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Archive for the ‘Film & TV’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SESAME STREET-Tiny Desk Concert #856 (June 10, 2019).

Yes, Sesame Street.  Not the OTHER puppet band Fragile Rock, the actual Sesame Street characters.

It’s a convergence of NPR and PBS!

And there they are at the Tiny Desk: Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Rosita, Abby Cadabby and Cookie Monster, all singing about a sunny day and how everything is A-OK. The Sesame Street crew — including Elmo, Grover and other surprise guests — visited NPR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to celebrate Sesame Street’s 50 years of teaching the world its A-B-Cs, its 1-2-3s, how to be kind and how to be proud, all while spreading love and joy.

Everyone knows Sesame Street, but it’s also worth talking about how awesome it is.

Sesame Street has won more major awards than any other group to play the Tiny Desk, including 11 Grammys and 192 Emmys. There was a lot of love as the cast of Sesame Street got to meet NPR hosts and newscasters, who in turn got to geek out meeting their favorite Muppets and the creators behind the felt and fur. These folks include Matt Vogel, Sesame Street’s puppet captain and performer, and music director Bill Sherman.

The Muppets get through six songs in 15 minutes (no soloing here).

Count von Count and the NPR kids count us down: 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1!

Andwhat Sesame Street show could begin without “The Sesame Street Theme (Sunny Days)” (Rosita & Elmo, Ernie & Bert, Abby Cadabby, and Big Bird and Cookie Monster).

Then it’s on to Grover singing “People In Your Neighborhood” with Rosita.  Grover oberves a person making sounds with a soundy-making thingy.  Rosita is there to help learn about musicians.  Then a Reporter comes out to talk about what she does.  Finally Bob Boilen himself comes out (Grover: “who might you be sir, you do not appear to be doing anything.”  Bob: “I’m the producer, Grover.”  Grover: “Oh well that explains it”).

I even got to sing with Grover. And I’ll also say, on a personal note, that this may well have been the hardest-working, most dedicated group of performers I’ve ever worked with. I’m so proud of these Muppets and so happy to celebrate all that they’ve meant to the world for these 50 years.

Then they sang two new songs (imagine them having new sings in the last fifty years).

“What I Am” sung by Abby, Ernie and Elmo, a sweet song if ever there was one.

There’s even some full-sized Muppets in the audience (although the kids don’t seem that excited to be near them).

And then it’s Bert’s turn.  But Bert’s kinda shy and is nervous.  Thankfully Big Bird is there to sing a song together (and then confuse the proceedings): I

Its simple.  We’re gonna sing a song and we’re gonna sing it all together and i’ll start singing the song and then they’ll sing then song when I sing what I sing in the song and the you come in singing the song after i sing what i gonna sing when the song starts and we’ll sing the song.

There’s even more fun when Big Bird sings a long high note and Bert says: really?

Cookie monster wants a cookie, but it’s time for the medley” “Whats the name of that song?” (Elmo) then “Rubber Ducky (Ernie) and “C is fr Cookie” (Cookie Monster).  Then Big Bird sing a line before a funky piano and bass riff for “12345, 678910, 11 12… TWELVE!” (my personal favorite).

It segues into perennial happy song “Sing.”

Then Oscar comes on and tells everyone to scram.

[READ: June 4, 2019] “The Children”

This story reads like a fairy tale.  It has a slow inevitability in the pacing and real lack of urgency.

It is called an adventure of lost heirs.  It runs concurrently with a series of beheadings that were happening on Anjavavy island.  The story is quick to point out that the beheadings do not impact the story, they are just mentioned for context.

It begins in the early 2000’s on the island.  Giustinia was visiting Shay in Anjavavy for two weeks before heading off to Madagascar.  They are staying at Shay’s house which is mostly empty.  Shay lives on the island for part of the year and in Italy for the rest of the year.  Shay’s husband will be returning soon.

Giustinia is a poet and a critic  She and Shay became friends when Shay translated some of her essays for an American magazine.   Her family has ancient roots in Tuscany and has an unconscious regal air.

Shay hopes news of the beheadings doesn’t reach them during the fortnight. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YIM YAMES-Tribute To (2009).

I really like My Morning Jacket, but I find that Jim James’ solo work is a little too slow for me.  This album is a collection of six coves of George Harrison songs.  I’m not a particularly big fan of George Harrison’s solo work, so really this just doesn’t work for me all that way.

This record is incredibly languid.  Although after several listens I finally found a way in and have begun to enjoy the melodies.  Also, reading this quote makes me like the album more

James recorded the album in December 2001 on a relative’s eight-track reel-to-reel tape recorder, just days after Harrison’s passing. Of the recording, James told Billboard magazine that “I felt like I was in the weirdest head space when I did that EP … I felt really confused a lot of the time. I wanted to just do it and let it come out even if I messed stuff up. It’s definitely not the tightest or most professional recording you’re ever going to hear in your life but I like that. I think it lends it a more childish atmosphere.”

“Long, Long, Long” has a nice melody in the chorus.  While “Behind the Locked Door” has a nice melody in the verse.

“Love to You” introduces a banjo, which adds a nice texture to the EP.  “If Not for You” is the most uptempo song on the record and is quite lovely.

The first time I listened through this album the only song I knew was “My Sweet Lord,” which was never a particular favorite.  Although I like the way Yames multitracks himself.

“Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp” has piano in it and it is also fairly upbeat, although boy does it go one for a long time.
the final song is “All Things Must Pass.”  This track is also quite pretty but also slow and long.

The whole EP definitely sets a mood, and if you are in the mood for pretty, slow acoustic songs, this is the place to be.

[READ: June 4, 2019] “Hereafter, Faraway”

The June 10th issue of the New Yorker features five essays by authors whom I have enjoyed.  They were gathered under the headline “Another Country.”

This essay is about the author’s mother’s death and the author’s subsequent return to Vietnam.

Her mother believed that another world awaited her and was not concerned.  The author imagines this other world was was like those found in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s film After Life.  In the film the newly dead pass through a halfway house run by angels.  The travelers must pick one even from their life that the angels will make into a movie, starring the travelers themselves. Heaven is this short film played on an endless loop. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 24, 2019] Cannibal Corpse

Cannibal Corpse formed in 1988 in Florida.

At the time they were probably the most notoriously revolting band around–taking the violent images in metal songs to a far extreme.  Although perhaps most amusingly, without scanning the lyric sheet I don’t know how anyone could tell what the words are.

Cannibal Corpse are pretty legendary.  They have been banned in many countries. I have never specifically wanted to see them, but I always thought it would be interesting.  In fact, when they announced a show at White Eagle Hall at the end of last year, I briefly considered going.  But I’m glad I didn’t because a little Cannibal Corpse goes a long way (They played 18 songs at White Eagle Hall (!)).

Cannibal Corpse is pretty much a wall of noise.  Although I must admit just how well they were projected, because despite them being superbly loud, I could hear each guitar, the intense drums and the vocals (if not the words) pretty distinctly–even if they are a series of growsl)

The biggest surprise for me was that their songs were quite long.  I associate super fast death metal with short bursts of aggression.  Napalm Death for instance has songs that are about a minute long.  But most Cannibal Corpse songs run to four minutes or more.  That’s some lengthy intensity, especially for the speed of the drums and the massive intensity of Corpsegrinder’s headbanging.

One of the funnest things to say about Cannibal Corpse is that they are in Ace Ventura Pet Detective (1994).  Soon after that (but apparently unrelated), lead singer Chris Barnes left and was replaced by current singer George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher.  There hasn’t been very much change in the lineup for the thirty or so years they’ve been playing.  Although in December 2018, lead guitarist Pat O’Brien was arrested for assault and battery and Morbid Angel guitarist Erik Rutan would fill in.

It’s amusing seeing a band like Cannibal Corpse in the bright sun–I couldn’t imagine sitting in the lawn for them.  But it was early evening and very bright out (which meant good photos!).

But they obviously weren’t bothered by it because they came out on stage and created a noise that made me put earplugs in and not take them out all night.

I didn’t know any of their songs (although I had heard of “Hammer Smashed Face”), I didn’t even know they had FOURTEEN albums out!  So, to pick six songs for this tour must have been a challenge.

They played one song from their most recent album–2017’s Red Before Black (the least offensive or violent seeming title in their discography).  They skipped the previous album and then played one each from the two before that.

Corpsegrinder is known for his headbanging (in which he whips his head around in a circle rather than the old-school back and forth motion).  He told the audience that he would challenge anyone to a headbanging contest.  “You will lose.  And that’s okay.”

I was delighted by how deadpan amusing he was.

Even introducing the song “I Cum Blood,” he said, “this is a song about shooting blood from your cock….  it’s sounds fun… until it happens to you.”

That song as well as “Hammer Smashed Face” comes from their 1992 album, Tomb of the Mutilated.  They had two albums out before that.

Honestly, I couldn’t really tell any of the songs apart, but there were definitely sections to the songs.  These were mostly distinguishable by drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz’s amazing playing (he’s been with the band since the beginning, as has Alex Webster on bass).  Although his playing choices are somewhat limited in this style of music his energy never flagged during his double bass pounding or straight up snare slamming.

I’m glad their set was only about 30 minutes.  It was plenty.  And honestly they didn’t do anything outrageous, like I thought they might.  Maybe if they headline?  Or maybe they’re not Gwar, they just play fast and loud and do a lot of headbanging.

SETLIST

  1. Evisceration Plague
  2. Scourge of Iron
  3. Red Before Black ®
  4. I Cum Blood
  5. Stripped, Raped and Strangled ß
  6. Hammer Smashed Face

 

™ = Tomb of the Mutilated (1992)
ß = The Bleeding (1994)
€ = Evisceration Plague (2009)
⊗ = Torture (2012)
® = Red Before Black (2017)

 

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[ATTENDED: May 19, 2019] The Contortionist

I don’t understand how I have never heard of The Contortionist (which is a spectacular name for a prog-metal band, especially in the singular).  They have been making prog-metal since 2007.  And prog metal is one of my jams.

So how could I not know about these guys (who have a pretty intense fanbase)?

They had this cool wooden cutout backdrop thing which I rather liked.  Although when the lights came on I saw that it was beat up and weathered–ah the magic of stage craft.

The band came out and the lighting was really intense. The light behind the wooden sculpture was lit up from time to time, but primarily the stage lights coordinated very well with the (diverse and very fast) riffs and drums.  There were a few strobing moments that actually hurt my head.

I was in front of guitarist Cameron Maynard and bassist Jordan Eberhardt.  The problem for me was that once this band took the stage an influx of very tall people came up front.  Plus the lighting was mostly very very dark.  I didn’t even realize there was a second guitarist (Robby Baca) for about three songs. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HANNAH GEORGAS-Live at Massey Hall (March 5, 2018).

Hannah Georgas grew up outside of Toronto and always thought it was a treat to come to Massey Hall.  She says “My 18-year old self would be pretty psyched to play here.”

Georgas has two backing musicians Robbie Driscoll on bass/ableton and Dean Stone on drums/SPD.  She also plays keys but not for every song.

Most of her songs are quite spare–primarily featuring her voice.  The music is often slow washes and a drumbeat.

“Elephant” opens with warping synth sounds and Hannah singing.  The song builds nicely over four minutes with an interesting guitar accent and some powerful drumming.  Hannah also jumps  on the keys a bit for the end.

“Lost Cause” starts with Hannah playing keys and singing.  It’s spare with just the piano and drums and a nice melody.  Her voice is quite lovely.

“Rideback” has great interesting sounds from her keyboard–like horns or harmonicas or something.  I’m more intrigued by these sounds than the song itself.

“Naked Beaches” sounds like a slow dance song–a simple beat with a single note keyboard riff ringing through the song.  Her voice is echoed a lot on this song (both echos and harmonies) and it sounds really nice.

“Don’t Go” is another spare track.  It’s almost all drums with washes of synth and Hannah’s voice.

I was surprised to see her play a cover.  It was the Eurhythmics’ “Love is a Stranger.”  Hannah doesn’t sound like Annie Lennox, but she doesn’t sound all that different from her–it’s a good pairing for her and her band.

“Waste” has a whole series of wonderfully weirdo noises in its melody.  It starts fairly quietly but after the first few vocal lines, a kind of distorted synth line starts the melody, but its the chorus that really adds the weirdness with horns that sound like horns but also like screams.  Its really fun and funky, and is my favorite song of her set.

“Waiting Game” is a pulsing song with some chugging guitar and synth stabs as accents.  The set ends with “Enemies,” a quiet song with pulsing synths and drums and lights to accompany them.  For the chorus, things smooth out with some nice synth washes.

This show was on the same night as Rhye, and I honestly can’t tell who was the headliner.

[READ: May 15, 2019] “Going Up the Mountain” 

I loved this short story which speculates how our lives might turn out in a few years.

The story begins “The mountain sits in the middle of town.”  The mountain has always been there and it will continue to always be there.  It’s right in the middle–a brief walk for everyone.  You can’t miss it.

When people see each other in town the ask if they have gone up the mountain that day.

A neighbor “grins a tight grin and gives the sort of shrug people always give when they haven’t gone up the mountain.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: A-Hi-Fi Serious (2002).

Many bands are hard to search for online.  A may have topped the roster of most unsearchable bands (they were named in 1993 way before Google was even a thought and when they would be at the front of record store racks).  A are also the alphabetically first CD I own.  So my collection literally goes from A to Z

A are a band from Suffolk England.   They formed in 1993, broke up in 2005 and have been sort of reuniting off and on every since.

Their second album A vs. Monkey Kong was well received and this, their third album had a solid single in “Nothing.”  I’m not sure how I heard of them (probably well reviewed in Q magazine back in 2002) so I grabbed this album.  This album comes with a Quicktime video!  When I learned about this band back in 2002, scads of information were not available about them.  So as I was looking them up I learned all kinds of things about them (like that they cite Rush as an influence).  And that this album name comes from the name of the hi-fi electronics store Alan Partridge buys a stereo from in the last episode of I’m Alan Partridge series 1.

This album is pretty punky/grungy.  Lead singer Jason Perry has a distinctive voice with some good power.

There are all kinds of hit-making elements in here.  Big crunching guitars coupled with soaring vocals dominate most of the songs, like “Nothing” and “Pacific Ocean.”   “The Distance” also revels in the grunge punk guitar sound with a totally metal guitar solo

Songs like “Something’s Going On” have a distinctly pop-punk bratty sound.  So does “Starbucks” with the line: “don’t wanna get a job at Starbucks”  The title track also works in this snarky, funny, catchy vein.

“Six O’Clock” mixes some cool electronics in the verses while the chorus is, once again, big and catchy.  “Going Down” has a much smoother sound with anything distinctive coming from his vocal delivery.

“Took It Away” does the quiet/loud verse thing very well.  Some deliberate glitching is a fun surprise too.  While “The Springs” introduces acoustic guitar and lots of oohs–a real flick-your-lighters kind of song.  “W.D.Y.C.A.I.” is also catchy with a sing along (woah oh) bridge and a super poppy chorus.

“Shut Yer Face” sounds like the quintessential grunge song–snarky lyrics, big grungy guitars, and a soaring chorus.  It even has vulgarish lyrics, record scratching and other samples!  And man is it catchy.  If this didn’t crack the States for them, nothing would.

[READ: April 15, 2019] “Djinn”

I was shocked to see that Esquire had published a story by Russell Banks in both March and June of 2000.  I was also shocked to see that a man gets shot in this one as well (that’s four of the first five stories in Esquire in 2000 in which someone is shot).

This is a story of a man who works in Hopewell, New Jersey.  They manufacture and sell women’s and children’s high end rubberized sandals.  The sandals were manufactured in Gbandeh, the second-largest city in the Democratic Republic of Katonga, a recently desocialized West African nation.

One of his jobs was to travel to Gbandeh and make the acquaintance of the local managers with hopes of facilitating communication.  And of course to make sure the Katongans could adapt the the fast paced technology in place. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAJOR HIT-Robert De Niro at the Tony Awards Remix (2018).

Who is Major Hit?  No idea.

Is this remix very good?  Not really.  It’s only a minute or so.

Is it hilarious?  Yes.

Is it satisfying?  Hell Yes.

Will you listen to it more than once?  Probably not.

But will you feel a little bit better about your taxes after hearing this?  Well, probably not.

Actually, it might make you feel a little better.  And you probably find yourself quoting De Niro, too.

 

[READ: April 4, 2019] The Awakening of My Interest in Advanced Tax

Madras Press publishes limited-edition short stories and novella-length booklets and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of non-profit organizations chosen by our authors. For this particular book, proceeds to benefit Proceeds to benefit Granada House.

Originally appearing at the heart of The Pale King, David Foster Wallace’s posthumous semi-novel, this extended monologue brilliantly rambles its way around the circumstances that brought its narrator out of his ‘wastoid’ childhood and into maturity at the IRS. Along the way, he falls under the spell of a fake Jesuit, considers the true meaning of a soap opera station break, and narrowly escapes a gruesome death on the subway.

This is the final Madras Press book that I had left to read.  Since I has already read The Pale King, I was in no hurry to read this one.  But now it’s nice to say that I’ve finished all of the Madras Press books.  And that I could post this just in time for the massive Republican tax scam in which thanks to trump and his evil puppet mcconnell, my tax return dropped over $3,000.  Bastards.   May they all rot in prison.  And then hell.

Interestingly, back when I read this during Pale Summer (2014), this entire section was one week’s reading.  So my post from that week is still relevant.    It is posted almost in its entirety below:

This book is an excerpt from The Pale King.  In the book, it is almost 100 pages of one person’s testimony.  Without the novel for context, this excerpt stands on its own just fine.  It is basically an unnamed person’s introduction.  This narrator is so detail oriented that everything gets the same amount of importance–snowfall, the way to score drugs, the effects of drugs, Christian roommates, his father’s death, his mother’s lesibianism, oh and taxation.

So much of it is “irrelevant,” that I hate to get bogged down in details.  So this is a basic outline of ideas until the more “important” pieces of information surface.

For the most part, this is all inside one man’s head as he talks about his life in college, after college, and into the Service.  Mostly this is simply a wonderful character study, full of neuroses and problems that many people face at some point (to one degree or another).  The interviewee states that “A good bit of it I don’t remember… from what I understand, I’m supposed to explain how I arrived at this career.”

Initially he was something of a nihilist, whose response to everything was “whatever.”  A common name for this kind of nihilist at the time was wastoid.  He drifted in and out of several colleges over the years, taking abstract psychology classes.  He says that his drifting was typical of family dramas in the 1970s–son is feckless, mother sticks up for son, father squeezes sons shoes, etc. They lived in Chicago, his father was a cost systems supervisor for the City of Chicago. (more…)

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