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Archive for the ‘San Francisco, CA’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: January 26, 2022] Fixer

I saw this book at work and was attracted by the cover (obviously San Francisco) and that it was about a tech startup company (sort of).

The book is set up with each chapter being about one of the five main characters.

Meghan is a single woman whose life has been one of upheaval.  As we meet her, she has just gotten laid off (with about one third of the firm) of a tech company that has had to resize itself.  She’s not even sure why she works in marketing–she has no real sense of self and would love to be an artist.  But she doesn’t dare risk things for that.  She has also just had a very good date with Diego Garcia.

Diego (Digs) is techie guy with great ideas.  He has been working in the tech field for many years and has brought some of his good college friends to work with his at Del Oro, a startup tech firm with one of the hottest apps out right now.

Kari (he is Norwegian) is Diego’s college friend.  They have been close as anything for many years.  Kari (and his father especially) have very high expectations for Kari. Kari is the more business minded side of Diego–he knows about money and how to get it.  He is passionate about very few things.  One is success.  The other is Kari.

Kira (the similar names are cute, rather than cloying, I think) is his girlfriend of many years.  She is possibly more driven than he is.  She is very successful and expects the best from everyone.  She has known Kari and Diego since college.  She likes Diego but gets a little tired of him.  When Diego starts dating Meghan, she finds her unbearably boring.

The last of their college friends is Ravi.  Ravi is gay, but he has not (and could never) come out to his strict Indian parents (who are back in India).  They would love for him to come home, but he has made a life for himself here. He is actually just about to get married to a woman.  She is his best friend (they’ve known each other forever) and she is a lesbian.  She also needs help with her visa to stay in the country. It solves everything.  Even their serious significant others are on board.  Ravi is very close to Kari as well.  His boyfriend is serious and they imagine settling down someday is gay marriage is ever legalized. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: U.K. SUBS-Another Kind of Blues (1978).

In this essay, Rebecca Kushner mentions a bunch of punk band members that she either knew or hung out with.  I was amazed at how many of them I’d heard of but didn’t really know.  So this seemed like a good opportunity to go punk surfing.

U.K. Subs are a punk band that I’ve heard of but really knew nothing about.  A little research tells me that they have been active all of these years–their latest release was in 2019.  That’s some serious staying power.  According to Wikipedia, there have been about 75 members of the band over the years.

This first album is a pretty fascinating listen.  Most of the seventeen songs are under two minutes long, but they’re not blisteringly fast or anything.  The songs are more or less blues based (as the title indicates) but faster and grittier

This is definitely a punk album.  But they follow a lot of rock song conventions.  Indeed, “I Live in a Car” is a minute and a half long but it’s got verses a chorus and two guitar solos.  “I Couldn’t Be You” even has a harmonica solo.

But songs like “Tomorrow’s Girls” offer good old punk chanting choruses.  And “World War” which is all of a minute and twenty three seconds is actually over 20 seconds of explosion.

“Stranglehold” was a pretty big hit in England and it’s easy to see why.  It’s got an immediate riff, a three chord chorus that’s easy to sing along with and a bouncy bass line.  And it’s all of one minute and fifty-seven seconds.

Checking some of their other releases through the years, UK Subs definitely went through a metal phase in the 80s and 90s, but their 2016 album Zeizo has found the punk spirit again.  I think I like Zeizo better than their first.

[READ: February 2, 2021] “The Hard Crowd”

I’ve read a few things by Rachel Kushner, although I’ve never given any thought to her biography.  I never would have guessed that Kushner was part of a San Francisco pub scene when she was growing up (or that she is essentially my age).

This essay is about that time in her life.  When Jimmy Carter was president and he quoted Bob Dylan in his acceptance speech “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

She says that being born is an existential category of gaining experience and living intensely in the present.  Conversely, dying doesn’t have to be negative–the new stuff is over but you turn reflective you examine and tally–it is behind you but it continues to exists somewhere.

She says she’s been watching film footage found on Youtube shot in 1966 or 1967 from a car moving slowly along Market Street in San Francisco, where she grew up.  She assumes it is B roll from a film, because it is professional grade (she imagines it was for Steve McQueen’s Bullitt, but that’s not based on anything).

She worked at the Baskin Robbins making $2.85 an ahour.   The shop is now gone and she thinks it’s weird to be sentimental about a chain store, but when her mother took her to the IHOP years after she worked there, it all came flooding back–sights, smells.  Despite every one being identical, this one was hers. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SOCCER MOMMY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #1 (March 21, 2020).

Since the quarantine began, many many many musicians have been playing shows at home.  There are so many online home recordings that it is literally impossible to keep up with them.  I have watched a few, but not many.  I’m not sure how many of the online shows are going to be available for future watching, but at least these are saved for posterity.

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It’s the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

On Monday March 30, Sophie Allison, aka Soccer Mommy, was to perform a long awaited Tiny Desk concert at my desk. Now the world has changed, and with the coronavirus keeping us at a distance, we’re taking a break from filming Tiny Desks at the office for a while.

Sophie wanted to share her music and her thoughts with you. So we’re kicking off our Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts series with Soccer Mommy from her home in Nashville.

Soccer Mommy was supposed to play a show in Philly on March 31. I had a choice between this show and a show from Vagabon.  I wasn’t sure which one I wanted to go to.  Well, now I get this home concert instead.

This Home Concert (as most will be) is Sophie and her acoustic guitar.  Since I don’t really know (most of) the originals, I can’t compare them.

All three songs have catchy melodies.  It’s cool watching her hands up close to see he playing modifications to the chords in “Bloodstream” so it’s not as simple a melody as it seems.

Her voice is soft and high (although a little hard to hear in this mix).

“Circle the Drain” has been getting some airplay and I rather like it.  It reminds me of a Lemonheads song in style.  This acoustic version is nice, but I prefer the studio version (that extra guitar line is a nice touch).  She says it’s about being depressed and staying inside all day.  “I’m sure some of you can relate to that right now.”

Before the final song, “Royal Screw Up” she asks if anyone can guess what tuning she is going from and into.  My guess is that she is going into standard E tuning, although I’m not sure from what.

Most of her melodies remind me of the singers I liked in the 90s, and I think with a slightly better production I would have really enjoyed this set.  I might have to check out her album a little more closely.

[READ: April 1, 2020] The Customer is Always Wrong

I enjoyed, Mimi Pond’s first memoir(ish) book, Over Easy, but I grew tired of it by the end.  It was an look at late 1970s San Francisco and all of the low-level drug dealers and users who worked and ate at the restaurant where Madge was a waitress.

And yet, I came away from it with enough good vibes that I was interested in reading this second volume.  And this second volume had the heart and soul that I felt the first one lacked.

The story begins with some of Mimi’s past boyfriends (good boys whom her mother loved).  Then it moved on to bad boys who treated her like crap.  Finally, she meets Bryan, a nurse who treats her kindly–and the sex is amazing.

But the shine starts to wear off and a turd is slowly revealed–the way he breaks up and gets back together (he loves the drama), the way he watches the World Series at her house even though she doesn’t care about baseball (or own a TV–he brought his own).  Oh, and the way she finds out later that he lied about nearly everything.

The drug dealer characters from the first book are still there of course.  The most prominent one is Camille, a “straight looking” and pretty young woman who has hooked up with Neville, a real dirtbag (but one who tells great stories).  She has big dreams–they will sell a ton of coke, make a ton of money and go to Paris.  Of course that never happens.

And then there’s Lazlo.  Lazlo is the real main character of the story.  Even though it is Madge’s story, it all more or less revolves around Lazlo.  Lazlo runs the diner where Madge works and he is always around–wearing his cool hat, telling great stories (he is a poet).  It’s hard to remember that he is married.  Hard for him to remember too, apparently. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-“It’s Christmastime (Let’s Just Survive)” (2019).

I really like Kathleen Edwards and I was so delighted to hear that she was coming out of … semi-retirement?… this summer.  In the last few years, she has opened up her own coffee shop, in Stittsville, Ontario called Quitters Coffee [road trip?].

I couldn’t believe that she played XPN Fest on the year that we had tickets to the Newport Folk Festival.  I had hoped she’s play Newport as well, but sadly no.  She played two new songs and a few older ones and her voice sounds great (thanks YouTube).  In the spirit of coming back, she has released this wryly amusing Christmas song. Like many of her songs, there is a nice mix of humor and bite in this song–set to a very catchy melody.

With a slow lap steel guitar starting the song, she begins

It’s a wonderful time where we all descend to my parent’s house in the West End.  [Hope they subscribe to the West End Phoenix].

Then the song gets to the point:

Uncle Dave and Susan bring their feral cat / and homemade wine that tastes like crap.

There’s a few more examples of amusingly bad Christmas happenings.  One of my favorites is

Someone let the dog lick the gravy boat / and now the air in here unbearable

I also enjoyed this line, because it hits home:

You have a meltdown when we play scrabble / Its not my fault you’re only left with vowels.

Musically, the song is quite lovely.  There’s a pretty bridge where she sings lyrics that sound sweet until you listen closely, “tell me a story we’ve heard before and drag it out even more.”

And just when you think the song is only dark and cynical, the instrumental break adds a refrain of Kathleen quietly singing “meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow.”

I truly hope that this song gets played a lot during this and future holidays.  It may not make it to #1 like “All I Want for Christmas is You,” but it’s a lot more honest–and really catchy.

I’m so excited that Kathleen is back that I’m posting the video for the song right here!

I have also just learned that this song comes from a new Christmas album called A Dualtone Christmas. (although I don’t really like much else on it).

[READ: December 19, 2019] “Letter from San Francisco”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

This story is indeed a letter from San Francisco.

There are a few things redacted from it–the sender and the recipient’s names and two lines in the middle which are the details of their huge fight. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BAS-Tiny Desk Concert #875 (August 5, 2019).

I’ve never heard of Bas, but he performs a surprisingly upbeat-sounding set of songs for lyrics with so many curses.

Bas, the Paris-born, Queens-bred MC delivered an energetic and comical set.  Just like his lyrically impressive and sometimes dance-inducing Tiny Desk — peep his headbanging and seated sambas throughout — Bas always balances his bravado with a relatable sense of humility.

The four songs are from his third studio album, Milky Way.

“Barack Obama Special” starts with this fascinating lyric:
This one is dedicated to
My bitch ass neighbors, haha, yeah
‘Cause I’m living better now, better now
Bitch I’m living better now
Yeah
I had to move ’cause neighbors so racist

But he makes sure to clarify

“My new neighbor’s mad cool. So shout out to Peggy.  Peggy be picking up my mail when I’m on tour.  I don’t want her to watch and be like I thought you was such a nice young man.”

The song segued into “Purge” which starts with a simple but cool sounding guitar riff from Nathan Foley.  Sweet keys are sprinkled over the top.  Mereba and Justin Jackson provide gentle backing vocals.  Ron Gilmore adds some very cool bass lines from the keys throughout all the songs.

“Designer” has some cool off tempo synth lines and ends with a ripping distorted Prince-like guitar solo.

The song finishes with a bouncy instrumental section and Bas says, “I feel like I just won the whole circuit in Mario Kart.  Where’d you get that music from?  Don’t get me sued.  Nintendo coming for us.”

Ron Gilmore then plays a fun little circus music riff and Bas says, “Nintendo cut the check!”

Throughout the set, Johnathon Lee Lucas on drums is a lot of fun to watch as he’s got a whole array of drums and pads to play.

They are having so much fun they almost forget to play the last song “Tribe.”  This one ends with another nice instrumental jam which Bas says went on for much longer than they rehearsed–that was cool.

[READ: August 1, 2019] This Bridge Will Not Be Gray

Dave Eggers has written all kinds of books through his career.  This was his first children’s book (with cut-out art by Tucker Nichols).

Eggers is from San Francisco and he loves his home city.  This book is a love letter to the Golden Gate Bridge and the area that inspired it.

I honestly had no idea about any of the information in this book, so it was educational for me as well.

For instance, I did not realize that the passageway between the bay and the ocean was called The Golden Gate.  Thus, that’s why the Bridge is named that, not because it was supposed to be gold. (more…)

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