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Archive for the ‘Slate.com’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BENJAMIN BOOKER-“Have You Seen My Son” (Field Recordings, September 3, 2014).

This Field Recording [Benjamin Booker: Newport Folk Gets The Summertime Blues] opens with Benjamin Booker taking his tuner off of his guitar and dropping it down a rain grate, never to be seen again.

Like many of the Field Recordings, this one also takes place at the Newport Folk Festival. NPR has a great relationship with the Newport Folk Festival, but they don’t have as much footage that’s available at any time as they used to.

There’s some kind of archway that they seem to use a lot for these Recordings.  Although in this instance, he is not in the archway, but just outside of it.

In 2014, Booker released his debut album.  As of now in 2018, he has quite a following. I know I hear his name on the radio a lot.  Booker has a distinctive voice, raspy and old, even though he himself is young (much younger than I realized).  And, as I thought last time, his speaking voice is so very different from his singing voice.

Even before releasing his debut album last month, Booker’s gravelly voice and bluesy swagger had guitar fans buzzing with anticipation. It didn’t hurt that he’d nabbed a gig touring as the opening act for Jack White, one of his idols.

With a borrowed acoustic guitar, Booker joined us outside one of the secluded secret tunnels in the heart of Fort Adams State Park after his set at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. While we were setting up for this Field Recording, Booker offhandedly mentioned that a few years prior, he’d applied to become an NPR Music intern. He didn’t get that gig, but he told us that missing out spurred his desire to explore another side of his passion for music.

“Have You Seen My Son?” is a quiet shuffle of a song.  Frankly it’s not that impressive as a song, at least you wouldn’t think much of him from just this song.  Except for that voice of course.

[READ: October 7, 2017] I Know What You Read Last Summer

This essay opens with an epigram by Ruth Franklin from Slate, May 8, 2017.

Michael Chabon has spent considerable energy trying to drag the decaying corpse of genre fiction out of the shallow grave where writers of serious literature abandoned it.

LeGuin has a lot of fun with this premise.  She begins with a scary opening about something crawly, squelching, stomping–an unknown force smelling of broken rotting flesh: Goddamn that Chabon, dragging it out of the grave where she and the other serious writers had buried it.

Could he not see that Cormac McCarthy–although everything in his book (except the wonderfully blatant use of an egregiously obscure vocabulary) was remarkably similar to a great many earlier works of science fiction about men crossing the country after the holocaust–could never under any circumstances be said to be a sci-fi writer, because Cormac McCarthy was a serious writer and so by definition incapable of lowering himself to commit genre. (more…)

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braindeadSOUNDTRACK: JIM WHITE-Tiny Desk Concert #8 (November 7, 2008).

jim whiteI didn’t know who Jim White was before this Tiny Desk Concert.  And I’m still not entirely sure who is he.  But he’s a gifted songwriter and storyteller.

Bob explains how he and Jim tried to work together for All Songs Considered, but that every time Bob asked Jim to do a 3 minute piece, he’d hand in a 15 minute piece.  And then somehow Jim would edit it into a 17 minute piece.  Jim admits that anything can set him off on a tangent (most of which are thoroughly engaging).  He also says that he writes songs not a bout “you” but about “me.”

So with him and a drum machine, he sings some really pretty songs.  “Jailbird” is a slow ballad that is quite beautiful.  I enjoyed that he played his harmonica solo without playing the guitar at the same time (I don’t know if the guitar was prerecorded or looped, I think prerecorded).

Then he gives a funny story about working with the guitarist for P.M. Dawn.  “Turquoise House” is a boppy little number about not fitting in.  It’s a wonderful song.  “Stranger Candy” is a darker song (full of lessons).  He says that it took him several tries to get the music right for this one.

There’s a fascinating story about a gift that Jim sent to Bob.  The story goes on about a racist incident in which his daughter rises above racism.

“Somewhere in the World” is a gentle ballad about finding the person you are waiting for.  I like it (except for that falsetto note at the end).  Then he talks about how for his old songs (like the previous one) he was kind of bummed.  But he has grown up and is happier.  And that has made his songwriting much more difficult.

The final song is called “A Town Called Amen.”  It’s another boppy little song, charming and sweet.  And Jim White seems about the sweetest, nicest musician in the world.

I came away from this Tiny Desk Concert really enjoying Jim White and wanting to hear more from him.

[READ: December 15, 2013] The Braindead Megaphone

This is Saunders’ first collection of essays and non-fiction.  At some point, I stated that I thought I would enjoy his non-fiction more than his fiction.  That is both true and not. I enjoyed his “reporting” essays (from GQ) quite a lot.  But I found his shorter, sillier pieces to be a but too much.  Nevertheless, he is an inquisitive reporter, looking for truth and traveling far and wide to find it (even braving the depths of FOX news). It’s a good collection and only slightly dated.

The Braindead Megaphone
This essay seemed a bit like a blunt instrument hitting a soft object.  Although 2007 is seven years ago, I feel like the subjects (dumb newscasters) were pretty soft even then.  However, it’s entirely possible that people who were apolitical or just simply not that interested in what obnoxious outlets like FOX were doing may not have been entirely aware that the Braindead Megaphone (ie. all news outlets) were not doing us any favors with their spouting of nonsense and being incurious about where stories are really news worthy or even accurate.  I imagine this is mostly just preaching to the converted.  I was a little worried that the whole book would be just as unsubtle, but that proved to be a foundless worry.  This is not to say that I didn’t agree with everything he said in this essay.  He was spot on.  And often he was pretty funny too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: REAL ESTATE-“It’s Real” (2011).

Right from the start, the combination of the fuzzy guitar picking and the whacking drums was a major draw for me.  Finding out that these guys are from Ridgewood, NJ (a town away from my hometown) was a little icing.

This is a charming little pop ditty.  It propels along at a nice clip, it’s got a catchy chorus and it makes me feel warm and sunny.  And for all of that it’s not even three minutes long. That’s a nifty little trick.

Interestingly, in NPR’s discussion of the song, the guys play the song “Easy,” but for some reason the full length song is for “It’s Real.”  And I actually like “It’s Real” more, so good for the mix up.

[READ: September 15, 2011] “The Patented Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich”

I actually read this Gastronomica article before the other one, but this seemed like a good Saturday subject.  This article is the kind of thing I don’t normally write about.  I read a bunch of non-fiction and for the most part I don’t bother ever posting about it because, really what’s the point of summarizing a nonfiction piece.  Most of them I don’t have an opinion about, I just say hmm, interesting.  But since I’m doing some special articles that were pointed out to me from JSTOR, I’m going to include this one for historical amusement (even if unlike the hobo memoir, this article is less than ten years old).

Anyhow, this brief article looks at the patented Smucker’s Uncrustable Sandwich.  At the time, these were novel, but now they are ubiquitous.  Smucker’s had taken two discs of white bread, filled them with an inner casing of peanut butter and then stuffed the PB with a splooge of jelly.  It’s the shell of PB, which keeps the jelly from touching the bread and the crimping method to squish the breads together that really seal the patent.  And, I admit, that despite the mockery they received for patenting a PB&J, I think they did hit on some novelties and have earned their unique status.

But the article proceeds to tell how other companies tried a similar idea and were summarily sued.  So Shih unpacks the patent to see what Smucker’s has protected and how a lawsuit might be avoided (in short, Smuckers covered their bases really well (as you’d expect from a corporation), so it’s unlikely that a mom and pop PB&J machine will withstand the scrutiny).  (more…)

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