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Archive for the ‘Michele Obama’ Category

[ATTENDED: November 19, 2022] Manic Street Preachers

When this tour was announced I practically screamed with delight.

I saw the Manic Street Preachers 23 years ago.  And while I haven’t kept up with their releases, I have listened from time to time.  But their albums from the 1990s are some of my favorites of the era.  And I have never seen Suede and their debut album is one of my favorite albums ever.  They haven’t toured the US in about 25 years.  I bought a pit ticket and was pretty psyched.

I was quite surprised to find out that it hadn’t sold very well.  But the people around me were super into the show and knew every word to every song (which is more than I knew).

My favorite two MSP albums are Everything Must Go (1996) and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours (1998) and they started off with a song from Truth, the roaring “You Stole the Sun from My Heart.”  The followed it right up with “Everything Must Go.”  I was so excited to find out that James Dean Bradfield still sounded amazing.  He hit some great high notes and was full of power.   Their touring musician (whose name I didn’t catch) added some nice deep backing vocals to the songs.

I was more or less in front of bassist Nicky Wire who was pretty chill–although he did wear a boa for one song.  He used to wear dresses or skirts, but he was just wearing a MSP T-Shirt.  He said a few things (he is known to be controversial), but I didn’t really understand anything he said. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: December 31, 2021] You Can’t Be Serious

S. and I were wrapping presents for Christmas this year and put on A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (which I thought was new and didn’t realize was ten years old).  I had said something about thinking Kal Penn was really cool and respecting his decision to work for the White House.

And lo and behold but there was this book in my Christmas pile.

Kal Penn, Jersey represent!, has led a fascinating life.  And he seems like a very cool (but not scoring you weed on the weekend kinda cool) guy.

Kal starts his book by saying that in kindergarten, the fastest, dumbest boy in his class called him the n-word.  He didn’t know what it meant, but he knew it was bad from the way the kids reacted.

A traumatic way to start a book and a school.  But things got better from there.  He recalls not paying much attention in school and also class trips to Old Sturbridge Village–that’s over three hours away!  His class went there–multiple times?  He loved the acting that went on there.

He talks about getting picked on for being a nerd.  But also about being grateful for living in a diverse New Jersey town–he went to a lot of mitzvahs.  His story of being on a boat for someone’s mitzvah is pretty funny.  And yet, he also talks about a hate group called Dotbusters based in Jersey City (I am so shocked to hear about this) who harassed assaulted and even killed Indian people.  His aunt lived there and his grandmother visited her there. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DON BRYANT: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #116 (November 24, 2020).

I was not familiar with Don Bryant, although I must have heard his music over the years.

Bryant, almost 80, has been in the music business since the early days of rock and roll; he wrote his first hit, the Five Royales’ “I Got to Know,” in 1960. He went on to his biggest success as a songwriter for Hi Records in Memphis …. For a number of years he only recorded gospel music, until 2017 when he began releasing soul records again, backed by members of the Bo-Keys.

Although

Classic soul music feels best in a club, with a lead singer and big band, preferably with horns, playing off the excitement of a sweaty crowd, drawing them in to stories of love, or love lost, or love reclaimed. It’s a hard feeling to find in our pandemic times.

Bryant manages to play some gorgeous old-school soul with just a guitarist (Scott Bomar) and a keyboardist (Archie “Hubbie” Turner).  And his voice, of course.

Wearing an elegant black and grey jacket matching his salt-and-pepper hair, Bryant evokes style and experience – someone who has been in it for the long haul.

This set is three songs from his latest record, You Make Me Feel, all written by him

His voice is powerful and resonant, deeply rooted in gospel. The keyboard sound is a classic soul sound and the guitar provides a mixture of rocking riffs and mellow accompaniment.

In “Your Love is to Blame” he even gives some good James Brown yelps.

Between songs he sounds like a preacher:  I’m going to give these songs to you as strong as I can.

“Is It Over” is slower and more mellow.  His voice sounds great, hitting high notes and unlike contemporary singers, his grace notes sound great–strong and not whiny.

“Your Love is Too Late” is a classic soul kiss-off track: “I found somebody new to do the things I wanted you to do.”  It opens with an old fashioned guitar riff and moves on from there with grooving guitars and fleshed out keyboards.

I don’t listen to much soul, but I do rather like it.

[READ: December 26, 2020] By the Way 2

This is Ann Lane’s second book about public art in Ireland.  She compiled the first in 2010.  I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know what is in it.

She says that in the ten or so years since the first book, more art has been added and she had been made aware of all of the art that she had missed.

But the fact that there are over 1,000 images in this book, that this is her second book and that in the introduction she says that she pretty much ignores the big cities (due to size constraints of the book) makes me think that Ireland is absolutely amazing with the amount of public art that the country has.  Ireland is about the same size as Indiana, and I would bet a ton of money that Indiana does not have 2,000 (some absolutely gorgeous) piece of public art to look at.

This book is broken down by county.  Lane includes many pieces of art from each county and provides some context for the piece, whether it is the impetus for the creation, some comment about its construction or even an occasional personal reflection.

It isn’t easy to photograph pubic art.  Some pieces absolutely fail when taken out of context or when trying to encompass an entire piece of art with a tiny photo.  Sometimes you cannot do justice to a piece because it must be seen from different angles to be really appreciated.  But Lane does a great job conveying these pieces.  And if her main goal is to get you to want to come to Ireland see them, then she has succeeded.

I marked off dozens of pictures in here because they were either my favorites or they were interesting in some way.

I followed this format.
COUNTY
Town: Title (Artist) Location.  Comments. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CHRIS FORSYTH & THE SOLAR MOTEL BAND-Dreaming in the Non-Dream (2017).

I was anticipating watching Forsyth at the end of last year but the show sold out on me.  (Note: he is playing nearby this Friday).

I heard about him from a stellar Tiny Desk Concert and was totally psyched to hear this four-song full length album.

The disc opens with the 11 minute History & Science-Fiction that starts with a slow bass line and lots of percussion.  After a short intro the guitar comes in with whammy bar’d chords.  It resolves into a really catchy “chorus” and then a slow down that reminds me of a softer “Marquee Moon.”  But instead of turning into a rocking solo section, it totally mellows out, with keyboards and cymbals and a pretty guitar melody.  It slowly builds out of that by switching from organ to sax.

“Have We Mistaken the Bottle for the Whiskey Inside” is the only song with words.  Of the four it’s my least favorite, but that’s only because I like his guitar playing better than his singing.  It’s a fairly simple riff–kind of Crazy Horse-ish with Forsyth’s deep spoken-singing asking the title question.  After about 3 and a half minutes, the song starts to pick up speed and turns into a huge freak out of noise and chaos. 
“Dreaming in the Non-Dream” begins as a simple picked guitar line repeating.  Throw in some a steady drum beat and some buzzy synths and the song starts to build. And then Forsyth’s soloing makes an appearance.  At first he is just playing harmony notes alongside the lower notes but at the 2 minute mark, the full throttle wah-wah guitar soloing takes off (the backing guitar also throws in some cool wah-wah, too).  And the song runs as a full instrumental for over 15 glorious minutes.  But it is not just a 15 minute guitar solo.  The whole band gets involved–the rest of the band is fully present and there’s a synth solo.  But it’s all within that catchy melody line.  Fifteen minutes never went by so fast.
 “Two Minutes Love” is a beautiful two-minute song.  Gentle guitars interweaving over lush bass lines and twining with the other guitar.  It’s a nice delicate end to that spiraling CD.

[READ: December 27, 2017] Obama: An Intimate Portrait

Sarah got me this book for Christmas and it is awesome.  I wanted to spend 2018 looking forward, getting past the dumpster fire of 2017 and hoping we can move past what we are bogged down with.  #ITMFA #RESIST

But this book was just an amazing look back and something that gives me hope that we can move forward past what we have now.

Pete Souza is a tremendous photographer and this collection offers amazing access to a President who was full of gravitas and thoughtfulness.

We were concerned that reading this would be too depressing given the State of our country and the Embarrassment in Chief.  And in some ways it was depressing.  But in many ways it was what it was intended to be: inspirational.

It’s hard to believe that before our Chief Idiot was bumbling his way through life and giving literally zero thought to anything except his own ego, we as a country had 8 years of a leader who, these pictures show, put serious thought and concern into (almost) everything he did.  Obama was never quick to do anything–he was often mocked for his slow speech patterns–but this is a job where rushing to judgment never does anyone any good.  And you can see the pressures of the world weighing on him.

But this book is not all about pressure.  There are delightful moments of joy–with his daughters, with delightful citizens, with staff and of course with Michele. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-Tiny Desk Concert #91 (November 14, 2010).

I was introduced to Sharon Van Etten via NPR’s All Songs Considered, so it’s no surprise that they would have her on a Tiny Desk Concert as well.  I loved her song, “Save Yourself” more than I could imagine.  There was something about the way the intensity built and built that really blew me away.  The rest of her album is really enjoyable, but it has less intensity. It’s almost like an acoustic album.

So it’s funny that I find her Tiny Desk show mildly disappointing because it is also an acoustic set. In fact, it is just her and her guitar (and her singing partner who sings wonderful harmonies).

Okay, I shouldn’t really say disappointed because the set is quote good.  Her guitar laying is fine and her voice, he unique and slightly unsettling voice is in fine form here.  There’s just something about the stripped down nature that takes away that extra sparkle that I really love about the disc.  I imagine that if I hadn’t heard the whole CD first, I would have been blown away by this live recording.

The four songs (“Peace Signs,” “Save Yourself,” “One Day,” “For You”) are all from Epic, and they’re all really good.  It’s a nice accompaniment to the album, but I think the album is a bit better.

[READ: December 13, 2010] I Live Real Close to Where You Used to Live

Back in early 2009, McSweeney’s published Thanks and Have Fun Running the Country: Kids’ Letters to President Obama as a friendly kick off to the President’s new term. We’re now at the end of the second year of that term and the “Have Fun” part seems to be rather unlikely.  But just in time for the rise of Boehner, McSweeney’s has published this companion piece, letters to the rest of the Obama family.  And it is just as sweet, clever and at times odd as the first.

The kids from 826 National in several cities were asked to write letters to the first family.  It’s interesting to see how the different regions ask different questions, but perhaps more interesting is how some things seem to resonate no matter where the kids are from.  Two kids ask about Pokémon Black and White (this must be the hot new game).  Several kids ask how many rooms there are in the White House.  Naturally, several ask about her garden (what she has in it or what kind of fruits and veggies she likes).

But the most fun is the advice the kids give.  My favorite is the girl who says that her aunt thinks Mrs Obama should have one more child (but only if she wants to).

Sadder are the children who are clearly having a rough time.  One child talks about her parents’ separation, and another’s entire letter is: “Can you help my family? We’re about to lose our house. Make the world a better place. What is your favorite food?”  It must be tough to be a prominent person who clearly wants to help yet who is for the most part, impotent to do anything.

And for me that has to be the hardest part about writing to the first lady.  She has no clear “role.”  She’s a public figure and she advocates for good, but she can’t really “do” anything.  And that has to be hard to grasp.  Although judging by what the kids say, maybe they have no problem with it. (more…)

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