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Archive for the ‘Brazil’ Category

31423478SOUNDTRACK: FABIANO DO NASCIMENTO-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #43 (July 2, 2020).

fasbiFabiano Do Nascimento was born in Brazil and now lives in L.A.  he is an amazing guitar player, creating gorgeous soundscapes–‘an amalgamation of Afro-Brazilian jazz, folklore, bossanova and samba.”

For the first piece, “Nanã,” he plays what I think is a 10 string guitar (the fretboard is so wide!).  he starts a lovely melody and then the screen splits into four.  David Bergaud adds quiet piano and Julien Cantelm adds some complex drum patterns.  The fourth quarter is Fabiano again (it took me a moment to realize it, because he is in a different room).  He plays a lead guitar melody on a tiny ten stringed guitar.

The combination of his overdubbed rhythmic and melodic guitar lines, coupled with the delicate hands of piano player David Bergaud and drummer Julien Cantelm … flow into the first number, “Nanã,” a folkloric composition that “is the spirit that comes from African lineage and represents the forest … and is the primordial mother of earth.”

Up next is “Etude,” a composition by Fabiano inspired by Cuban classical guitar virtuoso Leo Brouwer.

For this piece, he switches to a six string guitar.  He has a different accompaniment.  Adam Ratner plays electric guitar (quietly) and Leo Costa play a some great complex drum (and cymbal) patterns as well as the chocalho.

Both Fabiano and Adam play leads, slow jazzy, pretty, while thr drums really do take much of the action.

Fabiano expresses

love for his motherland Brazil — an “endless foundation of inspiration” — is threaded deeply into the tapestry of his sound and ethos. If you’re looking for a musical moment of zen, this set comes highly recommended.

The final piece “Tributo” is a tribute to Brazilian composer Baden Powell de Aquino.  This piece is for solo guitar.

[READ: June 20, 2020] Make Your Bed

My son completed a leadership training course for the Boy Scouts and he was given this book as a gift.  I was intrigued by the title and because I like the guy who gave it to my son, so I thought I;d read it.

It’s a fast and easy read and I think a younger person (this was originally a college commencement address) could be inspired by it.  I’m a little too set in my ways t make many changes (although I have made sure my bed has been made ever since reading this).

The book is set up in ten chapters: the ten points that he made during the speech.  Each chapter gives a suggestion.  It is followed by the practical origin of that suggestion and then a more intense incident in life in which he used that suggestion. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 9, 2014] Cirque Éloize: Cirkopolis

cirkopolosI was a little concerned that we might be circused and acrobatted out when I got us tickets for Cirque Éloize.  But I’m really glad I got them.

What I have learned about circuses, cirques, and acrobats is that there are basically a half dozen things you can do: gymnastics on ropes, gymnastics on poles, contortions, juggling, wheels and balance.  So, when you see a new act, it’s unlikely you’ll get much variation on these essential skills.  The big difference comes in presentation.  And while the Chinese Acrobats do wonderful presentation, they had nothing on Cirque Éloize for overall presentation, stage set up and storytelling.

The first thing you hear as the lights dim is loud industrial noises (the music was a little too loud, I felt, but it really showed the sense of oppression they were trying to convey).  The din grew louder and louder until the curtain rose and we saw a man sitting at a desk stamping papers rhythmically.  He finishes his work and more papers come. More and more (with simple comic touches and sound effects).  He is dressed in drab grays as is every other person, including the women–suits, raincoats, all in drab gray.  They start moving around en masse, doing some simple but interesting footwork as the music grows more tense.  Our worker drone is swept up by the conforming masses.  And then a video backdrop appears with gears and dark buildings.  It zooms in on a scene as the first act begins–one where people start climbing all over his desk and jumping off. You get a feeling of Metropolis, or Brazil or even Charlie Chaplin films–and the zooming nature really makes it feel like you are soaring along.

What amazed about this sequence initially was their dress–you’re used to seeing acrobats in sleek outfits but these folks were in suits.  And they started doing acrobatic stuff–but more of a mix of dance and acrobatics than simple feats of strength and agility.  The most impressive part was when one of them men simple grabbed another man by the hands and essentially hurled him, upright, onto his own shoulders.  There were amazing displays of this kind of strength and balance–nothing slow and subtle, just pop, there he is.  And yet all the while other people are doing things behind him which are also amazing to watch. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TRIUMPH-Just a Game (1979).

When I was a kid, my love of Rush was followed closely by my love of Triumph (I had a thing for Canadian power trios).  I’ve recently read a bunch about Triumph and was surprised to hear how acrimonious the band was.  Of course, I didn’t care about any of that back in the 80s.

This album was my favorite (even though Allied Forces was their major breakthrough).  In my gate-fold album the inner foldout was an actual board game.  How thoughtful!

It’s funny listening now, how much I liked this album back then because there is definitely some cheese here.  And I could never decide if I liked drummer Gil Moore’s songs or Rik Emmet’s songs best.  “Movin On” is a great hit but the backing vocals and “on and on” parts are kind of wimpy 70s rock–I must have blocked it out while jamming to the guitar solo.

Rik Emmet has since gone on to a successful solo career.  But on “Lay It On the Line,” the song that got me into them (thanks MTV) Rik rocks like he loves this band and this music.  The song features some serious guitar workouts and some impressive vocal acrobatics.

Perhaps, in hindsight, I like Rik’s songs better, as “Yong Enough to Cry” is pretty cheesy (it was fun to sing along to when I was 13 though–even if I never understood Gil’s pain, man).  But all of that was forgiven for the majesty of “American Girls.”  Sure, it’s also a cheesy song, but man it rocks.  As a young kid, I loved hearing the national anthem in the middle of the song.  And that solo is non-stop.

“Just a Game” is a powerhouse of a song although it’s a little long for what it is.  But then there’s the amazing “Fantasy Serenade” just over 90 second of beautiful classical guitar (a direction he’s go in much more after leaving Triumph).  It’s wonderful as a solo and it works as an amazing intro to the majestic “Hold On” (a song about music that doesn’t suck).  Although admittedly, the single version is better without the weird disco instrumental in the middle that really kind of puts a kibosh on the flow of the song.

The album ends with the strange (and quite long for what is it) “Suitcase Blues,” a 3 minute slow blues about touring.  But hey it showcases diversity, eh?

Even though many people compare Triumph to Rush, I think the more likely comparison is actually Kiss.  “American Girls” has a real Kiss vibe towards the end, and the opening chords of “Movin’ On” have a real Kiss feel.  Regardless, they played great metal/rock/prog and I’ll always love them for it.

[READ: February 12, 2012] Ready Player One

Do you like Rush? Do you like Monty Python?  Do you like the 80s?  (not those 80s, but cool 80s like Blade Runner, coin op video games, Family Ties, Square Pegs?)  Then you absolutely must read this book.  Especially if you like Rush, because how often does Rush form a plot point in a book?

Sarah was reading this book and she insisted that I read it (she has really been passing on the good suggestions lately!).  And when I heard her playing Rush a few days after reading this book (and she doesn’t like Rush), I knew I had to read it.

But what is it?  Well, It is basically the story of an online quest to find a secret egg and win a massive fortune.  The egg was placed in a virtual world by its creator, James Halliday.  Halliday was “a nerd uber-deity on the level of Gygax, Garriott, and Gates.”  He created amazing video games and ultimately the most amazing virtual reality space ever: OASIS.  (For Atari geeks, his inspiration for getting into creating video games in the first place was the Atari game Adventure).  Halliday was obsessed with the 19080s (the decade he grew up in), with technology and with geeky movies.  The only way to find this egg in OASIS is to know a thing or two (or 1,000,000) about the man who created it and the decade he loved.

If you were hooked by the first paragraph, you’ve already put this book on hold.  If you were hooked by the third paragraph, you know you have to put this book on hold.  If you’re not convinced yet let me back up.

It is the year 2044.  The earth is in a hellish state–there’s no fuel, there’s no jobs, people live in trailers that are stacked on top of each other.  Life sucks.  Except for OASIS.  OASIS is the virtual world created by Halliday.  At this stage in the world, OASIS is where most people go to school (cheaper and easier to do virtual teaching) and where many people spend most of their lives.  It’s depressing and horrible (and I actually didn’t enjoy the opening chapters all that much because it was really horrible and at a times a bit more caustic than I was expecting–but that changes quite a lot).

So Halliday invented OASIS as an idealized pace.  It was originally a multi-player game but soon became a new place to live, a kind of Eden.  It was free to join and you didn’t have to pay to play.  Although you needed credits to travel (or to build your own buildings or planets or whatnot), you could stay on the main world (which looks a whole hell of a lot nicer than the real world) and just hang out for free.  You can earn points through various achievements which would let you travel (or you could always hitch a ride with a friend) around the worlds.

Anyhow, when Halliday died, as his last will, he created a contest in OASIS.  Anyone who could find the three keys and unlock the three gates would win his entire fortune (billions of dollars) and total control of OASIS.

The protagonist (Wade in the real world, Perzival in the OASIS world) is telling his tale because he was the first avatar to find the first key to Halliday’s Hunt (it took over five years to find the first key).  If you played D&D, this section will make you smile.

When Perzival found the key he was suddenly famous because everyone on OASIS knew it was found.  Prior to this moment, the “leader board” which previously listed only Halliday, now suddenly lit up with Perzival’s name.  (Good thing OASIS avatars are anonymous, right?) (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DIVINE COMEDY-BANG goes the Knighthood (2010).

I’ve really enjoyed The Divine Comedy since their earliest Michael Nymanesque music.  I loved the orchestral pop that Neil Hannon seemed to effortlessly create.  His last few records have been less exciting to me.  He has toned down the orchestration and made his songs more subtle.  They’re still beautiful but they’re not always as immediately arresting.  I thought that was true of this album as well, although I found that when I sat down and really listen to the music and words together (what a novel idea) the music played so well with the lyrics that the album overall is easily one of his best.  Although I still prefer the pomp and full orchestration of the earlier music, this newer stuff is very interesting. An artist has got to grow, right?

The new sound is more Tin Pan Alley.  It’s piano with guitars and occasional horns–very limited strings are present at all.  And, as any fan knows, Neil writes wonderful songs about love, and the songs on here are some more great love songs.  The non-love songs span the gamut of ideas–from emotionally wrenching to downright silly.  Neil is definitely a “get to know him” kind of songwriter.  And it’s rewarding when you do.

“Down in the Street Below” is a piano based song that morphs into a jaunty little number after some quiet verses.  It features yet another of his great melodies.  “The Complete Banker” is a jaunty piano song that mercilessly mocks the banking industry.  Not terribly original but certainly fun and lyrically it’s quite clever.  “Neapolitan Girl” is a faster song (reminds me of a Broadway musical or movie instrumental) which is (as they all are) very fun to sing along to).  “Bang Goes the Knighthood” is a musical hall song that is really quite funny despite the somber sound of the music (it’s about a knighted man who indulges in certain proclivities that might cost him what he has).

“The Indie Disco” is the exact opposite, it’s bouncy and shuffly and yet understated as only an indie disco can be (this may be the softest, least excited “yea!” in any song ever.  Name checking Morrissey may not be original but it would be a less real picture without him.  The songs he mentions are kind of dated, but are probably pretty accurate to what gets played in an indie disco these days.  “Have You Ever Been in Love” could be used in any rom-com film montage.  Although maybe it’s too obvious?  Sweetly filled with strings (yes strings).

“Assume the Perpendicular” is a slightly faster song, as befits lyrics, “I can’t abide a horizontal life while “The Lost Art of Conversation” is another bouncy tune with a whistle for an ending!

“Island Life” is one of the first duets I can think of from the Divine Comedy–it sounds like something out of the movie Brazil.  “When a Man Cries” is an emotionally wrenching song.  It seems somewhat out of place for Hannon’s usual topic, but it’s quite beautiful.  The silly fun of “Can You Stand Up on One Leg” is the perfect antidote.  Each verse provides something that’s harder to do than you think.  The final verse offers, “can you hold a singing note for a stupidly long time…. Let’s see how long you can hoooooooooo….oooold on to a note.” For the record, Neil’s note is 29 seconds long….stupidly long!  Is that really him holding that high note for 29 seconds?

The final song “I Like” is a wonderful poppy ditty, in which the full band rocks out (more or less) to another great melody.  It’s a perfect love song (even modernized to include a kind of rhyme with sexy and texting).

Initially I was a little disappointed by this disc, but it really proved to be fantastic.  More, Neil, more!

[READ: December 28, 2011] Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Is Mindy Kaling a big enough celebrity to write a book (memoir or otherwise?).  To use her own in-book comparison, she’s nowhere near Tina Fey’s level of fame, right? (although I actually think she is funnier).  I mean, she’s a minor character on a popular show.  True, she’s also a writer and producer, but that’s not going to lead you to fame or anything.  The more I read about her in the book, the more I wondered exactly who would know her aside from fans of The Office.

None of that is to say that Kaling isn’t awesome.  She is.  She’s funny and talented and I am thrilled she wrote a book–sometimes within an ensemble your individual voice will get lost.  But I have to wonder how much name recognition she has.  And the book doesn’t do a lot to dispel this sense for me.  I mean, she tells about everything she’s done, and really all she had done was write Matt & Ben (which sounds awesome and which I remember hearing about back in the day) and work (a lot) for The Office.  Not minor accomplishments by any stretch, but not a fame-inducing resume.  Nevertheless, good for her that someone was interested in letting her write a book.  And good for us who read it.  If you are amused by the use of the subtitle of the book (which I am) you will like enjoy the humor here.

I had read some excerpts from the book so I assumed it was all funny essays and whatnot, but it’s not.  It’s actually a memoir with funny essays mixed in.   Of course, Mindy’s life before Matt & Ben isn’t really very “interesting” (the book is very funny during this time of her life, even if she really didn’t do much more than babysit for rich folks and watch Comedy Central).

In the Introduction, Mindy provides a FAQ about the book.  One of the questions is if she is going to offer advice and she says yes.  And here’s the thing, Mindy’s advice is outstanding.  She offers advice about many topics and I don’t think I disagreed with her about anything (except maybe pea coats).  She’s like the voice of reason in a world gone mad and an excellent role model for anyone. (more…)

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mcs24.jpgSOUNDTRACK: GUIDED BY VOICES-Universal Truths and Cycles (2002).

gbv.jpg

I like Guided By Voices more in theory than in actuality. In theory, Robert Pollard is a songwriting maniac who has released hundreds of songs that are all snappy, catchy and brilliant. In practice, Robert Pollard is a songwriting maniac who has released hundreds of songs that he puts out whether they are finished or not. A vast quantity of GBV output is about a minute long. And for the most part the songs feel like fragments, rather than real songs. Nevertheless, I find that just about everything he writes is catchy and quite good, it’s just that so much of it is so forgettable.

Despite that, they have several songs that are fantastic. I could easily make a greatest hits record of GBV songs that I think are fabulous, and it would probably have 20 songs on it. The only problem is Pollard has released probably a thousand songs, so that’s not such great average.

I received this copy of Universal Truths and Cycles as a promotional copy many years ago. I had really enjoyed Do the Collapse, and so I grabbed this CD, and much like my assessment above, I find that there’s nothing I really dislike about the album although at 4:59, almost three times longer than a typical GBV song, “Storm Vibrations” tends to drag, but overall there’s not that much that’s memorable. Of course, “Everywhere with Helicopters” is fantastic and “Christian Animation Torch Characters” is also pretty wonderful. I could pick maybe 3 of the 19 songs here to go on my hits collection, but overall, the album is typical GBV, a little weird, but very catchy.

[READ: October 2, 2007] McSweeney’s #24.

I just flew through this latest issue of McSweeney’s. It was a real treat to read. The packaging was another one of their fun covers. It is designed in two parts, with a gatefold type of sleeve that reveals a full nighttime scene if you open it all the way. These guys have so much fun with their design, I’m surprised they’re not noted more for that.

Anyhow, the contents: the one side is a selection of six short stories, they all seem to feature guns, and they’re not afraid to use them. The other side is a symposium of reasonably famous authors writing tributes about Donald Barthelme, and two short stories by Barthelme himself. It also comes with an excerpt from Millard Kaufman’s Bowl of Cherries, which I have not yet read, but if it’s good I will get the book and review it later. (more…)

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