Archive for the ‘Dictionary’ Category


Despite a terrible name that would keep me away from wanting to see them, The Redneck Manifesto are a very interesting and complicated band.  I discovered them through the book of Irish drummers.  TRM drummer Mervyn Craig is in the book.

The How is the band’s fifth album (and first in eight years).  The album is chock full of instrumentals that touch all genres of music.

There are jazzy elements, dancey elements and rock elements.  There are solos (but never long solos) and jamming sections.  Most of the songs are around 4 minutes long with a couple running a little longer.

“Djin Chin” has jangly chords and quiet riffs that switch to a muted melody.  All the while the bass is loping around.  It shifts tempos three times in the first two minutes.  Around three minutes the bass takes over the lead instrument pushing the song along with deep notes.

“The Rainbow Men” has a circular kind of riff with swirling effects that launch the song during the musical pauses.  After a minute and a half it drastically shifts direction and the adds in a cool solo.

“Sip Don’t Gulp” starts with a catchy bouncy guitar riff and bass lines.  At two minutes it too shifts gears to a staggered riff that sounds great.

“Kobo” is the shortest song and seems to tell a melodic story.  The two guitars play short, fast rhythms as call and response while the bass rumbles along.

“Head Full of Gold” is over 6 minutes with a thumping bass, rumbling drums and soft synths.  “No One” is nearly 7 minutes and feels conventionally catchy until you try to keep up with the beats.  After a middle series of washes from various instruments, the back half is a synthy almost dancey rhythm.

“Sweep” is a pretty song until the half-way mark when it just takes off in a fury of fast drumming and complex chords.  The end builds in upward riding notes until it hits a calming ending

“We Pigment” is a poppy staccato dancey number.  The second half turns martial with a series of four beat drum patterns and a soaring guitar solo.  More staccato runs through to the end.  “The Underneath Sun” also has a lot of staccato–fast guitar notes interspersed with bigger chords.  The end of the song is just littered with sweeping guitar slides until the thumping conclusion.

This album is great and I’m looking forward to exploring their other releases.

[READ: January 10, 2021] A History of Ireland in 100 Words

This book looks at old Irish words–how they’ve evolved and how they show the way Irish history came about.  The authors say:

our store of words says something fundamental about us and how we think.  This book is meant to provide insights into moments of life that may be otherwise absent from history books.  The focus is on Gaelic Ireland throughout as Gaelic was the native language of the majority of the inhabitants of the island for the last 2000 years. It yielded its primacy to English only in the last 150 years.

We selected words with the aim of illustrating each of our themes as broadly as possible.  We wanted the words in all their richness to tell their story … like how the word that originally meant noble came to mean cheaper (saor).

Almost all of the entries reference The cattle raid of Cooley (The Ulster Cycle) which features the hero Cú Chulainn.  This story is at the heart of most of historical Ireland and it’s pretty fascinating how many of these Gaelic words either originate with that story or get their foundation from the story.

There’s a general pronunciation guide although I wish each word had a phonetic guide because anyone who speaks English will look at Irish a if it is just a jumble of nonsensical consonants.

The book is broken down into sections, although the authors insist that there is no correct way to read the book.

  • Writing and Literature
  • Technology and Science
  • Food and Feasting
  • The Body
  • Social Circles
  • Other Worlds
  • War and Politics
  • A Sense of Place
  • Coming and Going
  • Health and Happiness
  • Trade and Status
  • Entertainment and Sport
  • The Last Word

There are also delightfully weird wood carving-like drawings from by Joe McLaren scattered throughout the book.

The words are listed below with either a definition or an interesting anecdote included. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GOLDEN DAWN ARKESTRA-Tiny Desk Concert #761 (June 29, 2018).

They came marching in from off stage in robes and masks, with instruments and face paint, in more colors than have ever been in one place.

And they began the first song with a cacophony of keyboards and percussion before playing the discofied funk of “Children of the Sun.”

There’s horns from “Malika” (Sarah Malika Boudissa–Baritone Sax, Vocals), and “Zumbi” (Chris Richards–Trombone, Vocals) who set the melody going while the percussion from “Lost In Face” (Rob Kidd–Drums–who does indeed have a mask covering his face) and “Oso the Great” (Alex Marrero-Percussion) keeps things moving.

There’s a slowdown in the middle with just bass “Shabuki” (Greg Rhoades-Bass), and keys from the leader himself “Zapot Mgawi” (Topaz McGarrigle-Vocals, Organ, Synth).

Throughout the songs you can hear some wah wah guitar from “Yeshua Villon” (Josh Perdue-Guitar) and vibes–a persistent instrument which sounds otherworldly and perfect.  They come from “Isis of Devices” (Laura Scarborough-Vocals, Vibraphone).  Behind her, dancing throughout the song is “Rosietoes” (Christinah Rose Barnett-Vocals, Tambourine).

So what do we know about this band?

The blurb says:

It was a late night at an unfamiliar club in Austin, Texas when the spirit, sound, lights and costumes of the Golden Dawn Arkestra put a huge, dreamy smile on my face. It took more than three years to get ten of the players and performers in this band (there are often even more) to my desk. I tried to transform the bright daylight of the NPR office with some of my handy, previously used holiday laser lights. But honestly, it wasn’t until their psychedelic jazz kicked in that the office transformation felt real. Band leader, Topaz squawked through his megaphone to join them on their journey, while singing “Children of the Sun.”

Topaz told me that the band’s inspiration for both the name and the spirit of the musicians is loosely based on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The organization, devoted to the study of the occult and paranormal activities, has been around since the 19th century.

Both of Topaz’s parents were heavily into spiritual movements and what happens here falls somewhere between high art and a circus, with music that feels connected to Sun Ra’s jazz, the extended musical adventures of The Doors and the surprise elements of Parliament-Funkadelic. You can dance and/or trance, or sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

Before “The Wolf” he apologizes for an outbreak of cold on their planet.  But he wants to remind us that we are all human beings from the same planet and that we are all from stardust and vibrations. Together we can change the planet.

We would like there to be more light and love in the universe.  We must all stand together.  This is our fight song for that.

It moves quickly with the horns playing away and t he percussion flying.

The final song “Masakayli” opens with bongos from “Oso the Great” and clapping from everyone (including the audience).  The horn melody sounds a lot the theme from S.W.A.T. (there’s nothing wrong with that).  I feel like the guitar was kind of quiet through the other songs, but you can really hear “Yeshua Villon” on this one, especially the guitar solo.

This song ends with the jamming circus atmosphere that really takes off with a trippy keyboard solo from Topaz as “Rosietoes” plays with a light up hula hoop and “Zumbi” parades through the audience trying to get everyone hyped up.

It’s a tremendous spectacle and should bring a smile to your face.  Next time these guys are in town, I’m there.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “Always Another Word”

These are the same remarks that were included in Five Dials Issue Number 10.

But since it has been some time since I posted them and since I am being a completist here, and since it has been nine years since Infinite Summer, I’ll cover these four in somewhat more details

Michael Pietsch
speaks about being DFW’s editor. He says that Dave loved to communicate through letters and “the phone messages left on the office answering machine hours after everyone had departed.”  He says he loved Dave’s letters and tore into them hungrily.  He gives examples of some communiques about cuts and edits of Infinite Jest.

I cut this and have now come back an hour later and put it back

Michael, have mercy.  Pending and almost Horacianly persuasive rationale on your part, my canines are bared on this one.

He continues that David’s love affair with English was a great romance of our time.  How he was so excited to be selected to the American Heritage Dictionary‘s Usage panel. But that was surpassed by his own mother’s excitement about it,

Michael thinks he may have tried to use every word in the dictionary at least once.  When he, Michael, suggested a book that opened with the word “picric,” David’s instant response was “I already used that!.”

Zadie Smith
addresses the critics of BIWHM who thought the book was an ironic look at misogyny. She felt it was more like a gift.  And the result of two gifts.  A MacArthur Genius grant and a talent so great it confused people.  His literary preoccupation was the moment the ego disappears and you’re able offer your love as a gift without expectation of reward.

She says that she taught students to read BIWHM alongside Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.

The most impassioned recommendation he gave her was Brain Moore’s Catholics, a novella about a priest who is no longer capable of prayer. Don’t think of David as a God-botherer–think of it as ultimate value.

You get to decide what you worship, but nine time out of ten it turns out to be ourselves.

For David, Love was the ultimate value, the absurd, the impossible thing worth praying for.

George Saunders
speaks of reading BIWHM and finding that it did strange things to his mind and body.  He says it was like if you were standing outdoors and all of your clothes were stripped away and you had super-sensitive skin and you were susceptible to the weather whatever it might be–on a sunny day you would feel hotter; a blizzard would sting.

The reading woke him up, made him feel more vulnerable, more alive.  And yet the writer of these works was one of the sweetest, most generous dearest people he’d ever known.

He met Dave at the home of mutual friend in Syracuse.  While he feared that Dave would be engaged in a conversation about Camus, and he would feel humiliated, Dave was wearing a Mighty Mouse T-shirt and talked about George and his family, asking all about them.

Saunders says that in time the grief of his passing will be replaced by a deepening awareness of what a treasure we have in the existing work.  The disaster of his loss will fade and be replaced by the realization of what a miracle it was that he ever existed in the first place.   But for now there is just grief.

For now, keep alive the lesson of his work:

Mostly we’re asleep but we can wake up. And waking up is not only possible, it is our birthright and our nature and, as Dave showed us, we can help one another do it.

Don DeLillo
says that Dave’s works tends to reconcile what is difficult and consequential with what is youthful, unstudied and often funny.  There are sentences that shoot rays of energy in seven directions.

It’s hard to believe that in September, he will be dead ten years.

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booksSOUNDTRACK: YO LA TENGO-Tiny Desk Concert #271 (April 15, 2013).

y-o-la-tenI’ve enjoyed Yo La Tengo’s music for years and years.  I have many of their records, although I’d never consider them a favorite band. They’re just a reliable band I like.   This Tiny Desk Concert sees the venerable band in acoustic format (with no drums!).  Ira Kaplan sings and plays guitar, drummer Georgia Hubley sings backup and bassist James McNew plays an acoustic 12-string guitar.

Yo La Tengo has a lot of diversity in their records.  And even here, their songs sound quite different.  I had never before considered that on “Is That Enough” Kaplan sounds like someone out of A Mighty Wind (Harry Shearer perhaps?)  I also never considered how much they sound like The Velvet Underground (which I guess others have, but I especially noticed when Hurley sings her slow song).  McNew also adds some lovely high-pitched harmony vocals (compared to Georgia’s deeper harmonies).

After the first song, Kaplan says, “You in the back will never hear this one”  They start “Tears Are In Your Eyes” from their 2000 album (and I can’t help but hing that McNew’s 12 sting is out of tune).  Georgia sings and sounds incredibly like Nico on this song.

It’s strange how Ira keeps whispering to Georgia (you can kind of hear him) throughout the song–the microphone is really sensitive.

“Ohm” is one of my favorite songs from their album Fade. Its simple, but with some great harmonies and I love the way the song–which is fairly straightforward–goes up an octave during the “say goodnight “ part.  That little melody shift really makes this song wonderful.  And it sounds terrific here.   I also love how the end is a repeating of the same chord and chanting vocals while Ira plays a wild (but acoustic) guitar solo.

I’ve never really considered seeing Yo La Tengo live (they tour all the time), but maybe I should.

[READ: January 23, 2017] “Don’t Be Evil”

Before Simon Rich started writing longer pieces for the New Yorker, his Shouts & Murmurs pieces were usually pretty short–and he crammed a lot of funny into that short space.

This piece is all about Google.  It’s kind of one-note, but it’s still pretty funny.  And its brevity prevents it from wearing out its welcome.

So it begins with him saying how much he loves the Google Dictionary feature.  It’s really convenient, but sometimes the results can be strange.  Then he gives some examples: (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: April 2013] Frindle

frindleI went to the Princeton Public Library looking for audio books for the kids (we’ve exhausted most of our town library’s books).  There was a nice new selection of audio books at PPL, and this was one of them.  I wasn’t familiar with the story but Sarah knew it already.

So in Frindle, (which was Clements’ first chapter book after several picture books), Nick Allen is upset to find out that he has Mrs Granger as his English teacher this year.  You see, Nick is beloved by his classmates for his ability to ask the perfect and perfectly timed question that will distract the teacher so he or she forgets to give homework.  He has even sidetracked teachers so that they barely taught any lessons at all.  But Mrs Granger has been around and has a reputation as being a really really tough teacher.

One the first day, Nick comes up with the perfect question.  He learns that Mrs Granger loves dictionaries–she has one propped up on a lectern in the front of the class–so he waits until there’s about six minutes left and he asks her how all those words got in the dictionary.  It was genius, it was brilliant.  It didn’t work.  She turned it around on him and asked him to give do research and give a report about the question.  Tomorrow.  Ack!

Nick is distraught.  But then he decides to get really into it.  And the next day he gives a presentation that lasts over thirty minutes. Mrs Granger knows what he’s up to but she is impressed by his tenacity.  They have a kind of friendly stand off.  But she makes a small comment that sets the rest of the book in motion.  She tells Nick that it is him, and really everyone, who decides what words mean.  If everyone agrees that a word means something, then it does.

And a light goes off in Nick’s head. (more…)

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dtmaxSOUNDTRACK: TOM WAITS & KEITH RICHARDS-“Shenandoah” (2013).

roguesgallery-f8be47f3887d51de57ea842a129f0a722e53ef74-s1This tune comes from the album Son Of Rogues Gallery.  The album is, of all things, a sequel to the album Rogues Gallery.  The full title is Son Of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys.  The first album was a kind of novelty–I can’t even say novelty hit as I don;t know if it was.  But it must have had some success because here’s a second one (and there’s no Pirates of the Caribbean movie to tie it to).

The album has 36 songs (!) by a delightful collection of artists, including: Shane MacGowan, Nick Cave, Macy Gray, Broken Social Scene, Richard Thompson, Michael Gira and Mary Margaret O’Hara (among many others).  I enjoyed the first one, but I think the line up on this one is even better.

“Shenandoah” is not a song that I particulalry like.  Because it is traditional, I have a few people doing versions of it, but I don’t gravitate twoards it–it’s a little slow and meandering (like the river I guess) for me. And this version is not much different.  What it does have going for it is Waits’ crazed warbling along with even crazier backing viclas from Keith Richards (there;s no guitar on the track).

[READ: January 7, 2012] Every Love Story is a Ghost Story

I had mixed feelings about reading this biography.  I’m a huge fan of David Foster Wallace, but I often find it simply disappointing to read about people you like.  And yet, DFW was such an interesting mind, that it seemed worthwhile to find out more about him. Plus, I’ve read everything by the guy, and a lot of things about him…realistically it’s not like I wasn’t going to read this.  I think I was afraid of being seriously bummed out.  So Sarah got me this for Christmas and I really really enjoyed reading it.

Now I didn’t know a ton about DFW going into this book–I knew basics and I had read a ton of interviews, but he never talked a lot about himself, it was predominantly about his work.  So if I say that Max is correct and did his research, I say it from the point of someone full of ignorance and because it seems comprehensive.  I’m not claiming that he was right just that he was convincing.  And Max is very convincing.  And he really did his research.

It’s also convenient that DFW wrote a lot of letters–Max has a ton of letters to quote from.  And DFW wrote to all kinds of people–friends, fellow authors  girlfriends, colleagues….  Aside from old friends, his two main correspondents were Don DeLillo, whom he thought of as a kind of mentor, and Jonathan Franzen, whom he considered one of his best friends and rivals.  I guess we can also be thankful that these recipients held on to the letters. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RA RA RIOT-“Is It Too Much” (2013).

raraI loved the first Ra Ra Riot album The Rhumb Line.  This song expands on some of the ideas from that album, but I fear that it goes in the one direction I would have preferred they not go.  The album had strings, nice harmonies and a great singer all melded into an interesting rock structure.

This song retains all of the elements that were interesting, but it removes it from the rock structure, making it  sound much more lightweight.  It’s pushing too far into easy-listening.  And do I hear autotune on the vocals?  The instrumental middle section is the most interesting part of the song.  But Ra Ra Riot seems to have removed the riot part of their sound.  If this is the direction of the album, I’m afraid I won’t be following.

[READ: January 8, 2013] “Consider the Writer”

I just finished the D.T. Max biography of David Foster Wallace.  I was curious what kind of reception it received.  And lo, here’s a review by Rivka Galchen (something I would have read anyhow since I enjoy her so much).

Galchen opens with two main points–the biography is gripping (and it is, I’ll be saying more about that tomorrow, too).  She writes: “In writing a chronologically narrated, thoroughly researched, objective-as-­imaginable biography, Max has created a page turner.”

The second idea is that you keep thinking “that you just don’t find Wallace all that nice”  (which I also thought).  But then she wonders if it is fair to be worried about that.  We should not judge others after all.  Especially since, as she points out, “We don’t always find ourselves asking whether a writer is nice. I’ve never heard anyone wonder this at length about, say, Haruki Murakami or Jennifer Egan.”  So why is that a concern about Wallace?  Because niceness is what Wallace wrote about, tried to encourage.  And perhaps “One understandably slips from reading something concerned with how to be a good person to expecting the writer to have been more naturally kind himself.”  But that is not necessarily the case–people strive for things that they cannot achieve.   I like her example “the co-founder of A.A., Bill W., is a guru of sobriety precisely because sobriety was so difficult for him.”   And her conclusion: “Wallace’s fiction is, in its attentiveness and labor and genuine love and play, very nice. But what is achieved on the page, if it is achieved, may not hold stable in real life.”

And Galchen talks a bit abut DFW himself (the book is a biography after all).  How he wore the bandana because he sweated so much–how self conscious he was about that and by extension nearly everything he did.  This mitigates his not-niceness somewhat.  It also ties in to his alcoholism  drug use and depression.  And his competitiveness, which is obvious in the biography.  She enjoys the pleasure of Wallace’s correspondences, “especially with his close friend and combatant Jonathan Franzen, but also with just about every white male writer he might ever have viewed as a rival or mentor. Aggressive self-abasement, grandstanding, veiled abuse, genuine thoughtfulness, thin-skinned pandering — it’s all there.”  I rather wished that the authors’ own reactions were included (of course it’s not biographies of them, and they are still alive), just to see if they sparred back with Wallace or if they were put off by yet indulgent of his needs. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINK FLOYD-Alan’s Psychedelic Christmas (1970).

I’ve always loved Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother.  I have no recollection of how I stumbled upon this live bootleg, but when I saw that it contained one of the few live recordings of “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” I had to give it a listen.

So this show is from 1970 and was recorded in Sheffield just before Christmas (Nick Mason evidently introduced the show while wearing a Santa Claus suit).  The sound quality is pretty good given that it is 40 some years old.  There’s a bunch of hiss, and the quieter talking bits are hard to understand, but the music sounds fine.

So the show opens with “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” and what is so silly (and I assume funny to watch (a little less funny on bootleg) is that the band made and ate breakfast on stage.  As Collectors Music reviews writes: “This is the only known live recording of ‘Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast’ but also hosts an amazing performance by the band which included them making morning tea on stage which is audible. Just like most of their earlier performances, the performance of “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” slightly differs from the album version due to some nice jamming done by the band, especially Gilmour with his delay pedal.” As I said, some of the audio is static and hard to make out in this song–the band is conversing during their tea, but who knows what they are saying.  And who know what is o the radio.

Then the band gets down to business.  One of things I love about this period Floyd which is so different from their later work is that the played really long spacey jams often with very few lyrics.  So we get a 12-minute version of “The Embryo” (the only available studio version is a very short one on Works which is quite a shame as the song is really good).  A 14-minute workout of “Fat Old Sun” which is usually only about 5 minutes.

There’s a great version of “Careful with that Axe Eugene” and “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” (15 and 12 minutes respectively).

Then in a killer version of “Saucerful of Secrets,” just as they get to the end, there’s a power failure (at least according to the song title).  The band is rocking out just hitting the climax when suddenly all you can hear are un-miked drums.  Ha. After a couple of minutes, power comes back and they pick up from just before where they left off.

Then the band launches into a full 31-minute version of “Atom Heart Mother” complete with horns and choir  of voices.  It sounds quite good (the horns seem a little sketchy but that might be expected with such staccato music).

The set ends and the band needs an encore.  Apparently they couldn’t remember anything else because they just re-do the last few minutes of “Atom Heart Mother” again.

One of the things that cracks me up about these shows in the 70s in England, is that the audience is so polite. Their applause sounds like a classical theater rather than a rock show.  And with a bootleg you know they didn’t try to make the audience sound bigger than they are.

The whole package is a fun trip.

[READ: August 17, 2012] Welcome to the Monkey House

So this book is Vonnegut’s second collection of short stories.  But there’s a twist.  This collection contains all of the short stories from Canary in a Cat House except one. It also contains many of the stories he had written since then as well as stories not collected in Canary.  So you get basically 18 years worth of stories here.  And it’s interesting to see how much he has changed over those years (during which he wrote 5 novels, but not yet Slaughterhouse Five).

Since I read Canary a little while ago (see comments about the stories here), I knew that his 50’s era stories were influenced by WWII.  So it’s interesting to see how his stories from the 690s are not.  They deal more with day to day things and, of course, abstract concepts about humanity, although politics do enter the picture again once Kennedy is elected .

  • Where I Live (1964)

This was a good story to open with because it shows the then-later-period Vonnegut’s mindset and location.  This story is about Barnstable Village on Cape Cod (where I assume Vonnegut lived since there are a number of stories set on the Cape).  This is a very casually written story about an encyclopedia salesman who goes to the local library and sees that their two encyclopedias are from 1910 and 1938.  I enjoyed this line: “He said that many important things had happened since 1938, naming among others, penicillin and Hitler’s invasion of Poland.”  He is told to talk to the library directors who are at the yacht club.  I love the attitude that Vonnegut creates around the village which “has a policy of never accepting anything.  As a happy consequence, it changes about as fast as the rules of chess.” For really, this story is about the Village more than the encyclopedia salesman, and it’s an interesting look at people who move into a new place and want it to never change. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMOGWAI-No Education = No Future (Fuck the Curfew) (1998).

This is a 3 song EP. The opener “Xmas Stripes” is one of my favorite early Mogwai songs.  The opening melody is really great, with a cool interesting bass and a nice guitar over the top.  At about 3:30 the song grows from a silent track to a menacing, growing beast until the drums start and the song and the main riff begins.  By 5 minutes it’s all out rock noise.  By 6 minutes the song is scaled back for the violin solo.  The remaining 7 (!) minutes are a denouement for the song.  Even though I love the track, I mostly love the first 8 or 9 minutes.  The ending tends to drag a bit.

But for all of their noise, Mogwai’s early releases were really quieter instrumentals, meditative songs that were really quite pretty.  “Rollerball” is a beautiful, sad three-minute track.

The last song “Small Children in the Background” continues in this quieter vein.  At nearly 7 minutes, it allows for a noisy middle section.  This noisy section is indeed mostly noise.  And yet the pretty melody of the rest of the track is just as loud throughout the mix, making for a very cool and very brief explosion mid-song.

Not all EPs are essential, but this one is pretty fantastic.  And I have Lar to thank for getting it for me.

[READ: March 10, 2011] Changing My Mind

It’s funny to me when that when I get into an author, I seem to wind up not reading the books that people most talk about until much later.  Take Zadie Smith.  Her debut, White Teeth, is something of a touchstone for many readers.  I missed it when it came out, but I loved On Beauty and figured I’d go back and read it.  That was almost a year ago.  And in that time I have read lots of little things by her and now this collection of essays.

Regardless, this collection of essays is a wonderful look in to the nonfiction world of a writer whom I admire.  And it was quite a treat.  Zadie is an intellectual, and that comes across in all of these paces.  Whether it’s the subjects she’s writing about, the footnotes she uses or just the acknowledgment that she likes art films and not blockbusters, we know where she’s speaking from.  And, of course, I’m right there with her.  The funny thing about this book then is how few of the subjects I know.

The book is broken down into five sections: Reading, Being, Seeing, Feeling and Remembering.  The Reading section is basically book reviews.  The Being section is about her experiences.  The Seeing section is about films.  The Feeling section is about her father and the Remembering section is about David Foster Wallace. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: Week of October 10, 2010] David Foster Wallace interviews

There will soon be a group read of Consider David Foster Wallace, a book of essays about, yes, David Foster Wallace.  In a sort of preparation for the group read, I decided to immerse myself in the available audio files online.

The David Foster Wallace Audio Project hosts quite a vast collection of audio files, including interviews, readings and eulogies.  Even the Howling Fantods points to it.

I started with the interviews.  They cover the period from Infinite Jest to Consider the Lobster.  For the most part, the interviews took place on various NPR stations.  There are not a lot of details given about the items on the site (which is the only flaw that I can see with the site), but you can more or less tell from the titles given what book is the cause for the interview.

I know that DFW was not a fan of interviews, yet I can’t help but be surprised at how few interviews actually seem to be extant (or at least preserved online).  You can see a list of all of the interviews on the site.  I’m listing and giving very brief notations for some of the longer interviews, but I just don’t have the time/inclination to go into great detail. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ELFIN SADDLE-Ringing for the Begin Again [CST059] (2009).

This is a fascinating disc from our friends at Constellation Records. It defies ready classification and offers elements of folk music, eastern instrumentation, klezmer and Asian influences.

The most obvious Asian influences come from Emi Honda who sings in Japanese.  In a most misunderstanding, on “The Procession,” which sounds Middle Eastern, I actually thought she was singing in Israeli or something until I realized it was Japanese.

Jordan McKenzie, the other half of the band, sings in English and has a variety of vocal styles. He also plays accordion banjo and xylophone, which complements Emi’s own accordion and singing saw (!).  There is also a feeling of random percussion (or as the Constellation website puts it: junk percussion).

The opening track, “The Bringer” begins quietly, building in a gentle staccato with both members singing until it reaches its full height of intensity.  “Running Sheep” sung in Japanese, actually feels like a running song, while “Hammer Song” is almost, almost, a straightforward folk song (in which Jordan sounds Scottish) except for perhaps the tuba accompaniment.  Yet for all of these disparate elements, the disc holds together amazingly well.  These are not nine individual track  glued together, they all work together to create a very solid composition.

It should also come as no surprise that Jordan and Emi are visual artists.  The cover depicts a sculpture of theirs (and the liner notes are beautifully illustrated).  Lyrics are included and the Japanese is translated for us.

The disc doesn’t feature the dramatic highs and lows of some other Constellation releases, but as a solid, slightly avant garde folk release, it’s quite terrific.

[READ: February 14, 2010] The Broken Teaglass

[UPDATE: Sarah just reviwed the book here.  We don’t often read the same books, so this was fun.]

Sarah’s friend Denise said I would really like this book.  Upon hearing that this book was right up my alley I had to investigate immediately (I always wonder what people think I would like).  And she was totally correct.

So what makes this book perfect for me?  Well, it is set in a dictionary.  Actually, it is set in the editorial department of the offices of the Samuelson Dictionary, one of the premiere dictionaries in the world.  The protagonist is Billy, a recent college graduate (in philosophy) whose first job comes at Samuelson.  The offices are located in the small town of Claxton, Mass.  Billy moves away from home (although it is still driving distance) to a small apartment in this very small town.

I have no idea if the descriptions of working in a dictionary office are in any way accurate, but it certainly is enticing.  Essentially, everyone works in silence all day.  They are assigned several magazines to read to see if there are any new words that are coming into common usage which might wind up in future editions of the dictionary.  Eventually they are assigned words to define as well (for future supplements to the dictionary).

They are also responsible for correspondence with dictionary users.  People write (or call) with questions about word usage, misusage and even suggestions for additions to the dictionary.  How fascinating is that? (Oh and these correspondences were absolutely hilarious!). (more…)

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