing “King Of The Past.”  Dave notes that “you guys sang separately last year.”  Which they did.  They do a kind of dramatic singing of the song which I think I like, but not as much as the original.

Dave says, “The beer is here and so is my adorable wife.”  Janet Morassutti who has co-written many songs sings “It’s Easy To Be With You.”  She has a good, deep voice and I love when she gets into the 1,2,3,4.

Kurt Swinghammer comes out and introduces the Trands-Canada Soul Patrol back in the house.  But Dave says they’re supposed to be backing Brenda Lee.  Kurt continues, “It’s time for a Tim Vesely song.  He’s sort of the George Harrison in the band.”  This brings forth three jokes at once including Dave saying he;s more of the George Foreman of the band.   They do “Loving Arms” and Dave says, “you’re lucky we did this last night.”  He sings in a deep and ponderous voice not sure it’s quiet right for this sweet song, but he does a great job with it.  The song ends but the give Kurt an extra solo.

Michelle Rumball comes out and says, “Dave do you know that the last time that I was supposed to sing this song, I showed up and only knew the backing vocals.”  Dave says, “I’ve never forgiven you for that.”  “It was like ten years ago.”  Then Dave notes “No one ever sings “Saskatchewan Part 2”  Michelle says, “next year?”  It’s slow and moody and she kind of messes up a bit but holds it together.  Chris Brown gets a keyboard solo.

Greg Smith of the Weakerthans recently.  He’s going to sing “The Tarleks” and they start asking him “what are you doing now that KRP shut down?”  He says he gets a lot of questions about Bailey Quarters–everybody liked her more than Loni Anderson.   There’s lots of wild synth stuff in the middle.

Chris Brown comes out for “Bad Time To Be Poor” and there’s some seriously off guitar to start the song, but they settle down and play along nicely.

Then they need to take a five-minute break to work on equipment.  Martins Steinberger guitar died.  It led a rich life and needs to go to the hospital.  Sorry about that.

Royal Wood sings a pretty version of “It” and then Steve Stanley puts the power back in “Power Ballad For Ozzy Osbourne” including the intro.  They say that he is currently in a band called Midi-Ogres.  At the end of the song, there’s sustaining feedback note–“make it stop make the bad man stop, stop the fucking note, Mike.”  While they’re fixing that, Chris plays a sample:, “I’ve been practicing every day for a year.  I can’t even learn a piece in a week.  When will I learn to play real good?  How long does it take?”

Jen Foster sings “Take Me In Your Hand” (no accordion) and they do the penny whistle ending.  Justin Rutledge comes up for “Marginalized.”  Dave notes that he played with the last night and slayed the house. There’s some raw guitar sounds, but not as interesting as Martin’s.

Amer Diab comes up to play “Lying’s Wrong.”  Mike says, “Shit, I don’t think I’ve ever played this one.”  Dave: “me either.  How does it start?”  “Thanks for pulling that out of the closet.”

Howard Druckman and Beverly Kreller come out to sing “Chansons Les Ruelles.”  Bev plays the bodhran, which is evidently too loud in the monitors, which makes Dave says, “You’re the John Bonham if bodhran players, aren’t you, Bev?”  Mike: “John Bodhran.”   Howard says, “I remember the People’s Republic of Dave.”  Dave says, “You know Broken Social Scene stole everything from PROD.”

Kate Fenner sings “Northern Wish.”  her raspy voice is nice with this although she misses the “built my rocket” section.  Reid Jameson sings “In This Town” and dedicates it to all the Pisces in the room.  “Posses of Pisces.”  Martin says that he hasn’t listen to it since they recorded it.  They typically play a different version.

Dennis Ellsworth sings “Palomar” but the teleprompter seems to give out for a few seconds.

Simon Wilcox sings “Dead is the Drunkest You Can Get.”  But it causes nothing but trouble.  “Anyone remember how to play my song?”  Tim: “I thought this song only ever appeared on a t-shirt.”  She has a sultry, almost sexy delivery.

Matthew Cowley sings “My First Rock Show” although ta the end he says “He was there, I’ve never seen any of those bands.”  During the Joe Jackson saved my life part, Dave chimes in: “hes always doing that.”

Chris plays the “we are the music makers” sample from Willy Wonka.

Simon Head sings “Shaved Head.”  He says “It’s fun to be part of Rheostatioke.”  Martin says, we were thinking rheo-oke.  It sounds good.  The heavy part is really heavy.  At the end everyone comments: “Nice Vegas walk off, Simon.”  Martin: “next time we do that I’m going to do a walk off like that.  The walk off is underrated.”

David Celia does a nice version of “Claire” and Yawd Sylvester sings “Record Body Count.”  They have fun with Yawd (who mentions Tim’s album that he played on).  They call him the one-armed bandit and then say that “Yawd gives this the one thumb up.”  I wonder what happened to him.  There’s some fun jamming guitars (and accordion?) and other sounds.  And he says “Thanks you guys for putting smiles on 28 faces.”

Ford Pier comes out and Tim says, “Thanks, Ford, for not making us learn ‘Motorino.'” He retorts, “I didn’t not make you learn ‘Motorino,’ you refused to learn ‘Motorino.’  Who wants to hear ‘Motorino?’  Yea, well it’s not going to happen because of the lassitutde of these bastards.”  Tim: “That song is fucked.”  Ford: “It’s a damn good song and next year you’re not getting off the hook so easily.”  [He doesn’t sing it next year]. Tim: “It’s like five or six songs.”  Mike: “The only reason it didn’t happen is because you just got off a plane yesterday.”  Ford: “Perhaps we should be doing “Connecting Flights.”  But instead they play “Junction Foil Ball” and everyone messes it up at one point or another.  Guitars, vocals, timing.  It’s a mess, but fun.  And then right away starts the clapping for the next song, “Rain, Rain, Rain.”  Selina Martin sings it kind of crazy and growly and the final verse is pretty silly.

And then they’ve made it to the end.  John Crossingham comes out and they comment that making it to the end is an achievement in itself.

Mike wonders, “Is there going to be an encore?  Or are we going to be more theatrical about this?”
Tim: “The encore is tomorrow morning.”
Dave: “The encore is Selina Martin jumping around a bit more.”

The next song takes a bit of extra special tuning preparation, bear with us.  So John takes the time to thank the band for such a wonderful idea.  It means a lot to all of us who have graced the stage this evening.

Then Dave asks, “John where’d you get your toque?”  John: “On the floor at a Green Day concert at the Rico Coliseum.  I stepped on something and that was it.  I did wash it before I put it on my head.”  Dave: “You’d have to be pretty drunk to leave toque like that at a Green Day show.  How was the tour?”  John: “It was good.  Had its ups and downs.  His book On a Cold Road got us through.  If you haven’t read it already pick it up.  They’re even selling it over there, smartly.  Or perhaps you’d like to read about Italian baseball or hockey in the Republic of China?”

And then they’re ready to end the night with a great version of “A Midwinter Night’s Dream” (which is not available on the Slogett MP3 download).  John does an amazing job with this really difficult song.  He even hits the super high note in the middle.  It’s a solid version, and while I love Martin’ more of course, it’s really enjoyable.

There’s no encore since the show was already 3 hours long (!).  Although there is a crazy noise at the end of the song for a couple of minute–with synths and Martin messing around.

What a fun night.

[READ: July 7 , 2017] Spill Zone

Sarah loves Scott Westerfeld, although I hadn’t read him before. I had to wonder if this graphic novel was also a traditional novel, because I’d love to see how he described the visuals.  But I believe it is only a graphic novel, so I just get to marvel in the visual imagination of Alex Puvilland.

This book starts out weird, no doubt.  Addison is a teen with a camera.  She has been taking pictures of her hometown in upstate New York.  Which isn’t so strange except that her town is a Spill Zone.

What’s that? Well, actually I don’t know yet.  Suffice it to say that it’s not good.  There are dead people, weird sightings and a roadblock with military personnel.  Addison speculates it could be a nanotech accident colliding with the nuclear power plant, an alien visitation, something from another world?  Some people escaped, like her sister Lexa, but most didn’t, like her parents.  Addison was not there when it happened, and since the accident Lexa hasn’t spoken a word.

She is part of group if what she calls crazy tourists who like to take pictures of the disaster. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Sugar, Victoria BC (November 17, 2005).

Lucky’s Notes: [Lucky recorded this show and gets a song dedicated to him]:
This was to be the last time the Rheos played in Victoria, though we had no idea at the time. We will all really miss you guys out here!!

Given that information, it’s particularly sad when they say, “we’ll see you hopefully in the spring.”  But despite that future sadness, the show itself is great.  It begins with a wonderful “Easy to Be with You” which sounds terrific: the “do da” part is really rich in harmonies.

It’s followed by a quite raw “CCYPA” and then a fun, romping “Garden” which ends with: “Hugh Syme’s dance party for your pleasure”–Martin making an electronic racket with his guitar.

“Fat” has some interesting echo on Dave’s voice that I wonder if it could be bouncing off the room or not.  The “don’t even know who you are” is pretty wild with many different vocal from the guys.  It’s a great version overall–the bands is really into it.  Having more fun with “PIN” Dave seems to be really enjoying himself with the backing vocal nonsense.

Dave says, “It’s great to be here in Victoria, the Queen’s city, once again.”  When they start the poppy and delightful “Mumbletypeg,” Martin acknowledges “the amazing rhythm guitar playing of Dave Bidini.  Very rhythmic.”

“We’d like to thank Shane Koyczan for opening tonight–one of the sexiest men in Canada–another Neruda.”

“Marginalized” sounds great–dark and angry with a lot of echo on Tim’s voice.  That sounds weird but cool.  There’s a quiet middle section where Dave is playing a gentle acoustic and Tim is keeping that bassline.  It goes on and then the final verse is sung quietly with little accompaniment.

Someone in the crowd shouts “Record Body Count,” and Dave says “yes we got records, what about it?”

But Tim says, “we’ll do another apocalyptic number for you.”  They play “Here Comes the Image” with lots of great synth from MPW including an awesome solo.  Some really cool backing vocal from Martin make this one of the best versions I’ve heard.  Then MPW sits back at the drums: “good now I can relax.”

“Christopher” starts with an interesting guitar chord structure intro before they get to the song proper.  There’s an intense soloing section and a terrific quiet ending.  It’s followed by “King of the Past.”  It’s not my favorite version of it but there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in it.  It’s followed by a wild “Rock Death America.”

When they get to “Satan is the Whistler” Dave says they’re going to try this one “coz we hope to play it [well] in two days in Vancouver.”  Martin sings some verses pretty slowly and then later he plays the fast part much more slowly and sloppily than usual.

He also adds to these lines:

bouncers came and snuffed the fucking fire out / there’s no smoking in the parking lot / “I hate this fucking place” / some punks in the windy peaks

After the song Dave concurs: “You gotta keep those parking lots clean.  For parking.  And loitering.  Gas huffing [Martin: “pathetic addicts”] nefarious activities.”

“Claire” is a little sloppy from everyone, even Tim’s singing is a bit mumbly.   But there’s a great long solo from Martin.  Martin continues the solid work on “California Dreamline which is slow and trippy with lovely weird keyboards.  While singing, he whoops after “sand in my tequila” and rolls his r’s after the “escondido” part.

The song segues into what sounds like “Horses” with Tim chanting “do it do it do it do it ; do it do it don’t you do it” but then Martin plays a rocking guitar for the intro of “Feed Yourself.”  It is noisy and aggressive and amazing, perhaps the best version of this song I’ve heard.  They play a riff of “Hey Hey, My My”  then Dave starts getting really intense: “what’s in his head?”  he starts screaming “open it up.  “Look inside.”  (The loudest screaming I’ve heard him do).  The intensity is undermined somewhat by Tim’s ending backing vocal of “trunk trunk… what ‘cha gonna do with all that junk / all that junk inside that trunk.”

They go for an encore break and Dave says, At this point in the gig Martin usually has a cigarette, so I felt required to write a smoking song.  It’s a new song about Martin smoking.  It’s called “Smoking Song,” but how on earth is it about Martin smoking when he references Joseph Stalin and Hitler?  he doesn’t say, but when it’s over, he says, “uh oh looks like a 2 smoke break.  He might never come out.” so they play “My First Rock Show.”  During the first verse, Dave stops and asks, “What’s so funny sir?  That must have been the laughter of pure joy.”  You can’t hear what they’re talking about, but Dave mentions NoMeanasNo and agrees that “they sent a lot of us on the wrong road.  In the best way.”

When Martin arrives, Mike asks, “Where to, lads?”  After some mumbling, you hear Mike say “boogers?”  Dave says “vetoed! songwriter gets veto.”  He then says they “support the locked out Telus workers.  Telus is the shittiest service. They just got so big and fat there sitting on themselves.”  More quiet discussion then Mike says “that’s good, Martin you had a smoke and now you’re asserting yourself.”

Perhaps they agreed to the earlier request, because they play “Record Body Count” which sounds great.  When the song is more or less over, Martin starts playing a riff and begins singing “I’ve Been Thinking of You” and the crowd cheers.  They jam that song and afterwards, Martin says “What was that song we did in the middle was it April Wine or something?”  No one knows.  It was a band called Harlequin.

Dave says, “We were in Nanaimo last night.  Home to two of the greatest record stores.”  Someone shouts: “Home of the Nanaimo Bar.” To which Dave replies: “Home of the Naniamo Bear.  That bear likes them dead salmon.”

They play “Making Progress” which opens with a buzzy staticky guitar and big echo on Tim’s voice.  When they get to the synth part it’s all messed up and someone apologizes, saying “don’t let me near that thing again.”  Then it gets fixed and the synth is back on.

They end the show with “Dope Fiends.”  There’s a big echo on Martin’s voice.  Someone else sings some great falsetto along with him.  During the slow part, Dave stars singing “Legal Age Life” but the music doesn’t change–it’s rather disconcerting but cool.  The melody starts playing a keyboard that sounds like “Norwegian Wood” and at the end Tim does backing humming to “Norwegian Wood” before Martin’s loud and wild guitar ending.

Despite the odd echo, it’s a really great show.  The band sounds in great form and they are having a really good time.  It’s hard to believe they broke up so soon after this.

[READ: February 15, 2017] The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Sarah and I have really enjoyed the Squirrel Girl graphic novels.  She was really excited to see this actual novel about Squirrel girl from Shannon Hale.

This book is part of the Marvel Universe.  And what I’ve learned recently is that while I enjoy the Marvel Universe, I far more enjoy the peripheral characters of the Marvel Universe–like those of S.H.I.E.L.D. (even if I don’t watch the show anymore–it got a little crazy).  So I find myself enjoying Ms Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy and now Squirrel Girl–characters who reference The Avengers but are not actually part of the team.

There’s some thing so much more enjoyable about these characters where the stories can have fun of the major Marvel figures.  And this one has a ton of fun with that conceit. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHILLING THRILLING SOUNDS OF THE HAUNTED HOUSE (1964).

The cover during Phish’s 2014 concert was of this album.

Apparently many people grew up with this record.  I personally didn’t know it, but if you read the comments (don’t read the comments!) on any YouTube clip of the album you will see how popular it is.

Wikipedia describes it as  intended for “older children, teenagers, and adults” released by Disneyland Records (now known as Walt Disney Records). The album was mainly composed of sound effects that had been collected by the sound effects department of Walt Disney Studios. The album was released in several different forms. The album was first released in 1964 in a white sleeve, with a second release in 1973 with an orange sleeve. In both versions, the first side contained 10 stories narrated by Laura Olsher, complete with sound effects. The second side contained 10 sound effects meant for others to create their own stories.

Despite the title, most of the cuts had nothing to do with haunted houses or witches or ghostly spirits. Featured were such situations as an ocean liner hitting rocks, an idiotic lumberjack, a man crossing an unsafe bridge, someone lighting a stick of dynamite and a spaceship landing on Mars. Also, there are tracks with several examples of cats, dogs and birds (similar to “The Birds”) becoming enraged for some reason, as well as a skit about Chinese water torture. In addition, some of the screams were taken directly from the scene where Miss Havisham catches fire in the 1946 David Lean film Great Expectations.

The full track listing is

  • “The Haunted House” 3:00
  • “The Very Long Fuse” 1:28
  • “The Dogs” 1:13
  • “Timber” 1:45
  • “Your Pet Cat” 0:49
  • “Shipwreck” 1:39
  • “The Unsafe Bridge” 1:21
  • “Chinese Water Torture” 2:02
  • “The Birds” 0:46
  • “The Martian Monsters” 1:41
  • “Screams and Groans” 0:57
  • “Thunder, Lightning and Rain” 2:01
  • “Cat Fight” 0:37
  • “Dogs” 0:48
  • “A Collection Of Creaks” 1:54
  • “Fuses and Explosions” 1:11
  • “A Collection Of Crashes” 0:45
  • “Birds” 0:33
  • “Drips and Splashes” 1:18
  • “Things In Space” 0:53

Nothing is especially scary–although maybe for a kid, as many adults claim to have been really frightened by it.  Everything is quite over the top, especially the screams and cat howls and dog snarling.  Even the stories are a little silly, although having them in the second person is pretty genius.

But things like “one night as you lie in your lonely room in your stone hut on the moors…”  (What?).  And the Martian one.  Just keeping with continuity: if “you,” meaning me, went on the trip, then I couldn’t hear the crunching as it ate me.  Or the silly voice saying “I wonder what that was.”

And the less said about the horribly racist Chinese Water Torture the better.  I mean, the opening is bad enough: “The ancient Chinese were a very clever race” but the end of the song is really awful.  But if we can look past that, the rest of the record has fun with sound effects and is generally pretty enjoyable.

During the John Congleton interview, he also talks about this album and says (at 40:28) “the speakers are 180 degrees out of phase to make it sound extremely stereophonic.”  He says now as an engineer it is totally painful to listen to.  Bob says it sounds like it comes from the back of your head.

[READ: October 15, 2017] Half-Minute Horrors.

The premise of this book (edited by Susan Rich) is simple: how scared can you get in 30 seconds?  To me, the answer is actually not very.  I guess for me fear builds over time.  It’s hard to get genuinely frightened over something that just suddenly happens (unless it is just trying to frighten you quickly, of course).

Having said that, I enjoyed this book a lot (look at the list of authors!).  I liked the arbitrary goal of writing a scary story in a paragraph or two (or more).  And some of them were really quite creepy.

I was originally going to point out which ones I felt were the most creepy, but there are so many stories, I kind of lost track.  So instead, here’s a rundown and a brief summary. (more…)

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