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Archive for the ‘donald tRUMP’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: IVY-“Beautiful” (1995).

Ivy was a trio consisting of Andy Chase and Adam Schlesinger.  They wrote beautiful gentle indie pop songs.  But what set them apart was singer Dominique Durand.  Dominique was from Paris, living in New York and studying English.  She sings in a delightfully accented style (not unlike Laetitia Sadler of Stereolab).

The band released five albums over about fifteen years and their sound morphed in different ways, although it never strayed from the blue print of gentle, catchy echoing melodies.

“Beautiful” was the song that introduced me to the band.  It’s a bit faster than some of their later songs, with a fast drum beat and some (relatively) loud guitar chords.

The chorus, with some ripping guitars over Durand’s gently soaring “Don’t you look beautiful,” so exemplifies the late 90s for me, that it should be locked in a time capsule.

And it’s all over in two and a half minutes.

Fascinatingly, this article from Variety lists seven of Ivy’s “best” songs and “Beautiful” is not one of them.  Shows what they know.

[READ: April 1, 2020] “Love Letter”

This is a tremendously political short story written as a letter.

The letter is written on February 22, 202_

It is from a grandfather to his grandson Robbie.  Robbie wrote an email but the grandfather is hand writing back (not sure emailing is the best move).

He uses initials so as not to cause any more trouble for G., M., or J. (good folks, all, we very much enjoyed meeting them).

Believe me, I am as disgusted as you are with all this.

He believes that “they” think that M. “should” have let someone in authority know about G. “since being here is a privilege and not a right.”  And what of J?  Even if J is a citizen, they may say she forfeited certain rights by declining to report G & M. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JANN ARDEN-“Leave the Light On” (2018).

Jann Arden is a Canadian singer-songwriter who I know pretty much exclusively from her 1994 song “Insensitive.”  Arden has also made numerous media appearances over the years, including showing up on Corner Gas, Robson Arms and other shows that I haven’t seen.  She also appeared extensively on Rick Mercer Report (I found out by reading the book).

“Insensitive” is a slow song with a bit of mid-90s production.  The melody is catchy and the lyrics are great:

Oh, I really should have known
By the time you drove me home
By the vagueness in your eyes, your casual goodbyes
By the chill in your embrace
The expression on your face, told me
Maybe, you might have some advice to give
On how to be insensitive, insensitive, ooh, insensitive

Now, nearly 25 years later, Arden has other things on her mind.  I don’t know much about Arden, but evidently both of her parents suffered significant health problems in the last decade.  Her father passed and shortly after that her mother began a battle with Alzheimer’s as well.

“Leave the Light On” is a beautiful song about her mother.

A slow piano opens before Arden starts singing–her voice sounds wonderful–powerful and exposed.

I never pictured life
Alone in a house
Surrounded by trees
That you’d forget yourself
Lose track of time
Not recognize me

The bridge comes in with a harmony voice that shows even more pain.

Then the chorus kicks in and a song that could be maudlin or easily schmaltzy goes in exactly the right place to prevent that.  It shouts a sense of optimism that’s the only way people can keep going sometimes

A four note melody picks up the pace and uses a perfect parenthetical voice (the first voice is quieter, almost internal)

(Out of the dark)
I leave the light on
(In through the cold)
I leave the light on now
(Safe from the night)
I keep my eye on the road
(Good for the soul)
For when you come home to me

What is so compelling about the song is how musically understated it is.  While it could go big and heartbreaky with strings and over the tops effects, it stays quiet with the piano and a quiet electric guitar playing a melody deep in the background.  And really once the drums kick in, it’s almost like the drums are the only instrument–like Arden’s voice is the melody and the piano and guitar are there purely as support.

There’s a short bit near the end of the song that is a real gut punch though.  After a short guitar solo, she sings following the guitar, “do you know my name, do you know my name?”

Dang.  It’s a starkly beautiful song.

It also showcases what a great songwriter she is because she is apparently a truly fun person to hang out (according to Rick Mercer).

[READ: December 2019] Rick Mercer Final Report

I read The Mercer Report: The Book over ten years ago.  I had been a fan of Rick Mercer Report on Canadian TV (we used to be able to get Canadian satellite down here).  As an introduction to that book I wrote

Rick Mercer is a great political comedian.  He puts all American political commentators to shame. I’m sure that much of this difference is the way Canada is structured. There seems to be so much more access to politicians there than in our system.  While politicians do appear on our TV shows, on the Mercer Report, Rick goes white-water rafting with the head of the Liberal party. Rick has a sleepover at the Prime Minister’s house.  For reasons I can’t fathom, all of these politicians agree to hang out with Rick even though in the next segment he will rant about their incompetence.

It’s these rants that were a highlight of his show.  Every episode, he would stand in an alley and go off for 90 some seconds about the issue of the week.  His rants are astute, funny, and right on the mark.  He takes aim at all sides by ranting against incompetence and hypocrisy.  The only disappointing thing is that since this book covers the lifetime of the show and some of the topics have appeared multiple times, I guess it shows that his rants didn’t accomplish their goals.  But they made us feel better, anyhow.

The book is organized in reverse chronological order, with the final rants (April 3, 2018) coming first.

Topics in the final year included how run down the Prime Minister’s residence is.  Justin Trudeau said “The place is filled with mould and lead–I’m not raising my children there.  Typical Liberal.”  Also payday loan sharks; the Paralympics (Mercer was a huge supporter) and technology. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-“Gimme Some Truth” (2001).

On December 2, Pearl Jam announced that their fan club holiday singles will be released to streaming services.  Their first holiday single was released back in 1991.  It was “Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time).” They are rolling out the songs one at a time under the banner 12 Days of Pearl Jam.

These releases are coming out as a daily surprise.

“Gimme Some Truth” was written by John Lennon during the Nixon administration.

Pearl Jam played this song live a bunch of times during the George W. Bush administration.  They had played it twice before recording this version at the Groundwork Benefit, Key Arena, Seattle. October 22, 2001.

It’s quite a faithful cover.  The original has angry guitars and Lennon’s growly voice. Although the original has a very distinctly Beatles-sound from the guitars (Which is obvious, but still somewhat surprising).  Even Lennon’s guitar solo has that Beatles sound.  The Pearl Jam version doesn’t have that feel at all–it sounds very much like a Pearl Jam song.

In fact, Eddie and the guys updated the lyrics for the George W. Bush administration.  I’ve listed both sets of lyrics at the bottom of the page.

The song is catchy and passionate and, frankly, is even more applicable now with the Liar in Chief’s administration literally incapable of saying a true word.

[READ: December 12 2019] “The Sacred Family”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

I have read a number of stories by Rachel Kushner.  I tend to enjoy them, although this one was more thought-provoking than interesting.

The story concerns a man, Hauser, who is warden at a women’s prison.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PEARL JAM-“Love, Reign o’er Me” (1993).

On December 2, Pearl Jam announced that their fan club holiday singles will be released to streaming services.  Their first holiday single was released back in 1991.  It was “Let Me Sleep (Christmas Time).” They are rolling out the songs one at a time under the banner 12 Days of Pearl Jam.

These releases are coming out as a daily surprise.

This is an impressively faithful (and really good) cover of the classic song from The Who.  I knew the band played this in concert-I’ve seen it once or twice myself–but I never realized they had released a studio version.

It opens with the piano and gong just like the original.  There’s some synth washes and that familiar keyboard melody before Eddie starts singing.  he sounds powerful like Roger Daltrey including doing a Daltrey scream right out of the gate.

The music is remarkably faithful–the guitars, the keys–everything.  The only major difference comes around three and half minutes when there is a keyboard solo and the sound of the keyboard is an usual choice–a little unusual for the rest of the song.

But the guitar solo is right on.  Eddie can certain do some manly screams just like Roger and this version totally rocks.

Even the guitar slide before the crashing ending sounds great.  A truly fantastic cover.

[READ: December 10, 2019] “Training Module”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story was a powerful indictment of men, written in a compelling and interesting manner–as a sexual harassment training manual.

It is a series of questions with multiple choice answers.  There is no point in trying to summarize or rewrite them because they are perfectly written.  So i’ll just give some examples here.

The first one:

You’re an adult man of indeterminate age in between subway cars in 1967, and you see a six-year-old girl with her mother.  Do you:
a) quickly move to the next car, as any sensible person between cars on a moving train might, or
b) expose yourself to the child. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ROSANNE CASH-Tiny Desk Concert #893 (September 23, 2019)

I don’t know all that much about Rosanne Cash (I couldn’t recall how she was related to Johnny).  I also assumed that she would be a country artist.  Yet this set is anything but country.  But I guess the key to that is that her voice isn’t country at all, it’s just good.

This blurb also blows my mind a bit about how quickly (or not) they post concerts.  This show was posted in September but was recorded in January–she had to wait quite a while to see it.

Rosanne Cash and her band arrived at NPR to play the Tiny Desk on a freezing cold, bright sunny day in January — one of those brittle, crystal clear winter days when the snow reflects the sun and there’s nowhere to hide from the light. Her intense performance had that same balance of heat and ice.

Cash plays four songs

most taken from her 2018 album She Remembers Everything, have a lot of emotional heat, but they’re shaped and sculpted by the wry wisdom of age and experience. More than at any time in her career, her spirit and approach to performance these days reflects the influence of her father, the legendary country singer Johnny Cash.

“She Remembers Everything” opens with John Leventhal on with Rosanne on acoustic guitar.  Like most of these songs, it feels slow and powerful–kind of bluesy with a dramatic chord progression.  Mid song, Leventhal switches to guitar and plays a great little solo.

When the song is over she praises everyone: “So attentive.  Like a listening room at the NPR offices.”

Up next is “The Only Thing Worth Fighting” which she co-wrote with T Bone Burnett and Lyra Lynn  This song is not so much country as western-sounding.  There’s more nice guitar work from Leventhal.

Zev Katz on bass and Dan Rieser on drums don’t do anything to single them out except for keeping the songs moving properly.  The bass does do some nice lines, but mostly, these are simple songs which need little accompaniment.

For “Everyone But Me” she takes off the guitar.  This is a lovely piano ballad after which she says, “I don’t know if the young people can relate to this song but it means more as you get older.”

The last song is from her album The River and the Thread.  She says the album won a Grammy and the last time she won a Grammy, Ronald Reagan was president.  From this she plays the cool bluesy “A Feather’s Not A Bird.”

This isn’t the kind of music I enjoyed, but I liked this Tiny Desk Concert a lot more than I thought I would based on what I thought I knew about Rosanne Cash.

[READ: August 26, 2019] The Adventures of Barry & Joe

After the election that has sent the country spiraling into a level of hell, Adam Reid wanted to do something to make decent-thinking people laugh.

When I saw first saw this, I assumed that Adam Reid was Adam Reed, the creator of Archer and other delightfully dark cartoons.  It took a while for me to realize that he isAdam Reid who is responsible for The Tiny Chef Show.

Aside from that, I don’t really have any familiarity with him.  So that’s kind of interesting, I suppose. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-“Woodstuck” (Moose: The Compilation, 1991).

Back in the 1990s, it was common to buy a compilation or soundtrack or even a band’s album based on one song.  Only to then find that you didn’t really like anything else on it.

Maybe that single sounded like nothing else on the album.  Maybe the movie was almost entirely one genre, but they had that one song that you liked over the credits.  Or maybe the compilation was for something you didn’t know, but a song you really wanted was on it, too.

With streaming music that need not happen anymore.  Except in this case.

I bought this compilation, used, recently exclusively for one song, Rheostatics’ “Woodstuck.”  It’s a goofy song and this is the only place you can get the studio version.  The actual compilation was not well documented, so I didn’t know what the other bands on it might sound like.  It turns out to be a compilation for Ontario based Moose Records which specialized in Rock, Folk, World & Country.  They put out another compilation in 1992 and that’s all I can find out about them.

I’d heard this song on several live bootlegs, but I was very curious about the original recording.

It’s a stomping folk song with great backing vocals and a very funny chorus.

You can’t go back to Woodstock baby, you were just two years old You weren’t even born

And this wonderful verse

Before they were kissing the earth now they’re washing their cars
Before they were feeling stoned now they’re feeling bored
Sure you shed your clothes but you shed no blood
Poor hippie child don’t sit and wait for another summer of love

Was it worth getting this whole compilation for a two and a half minute joke song?  You bet.

[READ: July 20, 2019] “Just Keep Going North: At the border”

William T. Vollmann continues to amaze me with his dedication to writing about issues that matter.

This lengthy essay is Vollmann’s attempt to discover what is happening at the border after trump warned of migrant caravans coming up from Mexico in February of 2019.

He decided to go to the Arizona border, a place he knew little about, to save himself from prejudgment (he is from California and knows that border situation a little better).  He went to the internationally bifurcated town of Nogales.  Nogales said it would sue the federal government if it did not remove the new coil of razor wire.

He talks to an immigration lawyer from Tucson who says in the old days it was no big deal to cross the border–you could come and go. There were some small changes in the mid-eighties.  Then 9/11 caused big changes.  It had been bad before trump but trump’s policies at least opened peoples eyes to what was happening here. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TACOCAT-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

Tacocat are from Seattle and they are very happy to be here.

It sounds like that was another set that would have been a lot of fun to see:

An indie-punk four-piece from Seattle [singer Emily Nokes, drummer Lelah Maupin, bassist Bree McKenna and guitarist Eric Randall] walked onto World Cafe Live’s upstairs stage glowing—literally. Covered head-to-toe in bright colors and sparkles. The band brought an unwavering burst of energy to the first night of NonCOMM, performing a handful of songs from each of their three albums.

Tacocat wasted no time getting started as they jumped right into “Hologram” from their latest album This Mess Is a Place. Lead singer Emily Nokes started dancing with a tambourine in her hand and didn’t quit until the set was complete (minus breaks between songs to sip some tea—we hope she’s feeling okay).

“Hologram” puts a slight political spin (I assume) on their poppy punk songs.  Indeed, their identity seems to be one of snark and surf-pop, but with thoughtful questions underneath

Not so long ago, I used to feel like
I was too sensitive to be alive
But maybe now it’s the opposite
Too much to say
So I don’t say anything
Is numb even a feeling?
I just wonder how anyone falls for this anymore

“Bridge to Hawaii” is about seasonal depression–wouldn’t it be nice to build a bridge from rainy Seattle to beautiful Hawaii so that you could just walk there?  While “New World” wonders what it would be like to build a new world–like in sci-fi movies.

New world, new planet
No ugly buildings in my eyes
No paperwork, no jerks, no parking tickets
No beak to feed, no nine-to-five

“The Joke of Life” is about “when when things are too hard to make fun of anymore because they’re already making fun of themselves.”   Randall chimed in, “the death of satire.”  The song contains the chorus: “The jokes is that the joke is already a joke.”  This one features backup vocals from Randall and McKenna which perfectly complement Nokes’s raspy lead vocal.

At the end of the song drummer Lelah Maupin [who was sporting a checkered onesie and a toothy smile throughout all 7 songs the band played] said, “my whole life as a drummer has been building up to playing that song.”

“Grains of Salt” changes their sound a bit with some synthy solos.  It’s more poppy than punky but doesn’t feel too far away from their sound.

Randall says that they needed t pick a single for their album and “Crystal Ball” just didn’t make the cut.  “But we love it.  We love all our children equally.”

The final song, “I Hate the Weekend” is which is dedicated to everyone who ever worked in the service industry…  like you.  Let’s all be nice.  Let’s all tip well.  Let’s not throw up in the sink.”  It’s a ripping fast song with this nice section

Homogenized and oh so bleak
Got a hall pass from your job
Just to act like a fucking slob

before the chippy clap-along chorus.

I missed Tacocat when they came around, but I hope they open for someone I see real soon.  Stream this show on the media player.

[READ: May 3, 2019] “Fake News”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had three short stories and three poems as special features.

I don’t normally write about poems.  Certainly not ones that appear in magazines (this blog would be all poetry if  did that).  But for a summer reading issue that features three poets, I thought I’d make an exception.

Especially for this one, which is subtitled “An American bodyguard forsees his death.”

How’s this for an opening line

Do I love my country less  than I pledged,
since I haven’t yet brought the tent top down
on this circus?  Head clown, I and the men

code call him, in small font, or else imPOTUS–

But if some fanatic
does attempt to off him (snipe him, stab him,

body bomb him), my Navy SEAL-trained nerves
will trigger a textbook-expert tackle–

block bullets with my skull, spine, sacrum

I have often wondered if we would ever see a day when a bodyguard would turn on him–for love of country since he is wrecking our so badly.  I assume not.  I can’t imagine what would have to happen to a person’s mind to act that way.

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