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Archive for the ‘Culture Shock’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DEBO BAND-“Ney Ney Weleba” (Field Recordings, May 16, 2012).

This is yet another Field Recording [Debo Band: Ethiopian Funk On A Muggy Afternoon] filmed during SXSW at the patio of Joe’s Crab Shack.

I was not familiar with Debo Band.  They are led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and fronted by magnetic singer Bruck Tesfaye.  The group infuses its dance-friendly songs with the Ethiopian pop and funk music of the 1960s and ’70s.

Compared to a dark club full of dancing fans, a muggy Austin afternoon with the sun peeking out over our isolated spot at Joe’s Crab Shack isn’t the ideal setting for a Debo Band performance. But once the group began digging into “Ney Ney Weleba” — a classic song by Alemayehu Eshete — it didn’t take long to get caught up in Debo Band’s deep, infectious groove.

This is a bizarre song to write about because there are just so many elements and so many things going on.  Lead accordion, violin, horns and lyrics in Amharic.  But with guitar, bass and drums and a rocking beat.

This vibrant 11-member group collects its influences like trading cards: It finds common ground in jazz, classic soul, psychedelic rock and New Orleans party bands, playing with song forms, manipulating rhythms and finding space for improvisation.

Plus, the fact that the band is signed to Sub Pop — a label more known for indie-rock and pop — represents something of a statement. Debo Band is a rock group first and foremost, and one that can bring joyful intensity to listeners who might not otherwise naturally gravitate to this music. It’s a winning cross-cultural stew of sounds that grabs you instantly, and ought to have you bobbing along and sweaty in no time.

The whole song lurches along with a really fun beat, and then there’s a trumpet solo and a very psychedelic echoing guitar solo.  It ends with a rocking jam from the two saxes and then a re-visitation of the opening.

I have no idea what the song is about but I like it.

[READ: November 2008] “It All Gets Quite Tricky”

I thought I had read everything that David Foster Wallace had published in Harper’s but as I was going through back issues, I found this little thing.  It’s basically correspondence between Wallace and some students.

These letters were written about in the David Foster Wallace Reader.

Anne Fadiman’s Afterword about the State Fair (which these letters reference) in the book is my favorite because she talks about using the essay in her classes. She focuses on just one section (the one about food) and asks them to really parse out its structure and content.  She also says that one student got to write to DFW each semester and that he would answer their questions for him.  His letters always ended with, “Tally Ho, David Wallace.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: AMADOU & MARIAM-“Wily Kataso,” (Field Recordings, April 11, 2012).

The story of Amadou & Mariam is fascinating.  I was really made aware of them in 2018, where I saw their Tiny Desk Concert and learned

Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia met when they were children in Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind. Both had lost their sight when they were young and they began performing together. Later, in the 1980s, they married and began a career together.

This Field Recording [Amadou And Mariam: Finding Mali In Harlem] is six years prior to the Tiny Desk and Amadou & Mariam are on a bench outside The Shrine in New York City.

One major gathering point for Africans and non-Africans alike in this neighborhood is The Shrine, a nightclub and restaurant whose clout belies its small size. So when Malian breakout superstars Amadou and Mariam happened to find themselves with an extra day in New York recently, we invited them up to The Shrine to sing a quick, unplugged set.

There’s not a lot in New York City that looks much like Bamako, the capital city of Mali, but there are pockets uptown where a West African might feel a little closer to home. With increasing numbers of immigrants to Harlem from countries like Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Gambia and beyond, jewelry shops sell the beautiful, bright gold twisted hoop earrings traditionally worn by Fulani women; men stride along the street wearing the elegant, flowing robes called grands boubous; and restaurants sell bissap, the sweet cold drink made from hibiscus flowers that’s beloved across the region.

Amadou plays a simply guitar melody and Amadou starts singing with a repeated refrain of “Baro bom baro negé ta na” which means something like: Away, away, Go home.

The song almost becomes a drone since the music is repeated almost constantly throughout.  There is one part near the end where Amadou plays something a little different on the guitar–a kind of solo–but that’s the only variation.

It was just their two powerful voices, Amadou’s blues-soaked guitar and an incredibly catchy melody that lit up The Shrine.

They are mesmerizing and their voices are wonderful.

[READ: January 10, 2017] “Of Window and Doors”

This story was depressing and brutally honest.

It is about Saeed and Nadia and how their (unnamed) city was constantly at war.  Neighborhoods fell to militants quite easily.  Nadia was living alone and Saeed was with his parents.  He continually tried to get her to move in–chastely of course–because it was so unsafe for her to be alone.  But she refused.  Until Saeed’s mother was killed.  Then she agreed to be with them.

The title refers to actual windows and doors.  Window were now the border through which death was likliest to come–windows could not stop ammunition and they turned into more shrapnel.  Many windows were broken, but it was winter and people needed to keep the cold out.

Saeed’s family did not want to give up the windows, so they covered them with bookcases and furniture to block out the light and visiblity and to make them less vulnerable.

Doors were something different.  Rumors began to spread that doors could take you elsewhere–to places far away.  Some people claimed to know others who had been through the doors. And that an ordinary door could becomes a special door at anytime.  But others believed that this was all superstition.

Saeed and Madia get word of a possible door through which they can escape.  The rest of the story concerns their attempts to escape without being captured by militants.

This story was well-written and powerful.  It made me really fear for what life would be like if our country ever turned into a lawless land like this.  It was really frightening and real.

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 SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (May 27, 2017).

Fourth of four shows at The Horseshoe Tavern dubbed Spring Nationals.  Some bust outs at this show – Take Me In Your Hand, Jesus Was Once A Teenager Too, Edmund Fitzgerald as well as Opera Star and Take The Money And Run – another awesome show.

Lineup is: Dave Bidini / Dave Clark / Hugh Marsh / Ford Pier / Martin Tielli / Tim Vesely

Jeff “J.C. ” Cohen the owner of The Horseshoe introduces the show.  He talks about the 70th Anniversary of The Horseshoe.

He mentions thee 1950s and 60s when artists like Willie Nelson would do a full week here. No cover from Mon-Wed to get to know the band and then a $3 cover and then a $4 cover.  They made this dump a legendary live venue.  Nothing beat 25 nights of Stompin’ Tom Connors.  That kind of thing doesn’t exist anymore except the Rheos.  He mentions how during their last Nationals they went to like 3:45 AM.

The opening acts were Southtown from Texas and Hydrothermal Vents (John Tielli’s Montreal-based band)

This nearly three-hour(!) shows starts off pretty mellow with Tim;s new song “Music Is The Message” which sounds more pretty than ever.  It’s followed by a whispered version of “Stolen Car” with gentle violin and backing vocals to start.  Although about 3 minutes in, an ever escalating feedback starts taking over the song and they have to stop mid-song (gasp!)  DB: “Live music!  These are not backing tapes, not yet.”  Martin picks up right where they left off perfectly.

Dave: “We’re mostly playing waltzes tonight.”

They mention the “bad” fan from last night. The Habs fan, he was very anti-fellatio.  Clark: “That’s the big guy from Shakespeare, right?”

Ford: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Fellatio.”

“King Of The Past” sounds great.  I love Hugh’s violin at the climactic moment.  It’s followed by “Northern Wish” Dave notes: My wife wrote those land ho’s.”  He also mentions that Martin is “quite the cowboy.”  So Martin recites in a drawl, “Everybody’s talking about me, but I don’t hear a word they say.”

Someone shouts, “You guys gotta play ‘Saskatchewan.'”
DB: [quickly] “Nope.”
Audience guy: “Why not?”
DB: “Well maybe.  Seeing as you asked so …nicely and not at all brusquely.  We’ll see.  The set list is merely a sketch.”

DC: “This ain’t brain surgery.”
DB: “Or Brain Salad Surgery.”
Tim: “Or hot dog salad surgery” (an inside joke about the very first tour they went to the 7-11 in Thunder Bay in our under pants and it was seriously cold.  All we could afford was hot dogs so we loaded on as much salad as we could.  I don’t think they have police in Thunder Bay because we should have been arrested.

Then comes the first huge surprise, a bust-out of “The Ballad Of Wendel Clark Parts I & II.  It sounds great and during the ending section they do a few Stompin’ Tom songs: “Bridge Came Tumbling Down” and Algoma 69.”  Then they take it back to G sharp for a folkie verse of “P.R.O.D.” and then the Wendel ending.

Dave talks briefly about the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper our legacy as a generation.  It’s a beautiful body of water that nobody goes in.

There’s a very smooth sounding “Claire” with nice washes of synths.  It leads to a terrific version of “The Albatross” which gets better with each playing.  We learn that it was written after a Martin solo tour which is why it sounds so very Martin.

“Soul Glue” is a fun version with lot of violin.  Amusingly, Tim messes up the opening lyric, starting with the first syllable of the second verse.  Dave asks, “You need some help, Tim?”  But Tim is quickly back on track.  A ringing of feedback returns but is quickly squashed.  The pretty ending of the song leads an abrupt loud rocker, the introduction to “AC/DC On My Radio.”  It has some great drums at the end and Dave even asks, “Could you guys clap your hands?  I never ask people to clap their hands.”

“P.I.N.” sounds great and is followed by another bust out: “It’s Easy To Be With You” or “It’s easy to be with Hugh.”

Tim: This one’s called “smoke break slash washroom break.”  It’s a pretty acoustic version of “Bad Time to Be Poor” with Tim on guitar and High on violin.

Tim thanks the “multi-nighters” and then Martin introduces “my brother johnny” who helps out on “Jesus Was Once A Teenager Too.”  The songs tarts quietly with just piano and builds and builds.

They have some “high level talks” about what to play next.  They agree on “What’s Going On?” Then Martin suggests “Saskatchewan” “for those guys.”  Tim: “maybe that will shut them up.   Just to be clear it’s Part 1, right?”  Dave: “he’s left, he’s puking in the bathroom.”

There’s a very pretty ending that launches into Martin’s heavy riffing for “RDA (Rock Death America).”

Then the man who has been compiling all of these live shows, Darrin Cappe gets a dedication of “Christopher.”

A fun, rollicking “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” segues into “Alomar” (sort of, Dave notes) and then back into “Dope Fiends.”

After an encore break, Dave plays “My First Rock Concert.”  Dave says “Maybe Tim Mech will join me.  maybe not.”  But then, “This song features Tim Vesely on the drums.  He’s got one fill but it’s a really good fill. [Tim plays].  That’s a new one! [Tm plays another]. That’s all I got.

As Dave sings about his first rock concert which his dad drove them to, Tim says, “Fred…. in a Delta 88.”

Dave asks: Ford what was your first concert?  Ford is using Tim’s mic, no sound.  Tim: “They didn’t turn my mic on tonight.”  Ford: “But you made so many awesome jokes.  You got to repeat them all.”  After some hemming and hawing he says: “D.O.A. or SNFU or Personality Crisis or Chocolate Bunnies From Hell… or Big Country.”  Dave: “You can only have one, Ford.”  Ford: “Nope.  Too convoluted to get into here, but I am the kind of person who has had many firsts in his life.  I’m a complicated man.”

When he sings the “swan dive,” Tim says “No you didn’t.”  Dave: “He was there.  No I didn’t.  But it works with the song.”
Ford: “See, truth is less important than meaning.”
Dave B: “Truth is less important than loyalty.”

Dave Clark: “Beach Boys, 1973, Surf’s Up, with my best friend Karen Lindhart.”
Tim: “Triumph at Exhibition Stadium.”

They play “Take Me in Your Hand.”  Dave: Tim, two drumming songs in a row how do you feel?”  Tim: “Elated and vindicated.”  There’s a great organ sound throughout the song, which they haven;t played in a long time. Although the acoustic guitar cuts out during the outro.”

Dave Clark has the audience do something with their hands and ultimately touch their ears and says he does it with little kids all the time in class.  I’d like to know what that is.

Martin notes: “Timothy Warren Vesely on the kit… on the traps.”
Ford”  “I want to tell you all how thrilled I am to be here with my dear friends, playing like the best music there is.”

Dave mentions some upcoming shows through the summer and then one that’s not in Toronto that their lawyer Woody Springsteen told them not to talk about.

Martin: This next song was written by a good friend of ours…”
DC: “G. Gordon Liddy.”
Martin: “G.  Gordon Lightfoot.”
Ford: “He could have killed every person in this room with any object on this stage.”
Tim: “We ask that there be no lights for this song….”
Dave B: “Total dark in the beginning, Marsen.”

It’s amazing that they do an 11 minute version of “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.”  It sounds really great and just builds in intensity until there is absolute silence at the end of the song.  Really amazing.
Martin asks, “When’s the last time we did that, Dave?”
Dave: “I don’t know, a long time ago.  But sometimes it’s good to take a break from a song.”
Tim: “Or from a band.”

Dave B: “Who is not from Toronto?  It means a lot.  Jesus, I don’t think I’d drive to see us.  …because I’d be replaced and that would be terrible.  It would be sad.”

There hasn’t been a ton of banter during this show, but as it gets near the end, they are talking more.  They dither about what to play

Audience: “play a good song.”
Dave B: “that’s a terrible chant.”
Audience: “play a bad song.”
Audience: “play my favorite song.”

They play “What’s Going On Around Here?” with Tim on accordion.  It sounds great and then as they get near the end, Hugh starts playing a crazy violin solo–weird effects making bizarre almost human sounds with Martin doing bizarre backward mumble vocals.  It’s pretty neat.

Dave, sounding exhausted: We have one more maybe one and a half more.

Tim: “I think we played the show stopper like five or six songs ago.”

Dave C: “Martin’s gonna surprise you, kids.”  He plays Neil Young’s “Opera Star” and then a sloppy version Steve Miller’s “Take The Money and Run” that doesn;t quite sound right but still sounds good, especially Hugh’s wild solo.

Dave B: “Now that’s a show stopper.”
Tim: “That’s because we know no other songs.”
Dave B: “Should we do one more to bring it back.”
Tim, “No, we know no more.  That was bottom of the barrel.”

Requests from the audience, but Ford Pier, he’s in the band, we have to honor his request.  We’ll soon be having an opening on keyboard after Ford Leaves, and if you’re in the band you request songs and we have to play them.
Ford: “I didn’t know how that worked.  ‘Chemical World.'”
Clark: “I’d love to play that.”
Dave: “I’d love to pay ‘Satellite Dancing.'”
Martin starts singing “Radio 80 Fantasy.”
Dave starts playing “Body Thang” then says, “I just wanted to see Tim make that face.”
Ford:  “What a bunch of yoyos.   All those nice things I was saying before, I take it back.”

They settle on “Self Serve Gas Station” which opens quietly with lots of violin from Hugh.  “What went wrong with Johnny?  And Dougie too.”  They play the end in a crazy ska fashion.

This was a great four show Nationals and I wish I could have been to at least two of them.

They played throughout the summer, but the only shows left on the site as of today are four more from December 2017.

[READ: April 20, 2018] Baseballisimo

Baseballissimo is about baseball.  In Italy!  That’s a pretty good title.

I have read all of Dave Bidini’s books so far but I put this one off because it’s about baseball in Italy, which I didn’t think I’d care about.  And I don’t really.  But I did enjoy this book.  I especially enjoyed reading this at a removal of some 15 years from when it was written.  There was no reason to have any vested interested in the current status of anybody in the book (except Dave).  I just assume that fifteen years later nobody in the book is still playing baseball and we’ll just leave it at that.

So in the spring of 2002 Dave took his wife Janet and his two little kids on a six month trip to Nettuno, Italy, a seaside town of thirty thousand about an hour south of Rome.  His plan was to follow around the local third-tier baseball team the Peones for their season.

Many on the team wondered why he would write about them.  They seemed puzzled by the very idea.  One of the players asked

“Photo?”
“Si”
“Photo nudo?”
“Maybe”
“Angalaaaaaaato” he said using a Nettunese expression for lovemaking

But mostly they wanted to know why he didn’t want to wrote about real baseball.  We play for fun, no?
Dave said, “I’m mot interested in real baseball.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE RURAL ALBERTA ADVANTAGE-Live at Massey Hall (July 8, 2014).

The video opens with Nils Edenloff saying that this concert is an amazing posterity thing.  That it’s ungraspable for them right now, but they’ll look back after the fact and say, “Oh wow, I looked great then.”

“As a scrappy indie band it feels wild to be allowed to set their gear on stage for a spell.”

I have hears some songs by the band, but, wow, live they are a powerhouse.

The way “Luciana” opens is incredible: Drummer Paul Banwatt is a maniac sounding like two or three drummers as he crashes through some snare drum pattern variants and cymbals galore.

Nils Edenloff’s guitar has a great loud sound–very electric and large.  It sounds like the strings are loose wires smacking against the guitar and the fretboard (bot not detuned or anything).  And he sings with abandon.

Amy Cole’s keys are not as powerful as the rest but they provide a foundation for the rest of the band to play on

Muscle Relaxants has Cole singing backing vocals which fleshes out their sound even more.  They make a large racket for a trio that’s almost all acoustic.  Between songs, Nils comments:

“Wow you guys are quiet, no phones out, I guess.”

Don’t Haunt This Place is slower.  The vocal melody is familiar if not common, but the drums are just so thumping, it sounds great.  And the backing vocals are perfect.

Introducing “Tornado 87” he says

For those not from Alberta, you don’t have to sing Alberta songs if you’re from here, it’s just something we stumbled on.  Oddly enough we played part of this song last weekend at the Stampeders home opener and there happened to also be a tornado while we played this song.  Lets hope for the best tonight.

The song continues with the intensity of the other songs but it has a wonderful quiet middle section which erupts into an explosion at the end.

Two Lovers is solo, just Nils and his guitar.  It’s a nice break from the intensity.

“Terrified” is a new song that opens with just a guitar but then …boom…  great harmony vocals and a powerful chorus.

The show ends with “Stamp” which has a great clap-along section and wonderful ooohs to end the song.

This was the final video in Season One of the Live at Massey Hall series.   There are four seasons in total thus far.

[READ: May 9, 2018] ”Without Inspection”

This is the story of a man falling to his death: “It took Arnold six and a half seconds to fall five-hundred feet” is how it opens.

The story zooms in on Arnold’s mind for those six and a half seconds and the few seconds that remain before he actually dies.

He sees his son, Paris and Paris’ mother, Darlene.  And he flashes back to how they met, what has happened since they met and what he hopes will happen after he is gone.

The fall was unplanned and occurred when his left foot slipped off a scaffold and he fell out of the loosened (or broken) safety harness.

The story also details the fall–faster by the second. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK BELA FLECK & ABIGAIL WASHBURN-Tiny Desk Concert #741 (May 11, 2018).

I know and like Bela Fleck.  I know and like Abigail Washburn.  I had no idea they were married.

A very pregnant Abigail Washburn points to Bela Fleck at the Tiny Desk and says “and just so you know, this is his fault.” I won’t spoil the video by telling you his response.

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn are two American musical treasures. This husband-and-wife banjo duo write original tunes steeped in the roots of folk music. Their playing is sweetly paced with melodies interweaving through their intricate, percussive picking all while Abigail soars above it all with her discerning, yearning voice.

I also had no idea how political they are.

Their first tune, “Over the Divide,” was written at the height of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. They’d read a story about a Jewish, yodeling, Austrian sheep herder who helped Syrians out of Hungary, through the backroads that likely only sheep herders know.

Lyrical content aside, the music is just stunning.  The banjo is oft-mocked for its twang, but these two play such beautiful intertwining lines, it is just magical.   The opening melody is just jaw-droppingly lovely.

They each switch banjos to rather different-looking ones–deeper more resonating sounds

The second tune, “Bloomin’ Rose,” is a response to Standing Rock and the Dakota pipeline that is seen as a threat to water and ancient burial grounds. The intensity and thoughtfulness in Bela Fleck’s and Abigail Washburn’s music is why it will shine for a good long while, the way great folk tunes stay relevant over the ages.

But Abigail isn’t just banjo and vocals,

For the third tune, Abigail waddled over to a clogging board. And before she began her rhythmic patter, told us all that “my doctor said that what I’m about to do is ok! I have compression belts and tights on that you can’t see.” [Bela: so do I].  They then launched into “Take Me To Harlan,” another one of their songs from their 2017 album Echo In The Valley.

She says that they met at a square dance in Nashville, and she loves dancing and movement.  Bela plays and Abigail sings and taps for this jazzy number.  The middle of the song features a call and response with Bela on banjo and Abigail tapping [“Eight month?  No problem.”].

For the final song, “My Home’s Across the Blue Ridge Mountains,” Abigail says it’s usually done in a perky bluegrass country style but they listened to the lyrics and decided it was not perky at all.  So they turned it into a different thing.  It’s a somber song with Bela on a relatively slow banjo (with a slide that he sneaks on near the end) and Abigail singing mournfully (she can really belt out a tune).

Although as Steve Martin pointed out, with a banjo almost everything is upbeat.

The parties at their house must be a hoot.

[READ: January 21, 2018] “Active Metaphors” and “Death By Icicle”

“Active Metaphors” is one of Saunders’ funniest pieces that I’ve read.  And whats strange about that is that it was an essay published in the Guardian newspaper.

There are two headings: “Realistic Fiction” and “Experimental Fiction”

“Realistic Fiction” begins with the narrator in a biker bar.  He overheard two bikers, Duke and StudAss discussing these two types of fiction. –they’d purchased their “hogs” with royalties from their co-written book Feminine Desire in Jane Austen.  There was some verbal sparring during which they threw Saunders out a window “while asking questions about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fallen American utopia.”

The narrator explained his theory of realism to them–everything happens the way it actually would and then suggests that maybe a central metaphor would help define things.  There’s an impotent farmer and every time he walks past the field, the corn droops.  An active metaphor like this helps the reader sense the deeper meaning of the story.

As they ride off with him on their hog, the bikers use some great professorial language–the end is hilarious. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC-“The Hamilton Polka” (2016). 

Lin-Manuel Miranda has declared his love and respect for “Weird Al” on many occasions.  So it makes perfect sense that he would ask Al to contribute to the online Hamilton project known as HamilDrops.  The Decemberists’ “Ben Franklin’s Song” is amazing too.

But seriously, how could Al parody a more or less biographical story of a historical figure (that’s two hours long)?.  By not parodying it at all.

Rather, he makes one of his polka mashups which he’s been doing hilariously since his second album.  They are often a highlight of each new album.  This song compresses (almost) the entire musical into 5 minutes.

“The Hamilton Polka,” provides what’s essentially a CliffsNotes-style run-through of the musical’s hooks and highlights — just enough to get the entire musical stuck in your head all over again.

I love the way in the original, the third sister, poor Peggy, is sort of musically dissed whereas Al is just explicit about it.  And of course, how could he refuse to include some actual gun shots for “Not Throwing Away My Shot?”

So they cram in 

Alexander Hamilton
Wait For It
The Schuyler Sisters
Yorktown
You’ll Be Back
The Room Where It Happens
Guns and Ships
Washington On Your Side
Non-Stop
History Has Its Eyes On You
My Shot

And Al can really sing and rap some of those lyrics quickly.  It’s a really fun mashup.

[READ: January 11, 2018] Alexander Hamilton: The Graphic History of an American Founding Father

Before the musical, most people’s familiarity with Alexander Hamilton probably came from this (awesome) commercial (even if none of us could remember what it was ultimately for).

Actually, my father worked for (and owned for a time) Alexander Hamilton Printing in Paterson, NJ, so Alexander Hamilton has always been a part of my life.  Although I had no idea why.  Not really.

There’s a new reason why people know about Alexander Hamilton (can you even say his name without singing it?).

And I’m sure that reason has something to do with the creation and publication of this book.  But Hennessey is not just jumping on the Hamilton bandwagon.  Well, maybe he is, but he has two other historical graphic novels out already: The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation (2008) and The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation (2012).  He also has books called The Comic Book Story of Beer, and The Comic Book Story of Video Games so he’s not all stuffy.

The musical is far more catchy than this book–far more steamy.  But this book is really chock full of details that the musical skips (for various reasons, obviously).  The book is a lot less interested in the romantic dalliances of the founding father, although it certainly does acknowledge them.

Indeed, the book is 176 fully illustrated pages jam-packed with information.  It reads a little, if not dull, then certainly more academic.  That’s because there’s a lot of text and a lot of history. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TYLER CHILDERS-Tiny Desk Concert #729 (April 11, 2018).

I didn’t expect to like this set–I’ve really had it with country music encroaching on my radio station.  So when Childers was described as having “a coarse and soulful Kentucky drawl,” I wasn’t interested.

Especially when the songs were “about hard lives and hard love with direct heart.”

But he surprised me because it’s the coarseness that comes to the fore more than the drawl.  At least on the first song “Nose on the Grindstone” a song about a miner and the consequences of addiction.  I like his delivery and the intensity of the song.

The second song “22nd Winter” is a little less aggressive and his drawl does comes out, but he keeps it on the side of folk, in fact I would say more like English ballads than American folk.  He describes:

“This is a song about the first time I got snowed in with my in-laws,” he says, expecting a laugh, and giving it a beat. “It’s not a blues song, it’s a love song”)  “I’m pretty partial to my in-laws.  If you see my in-laws tell ’em I was talking good about then.

The final song is about the love of his life, “Lady May.”  It also has the feel of an old English ballad with the interesting chords and melody that opens the song.  I won’t be a huge fan or anything but I’d take him over many of the alt-country artists that I hear these days.

[READ: February 26, 2018] “Whites”

This is an excerpt from The Buddha in the Attic.

This excerpt is written entirely in the second person plural and it is about Japanese women coming to America–the first wave of migrant workers

It tells all of their stories in a sort of continuous forward motion.

The women settled at the edges of “their” towns. Unless “they” wouldn’t let them.  They moved from labor camp to labor camp.  They learned the word for water or they died from heatstroke.

In the beginning they wondered about the white men–why did they mount their horses from the left, why were the always shouting, why did they drink cows milk?

We were told to stay away from them to say yes sir no sir or nothing at all.

Some worked quickly, to impress, and they were admired for their tiny fingers and stature.

Even if their husbands were layabouts

Sometimes the bosses would proposition them with money or threats

Other times they shot holes at their shacks.

Some went to the suburbs and worked as maids, “we sang their children to sleep ever night in a language not their own.  Nemure. Nemure.”

We were taught how to light a stove, use a faucet, light a cigarette.

Some were inept and easily dismissed. Some made stupid errors and may have been fired or not

Some were seduced by the husbands.

Some went to J-Town which was more like Japan than Japan.

We promised ourselves we would leave and go to some other place.  Argentina or Mexico.  But eventually we’d go back home.

But for now we stayed.  What would they do without us?

This was an interesting excerpt–a realistic look at an overlooked subject.

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