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Archive for the ‘Death’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: COLDPLAY-Tiny Desk Concert #956 (March 9, 2020).

Once, long ago, a Tiny Desk Concert was for a quiet, presumably up and coming band to play a short show for an internet audience.

Then there was Lizzo and Taylor Swift and now Coldplay (I’m actually not sure if Coldplay or Taylor Swift is actually bigger).  But what makes it fun when a huge band does this is that they have an opportunity to do something very different.

For this Tiny Concert, Coldplay was reduced to just singer (and keyboardist) Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland (bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion were “hiding under the desk” because it was so tiny.  But Coldplay was also expanded with the addition of the For Love Choir: Denise Green; Shaneka Hamilton; Dorian Holley; Stephen Mackey; Lamarcus Eldridge; Lawrence Young; Surrenity Xyz; Tiffany Smith and Mabvuto Carpenter.

Watching Martin at the keys, with the For Love Choir behind him and Coldplay guitarist Jonny Buckland at his side, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the happiest day of his life. Laughing, bouncing to the music and playing off the crowd, Martin and company gave one of the most jubilant, uplifting and memorable performances we’ve ever had at the Tiny Desk.

I’m not sure it’s the most memorable, but it is certainly fun watching Chris Martin (who the rest of the time seems very serious) laugh and smile and joke his way through the set (while being musically spot on).

It’s a bit unfortunate, to me, that Coldplay did this show after their newest album, Everyday Life, from which I haven’t heard a thing (which is crazy since most of their other stuff is so overplayed).

The first song, “Cry Cry Cry” features the choir, but to me the “Cry Cry” of the chorus sounds so much like Janis Joplin “Cry Baby” I can’t get past it.

I also had to laugh that the crowd was responsive to this song (and the other two songs from the new album), but they went berserk for “Viva La Vida.”  And as as he plays those notes and starts singing it becomes really clear that this is Coldplay.  I didn’t really notice Buckland on the first song, but he adds some nice guitar moments to this one.  Everyone lives the choir for these songs, but I feel like their backing lines are not right for the verses.  Their oohs and ahhs are nice though and the end “woah oh ohs” are really splendid with all of those voices.

Martin jokes that he was happy to step inside the internet to be on the Tiny Desk and to see that Bob is a real person.  Then he shouts out everyone in the choir without looking (I didn’t realize they’d been playing together for a while, otherwise I was really impressed that he could remember that many names so easily).

The choir is prominent on “Broken” and Martin joked that, “In a very real way, they’ve Photoshopped our songs to be much better than they actually are.”

As the song fades out he starts playing the opening to Prince’s “1999.”  How unexpected.  Each of the singers in the choir takes a line or two and everyone is really into it.  It sounds great.

They end with “Champion Of The World.”  Martin says that after releasing the new album, they stayed in semi-hibernation.  But this Tiny Desk is pure and wonderful and makes us remember that this is why we do what we do,

Even if they only played one song I would have wanted them to play, it’s still a very positive and joy-filled show.

[READ: March 29, 2020] “Here and There”

McCann has written a novel called Apeirogon which is a fictionalized account of the lives of Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli.  Aramin’s ten-year-old daughter, Abir, was killed by an Israeli soldier.  Elhana’s 13-year old daughter, Smadar, was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber.

This excerpt only looks at Rami’s story.

Smadar had her grandfather’s watch on her wrist when she was killed.  It was still running.  She made sure to wind that watch every night lest it signal that her other grandfather Yitzak had died during the night too.

Smadar and her grandfather were buried side by side under a grove of knotted carob trees. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KIRILL GERSTEIN-Tiny Desk Concert #957 (March 11, 2020).

I can’t really keep track of classical pianists. There are so many who are truly amazing.  But I love hearing them.  I also like it when they have a good sense of humor, which most of them seem to have.

The last time pianist Kirill Gerstein was at NPR we gave him a full-size, grand piano to play in a big recording studio. But for this Tiny Desk performance, we scaled him down to our trusty upright. “What will you ask me to play the next time,” he quipped, “a toy piano?”

Even if we had handed him a pint-sized instrument, I’m sure Gerstein could make it sing. Just listen to how Chopin’s lyrical melodies, built from rippling notes and flamboyant runs, flow like a song without words in Gerstein’s agile hands.

What sets Gerstein apart?  Perhaps its his connection to jazz.

The 40-year-old pianist, born in Voronezh, Russia, taught himself to play jazz by listening to his parents’ record collection. A chance meeting with vibraphonist Gary Burton landed him a scholarship to study jazz at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. At age 14, Gerstein was the youngest to enroll at the institution.

He opens the set with Chopin: “Waltz in A-flat, Op. 42.”  It is fast and amazing with some slow, jaunty parts.  Near the end, wow, doe he pound out those bass chords.

Before the second piece he says that it hasn’t been heard on a recording yet–it’s a newly written piece by Thomas Adès.  Two lovers want to hide in the closet and … sleep with each other.  They emerge dead in the morning, so its lascivious and morbid and a very beautiful piece.

The Berceuse for solo piano was written for Gerstein by Thomas Adès, adapted from his 2016 opera The Exterminating Angel. The work, both brooding and beautiful, receives its premiere recording at the Tiny Desk.

It is slow and beautiful, full of sadness and longing.  Until the end when the bass comes pounding and rumbling, full of ominous threat and dread.  And listen to how long he lets those last bass notes ring out!

Up next is a piece by Liszt who I am particularity fond of (even if I only know a few of his pieces).  Gerstein says that Liszt is perhaps the greatest composer that ever touched the instrument.  There are several hundred not famous pieces.  This is a late piece called “A quick Hungarian march.”  Technically it’s called “Ungarischer Geschwindsmarsch”

Gerstein follows by dusting off a truly neglected – and quirky – Hungarian March by Franz Liszt. To my knowledge it’s been recorded only once.

It is jaunty and spirited until the middle where it goes back and forth between fast runs and bouncy melodies.

Since I hadn’t read about his jazz background the first time I listened to this concert I was really surprised when he said he’d be playing the Gershwin-Earl Wild standard “Embraceable You” which he says is for dessert at this lunchtime concert.

Gerstein’s jazz background is still close to his heart. Which brings us to his lovely-rendered closer: Gershwin’s “Embraceable You,” arranged by the American pianist Earl Wild.

Like all master performers, Gerstein gives you the illusion that he’s making it all up as he goes along, even though the virtuosic transcription is intricately mapped out. And somehow, he makes that upright piano sound nine feet long.

It really does sound like he is working on the fly–playing beautiful runs. It’s hard to imagine transcribing and learning all of those notes instead of just improvising them, but that’s what make a great pianist, I guess.

[READ: November 2019] The Abyss

I saw this book at work and thought, a turn of the 20th century Russian author writing about the Abyss?  What’s not to like?

I had not heard of Leonid Andreyev, perhaps because much of his work has not been translated into English.  He died in 1919 and is considered “the leading exponent of the Silver Age of Russian literature.”

This book was translated by Hugh Aplin and it is remarkable how contemporary these stories sound (aside from obviously nineteenth and twentieth century details).

Bargamot and Garaska (1898)
Bargamot was a policeman–a big, thick-headed policeman.  His superiors called him numskull.  But the people on the streets he looked after were quite fond of him because he knew the area and what he knew he knew very well.  This story is set on Easter Saturday night.  People would soon be going to church.  But he was on duty until three o’ clock and he wouldn’t be able to eat until then. The day was going smoothly and he would soon be home until he saw Garaksa, clearly drunk, heading his way: “Where he had managed to get sozzled before daylight constituted his secret, but that he had got sozzled was beyond all doubt.”  Bargamot threatened to send Garaska to the station, but Garaska talked to him about the festivities of the day and was about to present to him an egg (a Russian custom).  But Bargamot’s rough handling smashed the egg.  This story turns surprisingly tender and sad, with a rather touching final line.

A Grand Slam (1899)
This has nothing to do with baseball.  It is about a card game called Vint, which is similar to bridge.  For six years these four people have been playing it: fat hot-tempered Maslennikov (whose name is Nikolai Dmitriyevich, we find out about five pages in) paired with old man Yakov Ivanovich and Yevpraksia Vasilyevna paired with her gloomy brother Prokopy Vailyevich.  Dmitriyevich desperately wanted a grand slam but he had been paired with Yakov Ivanovich who never took risks. Ivanovich was very conservative and never bet more than four–even when he ran an entire trick, he never bet more than four–you never know what might happen. They speak of news and local happenings (like the Dreyfus Affair), but Dmitriyevich stays focused on the game because his cards are lining up for a Grand Slam.  As he goes for that last card, he falls out of his chair, presumably dead.

Silence (1900)
This story is divided into sections.  Fr. Ignaty and his wife need to speak with their daughter Vera. They have a fight and Fr. Ignaty refuses to speak to her any more.  Soon enough she goes out and throws herself under a train [I would hate to be a train conductor in Russia].  In Part II silence has fallen over the house.  In Part III he tries to talk to his wife about his feelings and his sadness over their daughter, but she remains silent.  In the final part, Fr Ignaty finally breaks down.  But is it the silence that has gotten to him?

Once Upon a Time There Lived (1901)
Laventy Petrovich was a large man. He went to Moscow for someone in the city to look at his unusual illness.  He was a silent and morose man and he specifically asked for no visitors.  The hospital assigned Fr. Deacon to him.  Fr. Deacon was another patient, unfailingly positive.  He and Petrovich were at opposite sides of the spectrum.  But even as it became clear that Fr. Deacon was deathly ill, he remained positive.  Until Petrovich told him that the doctors said that Fr. Deacon has a week to live.  There was also a young student who was daily visited by the girl he loved.  They liked Fr deacon and did not like Petrovich. I’m not sure if the ending is a surprise, but it is certainly sudden with happiness doled out in very specific ways.

A Robbery in the Offing (1902)
That night there was to be a robbery and maybe a murder.  A man, alone with his thought is scared by nearly everything–he is very jumpy because he is the one about to do the robbery.  The man was frightened by a noise until he saw it was a little puppy.  The puppy was shivering and the man tried to frighten him to get him to go home. But the puppy seemed too ignore him.  So began the battle of wits between a big strong man and a tiny freezing puppy.  Imagine a man with a robbery in the offing worrying about a little puppy.

The Abyss (1902)
Two young lovers went for a walk.  Zinochka was 17 and very much in love.  Nemovetsky was 21 and similarly in love.  They wandered into an area they didn’t recognize and happened upon three men.  The men punched Nemovetsky and knocked him out then they chased Zinochka . When he came to, he found her body, naked but still alive.  This was a hard story to read.

Ben Tobit (1903)
This was one of the first stories in the book that I really really liked.  It is set on the day of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.  On that day, Jerusalem merchant Ben Tobit had a terrible toothache.  Ben was a kind man and did not like injustice, but it was hard to be kind with this much pain.  His wife tried to help by giving him various medicines (like purified rat droppings). She then tried to distract him when the thieves came trudging past on their way to the crucifixion site.  It distracted him somewhat but mostly didn’t interest him.  She said, “They say he healed the blind.”  He replied, “If only he’d cure this toothache of mine!.”  The next day he felt better and they walked to the site to see what they missed.

Phantoms (1904)
Yegor Timofeyevich had gone mad so his relatives collected money to send him to a clinic.  He knew he was in a madhouse but also knew that he could make himself incorporeal and walk wherever he wanted.  He was exceedingly happy. There was a patient who would continually knock on any locked door.  He would walk through all the unlocked doors but when he got to a locked one he would knock and knock and knock.

There was a doctor’s assistant the hospital named Maria Astafeevna, whom Yegor was certain liked him.  He thought very highly of her.  But another man Petrov could say nothing nice about her.  He felt that she was like all women: debauched deceitful and mocking. This attitude upset Yegor tremendously.  Maria was actually in love with Dr Shevyrov. But she hated that he went to Babylon–where he drank three bottles of champagne each night until 5 AM.  She imagined that one day she would ask to be his wife bit only if he stopped going there.

The man Petrov was also terrified of his mother, believing that she had bribed officials to lock him up. He would become hysterical when she would visit.  It was only Yegor’s assurances to her that her son was a decent man that made her feel okay.

Most days things went on exactly the same, the same faces, the same conversation and the same knocking.

The Thief (1904)
Fyodor Yurasov was a thrice-convicted thief.  While on the train, even though he had plenty of money, he stole a gentleman;s purse.  As he tried to blend in, he imagined everyone thought he was an honest, young German (he came up with the name Heinrich Walter).  But when he tried to be civil, everyone ignored him.  Some were downright rude to him.  Later when he hears that the gendarme are looking for someone, he assumed it is he.

Lazarus (1906)
This story looks at what Lazarus’ life was like after he came back–appearing a few days dead and with a shorter temper.  People understood and forgave him, but still.  Soon, however, people began to avoid him and claimed that all of the madmen in the village were people whom Lazarus had looked upon.   It’s such an interesting (if exceeding dark) tale that no one bothered to investigate before.

A Son of Man (1909)
As Fr. Ivan Bogoyavlensky grew older he grew more disatisfied with his role in life.  He wanted to remove his surname and replace it with a five-digit number (The church elders assumed he’d gone mad).  He then bought a gramophone and listened only to stories of Jewish and Armenian life.  His wife hated it and it drove their puppy mad (?!).  Indeed he kept trying to get the puppies to listen to the gramophone and they consistently went crazy and eventually died.  The church sent a deacon to help Fr Ivan through this but he the deacon and Fr Ivan butted heads immediately.  Fr Ivan began mocked everything about their religion.

Incaution (1910)
A priest arrived at a railway station and saw a steam engine for the first time. There was no one around, so he climbed aboard.  It wouldn’t be dangerous to flick some switches and pull some levers.  Would it?

Peace (1911)
A dignitary was dying and an devil–an ordinary devil–came to his bedside offering him eternal life in hell.  The man didn’t want to suffer but the devil said that suffering was terrible until you got used to it and then it was nothing.  The devil makes a stronger and stronger case if only the man would take this pen and sign.

Ipatov (1911)
Nikolai Ipatov was a rich merchant who went bankrupt. Soon he became silent and despondent.  The local priest chastised him saying that the house of god was a house of joy.  He refused to let the merchant back in until he grew happy again.  Which he didn’t.  Eventually his children took over the situation and and put his house up for sale.  But when someone came to look at the house, they heard Ipatov’s moaning and grew existential realizing that a man without guilt could still be afflicted this way.

The Return (1913)
The narrator had been in a cell n St Peterburg for three years because of a political incident.  His wife, who was supposed to be waiting for him in a hotel room had stepped out with another man.  He hired a cab to follow them.  They kept driving around and around, some streets seeming to stretch on endlessly.  Then the cab driver told him that they had been at the same intersection many times.  He finally arrived at the gate and when he banged on it, who should open the gate but his prison guard.

The Flight (1914)
Yury Mikhailovich was an experienced pilot.  Twenty eight flights and no troubles.   He always felt, “If I crash, I crash, nothing to be done about it.”  Despite everything he had on earth, he longed to be up ion the sky…possibly forever.  It’s incredible that Andreyev wrote a story like this in 1914!

 

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SOUNDTRACK: SUNNY WAR-Tiny Desk Concert #909 (November 13, 2019).

Sunny War says twice that she’s not going to talk.  She saves all of her words for her songs.

Her voice is soft and gentle, but her words are strong.

The first song “If It Wasn’t Broken” features the chorus “how would you know you had a heart if it wasn’t broken?”

Further lyrics in this slow and simple song:

so you lost your baby
so you lost your job
so you lost all faith
in the one you call god.

Dang.

These are words from a young woman who has been homeless, busked on city streets and Venice Beach, left home feeling she was a burden to her distraught mother, had her life complicated by drugs, and yet still found a way to pick up a guitar and bring joy to others.

Her songs aren’t complicated, but they feature some really excellent fingerpicking.  “Got No Ride” has a lot of beautiful interludes (including one part where she is fingerpicking and bending a string at the same time).

Sunny War began learning guitar from her uncle at around the age of seven. One of the early songs she learned was The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” an almost prophetic tune with the line, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.” But it was the fingerpicking that was the attraction for Sunny War. She loved playing guitar that way as opposed to strumming and, as you watch this Tiny Desk, you’ll see what a fluid and remarkable guitar player she’s become.

The song also features some extra bass lines from Aroyn Davis (The first song didn’t really have noticeable bass).

“Love Became Pain” is a lot faster, with some really impressive guitar work.  Clearly from the title, though, this isn’t a happy song either.  I like the shuffle drums that Paul Allen gets using brushes on the cajón.

The final song, “Shell” opens with the lines:

“Before you rip your girl to shreds / Be sure you really want her dead.”

With such a pretty melody, too!

Much like her name, Sunny War’s music is a wonder of contradictions.

[READ: February 2, 2020] Rust: Volume 4

This book concludes the Rust saga.

Like the first book, there are a ton of pages with no dialogue.  This story is wonderfully told with just visuals.  And Lepp’s visuals are really amazing–what he accomplishes with such  limited color palette is really impressive.

The book starts with a flashback to the war 48 years ago.  It’s been awhile since I read the first book but I feel like this intro pages are exactly the same.  We see Jet Jones rescue a man by creating a large shield.  I’m not sure if there;s some more significance.  I’m also not sure if we’re supposed to know who the man is.

But the story quickly jumps back to the Taylor’s farm.  The really menacing robots are closing in.  Oz has a shotgun in ready.  And the engineer is carrying Jet Jones’ limp body away with him.

The robots arrive (why does it amuse me that they open the door) and Oz shoots, which awakens the family.

A terrible battle commences in the house with all of the people getting hurt, but with all of them doing a good job of harming the robots.  Jet comes in at the last second and smashes up some of the robots.  In the process reveals his mechanical arm.  The family is shocked, except for Oz.  Roman is furious that Jet lied. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BJ THE CHICAGO KID-Tiny Desk Concert #906 (November 6, 2019).

At first I thought I might enjoy this Tiny Desk Concert because the first song “East Side High 2012 & Forever” was kind of soulful.  There’s some great guitar work from Jairus “Jmo” Mozee and some grooving bass from Joe Cleveland.   The song ends after a bout a minute and a half.

And I really liked the bass line that started the next song, “Good Luv’n.”  Although I didn’t like BJ’s singing style as much on this one.

I also didn’t realize that he was playing a huge medley of songs:

BJ the Chicago Kid took the roughly 15 minutes we generally allot for a Tiny Desk performance as a challenge. The 34-year old R&B mainstay used his moment at the desk to fit in as many of his most cherished songs as possible — Nine songs in 17 minutes to be exact.

I also had no idea that he was famous or had had a lengthy career.

To get the job done, BJ jumped around his 10-year discography, weaving deep cuts and covers from his early Pineapple Now-Laters days with contemporary cuts like “Church” off his major label debut, In My Mind, to heartfelt odes from his latest project, 1123. 

Both most of these songs fell into that sexy R&B singing style with vaguely (or explicitly vulgar lyrics).  “Aiight” has some nice twinkling keys from Delvin Brumfield.

“Church” has these fascinating lyrics: “she want to drink, do drugs, and have sex tonight, but I got church in the morning.”  I really like the addition of the violin from Peter Lee John on these songs–it definitely adds a new sound to R&B.

During “Love Inside” he tells Tony “Rico” Nichols on the drums:  “Rico take me away.”

“Turnin’ Me Up” is musically the most interesting song, and I like the way the chords swell as it takes him to his happy place.

“Get Away” features some sampled backing vocals and this is more of a rapping style song.  This song is especially vulgar (when we fucking, when I’m freakin you) which I find weird in this style of seduction song, but which apparently no one else does.

“Can’t Wait” is a slow broody number about how much he hates waiting for love.  Then comes “Too Good”

I liked about half of this set, although I feel like most of these songs blended into each other as one long 17 minute song.

[READ: February 15, 2020] “The Red Dot”

I really enjoyed the conversational nature of this story.  The telling and retelling of it adds an extra layer of puzzlement to it.  Plus phrases like this are fun:

Now do you want to hear the weird part? she said.  Yes, give me the weird part, I said.

The narrator talks about listening to Anna talking about a man named Karl–a casual acquaintance for both of them.

Karl owned a restaurant called Gist Mill, “where you go to get the gist of good food”.  Karl was skinny and used to run along the river.  Anna assumed running as his way of dealing with his divorce–his wife left him for a guy who designed toothpaste tubes.

When Karl finished his run, he would sit by the river, close his eyes and meditate.  When he opened his eyes, everything was clear.  But on this one instance that he told Anna about, he saw a red dot on the river.  The dot was getting closer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RIO MARA-Tiny Desk Concert #905 (October 25, 2019).

Rio Mara sings (and speaks) entirely in Spanish for this Tiny Desk.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this if you don’t know Spanish.  The musical is wonderful–full of percussion and a wonderfully vibrant wooden marimba that feels utterly tropical.

Rio Mira takes its name from a river that separates Ecuador and Colombia and empties into the Pacific Ocean.

For just about fifteen minutes, the members of Rio Mira created a living and very melodic connection to Africa. Set behind a large marimba — and drums that are unique to their corner of the world — the members of the band performed music that is the legacy of enslaved people who were in both Ecuador and Colombia.

Rio Mira’s three songs in this performance are dominated by the marimba and accompanied by drums from both Europe and Africa. “La Pepa de Tangaré” references the culinary joys of life and, like the rest of their set, celebrates life along the river: soft breezes, loving friends, the embrace of Africa and, of course, lots of festejando (partying)!

Karla Kanora sings lead vocals, while Esteban Copete plays the amazing marimba.

Introducing the band (and the instruments) we meet Carlos Loboa on the cununos (a hand drum that looks like a conga).  Tito Ponguillo on the bombo hembra (a two headed drum that you wear on a strap), while Sergio Ramírez plays the bombo macho (the “male” version of the two headed drum). Fernando Hurtado plays the shaker and sings.

Benjamín Vanegas sings lead on “Román Román” with a fun and enjoyable style.  The chorus is really catchy. The middle has an extended spoken part.

If you’re a little rusty on your college Spanish classes, the extended narration in “Román Román” tells the tale of a village man who has healing powers and challenges death.

For the final song “Mi Buenaventura” Fernando Hurtado sings.  It is a fast song with the marimba going wild.  I really appreciate how very different each singer’s style is amid all of this fun percussive music.

[READ: March 1, 2020] “Kid Positive”

I really enjoyed Adam Levin’s massive book The Instructions.

This story is the first thing I’ve read by him since that, and while I love his writing style I hated the content of this story.

Each section of the story shows a year in Adam’s childhood with a title to accompany it.  Like Shitty Little Tevye, Big Brother, 1980.

In this flashback, we see a young Adam enjoying it when his parents had friends over to dinner.  He would crawl through their legs to get to the bathroom and they would joke…  Is there a dog in here?  On one occasion, he came back from the bathroom singing what he thought was his father’s favorite song “If I Were a Rich Man.”  (It wasn’t his favorite song).  Adam sang it and the adults all thought it was cute except for his father, who said “Okay.”  But he didn’t mean it, it wasn’t okay.  Adam climbed back under the table and continued to sing and his father said “he’s acting like an idiot, a real fucking idiot.”

In Puppet, 1981 a puppet that Adam enjoyed watching on TV said “I think therefore I am.”  This existential phrase upset Adam and he worried that if the puppet thought he was real, how did he know if anyone was real.  Maybe his mother was a puppet too.

The Rabbits, 1982 section is a terrible part about baby bunnies dying.

In Turtle and Sensei, 1984, there;s a story about a dying (probably) turtle and how he wanted to name it Mergatroid.   The other part is a bit funnier–about his family going to see a sensei perform a demonstration. His father did not believe it–saying the board was perforated.

Adam told people about this event and then made up that at the end of the demonstration his father went to shake the sensei’s hand but then pulled him close and whispered in his ear.  When he let go, the sensei looked afraid.

In The Frost and the Frogs, 1985-86 he talks about throwing his cat.  What the hell is wrong with this story. They also kill a snake.

In Hum, 1988, all of the kids push Giles Crowley because when they do he would said “Hum.”  So they would shove him to see how many Hums he would say.  If they shoved him harder and he stumbled four steps, he would say “Hum um um um.”  It’s possible he enjoyed the attention.

Throughout, the narrator says things like

Had you asked me if I thought Giles Crowley had feelings, I would probably have told you that I had feelings because that would have addressed what I would have thought you were secretly trying to get at with your question and I’d have wanted you to know that I was smarter than you.

The story ends with Splash Pad, 2015.

Adam is grown up and married.  They are hanging out with friends who have kids at a Splash Pad–a giant fountain for kids to frolic in. The kids have a great time. The pleasure is contagious and Adam realizes that he is positive about kids–he is kid positive.

Adam was so pleased with the way the kids played so nicely that he told his friends that kids now played so much nicer than they did when they were kids.  He hoped these good childhood memories would foster

deep with them greater capacities for kindness and decency than the people of our generation possessed and that, down the line, these greater capacities for kindness and decency would grant these kids the strength they’d need to neutralize and overcome what would otherwise be our generation’s malforming influence and eventually turn the whole country, perhaps even the whole world, into a safer and friendlier place.

Are you making fun of our children, they asked.

Its nice to see that a seeming sociopath like that kid actually turned out okay.  But I’m still not a fan of this story.

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SOUNDTRACK: CHAI-Tiny Desk Concert #904 (October 23, 2019).

What sounds like circus music plays as four women dressed in hoods with colorful bangles run out behind the desk and start dancing.

The lyrics begin: C-H-A-I.  CHAI.  We are CHAI.

The choreography continues for about a minute and a half when they take off their robes to reveal the four of them wearing matching pink and orange outfits.

The quartet made its grand entrance wearing hooded pom-pom outfits, with loosely choreographed dance moves, while the band’s song “This Is CHAI” played boombox style. It felt adorable. But once the hoodies came off, revealing their matching pink, crop top uniforms, the serious fun began.

In yet another example of how the best Tiny Desk Concerts are unfairly short, this super fun and adorable set is not even 11 minutes long.

Although CHAI does manage to play 4 songs in that time.

My face hurt from smiling so much! That’s what I remember most about CHAI’s Tiny Desk. CHAI is a sweet, colorful blanket of joy. These four women from Japan — twin sisters Mana and Kana, along with Yuna and Yuuki — are on a mission to expand the conventional notion of what we think of as “cute” or “kawaii” as it’s called in Japan.

They open with “Hi Hi Baby.”  Yuna plays drums while Mana and Kana start singing.  Then Yuuki starts playing the bass–a fast rumble while Mana and Kana keep singing (and doing choreographed arm gestures).

Their voices are high and they are decked out in pink.

CHAI’s music leans punkish, and the outfits quite pinkish. The songs played at the Tiny Desk come from both the band’s 2017 album Pink and the 2019 album appropriately named Punk. The group’s lyrics bounce back and forth from Japanese to English, often in the same sentence.

For “N.E.O.” Yuna sits at the drum kit and plays a cool, complex pattern while Yuuki’s bass brings in a great low funky riff.  Kana adds some guitar licks as they sing in a kind of staccato style (in harmony).

The song ends and the three of them raise their arms and say We are CHAI!

“Fashionista” is one of these songs where you can tell it’s Japanese and English.  There’s big thumping bass as the vocals kinds of whisper the lyrics.  I don’t know what they’re saying–except the chorus “we are fashionista.”  There’s some cool chunky guitar and a great sliding bass (their bass sound is terrific).  Mid-song Kana plays guitar by itself while singing before the band jumps back in together.

Before the last song.  They introduce themselves:

I’m Mana and I’m Kana and we are twins!   Same face!  Same face!
I’m Yuna and I’m Yukki.  We are … not twins.

CHAI chose “Future” for the final song, with more lyrics to brighten my smile and the smile of those around me.

“This is just my FUTURE!
This song about us forever!
Are you ready?
Never seen before!
It’s just what I imagined!
Come on!”

For “Future” Kana plays a futuristic synth sound while Yuuki plays a slow, low bass and Yuna hits the drums and percussion with her hands.

I’ve been looking forward to this Tiny Desk and it did not disappoint.

[READ: March 1, 2020] “Unbuttoned”

This is a another essay about Sedaris’ father.  Sedaris’ father is 96 and quite frail.

David himself was in the hospital about to undergo “a pretty disgusting procedure: in a few hours’ time, a doctor was scheduled to snake a multipurpose device up the hole in my penis” when his sister called to say that their father was dying.

The urologist said the device had a camera that showed what was going on inside: There’s your sphincter!

He says his previous exam like this involved his prostate

I’m fairly certain it involved forcing a Golden Globe Award up my ass.  I didn’t cry or hit anyone, though.  Thus it annoyed me to see what he English radiologist who’d performed the test had written in the comment section of his report: “Patient tolerated the trans-rectal probe poorly.”

They bought next-day plane tickets for the U.S.  En route DAvid learned that his father had been taken out of intensive care and sent back to his Assisted Living Facility.

When his father woke up, David said “I figured you’d rally as soon as I spent a fortune on last-minute tickets.”  He said he knew “that if the situation were reversed he’d gave stayed put, at least until a discount could be worked out.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LIAM KAZAR-“Sunloathe” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

I don’t know Liam Kazar (he was in Kids These Days and Marrow).  This song is a simple folkie version of the song with some nice slide guitar and some cool keyboard sounds in the middle.

Kazar’s mellow singing with these instruments makes this cover sound not too different from the original.

[READ: August 23, 2019] The Adventurist

I was intrigued by the title of this book.  I didn’t know a thing about it or the author, but the title and the blurbs were promising a funny and thought provoking novel.  And they were right.

Henry Hurt is a surprisingly likable narrator given his general disposition.  He thinks we need a war in this country–not exactly, but when he looks in the rearview mirror and sees “a glare from my fellow citizen…a look of such opprobrium, such astonished offense (I change lanes too abruptly) that I would have the nerve, the gall to interrupt even for a moment her progress in the world…. Yes: tank treads and the tromp of boots, here on our courteous soil.  It is the only remedy.”

He also loves work. Not just his own work but work in general.  Unlike his sister:

in her mythology a corporate job is a necessary evil, to be tolerated only until a person finds what he was Meant To Do.

He felt that way once as well, when he first got his job at Cyber Systems but

what changed my mind was love. Of money.  I am only partly joking.  It’s no good avowing one’s regard for money.  You set yourself up as a satirical creature.  [but] it didn’t take long to see that acquiring a skill, linking arms with others to fix problems, fulfilling one’s duties with aplomb, all toward a commercial end, is its own kind of nobility.

His sister works for a non profit.  He admires the mission but finds all her coworkers too self-satisfied.

So how could one enjoy this person as a main character?  Because hes funny and insightful and because he presents a perspective that you don’t often see in literature–a non-caricatured business man. (more…)

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