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Archive for the ‘Scholarship’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: WALTER MARTIN-Tiny Desk Concert #679 (December 1, 2017).

Walter Martin’s name didn’t sound familiar.  So this blurb helped:

Best known as a singer and multi-instrumentalist with the band The Walkmen, Martin has spent his solo career making unabashedly joyful, sweetly innocent and playful music perfectly suited for quirky four-part harmonies.

I sort of know The Walkmen; I know them more as an outlet for Hamilton Leithauser.  But after watching this, I find Martin to be a more satisfying performer.

I really enjoy his easy singing style and the every loose way he has with his guitar and with the songs in general.

Only Walter Martin would bring a barbershop quartet to the Tiny Desk.   The barbershop quartet is known as The Glen Echoes, a group of singers he found online and met for rehearsals the day before coming to NPR. It works particularly well on the song with which he opens this performance, “I Went Alone On A Solo Australian Tour,” a brilliant and comical call-and-response story-song about, well, going alone on a solo Australian tour.

“I Went Alone On A Solo Australian Tour,” is indeed really enjoyable.  Martin is casual and I love how the quartet starts out singing with him, then questioning him and then just acting like casual acquaintances–he asks them questions, too and they sing the responses.  All without losing the pacing.

It’s funny but also thoughtful.

The second song, the equally charming if slightly more wistful “Me And McAlevey,” is about a dear friend who lives in Maine.  It’s about friendship and loyalty and life as a middle-aged father.

The song is relatively simple and straightforward, but the guitar picking is delightfully complex and pretty.  I really like his vocal delivery and the way he ends his verses.

Martin closes with “Sing To Me,” his best-known song, thanks in no small part to its appearance in an Apple ad.

He describes it as the romantic centerpiece of his children’s album.  It is a pretty song once again, with lovely sentiments.  The pianist switches to electric guitar for a rather different sound.

The whole Tiny Desk Concert is delightful and makes me want to check out more of his stuff.  There’s no mention of who play what, but the mudsicians were:  Josh Kaufman; Jamie Krents; Brian Kantor; Richard Cook; Ken Sleeman; Mike Holmes and  Al Blount.

[READ: March 28, 2017] Becca and the Prisoner’s Cross

This is the second (and final) novella in the series.  It comes between books 2 and 3.  And, as the title suggests it is all about Becca.

The end of book 2 had Becca “materialize” on a boat in the past–right next to Nicolaus Copernicus.  It was a weird ending for a book that while sometimes magical, seemed to follow some kind of reality.  But this was different.  What could it mean?

Well, this novella explains it all (sort of).  We suspect that Becca’s proximity to the Kronos device when it went off triggered something.  (I keep wondering if it has something to do with her hurt arm which, frankly, shouldn’t hurt anymore, it has been two weeks, right?).

Anyhow, what we determine is that Becca is sort of passing out at home and her mind is travelling to Copernicus.  No time passes at home, but she is able to spend time with the scientist.  The best reveal comes early in the book when Copernicus senses that someone is there as well. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-Live Phish Downloads 7.6.98 Lucerna Theatre, Prague, Czech (2007).

After finishing recording “The Story of the Ghost” in Vermont and Bearsville in upstate New York, Phish embarked on June 27th for a short European tour.

What’s interesting is that the official comments about this show talk about hoe legendary it was, and my takeaway was just how often someone (usually Trey) messes up.

“Buried Alive” is a surprising opening track.  It rocks and segues into a choppy “AC/DC Bag.”  The song ends with a funky section that segues into a 15 minute “Ghost.”  “Ghost has a fast and scorching middle jam section.”  I’m going to include some of the online notes here:

They deconstructed Bag’s concise jam into a perfect segue to the centerpiece of the show – a fast, funky and furious “Ghost.”  You can clearly hear the sonic flourishes layered over a driving groove with confident vocals that seethed energy. The dynamic feel of “Ghost” lent deep drama to the lyrics, highlighted the loops and effects and provided an ideal platform for some hairy soloing. Page migrated from piano to synthesizer, Clavinet to Rhodes in a floating conversation with the band. Eventually “Ghost” took on an electronic tinge that hinted at the deepest post-hiatus improvisation. This was fueled by Trey’s Hendrix-esque leads with bent tone and pitch into a series of shifting polyrhythmic counterpoints. Expanding until it seemed the room would explode, the music evolved into a funky groove with starts and stops punctuated by the now-roaring crowd.

“Ghost” segues into Talking Heads’ “Cities” which has a really sharp (weird) drum sound.  There a lengthy intro before the song starts properly.  The choruses are really slow (and someone plays a wrong chord).  But the song end with a really groovy solo that encourages people to clap along.

“Cities” started in double-time and shifted effortlessly into normal rhythm for the first chorus and the rest of the song. With the lyrics “a lot of ghosts in a lot of houses”, “Cities” continued the eerie theme of this already-historic performance, blending a smooth, creative vibe with an aggressive, rocking attack. Seemingly on cue, the band dropped out of “Cities” and left Trey to end the song alone with the clapping crowd. The momentary pause after Cities was the first time the band stopped at all, having linked Buried > Bag > Ghost > Cities into a powerful opening sequence for the ages.

“Limb By Limb” is mellow with Trey on guitars.

 “Limb By Limb” followed. Written by Trey on a sequencer with a drum part intended to stump Fish, Limb is always a feat of execution. This performance exhibited an added sense of dynamics no doubt spurred on by the intimate setting, highlighting restrained melodic dialogue among the whole band. While sometimes this jam breathed fire, this groovy interlude danced intricate circles around the glowing embers, leaving space for Fish to lay down some outrageous fills and cymbal work. Trey’s final solo culminated in repeated guitar fanning, which brought the song to a cathartic close.

Then comes “Train Song” and “Roggae” which gets more mellow by the end.

“Train Song” provided a moment of tranquil reflection in the middle of the set. The second-ever live “Roggae” followed, giving a chance to show off more new material in a new country as the band fashioned a coda with so much inherent space that the notes hung slightly suspended between phrases.

The 12 minute “Maze” perks everyone up.  There’s a lengthy keyboard solo followed by a nice solo from Trey.  During Maze the band stopped on a dime to thank the audience (and appreciate the architecture) , then finished the song.  It’s amazing how tight that was.

“Maze” blossomed into an electric improvisation starting with Page’s lively organ solo followed by a cacophonous solo from Trey who shredded unabashedly until the whole band telepathically stopped on a dime for him to say “We hope you’re all having a good time tonight…we just want to say that we really appreciate your support and how much we enjoy playing in Prague here.” Page interjected “We love the architecture” while Trey continued “I don’t think we got a chance to thank you last night so we just thought we’d take this moment to thank you very much.” After a quick countdown, the band re-entered the song in the exact shred-space they’d occupied before the acrobatic stop. After Maze, they closed the first set with Golgi Apparatus that had a rave-up ending with Trey shouting, in an apparent nod to the World Cup Soccer quarterfinals, “Jon Fishman, Jon Fishman, Hey, Ho, Hey, Ho”.

I noticed that “Golgi Apparatus” has a whole series of mess ups—someone is in the wrong key and can’t get free.

Set Two opens with the fast verses of “Julius” and then the slow staccato “Meat.”

Set two began with a swinging “Julius” that got everyone moving and Fishman passionately testifying at the highest peaks. “Julius” led into “Meat,” a new song. “Meat” returned the show to its initial ghoulish theme, confounding the audience with its multiple stops and starts. Immediately after Meat came a soaring, adventurous “Piper.”

“Piper” is 19 minutes long with a scorching solo in the middle.

“Piper” stretched nearly twenty minutes and bumped up against the boundaries already shattered by “Ghost.” Piper sped into a ferocious jam characterized by intense guitar runs … before it settled into hard rock with plenty of room for the whole band to explore. Like the experimental “Ghost” in set one, “Piper” was fearless, building to massive peaks before floating off into a slower, more minimal section accented by loops from Trey and Mike atop Page’s piano and Fish’s cymbal rolls. This part of “Piper” hinted at “Fikus,” part three of the “Ghost” trilogy, becoming slow and funky before locking neatly into the rowdy reggae of “Makisupa Policeman.”

“Makisupa Policeman” is a little goofy and fun. “Petrov” (Page) sings lead vocals. During this song there’s a drum solo and Trey tells the audience that if the solo is long and boring they should just whistle to make him stop.

As he scatted around the lyrics of “Makisupa Policeman,” Trey uttered the key phrase, “stink-kind”, adding a touch of home with “policeman came to Vermont!” He handed things off to Page for a piano solo (calling him “Petrof” after the logo visible on the rented piano) during which Page developed a ska feel. Trey announced a drum solo next, saying if Fish soloed too long the crowd should start whistling, as the band did when he talked too much. Fish played along, rendering a minimal solo of high hat, kick drum and rim shots, returning to the song in the nick of time. After some dancehall-style dub effects, the band finished Makisupa and dove into David Bowie.

The 13 minute “David Bowie” has lengthy washes of guitars and some noisy parts.

A thematic jam hinted subtly at Santana before riding a dissonant wave into the ending changes of the second and final Bowie of the European tour. With scarcely a pause, Page hammered out the opening notes of Loving Cup, cementing the status of this magical night.  it segues into Loving cup a loose jam

“Loving Cup” is a loose, fun version running almost 10 minutes.  There is much cheering at the “I know I play a bad guitar” line.

The encore is “Possum.”  It’s kind of slow and loping but fun.

The band returned for an encore and repaid the rowdy crowd’s enthusiasm with Possum. The audience clapped along for a bit eventually leaving the band to a textbook performance that was at once conscious and passionate, restrained yet explosive. Trey dropped a quick tease of “Stash” as he propelled “Possum” through machine-gun fans entwined with soft, dynamic sections that made this a perfect encore for such an intimate show. As the crowd filtered into the streets of Prague it was clear that this had been an unforgettable night that could only have happened when and where it did.

So there’s two takes on the show.  You can read all of Kevin’s essay here. and I’m going to re-listen to this show to hear the magic foe myself.

[READ: March 6, 2017] The Serpent’s Curse

This is the second full-sized book in the Copernicus series.  After reading the Copernicus Archives book I noted that the event of that book are not referenced in this book, but I was wrong.  There are several mentions to San Francisco.  It’s not a huge gap and you wouldn’t be lost without reading it, but it is odd that he would reference a book that apparently some people don’t read.

This book is pretty large–480 pages.  And I feel like it was kind of slow.  Or perhaps they just spent way too much time in Russia.  Or, and this is most likely the case–they spent the whole book looking for one relic.  And 500 pages is a lot of traveling for one item.

I’m bummed that I felt this way at the end because in the beginning I thought it was really exciting.  And Abbott filled in some things that a nitpicky reader might nitpick about with some interesting new developments.  One of the things that one has to wonder about is how this normal family will be able to jet set around the world.  Well, that comes with the assistance of a best-selling author with millions of dollars at his disposal.  Convenient? Sure.  But it’s a nice development.  The author, Terence Akroyd writes exciting thrillers (so of course he is interested in the plot) and he has a personal vendetta against the bad guys, so he’s happy to help out with money and resources, like his jets and technology. [That author is presumably not based on reality].

Terence also has a son, Julian, who is apparently pretty hot.  But he’s a few years older than our protagonists so presumably nothing will come from that.  Despite all of the potential romance between Wade and Becca in the first book and parts of this one, nothing is progressing on that front. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOSES SUMNEY-Tiny Desk Concert #678 (November 29, 2017).

I had never heard of Moses Sumney before this show.  And the blurb seems to anticipate this:

If you don’t know this Los-Angeles-based force of nature, and haven’t heard him on tour with James Blake or Sufjan Stevens or perhaps on albums by Beck or Solange, then this is your chance to watch one of the most thoughtful talents of today as he makes music that is outside the box but easy to relate and connect to.

I’m very curious to know what he did with Beck.

I found Moses’ voice to be mesmerizing–a gorgeous soaring falsetto that he seemed to effortless get to rise higher and higher.  But beyond that, the blurb talks about his lyrics:

Moses Sumney puts a great deal of thought into the heartfelt music he creates. On his debut album, Aromanticism, he was inspired by everything from the works of Plato and Aristophanes’ account of the origin of humanity to the Bible, particularly Genesis and the story of creation. It’s all in an attempt to understand human relationships and the sorts of couplings we tend to be drawn to.

He plays 3 songs in the 20 minute time frame.  I wanted to describe the first song, but Bob’s description is too good:

The concert opens up with Moses not behind my desk, but at the piano we keep in our office. As his team of sax, harp and guitar players set up, Moses sat at the piano and began to play “Doomed.” He had instructed the band, which had already perched behind my desk 40 or so feet away, to create a transition for him to walk from piano to desk, continuing one of the most inspired 8-minute stretches I’ve witnessed here at the Tiny Desk.

So he plays the pretty piano melody and sings with those gorgeous falsetto vocals for about a minute and a half.  Then he strolls (in his cape) to the desk.  He activates some looping pedals.  He plays a beat on the microphone and then Sam Gendel plays a cool modified sax solo.  After 2 minutes of set up, he sings again.  The beats are in full and Brandee Younger is playing some simple gorgeous harp and Mike Haldeman has some echoed guitar on top.  Meanwhile, Sam has switched to a synth and Moses is also playing some kind of synth.  The song builds beautifully and he sings in a  higher and higher register.  It starts to sound otherworldly with the harp and his voice and the loops going faster and faster.  And then the wall of noise abruptly ends and the final minute is delicate and lovely.

He introduces the band and then says “we’re going to keep making noise.”  And then “hopefully no one’s printer goes off” (wonder if that happened).

“Quarrel” opens with him looping his own voice and then playing it faster and faster so it sound like a skipping CD.  Sam has picked up a guitar to pluck out notes (the head of his guitar is fascinating and I want to see it better).  Throughout the song Moses hits that looped vocal section for one or two seconds to add texture–it’s pretty cool.  The mix of that harsh(ish) electronic sound and the angelic harp is wonderful.

For the final song, “Plastic,” he removes his cape.  Everybody else leaves and he says “I want to make more room… for me!”  He picks up a guitar and says, “This is the end.  The bitter end.  Although for some of you, it will be sweet because it’s ending.”  It’s interesting how self-deprecating he is when his voice is so gorgeous.

This final song is much more jazzy with him playing interesting chords and singing to the guitar.  Overall it’s a bit less exciting than the other songs possibly because the last minute or so is just him repeating the line “my wings are made of plastic.”

But overall, Moses Sumney really impressed me with this set.  Right up to the end where he sinks slowly below the desk, to much laughter.

[READ: March 6, 2017] Wade and the Scorpion’s Claw

The Copernicus Legacy is a four book series.  But, in an interesting diversion, there are also two “extra” books inserted between the first two.  They are smaller and do not exactly affect the continuity of the main story, but they seem to delve into one character a little further (and there is some plot advancement).

Interestingly, Book One of the main series ends with Kaplans and their friends leaving Guam for New York.  The second book of the series opens with them in New York.  But this book, the first of the The Copernicus Archives, takes place between Guam and New York.  The big difference is that unlike the main books, this is told entirely from Wade’s Point of view.

En route to New York, the family has to stop in Hawaii.  They are in the airport for a while and they trust no one.  They are waiting for the flight to San Francisco when there are two notable people in the airport around them.  There’s a German man (you can tell by his shoes, Lily whispers) in a leather coat.  The kids don’t trust him and call him Leathercoat.  And then there’s a Chinese man doing acrobatics and other tricks to amuse some children while they wait. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKPHISH-Live Phish Downloads 12.7.97 Nutter Center, Dayton, OH (2007).

This concert included five covers out of a total of nineteen songs.

The show opens with a fairly slow “AC/DC Bag,” but there’s a seamless segue into an excellent cover of Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer” (only the second time they’d played it).  There’s some spacey sounds in the jam which then segues nicely into ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” a groovy blues.  The whole thing ends in a jaunty bluegrass “My Minds Got a Mind of Its Own.”

I have to admit at this point I’m pretty bummed by the setlist.  The songs are all good and the jams are fun, but if I were at this show I’d want to some actual Phish songs, you know?  I know a lot of people love the covers, but that’s not what I’m here for.

They rectify this with a fun “It’s Ice.”  There’s a lengthy piano solo and then the song segues into two deep cuts from Billy Breathes–a one minute “Swept Away” and then a one minute “Steep”–before closing “It’s Ice.”

Up next is a 10 minute “Theme from the Bottom” with a long solo and great harmonies at the end.  Then the band plays a great funky “Tube,” a non-album track with some great 70s sounding keyboards from Page.  After a pause (apparently the lights went out).  You can hear them chatting a bit and then they pick up a 6 minute instrumental called “Dayton Jam” that plays with the themes from “Tube.”

The set closes with a 12 minute “Slave to the Traffic Light.” There’s a great solo from Trey followed by a mellow section before coming to a good solid end.

Usually there’s a few really lengthy jams in the second set, but this upcoming set is full of mid-length songs.

It opens with a jam-filled 9 minute “Timber” and then a 7 minute “Wolfman’s Brother.”  This segues into yet another cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie on Reggae Woman” before settling into a fast-paced 14 minute “Reba,” the longest song of the night.  The solos in the song remind me a bit of Frank Zappa.  It’s really amazing how tight they are during these jams.

Before they begin the next song, you can hear Trey ask, “Guyute?” and they play a 10 minute jam with a really fun middle section.  The show ends with a 12 minute “Possum.”  So while there are no really super long jams, there are a number of pretty long jams.

The Encore is a great loose version of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”  I love how they handle the end.  The classic chord progression that ends the song is done sort of like that but more just fun noisy chaos.

[READ: March 6, 2017] The Forbidden Stone

I really like Tony Abbott books. He has tackled many different stories and I’ve found that I haven’t been disappointed by anything he’s written.  This series, The Copernicus Legacy is in the vein of The 39 Clues, although there are plenty of differences.  But as an outline, the premise is the same–some kids (and an adult) are trying to save the world from bad guys by collecting a bunch of things that cannot fall into the wrong hands.

Whereas The 39 Clues divides the family into 4 warring clans, this series seems to be basically good guys and bad guys.  The good guys are inspired by Copernicus.  This works out well because the main family loves astronomy.

So the main family is Wade Kaplan and his father Roald Kaplan.  Wade follows in his father’s footsteps and loves the stars and science. Roald is re-married to Sara (who is on a business trip as the book opens).  Sara has a son named Darrell.  Darrell is hip and cool and plays guitar.  He is also always hungry (a trait that Abbott loves to have in at least one character, although I haven’t seen it as being very important yet–and it seems to fade as the book goes on). I assume that Roald is not Darrell’s father as well, but I got a little lost in the family tree.  The crux is that Wade and Darrell are stepbrothers–and they get along really well.  The rest of the crew includes Wade’s cousin Lily and her friend Becca.  Lily is a techie girl who is able to wield a smart phone like a librarian.  And then there’s Becca  who is, interesting. Wade has had a crush on Becca (who is super smart and can speak several languages because her parents traveled so much) for a long time.

Okay, so there’s five people.  How does the excitement start? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-The Casbah, Hamilton, Ontario (November 6, 2004).

This was a Hamilton show between the 2004 Western Fall Nationals and the 10 night Fall Nationals at The Horseshoe Tavern the following week. The band attempted to play all of 2067 succeeding apart from “The Latest Attempt On Your Life” and “Try To Praise This Mutilated World.”

The recording opens with some wild jazz playing–rather incongruous opening music.  But it quickly fades and you hear the guys plucking away as their noodling solidifies into “Easy To Be With You.”  They seem to be having a lot of fun with the hoo ah hoo ah middle part–making it a bit more rocking, perhaps?

Martin: “This is for Yod’s sister.”  Mike: “And Daryl from Niagara Falls, Happy Birthday.”  Tim: “We couldn’t download the lyrics to ‘Edmund Fitzgerald’ so we’re gonna do this one instead.  Mike: “All the teleprompter rentals were eaten up by the U.S. election.” Martin: “And Velvet Revolver are on tour.”  They play a  stompin “Record Body Count.”

So we have a new record out.  It’s called “twenty one twel–“.  It’s called 2067.  Tim: “It’s our 2,067th release.”  Martin: “We’re a very prolific band.  And we’re gonna attempt to do it top to bottom.”  Mike: “And you know what they say, there’s a fine line between flagship and guinea pig and you’re it.”

The first song is “Shack in the Cornfields.”  Martin introduces it: “This song had a large head. But Mike and I got down to it and made sure it was born.  In the corn.” It sounds good and has a really long percussion ending and then opens up into Dave’s quiet “Little Bird,” a song they have played a lot over the  last year.

Next up is “Marginalized,” which is a bit softer and less angry than some other versions.

Dave says, “We’re gonna do a song we just shot a video for.  We do a video every couple of years.  We got Frank Bonner to co-star in this video with Martin. It’s called The Tarleks and it’s about Herb Tarlke from WKRP in Cincinnati from the late 1970s and 1980s, the heyday of modern American sitcoms.  And one day it will be done and you will see it. But until then you just have to fantasize what it might look like.”  It’s a little slow an angular.  Like much of the show it feels either tentative or like they want the audience to be able to experience the songs fully.

“Power Ballad for Ozzy Osbourne” has the opening stanza which they hadn’t been playing live.  This is slower than usual, I think–although it feels like a real ballad the way it builds.  There’s a buzzy wire as well, which I’m sure bugs the band.  “I Dig Music” is a little goofier and less rocking than other versions.  On the way after the middle section MPW plays the drum fill for Rush’s “Lakeside Park” but not quite right.  For “Here Comes the Image” Mike plays a playful almost bell-sounding keyboard solo–although it does cut out a few times during the lengthy solo at the end.

Dave notes: “The worst part of switching instruments is not knowing which beer is yours.”

Mike says, “This song [“Who Is This Man and Why Is He Laughing?”] has no words.  It’s drifting and mellow.  Next up is supposed to be “The Latest Attempt on Your Life” which they have played live before.  But you hear Martin say he doesn’t want to do it: “Let’s skip that one and do ‘Polar Bears.'”  Mike agrees, “If we were doing Dark Side of the Moon or something we’d stick to it but we’re going to deviate.”  It’s a spare but romping version of “Polar Bears” with some loud “hey hey ho hos.”

Dave: This next song is about yesterday’s football game that Tim wrote, uh, four weeks ago. Two days ago?  Friday night?  What day is it?  That was yesterday I was talking Tiger Cats.
Mike: “Making Pierogies.”  It’s a slow mellow song.  Very pretty, especially the guitar parts at the end

Next week is our 4th annual Fall Nationals at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto (corner of Queen and Spadina).  Ten nights in a row this year starting next… the coming Thursday.

Tim: Thanks to Wayne Omaha for playing tonight.  They’re selling their new album back there and if you wanna get their other one Can the Maps. Go For the Beauty, bug them, and they’ll sell it to ya.
Dave: I think those guys should tour prisons. I think it would be really good for the country.  As long as they’re on the right side of the bars.

They skip “Try to Praise This Mutilated World” and go into “P.I.N.”  They play the coda at the beginning and then the songs starts.  Martin sings his verse in a kind of flat deadpan and Dave says Martin Stop rapping and Martin seems to get annoyed or something–he starts singing crazy–more deadpan and then he screams a punky style and then redlines the volume with a scream on the mic–it’s a little disturbing.  They jump into a poppy “Mumbletypeg” and after the first line Dave says “That’s a lot of beer.”  It gets pretty wild by the end.  It segues into a dark “Stolen Car,” with Martin singing “Goodbye suburban motherfuck.”  The middle has a lengthy instrumental section with Tim getting to mess around on bass a bit.

After a relatively long encore break, the come back with “Pornography.”  “We wish that song wasn’t relevant; however, it is.”

Then there’s a slow “California Dreamline.” And they end with a long “Feed Yourself” with a really creepy section of Dave whispering all kinds of things like “me and you in his head.”  The song ends with some wild effects from someone–almost a minute of pinging sounds after which Dave says, Sorry.

[READ: February 21, 2017] Furry Logic

This book came across my desk at work (I’m still bummed that they changed the way we get books at work so I don’t see as many interesting ones as I used to).  It looked interesting, so I brought it home and read it over the weekend.

This is a pop-science book that looks at how animals use physics to their advantage:  “If you’re scared of physics, don;t worry, we’ve kept things simple.”  I enjoyed that the book states right up front that the authors are anthropomorphizing the animals because that makes for a much better story. Even though, in the end, they dismiss this idea.

Chapter 1 is called Heat: The Warm Up Chapter.  In which we learn about gender-swapping snakes, floppy skinned dogs, mosquitoes that wee blood, killer bees, hot-tailed squirrels, vipers that see heat and beetles that hear infrared.

The chapter looks at (using the research of others) how snakes in Manitoba keep warm by piling together in a big clumps.  But more interestingly, there are certain snakes which swap genders (temporarily).  Male snakes secrete female pheromones to attract males for body heat.  We learn that dogs shake the water off of them because the energy they expel from the vigorous shaking is actually far less than the energy they would have to use to keep warm if they were so wet.  The authors talk a lot about just how interesting it is to see their skin flip back and forth (this goes for all mammals since they all seem to shake in vaguely the same way. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 3 of 13 (November 12, 2003).

This was the 3rd night of the Rheostatics 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.

As the show starts, Tim says, “Thanks for coming out.”

So Dave replies, “Why, you’re welcome, Tim.  I was doing nothing else so I figured why not play a little drums, a little bass, a little guitar.”

“Here Comes The Image” opens the show (Dave is on drums for this).  It’s slow with lots of cool keys from M.P.W.  The sound quality fades dramatically about 3 minutes in.

Dave explains, “That was an epic song by Tim Vesely.  We’re gonna do another epic song now.  Epic means just long basically, and grand.”  It’s “Oneilly’s Strange Dream.”  Which Dave describes as a song that “was supposed to the be the equivalent of an Edgar Rice Burroughs book.  He’s the guy who wrote Tarzan.  Not to be confused with William S. Burroughs–an urban jungle thing still a lot of guys with no shirts on.”  Martin: “I hate those guys.”

Martin repeats the first verse.   There’s some great powerful drumming in the middle of the song.  The sound levels go back up during this song.

The final notes are a little cockeyed and you hear someone re-sing “pile of bones laying at my side” with that bad chord.

They play Woodstuck “with a drum fill.”  Dave says it’s an old song and someone asks him what it’s about.  Dave tells a story about touring in 1987 and he tells a strange story about a merch guy.  It’s pretty strange and ends with: that’s a song about Brett.  We left him in Calgary naked, quivering under the bed.  Tim says “we didn’t leave him, we gave him to another band: Pigfarm.

Mike notes that “that story was on the set list.  That was a tune.”

Next they play a new song (from 2067), “The Latest Attempt On Your Life.”  It seems they haven’t quite figured out the backing vocals live yet.  “CCYPA” rocks and then they settle things down with “Introducing Happiness” and “Power Ballad for Ozzy Osbourne” (with no ending howl from Martin).

Dave says this is our 3rd annual Fall Nationals.  Mike asks if there is a theme for this night.  No, but one might emerge.

Mike says, “A bolt of lightning struck exactly one block from my house this evening.”  (Dave makes an allusion to Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush (who “inherited the soul of Jimi Hendrix”).

They play a sweet version of “It’s Easy To Be With You,” about which Dave says, “Boy is this song ever about cocaine.”

Next Thursday is an all covers night, so they’re going to do some tonight to make sure they know what they’re doing.

They play Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy in New York,” which I don’t know at all. Martin sings and plays gentle guitar.

Then they start joking about “Old Garfunkel, eh?”

He walked across America with just a credit card…it’s true.  Talk about time on your hands.  I thought it was a knife and a rope.   I heard it was credit card shoes.  Shoes made out of old credit cards.  That was his last album Credit Card Shoes.

In Edinburgh we listened to Scissors Cut about 20 times.  Weirdest album ever made.  Scissors cut and yet the hair remains.

They finally get to a quiet “Palomar” with limited backing vocals.

Somebody in the audience says “I heard you guys have a synchronized soft shoe routine.”  Tim says,”we’re waiting for that to become an Olympic event before we unveil it.”  Dave says, “I couldn’t remember if it was black square white square or white square black square.”

Martin introduces “Self Serve Gas Station”: Take it away Dave.”  But Dave plays “Roll Another Number” bu Neil Young which segues in to “Self Serve.”  The quiet guitar section at the end segues beautifully into “California Dreamline.”

They play a cover of The Clash’s “London Calling,” which sounds great although Dave is a little not angry enough.

People shout out “Michael Jackson”  Martin: “pleased to announce that Michael Jackson is in the audience tonight.”

Then after lots of ums there’s discussion of what to play. Martin in HAL’s calm voice “Why not both, David.  Let’s do both.”  They play “One More Colour,” but then go to an encore break.

Thanks all.  “Frozen rock pose.”  Dave: “We are Frozen Rock Pose.”

We have a few more for you—Dave sings “My First Rock Show” and gets the wrong verse!  He also sings “I ‘sore’ [sic] everything.”  Tim calls him on that.  At “swan dived,” Mike plays a thunderous drum and Dave recites a spiel:

The drums of war were in the air yet they were peaceable times.
And you saw a band like Yello and found out that they sucked and it didn’t cost you $85 to find out.  No $21.50.  Trixter, Heart, The J Geils Band.    Meat Loaf, Blue Peter, The Spoons.  A Flock of Seagulls.  No A-ha did not play.  OMD  OMD, baby.  Oingo Boingo at the first Police picnic.  To Martin: Are those guitar sounds a flock of seagulls?  Dave: they were the best, not the best but they were good.

Where to?  A Flock of Seagulls.  No Tim will do a Warren Zevon song.  called “Reconsider Me.”  I don’t know it.  He sings very high and off a bit.  He groans but then by the middle he says its coming to me and he finished okay with a “Sorry, Warren, I tried.”

We’re here til next Saturday and tomorrow night is guest vocals night.  We have 26 guest vocalists.  We better get in the habit of thanking our guests.

Andrew Houghton played tonight.  And Serena Ryder the next two nights held over by popular acclaim.  They end the with a poppy “In This Town.”

[READ: January 25, 2017] The Ugly

I read a review of this book that made it sound really compelling and strange.  And the back of the book has some of that compelling strangeness in the blurb:

Muzhduk the Ugli the Fourth is a 300-pound boulder-throwing mountain man from Siberia whose tribal homeland is stolen by an American lawyer out to build a butterfly conservatory for wealthy tourists.  In order to restore his people’s land and honor, Muzhduk must travel to Harvard Law School to learn how to throw words instead of boulders.

And that is exactly what happens.  Along with a bunch of other strange things.

I enjoyed the way the story was told.  There are basically parallel narratives.  One is told in first person and is Muzhduk’s life after Harvard (perhaps the present), the other is told in third person and is all about his life at Harvard law school.

But the story begins with the Dull-Boulder Throw.  In his village a chief is determined by who can catch (and throw) a boulder hurled at your chest.  Muzhduk the Ugli the Fourth is the next in line for the throne–his ancestors have all been leaders–but he is the smallest of his lineage being only 300 pounds.

Nevertheless, he knows he must defeat Hulagu who was inbred huge and dumb.  If Hulagu won, the tribe would suffer.  And so for the good of the tribe, he win the Throw. But the second part of becoming chief was climbing the tallest mountain.  Each of his ancestors had climbed a taller mountain, and now his task was trying to find one taller than the tallest one around here. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON (December 11 1996).

This is the final show on Rheostatics Live in which the band is opening for The Tragically Hip.

For this show, the intro music is also from The Wizard of Oz, but this time it’s Judy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  It’s just one verse before fading out and then guitars fading in for Martin to play “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”

Turns out that this setlist is similar to the one from Buffalo with a lot of new songs.  Although there are a few older/more popular songs in places.

The new songs include “Fat” which sounds great of course.  I gather they are maybe sharing a microphone because at the end Dave says “See you in the next song, Martin.”  “Okay, Dave.”  This leads into a perfect version of “All the Same Eyes.”

Martin says “We are the Rheostatics.”  Dave says “We are the Rheostatics, not to be confused with The Howell Brothers (?).  They couldn’t make it but we got their jackets.  It’s nice of you to come out early.  We’re playing selections from our new record. Get it before it’s reduced to clear.”  (You can hear someone laugh on tape).

This is a segue into the single “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It’s followed by another Tim song, “Claire” with the acoustic guitar opening in place.  There’s another lengthy guitar solo, although it’s not quiet as exciting as some of the other ones.  But Martin was saving up for a spirited version of “California Dreamline.”

They end their set with a rough rocking “Feed Yourself.”  During the spoken part, they slow things down to just a bass and washes of guitar.  It’s a pretty intense ending and a good preparation for The Tragically Hip.

[READ: June 25, 2017] The Story of Canada in 150 Objects

In celebration of Canada’s 150th year, Canadian Geographic and The Walrus created this special issue–a fun way to describe many elements of Canadian culture through “objects.”

The objects are grouped in vague categories.  Some have just a few words written about them while others get a few pages.  Some are humorous, some are more serious.  Most are happy or amusing, some not so much.  And all of it together paints a diverse and complex portrait of the country–as well as teaching this person from South of the border a number of things I did not know.

It’s with comic pride and humility that the first object is politeness (which is not an object at all, of course).  The amusing thing about this article about “politeness” is that while the author of it is very pleased to be so polite, he also can’t wait for his fellow Canucks to forget to be polite so he can rub it in with a extra smarmy “You’re Welcome.” (more…)

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