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Archive for the ‘Virginity (Loss of)’ Category

Frank Conniff–Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever (2016)

tvfrankSOUNDTRACK: TA-KU & WAFIA-Tiny Desk Concert #576 (November 6, 2016).

Ta-ku & Wafia are Australian, and I knew nothing else about them.  So:

The chemistry between Australian singer-producer Ta-ku and his fellow Aussie singer-songwriter Wafia becomes apparent the instant you hear their voices intertwined in song. On their first collaborative EP, (m)edian, they draw on their individual experiences to touch on subjects like compromise in relationships as they trade verses and harmonize over hollow melodies.  With production characterized by weary low-end rumbles and resonant keys, the two float above the music, playing off each other’s harmonies.

Although the blurb mentions a few bands that the duo sounds like I couldn’t help thinking they sound The xx (although a bit poppier).

“Treading Water” especially sounds like The xx.  Both of their voices sound really close to that band (although Wafia’s high notes and r&b inclinations do impact that somewhat).  It’s funny that they are just sitting there with their eyes closed, hands folded singing gently.

“Me in the Middle” is another pretty, simple keyboard song with depth in the lyrics and vocals.

Introducing, “Love Somebody,” she says its their favorite on their EP and he interjects Go but it now, which makes her giggle.  Her voice is really quite lovely.  I could see them hitting big both in pop circles and in some alternative circles if they market themselves well.

[READ: November 10, 2016] 25 MST3K Films that Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever

As you might guess from the title, Frank Conniff was involved with MST3K.  He was TV’s Frank and, as we learn from this book, he was the guy who was forced to watch every movie first and decide whether it could be used for the show.  This “job” was created because they had watched a bit of Sidehackers and decided it would be fun to use.  So Comedy Central bought the rights (“They paid in the high two figures”) and then discovered that there was a brutal rape scene (“don’t know why I need to cal it a ‘brutal’ rape scene any kind of rape ,loud or quiet, violent or Cosby-style, is brutal”) that would sure be hard to joke about (they edited it out for the show which “had a minimal effect on the overall mediocrity of the project.”

The book opens with an FBI warning like the videotapes except for this book it stands for Federal Bureau of Incoherence because the document contains “many pop culture references that are obscure, out of date, annoying and of no practical use to anyone.”   So each chapter goes through and explains these obscure references for us all. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: HEM-Tiny Desk Concert #306 (September 28, 2013).

Hem is one of All Songs Considered‘s earliest discoveries. Back in 2002, we received a beautiful and unique album called Rabbit Songs. It was a homey, fireside kind of record, with a sound that could be called country or Americana, and the arrangements by Dan Messé made it feel quaint and warm. To top it off, there was singer Sally Ellyson, an untrained natural talent with an effortless yet breathtaking voice. Hem has gone on to make five more albums since Rabbit Songs; their latest, Departure and Farewell, finds the group still writing songs that feel as if they’ve always been there.

Bob is quite right about the feel of this band, the drums are actually foot stomping and piano tapping, and that makes the band sound like they are siting around cozy room with friends.   And then there’s her voice.  There’s nothing specific about it that stands out, and yet it really does.  Her voice feels incredibly warm and welcoming, making you want to stop and listen.  And perhaps it’s something about the recording which makes everything feel soft (but not muddy) and warm.

And even in the songs themselves, it feels like friends hanging out.  During “Walking Past The Graveyard, Not Breathing” they say “go George” as the intro to the bass solo and then “go Heather” for the violin solo.   “Tourniquet” has some great lyrics, between the alliteration at the beginning and the great metaphor of the song, I was so taken with the lyrics that I didn’t even realize how pretty the melody was:

Brooklyn, I’m broken — I’m breaking apart
Oh Brooklyn, your bridges are bound up in light —
Every artery’s clogged as you pull the belt tight —
And this tourniquet turns even tighter until
Traffic comes to a standstill

When the song suddenly takes off near the end (but only briefly) it really elevates the song which was already delightful.  Introducing the final song, “Seven Angels” she says they are excited to be there, playing in this format.  She says the song can be seen as a lullaby–she likes to sing it for her sister.  She says she doesn’t write the songs but she can pretend this one is hers.

It’s hard to imagine this band playing a venue much larger than this one–they seems right at home in a small space.

[READ: July 31, 2016] Stop Forgetting to Remember

This is a fascinating story about the comics artist Walter Kurtz.  I know very little about Peter Kuper, but I gather that this is sort of his life but written as an autobiography of somebody else.  (For instance, Kurtz was born on the same day as Kuper).

The back cover blurb also states how daring it was for Kurtz to write all of this –showing the embarrassing details, etc.: “My spouse would have killed me!”

This book is a collection of “stories” (not sure if they were ever published separately) that are joined by the narrative thread of Kurtz telling us about his life.  And the “occasion” for this reflection is the pending birth of his first child.  He is freaking out a bit–when he was young he never wanted kids, and then maybe he was cool with it, but recently he’s become terrified again.  He’s particularly afraid because he’s engaged with the world and he sees that as each month goes by, things get worse: AIDS, global warming, overpopulation, famine, wars (and that’s just 1996). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE 1975-Tiny Desk Concert #302 (September 10, 2013).

I sort of know The 1975 but I can’t decide if I like them or not.  It seems like every song sounds different.  But I did really like this stripped down Tiny Desk Concert.

The blurb notes the distinction:

The 1975 knows its way around bigness, [with songs of full of brash-but-winsome, electronics-tinged pop-rock]. But, when asked to strip his band’s sound down to fit the intimate confines of the Tiny Desk, Healy didn’t hesitate to transform both his songs and himself. Performing solo with a guitar — he even goes fully acoustic for his two hits — he’s reborn as an earnest troubadour, while his songs now register as melancholy musings. They’re remarkably sturdy in any form, as this bit of left-field sweetness amply demonstrates.

This performance is just Matthew Healy singing and playing guitar.  And he turns these songs into little folkie ballads, with Healy’s cracking and accented voice (you can really hear his accent when he sings) making the songs sound more earning and aching.

The original of “Sex” is pretty rocking, with a middle section that strums pretty hard.  This version slows it down dramatically, making it much more poignant.

“Chocolate” is a bouncy electronic song with an angular sound, radically different from this stripped down acoustic ballad (I much prefer this version).  He introduces this song by saying “I’ve only done this twice so I apologize if I mess it up.”  I’m not sure what he means by that.  Surely he has played this song more than twice.  Anyhow, it too has a yearning quality and his whispered vocals work perfectly with his gentle playing.

He finishes that by saying “Those two songs are like our singles.  I didn’t know what else to play so this song is called “Woman.”  It’s about that prostitute… but she was lovely [chuckles from the audience] and I was far too young–so nothing happened.

He switches to a gently echoed electric guitar.  It doesn’t vary too much from the original–a plaintive yearning song about sex.

[READ: July 31, 2016] Sex Criminals Volume 3

Book three of the series seems to have polarized some readers.  There’s not a lot of plot advancement,which upsets many, and there’s a lot of meta-jokes which also upsets many.  Of course, I really like that sort of thing and happen to think that this book was outstanding.  So pffft.

The book opens with someone we’ve never seen before.  He takes care of his mom, he works in an old folks home.  He’s a pretty decent guy.  But he has a secret.  It’s related to the whole time-stoppage thing (although it proves to be a bit different).

And there’s a few amusing panels.  Like when Matt states that Chip would being drawing all kinds of funny Pan-Asian jokes in the Pan-Asian supermarket.  The panels would be full of double entendre puns.  But rather than making him do all of that hard work, we’ll jut have to imagine them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DISMEMBERMENT PLAN-Tiny Desk Concert #323 (December 2, 2013).

I always think that The Dismemberment Plan is a loud punk band (understandably with that name).  But this Tiny Desk Concert sees the band with acoustic guitar, keyboards and brushes on the drums.  What I didn’t realize was that the band had broken up and reunited and had made a new album in 2013:

When the newly re-formed band finally did make its way to our offices — on the heels of Uncanney Valley, its first album in 12 years — it unsurprisingly made for an odd fit.  According to the group, these particular arrangements of songs from Uncanney Valley were sorted out just a day before this Tiny Desk Concert.

“Let’s Just Go To The Dogs Tonight” is a fun bouncy song full of mildly amusing wordplay and naughtiness.  There’s a call and response section: “when I say ‘Outta’ you say ‘Luck’ and when I say ‘Cluster you’ say ‘Fuck'” (singer Travis Morrison flubbed the call-and-response portion of “Let’s Just Go to the Dogs Tonight,” he professed nervousness at making the NPR staff holler F-bombs. (No one seemed to mind)).   I like the simplicity of the guitar chords, but I really like the fun bass line–not funky exactly, but just meandering around in a really tuneful way.

“Lookin'” is a slow ballad with a simple guitar melody.  It’s a plaintive song that’s lightened by a bouncy bass line and some cool synth sounds near the end.

For the final song, “Daddy was a Real Good Dancer,” Morrison switches to keys and the keyboardist switches to guitar.  They say that the guitar is brand new for the show–“we went to Guitar Center for you guys.”  Bob says they need to break a string to break it in.  This song is lighthearted and a bit goofy, about a dad who used to dance until he had him.  Once again, the bass line really makes the song (and the drums are pretty great, too.

It’s a lighthearted and fun concert–surprisingly so for a band with dismember in their name.

[READ: June 6, 2016] Sex Criminals Volume 2

I really enjoyed Volume One of this series.  I was shocked to see that it had been almost two years since I’d read it.  And I was thrilled to see Volume 2 in the library.

The only problem with Volume 2 is that it assumes you have just finished volume 1, so there’s no playing catch up if you read it two years ago.

Especially since Book 6 opens with Suzie saying “So I’ve been digging in to pull off a fundraiser to make up the difference and keep the place open, so uh… The end?”  But of course it is not the end.  And when Jon tells us that things aren’t over, he pulls down his pants to show that he has nothing there–he’s like a Ken doll.  What happened?  In book 1 these two were going at it like rabbits.

It turns out that the Sex Police had a kind of tracking device–a Cumpass–that monitored everyone who had an orgasm and entered The Quiet (see book 1 review to figure out what the hell I’m talking about).  Things get really stressed out for Jon over the next few days and he begins seeing symptoms of something–which he looks up online and decides is canceraids (it isn’t). (more…)

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6916SOUNDTRACK: GIRL IN A COMA-Tiny Desk Concert #190 (January 30, 2012).

girlcoma I was planning on writing only about recent Tiny Desk Concerts for a while, but Nina Diaz’s (Aug 2016) Concert informed me that she was the singer of the band Girl in a Coma who are presently on a hiatus while Nina tours some solo material.

So I went back and watched this Tiny Desk to see the origins of Diaz’s music.

Girl in a Coma is a three-piece with Nina Diaz on guitar and vocals, her sister Phanie Diaz on drums and Jenn Alva on bass.  The blurb suggests that the band plays punk–typically loud crunchy guitars (although I listened to the recorded version of “Smart” and it doesn’t really sound very different from this version).  So I didn’t get that.

At any rate, the trio sounds great in this setting.  The percussion is simply tambourine and a shaker.  And Alva’s bass is really melodic and lovely playing more than just the same notes as the guitar.

“Smart” is really catchy (although Diaz does some weird things with her voice late in the song).  “Knocking At Your Door” has a fast, almost metal sounding guitar (albeit acoustic here).  But it’s the bass (which is not doing anything crazy) that takes center stage with the melodies she plays.

Before the final song Nina says it feels like show and tell or something.  And while she’s saying this, the other two switch places, with the drummer coming up front and the bass sitting in the back.

“So” has a pretty traditional folk song structure.  The reason for the switch of seats comes in the second verse when Phanie plays the melodica.  It’s a pretty song and Diaz’s voice is really nice.

I really can’t imagine them being a punk band at all, frankly.

I’m also going to point out what Diaz looks like here for contrast of what she looks like in her solo show four and a half years later.  In 2012, she’s wearing dark jeans and a v neck sweater (stripes in the purple family).  Her hair has bangs and a long braid on the side.  And she has no obvious makeup on.  Keep that in mind for the next post

[READ: November 1, 2008] “Tits-Up in a Ditch”

I read this story back in November 2008 and just couldn’t get into it.  I tried several times and could not penetrate the barrier that I felt Proulx was creating.  Well, here it is 8 years later and I tried it again, and not only did I finish it, I sort of enjoyed it.  Even though it, like everything else I seem to have read from Proulx was incredibly depressing.

The story is about Dakotah.  Dakotah’s mother abandoned her when she was a baby and left her own parents to take care of her.  They resented their daughter and Dakotah from the start.  They were harsh and uncaring towards her (although it could be prairie love, I suppose).  The grandparents are named Verl and Bonita Lister (Proulx has fun with names in her stories).

Verl and Bonita are hardscrabble, religious folks who don’t have a lot of joy.  Well, Verl had moments of happiness but probably no joy–he rode hard and then injured himself.  But he was stuck because during the 1980s in Wyoming oil companies came in and took away all the workers.

Verl gives us the title of the story when he says “Had me some luck today.  Goddam cow got herself tits-up in the ditch couple days ago.  Dead, time I found her.”  See, charming people. (more…)

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thrilignSOUNDTRACK: ADIA VICTORIA-Tiny Desk Concert #544 (June 30, 2016).

adiaAdia Victoria has a rough, raw voice that goes well with her simple, exposed guitar sound.  The blurb says her music “carries the singular perspective of a Southern black woman with a Seventh Day Adventist upbringing, who never felt like she’d fit in.”

She sings three song, mostly in a great, raspy voice.  For “Stuck in the South” she actually seems to be gritting her teeth as she sings: “I don’t know nothing ’bout Southern belles / but I can tell you something ’bout Southern hell.”  When the first verse ends, and her band kicks in, it adds such interesting textures.  a distorted bass and a lead guitar playing quietly distorted sounds.  This song is really captivating.

“And Then You Die” with its swirling sounds and keyboards has a very distinctly Nick Cave feel–gothic in the Southern sense of the word.  Indeed, the first verse is spoken in a delivery that would make Nick proud. This is no to say she cribbed from Cave but it would work very well as a companion song  I really like the way it builds, but the ending is so abrupt–I could have used some more verses.

After the second song the band heads away and Bob says “They’re all leaving you.”  She looks at them and growls, “Get off the stage!” to much laughter.

She sings the final song “Heathen” with just her on acoustic guitar.  It is a simple two chord song.  It’s less interesting than the others, but again, it’s the lyrics that stand out: “I guess that makes me a heathen, something lower than dirt / I hear them calling me heathen, ooh like they think it hurts.”

I’m curious to hear just what Adia would do with these songs when she’s not in this Tiny format.  I imagine she can be really powerful.

[READ: November 23, 2016] McSweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales

For some reason or another I have put off reading this McSweeney’s volume for many years.  This is technically McSweeney’s #10, although it was also released in this printing from a  major publisher. Sadly for me, my McSweeney’s subscription had expired sometime around here so I’ve never actually seen the “official” Volume 10 which I understand has the exact same content but a slightly different cover.

One of the reasons I’ve put off reading this was the small print and pulpy paper–I don’t like pulpy paper.  And it was pretty long, too.

But I think the big reason is that I don’t really like genre fiction.  But I think that’s the point of this issue.  To give people who read non-genre fiction some exposure to genre stuff.

Interestingly I think I’ve learned that I do enjoy some genre fiction after all.  And yet, a lot of the stories here really weren’t very genre-y.  Or very thrilling.  They seemed to have trappings of genre ideas–mystery, horror–but all the while remaining internal stories rather than action-packed.

Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy anything here. I enjoyed a bunch of the stories quite a bit, especially if I didn’t think of them as genre stories.  Although there were a couple of less than exiting stories here, too. (more…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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