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Archive for the ‘The X Files’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MICHAEL McDONALD-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #4 (March 26, 2020).

I was never a fan of the Doobie Brothers, although I do like a few of their songs.  To me, especially now, Michael McDonald’s voice has the quintessential mockable tone and style.  If I were to sing in a voice that I thought was funny, it would sound like him.

Now, he sang on the Thundercat album “Drunk” so that gives him some cred for me, but it’s hard for me to listen to this Tiny Desk Home Concert.

Shows what I know, though, since he is hugely popular and is a “five-time Grammy winner and 2020 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

After Michael McDonald finished “Matters Of The Heart,” the opening song in his Tiny Desk (home) concert, there was a brief pause. The bewilderment on his face was unmistakable. It’s a look I believe we all can relate to in this moment of uncertainty. He sat in his home studio, complete with an illustration of the Tiny Desk drawn by Mr. McDonald himself. That pause, usually reserved for the anticipated applause, was replaced by complete silence.

“Matters” is slow and ponderous.  It lasts nearly 6 minutes and sounds like a ballad I would have hated in the 90s.

I hate to be so mean to him, because he seems like a nice enough guy.  But my comments surely won’t affect him too much.

He then proceeded to play two 1978 Doobie Brothers classics that showcase his still-golden voice: “Minute By Minute” and “What A Fool Believes.”

He jokes: “If you know the words, sing along with me at home,” he said. “I won’t know if you’re singing well or not because I can’t hear you here.”

I enjoy these two Doobie Brothers songs, although  don’t really know the words–I had no idea that the song was called “What a Fool Believes” until about twenty years after I first heard it.  I much prefer the full band to these rather stripped down versions.

[READ: March 10, 2020] The Kids in the Hall: One Dumb Guy

It’s amusing to me that this book by Paul Myers, has an introduction by Seth Meyers and mentions Mike Myers.

Seth says that he was interning at Comedy Central and was doing a great job.  Then he found The Kids in The Hall (which he had never seen before). He became so obsessed with it that he started slacking off.  His boss at Comedy Central said that initially he was planing on offering Seth a job but after all the slacking off he wouldn’t do it.  When Seth told his boss he had been side-tracked by The Kids in the Hall, his boss sais, “There are worse things to throw an opportunity away for.”

So this is an authorized biography of the five Kids in the Hall.  Myers tells the story in a really compelling way. One where, as you read it, you think, gosh I hope everything works out for these guys.  Even though you know they did because well, this book wouldn’t be written about them if it didn’t and because you’re a huge fan of the Kids and you know it all worked out. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DAN TEPFER-Tiny Desk Concert #885 (August 29, 2019).

Most of the time, a Tiny Desk Concert is an opportunity to see an artist in a quiet almost unplugged setting.  Sometimes, it’s an opportunity to see a band really show off in a close space.  And sometimes a Tiny Desk Concert will blow your freaking mind.

Like this one.

I have never seen anything like this.

Dan Tepfer has created a program that plays the piano along with him.  It’s for a project he calls Natural Machines.

Watch the keys and you’ll see this Disklavier — a player piano — plucking notes on its own. But it’s not a prerecorded script.

Here’s how it works: Tepfer plays a note, and a computer program he authored reads those notes and tells the piano what to play in response. Tepfer can load different algorithms into the program that determine the pattern of playback, like one that returns the same note, only an octave higher. Another will play the inverted note based on the center of the piano keys. These rules create interesting restrictions that Tepfer says make room for thoughtful improvisation. In his words, he’s not writing these songs, so much as writing the way they work.

Tepfer plays free improvisation–he “makes things up and tries to be present in the moment” but the computer responds to him in real time based on rules.

He says for “Canon At The Octave” theres’ an axis of symmetry on the piano and “everything I play on one side if reflected on the other side.  Super simple, but it leads to musical problems that lead to real music.”

Since he is improvising, he is also reacting to what the computer makes.

He explains that “Tremolo” is when a note is repeated very quickly.  He gives the example of a violin player playing a note quickly.  It’s much harder on piano than a violin and it’s impossible to do more than ten notes at once.

He plays single notes that generate a series of chords playing quickly all at once–it’s really cool to watch the piano take off as if with a mind of its own.

But watching the piano isn’t the only cool thing

To better communicate what’s happening between him and the piano, Tepfer converted these audio-impulse data into visualizations on the screen behind him, displaying in real time the notes he plays followed by the piano’s feedback. [We dive even deeper into this project in a recent Jazz Night in America video piece].

He explains that these improvs are super short versions to show off how the programs work.

“TriadSculpture” is all about harmonic ratios.  Pythagoras discovered that sounds work with whole numbers.  The math behind music.  So Tepfer has mapped numbers as a 3-D object and he has been printing them–even more mind blowing.  The computer program generates these shapes–  everything he plays on his left hand creates those shaped in real time on the screen.

Perhaps the trickiest part here, unlike a human-to-human duo, is that the computer plays along with 100 percent accuracy based solely on Tepfer’s moves. He compares it to dancing with a robot that never misses a beat. Tepfer has to play in kind to keep the train on the tracks, but if he falls out of step, so does the computer.

Fortunately he never falls out of time (or at least it’s hard to tell since it’s all improvised.

The final piece is “Constant Motion” in which he plays a note and the computer responds to it by playing a note either up or down.  This creates a fun fast piece that explores the full range of the piano.  The visuals for it are very cool too.

I’m not sure if this would be fun to see live (at least any more fun than an improvising pianist is) because listening to it you don’t always really know what’s happening or that the piano is doing the work.  But seeing it up close like this is awesome.

[READ: August 21, 2019] Holy Cow

Like most people, ever since watching The X-Files, I’ve liked David Duchovny (why don’t you love me?).

I watched some of the Red Shoes Diaries just for him.  I watched some of Californication just for him (Didn’t have whatever network it was on, so never watched more than a bit of it).  But I’m always willing to give him a shot because I think he’s smart but goofy.

Enter Holy Cow.

This is Duchovny’s first novel and just what a pitch it must have been.

Hi, this is David Duchovny.  Yup, that one.  I’d like to write an adult book about a cow that wants to go to India once she finds out cows are worshiped there.  Yes, David Duchovny.

I had no idea he had written this book.  I just happened to see it on my library shelf when I was looking for something else.  The book was short and had (terrible) drawings in it and seemed like it would be absurdly funny.

So, with the caveat that if you think that a talking cow buying a plane ticket and going to Jerusalem with a pig and to Turkey with a turkey sounds stupid and juvenile.  Well, you’d be right.  But you’d be missing out on an enjoyable, silly romp if that kept you from reading it. (more…)

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armadaSOUNDTRACK: RAID THE ARCADE PLAYLIST (2015).

raidIt should come as no surprise that Cline’s media campaign would include a Spotify “Raid the Arcade” playlist.  A playlist of the mixtape that the protagonist’s father made when he was a teen.

And I can pretty much see how this would have been a very satisfying mixtape for killing aliens and generally rocking out.  Of course, I had to have a listen and add my thoughts.

Side A: Track:

  1. One Vision – Queen (I was never a big Queen fan, particularly their later poppier stuff)
  2. Crazy Train – Ozzy (A classic, of course)
  3. Chase the Ace – AC/DC (I find it odd that the two AC/DC songs are instrumentals from the Maximum Overdrive soundtrack.  It makes sense given the guy who made them, but there’s so many better AC/DC songs)
  4. Hair of the Dog – Nazareth (One of my favorite classic rockers)
  5. Get it On – Power Station (I really hate Power Station a lot, and this version of an already pretty stupid song song is pretty dreadful)
  6. Old Enough to Rock and Roll – Rainey Haynes (I didn’t know this song.  It comes from the Iron Eagle soundtrack.  This song is not on Spotify and I imagine that’s because it’s terrible)
  7. Danger Zone – Kenny Loggins (This song is such a punch line that even if I did like it I’m not sure I could take it seriously)
  8. Vital Signs – Rush (I was totally psyched that he chose this Rush song)
  9. Barracuda – Heart (I’ve mixed feelings about Heart, but I do like this song a lot)
  10. T.N.T. – AC/DC (Now this is more like it for AC/DC songs–not an overplayed one either)
  11. You Really Got Me – Van Halen (Not my favorite Van Halen song, but a good rocker)
  12. Another One Bites the Dust – Queen (I loved this song when it came out.  It holds up pretty well (there’s some interesting sound effects in the background, but it’s nowhere near as good as the songs below)
  13. One of These Days – Pink Floyd (I love this song but never would have considered it particularly rocking–in the way these other songs are.  But it does rather work)
  14. Top Gun Anthem – Harold Faltermeyer (seriously?  Well, I guess if you like piloting video games, this makes sense.)

Side B: Track:

  1. I Hate Myself for Loving You – Joan Jett (I don’t care for this song, although the guitars sound good for the mix)
  2. It Takes Two – Rob Base (I’m surprised and pleased that this song made it into what is basically a metal compilation.  I never would have had such diversity at that age.  Although I got really sick of this song in college.)
  3. Hammer to Fall – Queen (I don’t really like this era of Queen)
  4. Twilight Zone – Golden Earring (I don’t love this song, but it is cool to hear once in a while)
  5. We’re Not Going to Take It – Twisted Sister (I loved TS back in the day, although I wince at them now. If this song wasn’t overplayed I could probably really get into it.)
  6. Rock You Like A Hurricane – Scorpions (I loved the Scorpions back in the day too. I certainly tapped my foot along to this one.)
  7. Black Betty – Ram Jam (This song is in a Rayman video game that Clark plays and while I think the song is really dumb, it certainly rocks.)
  8. D.T. – AC/DC (see above for instrumental AC/DC)
  9. Delirious – ZZ Top (I never got into ZZ Top, and while I do like some late 70s ZZ, I really don’t like mid 80s ZZ)
  10. Iron Eagle – King Kobra (Wow, this was obscure even to me–more pop metal from Iron Eagle)
  11. Run’s House – Run-DMC (Whose house?  It’s funny how stripped bare Run-DMC songs sound compared to contemporary rap.)
  12. We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions –Queen (overplayed but classic)

Bonus Track: Snoopy versus the Red Baron – The Red Guardsmen (a goof y novelty song that I think overstays its welcome.)

So I guess my verdict is that I really don’t like the Raid the Arcade mix all that much.  That’s kind of a shocker, actually.

[READ: July 31, 2015] Armada

I loved Cline’s first book Ready Player One.  And Sarah and I were understandably excited about his latest book, Armada.  I was surprised about the content of the book which is of similar plot to the new movie Pixels (I say similar based on what little I know of Pixels–that video game characters attack the earth).  This is surprising to me because Cline has already sold the rights of this book to Spielberg–and I have a  hard time believing someone would try to cut Spielberg with an idea.

Of course, Armada is rather different from Pixels in that the characters that attack the earth are not classic 80s video game characters.  Indeed, there is a whole back story that shows how very different these two premises are.

In a recent interview, Cline talked about how you have to include all the pop culture sci-fi and video games in his book because there’s no way you should be able to make a sci-fi book or movie on earth and not reference all of the pop culture that the protagonist grew up with.  So this story is not set in a vacuum.  In fact, it the pop culture establishes the plot.

Zack Lightman is a senior in high school.  He’s had a pretty crappy life.  His father was killed in a sanitation explosion when Zack was just a month old.  The death set him and his mom up for life, but he has spent his whole life immersed in his father’s life (he is close to his father’s age when his father died).  Zack has a lot of his father’s effects.  His dad was a huge gamer, spending a lot of time at the arcade, and loving all things sci-fi and fantasy.  His father would have been born around 1970, making the pop culture references perfect for those of us around the same age.

One day, while looking out the window of school, Zack sees an alien ship.  But not just a generic cigar shaped UFO.  Rather this is a ship directly from his favorite videogame, Armada.  Zack plays this game pretty much every day. In fact, he is ranked sixth in the world as a pilot protecting the earth from alien invaders.  Naturally he assumes he has gone insane–especially since no one else has seen it. (more…)

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10SOUNDTRACK: FATHER JOHN MISTY-Fear Fun (2012).

fjmI can’t get over how much I’ve been enjoying this album for the last two years.  Father John Misty is J Tillman from Fleet Foxes.

This disc is a gentle folk album with vaguely country leanings.  The arrangements are spare and yet the verses and choruses are so great to sing along to. “Funtimes in Babylon” has this infectious chorus: “I would like to abuse my lungs, smoke everything in sight with every girl I’ve ever loved.  Ride around the wreckage on a horse knee deep in mud.  Look out, Hollywood, here I come.”  “Nancy from Now On” has a great propulsive chorus with oohs and tinkling bells and pianos and Misty’s engaging falsetto.

I was introduced to this album by “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” which opens with the super catchy line, “Jeeeeesus Christ, girl.”  I love the big crashing drum sound he has here.  “I’m Writing a Novel” is a fun romp, with the great line “I’m writing a novel because it’s never been done before.”  “O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me” introduces a great organ sound.  It’s a full song at only 2 and a half minutes.

“Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2” opens with a slide guitar and turns into a stomping song with more Ooohs and a great chorus.  “Only Son of the Ladiesman” has a great chorus with the fun couple: “I’m a steady hand, I’m a Dodgers fan.”  “This is Sally Hatchet” has cool guitar blasts and a great bridge.

“Well You Can Do It Without Me” is a countrified 2 minute stomper.  “Tee Pees 1-12” is a big stompin’ honkey tonk song with fiddles and slide guitar.  The disc ends with “Everyman Needs a Companion” a slow ballad with a great piano melody and a fun to sing along with verse and chorus.

I love the lyrics on this album, especially the song “Now I’m Learning to Love the War” a slow ballad with a great story:

Try not to think so much about
The truly staggering amount of oil that it takes to make a record
All the shipping, the vinyl, the cellophane lining, the high gloss
The tape and the gear

Try not to become too consumed
With what’s a criminal volume of oil that it takes to paint a portrait
The acrylic, the varnish, aluminum tubes filled with latex
The solvents and dye

Lets just call this what it is
The gentler side of mankind’s death wish
When it’s my time to go
Gonna leave behind things that won’t decompose

In addition to all of the great music on here, the CD packaging is fantastic with that great cover, done in a cardboard gatefold sleeve including two huge books full of words and drawings and lyrics and everything.  I’m really looking forward to his next release.

[READ: September 14, 2014] Grantland #10

Despite my being in the middle of reading several other things, I was looking for a short article to read the other night and grabbed my Grantland 10.  And, of course, once I started, I couldn’t stop. I put everything else on hold and blasted through this issue.

And so all of my loves and hates are the same with this issue.  I never know how anything they talk about nearly a year ago turned out, which stinks.  And yet I get so wrapped up in the writing that I don’t care.  I’m not sure what it is about the writing for Grantland that i enjoy so much.  It is casual but knowledgeable.  Often funny but not obnoxiously silly. And I suppose that now I feel like I’m in on all of the secret stuff they talk about so I’m part of the club.  I fear that if I were to ever go to the website I would get sucked into a black hole and never emerge.

I often wonder how they choose what goes into the book.  This issue has some new writers and the surprising absence of some regulars.  I wonder what went on there.  And as always, the book could use some editing and maybe actually listing the urls of the links that were once in the online version.  But I think I’m talking to deaf ears on that one.

This issue covers October-December 2013 (that’s ten-twelve months ago!  Some of this stuff feels ancient!)

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gorey SOUNDTRACK: 1-SPEED BIKE-Droopy Butt Begone [CST014] (2000).

1speed1-Speed Bike is a remix project by Adian Girt who has played in Godspeed You Black Emperor and Exhaust for Constellation Records.  This is his first release as 1-Speed Bike.  He has released several more on other labels but I haven’t heard any of them.

The most interesting thing about this disc are the titles of the songs.  And those titles are so clever that it gives one high hopes for the album.  I don’t know who Mauro and Elwy are (track 1) but the rest are certainly interesting if not confrontational.

1. The Day That Mauro Ran Over Elwy Yost
2. Seattle/Washington/Prague 00/68 Chicago/Nixon/Reagan Circle-Fighting Machine
3. Yuppie Restaurant-Goers Beware Because This Song Is For The Dishwasher
4. Just Another Jive-Assed White Colonial Theft
5. Why Are All The Dogs Dying Of Cancer?
6. My Kitchen Is Tiananmen Square
7. Any Movement That Forgets About Class Is A Bowel Movement

But what’s disappointing is that the album is comprised almost entirely of a drum machine and some other sounds.  The drums are very very loud in the mix, and there’s very little variation in each song (which befits a remix, I suppose).  And yet, the “musical” section is largely nonexistent.  There’s a lot of spoken word stuff, which is fun, but it also seems randomly thrown on there. The disc opens with him asking someone to be quiet because he has to flush the toilet.  There’s a lengthy declaration of love for his family and war against capitalism.  And that everyone else can fuck off if they don’t want to hear him talk politics.

There are samples sprinkled around the disc, but most of them are inaudible or played with so much that it renders them hard to figure out.  There are some interesting sounds in “My Kitchen is Tienanmen Square,” but the rest is kind of dull.  The end of the last song offers a voice mail message that gives you the title of the album.

Overall, not an exciting debut for 1-Speed Bike.

[READ: April 12, 2014] The Strange Case of Edward Gorey

I bought this book many years ago when I was on an Alexander Theroux kick (which actually means I wanted to read some of his books but did not, although I do hope to).  Anyhow, this book has been staring at me for some time so I decided to just dive in.  I actually know precious little about Theroux except that his novel are supposed to be weird or difficult or something.  I know slightly more about Edward Gorey, although little more than his drawing style (which I love) and his sense of humor (which I share).

So this book is a sort of a biography of Gorey by Theroux.  Theroux was one of Gorey’s close friends.  This is saying something because as a rule Gorey was rather a recluse and didn’t much like people (he did like cats, though).  The book is not a proper biography–a biography of his works or even of his life.  It is more of a biography of the man and his quirks.  There’s very little about his childhood, and not a lot about his books (except for Theroux’s admiration).  But mostly its about what it was like to hang out with Gorey–and to delight in the baroque and fun turns of phrase that Gorey used.

We learn a lot about what he liked (soap operas, classic movies [Metropolis, M, Sunrise, Gold Digger series], obscure horror films [The Town That Dreaded Sunrise, Women of Straw, Suspiria (at least I’ve heard of that one)], TV shows [The X-Files, The Golden Girls, Matlock, Buffy the Vampire Slayer] and of course, classic literature [he was well versed in many original languages].  We also learn what he most assuredly did not like.  He did not like Star Wars, he did not like Mel Brooks, he did not like Robert Altman or Woody Allen [Gorey was a film critic for a time].  And as for our foremost actress, Meryl Streep, he has this to say:

“Oh please!” said he, every time she opens her mouth, the critics insist Dostoevsky’s speaking!” He paused. “And who’s even dippier is Glenn Close. Sexless as a teabag. Neither man, not woman, nor in-between! Julia Roberts’s face looks like it’s made of rubber — remember those Snap, Crackle and Pop cartoon faces? And of course Streisand. God help us, I won’t even go to see.”  Gorey loathed her with a passion, even more than John Waters does.  I once heard him fulminate for a good half-hour on the impossible stupidity of her 1962 hit, “People,” a song that, with its mawkish, politically correct soul-sharing, shrinkingly embodies to a T everything that Edward Gorey utterly loathed:  “Pee-pull, pee-pull who need pee-pull are the luuu-kiest pee-pull in the wooooooorld!.”  I cannot honestly think of a single sentiment that would have driven Edward Gorey battier faster than the flaccid lyrics of that song with its, to him, canasta-closeness, hideous interconnectedness, and ultimate meaninglessness.

He also hated Andrew Lloyd Webber, the Marquis de Sade’s writing, right-wing talk show hosts, every movie Al Pacino ever made [Of Bobby Deerfield he cried out during the movie, “oh for Christ’s sake…what is this in aid of?”] and Martha Stewart.  And while he had great disdain for Barbra Walters and Maya Angelou, he was especially appalled by “the invincible vulgarity of the preposterous Kathie Lee Gifford and the host of miniature faces she was constantly pulling” (20) saying: “her facial contortions would be excessive on Daffy Duck” (44).

One thing to note about the book.  As you can see form the page numbers above, similar sentiments about Gifford are on page 20 and 44.  Theroux tends to circle back onto the same topics a number of times.  So the same names tend to pop up three or four times (Buffy comes up at least 3).  It feels like Theroux (who published this soon after Gorey died) wrote it in fits and just needed to get down as much as possible.  And while the book feels repetitive, it never feels flaccid or like it’s full of padding.  It just feels like a huge outpouring of information.  Or like an essay collections by a person who tends to revisit similar material.

Interestingly, the book isn’t necessarily for fans of Gorey.  I honestly haven’t read any of his works in years, but I found this book funny and strangely cathartic (if you like bitchy, opinionated scholar-types).  If any of the above appeals, you’ll get a kick of out Gorey, whether you like his drawings or not.  The book is also full of Gorey’s drawings (although nothing new), from his books and from some of his posters.

I was also intrigued by the fact that Gorey, clearly no friend of people, did not shy away from the outside world.  He lived on Cape Cod and New York City where his number was in the phone book the whole time.  He walked around Manhattan in a big beard and fur coat (until he gave up the coat for animal rights reasons).  When he moved full time to Cape Cod, he lived in a residential area and did not turn away any fans (he always had manners even if he knew the whole thing was kind of silly).  And apparently his house was simply chock full of fascinating geegaws and gimcracks.

For all of his proclamations about others, he did not have a large ego about his own work.  And the book gives the impression that he was just an opinionated guy who knew what he liked and was happy to share his thoughts with others (or his cats).

I just found out that Theroux reissued this book in 2011 and updated it from 68 pages (my version) to 168 pages.  I don’t know how much has changed.  In looking online it seems like maybe all he has done is make the original pictures larger, but there may be other textual changes as well.

 

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  9SOUNDTRACK: UNIVORE-“Vampire” (2013).

univoreI never watch the ads that come before Youtube videos.  But this came on as an ad and I was utterly mesmerized by it.

I didn’t even know what it was for.  Turns out that Univore is a band and “Vampire” is one of their songs.  The 1 minute ad video was actually the whole thing.

It’s got a simple buzzy synthesized riff, backing vocalists singing “Oh yea” when appropriate and an occasional deep voiced man saying “vampire.”  The video is of an older gentleman (who a little research suggests is Marco Casale) dressed like a vampire running around a small green space on a campus.  The whole video looks like it took 15 minutes to film.  It is weird and wonderful.

I still know nothing about Univore, which may be for the better, but I did enjoy this video.

[READ: April 6, 2014] Grantland #9

I’m surprised that there aren’t better cover images online for these books.  For #8 i had to use one with a big flash in the middle of it and this one is the illustration from the Grantland website.  The books are quite pretty so why uses these pale imitations?

So this issue proved to be a lot better about weird typos and “we just took this from the web and pasted it and never bothered to check to see if there was anything weird” problems.  So thanks for at least running it through Spellcheck.  The only other thing left is to either remove the lines that talk about attached links/images if they are not there or to include the url or make up a tiny url (but that would be actual work!).  Oh, and please make sure all of the footnotes are included.

I have given up on ever finding out how these things turned out several months after the fact–I’ll just happily live in ignorance of reality there.

This issue was taken from during basketball’s downtime which was a nice change (even though the still managed to talk about basketball).  There was more pop culture and some wonderful articles about team nicknames and mascots–something I absolutely love.  So this is one of my favorite issues overall.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLUE ÖYSTER CULT-compilations and live releases (1978-2010).

For a band that had basically two hits (“Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Burnin’ for You”) and maybe a half a dozen other songs that people might have heard of, BOC has an astonishing number of “greatest hits” collections.

Starting in 1987 we got Career of Evil: The Metal Years (1987), Don’t Fear the Reaper (1989), On Flame with Rock n’ Roll (1990), Cult Classic (which is actually the band re-recording their old tracks (!)) (1994), and the two cd collection Workshop of the Telescopes (1995).  There’s even Singles Collection, (2005) which is a collection of their European singles & Bsides.

This doesn’t include any of the “budget price” collections: E.T.I. Revisited, Tattoo Vampire, Super Hits, Then and Now, The Essential, Are You Ready To Rock?, Shooting Shark, Best of, and the 2010 release: Playlist: The Very Best of).

The lesson is that you evidently won’t lose money making a BOC collection.

I don’t know that any of these collections are any better than the others.

The 2 CD one is for completists, but for the most part you’re going to get the same basic tracks on all of them.

And, although none of them have “Monsters” for the average person looking for some BOC, any disc is a good one.

Regardless of the number of hits they had, BOC was tremendous live.  And, as a result, there have also been a ton of live records released.  Initially the band (like Rush) released a live album after every three studio albums. On Your Feet or On Your Knees (1975) Some Enchanted Evening (1978) and Extraterrestrial Live (1982) were the “real releases.”

Then, in 1994 we got Live 1976 as both CD and DVD (which spares us nothing, including Eric Bloom’s lengthy harangue about the unfairness of…the speed limit).  It’s the most raw and unpolished on live sets.  2002 saw the release of A Long Day’s Night, a recording of a 2002 concert (also on DVD) which had Eric Bloom, Buck Dharma an Allan Lanier reunited.

They also have a number of might-be real live releases (fans debate the legitimacy of many of these).  Picking a concert disc is tough if only because it depends on the era you like.  ETLive is regarded as the best “real” live disc, although the reissued double disc set of Some Enchanted Evening is hard to pass up.  Likewise, the 2002 recording is a good overview of their career, and includes some of their more recent work.

If you consider live albums best of’s (which many people do) I think it’s far to say that BOC has more best of’s than original discs.  Fascinating.  Many BOC fans believe that if they buy all the best of discs, it will convince Columbia to finally reissue the rest of the original discs (and there are a number of worthy contenders!) in deluxe packages.  I don’t know if it will work, but I applaud the effort.

[READ: October 2009-February 2010] State By State

This is a big book. And, since it’s a collection essays, it’s not really the kind of big book that you read straight through.  It’s a perfect dip in book.  And that’s why it took me so long to get through.

I would love to spend a huge amount of time devoting a post to each essay in the book.  But, well, there’s 51 (including D.C.) and quite a few of them I read so long ago I couldn’t say anything meaningful about.  But I will summarize or at least give a sentence about each essay, because they’re all so different.

I’ll also say that I read the Introduction and Preface last (which may have been a mistake, but whatever).  The Preface reveals that what I took to be a flaw in the book was actually intentional.  But let me back up and set up the book better.

The catalyst for the book is the WPA American Guide Series and sort of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  The WPA Guides were written in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration.  48 guide books were written, one for each state.  Some famous writers wrote the books, but they were ultimately edited (and many say watered down) by a committee.  I haven’t read any of them, but am quite interested in them (and am looking to get the New Jersey one).  Each guide was multiple hundreds of pages (the New Jersey one is over 800).

State By State is written in the spirit of that series, except the whole book is 500 pages (which is about 10 pages per state, give or take).  And, once again, famous writers were asked to contribute (no committee edited this book, though).  I’ve included the entire list of authors at the end of the post, for quick access.

So I started the book with New Jersey, of course.  I didn’t realize who Anthony Bourdain was until I looked him up in the contributor’s list (I’m sure he is thrilled to hear that).  And his contribution was simultaneously exciting and disappointing,.  Exciting because he and I had quite similar upbringings: he grew up in North Jersey (although in the wealitheir county next to mine) and had similar (although, again, more wealthy) experiences. The disappointing thing for me was that Bourdain fled the state  for New York City (and, as I now know, untold wealth and fame (except by me))  I felt that his fleeing the state, while something many people aspire to, is not really representative of the residents of the state as a whole.

And that dissatisfaction is what I thought of as the flaw of the book (until I read the Preface).  In the Preface, Matt Weiland explains that they asked all different authors to write about states.  They asked some natives, they asked some moved-ins, they asked some temporary residents and they asked a couple of people to go to a state for the first time.  In reality, this decision makes for a very diverse and highly entertaining reading.  In my idealized world, I feel like it’s disingenuous to have people who just stop in to give their impression of an area.  But hey, that’s not the kind of book they wanted to compile, and I did enjoy what they gave us, so idealism be damned.

For most of the book, whenever I read an essay by someone who wasn’t a native or a resident of a state, I assumed that there weren’t any famous writers from that state.  I’ve no idea if that played into anything or not.  From what I gather, they had a list of authors, and a list of states (I was delighted to read that three people wanted to write about New Jersey-if the other two writers ever decided to put 1,000 words  to paper, I’d love to read them (hey editors, how about State by State Bonus Features online, including any extra essays that people may have wanted to write).

From New Jersey, I proceeded alphabetically.  And, I have to say that I’m a little glad I did.  I say this because the first few states in the book come across as rather negative and kind of unpleasant.  Alabama (written by George Packer) comes across as downtrodden, like a place you’d really have to love to live there.  Even Alaska, which ended up being a very cool story, felt like a veil of oppression resided over the state (or at  least the part of the state that Paul Greenberg wrote bout.)  But what I liked about this essay and the book in general was that the authors often focused on unexpected or little known aspects of each state.  So the Alaska essay focused on Native fisherman and the salmon industry.  Obviously it doesn’t do justice to the rest of that enormous state,  but that’s not what the book is about.

The book is meant to be a personal account of the author’s experiences in the state. (more…)

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