Archive for the ‘Plato’ Category

harpers-magazine-march-2017-4SOUNDTRACK: GALLANT-Tiny Desk Concert #595 (January 30, 2017).

Despite the impressive cred, I had never heard of Gallant.  I mean, check out these bona-fides:

When Christopher Gallant was featured in Forbes‘ 30 Under 30 list, the testimonial came from none other than Elton John, who said, “When I hear his voice, I just lose it.” The two even performed Gallant’s song “Weight In Gold” together back in September.

Gallant performed a stripped-down version of that hit when he came to the Tiny Desk earlier this month, and preceded it with another of his best-known songs, “Skipping Stones.” Written with Jhené Aiko, that tune radiates sultry intensity and passion; here, the talented Dani Ivory (who’s performed as a touring member of Imagine Dragons) sits in for Aiko.

Ology, Gallant’s 2016 debut, is up for a Grammy — for Best Urban Contemporary Album [it lost to Lemonade] — and another of its falsetto-driven highlights opens this three-song set. On the record, “Bourbon” is produced with a funky, old-school, Prince-like drum track, but here, a steady drum beat grounds the hypnotic song just as well, if not better. Best of all, “Bourbon” gets a welcome bonus at the Tiny Desk: a guest rap by Saba, a charismatic rising star and frequent Chance The Rapper collaborator.

The musicians for this set are: Gallant (vocals); Wes Switzer (bass); Dani Ivory (keys, vocals); Dylan Jones (guitar); A.J. Novak (percussion); featuring guest rapper Saba in “Bourbon.

I don’t really like R&B all that much, but I can certainly appreciate a great voice and man does Gallant have one.  On “Bourbon”his falsetto is really really impressive.  And Saba has an incredibly fast flow.  And on “Skipping Stones,” again, he has such an amazing falsetto.  I don’t know what the recorded version’s female singer sounds like, but while Dani Ivory does a fine job, she really can’t compete with him.  And on “Weight In Gold” he hits some amazing high notes with ease.

[READ: February 21, 2017] “Dona Nobis Pacem”    (means grant us peace)

This story has an epigram from Plato’s Republic in which someone asks Sophocles about his love life, if he can still make love to a woman.  Sophocles replies: “Shush man, I am very happy to have escaped from that–as happy as a slave who has escaped from an insane and heartless master.”

The title of the story “Dona Nobis Pacem” means “grant us peace.”

This story is written as an address from a sixty-two year old divorced professor of philosophy to a 58-year-old widowed member of the faculty.  They have known each other for many  years.  Her husband died two years ago and since then the two of them have holidayed togetehr a few times.  Their vacations have been primarily to Italy or the Alps or, as in the current vacation, to the Aegean shore of Turkey and the Greek Islands.

They often shared a room–their vacations were amicable and pleasant.

And then in Bergama, their hotel had but one bed. They reluctantly agreed to share the bed.  And that’s when things changed. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE KOPECKY FAMILY BAND-Tiny Desk Concert #131 (June 6, 2011).

I’d never heard of The Kopecky Family Band, but the write-up about them was pretty interesting, so I decided to give the Tiny Desk concert a listen.  The band (all 7 of them) play a great collective of music: two guitars (acoustic & electic) bass, cello, violin, drums and keyboard.  They play a sort of traditional folk with a very full sound.

Indeed, they remind me an awful lot of The Head and the Heart (the singer’s voice in particular), although they are from different edges of the continent and have been playing music about as long as each other (indeed, The Kopecky Family Band released an EP in 2008 whereas Head and the Heart formed in 2009).

And the Kopecky website offers lots of free music (which is very cool).

“Howlin’ at the Moon” is a full acoustic sounding track.  “Birds” has a simply gorgeous whistle/xylophone melody that is as beautiful as it is catchy.  “Disaster” is a tender ballad with wonderful harmonies.  And “Red Devil” is a somewhat more rocking song, which really helps to demonstrate the bands’ diversity.

And the band is charming.  Keyboardist/singer Kelsey admits to having left a trinket of some kind of the office bookshelves (which are littered with things).  It’s a wonderful set, and because of it, I downloaded the band’s first EP from their site.

[READ: June 5, 2011] Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love

Shaffer was signing books at BEA this year.  My coworker told me that he was very funny and that he signed her book in an amusing way.  He happened to be signing at the table next to the line I was on. Sadly, he finished before I was able to get to him.  But I was pretty close to the beginning of the line, so I asked if I could grab a copy of his book, which I did (although no autograph for me).

This is a silly book of nonfiction.  It looks at thirty-seven philosopher or thinkers and their utter failure at love.  Each man (and occasional woman) has had some distinguishing characteristic that made them pretty lousy in the emotional range.

The title of the book is funny and is meant to be kind of surprising: these smart folks were terrible at love.  Of course, spending a minute or two thinking about who these people were and what they did, it’s not surprising that they were lousy at love.  These were intellectuals, people who spend most of their time in their own mind.  Of course they couldn’t have a serious relationship.

Nevertheless, these stories are all more or less amusing (Louis Althusser accidentally strangled his wife to death(!) which isn’t amusing per se, but the story of it is, kind of).  Shaffer does a great job at keeping each entry brief but really retaining the salient points of the thinker’s philosophy and a cogent example of his or her lousiness at love.  He also throws in some amusingly snarky comments of his own as he goes along.

I was delighted that the book order was done alphabetically rather than chronologically.  A chronological list would have been a little too samey in terms of each person’s context.  The alphabetical list allows for jumping around from say Plato to Ayn Rand which keeps the stories interesting and fresh.

At the end of each person’s piece, there’s an “In His Own Words” which offers a quote that details his or her written philosophy regarding love.

Dare I say that this is an ideal bathroom book?   It certainly is. And it makes you feel a little better about yourself (if you haven’t for instance, adopted your mistress as your daughter (Sartre)).

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hootThis is the second full length from The Replacements.  For a band that just released two punk albums (one’s an EP), naming your new one Hootenanny is pretty ballsy.  As is the fact that the first track sounds like, well, a hootenanny (even if it is making fun of hootenannies.)

However, the rest of the album doesn’t sound like hootenannies at all.  In fact, the rest of the album is all over the place.  I don’t want to read into album covers too much, but the design has all 16 titles in separate boxes in different colors.  It suggests a little bit of stylistic diversity inside.

Just see for yourself:  “Run It” is a one minute blast of some of the punkiest stuff they’ve done. (It’s about running a red light).  Meanwhile, “Color Me Impressed” marks the second great alt-rock anthem (after “Go”) that Westerberg has put on record.  “Willpower” is a sort of spooky ambient meandering piece that, at over 4 minutes is their longest piece yet.  “Take Me to The Hospital” is a punky/sloppy guitar song.  “Mr Whirly” is sort of an update of the Beatles’ “Oh Darlin.'”  “Within Your Reach” is technically the longest Replacements song to date.  It starts with a cool flangy guitar sound that swirls around a fairly mellow vocal track (this song was featured in the end of Say Anything.  John Cusack cranks the song up past the red line).  “Buck Hill” is an (almost) instrumental.  “Lovelines” is a spoken word reading of personals ads over a bluesy backing track.  “You Lose” is the first song that sounds like another one…a sort of hardcore song.  “Hayday” is a fast rocker like their first album.  And it ends with “Treatment Bound” a sloppy acoustic number that sounds like it was recorded in a tin can.

As you can see, this album is all over the place, and almost every song sounds like they may not make it through to the end.  Yet, despite all of the genres represented, the band sounds cohesive.  The disc just sounds like a band playing all the kinds of music that they like, and the fact that there are a couple of really lasting songs on the disc makes it sound like more than just a bar band.

I feel as though not too many people even know of this disc (it was the last one I bought by them, as I couldn’t find it for the longest time).  But in reading reviews, I see that people seem to really love this disc.  I enjoyed it, and, like other ‘Mats discs, it’s certainly fun, but I don’t listen to it all that often.

[READ: June 9, 2009] McSweeney’s #31

The latest issue of McSweeney’s has a totally new concept (for this journal, anyhow):  They resurrect old, defunct writing styles and ask contemporary writers to try their hands at them. I had heard of only two of these defunct styles, so it was interesting to see how many forms of writing there were that had, more or less, disappeared.

Physically, the issue looks like a high school yearbook.  It’s that same shape, with the gilded cover and the name of the (school) on the spine.

Attached to the inside back cover is McSweeney’s Summertime Sampler. As far as I know this is the first time they have included a sampler of multiple upcoming works.  There are three books sampled in the booklet: Bill Cotter’s Fever Chart; Jessica Anthony’s The Convalescent & James Hannaham’s God Says No. I enjoyed all three of the pieces.  Fever Chart has stayed with me the most so far.  I can still feel how cold that apartment was.  The Convalescent begin a little slow, but I was hooked by the end of the excerpt. And God Says No has me very uncomfortable; I’m looking forward to finishing that one.

As for #31 itself:

The Fugitive Genres Recaptured (or Old Forms Unearthed) include: pantoums, biji, whore dialogues, Graustarkian romances, nivolas, senryū, Socratic dialogues, consuetudinaries, and legendary sagas.  Each genre has an excerpt of an original writing in that style.  Following the sample is the modern take on it.  And, in the margins are notes in red giving context for what the author is doing.  I assume these notes are written by the author of the piece, but it doesn’t say.

I’m going to give a brief synopsis of the genre, but I’m not going to critique either the old piece or whether the new piece fits into the genre exactly (suffice it to say that they all do their job very well). (more…)

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