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Archive for the ‘Racism’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ANDREA CRUZ-Tiny Desk Concert #836 (March 27, 2019).

I was really surprised by the music that Andrea Cruz played, especially when I learned she is from Puerto Rico.  It felt very folk-music, in the way she strummed and the trombone (Jomar Santana) was used more as a solo instrument rather than a dance-accompaniment.  That’s certainly reductive, and yet the blurb backs me up:

It’s important to note that the instrumentation of the band that traveled with her (keyboard, two percussionists and trombone) hardly fits what you’d expect music from the island to sound like these days. But Cruz is part of a movement in Puerto Rico that emphasizes largely acoustic instruments and a folk-based approach to interpreting life before and after the hurricane of 2017. It’s a bold creative statement in a land of reggaeton and salsa.

I was very pleased to see that Cruz’s live performance is very much like the stripped-down sound on her album and the handful of singles she’s released. In fact, I would say her music is a perfect soundtrack to a growing, back-to-nature movement in Puerto Rico that encourages local farming and a careful stewardship of the environment.

Cruz sings three songs, all from her first album, 2017’s Tejido de Laurel.

“No Toquemos Tierra,” opens with a lone trombone and Cruz’ guitar.  I love the delicate keyboard accents from Antony Granados. It looks funny that there are two of them playing the tiny percussion kit, but that changes later.  The way Cruz plays her guitar here I almost expected her to bust out into something like Laura Marling a few times.  The coda at the end is really pretty, too.

The emotion of the lyrics of the first song, “No Toquemos Tierra,” is evident in her angelic voice as she makes a declaration of love for the earth as a metaphor for a lover. The beauty of the song is in her poetic lyrics set to a melody that defies language.

“Santas Flores” is a prayer to the flowers.  I love in the middle that everything drops away except for the percussion and her voice.  I’m very curious how that trombone is so quiet.

“Canción de Amargura” begins with a martial beat from Francisco Marrero but when Ángel Rafael Rivera plays the cuatro venezolano, the mood lightens.  Despite the fact that this is an intense song

there was no mistaking the intense feeling behind her song about femicide on the island in the song, “Canción de Amargura.”

Their voices raised in harmony at the end are really powerful and the way her own voice just soars in the last few seconds is really lovely.

“Contigo” is listed as a fourth song but she doesn’t play it, I don’t think.

[READ: March 31, 2019] “The Match”

This is an excerpt from Whitehead’s not-yet-released book The Nickel Boys, which is set around 1964.

This part is about a boxing match at The Nickel Academy, a reform school for boys.  The main competitor is a black boy named Griff.   He is a miserable bully most of the time and the other boys really hate him.  But if he has the chance to defeat a white boy, they are all for him.

The “colored boys” had held the boxing title for fifteen years.  “Old hands on the staff still remembered the last white champion [Terry (Doc) Burns] and talked him up.”

Griff arrived at Nickel just after the last champ turned eighteen and was released back in to the free world.  Griff pulverized his opponents.  At the end of the school year, they would pit the dorm’s best fighters against each other and then in the finale, the best black fighter fought “whatever chump the white guys put up.”

Obviously, racism is inherent in this system.  Indeed, Trevor Nickel who opened the Academy was a member of the Klan.  During one of the brief asides, Turner, brought Elwood to the two trees in the back.  There were rings embedded in the trees, part of the trunk now: “Human bones would break before it came loose.”  This was where the black boys who disobeyed were brought.  The official word was that they escaped, obviously they did not. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ALEJANDRO ESCOVEDO-Tiny Desk Concert #834 (March 20, 2019).

I feel like I’ve been hearing Alejandro Escovedo’s name for years, and yet I know very little about him.

I assumed he was a kind of folkie guy.  So I was pretty surprised by the loud sound he brought to the Tiny Desk.  And even more surprised to read

The musician, who once opened for the Sex Pistols … seemed to appreciate the difference between being pelted with spit and debris by punk rock fans and being showered with loving appreciation in the NPR Music office.

Escovedo came  in a leather jacket and a large band.  And even though I thought they were loud, apparently they intended to be louder.  They even started the show with “one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four Go Alejandro!”

Escovedo and his backing band known as Don Antonio set up behind the Tiny Desk, their first sounds were blistering loud. That’s when we broke the news: We wouldn’t amplify Alejandro’s voice. We got a slightly sullen look from the band; but despite the toned-down volume, they were all still amped up.

A little research into Escovedo, though shows that he has, indeed, played folkie/alt-country music.  But that his sound has evolved over the years.

Escovedo pulled the three-song set from The Crossing, the most recent chapter in his ongoing odyssey and a typically hard-rocking, literate saga about two teenagers looking for their American Dream of rock and roll and beat poetry.

“Teenage Luggage” opens kind of quiet with one guitar and quiet drums, but soon enough a sax and keyboards are added, then comes some bass and the second saxophone and the roaring lead guitar.  As Escovedo sing/speaks his story.  Then comes the catchy chorus:

You think you know me, you’ll never know me you’re just a bigot with a bad guitar.

By the end, everyone is rocking out with mini solos from Perinelli on saxophone and a raucous guitar solo from Gramentieri

The close quarters of the Tiny Desk allows for a kind of backstage insight into the musical and visual interplay between Escovedo and the veteran Italian band Don Antonio [Antonio Gramentieri: vocals, guitar; Denis Valentini: bass; Matteo Monti: drums; Nicola Peruch: keyboard; Gianni Perinelli: tenor sax; Franz Valtieri: baritone sax]. Lead guitarist Antonio Gramentieri is the perfect foil for Escovedo, who adds a heavy dose of edginess to the sound with his power strumming.

“Something Blue” is slow with a dominant organ sound (reminiscent of Bob Dylan).  It sounds like an old-school rock song and his delivery sounds more than a little like Warren Zevon.

He says that “Sonica USA” goes out to Don since Wayne Kramer from the MC5 played on this.  It has a great raw rock feel with Escovedo’s punky vocals and the chanted chorus of “Sonica USA.”  The soloing section is great with the two saxophones playing on top of Gramentier’s wailing solo.

It’s a really fun garage rocking set.

[READ: Summer 2018] The Long War

I found the first book in this series rather compelling–almost surprisingly so given that it’s not a fast-paced book and, to be honest, not a lot happens.

But it was really well written and the things that do happen are compelling and fascinating.  And I couldn’t wait to read more.

In the first book:

A man creates an invention (The Stepper) which allows one to step into a parallel world that is next to ours.  There are a possibly infinite numbers of parallel worlds in each direction (East or West).  The worlds that are closer to ours are almost identical to our Earth (known as Datum Earth).  The further you go, the greater the differences.  But none of them have experienced humanity before Step Day (aside from earlier hominids).

The main character is Joshua Valienté.  Joshua is a natural “Stepper.”  He doesn’t need the device to Step from one word to the next, nor does he feel the nausea and other side effects that most people feel as they travel.  Most of the book follows his exploits.

The Black corporate has a ship with an entity known as Lobsang who claims that he was a human reincarnated as artificial intelligence.  Joshua is sure that Lobsang is a computer, but Lobsang’s human skills are uncanny.  This ship has managed to Step as an entity, meaning everything in the ship can go with them.  Normally you can only bring what you can carry (aside from metal).

The novel more or less is an exploratory one with Joshua and Lobsang Stepping through millions of Earths.  Not a lot happens, but the novel never grows boring.  The interactions between Joshua and Lobsang are often funny.  And the writers have infused the Earths that they stop in with just enough differences to make each stop strangely compelling (this must be Baxter’s hard science leanings).

At the end of the book, the anti-steppers attempt a massive, deadly protest.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-Corel Centre, Ottawa, ON (November 29, 1996).

This is the 15th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour.  The site has recently added a DAT version of the show in conjunction with the existing fan-recorded version.

It opens in a very amusing way.  I imagine that Dave and Martin are lying on the stage, because Dave asks, “Martin can you sleep?”
Martin: “No, I can’t sleep.  I’ve smoked about three cigarettes.”
Dave “I had this weird dream we were playing in a giant arena named after a software company, opening for Ringo’s All Stars.  It felt really weird.”
Tim starts playing the bass.
Daev: “Might as well just get up.”
Martin: “That’s either a nightmare or a fantastic dream.”
Then they loop saying “Let’s see what Tim and Don are up to.”

Dave breaks character and says, “The comedy is free tonight.”  Which leads to a rocking “Fat” followed by a nice surprise of “Aliens.”  Martin sings, “they came down in 1996.”

Then comes a grooving “Dope Fiends.”  I love that in these 1996 shows the middle part is a cool jam.  It makes the loud ending even more powerful.  And as the song fades it segues nicely into “Digital Beach.”  They start “Claire” before Martin is done and Martin sings a few more “beautiful things” before they start “Claire” properly.

Dave says that they are the Rheostatics from Etobicoke.  They’ve been around for 17 years and it’s a privilege to share the stage with The Hip and uh… we like you.  We have a new record out called The Blue Hysteria.  Sixteen songs, one of them is secret, so really only 15 and this next song is from that.”

Dave keeps talking about the record–it’s in quad sound while someone starts playing “Bad Time to Be Poor.”

Dave thanks the Green Sprouts who are here tonight–we have an address on the back of our CD and if you write us, we will write you back.  We promise.

Dave asks, Is anybody here form Italy tonight (massive cheers).
Martin: Oh my god, it must be empty over there.
This next song (a rocking “Motorino”)  is about being over there and wanting to be home.  It’s a great version that segues into a terrific “Feed Yourself.”  Boy I hope the next time I See them, they play “Feed Yourself.”

[READ: February 2019] Lawn Boy

Yup, I grabbed this book because of the Phish song/album.

Nope, it has nothing to do with the band at all.

Yup, I still enjoyed it quite a lot.

This is the story of Mike Muñoz.  He is basically stuck.  He absolutely loves landscaping–it is his passion.  He wants to sculpt topiary and be a recognized artist.  But he is stuck doing menial landscaping jobs–ones that often involves picking up dog poo more than beautifying plants.

Mike’s father abandoned him a long time ago, when Mike was 11.  When Mike was five, he took Mike to Disneyland.  Disneyland turned out to be an abandoned building site.  He told Mike “I guess they moved.”

There have been many stepfathers since then, but now his mom is pretty much done with all that. She works double shifts as a waitress in a bar (Mike tries to not go there).  Mike lives at home with her and his mentally handicapped brother.  He basically hasn’t matured past a child and has an impulse control and gets upset very easily.   He is also bigger than Mike–by a lot–so even though Mike does a good job watching him, its not easy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKFRAGILE ROCK-“Smile More” Tiny Desk Family Hour (March 12, 2019).

These next two shows were recorded at NPR’s SXSW Showcase.

The SXSW Music Festival is pleased to announce the first-ever Tiny Desk Family Hour showcase, an evening of music by artists who have played NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert, at Central Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, March 12 from 8-11pm.

It’s hard to talk seriously about Fragile Rock since they are a band of puppets.  Literally.

To say that Fragile Rock sent the evening hurtling sideways would be an understatement, as the band unleashed a torrent of faux-grim hilarity and chaos when it wasn’t urging the audience to shout out its prescribed antidepressants or berating fans for grinning along. (“We don’t appreciate your smiles,” seethed Brently Heilbron, in the persona of wounded frontpuppet Milo S. “You wouldn’t do that to Conor Oberst.”

And yet they are a good punk band and their lyrics have become even more pointed.  Especially this one.  They explain:

This is a song that Nick and I wrote reflecting on the #metoo and #timesup movements (that’s right lady in the back snapping your fingers you are correct).

This is a great punk blast and frankly it’s nice to hear a song sung by the female vocalists instead of the Fred Schneider-sounding male lead singer.

For “Smile More,” the spotlight shifted to Emily Cawood (performing as Briex Cocteau) and Megan Thornton (aka Nic Hole), who spent two minutes savaging the patriarchy. “Don’t tell me to smile more, don’t tell me what my mouth is for, from a man who started every war,” Thornton and her puppet shouted in unison. And, see, here’s the secret to Fragile Rock’s raucous, ridiculous charm: Subtract the puppets, the stage antics and the silliness of all, and you’re still left with some pretty damned good songs.

And nice succinct lyrics:

You could have had it all
You blew it didn’t you
I’m gonna watch you fall and
Never ever pity you
You’re purposeless
Your license is expired
Your services are no longer required

Your time has come and gone….time’s up!

All in two minutes.

[READ: March 14, 2019] Florida

When I started reading this book, I instantly remembered reading “Ghosts and Empties” in the New Yorker.  I assumed and was pleased that this was a full novel built out of that story.  Why?  Because nowhere on this book does it say that these are short stories.   Not on the cover, not on the front page, nor the back page.  It’s somewhere on the fly leaf, but since Groff also writes novels, it’s a bit of an oddity to not say “stories” somewhere on it.  I looked at the Table of Contents, obviously, but just assumed those where chapter headings.

I was exited to read the fuller story of the woman who walks at night.  And then I found out that the next “chapter” was a new story.  It turned out to be a fantastic story.  So that’s all good.  I don’t mind reading short stories at all, it was just a surprise.

It also turned out that I have read five of these short stores before (she is often printed in the New Yorker–the other stories were in different journals which I put in brackets after each title).

“Ghosts and Empties” (New Yorker, July 20, 2015)
I see now that I didn’t really enjoy this story the first time I read it (and yet it stayed with me all these years).  But I did enjoy it more this time (I still find it unsatisfying that the opening parental freakout part is never really addressed).  But basically this is a story in which woman walks around her neighborhood every night and observes things changing–for better or worse.  Old nuns dying, new houses being built, neighbors changing.  All in the heat of Florida. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Northlands Coliseum Edmonton AB (November 13, 1996).

Rheostatics opened for The Tragically Hip in Fall 1996.  Some of the shows were online already, but in 2018, Rheostatics Live added about ten more shows.  This is the 5th night of the 24 date Canadian Tour opening for The Tragically Hip on their Trouble At The Henhouse Tour. Only recordings of Shaved Head and Earth from this tour.

This is their second night in Edmonton and they play some of what I consider their more risky opening-set songs.  The show begins with Martin playing “Digital Beach.”  It’s a quiet song but the crowd seems really respectful.  And Martin sounds in great voice with his falsetto hitting all the right notes.

The end segues perfectly into “Earth.”  I feel like it takes a little while to get Earth going (again, thinking as an opening act and it’s such a slow song)–I find a very risky.  But the loud part of “Monstrous Hummingbirds” roars out and Martin’s guitar sounds great and they have surely won people over by now.

Up next is “Claire.”  Tim sounds in good voice and Martin has some cool phasing for his guitar solo.

Dave doesn’t sing a ton, but he thanks Edmonton.  “Thank you, Edmonton the whole city’s here tonight.  I see the mayor.  I see the coach.  I see the wizard.”

They rip into a great “Dope Fiends and Boozehounds” (some of you are here tonight).  Everyone is right on and the vocals are terrific.  There’s even a bit of a drum solo.

Dave mentions the cross country tour, the big crowds, the hockey rinks–shrines to the game of professional hockey.  They’re happy to be there “despite the fact that they still let Peter Pocklington in here [Pocklington owned the Oilers and is quite a divisive figure–he sold Wayne Gretzsky to Los Angeles, among many other things.  He will appear again in this show, shortly.]

Dave also says that they just released a record The Blue Hysteria, and if you get a chance to buy it we’d like that very much.

Up next is an amazing “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine.”  The vocals are wonderful–Martin is in top form tonight.  I believe Tim is singing the really high backing vocals too.  The song feels like a show stopper the way Martin’s voice soars majestically at the end–higher and higher.

Despite how amazing that is, they start right up with “Horses.”  For years I have wondered what events this song commemorated.  I wasn’t really sure how to find out. And then, here Dave introduces the song and tells all: “This is a song about the strike at the Gainers meat-packing plant in the mid-1980s.  It is a privilege to sing this song here tonight.

This is where Pocklington returns.  Dave doesn’t mention this, but I looked it up and found out [from Wikipedia]

Perhaps Pocklington’s most notorious setback was the result of a six-month strike with the United Food and Commercial Workers union that crippled Gainers, which at the time was Canada’s second-largest meat packer. Pocklington used strikebreakers, primarily from Quebec, to keep the plant operating despite the picket lines, a decision that earned him the enmity of Canada’s labour movement. Eventually, he agreed to settle the strike and rehire the striking workers at the request of the Alberta government.

So not only did Pocklington trade Gretzky, he was the inspiration for “Horses.”  No wonder Dave hates him so much.

“Horses” is energized and spectacular and Martin plays a noisy, wild electrified solo with some great horse sounds at the end.

Normally this might end a show but they segue right into “Shaved Head” (someone in the audience screams twice–loudly like an actual shriek–I wonder if that was good or bad).  Martin continues to sounds great–he’s hitting those high notes like nothing.  A beautiful, powerful ending leads into the jolly intro of “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson.”  Once again, everyone sounds great with this song.

They end the show with everyone repeating the refrain of “It feels good to be alive.”  The voices all stop except Martin who sends everyone off with his gorgeous falsetto singing “it feels good to be alive.”

What a great opening act to see.

[READ: February 5, 2019] “All Will Be Well”

This story opens with a comic line, but the story is hardly a comedy.

“Once upon a time, I was addicted to a salon.”

I have really enjoyed the way Yiyun Li develops character and setting.  In this story the salon is run by Lily.  The magazines are in Chinese and Vietnamese and the TV is tuned to a Mandarin channel.  It is in a neighborhood where armed robberies were common.  Lily unlocks the door when she sees customers coming and immediately locks it again.

The narrator teaches at a local college, but she pretends that she is going to school for fiction-writing.  The best part of her character is that she lied and told Lily that she “had been adopted by a couple from Holland when [she] was a year old and moved to America when she was in Middle School.”   Because of this she was forgiven for not speaking one of the preferred languages.

She went to the salon more often than was necessary.  She says if she had been superstitious, she would swear Lily put a spell on her.  The narrator seemed mostly entranced by Lily’s stories–Lily loves to talk, and it gave the narrator a way out of her own life.  “I listened, smiled, and asked questions–these were my most tiresome traits, and I used them tirelessly.”  Normally she had to give her opinions all day (she was a teacher after all) but here she could forget about herself. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto (February 16, 2001).

This was night 3 of 4 of the Horseshoe Tavern’s 53rd Birthday bash. This show was webcasted by a company called virtuecast which was pretty ambitious for 2001. The Chickens opened the show.

They play seven song from the forthcoming Night of the Shooting Stars but otherwise they continue to mix things up a lot.

After a lengthy, effusive intro yesterday, Jeff Cohen is more concise tonight, which is good because this show goes super late.

This show is one of my favorites.  The opening bunch of songs are just phenomenal.

“Fat” absolutely rocks and is a great way to open the show.

Martin is excited to see everyone: “Its hot in here.  What a rock thing to say.”
Tim: “It’s the humidity.  That’s not a rock thing to say.”
Dave: “Yeah but it’s a dry heat.”
Tim: “Dry humidity.” “It’s those damn Chickens they just warm things up way too much.
Don: “It’s like a damn incubator up here.”

Someone shouts for “Californication” and Dave replies that the Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band is down the street.

The second song is an amazing “Sweet, Rich, Beautiful, Mine.”  Martin is totally into it–screaming and wailing vocally and on guitar.  Martin is fully animated on “Soul Glue” as well with fantastic backing vocals.

Someone shouts for “Jessie’s Girl.”  Dave replies, “There’s been a trend in people calling out bad songs asking us to play them.   But it would only make it worse if we played them because you don’t really want to hear them.  Rheos do Rick Springfield would be a very bad thing–a lot of bad energy.”

Two new songs, a ripping “CCYPA” (I’m a member!” and one of the best live versions of “We Went West” that I can recall.  It’s really sharp and alive and Martin’s guitar solo sounds great.

Martin’s a little sloppy with the lyrics of “Northern Wish,” but it’s got great energy.

They haven’t done “When Winter Comes” in a while, but it sounds really good.  The crazy noisy guitar intro is cool and Don says they could send that out to The Chickens.  There’s a great dual guitar solo like Thin Lizzy and Dave sings about “greasepaint on VH1” instead of Video hits.  There’s a wild sloppy ending and lot of jamming.

It’s followed by a tidy “PIN” and then Martin rips through “I Fab Thee.”  It’s funny  that they talk about it being from a children’s album, while Martin loves to throw in that line about masturbating.  Dave says One Yello Rabbit is going to do a stage production of Harmelodia in 2002.

“Here To There To You” is Dave’s sweet acoustic song.  It leads to “Take Me In Your Hands” which Tim says “you might want to burn this next one in a CD.”

They invite Alun Piggins on stage and he sings his song “Heading Out West.”  It has a kind of country feel with gentle harmonica.

Martin says this next song (“Palomar”) takes place in Sowthern California (the same way the Japandroids pronounce Southern).  Dave sasys, “I really love the way you say southern its one of the things I love about you that extra bit of style.”  Martin doesn’t quite hear the difference but then says “English ain’t my first language.”

Dave loves a guy’s shirt which he shows off, but we never hear what it says.  Bummer.  Martin starts whistling the “We Are Very Star” melody so maybe it’s something about that.

“Legal Age Life At Variety Store” is wild and stomping.  Dave from The Chickens comes up and sings “I Wanna Be Sedated” (very well).  Dave introduces him as “Joey Ramone from The Chickens.”

They talk about The County Killers whom they met in 1986 at the Rivoli with Margaret Atwood and Ben Kerr (a Canadian author, broadcaster, musician and perennial candidate, who was most famous as one of Toronto, Ontario’s quirky street performers) on the bill.  They started the musical hockey night and this is the 14th year of music and hocket where bands lace up the skates and play.

Martin says “Satan Is The Whistler” is a funny song. They fly through it–sloppy with the fast parts and the ending which Martin comments as flub flub flub.   Don notes: “we’ve made it our policy to mess up the ending of every song tonight because this is all going to be webcast and we can’t have proper versions floating around.”

“Claire” is beautiful and then Dave says, “we’re gonna leave you with a dance number.”  It hasn’t been a dancing crowd but we hope to turn things around.  “Song Of The Garden” as a rocking ending with that wild guitar nonsense formation.

After the encore, Dave dedicates “Mumbletypeg” to Janet and baby Cecilia (aw, she’s at least 18 now).

The audience shouts for all kinds of songs, but Dave says how about “The Idiot” and it’s a solid version that segues into a strong, intense version of “Shaved Head.”

They start playing house music, but the band comes back after 2 minutes (which must have been a surprise).

Martin: “We’ve got a plan”
Don: “The plan is to keep on rocking until tomorrow.”
Someone: “Unfortunately I’ve been informed it already is tomorrow”
Tim: “That’s right, so see ya later.”  Then he notes: “Burn this one on your CD.”  It’s a rocking “Four Little Songs/PROD/Four Little Songs.”  Dave comments throughout the song: “Meanwhile in France” before Tim’s part and “can’t go wrong …can’t go wrong… unless its Don” (before Don’s part).  After a ripping PROD, they return to “four” with a completely nonsensical rambling jam.  It sounds terrible but fun (Tim: hey this is easy).

They end the night with “Don’t Say Goodnight,” a sweet folk song.  It’s a lovely ending to the night.  And people don’t want to leave, but JC says, “Sorry, it’s really late thanks for coming out an celebrating The Horsehoe.”

It’s an amazing show.

[READ: February 13, 2019] “Split Tooth”

This was a great story from an amazing talent.  I’ve seen her perform live and she is amazing.  But I didn’t know he could write so well.

This story begins with a girl in grade eight growing up in the North.

“It’s pitch black outside.  Dead winter.  We have not seen the sun in weeks.”  The door has frozen shut but “school has not been cancelled: it’s not cold enough outside. It has to be at least minus fifty with the wind chill to merit a day off.”

The cold has scared the blood out of her toes but Kamiit (mukluks) help feet navigate the snow and ice.

School sucks.  She has a cold sore and will likely be called “soresees” until it is gone.  The nicknames are never kind but are strangely amusing like “nibble-a-cock” given to the girl who “gave a blowjob to that hotdog on a dare.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE TINY CHEF MISH MESH ALBUM (2018).

What is The Tiny Chef?  I just heard about him a few weeks before getting this album.  According to his site:

The Tiny Chef has been cooking up amazing plant-based food and has wanted his own cooking show for the better part of the 90’s and 2000’s. He’s excited to work with Rachel, Ozi, Adam and the rest of the internet to spread his recipes and cooking style. He also firmly believes that children should learn how to cook and is hopeful that kids watch his cooking program. In his free time The Chef enjoys playing endless games of Uno and he loves to play his tiny banjo.

Rachel, Ozi and Adam are animator Rachel Larsen (who worked on Isle of Dogs among many other projects), writer/producer Adam Reid (The Adventures of Barry & Joe: Obama and Biden’s Bromantic Battle For The Soul of America) and cinematographer Ozi Oshiro (also Isle of Dogs).

Each video shows The Tiny Chef making something and singing to himself in an adorable mumble (he has a good voice, it must be said).  And thus, they released The Mish Mesh Album with all of the proceeds going to adopt “SWEET PEA” the Scottish Highland cow at The Farm Sanctuary.

I was happy to contribute my $5 and was happy to learn after the fact that:

We have definitely covered the $38 it costs to adopt and sponsor sweet pea.

I also love the modest goal that they set.

So the album consists of The Tiny Chef singing these Christmas songs in his own humming style:

“Mingle Mells” “O Come Al Ye Faithful” “Meck the Malls”  and “The First Noel” all have minimal cute/cheesy background music.

But the rest are all acapella:

“Frosty” “Good King” “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Mish Mesh” “Here Comes Manta Maus” (is a little jazzier withan “oh yea” at the end).  “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” “Smighlent Might” “Tiny Drummer Chef” (he really gets into this one, rolling his rs during the rum pa pum pum).  “Last Mish Mesh” is incredibly long and probably outlives its welcome, just like the original.

The rest of the songs are a minute or two and are sweet and adorable.  Sometime I wish he sang more mumbles and fewer almost lyrics, but that’s the Chef’s way.  It’s a delightful addition to the holiday listening and I hope it’s available again next year.

[READ: December 22, 2018] “Returning to the Problem”

Once again, I have ordered The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my third time reading the Calendar (thanks S.).  I never knew about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh).  Here’s what they say this year

Fourth time’s the charm.

After a restful spring, rowdy summer, and pretty reasonable fall, we are officially back at it again with another deluxe box set of 24 individually bound short stories to get you into the yuletide spirit.

The fourth annual Short Story Advent Calendar might be our most ambitious yet, with a range of stories hailing from eight different countries and three different originating languages (don’t worry, we got the English versions). This year’s edition features a special diecut lid and textured case. We also set a new personal best for material that has never before appeared in print.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

Like last year I’m pairing each story with a holiday disc from our personal collection.

Lim describes this story as “A fiction-poetry-essay-memoir frankenstory sparked to being by torture rendition sites and a tossed-off comment by Tom McCarthy on the destruction of the Death Star.”

This story started out in a weird way–as if it was a poem with gaps between lines and right justification.  You instantly want to read it differently.

The story (which is not all in verse) is also in several numbered parts.  The crux seems to be that he wants to write about the Immigration Act of 1965, which a footnote says is thought to have been more symbolic than consequential–“an antidote to the country’s embarrassment during the Cold War of not being the beacon of democracy it professed to be.”

The story has a refrain that is as powerful as it is awful: (more…)

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