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Archive for the ‘Therapy’ Category

[LISTENED TO: Summer 2017] Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

I might be one of the few people in America to have never read anything by James Patterson.  Well, Clark really enjoyed this series (and his other books for young readers) so we decided to listen to this on a car ride. (Both kids had seen the film already, although I hadn’t).

I have to say that right off the bat I was turned off by the introduction of this book because there was this hard rocking guitar that they played through about 3 minutes of opening text.  And it was too loud!  It was really hard to hear the narrator.  I kind of tuned out because I feared that the whole book would feature this (it doesn’t).  And while I won’t say I was confused by what I missed, I did wonder if I’d missed some things that were revealed later (also, some of the main character’s motivation).

Rafe Khatchadorian is starting Hills Village Middle School.  It’s a new school (sixth grade).  Rafe seems to have a hard to succeeding in school in general.  There’s also a lot going on at home.  His mom has been dating a jerk named Bear.  Bear is unemployed, and living with them while Rafe’s mom is working two jobs and is hardly ever home.

The only person who seems to help Rafe cope with things is his friend Leo the Silent.  Leo doesn’t talk much, but he is an awesome artist.  And he also encourages Rafe to do things that maybe he shouldn’t.

When Rafe arrives at school, he is given a rule book with over 100 rules that he must follow.  Given the possibility of hanging out, being good and following the rules or having fun and enjoying school, he and Leo make a choice.  And they come up with “Operation R.A.F.E.” (which stands for Rules Aren’t For Everyone).  The operation is set up like a video game.  Rafe is going to try to break every rule in the handbook. Leo will award him points.  But he will also only have three “lives,” which he will lose if he gets caught or otherwise fails in his quest. (more…)

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815SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-DEAR (2017).

The plan was that after 25 years, Boris would retire.  They recorded songs for Dear, but then toured the anniversary of the album Pink.  This inspired them to write more songs, and somehow through all of that, Dear was created (with apparently enough music for two more albums).

Then they toured Dear (a tour I was lucky enough to see) and are still going.  Who knows if they are done.  Who knows if this is their final album.  Either way, this is a doozy.

10 songs and 70 minutes (on the U.S. release), Dear specialized in slow droney heavy songs.  The album opens with seven smacks of a drum before loud heavy chords signal the beginning of “D.O.W.N -Domination of Waiting Noise.”  The vocals are loud but just loud enough to add to the overall drone sound.  Things slow down further with “Deadsong” a deep bass drone with whispered, rather spooky/demonic vocals.

Despite the drones there are moments of catchiness (relative).  “Absoluego” is a faster, downtuned song with a big shouted chorus and “Beyond” is a quiet, moody song featuring Wata on vocals.  About 90 seconds into the song there is blast of metal guitars and drums that lasts for 30 seconds or so before fading out.  When it happens again, one of the guys starts singing too, a faster heavier, catchier melody.

“Kagero” opens with a low rumble.  Eventually a slow, heavy guitar comes in with near falsetto singing.  “Biotope” has a steady pulsing bass drum through the track.  The guitars are slower with an occasional plucked string that resonates. This song even has some ooohs in it.

“The Power” has my favorite Boris riff since “Tu la la.”  It’s got six notes all of which are strangely menacing and yet catchy at the same time. This was a great song to see live.  “Momentio Mori” is slow and menacing with cool echoed/chorused vocals–there’s an Alice in Chains vibe to the vocals.  With about a minute left, the song slows down and grows quiet almost as a lead in to the 12 minute “Dystopia -Vanishing Point.”  This song opens with two minutes of warbly accordion (I loved watching Wata play this part live) and some thundering drums.  It all fades away into some quiet ringing guitars and whispered vocals.  This continues for a few minutes as waves of guitars are added.  And then at 7 minutes the loud guitars and drums blast forth and Wata gets to do a screaming solo for the final 4 minutes.  She is still soloing as the song abruptly ends and switches to the final track.

“Dear” opens with those low downtuned guitars echoing.  I love that the guitars simply slide up to a very high note and hold it until sliding back down.  There’s a muffled chug on the low chords while the heavily echoed vocals ring out.  The song continues like this, a mountain of low rumble, for 9 minutes until it starts to consume itself–feedbacking and disintegrating until it sounds like all of the plugs are pulled.

There’s not a lot of diversity on this disc, which resembles some of their earlier music.  I’m very curious to see what they do next.

[READ: February 9, 2016] “The Republic of Bad Taste”

This story (it feels complete and not like an excerpt, although the title seems unlikely as a short story title) was 20 pages long in this issue of the New Yorker.  That’s one of the longest pieces I’ve seen in the magazine.

And it covers a lot of ground.

Like how does an at-risk-youth counselor agree to commit murder?

It begins by introducing us to Andreas Wolf in East Germany circa 1987.  He is a disaffected youth, an atheist with a super libido and he has found employment at the church on Siegfeldstrasse.  Andreas felt the whole regime was ridiculous.  In fact he felt that a lot of things were ridiculous.  The Republic was just so German that it couldn’t even go after misfits unless it was by the book.

His “job” at the church was as a youth counselor.  He was surprisingly good at it. In part because he really didn’t care and in part because he himself was almost at risk.  He wasn’t really at risk because his father had a good position with the government, but they had more or less disowned him (aside from agreeing to make sure he never got into real trouble).  Plus, he was pretty good-looking so many of the at risk girls found him attractive–with all that implies.

He took advantage of this.  He found that his monetary reward was so pitiful that a reward in beautiful girls made up for it.  At the same time, he did have some scruples.  He never had sex with anyone underage or anyone who had been sexually abused.  What a guy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THUNDERCAT-Tiny Desk Concert #660 (October 18, 2017).

I had never heard of Thundercat.  Except I probably have:

Thundercat, born Stephen Bruner, is willing and able to shape-shift to fit into just about any box you show him — he just won’t stay in there for long. Whether fusing his talent for jazz while a bassist with punk legacy act Suicidal Tendencies or as a member of Snoop Dogg’s band — maybe running a little too far with a solo here and there — the focus seems to eventually drift his way.

After releasing two brilliant solo albums, he was plucked to work on what eventually became one of the most important works of art released this decade: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Capitalizing off of the new exposure, he quickly released the EP The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam. That was followed about two years later by Drunk, his most solid project to date.

I didn’t know what to expect in the days leading to the performance, but I was hoping to get what I thought a Thundercat experience would be like. All boxes ended up checked: He arrived wearing a neon pink hoodie with his signature logo plastered about, kickboxing shorts, white chancletas, playing a Nintendo portable gaming console. He and his bandmates Dennis Hamm (keys) Justin Brown (drums) and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson (violin), all master musicians in their own right, polished off some bacon croissant sandwiches and proceeded to give us three of the best of what Drunk has to offer.

Overall, Bruner sings with gentle falsetto.  Most of the lyrics are pretty funny, with some pointed lyrics.  But the really impressive thing is that he is playing a six string bass and getting all kinds of great sounds out of it.

I love love love the bass sound that he gets on all of the songs.  And I love that he throws in some fascinating solo moments where he does these incredible runs up and down the fretboard.

The bass is sort of watery on the first track “Lava Lamp.”  It opens with him picking out the melody on chords and some delightful backing ooohs.  The violin is electric and plays these really trippy synthy sounds.

The second song “Friend Zone” opens with watery rubbery chords from the bass and then a great funky bass line while the keys play.  The lyrics are really quite funny:

I’m your biggest fan but I guess that’s just not good enough /
is it because i wear my hair weird or because I like to play Diablo

The next time you call me / I’m just gonna sit and stare at the screen /waiting for the call to end.

If you’re not bringing tacos / you should just turn and walk away.

There’s some really cool squeaking violin notes that add a wonderful texture to overall piece.  And of course, there’s some great fat bass riffs

The chorus goes: “no one wants to be in the friend zone.”  As the song ends, he chuckles.

The final song “Them Changes” has even cooler sounds from the bass.  There’s echo and flange and it sounds like three people playing.  It’s really great, particularly the amazing bass runs.  The violin also has a really trippy echo on it.

Bruner’s bass is tremendous.  And I’m really curious to check out more from this guy.  (In fact, just listening to a few songs from the album, it’s pretty wild).

[READ: January 27, 2017] “‘Borat’: The Memo”

George Saunders is not afraid to attack injustice.  Sometimes he does it with humor.  Sometimes he does it very subtly.  And sometimes he does it in an incredibly unsubtle fashion (but still with humor).

It is clear that Saunders was completely offended by the movie Borat (this is not a timely posting about this piece I know).  But he wasn’t upset simply because Sasha Baron Cohen did rude things or was a little offensive.  He was offended at the very essence of what this movie did.

Disclosure: Sarah and I think the scene where Borat asks a stock boy what this is and the answer is “Cheese” over and over is absolutely hilarious.

So, how does Saunders deal with this movie?  By offering some suggestions for the DVD extras. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Molson Centre, Montreal, QC (December 9, 1996).

This is the second and final Quebec show on Rheostatics live.  Once again they are opening for The Tragically Hip and although it still has that stadium feel, this one is a little muffled.

They open the show with a French language clip and once again I have no idea what it is from.

Before the first song starts either the guys are talking to each other or there’s a recording of Martin & Dave talking to each other about dreams.  “I had this weird dream we were in a giant rock stadium.  We were opening for Ringo’s All Stars  All these people were there speaking a  different language.”  “Ringo’s really been giving it all this tour.”

Eventually they start the riff and play a great version of Fat.  I love how the song builds and builds to a cacophonous racket and then quiets down into the slinky riff.

They play “Aliens” and Martin modifies the lyric from “they took you up and put you under” to “they took you up and gave you drugs.”  It’s followed by “All the Same Eyes” which is such a good conventional rocking song.  “Michael Jackson” sounds great with some wailing guitars.  At the end, Martin states, “It feels good to be alive.”  Dave retorts: “Sometimes.”

Then Dave says thanks for CFRG and CFLY (which seems unlikely to play them now) for “coming down here and talking to us today we appreciate it.  This [“Bad Time to Be Poor”] is the song that’s getting played on the radio and in all the finer dentist offices around the land.”

Martin makes some interesting guitar noises before starting a really great “California Dreamline.”  Before Claire, Dave says “Happy birthday, Gary Stokes” (their sound man).  They’ve been adding some great guitar solos into “Claire” and this one is no exception–Martin really stretches.

“Horses” is, as always, really strong.  The version rocks and then during the moody middle section Dave starts chanting about power in the darkness.  Near the end as Martin starts making his horse sounds, Dave chants “we don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control.”

It’s a dark but effective ending.  I assume the Canadian audiences know the band already, but I wonder what they think of them as an opening act.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “The Love Nest”

This is The Walrus‘ Summer Fiction Issue with new fiction & poetry from 6 writers in total.  I won’t be reviewing the poetry, but I’ll be talking about the three short stories.

This story was delightful.  I enjoyed everything about it.

It consists of a series of log book entries at a B&B from October 10, 2013 through August 5, 2015 with a sort of addenda at the end.

It begins with a Russian couple complementing their hosts for their charming B&B in Vermont.  They learned a lot about Vermont in their stay and are happy to share their information.

The next couple mentions how once they had kids they lost all of their single friends.  Another talks about how the B&B’s mason jar cups reminds her of a college “naked party” where she and her now husband met.  Another has a small gripe (no spoilers) that he wants to write in the book–but not on Trip Advisor. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: OVERCOATS-Tiny Desk Concert #608 (March 27, 2017).

Overcoats is Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell.  They sing beautiful duets–sometimes in harmony, sometimes in unison–but always perfectly together.  And they seem to have an incredible affection for each other–notice the way they hug each other at the end of the show.

I was intrigued by the blurb that says:

Behind those rich voices lies a spare electronic backdrop that feels spacious and refreshing. Not long ago, these songs would likely be backed by a nylon-stringed guitar, but their healthy energy feels more urgent with an underpinning drone and Joao Gonzalez’s drumming.

And it’s true.  As the songs progress, you do rather expect to hear more folk sounds, but instead the songs are almost dancey, certainly soulful.  At times they are dancey, as the duo do some really fun dances too.

“23” opens with Elion’s guitar and slightly higher voice.  She and Mitchell switch off lead vocals until Mitchell pays some keyboards which broadens the sound…slightly.  As the song nears its end Mitchell puts some synths on a loop, the women sing a round of Ahhs until a great delicate moment at the and as Elion slides her hand up the neck of her guitar ringing out that chord higher and higher until the end.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people smile so much and be so happy about what they are doing and who they are with.

JJ introduces “Leave the Light On” by saying “Hana has a life long dream to do a Tiny Desk.  She’s actually retiring after this show.”  This song is much more dancey.  They both sing the line “leave the light on for myself when I come home” and then the Gonzalez samples it ( I assume) and loops it.  There’s not a lot to the song, but it’s quite infectious, especially as they dance wildly between verses, swinging their arms and smiling at each other.  They even put their arms around each other while they sing .

“Hold Me Close” is a pretty ballad that’s slower and more poignant.  And they do hold each other close as they sing.  When they sing the last few words to each other you can feel the love between them.  It’s really something.

I didn’t mention the fact that they are wearing identical white tunics, because no one else did. I don’t know if that’s how they dress on stage, but it really makes a visual statement.  I also can’t imagine them singing in a larger space than the Tiny Desk.  The performance is so intimate what would they do with a bigger stage?

[READ: January 25, 2017] “You Never Really Know”

This comic piece goes from funny to very funny to fairly insane in a matter of a few paragraphs.

The story begins with a strange misunderstanding.  The narrator saw a homeless man holding out a cup and begging for change. But as he got closer her realized the man was not homeless and that the cup was actually full of coffee!

Then he notes that his fiancée would probably step over a guy like that without a second thought.

He cites some other examples of how the world is full of surprises: The C.E.O. of a Fortune 500 company could turn out the be the greatest basketball player. And, his mother, a nurse, could be speaking to that man’s fiancée behind his back.

You never know what’s going on.  Until you hire a lawyer. (more…)

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