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Archive for the ‘Prostitution’ Category

last3 SOUNDTRACK: NIGHT BEDS-Tiny Desk Concert #266 (February 18, 2013).

nightTypically we don’t see what happens before the Tiny Desk Concert begins, but for this show, there’s a very funny introduction.  Robin clacks the clacker and as the Winston Yellen starts singing you hear Robin interrupt him and say something.  He sings “When the sorrow goooozz….” and laughs as Robin says “much more important than your singing is my introduction.”  Someone in the band jokes, “gather round, take a knee.”

Night Beds are certainly anchored around Yellen’s voice.  The first song is a brief a capella track called “Faithful Heights.”  It segues perfectly into “Ramona,” where you get a better sense for what the band sounds like.  The band kicks in with some lovely guitar work on the electric guitar while Yellen plays acoustic.  Near the end of the song he launches unexpectedly into some really powerful falsetto.  It’s a very pretty song.

“22” features a more pronounced slide guitar which offers some cool spare, echoing sounds.  The final song is “Hide from It,” and older song tha they haven’t played much. It’s a bit faster with nice backing vocals.  There’s a very pretty guitar riff (I love the gentle echo) and keyboards instead of slide guitar.

I found Might Beds to be quite winning.

[READ: January 17, 2017] LastMan 3

This book was originally written in French (and called Lastman there as well).  These editions were translated by Alexis Siegel.

The art is black and white (and grayscale) and the characters are what I can only describe as very French looking. The faces are very minimal, with some of them looking almost bleached out but for eyes and a mouth.  Some of the men are rather grotesque-looking while the one woman is a knockout.  For the first book I said that it might be okay for a slightly younger audience, but this book changes things–prostitutes, porn mags, threats of violence–nothing explicit but still, way too much for young kids.

This book is also very different from the first two in that it is set in an entirely in a new location.

Adrian and his mom, Marianne, have ridden out to the Rift on her motorcycle.  His mom says that she is going to walk into the mist for a few minutes and she wants him to stay where he is.  And I love this bit:

-Listen Adrian, they say a lot of things in school and at church but in the end what should you always listen to?
-Uh, yes,  I know. Your heart?
-No Silly, what your mother says.

She comes back with a map and realizes that the rift is passable.  They arrive on the outskirts of a town and are caught by some thugs.  It’s very Mad Max looking with the men being really grotesque and planning to proceed with the rape of the delinquent.  Yikes.

As they get close, Adrian’s mother does a summoning and knocks everyone around her down–many of them flee.  Adrian is in awe of his mom.

They ride into Nillipolis and she is convinced that Richard is there.  But Nillipolis proves to be a scummy town.  We meet a guy who works at a brothel, Francis.  He’s the only nice person in the whole town (as are the prostitutes, particularly Flora, the prettiest woman in the book).  They suggest looking in the pawn shop for evidence of Richard.  And indeed in the shop they see the cup that he and Adrian won–it’s even got their names on it.

There’s a lot of excitement in this book with Adrian and his mom fleeing from the thugs who are with the police and the fireman and then  dealing with two attorneys: Raven and Delacruz.  She is being placed under arrest for charges of false prostitution.  But it’s really because they have tied her to Richard–who is in fact in the same prison.

The last quarter of the book is taken up with the trail.  And this trial is unlike any you’ve seen.  There are cheerleaders.  And, it quickly becomes obvious that you win your case through violence and strength and little else.  If your attorney is killed, then you get the death sentence.

We also learn that there’s a grizzled old creepy dude in a wheelchair who wants the map that she has–he believes that the Valley of Kings–where Adrian and his mom are from–has the secret to eternal life.

The book ends on board a ship to Paxtown–a questionable city.  Richard is heading there as well, and it looks like Cristo, the person in the mask who Richard defeated in the battle is there too.

But we’ll have to wait until book 4 to find out just what’s going on.

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2008_04_07-400SOUNDTRACK: HOLLY WILLIAMS-Tiny Desk Concert #373 (July 14, 2014).

holyHolly Williams is a country singer.  Her lineage is hard to deny: the daughter of Hank Williams Jr., half-sister of Hank Williams III, and the granddaughter of country legend, Hank Williams Sr. (she never met him, as he died long before she was born).

She sings three songs.  “Drinkin'” which is very country.  “Railroads” rocks a bit more and has an interesting sounding chorus.  But it’s “Waitin’ on June,” a story song about her grandparents (not on the Williams side) that is beautiful and touching (although I really don’t like the way she sings the word “June,” but that’s just me).

[READ: February 18, 2016] “The House Behind a Weeping Cherry”

This story is about a young Chinese man, Wanren, who has set out for New York to try to benefit his family.  He is shocked to find that he is working in a sweatshop (he left China for this?) pressing clothes.

He has been living in the upstairs apartment of a house owned by Mrs Chen.  But his roommate has just left because he couldn’t handle the fact that the women who lived down the hall were prostitutes (who paid Mrs Chen).

When the roommate moves out Wanren is afraid Mrs Chen will raise the rent. But instead, she asks if he will drive the girls to their appointments at local hotels.  Mrs Chen assures him that he wont get in trouble with the police and he reluctantly agrees.

The rest of the story unfolds with the narrator becoming more friendly with the three girls.

Lili is the meanest of the three. She speaks the best English and answers the phone.  Nana is friendly, but it’s Huong who is the best cook and the prettiest of the three.  Wanren likes her the best.  Lili suggests that he should buy one of them for the night since he has no girlfriend, but he knows not get involved.  He doesn’t want to play favorites even though he has one.

The two of them wind up eating dinner together and sharing their living space a lot more.

He desperately wishes the girls could stop their life and do something legal, but all three of them have serious debts to pay.  Huong owes a Coyote $2000 a month for the expense of getting her to the US.

He learns about the johns and what type of people they are.  Some are married looking for something different.  Some are widows just looking for advice.  For the most part the girls aren’t ever treated that badly. Sometimes the johns go too far–one bit Huong very hard once, and another client turned out to be two men who were both so rough with her so that she couldn’t walk the next day.

One night when a client wouldn’t leave (some made house calls) Wanren stepped in to help.  And now the women like him even more.

This story is something a of a “hooker with a heart of gold” story, but the added details of their illegal status, their trying to raise money to go home and their having to pay off other men puts an interesting twist on it

Finally, the narrator finds them some honest work, but it will never pay enough.  They go to the coyote to see about changing the terms of her payment but he more or less says that if they try plaything he knows where they live.

The story is hopeless.  But somehow the ending adds a slight ray of hope, as unbelievable as it may be.

In writing about the story it seems less good than when I was reading it, but I really enjoyed the characters, especially Wanren, and seeing how his mind worked.  Even if some parts were rather cliched.

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naughty SOUNDTRACK: GEM CLUB-Tiny Desk Concert #181 (December 16, 2011).

gem clubGem Club is a quiet band.  During this set there are three members:  Christopher Barnes on keyboards and lead vocals, cellist Kristen Drymala and vocalist Ieva Berberian (who is eerily silent and still for much of the performance).

The first song, “Animal” features Barnes on keyboards, playing a simple melody and Drymala, playing a low and loud cello to accompany (when her first note comes in, it’s really striking).  She also sings a wonderful harmony vocal.  Barnes’ voice is almost a whisper, but between his voice and the vibrato on the keys, it sounds really big (but still quiet).  I really enjoyed the way the only “melody” she played on cello was at the very end of the song–a brief riff to signal the end.

“Breakers” opens with some rough cello playing and then a gentle echoed keyboard.  Ieva Berberian didn’t do anything in the first song, she just hovered mysteriously in the background. But for the second song she hits occasional tambourine notes (which sound practically like explosions amid the delicate echoing keyboards).  Perhaps the most interesting part of the song is watching Drymala tap on some  colorful bells with her foot to create a lovely melody.

For the final song, “252” Barnes says it is kind of a beast, (although it doesn’t sound any more complex than the previous two to me).  The piano is echoed and Ieva Berberian finally sings backing vocals.  Her voice is a little haunting and it works very nicely with Barnes’ voice.  The melody is beautiful.

Incidentally, the blurb says that this is the first time they’ve amplified a singer’s voice (they ran his voice through a chorus pedal to give it that otherworldly echo).  I have been listening to a lot of loud music lately, and this was a perfect counterpoint.

[READ: December 20, 2015] History’s Naughty Bits

This is the kind of book that promises to be very funny.  And then it turns out to be mostly funny but also rather scholarly.  Which is not bad thing, it’s just not as raucous as one might have imagined.

Dolby begins by dismissing the idea that “naughty” things are a recent invention and then proceeds to go through the history of human culture to show examples of things that would certainly be considered naughty today (some are quite shocking).

She starts with Classical Greece where women were expected to remain chaste, except for hetairai, high-class courtesans, who were well-educated and respected.  That’s some choice.  Adultery was considered less of a sin if was committed with a prostitute. (more…)

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hiltonSOUNDTRACK: BECK/RECORD CLUB-SKIP SPENCE: Oar (2010).

skipOf the four Record Club discs, this is the only one I don’t own.  Although I do have a different covers collection called More Oar (which Beck also appears on). I may have never heard any of the original songs on this disc, so I can’t even compare them.

For those who don’t know (as I didn’t), Skip Spence was one of the founders of Moby Grape, a band who was vaguely successful in the late 60s and then sort of fell apart (especially when Spence tried to kill his bandmates and was put in an asylum for a year).

Beck doesn’t have anything special to say about why they picked this album.  But he must have been very excited that Wilco and Feist were around to play on it.  He says

This one took place last June when Wilco was in town for the release of their new eponymous album. They came by after a long day filming a TV appearance and still managed to put down 8 songs with us. Jamie Lidell was in the studio with me working on his new record. Leslie Feist happened to be in town editing her documentary and heard we were all getting together. Recording took place at Sunset Sound Studios in the room where the Stones did a lot of Exile On Main Street (and looking at the records on the walls it appeared that the Doobie Brothers recorded most of their output there too). Sitting in on drums, we had James Gadson, who’s played on most of the Bill Withers records and on songs like ‘Express Yourself’ and ‘I Will Survive.’ Jeff Tweedy’s son Spencer played played additional drums. Also, Brian Lebarton, from the last two Record Club sessions is back.

And if you don’t know what Record Club is, see the summary on yesterday’s post.

Wilco plays on 8 tracks (of 12) and they sound great.  Indeed, overall this is the most “professional” sounding recording.  Which is not to say that they don’t have fun. It sure sounds like they do.

Little Hands (2:59).  This has a traditional folk band sound.  It’s a great recording.
Cripple Creek (4:14).  This is not THAT “Cripple Creek,” by the way.  “Jamie takes the lead and Gadson gets behind the kit, while Beck and Brian back them.”  There’s a funky drum breakdown in the middle.
Diana (3:48).  Another good sounding song.
Margaret/Tiger Rug (2:27). This song is a little boppy and slightly silly sounding, but not really that silly.
Weighted Down (The Prison Song) (4:58) “Feist takes the lead this week with Nels Cline arpeggiating some ridiculous 64th notes on a toy guitar.”  Feist adds some beautiful vocals to this song.
War In Peace (5:04).  This begins a little slow and shambolic but it soon builds into a full band that gets even crazier when they start playing “Sunshine of Your Love.”  It was fun to hear them let loose.
Broken Heart (3:39).  This sounds like a traditional song.  A little drunken and fun–a nice duet with Feist.
All Come To Meet Her (2:02).  This is a simply beautiful harmonized a capella rendition.
Books Of Moses (7:21) “Gadson lays down the heaviest RC beat ever, while Jamie loops his voice into a voice army and Brian plays some kind of octagon shaped synth.”  This had a kind of Primus-y weird synth opening.  But as Jamie loops his voice over and over it sounds really good, although it is too long.
Dixie Peach Promenade (Yin For Yang) (3:56).  This is a synthy bouncy song.  It’s a little silly, especially with th Ace of Base coda at the end.  But it sounds good.
Lawrence of Euphoria (5:17).  The lyrics of this song are very silly. This version has a fake cowbell and  funky bass but is otherwise just electronic drums and vocals.
Grey/Afro (7:35).  This has echoed vocals and noisy bass.  It’s hard to figure out what’s going on here, especially at the chaotic ending. But it’s nice to hear them all let loose a bit.

As I said, I don’t know how this compares to the original, but I really enjoyed it.

[READ: March 23, 2014] White Girls

This book was madly hyped and I was pretty excited to read it (even though to be honest I didn’t know if it was fiction or non-fiction–and wasn’t even entirely sure as much as half way through the first piece).  I knew Als’ name from the New Yorker, although I wasn’t really conscious of having read anything by him.  It turns out I read one of these essays in McSweeney’s 35 about four years ago.  The fact that I didn’t remember reading that essay does not speak all that well about it.  But overall I enjoyed most of the essays in the book quite a lot; however, the two longest ones I found, well, way too long.  And I honestly don’t understand the title.

Overall the book is a collection of essays (often told from an interesting perspective, like from the dead person’s first point of view).  The problem with pretty much every essay in the book at least for me was that Als presupposes a base knowledge of these people.  Without that, the essays can be frustratingly vague and unclear.  But again, these people are all famous enough that it seems likely that one would have that base knowledge (even if I don’t).  I do wish there was a small bio or even a photo with these essays (as there was with the Truman Capote one) as I feel that grounded me nicely.

I was a lot more confused by his essays that were more personal.  I didn’t really understand the context for what he was talking about, since i know very little about him.  And as you’ll see from the first essay, he covered a lot in a very un-straight way. (more…)

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honeySOUNDTRACK: HORRIBLE HISTORIES-“Charles Dickens” (2013).

dickensHorrible Histories is a British children’s show.  They tell you histories of people and things in fun ways. Like this.  (It sounds awesome).

This biography of Charles Dickens (which lyrically is amusing as well as informative) is done in the style of The Smiths.  The music is very clearly The Smiths and of course the singer hits all of the Morrisseyisms that he can.  In addition to some actual Smiths lines (Dickens take a bow, heaven knows I’m miserable now), the song more or less mashes up “Heaven Know I’m Miserable Now” and “This Charming Man.”

It’s very funny and catchy as well.  Check out the joy:

[READ: June 30, 2013] A Taste of Honey

I discovered this play because it was mentioned in a documentary about The Smiths,  It was one of Morrissey’s favorite movies; he quoted a line from it in “Reel Around the Fountain” (I dreamt about you last night and fell out of bed twice”) and the song “This Night Has Opened My Eyes” is basically a summary of the play (with lines from it).

It’s a fairly modern story for 1959 England (Delaney was 18 when she wrote it), but it seems like rather a downer to be a favorite film/play.

It is the story of Jo, a young girl who is stuck in the dreaded life of living poor in Manchester (The river the color of lead).  She has no father around and her mother, Helen, (described as as a semi-whore (!), is quite unpleasant). Indeed, the opening scene of the play is the two of them bickering in a hole in the wall flat that feels dirty just by reading it.

Eventually a man comes along who promises to take Helen away from all of this.  He may be her pimp (specifics are not really given in the story and I wondered if they would be more obvious if it was 1959 (or in the movie).  But it’s clear that he has money and seems to be willing to bring Helen home.  At the same time, he is terribly mean to Jo–treating her worse than her mother does.  By the end of the scene, he takes Helen away, leaving Jo on her own. (more…)

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decwalrusSOUNDTRACK: FIRST AID KIT Live at Newport Folk Festival July 28, 2012 (2012).

jacobs-folkfest-44I discovered First Aid Kit through NPR and I liked the two or three songs so much I bought their album, The Lion’s Roar.  And here’s a full set at Newport Folk Festival.

There’s three members of First Aid Kit, two sisters and a boy drummer all from Sweden.  I don’t know if coming from Sweden has any impact on their singing, but their voices are extraordinary  especially when they harmonize.  “Blue” is one of their great songs and it sounds amazing live.

They also do a stunning cover of Joan Baez’ “Diamonds & Rust,” and on their final track, “King of the World,” Conor Oberst gives a guest vocal (he’s on the album too).

Lyrically, the band is interesting too.  I love the premise of “Emmylou” and the phrasings in “The Lion’s Roar.”  In this show, they dedicate “Hard Believer” to Richard Dawkins, so the band are definitely not lightweights.

It’s a great set and a wonderful introduction to this compelling Swedish band.  I hope they get some more airplay in the States.  You can check it out here.

[READ: December 10, 2012] “Flesh and Numbers”

Stephen Marche publishes a lot of stories in The Walrus, and I find that I’m hit or miss about him.  And, indeed, I was even hit or miss about this story.  I feel that Marche is often trying to go for shock in his stories–and this one has two kinds of shock in it.

The first is that a husband pays his wife for a blow job.  (A bright red Canadian $50).  And later he starts paying her a $50 every time they have sex.  This all begins because she wants to buy a pair of boots that she deems too expensive.  The story kind of looks at the idea of prostitution and power roles in marriage, but only glancingly.

The story talks about their financial situation (they are both successful, although there is a marked discrepancy in who makes how much and how they divide up the bills).  But once this casual money-for-sex situation arises, she finds that she is enjoying the feeling of getting the money.  Indeed, since he always pays with a red 50, she stars getting mildly turned on whenever she sees them in her daily life.  They both find that they are having sex more and doing more interesting things in bed.  In fact, hen the new iPad comes out she offers anal sex as an option for more cash. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CALLA-Calla (1999).

I got this album when a patron donated it to the library.  I had never heard of this band, but the other CDs he donated were really cool so I grabbed this one, too.  This is an almost entirely instrumental album (vocals are whispered when present) that feels like a soundtrack to a futuristic Western.  “Tarantula” opens with some creepy, ghostly sounds and then what sounds like spurs walking across the landscape.  When the guitar comes in it sounds like an old Western.  In many ways this album reminds me of a great band called Scenic, although this one makes more use of electronics, which gives it a more eerie feeling.

“Custom Car Crash” has a very Western feel.  Over creepy scraping sounds, a clean guitar plays very simple guitar lines and chords.  When the keyboard lilts over the noise, it’s quite eerie.  This song has vocals; deep, almost whispered vocals, and I can’t really make them out,  There’s also a live bonus version at the end which really captures the studio version, but which I think is better.  “June” has a slow droney sound: more atmospheric than anything else–it seems maybe ten years ahead of its time).  The 8 minute “Only Drowning Men:” introduces more guitars and a lit of tension.   From the noise a delicate guitar pattern emerges for the last minute of the song.

“Elsewhere” is full of buzzy guitars; there’s a live version at the end of the disc as well.  “Truth About Robots” is my favorite track, a real melody over the noise.  Despite its length (just over 2:30), it tells a full story.

“Trinidad” comes a surprise because it opens with bass (you don’t hear much bass on this album).  But “Keyes” is so quiet as to be almost not there.  “Awake and Under” on the other hand has a great guitar and bass sequence with spoken lyrics (reminiscent of many indie bands of the 90s) but which is very effective here.  There’s a live version as a bonus track and it is a highlight.

This is more interesting music for creating atmosphere, but not something I’d listen to a lot.  I was surprised to find out how many albums they had out.

[READ: March 2, 2012] “A Prairie Girl”

I’ve enjoyed Thomas McGuane stories before, but I wasn’t sure if I’d like this one as it opens with a brothel.  Since I’m thinking about the implications of sex in Gravity’s Rainbow, the last thing I needed was a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold story.  But this isn’t that.  And it has a brothel with a very funny name: The Butt Hut .  The Butt Hut closes down when the madam dies.  Most of the women moved away (either with local men (to the dismay of many) or on their own).  But one girl who stayed was Mary Elizabeth Foley.

Mary Elizabeth attended church weekly, but most of the people gave her a wide berth—literally an empty pew.  It was finally decided that someone should speak to her since she wasn’t going away.  And so Mrs Gladstone Chandler, wife of the town’s bank owner and all around respected individual, sat near her during the mass.  Afterward, she asked Mary Elizabeth: “Where are you from?”  Mary Elizabeth answered “What business is it of yours?”  And she soon had her pew back. (more…)

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