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[LISTENED TO: September 13, 2017] Believe Me

When I saw that Eddie Izzard had a book out I was pretty interested to read it.  I have loved his stand-up since 1997 or 1998 and I was lucky enough to see him on his Circle Tour (on the date they recorded it!).  I have been keeping up with his career and trying to see him in whatever he does (although I like my comedy more than drama and he has certainly made the shift towards drama in recent years).

I thought an autobiography or memoir by him would be pretty interesting (even if he claims to be boring).  But when I saw that he read the audiobook, I knew I had to give it a listen (even if it was 12 discs)!

Amusingly, there was a long delay at the library.  The lady at the counter (who is not the librarian–we librarians know the difference) said if I knew his voice, I could just read the book to myself in his voice.  It was an amusing thought, and I possibly could do that, ….yes, but Eddie’s voice is just so fantastic that it never would have worked properly.  Plus, he throws in easily an extra hours worth of footnotes and rambles that aren’t in the print book!  That’s right, an extra hour’s worth of nonsense if you do the audio.   True you don;t get to see the pictures, but it’s a fair trade-off.

Well the book finally came in and I had plenty of driving time to make short work of this 12 hours behemoth.  And I laughed and laughed.  And cried and cried.

Because while Eddie Izzard is an action transvestite (transgender, now) and one of the best stand-ups around, he is also an extremely warm and thoughtful person. He worked very hard to become the success he is.  And he has used his fame to do some absolutely wonderful things for humanity–including raising millions of dollars.  Not bad for an atheist who is sometimes in girl mode and sometimes in boy mode. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 23, 2016] S.T.O.P.

stopIf you have a teen or pre-teen and you are concerned about how they will deal with bullying, sex, body issues or, heaven forbid, heroin, this performance is a must-see both for your child and you.  The performers are all high school students.  They wrote the pieces and they are intended for high school students (and middle school).  If you can’t see them yourself, contact your school or community group to arrange for them to do their show.  It is intense and really effective.

When the fifth grade completed the D.A.R.E. program at school, the ceremony included a piece by this group.  The piece was called “Jack & Jill” and it told the story of how an underage party led to the death of two teens.  There were a couple of moments of humor, but the message was intense and the acting was really good (they “rewound” the story and the actors did a great job of going backwards–including one boy who “fell up” the couch (he fell off it earlier).

After they were done, they said that the troupe would be doing their full hour-long show in May and that was open to anyone in 5th grade and older.  I was amazed that Clark wanted to go as it’s not really his thing.  And so we went.  He was bummed that only a couple of kids he knew showed up.  I was bummed at how few people showed up at all.   And so I wanted to post about the show to get the group some recognition because what they did was really powerful and I think should be seen by just about everyone.

When we arrived, the teacher in charge of the group Miranda DeStefano-Meene told us that the show would be uncensored and pretty intense.  The program says that the words on stage “may embarrass, hurt, offend, scare and anger you.  That is intentional.”  The second paragraph spoke of the heroin epidemic in our society which is bigger than any other drug epidemic in recorded history, which I did not know.

And so we sat back and watched this show.  Now, I happen to think that Clark may not have been exposed to a lot of what was going on in this play (which I’m grateful for).  So this show may have been really intense for him (I know I spent the whole show wondering what he thought).  After the show the only thing he said was that it made hm sad.  And we did talk a little about the messages, but he’s a tight-lipped kid, so I can only hope he’ll come back to me with more questions if they arise.

And what questions he must have.  For this show tackled so many problems facing teens.  (more…)

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tcoop-realmanSOUNDTRACK: REAL MAN ADVENTURES: A Collection of (Mostly) Original Songs by (Entirely) Original Artists–All Inspired by the Book. (An Album! A Book! A Shark!) (2012).

realcdThis soundtrack came with my copy of the book, although it can be ordered separately as well.  It is a varied collection of music in many different genres.  The one thread is that many of the performers are either transgendered or are openly gay or some variation in between.  And lyrically the songs are based on chapters from the book (some literal and others use the book as a jumping off point).  No one can be expected to enjoy the whole disc (the musical styles are just too different), but there’s some really enjoyable and interesting music here.

 OUR LADY J. “Picture of a Man” (live)
I’d never heard of Our Lady J., but she is a transgendered classical singer and has worked with some of the greats in theater. The song opens with a piano solo for one minute.  It acts as an introduction to this theatrical piece (with big backing vocals) about what a man “really” looks like. I love the diversity in this song. It gets really big and quite over the top.

RICK MOODY-“The Closest I Ever Came to Writing a Poem”
Yes, writer Rick Moody wrote this thoughtful song. The music is simple, stark piano with Moody singing gently. It’s quite pretty.

SOCE, THE ELEMENTAL WIZARD-“He Will”
This is a rap song (in the style of Eminem), which addresses Cooper’s troubles with  getting a passport (the lyrics are taken mostly from the book). The rapper has fast flow and the lyrics are complex and interesting, although I don’t really like his delivery that much.  Still, it’s a great lyrical song. Soce is one of the few openly gay rappers.

T. COOPER & PEG HAMBRIGHT-“Interlude: high School”
A 34 second piano, well, interlude with words from the book.

HEM-“The Beautiful Sea”
This is a pretty song, reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan. Hem have a bit more oomph than Sarah, but are equally as pretty. This song was way too short.

THUNDEREGG-“The Guest Star of the Rest Stop”
This is a country(ish) song, with a vaguely out of tune guitar and slow droning vocals. I’d not heard of them before but I see they have dozens of records out. At 5 minutes, I found this one a little long.

T. COOPER & PEG HAMBRIGHT-“Interlude: College”
Another simple piano melody with words from the book.

SCOTT MILLER & THE COMMONWEALTH-“12th Man”
Another country song, this one about (not) playing football (always being the 12th man). It’s a sweet and sad song. Miller also has a number of albums out even though I’ve not heard of him either.

GEO WYETH-“Target Practice”
This song starts as a weird electronic track with sampled voices and then it morphs into a spare keyboard track with Wyeth’s kind of high vocals. It reminds me a bit of the Mountain Moats, but with keyboards instead of guitar. And I don’t like it as much.

CHRIS PUREKA-“Old Photographs”
Pureka has a lot of albums out too (and I thought I knew music). She is a delicate folksinger (until she really starts belting out the words at the end) reminding me of one half of the Indigo Girls. This was a really good, rather dark song.

DYNASTY HANDBAG-“One Man”
This is a sinister electronic/rap song detailing the fears of violence in the trans community.  Dynasty Handbag seems to be a loose cannon with some very interesting videos out there.  Definitely check her out.

T. COOPER & PEG HAMBRIGHT-“Interlude: My 20s”
This interlude is done on accordion.

THE JULIE RUIN “Girls Like Us” (Vag Vocal Version).
This is Kathleen Hannah’s band The Julie Ruin with special guest Vaginal Crème Davis (possibly not her given name) on vocals. Davis’ vocals are way over the top, but surprisingly not that different from the originals’ mocking tone (and cheesy synths).

SCOTT McCLOUD-“On My Darker Days”
McCloud is in Girls Against Boys.  This song is dark electric guitar (very processed) with virtually no percussion. The vocals are whispered as well.  I enjoyed the beginning but then felt it was a little samey and felt a little long even though it’s only 3 minutes.

ROCCO KATASTROPHE-“F.E.A.R.”
Katastrophe is a rapper (one of the first openly transgendered). His flow is strong and his lyrics are great. I don’t care for his backing music that much.  For although it is appropriately ominous, it feels a bit anemic.

MARTY COOPER WITH THE RIFTERS-“May You Always Ride in the Sunlight”
This sounds like an old timey cowboy song (I can’t find much else about Marty Cooper).  It’s a sweet song that would fit well at the end of any mix cd of good feeling songs. Even if you don’t like the genre, it’s hard not to like this song.

So this proves to be an interesting mix of songs, with a lot of ne (to me) artists.

[READ: May 1, 2014] Real Man Adventures

I didn’t know T. Cooper before receiving this book from McSweeney’s.  Cooper has written several novels although I didn’t recognize any of them when I looked them up (Lipshitz 6 sounds familiar though).  This book is a memoir.

What’s interesting is that Cooper talks about trying very hard to avoid reviewers referencing his past, and yet with this memoir he has completely outed himself.  I was going to try to not write about his past out of deference to his preferences, but since this memoir is all about his past it’s impossible not to.

So, if you know T. Cooper’s writing and you don’t want to know anything about his past, stop reading this and don’t read the book.

I know that I’ve made that enticing, which I didn’t mean to do.  And who knows, maybe fans of his writing already know this. (more…)

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polinaSOUNDTRACK: SOFA-Grey [CST002] (1997).

greyIt’s not nice to compare bands to other bands, because it seems like they are copying the original. But since I just mentioned Slint the other day, I thought it worthwhile to mention Sofa today. They have similar sensibilities—noisy guitars, spoken/screamed vocals and a decidedly quiet feel.

I love the way this disc opens with the song “On/Off”—it has a simple bass with syncopated drums. And then the buizziest buzz saw guitar thrown in counterpoint notes. And then the singer comes in, sounding like Joy Division never went away.  The song builds into a cool noise and then backs off again. But song two, “CH. 2 Chi.” changes everything—a blistering punk song with super fast chaotic drums and fast vocals. The guitars are again punctuating rather than keeping melody. And when it plays the two high chords it adds incredible tension. “Monotone” begins a simple song of two notes (and some great noisy guitars). The vocals are less Joy Divison and more spoken punk. But each verse adds something new to the music, which gets more complex. “Current” has a more conventional post-rock sound—buzzy guitars and quiet vocals. It’s a good calming moment.

“80 000” has a slow menacing vibe. It builds a few times into some really noisy chaotic sections, where the guitars are willfully out of tune—and all the while the spoken word lyrics are quiet enough to make you lean in closer. “Red Lake” is another slow number (they could maybe have used a faster one by this point), but I really like the riff and the way the guitars play off of it. And there’s an actual hummable chorus too.

The fast noise comes back on “Comma” with a frenetic guitar line and pummeling bass. Even the stop/start of the chorus are frenetic. And when the song occasionally slows down, the guitars still punctuate with astonishing noise. “The Fence” opens with a cool bass riff and simple but interesting drums. “Travel” is a slow song that opens with just guitar notes and spoken/sung lyrics. I don’t care for these more atmospheric songs (especially when they push 6 minutes) but the band does it well. “Stress” follows this. This is the shortest song on the disc just under 3 minutes of furious mayhem. “Medicine Hat” ends the disc with another slower song, but this one has a lot of interesting components, like the bass and guitar line that interweaves throughout the song.

This was Constellation Records second release (Ian, who plays guitar, co-founded Constellation).  Sofa broke up around the time of this release, which is a shame as it was a good one. I’d like to hear more from them (they have some earlier records with unknown availability).

[READ: April 5, 2014] Polina

This was a simple and enjoyable graphic novel about a young ballerina who grows up in the world of ballet.  (I admit I was attracted to the title because I thought it might be about Olympic figure skater Polina Edmunds who I remembered primarily because the name Polina which was unusual to me–it is not about her).

It is a bout a fictional ballet dancer.  When we first meet young Polina, she looks so tiny in the back seat of the car as she is driven to class.  And her teacher, Mr Bojinsky looks like such a large man next to her–with his full beard and large hands.  He is an intimidating figure and all of the girls are afraid of him.  And yet, it is an honor to be even considered by him.

So when Polina unexpectedly gets chosen for his class, she is elated and fearful at the same time.  At first Bojinsky seems really mean and the way his hand more or less covers her whole chest as he gets her into place portended all kinds of things.  But rest assured, and perhaps this is a spoiler, but if is, it is one that I would like to know–nothing bad like that happens to Polina.  Phew. She is not molested, or raped or left dying in an alley. It’s not that kind of story.  Rather, it is the story of a young girl trying to make it as a dancer. (more…)

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CV1_TNY_07_08_13Hunter.inddSOUNDTRACK: AGAINST ME!-True Trans EP (2013).

trueThis EP (free for a limited time) contains two acoustic songs from punks Against Me!  (The gentleness of the acoustic songs is belied by this stark cover).  I have an older Against Me! album which I like and which is quite punky.  But since that album the lead singer Tom Gabel has gone through gender reassignment surgery (and his fans mostly stayed with her, which is pretty awesome).  Their newest full length Transgender Dysphoria Blues is due out in the future and this is a little acoustic taste of what’s to come.  Both songs appear to be about his transition.

The first one, with the interesting title of “FuckMyLife666”, is an upbeat song (musically), while lyrically it is a song to someone—possibly himself?  It’s about avoiding regrets and embracing a new life.

The second song is a big darker (musically) although it does have a big bright chorus with the final line of: “Does God bless your transsexual heart?”  It’s very very catchy and I find myself singing that rather awkward line to myself during the day.

I’m not sure exactly what the future has in store for Against Me!, but it seems like Laura Jane Grace is planning on keeping the music coming.

[READ: July 15, 2013] “All Ahead of Them”

This story opens with a misunderstanding—at least that’s what we hear Bud saying into the phone.  He quickly looks for an excuse to get off the phone and then starts playing with the cigarettes that he found in the hotel drawer.  (He promised he’d quit smoking after the wedding which was just six days ago).  We also quickly learn that the misunderstanding has to do with his new wife and that it proves that she is a liar.

Of course, his wife, Arden, has a history of changing the truth (as many of us do).  Even her name, which he thought was so artistic-sounding, is fake.  Well, it is real now, but she was originally call Nedra (after her father’s mother) and she reversed the letters.  This of, course hurt her father, who loved his dear mother, and who refused to call her Arden—even during his wedding toast.  She hadn’t even told Bud that she had changed her name until moments before he met Arden’s father—and only as a preparation that her father wouldn’t call her Arden.

The original Nedra’s story is pretty interesting in and of itself.  She was a beautiful and talented singer, although her day job was as a music teacher in a Buffalo high school.  She was arrested for selling marijuana (during the brutal Rockefeller laws of the 1970s) to other teachers.  She was given 25 years in jail.  After three of those 25 years, she hanged herself.  Arden’s father was very young when this happened and he never really got over it (as can be expected). (more…)

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