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Archive for the ‘Mark Twain’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: A Clockwork Orange soundtrack (1972).

I’ve had the CD of this soundtrack since the mid 1990s.  I recall playing it all the time.  I hadn’t listened to it in a while and it all came back as I listened again.

This CD is a collection of classical pieces, a few odds and ends and a number of pieces by Wendy Carlos.

I don’t intend to review the classical pieces which are familiar and sound great.  But the Wendy Carlos pieces deserve mention.

Title Music from A Clockwork Orange” (2:21) (From Henry Purcell’s Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary).  It is fascinating to realize that most of the carlos pieces on this soundtrack are actually classical compositions that she has arranged for the Moog (I assume she is playing the Moog on these).  This piece starts with swirling sounds which turn into a fast melody with drums that are probably low synth notes.  There’s a sprinkling of very odd sounds thrown in the mix which really give everything an unearthly feel.

“The Thieving Magpie (Abridged)” (5:57) [Rossini-Rome Opera House Orchestra]

Theme from A Clockwork Orange (Beethoviana)” (1:44) In the movie, the main character loves Beethoven.  So there are a number of pieces from Beethoven that Carlos has arranged here.  This one sounds amazing in this gentle piece with that otherworldly synthesizer music and of staccato notes and chords.

“Ninth Symphony, Second Movement (Abridged)” [Beethoven-Berlin Philharmonic] (3:48)

March from A Clockwork Orange (Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement, Abridged)” [Beethoven] (7:00)  This is the most striking song on the disc with the synthesized “voices” singing the melody on top of a complex synthesizer pattern.  After two minutes it slows and changes styles dramatically becoming more of a march with whistles and chimes and again those haunting voices.  The end of the piece has a full choir of the haunting voices which sounds even more amazing.  I’m so curious how she did this.  Are there actual voices that she recorded and manipulated or are they generated from notes and manipulated to sound like voices?  It says articulations by Rachel Elkind [now Rachel Elkind-Tourre], so I guess she sang and was manipulated?

William Tell Overture (Abridged)” (1:17) [Rossini]  This piece opens with the familiar horns but as this incredibly fast paced track moves along you can hear the synth notes especially in the quieter middle part.  I wonder if those horns were real?

“Pomp and Circumstance March No. I” (4:28) [Elgar]

“Pomp and Circumstance March No. IV” (Abridged) (1:33) [Elgar]

Timesteps (Excerpt)” (4:13) This is the only fully original piece on the soundtrack.  It sounds like nothing else.  It is a gorgeous spooky composition of tinkling sounds, low gonglike sounds and celestial voices.  It grows somewhat menacing with lots of fast unique sounds skittering around a low throbbing bass.  She adds in sounds that seems sped up (which makes no sense really), but they do.  At one pint the two melodies seem to run counterpoint–low notes going in one direction, high notes in the other.

“Overture to the Sun” (rerecorded instrumental from Sound of Sunforest, 1969) (1:40).  I have always loved this middle-ages sounding song, but I had no idea where it came from.  Turns out it is by the band Sunforest and comes from their only album Sound of Sunforest, 1969.  They were an English psychedelic folk group.  You can play some of the album on YouTube (which sounds a lot like Jefferson Airplane).

“I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper” (rerecorded song from Sound of Sunforest, 1969) (1:00).  This song is also on the Sunforest album, although it sounds very different here.  I’ve always assumed this was some kind of fifties song and had no idea that this is probably the only place most people know it from.  It’s a shame this album is so hard to find.

“William Tell Overture (Abridged)” (2:58) [Rossini-Rome Opera House Orchestra]

Suicide Scherzo (Ninth Symphony, Second Movement, Abridged)” (3:07) [Beethoven] The perfect use of Carlos’ bouncy synths sounds.  It’s amazing to hear her layering sounds as the song gets very big and seems to get away from her into an almost chaotic conclusion.

“Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement (Abridged)” (1:34) [Beethoven-Berlin Philharmonic]

“Singin’ in the Rain” (2:36) [Gene Kelly].  This is a cute ending and seems to tie in to “Lighthouse Keeper” even though it clearly doesn’t.

This is a really fun soundtrack.  It is too bad that Carlos’s music is unavailable anywhere because it  is really quite eye-opening even fifty years later.

[READ: October 15, 2020] “The Well-Tempered Synthesizer”

This article is a book review of Wendy Carlos: A Biography by Amanda Sewell.

I don’t plan to read the book, but I found the summary to be quite interesting.

I’ve known of Wendy Carlos for many years, primarily from her work on A Clockwork Orange soundtrack.  I remember initially seeing that the music was recorded by Walter and/or Wendy Carlos and assuming that they were siblings or spouses.  It was certainly a confusing listing and once that, it turns out, was rather offensive to her.

So I know a little bit about her personal story, but this review added a lot of details to her life that I didn’t know.

Most importantly is that none of her music is available online pretty much anywhere.  Even when people post it, it is taken down quickly. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BRANDY CLARK-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #85 (September 23, 2020).

Brandy Clark is just too country for me.  I do like her lyrical content, but there’s just too much twang in her voice.

The amazing thing in this video is the view from her apartment.  The day doesn’t look very clear, but the view is still lovely. Who knew Nashville looked like that?

If you’re going to be stuck at home during a pandemic, it helps to have an awe-inspiring living room view. Stellar singer-songwriter Brandy Clark highlights hers in this charmingly casual set recorded in her loft-like Nashville apartment. The city’s verdant hills roll out behind her as Clark plays these four songs.

“Bigger Boat” is a standard slow country song with the rhythm provided by Vanessa McGowan on upright bass.

The song addresses serious issues

The floods down south, the fires out west
You turn on the news, scares you to death
Give me that hammer, somebody hold my coat
Yeah, we’re gonna need a bigger boat

But in an winking, funny way

We’re springing a leak, we’re coming apart
We’re on the Titanic, but we think it’s the ark
Sharks in the water got me thinking ’bout a movie quote
Yeah, we’re gonna need (we’re gonna need)
A bigger boat (a bigger boat)

I like the way Kaitlyn Raitz’ cello is the lead instrument.

“Can We Be Strangers” feels like a classic old country ballad with a clever country lyrical twist

We struck out as lovers
We struck out as friends
Is it too much to ask
Can we be strangers Again?

There’s some very nice harmonies here from Vanessa and Cy Winstanley (whom she just met today) who plays a simple solo at the end of the song.

She says that she was only going to do songs from the new record but “I can’t think of a show in the last six years that I haven’t done this song.”  She says “Hold My Hand” is her absolute favorite.

“I keep saying thank you, because we’re used to playing live, it’s kind of weird,” she says after a particularly poignant rendition of her fan-favorite “Hold My Hand.” “I hope everybody’s clapping in their living room.”

She has a poignant but amusing introduction to the last song, “Who You Thought I Was”

She was at Americana awards and John Prine came out to introduce Iris Dement and there as lengthy ovation for him. He said “Well, I’m John Prine, but I’d like to go back to who you thought I was.”

She wrote that down as she imagined every songwriter did that night and she went the next day and wrote the song first.

I don’t really care for the very Nashville verses, but I do like the chorus:

There’s a lot of things I used to wanna be ’til I met you
Now I wanna be honest
Now I wanna be better
Now I wanna be the me
I should’ve been when we were together
I wanna be at least almost close to worth your love
I want to be who
You thought I was

She’s a singer with great lyrics who I will never listen to because of the kind of music she makes.

[READ: September 23, 2020] “From the ‘London Times’ of 1904”

During the COVID Quarantine, venerable publisher Hingston & Olsen created, under the editorship of Rebecca Romney a gorgeous box of 12 stories.  It has a die-cut opening to allow the top book’s central image to show through (each book’s center is different).  Get a copy here.

This is a collection of science fiction stories written from 1836 to 1998.  Each story imagines the future–some further into the future than others.

As it says on the back of the box

Their future.  Our present.  From social reforms to climate change, video chat to the new face of fascism, Projections is a collection of12 sci-fi stories that anticipated life in the present day.

This story is from Mark Twain. He wrote it in 1898 and it is set in1904.

“Printed” on April 1, 1904, this correspondence from the ‘London Times,’ Chicago was written by the reporter Mark Twain.

He writes to keep us updated about the extraordinary event that has the whole globe talking. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  DAN MANGAN + BLACKSMITH-Live at Massey Hall (February 28, 2015).

I know Dan Mangan from a Tiny Desk Concert.  I also had an opportunity to see him opening for Stars a month or so ago, but I couldn’t make the show.  I was bummed about that and am even more so after seeing how great Mangan is live with a full band.

He says his family flew in from Vancouver because Massey is like Canada’s Carnegie Hall.  Or should I say, Carnegie Hall is like America’s Massey Hall.

Then his bandmate says: Charlie Parker played here.  That’s ridiculous!
Neil Young played here.  That’s ridiculous!
We’re gonna play here.  That’s ridiculous!

Wilco played here; Arcade Fire; Joni Mitchell; Peabo Bryson (you know what I’m getting at–Peebs!); James Taylor; Dizzy Gillespie.

Massey Hall is from the days before there were mega rock concerts–when things sounded better.  The soul of that has been lost.  Music was made about the art and the music and not about being in the same room as someone famous.  There’s something about that soul of rock n roll has been lost.

“Mouthpiece” is a dark acoustic but fast, shuffling song.  It builds rather quickly to a noisy rock–which Mangan specialized at with some great drumming from Kenton Loewen.

“Vessel” opens with some screeching feedback and cool staccato piano riff.  Mangan’s deep voice works perfectly with this spare musical landscape.  The backing singer singing “it takes a village to raise a fool” works perfectly as the keys and trumpet build behind them.  I love how every few lines some other new piece of music is added, like the wailing guitar solo that runs through to the end.

“Rows of Houses” has a great building backing vocal section.  I love the quiet intensity of this song before it ratchets up to a loud stomper.  There’s s long noisy jam with trumpet (JP Carter) and keys (Tyson Naylor) blaring and a wild raucous bass (John Walsh) and a crazed guitar solo which ends with Gordon Grdina hammering the back of the guitar neck creating a wall of feedback and distribution

“New Skies” opens slow, but after a verse the band kicks in and it, too, rocks.

He says he needs everyone to sing the “oooohs” and he’s pleased with everyone’s response.  He sings some verses and then band starts singing the ooohs and he says “I forgot to tell you that’s where you come in.”

As the song moves along, there’s mostly a keyboard solo but then Grdina comes in with a pretty wild, sloppy but emotive solo.  Then Dan takes the mic and gets the crowd to sing along.  He exhorts: “When people stand they tend to breathe and sing little louder.

It works and it’s a great set ender.

He (and they) puts on a great show.

[READ: February 5, 2018] “The Burglary at Stormfield”

This excerpt is from a previously unpublished section of his autobiography.  When he died in 1910, he requested that his autobiography not be published for 100 years.

This excerpt is about his house outside of New York City.  He says he named it Innocence at Home but his daughter, Clara, called it Stormfield–“it is high and lonely and exposed to all the winds that blow.”  He concedes hers is a better name.

He got the money to build the house “out of a small manuscript which had lain in my pigeonholes forty-ones years, and which I sold to Harper’s Magazine.  The article was entitled Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven.”

The focus of this essay though is burglaries.  He says that Stormfield has been broken into many times and he is surprised that the New York architect should have overlooked adding a burglar alarm to the building.  New York City is only an hour and a half away…”it contains millions of people, and most of them are burglars.” (more…)

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1978SOUNDTRACK: LAND LINES-Tiny Desk Concert #494 (December 11, 2015).

landLand Lines are a trio from Denver.  They have a drummer, a synth player and a cellist/lead singer.  Although their music is pretty spare and simple, I find them really compelling.

On “Wreckage,” Martina Grbac plays the cello with her fingers, strumming chords on the neck of the instruments in a way I’ve not seen anyone play before.   Grbac sings quietly and her voice–echoing and effects-laden–reminds me of someone from the 1990s, although I can’t exactly pinpoint it (maybe a Cocteau Twins vibe?  but not quite). James Han plays really interesting chords and textures on the keyboard.  Sometimes he adds melody lines, and other times, like at the end of this song, growing washes of sounds.  Ross Harada’s percussion is also fun for the complex and different sounds he adds to the songs.

“Anniversary” has a similar vibe withe that cello chord playing.  The opening keys play simple echoing notes which add a nice atmosphere to the acoustic chords and percussion.

For the final song, “Fall or Fall,” Grbac plays a rapidly bowed cello (which has such a different sound than the other songs).  The bass is provided by the synth (a good sounding bass).   I love the way her voice contrasts the keyboard chords.  The chord progressions throughout the song are interesting and I really like the unexpected sounds that close out the song.

I’d never heard of Land Lines, but I liked this show enough to listen to it a bunch of times.  I’ll have to check out their other songs as well.

[READ: July 9, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1977-1978

I feel like this era is when I would have read Peanuts the most, although I have no recollection of any of these strips.

The covers of the books don’t necessarily depict who will be prominent in the collection, but Peppermint Patty on the front does equal a lot of Patty inside.  While Peppermint Patty continues to do very poorly in school, she does get some witty remarks like “What was the author’s purpose in writing this story?  Maybe he needed the money.”

We see a return of Truffles in January which also introduces Sally calling Linus her Sweet Babboo for the first time.  “I’m not your Sweet Babboo!”  Truffles is very excited to see Linus and vice versa but it kind of ends with unanswered questions because, in one of the first times this surreal gag was introduced, Snoopy flies in as a helicopter–a joke used many more times in the future–to sort of interrupt the whole saga.

Snoopy also pretends to be the Cheshire Cat a few times.

It has been a while since Linus has built anything outstanding (something he used to do a lot as a precocious child).  Well, in Feb 1977 he builds a snowman of Washington crossing the Delaware (to show up Lucy’s George Washington snowman with a little sword). (more…)

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may20014SOUNDTRACK: EXHAUST-Exhaust [CST004] (1998).

exhaustExhaust’s self titled album was another early release from Constellation (disc number 4).  At this point Godspeed You Black Emperor had not defined the label’s sound yet (correctly or incorrectly), so we get Exhaust.  Aidan, who is 1-Speed Bike, which did not have very good drums, is the drummer for Exhaust.  And man, the drums are awesome here.  The drums are again, loud, and they have a great live feel to them–the beats are funky and different and while they anchor what’s going on they in no way keep things settled.

The rest of the band includes a bass, a guitar, a bass clarinet and samples.  The samples just aren’t loud enough anywhere on the album.  It’s a shame–you simply can’t really hear them, which I guess is the point, but then what’s the point of having them?  So the first song, “A History of Guerrilla Warfare” is interesting (again, those drums!), but it’s in song two “Metro Mile End” when that bass clarinet comes out that it totally rules. The third song “Homemade Maggot Beer” is a 20 second hardcore song with just drums and feedback.  Song 4 “We Support Iran in Their Bid to Win the 1998 World Cup” is a remix by 1-Speed Bike, and after listening to the full length 1-Speed Bike, it sounds like it– a little dull, a little slow and nowhere near as dynamic as the album.  And it has such a good title too.

“Two Years On Welfare” has louder samples–you can hear a kind of political rant going on, but it seems like it could have been used better.  But around 1;30 the sounds get really interesting.  Track six, “This Is Our (Borrowed) Equipment” is another 1-Speed Bike remix, and it is mostly drums again.  “Wool Fever” makes good use of harmonics and drums although it goes on a bit too long.  The 8th song, “A Medley Of Late Night Buffet Commercials” is the final 1-Speed Bike remix.  Unlike the others I really like this one.  True, I wish the song was more akin to what the title says, but the drums are funky and hammering and sound great.  “Winterlude” is 40 seconds of squealing radio sounds before the final track reintroduces us to that great clarinet.  “The Black Horns Of H2T” reminds us how good this album can sound.

So it’s a mixed bag, but the highs are definitely high.

[READ: April 14, 2014] “Humor”

This article appeared in the December 1958 issue of Harper’s magazine.  Mark Twain made over 100 contributions to the magazine (geez).  I have often thought that Twain is an author I need to read more of.  But when I hear he has contributed over 100 articles to Harper’s alone, my mind reels at the output.

Anyhow, this is an article about repetition in the art of humor.  Interestingly, he relates a story that happened forty years before writing this.  So the occasions of the joke he tells was in 1918!  Woah.

The article talks about the first and second lectures that he ever gave.  The first was a success but he was concerned about the second as he had very little in the way of humor to warm up the audience.  He decided to make use of an anecdote that everyone in San Francisco had heard many times and were undoubtedly sick of.  It had been overdone as long as five years ago.  But he decided that he would simply tells the very overdone story over and over until people started to laugh (the precursor of Saturday Night Live, obviously). (more…)

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momentSOUNDTRACK: NICK BUZZ-Circo (1996).

nickbuzzNick Buzz is a side project of Rheostatics singer/lead guitarist Martin Tielli.  This album was reissued in 2002, when I bought it  But it came out in 1996, right around the time of the concerts I’ve been posting about.  Martin says that this album is pure pop, and that he is genuinely surprised that people don’t see this.  Of course, when your album has screeching monkeys, cars honking and circus music, pop is not the first thing that comes to mind.  There are certainly pretty songs on here, but it is an album that resists easy entrance.  There are short manic pieces, slow, languorous, almost lounge music pieces, and an improved cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River.” And then there’s the instrumentation: piano, violin, guitar, voice (no drums, although there is percussion on some tracks) and other weird sound effects.

“Step Inside” opens the disc.  It seems like a normal, mellow song (with slightly falsettoed vocals).  But 34 seconds in the circus music starts—a deviant and unsettling circus that pushes its way into the song briefly then vacating and allowing the pretty melody to return.  It’s like a mild form of Mr Bungle (with more actual circus).  It’s unsettling at first but then strangely catchy after a few listens.  There is fanfare as the song ends, interrupted by the sound of a tape speeding up (or going backwards) until song two bursts in.

“That’s What You et for having Fun” is less than three minutes and while weird, it is certainly accessible and funny.  The guitar sounds like he is slapping the strings rather than strumming them.  The refrain of “there’s a monkey in my underwear” gives a sense of the absurdity (especially when the President of Canada (sic) says he has one too).  “Just Because” mellows things out a lot—simple guitar with a kind of lullaby feel (it’s a bout wishing on stars).  It’s so slow after the craziness of the first two songs.  After  3 minutes of a lounge type song, it ends with a distant radio sound of an even more loungey song which melds into the live version of “River.”

The mellow “River” is followed by a raucous bass clarinet solo and wild guitar solo that is interrupted by the long (nearly 6 minutes) “Sane, So Sane.”  This is the most conventional song on the record—a simple piano melody with repeated lyrics (conventional aside from the weird distant music in the background of course).  Although it does gone on a bit long.  “A Hymn to the Situation” is an eerie two-minute wobbly song.

“Fornica Tango” is indeed a tango presumably sung in Italian. This song features a crying baby, an interesting sounding “Italian” chorus and the screeching monkey at the end.  “Love Streams” is a pretty, slow ballad.  “Aliens Break a Heart” is another pretty song.  Although this is the song that ends with traffic sounds.  “The Italian Singer/Just Because I’m Nick the Buzz” has a kind of Kurt Weill atmosphere to it with spoken words and falsettos.

It took me several listens before I could really find purchase with these songs.  I find that I really enjoy most of them now–some of those slow ones are a little too meandering for my liking.  But it seems like a fun outlet for Tielli’s songcraft.

[READ: October & November 2013] A Moment in the Sun

I read this book last year…finished it just before Thanksgiving, in fact (I was proud of my pacing).  But it was so huge that I didn’t want to write about it until I had a good amount of time.  And now here it is four months later and I probably have forgotten more details than I should have and the post will be nowhere near as in depth as I was saving time for in the first place.  Bah.

When people see this book, they say, “That’s a big book.”  And it is a big book.  It’s 955 pages (and they are thick pages, so the book itself is nearly three inches thick–see the bottom of this post for an “actual size” photo); it’s got three “books” and dozens of characters whose stories we read about in full.  It is about the United States, racism, The Gold Rush, the assassination of a President, the Spanish American War, a World’s Fair and even the exploration of moving pictures.  This is a fairly comprehensive look at the Unites States from the 1890s to the early 1900s.  And, man was it good.

John Sayles is known more for his movies than his books (18 films directed, nearly as many different ones written and only 4 novels), but the cinematic quality that is clearly in his blood comes through in this book as well. (more…)

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braindeadSOUNDTRACK: JIM WHITE-Tiny Desk Concert #8 (November 7, 2008).

jim whiteI didn’t know who Jim White was before this Tiny Desk Concert.  And I’m still not entirely sure who is he.  But he’s a gifted songwriter and storyteller.

Bob explains how he and Jim tried to work together for All Songs Considered, but that every time Bob asked Jim to do a 3 minute piece, he’d hand in a 15 minute piece.  And then somehow Jim would edit it into a 17 minute piece.  Jim admits that anything can set him off on a tangent (most of which are thoroughly engaging).  He also says that he writes songs not a bout “you” but about “me.”

So with him and a drum machine, he sings some really pretty songs.  “Jailbird” is a slow ballad that is quite beautiful.  I enjoyed that he played his harmonica solo without playing the guitar at the same time (I don’t know if the guitar was prerecorded or looped, I think prerecorded).

Then he gives a funny story about working with the guitarist for P.M. Dawn.  “Turquoise House” is a boppy little number about not fitting in.  It’s a wonderful song.  “Stranger Candy” is a darker song (full of lessons).  He says that it took him several tries to get the music right for this one.

There’s a fascinating story about a gift that Jim sent to Bob.  The story goes on about a racist incident in which his daughter rises above racism.

“Somewhere in the World” is a gentle ballad about finding the person you are waiting for.  I like it (except for that falsetto note at the end).  Then he talks about how for his old songs (like the previous one) he was kind of bummed.  But he has grown up and is happier.  And that has made his songwriting much more difficult.

The final song is called “A Town Called Amen.”  It’s another boppy little song, charming and sweet.  And Jim White seems about the sweetest, nicest musician in the world.

I came away from this Tiny Desk Concert really enjoying Jim White and wanting to hear more from him.

[READ: December 15, 2013] The Braindead Megaphone

This is Saunders’ first collection of essays and non-fiction.  At some point, I stated that I thought I would enjoy his non-fiction more than his fiction.  That is both true and not. I enjoyed his “reporting” essays (from GQ) quite a lot.  But I found his shorter, sillier pieces to be a but too much.  Nevertheless, he is an inquisitive reporter, looking for truth and traveling far and wide to find it (even braving the depths of FOX news). It’s a good collection and only slightly dated.

The Braindead Megaphone
This essay seemed a bit like a blunt instrument hitting a soft object.  Although 2007 is seven years ago, I feel like the subjects (dumb newscasters) were pretty soft even then.  However, it’s entirely possible that people who were apolitical or just simply not that interested in what obnoxious outlets like FOX were doing may not have been entirely aware that the Braindead Megaphone (ie. all news outlets) were not doing us any favors with their spouting of nonsense and being incurious about where stories are really news worthy or even accurate.  I imagine this is mostly just preaching to the converted.  I was a little worried that the whole book would be just as unsubtle, but that proved to be a foundless worry.  This is not to say that I didn’t agree with everything he said in this essay.  He was spot on.  And often he was pretty funny too. (more…)

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PalmSundayFrontandBackSOUNDTRACK: THE STATLER BROTHERS-“Class of ’57” (1972).

stalerI don’t know much about The Statler Brothers.  They are considered country, although this song is hardly country–it’s more folk with some bluegrass and, the real selling point–great harmonies (especially the bass singer with the big mustache).

The song is a wonderful coming of age song, sad and funny with a list of what happened to everyone in the class of ’57.  Like:

Betty runs a trailer park, Jan sells Tupperware,
Randy’s on an insane ward, Mary’s on welfare.
Charlie took a job with Ford, Joe took Freddie’s wife,
Charlotte took a millionaire, and Freddie took his life.

John is big in cattle, Ray is deep in debt,
Where Mavis finally wound up is anybody’s bet.

But the kicker comes at the chorus:

And the class of ’57 had its dreams,
Oh, we all thought we’d change the world with our great words and deeds.
Or maybe we just thought the world would change to fit our needs,
The class of ’57 had its dreams.

And then at the end:

And the class of ’57 had its dreams,
But living life from day to day is never like it seems.
Things get complicated when you get past eighteen,
But the class of ’57 had its dreams.

Vonnegut quotes the entirety of this song in the book and I’m glad he did, it’s a very moving song and really captures American life.

[READ: May 26, 2013] Palm Sunday

After writing several successful novels, Vonnegut paused to collect his thoughts.  And Palm Sunday begins: “This is a very great book by an American genius.”  It is also a “marvelous new literary form which combines the tidal power of a major novel with the bone-rattling immediacy of front-line journalism.”  After all the self praise, he decides that this collage–a collection of essays and speeches as well as a short story and a play which is all tied together with new pieces (in TV they would call this a clip show)–this new idea of a book should have a new name and he chooses: blivit (during his adolescence, this word was defined as “two pounds of shit in a one-pound bag.”  He proposes that all books combining facts and fiction be called blivits (which would even lead to a new category on the best seller list).  Until then, this great book should go on both lists.

This book is a collection of all manner of speeches and essays, but they are not arranged chronologically.  rather they are given a kind of narrative context.  What’s nice is that the table of contents lists what each of the items in the book is (or more specifically, what each small piece is when gathered under a certain topic).

Chapter 1 is The First Amendment in which he talks about Slaughterhouse Five being burned and how outraged he was by that–especially since the people so anxious to burn it hadn’t even read it (and the only “bad” thing is the word motherfucker).  The first speeches included are “Dear Mr. McCarthy” to the head of the school board where his books were burned and “Un-American Nonsense” an essay for the New York Times about his book being banned in New York State.  The next two are “God’s Law” for an A.C.L.U. fund raiser–it includes his confusion as to why people don’t support the A.C.L.U. which is working for all of our own civil liberties. (more…)

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stringer SOUNDTRACK: HAIM-“Falling” (Live at SXSW, March 17, 2013).

haim

Haim are three sisters and a drummer.  The sisters play guitar and sing, play bass and percussion and play keyboards.  And yes, they look a lot alike (an a lot like Alanis Morrissette).  But they sound very classic rock–kind of like Heart, with a more modern, noisy twist.

I didn’t really care much for the sound of this song–it seems kind of anemic to me.  The sisters are all quite talented and when the lead singer/guitarist started wailing they were really good.  But the overall feel of the song seemed more high school than rock show–like they couldn’t get the mix right, like the keyboards (which were little bopping notes, rather than waves of music) were the main force behind the song–which I don’t think is true.

Maybe they’d sound better on record, or if they had a better mix on stage.

[READ: March 26, 2013] Like Shaking Hands with God

I had been reading a lot of Vonnegut, but I got a little burnt out by him.  However, when I was checking his bibliography all those months ago, I found that Princeton University had a book that I couldn’t find anywhere else.  Well, given my new employment situation, it was time to take advantage of that connection.  So I went to the Firestone library and grabbed this book (and a few others that I didn’t see elsewhere).

It’s a lot of fuss over an 80 page book, but I’m glad I read it and it did get me back in the mood to read more Vonnegut (I have five books of his left to read, although I believe more posthumous stuff seems to come out all the time).

This book is essentially a transcription of two conversations that Vonnegut had (one public and one private) with the author Lee Stringer and the moderator Ross Klavan.  The first conversation occurred on October 1, 1998 at a bookstore in Manhattan.  The second was a private affair in January 1999  (which was of course, recorded), in which they followed up on some of the same ideas.

Stringer had written one book (Grand Central Winter) when the first conversation took place (he has written two more since).  Stringer says he always admired Vonnegut and Vonnegut talks about how much he liked Grand Central Winter (which Vonnegut wrote a forward to).  GCW is nothing like Vonnegut’s books, it is a serious book about being homeless (Stringer himself was homeless for a long time) and it is real and gritty.  It sounds good, although maybe a little too gritty and real for me. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH-“Dumb” (1988).

About five years ago I mentioned all of The Beautiful South records in one post.  But I didn’t really talk about them all that much.

This comes from one of my favorite Beautiful South records–I like all the songs equally, but I often have this song in my head.  And the reason I picked it right now is because Paul Heaton sings about a bunch of things each one ending with “either you are simply beautiful or I am simply dumb.”

And these are: “It doesn’t take a mathematician to add a simple sum”; “It doesn’t take a labrador to show a blind man sun”; and this one: “It doesn’t take Robert The Bruce to see the web you’ve spun.”

I had no idea who Robert the Bruce was and I never bothered to look it up.  And yet, as you will see below in the post, Robert the Bruce is mentioned in JR!  I was flabbergasted.  And this song immediately popped into my head.

And that’s not a bad thing.  It’s a pretty piano ballad with a seemingly negative chorus (dumb, dumb, dumb) despite its positive message.  There’s also a beautiful ending: “The sun, the sky, the moon, the stars/Jupiter, Neptune and Mars/All these things I clearly see/It don’t take a telescope for you to love me.”  The songs ends with Jacqui Abbot’s lovely echo of this stanza.

The Beautiful South were a great band, they broke up a few years ago.  Paul Heaton has a number of solo albums out but they’re not available in the states, so…

[READ: Week of August 6, 2012] JR Week 8

This week’s read finds us primarily in the apartment.  We see bast return home and fool around with Rhoda before he goes off on his trip to the funeral.  We see Gibbs come in and try (in vain) to get work done.  We actually get to see Gibbs’ magnum opus (or parts of it), and we see him fall off the high that he felt with Emily.

There’s a lot of funny stuff in this week’s read.  It seems like the darker the story gets, the more childish jokes Gaddis throws in there.  Seeing Gibbs unable to work on his manuscript because of all of the (real and fake) distractions is simultaneously hilarious and spot on.  And also, the plotlines are really revving up now.  JR Corp is starting to see some pushback on their deals, and a number of outsiders are starting to get angry.  There’s bound to be a collapse of some sort soon.  I’m also starting to think that with all of the ellipses in the book that it will end with a dot dot dot.

As we resume, Davidoff and Bast are still talking.  Davidoff tells Bast “Don’t worry about” something [Thanks to Simon for pointing out this expression–I recognized that Davidoff always says “brush fires,” but not the don’t worry about it].  He is concerned that Bast’s hearing aid isn’t turned up (ha), but that the Boss [JR] wants Bast’s signature on any expenditures over $2,000 (It was originally $200, but Davidoff said Bast would get writer’s cramp).  He explains the title change in the magazine from Her to She–passive to active readership–will cost $14,000.  There’s also $27,000 for a new logo.  And the logos are awesomely cheesy–hard to believe they paid $27,000 for them.  They revolve around the dollar sign, with the least offensive one making a J and R out of the top and bottom of the S–the others have a snake, or breasts or thumbing your nose or even someone behind bars.  They pick the least offensive one that says Just Rite in a dollar sign (“something patriotic about the dollar sign”).  They’re going to put them on half a million matchbooks. (more…)

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