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Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MELANIE CHARLES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #165 (January 4, 2021).

I had never heard of Melanie Charles and boy was I in for a treat with this being my first exposure to her.

A Brooklynite proud of her rich Haitian heritage, Charles is conscious of the giant shoulders upon which she stands and takes steps to both honor and advance this music. Behind her, smiling pictures of her guardian angels, Mary Lou Williams and Billie Holiday, encourage Charles while she and her musicians blend the mystique of Haitian folk music with the sorrowful optimism of negro spirituals and the free space for elevation that jazz improvisation allows.

The video opens on a dark screen with samples being manipulated and twisted.  It’s amazing to have the camera fade from black into this really old-fashioned looking scene–upright bass, snare drum and a nearly sepia filter on the video.  And then there’s Melanie Charlie dressed in a beautiful but old-fashioned looking ensemble manipulating all of the sounds.

She is playing from the

Williamsburg Music Center, one of Brooklyn’s last surviving black-owned jazz venues… This performance was a full circle moment for Melanie Charles. The Williamsburg Music Center is owned by Gerry Eastman, a celebrated musician and composer who taught the jazz class Charles and her brother and saxophonist, Rogerst Charles, attended when they were in high school. According to Charles, Eastman “represents a special era of Brooklyn jazz musicians” and created a space that gave these artists a place to perform when all other doors were closed to them.

Then she starts singing French while Jonathan Michel plays a bass solo /melody.  This song is

“Damballa Wedo,” [in which] Charles channels her Haitian roots and delivers a modern twist of a traditional vodou song by Toto Bissainthe. She sings that when we seek transformation, we may become someone who those around us no longer recognize, but that the change is necessary and part of the ancestors’ divine plan. “C’est bon, c’est bon,” she sings.

Up next she offers a little Sun Ra vibration.  She plays a sample and dramatically shuts it off as it loops.  The starkness of the silence is very dramatic.   Then she starts singing

Charles’ arrangement of “Deep River” is inspired by her admiration for Sun Ra. The biography of the eccentric composer, arranger, musician, and early pioneer of Afrofuturism, Space Is The Place rests on a stand behind her. By really digging into his approach and arrangements and using his “spaceship setup as a performance guide,” she breathes new life into this spiritual, injecting it with a potency that is simultaneously somber and otherworldly.

While the sample continues the band picks things up.  The bass and sax play the main melody while Melanie plays some sharp and cool flute accents.

And what a voice!

Before the final song, she introduces the band:

Jonathan Michel: who looks like an upright bassist–he’s got that Ron Johnson turtleneck.  Shout out to Ron Johnson.  On drums, Diego Ramirez: coming in at the last minute and learning the songs over night.  On saxophone, Rogerst Charles, my blood brother, my heart.

The final song is “Dilemma.”

She finishes the set with “Dilemma,” a new song written to find the balance between self-care and showing up for those you love amid the cries for justice during the first summer of the pandemic. On our phone call, Charles explained that the song is an anthem that reminds us to not to “dim your light for anybody” and “remember how vibrant we are, despite what we as black people had to deal with in 2020.”

She plays keys and sings a soft song until the whole band joins in.  After a couple of minutes she she sings a high note and the sax plays the same note a wailing harmony of greatness.

With about two minutes left she starts singing the coda “we’ve been doing alright be we still shine bright.”  The band sings along and she interjects:

We’ve been doing alright
even though we didn’t get our stimulus.
But we still shine bright.

[READ: March 31, 2021] Only Righteous Fights

On December 31 of 2020 I donated some money to Elizabeth Warren (I’m not actually sure to what end it was used–presumably her Senatorial campaign?) to pre-order this collection of speeches (and get a laminated bookmark!).

There are few things more disappointing than reading amazing, inspiring and truly moving speeches by a person who lost a candidacy.

Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren were my number 1 and number 2 choices for President.  I didn’t have to worry too much about which one I would ultimately choose, I was just happy they both were so successful (until they weren’t).  Having Harris as V.P. is pretty awesome, and I will acknowledge that Biden (who was my last choice) has been doing a good job thus far (apparently having taken ideas from all the other candidates…which is rather a good idea).

But reading this book and seeing how genuine Warren was (or came across) and how much she cared (or appeared to) for the people she spoke to and about, it is crushing that her campaign didn’t last.

There are five speeches in the book as well as lots of photos.  There’s a few smaller sections as well, like photos from the Selfie Line, Letters to Elizabeth and Pinky Promises.

What’s impressive is how she manages to hit all of her main bullet points and yet how each speech is quite different. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKGABRIEL GARZÓN-MONTANO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #147 (January 19, 2021).

Gabriel Garzón-Montano did a solo Tiny Desk Concert a few years ago, as the blurb quickly points out

If Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s solo Tiny Desk back in 2017 was an exercise in restraint and vulnerability, his home set is the polar opposite. It beams ingenuity and unveils multiple layers, figuratively and literally.  In this performance he brought the full band, sporting all white from mask to toe and bringing to life all the sonics we hear on the record, last year’s genre-snubbing Agüita.

They play three songs.

Garzón-Montano morphs into three different characters from Agüita and stretches the boundaries even more, adding salsa flavor to “Muñeca” and delivering some bonus bars on the set opener, “With A Smile.”

“With A Smile” opens with just his face surrounded by flowers as he plays a pretty acoustic guitar.  The flowers move away as the Gracie Sprout’s harp adds more pretty notes.  As the song moves along with Gabriel’s soft and sexy voice, Itai Shapira’s bass and Lenny “The Ox”‘s drums come thumping in.

Like the rest of his band, Gabriel is in all white, including white Uggs and a long white coat with tails.   The only color is from the sweater underneath.

At the end of the song he raps in Spanish, which has a really nice flow.

Taking advantage of of the rare opportunity to gather musicians in quarantine times, he says “It’s like being a child who’s allowed to do what they always wanted to do when they didn’t wanna get up for school, and it’s also felt like an adult who didn’t know what to do at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon. I’m focusing on oscillating between those states with ease.”

For “Muñeca” he takes off the big coat and shows off the colorful sweater which has a fascinating cut, including tails.  For this song, it’s a trio of bass and Daniel Rodriguez on drums. Rodriguez plays a funky middle with conga and cowbell as Gabriel gets up and dances.  He picks up the guitar again at the end of the song for a little strumming outro.

Before the final song, Gabriel moves to the piano.  He takes off the colorful sweater to reveal a sleeveless shirt underneath (which shows off his tattoos).

“Tombs” features the KROMA Quartet and everyone else on synths.  Nicholas Semrad plays the lead, but everyone else adds melody.  It’s a delicate song with an interesting and slightly creepy synth melody.  About half way through this six minute song he gets up and picks up an electric guitar.  He and  Justin “Jhawk” Hawkins play a harmony solo together, which sounds pretty cool.

I am quite intrigued by this singer, and I love the description of genre-snubbing.

[READ: February 28, 2021] Pops

I have often said I wanted to read more books by Michael Chabon.  And after finishing this I realized that the only novel by him that I’ve read is Kavalier and Clay and that was 21 years ago.  So maybe it’s time to get into some of these other books.

Pops is a collection of (very) short essays.  Most were written for Details Magazine (which folded in 2015), one for GQ and a final one I’d already read in the New Yorker.

“Introduction: The Opposite of Writing”
It’s not too often that you really enjoy an introduction, but this one was pretty great.  In it, Chabon talks about when he was an up and coming writer and he met a well-established Southern writer.  This writer told him that the secret to being a good writer was not having children.  That for every child you have, you will lose one book.

Chabon had no children with his first wife but has had four with his second wife (the writer Ayelet Waldman).  So clearly they have lost eight books between them.

The writer’s argument was that children take away time from novel writing and that novel writing takes away time from children.  Chabon had always felt that his father was not very present (as one of the essays says) and he promised to be much more involved in his children’s lives).  These essays suggest that he was.  So how did he find time to write?  He does not say. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TH1RT3EN-Tiny Desk (Home Concert) #146 (January 18, 2021).

I had never heard of TH1RT3EN before this Tiny Desk Concert. But I was hooked from the beginning.  I liked everything about them.  The fuzzy distorted guitar from Marcus Machado, the excellent delivery of Pharoahe Monch and especially the fascinating drumming and drum style of Daru Jones (look at the way his drums are set up!).

Both the moniker TH1RT3EN and supergroup were born out of a frustration with the veneer of American society that underestimates the darkness of white supremacy.

“I knew 5 years ago where we headed,” Monch shared over the phone. “Sure, we’ve always done socially and politically aware music, but I’m tired of this “love will win” nonsense. Love may be the most powerful vibrating force, but consciousness is spreading and it’s impossible not to be more aware of the evil that has kept the world in complete darkness. TH1RT3EN is the musical personification of me and my comrades at combat.”

“The Magician” is based around the riff from Yes’ “Roundabout.”  Machado plays the riff throughout which I find much more interesting than if it was sampled.  Monch’s lyrics are smart and pointed.  There’s an incredibly fast rapping middle section with some amazing drumming.  I really like his delivery.

Moinch says that that song is about a student who was bullied and grew up to be a school shooter.  Ironically there hasn’t been any school shootings because we’re in the middle of a pandemic–a pandemic that has taken the lives of 250,000 Americans.  And yet Americans reman more afraid of Black Lives Matter than of COVID 19.

TH1RT3EN recorded this set in August 2020, as evidenced by Monch’s interlude, this four-song set still channels the discontent outside our windows today.  Shot in a padded “panic” room, this Tiny Desk (home) concert reflects the rage felt by this three-man battalion.

Monch continues “We are in need of cleansing and an exorcism.  “Cult 45” opens with a sample of a horn riff.  It’s quieter musically so it’s mostly vocals.  When the guitar joins in it’s mostly to add free jazz noises along with some wild drumming.

“Scarecrow” returns to the slow dirgy, aggressive guitar sound behind some fast rapping.

He says he started the band because he wanted a bit more authentic aggression by finding these two musicians.  And the set ends with “Fight” which has a nice big riff and crashing drums.

How’s this for an aptly aggressive verse

Burn a cross, water hose, dogs and nightsticks
Yeah, that’s what it used to be, see, they would usually
Just hang a nigga, fuck ’em
Now they don’t have the time to decorate the trees so they buck ’em

I’m going to have to check out this album.

[READ: February 28, 2021] You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey.

Amber Ruffin is a writer and comedian, most notably from “Amber Says What” on Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Amber Ruffin Show on Peacock.  Amber is hilarious.

But Amber is also righteously angry about the way Black people are treated in America.  Somehow she manages to take the most horrible things you can imagine and report about them with enough humor to make you listen and laugh and still get outraged.

This book is a collection of stories of racist things that happened to her sister Lacey.   Lacey lives in Omaha, Nebraska, where they grew up.  I don’t know anything about Nebraska or Omaha.  Apparently Omaha is a big city and has sections that have a lot of Black folks.  White people who are not from the city find the thought of going to Omaha scary.  It also means that when Lacey gets jobs outside of Omaha she is typically the only Black person in the building.

Which seems to make all of the white people there think it is okay to say whatever crazy racist shit they want to say.  But even outside of work, it seems like Lacey is a magnet for racist comments.  Is it because she is tiny and good natured?  Maybe.  But she is a also a bodybuilder, so watch out.

About this book Amber says:

When you hear these stories and think, None of these stories are okay, you are right.  And when you hear these stories and think, Dang, that’s hilarious, you are right.  They’re both.

There are going to be a lot of time while you’re reading this book when you think There is no motivation for this action. It seems like this story is missing a part because people just aren’t this nonsensically cruel.  But where you see no motivation, you understand racism a little more.  It’s this weird, unprovoked lashing-out, and it never makes any sense. It’s why it’s so easy for people to believe the police when hey beat someone up–because no one would be that cruel just because the person was Black.  But the are!  So as you read this book, when you see there’s no motivation, know that there is: racism.

The Preface has an anecdote that really sets the tone for the rest of the book.  Lacey paid at a store with a check. The checks had Black heroes on them.  Lacey paid with one with Harriet Tubman on it.  The cashier who had been very nice up to that point said “Wow you have checks with your picture on ’em.”  There is then a hilarious juxtaposition of the check with Tubman and one with Lacey’s photo.

Amber contrasts her life in New Yorke City.

Everyone I work with is stark raving normal. We don’t have any crazy bigots (dumb enough to run up) and I’m no one’s first Black friend.  Now I’m not saying no one ever says anything crazy to me–I’m still a Black woman in America–it’s just that we all know there are consequences for talking to me as if you’ve lost your mind.

But in the Midwest it is an unchecked tsunami of dumb questions and comments.  People think it your job to answer “Why can’t I (insert the most nonsense shit you’ve ever head)?”

Lacey chimes in (in a different font) from time to time with things like that she’s happy her little sister is successful in New York:

where someone would get fired for out-and-out racism.  I love that that really happens.  Never seen it, but I love it.  Like Santa Claus.

Amber ends the preface by saying

Hopefully the white reader is gonna read this, feel sad, think a little about it, feel like an ally, come to greater understanding of the DEPTH of this type of shit, and maybe walk away wit a different point of view of what it’s like to be a Black American in the twenty-first century.

And I did.  Boy did I ever. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS with MERZBOW-Gensho (Disc One: Boris) (2016).

In 2016, Boris teamed with Merzbow to create Gensho, a 2 CD package that was designed to have both CDs played at the same time.  Not the easiest thing for many people, but with the advent of digital recordings it’s now pretty easy to play both discs at the same time (this release is on Spotify).

Disc 1 was all Boris.  Disc 2 was all Merzbow.

When you play them together, you get the drumless Boris with all of the glitching electronica of Merzbow sprinkled around it.  The songs are set up in a very clever way with one of Merzbow’s songs being exactly equal to two or three of the Boris songs.

I played the CD of Boris and the stream of Merzbow on Spotify.  It was cool to be able to raise and lower the volunme of one to change the intensity of Merzbow’s glitches.

Merzbow’s “Planet of the Cows” plays over the first two Boris songs “Farewell” and “Huge.”  Farewell’s quiet drone tacks on Merzbow’s squeals and glitches which fill in the gaps quite nicely.  When “Farewell” ends, the Merzbow continues until the loud gongs heavy chords of “Huge” ring out.  The Merzbow chaos sounds almost like a solo over the slow low heavy drone chords.  Atsuo’s low growling even complements the spare noises.  Both parts ends with squealing feedbacking sounds–analog from Boris and digital from Merzbow.

Merzbow’s “Goloka Pt. 1” plays over three Boris songs “Resonance” “Rainbow” and “Sometimes” (the My Bloody Valentine cover).  “Resonance” is mostly percussion–kind of randomly hit in a slow rhythm.  Merzbow’s noises sound like static in a distance echoing signal from outer space.  “Rainbow” is a piece I don’t know.  This version features Boris playing some quiet guitar and a grooving bass with Wata singing vocals. Merzbow’s electronics sounds restrained here, adding louder noises when the vocals back out  This song has some tasty soloing from Wata with the electronics almost keeping pace.  It segues into “Sometimes,” with its loud thumping echoes and eventual wall of noise.  The vocals are pretty well buried but you can hear the melody of the MBV song.

“Goloka Pt.. 2” plays over “Heavy Rain” and “Akuma No Uta.” “Heavy Rain” starts out with noisy stabs of sound–it’s actually hard to tell who is making what, but then things mellow out as Wata sings.  The guitars drone loudly and the vocals mix in with the electronics.  It ends with the noisy guitar buzzing from Boris while the noises from Merzbow continue between songs–sounds of noise and electronic bleeps.  “Akuma No Uta” starts slowly with washes of guitar build up. The glitching Merzbow adds keeps it from being purely a drone.  The drone gets louder and louder and I like the way Merzbow’s glitches seem to back off as the man riff enters the song.  As it nears the end, glitching sounds to me like a menacing voice coming through the static and heavy riffage.

The final song is Merzbow’ “Prelude to a Broken Arm” which plays over “Akirame Flower” and “Vomitself.”  It starts out with watery sounds before the big chords and vocals kick in.  Merzbow’s noise is like a screaming train underneath the slow crooning.   The main riff from Wata has some electronic percussive sounds tacked onto it.  As the final chord rings out the song segues into the musch noisier “Vomitself.”   It introduces a huge wave of low chords as Merzbow’s noise amps up to correspond with a lot of low growling percussive sounds. As the song rumbles to an end the squealing intensifies like feedback added on top of the roar with the last notes sounding like a person raging.

It’s interesting how I don’t really like the Merzbow tracks, but how they add interesting textures to the Boris songs.

[READ: February 19, 2021] Caliente

Matu Santamaria is an Argentinian illustrator and his work is really stunning.

This book has a big warning: 18+ but it’s not fully explicit.  There are drawing of naked women and sex acts, but there’s only a few things that are NSFW.

Santamaria’s work is full of clean lines and and dramatic colors.  I really enjoy looking at it, regardless of the content.

This book contains a lot of his most recent work.  It seems to be split between positive messages about sexuality, body positivity and appreciation for frontline workers during the Coronavirus.  There’s also some celebrity pictures as well.

After some definitions of the word caliente, the book opens with series of pictures of women exploring the sexuality with each other.  Interracial women kissing and a woman taking her top off with the comment–“and without realizing it, it’s poetry.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BLUE AEROPLANES-“Veils of Colour” (1987).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

The Blue Aeroplanes have been around forever, forming in 1981 and releasing their most recent album in 2017.  I feel like I’ve heard of them, but I’m not sure now.  I guess I’ve never actually heard them as this didn’t sound familiar at all.   Nor does the core lineup: the mainstays are Gerard Langley, brother John Langley, and dancer Wojtek Dmochowski.  Their wikipedia pages lists about 90 other people who have played on their records.

“Veils of Colour” opens with a quiet guitar riff that, surprisingly, progresses rather than repeats.  It’s a quiet song and when the lyrics come in, they’re mostly spoken in an almost excitable whisper.  You can certainly see why they appealed to Stuart Murdoch.

The chorus is almost sung, but the addition of horns makes the it swell beyond what you’d expect from the verses.  Indeed, the song has a kind of understated urgency, but never gets very intense.

[READ: January 24 2021] “Hansa and Gretyl and Piece of Shit”

This story was peculiar for many reasons.  Obviously the title shows that this is a twist on a familiar story.  But, wow, does it veer off form what you might expect (just as the title does).

Gretyl is a girl in high school.  She wakes with terrible stomach cramps–not the “normal” cramps a girl might feel, but something far worse.  Her mother believes she is faking because she feels like a loser at school.

She walks to school and sees a man at the bottom of the hill.  His car seems to be constantly broken and he regularly asks Gretyl for help–a scrunchie to fix his carburetor, a paper clip to connect his fan belt (she gave him one from her paper, and her teacher changed her grade from an A to a B- because it had no fastener).  Today he asks her to steer while he pushes.  When his car is free, he gives her a whistle. If you need help, blow it, maybe we’ll come.

Gretyl’s family is strapped for cash. Although her father has a yacht and her mother has expensive jewelry–they don’t seem to have money to buy new things.

Gretyl’s mother resents her: Gestating you destroyed my metabolism.  Now I can’t practice medicine (she does not mention that the mother bore Gretyl at forty). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKADITYA PRAKASH ENSEMBLE-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #135 (January 13, 2021).

Aditya Prakash EnsembleGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The second band on the third night is the Aditya Prakash Ensemble.

Performing from their home base in Los Angeles, Aditya Prakash Ensemble highlights songs borne from South India’s Carnatic tradition. Prakash uses his voice as an instrument to tell powerful, emotive stories — which he reimagines in a fresh, dynamic way. Aditya Prakash Ensemble’s modern take on traditional music mixes in jazz and hip-hop and features a diverse L.A. ensemble.

The Ensemble is a quintet.  With Julian Le on piano, Owen Clapp on Bass, Brijesh Pandya on drums and Jonah Levine on trombone and guitar.

As “Greenwood” starts, I can’t quite tell if he’s actually singing words (in Hindi or some other language) or if he is just making sounds and melodies.  It sounds great either way.  He sings a melody and then the upright bass joins in along with the trombone.  He displays a more traditional singing and then Le plays a jumping piano solo which is followed by a trombone solo.  The ending is great as he sings along to the fast melody.

“Vasheebava” is a song about seduction.  Levine plays the guitar on this song.  It starts with gentle effects on the cymbals (he rubs his fingers on them).  Prakash sings in a more traditional Indian style and Levine adds a really nice guitar solo.

“Payoji” is a traditional devotional song and Prakash sings in a very traditional style.  But musically it’s almost a kind of pop jazz.  It’s very catchy with a nice trombone solo.

This conflation of Indian music with jazz is really cool.

[READ: January 11, 2021] Fearless.

“If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”-Malala Yousafzai

This book begins with this wonderful sentiment:

Not long ago, a wave of exciting books uncovered stories of women through history, known and unknown, for young dreamers around the world.  Women who had been warriors, artists and scientists.  Women like Ada Lovelace, Joan of Arc and Frida Kahlo, whose stories changed the narrative for girls everywhere. Readers around us were thrilled to discover this treasure trove. But there was something missing. They rarely saw women of color and even fewer South Asian women in the works they were reading.

It’s a great impetus for this book which opens with a timeline of Pakistani accomplishments (and setbacks) for women.  The timeline is chronological in order of the birth years of the woman in the book.  Interspersed with their births are important events and the year they happened.

Like in 1940 when women mobilized and were arrested or in 1943 when the Women’s National Guard was formed. In 1948, a law passed recognizing women’s right to inherit property.  In 1950, the Democratic Women’s Association formed to demand equal pay for equal work (it doesn’t say if it was successful).

In 1973 the Constitution declared there could be no discetrmaton on the basis of race, religion, caste or sex.

But in a setback in 1979, the Hudood Ordinance passed which conflated adultery with rape, making it near impossible to prove the latter–and the punishment was often death.

And yet for all of the explicit sexism in Pakistan, the country accomplished something that America has been unable to do–elect a woman as leader. In 1988 Benazir Bhutto became the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan.

The woman in this book are given a one-page biography and a cool drawing (illustrations by Aziza Ahmad).  They range from the 16th century to today.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MICKEY GUYTON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #108 (November 9, 2020).

Mickey Guyton is a country singer, which is probably why I have never heard of her.  And yet, when Guyton sang her first song, I never would have guessed she was a country singer.

Her first song “Black Like Me” is beautiful.

In June, after the killing of George Floyd, Guyton released “Black Like Me,” which tells her own story in a way that gently but resolutely calls for change.

Her desk holds the book that inspired it.  Her voice is powerful and there’s not a twang in sight.  The lyrics are sensational, with the excellent chorus:

if you think we live in the land of the free
you should try to be black like me.

The only problem I have with the song is that although the piano accompaniment from Lynette Williams is lovely, I feel that the song deserves a much bigger arrangement.

I love the arrangement of the next song “Salt.”  Soulful keyboards, the Afro-Caribbean instruments of percussionist Paul Allen, Jon Sosin’s acoustic guitar.  She sounds a lot more country music in her delivery (there’s an actual delivery style that you can hear as she sings, even without the twang).  I liked this song, and I think it’s clever, but after the resonance of the other two songs, this one–a warning to men about women–seems beneath her.  Although the lyrics are pretty clever.

In February, as protests against sexism intensified in the country world, she debuted “What Are You Gonna Tell Her” and it caused an instant sensation.

She sang the he song at the ACM awards and was the first African-American woman to sing an original song at the awards–in 2020!

It’s back to just piano again–maybe the more important songs are more spare?  For some reason, the music of this song makes me think it could fit into Hamilton.  And the lyrics, once again, are terrific.

She thinks life is fair and
God hears every prayer
And everyone gets their ever after
She thinks love is love and if
You work hard, that’s enough
Skin’s just skin and it doesn’t matter
And that her friend’s older brother’s gonna keep his hands to himself
And that somebody’s gon’ believe her when she tells
But what are you gonna tell her
When she’s wrong?

Wow.

[READ: December 7, 2020] “Cut”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth 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

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

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.

It’s December 7. Catherine Lacey, author of Pew, presses every button in the elevator on her way out.  [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

I read this story back in April, when it was printed in the New Yorker.  It’s the only story in this collection that I’ve read before so far.  It was bizarre and I loved it.  I’m going to post a briefer version of my original post which you can read here.

This story started out is such an amusing way:

There’s no good way to say it–Peggy woke up most mornings oddly sore, sore in the general region of her asshole.

But it’s not an amusing scene at all.  It burns when she uses the toilet and she finds blood in her pajamas.

She could see a cut but only when using a hand mirror while she was crouched at the right angle.  But even so, her groin “was that of a middle-aged woman and not as strictly delineated as it once had been.”  Nevertheless, whenever she looked for it she always “paused to appreciate the inert drapery of her labia.”

The cut was there, but it seemed to migrate.   She tried to look it up online, but only found porn.  Adding Web MD brought back porn in doctor’s offices.  And adding Mayo Clinic introduced her to people with a fetish for mayonnaise. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CARLOS VIVES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #95 (October 14, 2020).

This is a hugely fun Tiny Desk (Home) Concert.

Everything about Vives’ music feels uplifting and joyful.  And boy is that a nice feeling.

Carlos Vives kicks things off in high gear on this Tiny Desk (home) concert with his trademark sound: a celebration of the music from his beloved home country of Colombia, mixed with rock and other Latin music styles.

The opening song “Pa’ Mayte” starts out with a ripping accordion melody from Christian Camilo Peña and some wonderfully funky fluid bass lines from Guillermo Vadalá.  Vadalá is my favorite component of this set without question.

Vives’ voice is strong and powerful and he is joined with a chorus of backing vocalist and percussionist, especially Guianko Gómez from Cuba and Mayte and Tato Montero.

The middle of the song has a rap followed by some really fast and complicated lead guitar from Andrés Leal (followed carefully by Vadalá).

Spirited champeta dance grooves from the country’s Pacific coast permeate his classic 1995 hit “Pa’ Mayte,” and if you look closely you’ll see two of his backup vocalists also playing traditional gaitas Colombianas (flutes).

Then comes the flute solos.  First Mayte Montero on the traditional gaita then Tato Marenco joins in.  Of course no song like this would be complete without some excellent drum and percussion and Martin Velilla is fantastic in that role.

Vives speaks in Spanish between songs. He says that “Cumbiana” is dedicated to his country (Colombia) and the people there.  It opens with pretty, echoing guitar and some wonderful lead bass notes.

It starts slowly, like a love song but turns into a bit of a banger in the chorus.  He even plays a harmonica solo.  During the quiet ending there’s just guitar and harmonica as the song fades.

Next is transition between the title cut of his new album Cumbiana and “La Bicicleta” a vallenato fueled by a bit of reggaeton.

It was originally recorded with his compatriot Shakira and he dedicates the song to her–“the bike to travel the whole world.”

The song is upbeat and a lot of fun.  The middle has a lead flute solo which is echoed by the lead guitar–a great combination. It ends with with a solo accordion melody as the song fades out.

Vives says that “cumbiana is that amphibian territory that I call where cumbias vallenatos and porros are born.

Evidently this is Vives’ signature sound:

a celebration of the music from his beloved home country of Colombia, mixed with rock and other Latin music styles.

They end with “No te Vayas” (“Do Not Go”) opens with quiet guitar.  As he sings the two flutes come in playing the melody along with his voice.  It’s a wonderful combination and an altogether fantastic set.

[READ: November 20, 2020] “A is for Alone”

This story has an interesting setup,.

The narrator is an artist and her latest project is inspired by Mike Pence.  She has called it “Interrogating Graham/Pence” and plans to interview a series of men.  She will give them a questionnaire and take their Polaroid.

The two key questions are:

When, prior to today did you last spend time alone with a woman who is not your wife?  Are you aware of the Modesto Manifesto also known as the Billy Graham Rule, also known as the Mike Pence Rule?

The first man she interviews, Eddie, is an old friend from college.  They took a ceramics class together. They both have fond memories of those days, although since school Eddie has become very successful in the investment world.  Eddie is married and has children and admits that he isn’t alone with other women very often.  But he agrees that the Mike Pence rule is weird.

One of the other questions on the questionnaire is “what did you think when I invited you to lunch?” Eddie assumed that she was sick or dying.

She had planned to meet a different man each week, but then realized she didn’t know 52 men.

The next man she invited was her son’s hockey coach.  He is confused and somewhat alarmed at the lunch invitation.  He assumes there will be more people.  He thinks that the Graham/Pence rule makes sense.  He is not willing to contribute to or particulate in her project. (more…)

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[POSTPONED: November 22, 2020] Bikini Kill / Alice Bag [rescheduled from May 13; moved to October 2, 2021]

indexBoy, a band reunites and plans a national tour and then everything blows up on them.  I thought surely this show would go on as planned–a bigger venue, possible social distancing. But how do you enforce social distancing at a rock show?  I sure hope we can go to live music again.

When Bikini Kill did their short reunion tour a couple years ago, tickets sold out in like ten seconds.  When they announced this follow up tour I grabbed a ticket immediately.  As far as I can tell it still hadn’t sold out when it was postponed (which is a surprise, I think).

Bikini Kill are foundation for the Riot Grrl movement although I was not a huge fan of them per se.  I have their records appreciate them for what they did, but they weren’t my favorite,

Nevertheless, this opportunity to see them live sounded like a great time.

Alice Bag has been cropping up in my periphery for quite some time although I realized I didn’t know much about her.  Alicia Armendariz was a co-founder and singer of the 70s punk band The Bags.  After they broke up, she was in about a half dozen other bands, although none of them released more than some singles.  She finally put out a solo album in 2016.

Her album(s) since have gotten strong reviews and it would be excellent to see this feminist icon in action.

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SOUNDTRACK: TEGAN AND SARA-“Proud” (1999).

Each chapter in this book is headed by a quote from a different song. I chose this Tegan and Sara song because it sounds so remarkably different from their current stuff (things do change in 20 years, how about that).

This song sounds a lot like it was made by Ani Difranco (early in her career).  It opens with a shuffling acoustic guitar.  A chunky melody with scratching between chords.  Then an interesting and off-kilter drum beat kicks in.

The singer (I never know which one is singing) has a kind of snarling power to her voice

Freedom’s rough
So we take our stand and fight for tomorrow
Finally we got something something we can
Bring down the house with

The second verse gets much bigger with a fat bass

The middle section has a super catchy repeating of “no no no” in a kind of scatting style and then soaring vocals.

The song quietens down again for the verses until the bass comes back for the raucous ending.

The quote that the book uses is

Freedom and blood
I make my mark and fight for tomorrow

Sounds like Elizabeth Warren to me.

[READ: November 4, 2020] Elizabeth Warren

This is one of four books in the Queens of Resistance series.  The series celebrates a different woman fighting oppression and making waves in the United States government.  [The other books are about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters].

The books are written by Brenda Jones who was communications director for Rep. John Lewis, and Krishan Trotman, an editor at Hachette who specializes in multicultural voices and social justice.

This series is aimed at younger readers, young women mostly, and is meant to be an inspirational account of women who are fighting for justice throughout their lives and especially during the present administration.

This book acts as a biography as well as an up to the minute account (as of May 2020) of what this powerful women is doing.

I wanted Elizabeth Warren to be President.  She was my first choice (with Kamala Harris being a very close second).  So this book was like candy to me.  I knew a lot about Warren, but I really didn’t know much about her backstory.  This book fills all that in. (more…)

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