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Archive for the ‘Pizza’ Category

[ATTENDED: May 21, 2018] Andrew W.K. 

When Andrew W.K. first came on the scene, I enjoyed what I thought of as his dopey party music.  It seemed a little one note, but it was sure fun.

Then I learned more and more about the guy and decided I really liked him, even if I didn’t get into any more of his music.

Then he put out a record of piano music (he is a long-trained pianist)  It was all instrumental and improvised and he did a Tiny Desk Concert piano improv (which was interesting if not a little disappointing).

Then some kind of strange legal things happened and he stopped making music (more or less) and did motivational speaking and went into TV.  He made the terrific show Destroy Build Destroy and my kids became fans of him (although not his music). (more…)

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luchSOUNDTRACK: THE CRISTINA PATO TRIO-Tiny Desk Concert #305 (September 21, 2013).

patoI didn’t know who Cristina Pato was or what instrument she played.  So when the show started (without visuals), I assumed she was the accordionist (because the show starts with some wild accordion music).  But in fact, Pato is playing the bagpipe.  Pato’s instrument is the gaita, a Galician bagpipe, and her roots lie in traditional Galician music — though she also boasts graduate degrees in classical piano, music theory and electronic composition.

I love the sound she band gets together with the funky staccato accordion notes and the wild racing pipes.  They are very jazzy and very idiosyncratic.  Her percussionist uses several different types of drums—the ubiquitous box drum and a hand held drum as well as various shakers and other sound makers.

They play three songs.  It’s interesting how much of the first song is taken up without the bagpipes—there’s lenghy sections where the accordion has the floor and she is just happily dancing around.  And the accordionist is amazing.  he plays all kinds of different styles and gets an amazing range of sounds out of that one instrument. He wails!  Of course I see now that the song is actually written by the accordionist: “Victor Prieto: ‘Mundos Celtas.'”  So it’s no wonder that she is happy to sit back and let him shine.  (Prieto , like Pato, is a native of the town of Orense in Galicia).  While he is playing, she whoops and hollers to get everyone pumped.  But once she gets her instruments going she is a nonstop blur of fingers and wild notes.  I particularly like that she has a section where the note is slightly flat and she continues to slowly raise it until it gets in pitch.  I also love–due to the nature of the bag pipes–that she can scream and whoops while still pressing air out of the bags.  And at the end of the song, she is just wild with fast notes.  It’s a very intense piece.

The second piece “Traditional/Cristina Pato: “Alalá Re-rooted” starts with her singing.  She is unmiked so you can’t really hear her, but I don’t really enjoy her singing as much as her playing so it’s okay.  I do love the interesting sounds the percussionist Shane Shanahan (Shanahan is American, but is also a longtime member (with Pato) of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble) is making.  Overall, this is a fairly dissonant piece—with her sounding almost like a free jazz players (but on pipes rather than sax).  I do love near the end where she almost seems to get a harmonic overtone on the pipe.  It’s a great moment—but fairly weird how the song just sort of fades away before seguing into the final song.

Victor Prieto & Emilio Solla: “Muñeira For Cristina” this song seems to be all about percussion with lots of drumming and a very noisy tambourine that Pato plays.  She gets the crowd clapping along and then  when she and Prieto play the same awesome riff together,it sounds great.  I love watching her shake the finger part while she’s playing it, to get a cool almost whammy bar sound out of it.  The song totally rocks and the whole set with the unlikely combo of accordion and bagpipe is startlingly wonderful.

[READ: April 20, 2016] Comics Squad: Lunch!

I really enjoyed the first Comics Squad book and I was delighted that a second one came out.  I just recently saw that a third one is coming out the summer–I love that it is called Detention and is coming out on Independence Day.

Like the first collection, this one is edited by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) and Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady).

But the rest of the line up is quite different this time around, which is cool–allowing other artists to shine.  This time there are stories from Cece Bell (El Deafo) ; Jason Shiga (a great indie artist who does some kid-friendly and some decidedly not kid friendly books) ; Cecil Castelucci & Sara Varon ; Jeffrey Brown and Nathan Hale (his own series of historical stories).

Like the previous book, the Holms and Krosoczka sprinkle the book with comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady. (more…)

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recessSOUNDTRACK: BUIKA-Tiny Desk Concert #298 (August 26, 2013).

buikaI had never heard of Buika before, so I had to rely on the blurb:

Concha Buika’s voice doesn’t come from inside her petite body: It comes from Africa, and from the past. There are obvious traces of flamenco, itself a historical mash-up of the Moors and various transitory cultures in southern Spain and north Africa.

During her flights of improvisation, we also hear the influence of Cuban vocalist Celia Cruz, a product of Afro-Cuban culture, mixed in with Ella Fitzgerald, who was the pinnacle of African-American jazz vocal expression.

In these two performances, we hear Buika interpret her own lyrics after a handful of albums in which she’s interpreted others’ words. With her eyes closed tightly, she inhabits these poems of love and heartache as if she were reliving them again before our eyes.

Buika’s singular voice has attracted a cadre of fans who’ve become enchanted by her voice and her leave-it-all-on-the-stage performances in clubs and theaters around the world. Watch this video and join the club.

So as the notes say, these two pieces are improvisations.  Not knowing Spanish all that well, I don’t know how much is made up or even how much is just sounds rather than actual words.  But it certainly sounds more off the cuff than written out.

The music is just a piano and a box drum and her voice.  Her voice is raw and pained, but quite pretty.  The two songs are called “La Noche Mas Larga” and “La Nave Del Olvido.”

[READ: April 15, 2016] Comics Squad: Recess

I found out about this collection in the back of a Babymouse book.

Comics Squad is a collection of eight comics from some of my favorite artists.  It basically works as a bunch of short, shall we say graphic novellas, from Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) ; Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady) ; Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants) ; Dan Santat ; Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman  (Smile and Astronaut Academy); Ursula Vernon (Dragonbreath) ; Eric Wright (Frankie Pickle) and Gene Luen Yang.

Since it’s edited by the Holms and Krosoczka they sprinkle the book with marginal comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady.  But each artist/author gets a story, and I enjoyed them all.

GENE LUEN YANG-“The Super-Secret Ninja Club”  This was a really fun story about a group of boys who meet at recess.  Once they know that noone is watching, they put on their masks and become the super-secret ninja club.  But Daryl, a decidedly un-ninja like boy wants in…desperately.  He’s never had a passion for any club before but this one is totally him.  The one boy says that since winter break is about to start, when the get back to school, they can talk about him joining.  So Daryl spends all inter break practicing.  Will it be enough?  The answer is very funny.

DAV PILKEY-“Book ‘Em, Dog Man!”  This story begins with a letter to the parents of George (the main character in Captain Underpants) from his teacher saying that she asked for a written assignment and once again he drew a cartoon.  She has attached the offending (and offensive) cartoon for them to see.  Petey the cat is in jail .  He wants to beat the superhero Dog Man.  But Dog Man is too smart  So Petey realizes that if he removes all the words from books no one will be smart anymore.  He invents a ray which does just that.  What will the world do when they can’t read anymore?

JARRETT J, KROSOCZKA-“Betty and the Perilous Pizza Day”  “Lunch Lady” is a cartoon I didn’t really know before reading this collection. Lunch Lady appears in the margins of the pages of the book, but not in this actual cartoon.  Rather, the star of this cartoon is Betty, Lunch Lady’s helper. And since Lunch Lady can’t be there, Betty will have to deal with lunch.  But it is pizza day!  The only hope is the Pizzatron 2000.  Unless, of course, it develops a mind of its own and goes on a rampage.

URSULA VERNON-“The Magic Acorn”  I don’t know Dragonbreath all that well, although C.  has read all of them.  This story is pretty simple.  Although since I don’t know the characters I don’t know if it is representative of anything prior.  Scratch, a squirrel who is rather realistically drawn (Vernon’s drawings are great) is interrupted by Squeak, a far more a cartoony squirrel.  Squeak is excited because he found a magic acorn.  Scratch states that this is the 318th “magic acorn” that he’s found.  And besides they have recess in ten minutes.  Well, this acorn may not exactly be an acorn, but it is certainly magical.

JENNIFER L. HOLM & MATTHEW HOLM-“Babymouse: The Quest for Recess”  In this brief story Babymouse has a few fantasies that prevent her from actually getting outside for recess.  First she is late for school (dreaming about Camelot) then her locker brings her to Zeus, making her late for class.  A western dream makes her disrupt lunch and then the barbarian fractions invade during math class.  Can she keep it together and actually get outside?

ERIC WIGHT-“Jiminy Sprinkles in ‘Freeze Tag'”  So I don’t know this comic at all either. Jiminy Sprinkles is a new student to the school (he is a cupcake). He immediately befriends a peanut who tells him to watch out for The Mean Green Gang, a group of vegetables.  (Their leader is Russell from Brussels (ha)).  The Mean Green Gang is pretty tough but Jiminy has a secret weapon of his own–a very funny one that the Mean Green Gang actually gets a kick out of too.

DAN SANTAT-“300 Words” This is an interesting look at the story The Giving Tree.  The kids were assigned a book report on the story three weeks ago and it is due today.  John is one of the boys who didn’t do the assignment and he’s about to write his 300 words now.  It’s a tree. It gives things.  But another boy has a better idea–he’s going to ask Sophia for her paper.  Even though the last time he talked to her he threw up on her.   Sophia has an interesting answer for him.

DAVE ROMAN & RAINA TELGEMEIER-“The Rainy Day Monitor” is a wonderful take on kickball.  Since the kids can’t go outside to play because of the rain, their recess is indoors.  And they are closely watched by Boring Becca the totally boring fifth grader.  When they ask if they can play kickball inside she asks the kids if they have ever played Dungeons and Dragons.  They groan until she says they should play kickball using dice and imaginary characters.  Pretty great idea Becca!

The end of the book is set up with fun fake ads and useful tips.

One “ad” is an offer for Babymouse Binoculars.  I also really liked Lunch Lady’s tips on how to draw Betty (which skip from 3 to 12 while Squish sweats).

This was not only a great introduction to all of these fabulous comic writers, it was a really funny collection in its own right.

The end of the book says “Do you think there will be another one? As sure as there is syrup on pancakes there’ll be a Comics Squad #2.”  And indeed, there was a second one.

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fakeSOUNDTRACK: MATANA ROBERTS-Coin Coin: Chapter 3 Mississippi Moonchile [CST110] (2015).

cst110cover_258x242I felt like the first Coin Coin disc was way too long, so imagine my surprise to discover that the whole Coin Coin series is planned as a 12 chapter collection!

Unlike the previous 2 chapters, this album was created entirely by Roberts.  She is credited with playing saxophone, Korg Monotron and a 1900s upright piano.  But like the others, the tracks bleed into each other and seem to end indiscriminately.

This disc also quotes from The Star Spangled Banner, Beautiful Dreamer, The Pledge of Allegiance, My Country ‘Tis of Thee, Lift Every Voice and Sing and All the Pretty Horses.  As well as samples from Malcolm X and a field recording of a travel through Mississippi, Louisiana Tennessee and NYC.

The first song, “All is Written” is 10 minutes long.  She sings quietly and starkly (voice breaking) while spoken words overlap behind her voice (and the saxophone and drones).  Her singing is at times pained and strained—aching with the truth of her words.  As “The Good Book” begins, the spoken word continues but the main sound is an industrial throbbing.  Near the end, a new metallic sound comes screeching in and then resolves into a kind of drone while angelic voices takes over for song three, “Clothed to the Land, Worn by the Sea” which is more pleasant.

“Dreamer of Dreams” resumes some spoken word and synth noises while two overlapping tracks of sax solos play.  “Always Say Your Name” has some more drones and a wild sax solo.  “Nema Nema Nema” experiments with analog synth noises while she sings a pretty melody with other voices circulating behind her.  “A Single Man o’War” has a high pitched drone. which is accompanied by several three note chants.

“As Years Roll By” is spoken words, with drone and church bells.   And lots of “Amens.”  “This Land is Yours” has lots of voices speaking and overlapping.  It ends with someone singing “come away with me come away,” which segues into “Come Away” with a noisy background and spoken voices talking about Zanzibar.  Then there is a keening, pained voice singing the middle. “JP” is a speech about he slave trade.

Although this album is difficult, it is more manageable than her other releases in this series.  But manageability clearly isn’t her plan, she is making a statement and it is exciting and frightening to listen to.

[READ: August 10, 2016] Original Fake

You should never judge a book by its cover.  But I really liked the cover of this book a lot.  And the title was intriguing, so I grabbed it off the new book shelf.

And what a great, fun story it was.

The book opens with Frankie sneaking into his school at 6:30 AM.  No one else is there except maybe the janitor.  He is sneaking into the school to do a small amount of vandalism. But the vandalism is not your typical vandalism.  On the school hallway is a mural that is currently being painted.  Frankie is an artist but he was not asked to paint the mural (no one really knows he does art).  The mural is a of a lake and farm fields and all that.  And he has decided to tag the mural.  He has painted a water-skiing abominable snowman giving the hang loose sign in the corner of the lake.  “He’s maybe six inches tall, and I kind of put him close to a rock so he’d blend in, but if you get close, its pretty obvious he doesn’t belong. He’s completely amazing.”

Amid the telling of the scene is a drawing of Frankie painting the snowman–this book is full of illustrations by Johnson.  Most of the illustrations complement the story but a couple actually tell the story, too. (more…)

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glorkpizza SOUNDTRACK: NELLIE McKAY-Tiny Desk Concert #117 (April 4, 2011).

nellieNellie McKay is a singer I’d never heard of.  She is a blonde woman in a kind of yellow kimono and looks like she might be a funny folk singer as she plays a ukulele which is cut to look like an electric guitar.  But rather unexpectedly, she and her band burst into a reggae song.

McKay is, according to the blurb, an audacious artist who once devoted an entire album to Doris Day songs.  And now she writes a pretty authentic sounding Caribbean jam.  “Caribbean Time” has all the trappings of an island song–reggae guitars, bongos, and heavily wah-wahed guitars.

Between the songs, she makes some unexpected comments.  Like she says that she decided that a good sketch would be people sitting around a table asking for things and confessing at the same time, “Pass the syrup my father beat e as a child.”

When they start “Beneath the Underdog” the guitarist doesn’t start on time.  He says “Sorry, I forgot where we were for a second.”  She replies, “We’re in Washington D.C. fighting the man.”

“Beneath the Underdog” is a little less reggae influenced but still has a very tropical, light sound.  And her lyrics are wry and amusing, “beneath the underdog, that’s where I’m comfortable.”  It’s poppy and fun.  She even plays a keyboard solo with notes that sound kind of like steel drums.

“The Portal” is a ballad.  It’s much more traditional sounding, although with the same inflections that McKay has used on the other songs.  Her voice is quite distinctive without being unusual.  This is a somber song, but even while singing it she looks like she’s about to laugh.

And she caps off the set with an other weird  moment where she introduces her band and mispronounces her guitarists last name and seems to have a really hard time saying it.  She apologizes, “I was stoned when I met him.”  As the camera dims she says, “Thank you for fighting the good fight.  We are the silent majority but not so silent, we’re just quiet and tasteful.”

I found her to be quite engaging and charming.  I wonder if she’s still making music.

[READ: January 17, 2016] The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza

I have enjoyed everything I’ve read from John Kochalka.  His drawings are deceptively simple and his books are stupid but ultimately clever (and funny, either way).  His adult books are pretty over the top vulgar (don’t let your kids see them), but his kids books are very funny and perfectly juvenile.

This is his first book for First Second, and the first in a trilogy about the Glorkian Warrior.

Our copy also has an autograph for C.–our Vermont cousins sent it for his birthday (Kochalka is the artist laureate of Vermont, you know).

The premise of this book is painfully simple.  We meet the Glorkian Warrior who is, well, dumb.  His backpack talks to him and tries to get him to be less dumb.  And to be more heroic. (more…)

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pizzaSOUNDTRACK: BELLOWS-Tiny Desk Concert #440 (May 11, 2015).

bellows I knew Bellows from NPR playing one of their songs.  They are a new band with one album out.  Their Tiny Desk Concert is really short (under 10 minutes) but they do play 3 songs.

I’m curious if they are stripped down for this or if they typically sound this soft and simple.

The opening song “Sacred Heart” is propelled by a very simple synth riff and bass notes (the lefty bassist plays a right handed bass upside down, which is interesting to see).  Perhaps the most compelling thing about Bellows is the harmony voices (and the drummer’s hair).

Lead singer Oliver Kalb has a voice that I wouldn’t call powerful, but it is rather distinctive (and perhaps a bit unusual).  The songs work best when the unnamed keyboardist (female) and bassist (male, deep voice) all sing together, like in “Hello Morning.”

The final song, “White Sheet” is the one I knew from NPR.  It sounds just as good here.  It is easily the best of the three songs, probably because the keyboardist does more than sing harmony.  (And the ah ah ah ah section, combined with the deep breathing section is very catchy too).

I think it may be the simplicity of the melodies that makes the songs so effective–they do stay with you.  And they definitely leave me wanting to hear more.

[READ: January 5, 2015] Stick Dog Chases a Pizza

I didn’t know there was a third Stick Dog book out.  It is pretty samey compared to the first two (but since I haven’t looked at a Stick Dog book in a while, it was okay).   In the first book, the dogs were after a hamburger.  In the second it was a hot dog. In this book they are after a pizza.

The book opens with the dogs all laughing at Karen (the dachshund) trying to catch her tail.  When that is over (Stick Dog doesn’t like that they are teasing her even if it is funny), he suggests that they go the park and play Frisbee.  There is plenty of funniness as the dogs ignore him but pretend they were paying attention.  And then they all come back with what they think is a Frisbee (the results range from bottle caps to flat tires (the poor bike rider) to cardboard discs.

But the cardboard disc has red stuff and white stuff on it and it tastes delicious. I have to say I am surprise that they never tasted pizza before (all dogs root through garbage and grab pizza boxes at some pint right?). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TAME IMPALA-Innerspeaker (2010).

Tame Impala are from Australia, and their sound is majorly retro.  They remind me a lot of Dungen, including the fact that I would have guessed (from the way the words are sung) that English wasn’t their native language (which makes this already trippy album feel even more trippy).

Fuzzy guitars over a cool bassline introduce this album.  “It is Not meant to Be” is something of  statement about the sound of this album.  And when the vocals come in (fuzzier still), it’s retro all the way.  “Desire Be, Desire Go” continues the fuzzy guitar with a slightly faster pace.  The chorus comes in a little cleaner which is nice as it breaks up the fuzz somewhat (but only somewhat).  “Lucidity” ups the noise and pace with a great catchy riff and a strong chorus.  I think of this as the “hit” based solely on the fact that I heard it first, but when they played KEXP in studio sometime after the release of the album, they didn’t play this song .

They did play “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind” which is probably the real single–the cool reverbed riff and the soaring guitars sound great.  “Solitude is Bliss” has become my favorite song on the album lately.  The vocals remind me of early songs by The Who (maybe from Sell Out), but again, the music is all reverbed and hippie sounding, it’s a nice pairing and the chorus is once again, really catchy.  “Jeremy’s Storm” opens with a cool riff. It turns into a wild jam instrumental.  “The Bold Arrow of Time” sounds like a song from the 70s.  The guitar sound as it opens could come from Jesus Christ Superstar and when the riff finally kicks in, it could be a Cream song.  And yet the vocals (always soaring) don’t sound like anything from that time).

I love any song with a good bassline (especially one that’s not just repeating the guitar riff)–so I love the cool bassline that runs through “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds”–high and kind of obtrusive.  A perfect way to keep pace.  And when the bass gets a little “solo” at the end, it’ s a nice payoff.  The final song is “I Don’t Really Mind.”  It’s the most conventional and not dreamy sounding album on the album.  There’s even a break from the wall of guitar where we get just some drum beats–it’s very p0ppy.  It’s a good ending, upbeat and catchy and makes you want to start the whole shebang over again.

The album is a little long-feeling overall (it’s about 55 minutes), and some of it can be a little samey, but there’s enough diversity and great songwriting to make this album really enjoyable.

[READ: July 2012] At Home on the Range

Another frickin cookbook?  For a guy who doesn’t do cookbooks, there’s certainly a lot of cooking-based items on this blog.  Blame McSweeney’s who put out this book, too.

As everyone knows Elizabeth Gilbert wrote Eat, Pray, Love.  I’ve never read it (although I have read some of her earlier books (Pilgrims and Stern Men) which I liked quite a bit–I was into her before she was cool, man).  But this book is actually a cookbook that her great-grandmother wrote and had published in 1947.  Gilbert’s contribution is slim, but engaging.  She gives a lengthy biography of her Gima.  She was born rich (Main Line Philadelphia rich) and loved to travel.  Gilbert says that you can sum up Gima with a Jazz Age sensibility and one word: Enjoy!  By the time she was married (to an “impossible” man) much of their money was gone–indeed, she slipped out of a few foreclosed homes as the sheriff was coming for them.

Gilbert also points out how far ahead of her time Gima was.  The 1940s saw food moving towards prepackaging and processing.  So this cookbook came out right around frozen dinners to try to re-introduce women to the kitchen (although not in a retrograde way) and to be proud of what you can accomplish there.  But more than just a cookbook, Gima tried to introduce Americans to Brains with Black Butter, Eels, Tripe and Calves’ Head Cheese.  She was also unafraid to try things in different neighborhoods (the story of how she first encountered pizza is wonderful).  Gilbert wonders what might have become of her in a different time place or circumstances and it’s true for she was really a remarkable woman.

And the remarkable nature of this cookbook is not the recipes (which are remarkable and I would like to try some of the simpler ones), but the prosaic nature of the book.  Gima is telling a story with each recipe.  Indeed, the recipes aren’t even given in standard annotated form: they are written in the prose.   Gilbert’s other contribution is to take ten of their family’s favorite recipes from the book and write them out in conventional cooking style for ease of cooking.  I enjoyed this book a lot–Gima is a fascinating woman with a delightful taste for life.  The question is what to try first? (more…)

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