Archive for the ‘Humiliation’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ANNA MEREDITH-Tiny Desk Concert #713 (March 2, 2018).

I have never heard anything like this.  From sound to melody, to intensity, to instrumentation, this whole thing just rocked my world.

The melody for “Nautilus” is just so unexpected.  It opens with an echoed horn sound repeating.  And then the melody progresses up a scale, but not a scale, a kind of modified scale that seems off kilter just as it seems familiar.  The cello plays it, the guitar plays it, the sousaphone (!) plays it.  And it continues on in like fashion until only the high notes remain and then a menacing low riff on sousaphone cello and guitar breaks through–a great villain soundtrack if ever there was.  While everyone plays this riff, Anna returns to the keys to play the modified scale.

Meanwhile, the drummer has looked like he’s asleep behind his small kit.  And then 3 anda half minutes in he wakes up and starts playing a loud but slow rhythm.  The guitar begins soloing and as it fades out that main riff begins, now with a simple drum beat–not matching what anyone else is playing, mind you.  The sousaphone (which must have an echo on it or something and the cello pick up the low menace and it seems like everybody is doing his and her own thing.  But it all works amazingly.

So just who is Anna Meredith?

Anna Meredith was a former BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Composer in Residence. Two of the three songs performed here come from her 2016 release called Varmints.

Bob Boilen was also impressed when he first saw Anna Meredith live:

I first saw this British composer a year ago, in a stunning performance at the SXSW musical festival. It was one of the best concerts of my life. The music I heard sent me into a state of reverie. If music could levitate my body, this is how it would sound. It carried me away and thrilled my soul. I was giddy for days.

Now, I know this isn’t music for everyone. … But if you know and love the music of Philip Glass, King Crimson or Steve Reich — music that’s electrifying, challenging and sonically soars and ripples through your body — then crank this up.

Lest you worry that she couldn’t translate it to the Tiny Desk (she says they normally have 23 suitcases full of crap so this has been an exciting challenge to squeeze in here)

Out of nearly 700 performances at the Tiny Desk, this is simply the most exhilarating one I’ve experienced. The instrumentation is unusual, with pulsing bass sounds produced by a wonderful combination of cello, tuba and electronics. It’s all rhythmically propelled by an astonishing drummer and Meredith pounding a pair of floor toms. And much of the repetitive melody is keyboard-and-guitar-driven that morphs and erupt with earth-shaking fervor.

The second song, “Ribbons” is quieter.  It’s and new song and it has vocals.  Her vocals aren’t great (“hard when you’ve got the voice of a five-year old boy”) but the melody she builds around it shows that her  voice is just one more instrument (albeit saying interesting words).  Actually, that’s not fair, they are just so different from the noise of the other two songs that it feels very faint in comparison.

It opens with a quiet guitar and electronic drum.  And slowly everyone else joins in.  A nice string accompaniment from the cello (Maddie Cutter), bass notes on the sousaphone (Tom Kelly) and even backing vocals from everyone.  By the third go around the drummer (Sam Wilson) is playing the glockenspiel.  By that time the song has built into a beautiful round and the quietness of her voice makes complete sense.  As the song nears its end, Sam has switches to a very fast but quiet rhythm on the floor tom.

She introduces the band and wishes a happy birthday to guitarist Jack Ross.  She says this is a great present as “so far all we’ve gotten him is an apple corer, the gifts have been a bit low grade.”

They make some gear switches, “we have a bit of a logistics problem with all our gear we can’t quite afford to bring enough glockenspiels, we pass the pure crap glockenspiel  around ans everyone gets to go ‘my turn!'”

“The Vapours” opens with a wonderfully wild guitar riff–fast and high-pitched and repeated over and over.  Anna Meredith adds waves of synths and then in comes the sousaphone and plucked cello.  Then fast thumping on the floor tom propels the song along.  The song slows a bit a Anna plays the clarinet (!).  The song dramatically shifts to some complicated time signature while Anna plays glockenspiel.  After a few rounds, while this complex guitar riff continues the drum and sousaphone start playing a pretty standard beat the contradicts everything else that’s going on and then Anna just starts pounding the crap out of some more toms.

All through this there are electronic sounds adding to the chaos and I have no idea who is triggering them, but it’s really cool.

The end is almost circusy with the big sousaphone notes and yet it’s like no circus anyone has every heard.  When the camera pulls back and you can see everyone working so hard and yet smiling ear to ear (especially Maddie), you know this is some great stuff.

The end of the song winds up with a hugely complicated tapping melody on the guitar and everyone else working up a huge sweat.

I couldn’t get over how much I loved this.  I immediately ordered Varmints and checked her touring schedule.

How disappointed was I to see that Anna Meredith had played Philly just last month and has now gone back to Europe!  I do hope she comes back soon.

[READ: August 30, 2017] McSweeney’s 48

For some reason, I find the prospect of reading McSweeney’s daunting.  I think it’s because I like to post about every story in them, so I know I’m in for a lot of work when I undertake it.

And yet I pretty much always enjoy every piece in each issue.  Well, that explains why it took me some three years to read this issue (although I did read Boots Riley’s screenplay in under a year).

This issue promised: “dazzling new work; a screenplay from Boots Riley with a septet of stories from Croatia.”


GARY RUDOREN writes about using the Giellete Fusion Platinum Razor every day for 18 days and how things were good but have gotten a little ugly.  On day 24 he had a four-inch gash under his nose.  Later on Day 38 it was even worse–a face full of bloody tissue squares.  By day 67 he is writing to thank McSweeney’s for whatever they did perhaps it was the medical marijuana but now his face is baby butt smooth even without shaving.  He wants to change the slogan to Gilette Fusion the shave that lasts forever. (more…)


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SOUNDTRACK: ROY AYERS-Tiny Desk Concert #712 (March 1, 2018).

I hadn’t heard of Roy Ayers, although I imagine I’ve heard his work somewhere before.  I love the vibes so I was looking forward to his set.

I was a little bummed to hear him singing–I assumed it would be all instrumental. Especially since his songs aren’t exactly lyrically masterful.  But the jazzy funky solos were pretty great.

Roy Ayers [is a] 77-year-old jazz-funk icon.  He sauntered through the office with a Cheshire grin on his face, sharing jokes with anyone within earshot. Accompanying him was a trio of brilliantly seasoned musicians — keyboardist Mark Adams, bassist Trevor Allen and drummer Christopher De Carmine. Later during the performance, pride washed across Ayers’ face as his bandmates took the spotlight. (Be sure to watch as Adams woos not just the room but brightens Ayers’ face during his solo.)

The set began with one of Ayers’ more recognizable hits: an extended version of “Searching,” a song that embodies the eternal quest for peace and love.  The vibes solo at 2 and a half minutes is worth the wait, though.

The lyrics are essentially.  I’m searching, searching, searching searching. It takes over a minute for him to even get to the vibes!  It’s followed by a groovy keyboard solo that starts mellow be really takes off by the end.

During “Black Family” (from his 1983 album Lots Of Love), you’ll hear him call out “Fela” throughout. That’s because Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti was a huge influence on Ayers in the late 1970s; the two eventually collaborated on an album, 1980’s Music Of Many Colors. “Black Family” is, in part, a tribute to Fela, even if the original version didn’t include his name.

Again the lyrics: “lo-lo-lo-lo-long time ago” and not much else repeated over and over and over. But it’s all lead up to a great vibes solo (as the band gets more and more intense).  I love that the keyboardist has a keytar as well and is playing both keys at the same time–soloing on the keytar with an awesome funky sound.  There’s even a cool bass solo.

Concluding this mini-concert, Ayers closed the set out with his signature tune, “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”, a feel-good ode if there ever was one. The essence of this song flowed right through him and out to the NPR audience.

Another terrific vibes solo is followed by a keytar solo which is full of samples of people singing notes (they sound like Steely Dan samples)–it’s weird and kind of cool.

[READ: August 2017] McSweeney’s No 46

As the subtitle reflects this issue is all about Latin American crime.  It features thirteen stories selected by Daniel Galera.  And in his introduction he explains what he was looking for:

DANIEL GALERA-Introduction
He says it used to be easy to talk about Latin American fiction–magical realism, slums and urban violence.  But now things have expanded.  So he asked 13 writers to put their own Latin American spin on the crime story.

And of course, each McSweeney’s starts with


DANIEL ALARCÓN writes passionately about Diego Maradona’s famous “Goal of the Century” and how as a child he watched it dozens of times and then saw it thousands of times in his head.  When he learned of Maradona’s questionable “Hand of God” goal, his father said that his previous goal was so good it counted twice.  But Daniel grows sad realizing that the goal of the century also marked the beginning of Maradona’s decline.

LAIA JUFRESA this was a fascinating tale about a game called Let’s Kill Carlo that her family played.   It involves a convoluted history including her mother “inventing” a child in order for her husband to come to Mexico from Italy and avoid conscription there.  But when this child “Carlo” “came of age” they had to think of reason why he wasn’t there anymore–so they invented the Let’s Kill Carlo game.

YURI HERRERA waiting for a bus in New Orleans as a man lay in the gutter also waiting.

VALERIA LUISELLI her friend recently moved to Minneapolis with her nervous wreck Chihuahua named President.   He was diagnoses with terminal cancer and the vet encouraged all manner of alternative therapies.  This friend was a very sweet person and had many virtues. And yet perhaps through her virtue the alternative therapy seems to have worked.

FRANCISCO GOLDMAN wants to know why immigration officers at Newark Airport are such dicks (and this was before Trump–#ITMFA).  He speaks of personal examples of Mexican citizens being treated badly.  He had asked a friend to brings books for him and she was harassed terribly asked why did she need so many bags for such a short stay.  Another time he was flying back to NYC with a Mexican girlfriend.   She went through customs and he didn’t hear anything for hours.  He didn’t know if she would even make it though customs at all–even though she’d done nothing wrong.   He imagines wondering how these officers live and what their lives must be like that they seem to take pleasure in messing with other people’s lives. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHAKEY GRAVES-Tiny Desk Concert #495 (December 14, 2015).

I thought I had posted about every Tiny Desk Concert, but on double checking I found that I had missed this one.  I had heard of Shakey Graves and I assumed he was a country/folkie singer.  Which he is, although really his style is to mix country, blues and rock ‘n’ roll.  I also had no idea his real name is Alejandro Rose-Garcia.

This set sees Graves on acoustic guitar (with a strap with his name on it) accompanied by another acoustic guitar (which seems rather small) and a mandolin.

“To Cure What Ails” is a pretty, slow folk song. It’s simple enough with nice high mandolin notes and a good guitar line between verses.  Shakey has a nice voice and the song feels compelling like a story, although I don’t think it is.  He’s also charming and funny in little ways–he makes a lot of funny faces and chuckles.  But his music is really solid and the harmony at he end of the song is really great.

For “The Perfect Parts” the mandolin switches to bass and they have a little discussion n how to play it.  Shakey tells the drummer how to play the beat and then says they’re going to make it us as they go along.  This song is darker and has a cool sinister vibe.  He sings in kind of deep mumble for this song which works well for this song.  The song gets a little intense for a few lines.  And by the end it builds pretty loud with some good whoa ho ho backing vocals.  So much so that for the last chord, “he attempted a stage dive at the Tiny Desk.”

For the last song, “Only Son,” he:

breaks out his guitar and suitcase kick drum/hi-hat, [and] a palpable rush of swooning adrenaline hits the room. I felt that at the Americana Festival in Nashville, at the Newport Folk Festival and here at the Tiny Desk.

He says it is soon to be the last of the suitcase kick drums (this is his third).  He dreamed about having an object that he could cart around with him and still make a lot of noise.  The drum is actually behind him and he stomps the pedals with his heels (I can;t believe the camera never zoomed in on it).

He says the song is about “the moment in your life when you realize you’re not alone… there’s an aha! moment where you’re like ‘not just me?’  The drummer plays bass, the mandolin player has the mandolin back and Shakey has the kick drum suitcase.  There’s some terrific harmonies (and chuckling ) throughout the song, and I love the way it stops and starts.

[READ: Late 2016 and early 2017] McSweeney’s #45

The premise of this collection was just too juicy to pass up.  Although it did take me a while to read it.  Eggers’ introduction talks about the contents of this issue.

DAVE EGGERS-Introduction
Eggers says he came across a collection of stories edited by Hitchcock. He really liked it and then learned that Hitchcock had edited 60 volumes over the course of 35 years.  He was excited to read literary genre fiction.  But he was more impressed that theses stories did what literary fiction often forgets: having something happen.  He then bought a cheap book edited by Bradbury (Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow) and he liked it too.  He was surprised that there were so many canonical writers (Steinbeck, Kafka, Cheever) in a Bradbury collection.

So, why not make a new collection in which we can compare the two genres.

Despite this looking like a pulpy paperback, there were still Letters.


Doctorow says that Science fiction is not, indeed, predictive.  That any genre which deals with so many potential future events is bound to get some things right.

Quatro says she was asked to write a letter for this genre issue, but Quatro doesn’t do genre, so she was about to pass.  Then her son, from the backseat, asks what bulwark means.  Then inimical.  Then miasma.  He is reading a book called Deathwatch about soldiers whose brains are removed so they no longer fear. Suddenly, when she compares this idea to her essay on Barthelme, she sees that maybe McSweeney’s was on to something after all.

In fifth grade Percy (who has a story below) gave his teacher a jar full of ectoplasm.  He has always been different.  He proposes the Exploding Helicopter clause: if a story does not contain an exploding helicopter (or giant sharks, or robots with lasers for eyes or demons, sexy vampires. et al), they won’t publish it.

Marra discusses Michael Crichton and how something doesn’t have to be Good to be good.  He says Crichton was a starting point for him as an adult reader.  And what can be wrong with that? (more…)


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Rock Dream was recorded live in November 2006 at Tokyo’s Earthdom festival.  It is a mix of the heaviness of Boris and the noise of Merzbow.  And it is lauded as a spectacular live document.

The Austin Chronicle discussed the album in their overview of Boris’ career, declaring it “definitive live document, an impossibly dense double album that touches down on nearly every point of their career, from Dronevil to Smile’s contorted stairway to heaven (“Flower Sun Rain”), with Merzbow’s electronic manipulations stitching it all together like connective scar tissue.”
In a retrospective review Tiny Mix Tapes, declared Rock Dream to be “not just the best album Boris ever made, but also one of the finest live albums I’ve ever heard.” and that “It’s incredible then that someone recorded Boris and Merzbow that night, because for two hours they got to be the best band on the planet.”

And what live show that opens with a 35 minute song wouldn’t be fantastic?  “Feedbacker” starts quietly with just guitar and Merzbow’s effects.  It has an almost spaghetti western feel to it with all the reverb.  Unsurprisingly, there’s moments throughout the 35 minutes where things dramatically change.  At 6 minutes there’s loud ringing guitars.  At 9 minutes things slow down and then slowly build back up with swells of music from the guitars, keys and effects. At 20 minutes, muted vocals come in and then grow louder.  It feels like it’s building to an end but it turns into faster guitars and a lot of noise.  By 31 minutes things have slowed down heading towards an ending which is primarily Merzbow’s pulsing sounds.  (And there’s so much more going on in that half an hour).

These sounds segue into “Blackout” full of thrashing guitars, crashing cymbals and Merzbow’s noise.  This segues into a song that I gather is only heard here: “Evil Stack” which features a lot of Merzbow’s knob twiddling and noise making and a lot of feedback as well.

This all segues into “Rainbow,”  a far more mellow song that opens with bass harmonics and simple drum beat with Wata’s quiet vocals.  It’s a slinky cool song with a mellow guitar solo.  Merzbow throws in some interesting sounds and and mild noises throughout.

If Disc one showcased their more expansive sound, Disc two opens with a bunch of really short fast loud songs all from Pink.

First off is the raging punk blast of “Pink.”  It is all-out thrash with a lot of yelling from Atsuo and wailing solos from Wata.  It’s followed by the 2 and a half minute rager “Woman on the Screen” with a great punk riff, lots of Atsuo’s screams and of course Merzbow putting a wall of distorrted noise over the top.  The trio concludes with the two minute  “Nothing Special.”  The punky blasts continue with “Ibitsu.”   It’s not from Pink but it’s just as fast.

Things slow down somewhat with “A Bao A Qu.”  It is 4 and a half minute with a lot of squealing feedback and thunderous drumming.  The final four songs return to that epic style–they are alternately 13 minutes or 8 minute long.

“The Evilone Which Sobs” slows things down with more of that reverbed spaghetti-western style guitar.  There’s squeals of feedback, slow plucked guitar and Merzow as this 13 minute song gets under way.  After three minutes the loudest guitar and bass imaginable come crashing through the melody.  The rest of the song is full on loud drone and feedback.  It all slows down for their surprisingly catchy of cover of Pyg’s “Flower Sun Rain,” which sounds just as good live as on record–including Wata’s wailing solo.

The final two songs return to Pink.  “Just Abandoned My-self” runs over 13 minutes and opens with a scream from Atsuo, wailing guitars from Wata and vocals from Takeshi.  The song barely lets up for seven minutes, and when it finally changes pace, it’s more for the guitars to do some e-bow working while Atsuo continues to pound away.  The last four minute are those droning chords with Merzbow making some really interesting sounds while the band plays on.  Merzbow ends the song with a kind of looping siren that leads into the show ending with a great version of “Farewell.”

Unlike the one from Crossing Waltz, Merzbow’s presence make a pretty big difference in the dynamic of “Farewell.”  The band sounds terrific and it’s a fantastic take on this by now iconic song.

For sure this live set isn’t for everyone–it’s loud, there’s some uncomfortable moments–but it really captures a band at full power.  And as with most Boris releases, it had a different cover in Japan.

Disc one   Total length:       49:58
“Feedbacker” (Originally from Boris at Last: -Feedbacker-) 35:05
“Blackout” (Originally from Pink) 5:19
“Evil Stack” 5:04
“Rainbow” (Originally from Rainbow) 4:30
Disc two  Total length:       60:32
“Pink” (Originally from Pink) 4:14
“Woman on the Screen” (Originally from Pink) 2:37
“Nothing Special” (Originally from Pink) 2:14
“Ibitsu” (Originally from Akuma no Uta) 3:35
“A Bao A Qu” (Originally from Sound Track from Film “Mabuta no Ura”) 4:35
“The Evilone Which Sobs” (Originally from Dronevil) 13:41
“Flower Sun Rain” (PYG cover, later released on Smile) 8:04
“Just Abandoned My-self” (Originally from Pink) 13:21
“Farewell” (Originally from Pink) 8:11

[READ: February 21, 2017] “Mrs Crasthorpe”

This story revealed itself slowly and in interesting ways.

We meet Mrs Crasthorpe in the first paragraph.  She is humiliated because her husband’s funeral has just been poorly attended.  It was also, by his own design, in a small, unassuming, frankly embarrassing cemetery.  Mrs Crasthorpe is 59.  Her husband was 72.  Yes, she had married him for money and yet it didn’t really make her a more fulfilled person.  She had cheated on her husband, but he didn’t seem to mind or care.

She had felt herself to be always a rosebud, claiming to be 45 when she was late nearly 60.  She also told no one she had a son.

Then we shift to following Etheridge, a man whose wife is near death.  He is tender to her, caring, but she doesn’t have long to live. (more…)


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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-Attention Please (2011).

Attention Please marks a departure from the Heavy Rocks sound, returning to the dream pop sound explored on New Album, but this time, it has elements of noise pop and alternative rock. It features Wata’s vocals on every track.

Attention Please shares the songs “Hope,” “Party Boy” and “Spoon” with New Album
Attention Please shares the tracks “Aileron” with Heavy Rocks, although it is radially different.
New Album shares the tracks “Jackson Head” and “Tu, La La” with Heavy Rocks.

“Attention Please” 5:12 has a pulsing bass and gentle drums that lie under Wata’s whispered sensuous vocals.

“Hope” 3:26 Sounds a lot like the version on New Album, although the synths have been replaced by strings and the sound effects are removed.  This song feels more organic but still slick and catchy.

“Party Boy” 3:50 The thumping bass drum and a really buzzy bass give this version a very different sound.  There’s almost no synth although the vocals sound pretty much the same.  There’s a lot of strange effects that reward headphone listening–when Wata whispers in your ear it might even make you turn your head.  Although the song is basically the same, the New Album version is definitely catchier.

“See You Next Week” 3:56 has warping synth sounds that push the song forward as Wata’s whispered vocals come in.  The speed of the “percussion” is contrary to the gentle echoing vocals.  “Tokyo Wonder Land” 5:42 opens with repeated, high-pitched Huh huh huh and super distorted wild guitar riffs.

On “You” 6:13, it sounds like she’s singing “anatomy” quietly at a whisper (which she obviously isn’t).  It’s a slow, smooth song that meanders beautifully.

“Aileron” at 2:01, this is a much abbreviated version from the one on Heavy Rocks.  This one is all acoustic with some pretty guitar soloing going underneath the lovely melody.  The melody is the same but the whole song is very different.

“Les Paul Custom ‘86” 2:09 has whispered vocals from Wata and the men.  There’s guitar washes and a sense of menace but mostly it’s kind of tinny and effects-filled.  Its one of the few songs where understanding the words might actually help.

“Spoon” 4:16 For this version, there;s no keyboard notes, just heavy guitar.  But that whole shoegaze vibe from Wata’s vocals remains. The only real nod to the other version is the sound of breaking glass at the end of select verses.

“Hand in Hand” 4:30 is quiet and pretty with the tinny guitar and Wata’s gentle soaring vocals.

Between these three discs you get a pretty complete picture of the music of Boris–largely heavy,but always guitar based.  They really show off their diversity with this trio.

[READ: July 22, 2015] “Escape from New York”

This was the 2015 New Yorker fiction issue.  It featured several stories and several one-page essays from writers I like.

In addition to those essays on Time-Travel it also included this short piece from Zadie Smith.

This story is quite the peculiar one from Smith.  It eschews just about everything I think she writes about and focuses on a very unexpected subject.

There is a catastrophe in New York (presumably 9/11 although it could be a fictional disaster).  Lead character Michael is trying to coordinate an escape for his friends Elizabeth and Marlon.  Now, the accompanying photo was a clue, and anyone with any familiarity with celebrities should recognize those names.  I wasn’t sure if it was a coincidence; I assumed it must be. (more…)


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SOUNDTRACK: IBEYI-Tiny Desk Concert #703 (February 7, 2018).

ibeyiI have been fascinated with Ibeyi since I first heard them a couple years ago.  Their more recent song “Deathless” is just outstanding.  I’d also heard they put on a great show.

So I was looking forward to this Tiny Desk.

But just who are they?

They come by their connection to the Afro-Cuban culture by way of their late father, Miguel “Anga” Diaz, an in-demand Cuban percussionist who was part of a vanguard musicians who reinvigorated Cuban music before he died prematurely at age 45 in 2006. The sisters, Lisa-Kaindé (in blue) and Naomi (in orange) Díaz, carry that calling in their DNA, and how they’ve manifested it into their own art is nothing short of amazing.

The show begins with the sisters singing a capella: an invocation of a West African Yoruba deity called “Oddudua.”

The first song they play is “Deathless.”  “This song is dear to our hearts.  It’s made for you; for us.  Whatever happens, this moment is deathless.  We made it for you to feel for three minutes and believe it.”  Naomi hits a sampler to get the horns going and then Lisa-Kaindé plays the nifty buzzy keyboard melody and vocal samples.  Then Naomi starts playing the batá, which is really fun to watch.  Lisa-Kaindé sings lead (her voice breaks on one of the high notes)

The twins (Ibeyi means ‘twins” in Yoruban) perform their music with the batá drums associated with Yoruban sacred music and their elaborate vocal arrangements channel the call-and-response of traditional African music. The melding of their voices when they harmonize can be breathtaking, but the same can be said about the messages behind their songs, themes that inspire both inward introspection and celebrations of life.

The drums are such a cool percussive element that I didn’t expect.  The chorus is so uplifting and joyful even as it has a tinge of menace.  They get he audience to sing along in a rather inspiring call and response of the chorus.

“Valé” is a lullaby written for their niece–she sings frozen and she’s really into it.   Naomi sings leads while Lisa-Kaindé plays the pretty piano melody.  It is a delicate, quiet song (a lullaby, duh).  Then Lisa-Kaindé sings lead and Naomi plays cool percussion on a box drum which include lap-slapping as well.

Lisa-Kaindé says “Transmission” is the heart of their album.  It’s nearly seven minutes long and goes through several changes throughout.  They are both by the keys for the start of this one, with Naomi playing bass notes and both of them singing out of the same microphone.

The audience sings the gentle “Transmission” chorus as Naomi speaks in Spanish and then she adds the batá and sings some lovely harmonies.  It’s quite moving.

[READ: February 6, 2018] “Stanville”

I’ve been meaning to read one of Kushner’s novels for a while now because of great reviews.  But in the meantime, I have these short stories.

I’m not sure if this is an excerpt or not.  It feels pretty full on its own, but I coud easily see it going much further.

This story is done from two points of view.  A third person POV for the one main character, Gordon Hauser.  And then, later, a first person point of view for another major character Romy Hall.

Gordon Hauser is teaching G.E.D. classes in a women’s prison.  He was surprised to find that people would much rather teach in men’s prisons.  Indeed, no guard wanted to work in a women’s prison “female prisoners bickered with the guards and contested everything, and the guards seemed to find this more treacherous than having to subdue riots.” (more…)


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SOUNDTRACK: ALICE SMITH-Tiny Desk Concert #700 (January 31, 2018).

I had never heard of Alice Smith before, which I guess isn’t totally unsurprising given the blurb:

For those not familiar, Smith made a big splash among true-school heads in 2006 with the release of her debut album, For Lovers, Dreamers, and Me. That record, whose title is a play on “The Rainbow Connection,” brimmed with an arcane magic, and it created a legion of lifelong fans.

Smith’s live performances usually highlight songs from For Lovers, Dreamers, and Me, her 2013 album, She, and her repertoire of cover songs. But for her Tiny Desk performance, Smith gifted us with three stunning song premieres that left the room entirely in her thrall.

Smith’s voice is great (although I found the voice of her backing singer, Kristin Brooks, to be even prettier.  I don’t think you could hear the other backing singer, Chauncey Matthews, at all).

Since the blurb talks about each song, I’m just adding my comments at the end

The first song, “Mystery,” feels like walking into the home of that friend of yours who is clearly more worldly than you, where there’s always a cool breeze, no matter the season.  [I really liked the low-key nature of this song].

The second song, which is so new that it doesn’t have a title, exudes the liminal uneasiness of being out of tune with yourself. The wisdom of the song draws from the notion that the top of Maslow’s pyramid is found within. [Alice’s voice is really nice in this catchy, rather conventional R&B song].

The closing “Something” is an undulating soul search that attacks and recedes like a cloudy beach morning. Smith was unabashedly in her pocket here, alternating between falsetto, tremolo and touches of jazz. This dash of Broadway at an office cubicle is what makes the Tiny Desk series so special.  [This sounds very Broadway in the beginning. I didn’t care for all of the keening and whooping near the end though].

So I am clearly not a true-school head (nor do I know what that means).  But I did think her voice was quite nice.  She introduced the band at the end, first name only.  The blurb has their last names, but didn’t include guitarist Frank at all: Dennis Hamm keys, Greg Clark drums.

[READ: November 5, 2017] All’s Faire in Middle School

I really enjoyed Jamieson’s Roller Girl.  It was a great story and it featured roller derby!

I was excited to read this story, but I was a little concerned that Jamieson was going to try to shoehorn in a conceit that Middle School is like the Middle Ages or something.  Well, I needn’t have been.  Jamieson does something that might be even cooler than Roller derby–she sets her story at a Ren Faire!

Imogen and her family work at the local Ren Faire and have done so for years.  Her father is a part- time actor (and pool salesman) but his passion is being the bad guy at the Ren Faire.  We meet a whole cast of characters who work the Ren Faire.  Some stay put and only work there, but others travel and work the circuit.

But Middle School is also in the title.  It’s not just that Imogen is going to middle school.  Up until this point she has been home-schooled.  So she is starting middle school and school at the same time! (more…)


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