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Archive for the ‘Mad Men’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE GOOD ONES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #87 (September 29, 2020).

I love when a music critic, like Bob Boilen, picks an album for his top ten lists that (I assume) no one else has heard.  So it’s no surprise to learn that 

In 2019, The Good Ones’ album RWANDA, you should be loved was one of my top 10 albums. They were to play a Tiny Desk concert in May of this year, but the world had other plans.

The blurb continues, “this is the tiniest of Tiny Desk (home) concerts, a single song.”  The song “Soccer (Summer 1988)” is simple, with a pretty guitar melody and wonderful harmonies.  But read what they’ve been through.

Adrien Kazigira and Janvier Havugimana know endless hardships. The night before this recording was made, a flood in Rwanda killed more than a dozen people and destroyed homes. Muddied water was more than waist high in Janvier’s one-room hut. That next morning, Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan and photographer Marilena Umuhoza Delli showed up to record the duo; she had the camera and he handled the audio. And though Janvier had been up all night dealing with the mud, they all took a two-hour drive to Adrien’s hilltop farm. Janvier tapped out the rhythm with a key on a thermos; the jug was filled with milk — milk from a cow Adrien was able to purchase courtesy of a 2019 U.S. tour.

The performance is a song they’d just learned to play together: “Soccer (Summer 1988).” It’s a nostalgic tune of a favorite soccer team, Rayon Sports F.C., from the days before the genocide in Rwanda took too many lives nearly a quarter of a century ago. Support means a great deal to these people, and if you like what you hear, their Bandcamp page is a good way to help The Good Ones.

It’s worth checking out their page to hear what they sound like when their world hasn’t just been turned upside down.

[READ: September 24, 2020] The Space Merchants [an excerpt]

During the COVID Quarantine, venerable publisher Hingston & Olsen created, under the editorship of Rebecca Romney, a gorgeous box of 12 stories.  It has a die-cut opening to allow the top book’s central image to show through (each book’s center is different).  You can get a copy here.

This is a collection of science fiction stories written from 1836 to 1998.  Each story imagines the future–some further into the future than others.

As it says on the back of the box

Their future.  Our present.  From social reforms to climate change, video chat to the new face of fascism, Projections is a collection of 12 sci-fi stories that anticipated life in the present day.

About this story, Romney writes that it is one of her all time favorite books

Imagine a tongue-in-cheek spin on Mad Men, but set in a future when corporations have largely taken the place of governments.  …  This is mind-boggling in the number of predictions it gets right about the effects technological developments have had on capitalism over the past fifty years.

I also loved this story, or at least this excerpt, and will absolutely read the whole story to see what happens.

As it opens, we meet the narrator heading to work at Fowler Schocken Associates.  The company is a very successful advertising firm, headed by Fowler Schocken.  

As their meeting starts Fowler wonders aloud if they are getting soft.  The room is full of yes-men, but they are also correct.  They have not been getting soft.  They just secured the Coffiest account (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN PRINE-Tiny Desk Concert #717 (March 12, 2018).

For all of the legendary status of John Prine, I don’t really know that much about him.  I also think I don’t really know much of his music.  I didn’t know any of the four songs he played here.

I enjoyed all four songs.  The melodies were great, the lyrics were thoughtful and his voice, although wizened, convey the sentiments perfectly.

The blurb sums up things really well

An American treasure came to the Tiny Desk and even premiered a new song. John Prine is a truly legendary songwriter. For more than 45 years the 71-year-old artist has written some of the most powerful lyrics in the American music canon, including “Sam Stone,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Hello In There” and countless others.

John Prine’s new songs are equally powerful and he opens this Tiny Desk concert with “Caravan of Fools,” a track he wrote with Pat McLaughlin and Dan Auerbach. Prine adds a disclaimer to the song saying, “any likeness to the current administration is purely accidental.”

I thought the song was great (albeit short) with these pointed lyrics:

The dark and distant drumming
The pounding of the hooves
The silence of everything that moves
Late in night you see them
Decked out in shiny jewels
The coming of the caravan of fools

That song, and his second tune, the sweet tearjerker “Summer’s End,” are from John Prine’s first album of new songs in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness.

He introduces this song by saying that.  This one is a pretty song.  It might drive you to tears.  He wrote this with Pat McLaughlin.  We usually write on Tuesdays in Nashville because that’s the day they serve meatloaf.  I love meatloaf.  We try to write a song before they serve the meatloaf.  And then eat it and record it.

For this Tiny Desk Concert John Prine also reaches back to his great “kiss-off” song from 1991 [“an old song from the 90s (whoo)…  a song from the school of kiss off 101”] called “All the Best,” and then plays “Souvenirs,” a song intended for his debut full-length but released the following year on his 1972 album Diamonds in the Rough. It’s just one of the many sentimental ballads Prine has gifted us.

He says he wrote it in 1968…when he was about 3.

Over the years, his voice has become gruffer and deeper, due in part to his battle with squamous cell cancer on the right side of his neck, all of which makes this song about memories slipping by feel all the more powerful and sad.

“Broken hearts and dirty windows
Make life difficult to see
That’s why last night and this mornin’
Always look the same to me
I hate reading old love letters
For they always bring me tears
I can’t forgive the way they rob me
Of my sweetheart’s souvenirs”

The musicians include John Prine, Jason Wilber, David Jacques and Kenneth Blevins.

 

[READ: December 11, 2017] X

I really enjoyed Klosterman’s last essay book, although I found pretty much every section was a little too long.  So this book, which is a collection of essays is perfect because the pieces have already been edited for length.

I wasn’t even aware of this book when my brother-in-law Ben sent it to me with a comment about how much he enjoyed the Nickelback essay.

Because I had been reading Grantland and a few other sources, I have actually read a number of these pieces already, but most of them were far off enough that I enjoyed reading them again.

This book is primarily a look at popular culture.  But narrowly defined by sports and music (and some movies).  I have never read any of Klosterman’s fiction, but I love his entertainment essays. (more…)

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grant12SOUNDTRACK: BELA FLECK, EDGAR MEYER, ZAKIR HUSSAIN-Tiny Desk Concert #70 (July 26, 2010).

belaBela Fleck is a rather legendary musician, and yet I realized I don’t really know that much about him.  And somehow I never knew he was a banjo player (that’s a pretty serious omission on my part).  I had never heard of the other two musicians, although they are apparently world-class masters of the bass fiddle and the tabla.

I also didn’t expect this Tiny Desk Concert to be so interestingly world-musicy.

This set is only two songs but each is about 7 minutes long and they are both very cool (and from the album The Melody of Rhythm).

Fleck’s playing is amazing, with a tone that is often unlike a standard banjo sound.  And I absolutely love the tabla–I am fascinated by this instrument.  The first song, “Bubbles” is an amazing demonstration of Fleck’s banjo.  About midway through he is playing in a decidedly middle eastern style (which works great with the tabla).  And when the bass starts getting bowed around 1:50, it adds an amazing richness to this already cool song.   There’s a cool bass solo (I love that the tabla pauses a few times during the solo).  The ending is just wonderful.

Before the second song, “Bahar” (which means “springtime”) they talk about being nervous, which is pretty funny.  This song opens with the bass fiddle’s bowed notes (including a very very high note).  This one seems to be a more solo-centered, with some elaborate work from Fleck after the introduction. And the tabla solo, while brief, is really cool to watch.  I prefer the first song, but the more traditional nature of the second song is a nice counterpart to the first.

[READ: August 24, 2015] Grantland #12

I enjoyed this issue as well.  This was mostly the spring and summer of 2014, which sounds so long ago, and yet so many things seem so current.

CHUCK KLOSTERMAN-“The Life and Times of Kiss”
I love this article about Kiss.  And I wrote about it back here.

WESLEY MORRIS-“Poison Candy”
This is about the disastrous state of female comedies.  It focuses on the movie The Other Woman which is ostensibly a female centered comedy but is entirely other.

BILL SIMMONS-“Sterling’s Fold”
A drumming down of Donald Sterling.  It’s hard for me to believe that this happened over a year ago.

ZACH LOWE-“Building the Brow”
An article about Anthony Davis of the Pelicans, who is proving to be better than anyone imagined. (more…)

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  grantland8SOUNDTRACK: RALPH STANLEY-Tiny Desk Concert #31 (October 13, 2009).

ralpRalph Stanley is apparently a living bluegrass legend, although I’ve never heard of him.  He plays a clawhammer banjo (and apparently has for 63 years).

The concert lasted only 6 minutes, but in that time he sang three a capella songs: “Gloryland,” “Turn Back, Turn Back” and “Amazing Grace.”

It’s hard to assess a legend based on this performance.  I’ve no idea how good his voice was back in the day.  He sounds fine here, albeit understandably quite old.  I’d have liked to hear his banjo.

[READ: January 3, 2014] Grantland #8

It is becoming apparent to me that Grantland loves basketball.  Like, a lot more than any other sport.  This issue had a ton of basketball in it.  And, I have to admit I was a little tired of it by the end–there was a lot less pop culture stuff, too.  So, it felt especially basketball heavy.  I realize of course that the time frame covered was the playoffs, but still.

BILL SIMMONS-“Searching for a Superman”
A lengthy article about Dwight Howard, discussing the pros and cons of signing him again.

MARK TITUS-“How Did He Get So Good?”
A look at Paul George and Danny Green doing better than expected in the NCAA playoffs.

CHARLES P. PIERCE-“A Dark Day in Boston
Pierce wonders about Boston after the Boston Marathon bombing–he says the city will come back stronger. (more…)

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grantladn4SOUNDTRACK: PUBLIC IMAGE LTD-“Poptones” and “Careering” on American Bandstand (1980).

abThe Dick Clark article below alerted me to this bizarre gem–PiL “playing” on American Bandstand.   The article talks about John Lydon ignoring the lip synch, climbing into the audience and generally disregarding the show’s script. The video suggests something sightly less sinister (although maybe for 1980 it was outrageous–do you really cross Dick Clark?).

Dick Clark himself announces the band nicely, and then the crazy off-kilter bass and simple guitar of “Poptones” kick in.   Lydon runs into the bleachers with the kids (most of whom are dressed in New Wave finery not unlike Lydon).  They shriek with glee when he comes nearby (do any of them know who he is?  I have no idea).  When Lydon’s spoken rambling come in a little later you can’t help but wonder what the hell they are doing on AB.

Then, Lydon starts grabbing people from the audience and pushing them towards the stage–something I believe was unheard of on AB.  The fans dance around to the impossible-to-dance-to “Poptones.”  The song ends and Dick asks John if he wants the kids out there for song two.  Yes, song Two!  He does and John faux lip synchs through “Careering,” avoiding cameras at all costs and dancing with the kids–one of the most egalitarian performances I can think of from Lydon.

And listen for Dick asking Jah Wobble his name (reply THE Jah Wobble) and him saying, nice to meet you Wobble.  What a surreal moment–wonder what Dick thought of it.

Enjoy it here:

 

[READ: December 28, 2012] Grantland 4

Grantland continues to impress me with these books (and no, I have not yet visited the website).  My subscription ran out with this issue and I have resubscribed–although I take major issue with the $20 shipping and handling fee.  I even wrote to them to complain and they wrote back saying that the books are heavy.  Which is true, but not $5/bk heavy.  The good news is that they sent me a $10 off coupon so the shipping is only half as painful now.

This issue’s endpages were “hypothetical baseball wheel-guides created by JASON OBERG–they were pretty cool and a fun idea.  They look very retro, but use contemporary batters, pitchers and catchers.  I’d like to see them for real.

Each issue makes me like sports a little bit more, but not enough to actually watch  them.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VIOLET ARCHERS-End of Part One (2005).

The Violet Archers are the new(ish) band for Tim Vesely from the Rheostatics.  I’ve conveniently waited until The Rheos completely broke up before really really getting into them.  And it took me some time before deciding that I needed to get The two Violet Arhcers discs.  And then I discovered they were pretty much unavailable.

But the nice folks who used to sell their discs got me in touch with Tim himself, and he very nicely sent me the two CDs (for a most reasonable price).

When a band breaks up it’s always interesting to see what the solo members do…if they try to go very different from the original band or if they stay the same.  Well, the Rheos were a pretty unusual band, and if these two discs are any indication, it seems like Tim may have been the pop song writer.

“End of Part One” starts with a guitar and cool organ opening before the song kicks into a mellow rocker.  “Coordinates” has more interesting keyboard sounds (these sound strange to me because the The Rheos weren’t very keyboardy).  Lyrically, it’s a great collection of rhymed verses that lead to a wonderful na na na chorus.

The middle songs are a nice mixture of slightly fast rockers and almost folky ballads.   Vesely has a great knack for sing along choruses, but he’s also been alt-enough to know when to throw in an unexpected twist, or an interesting sound (the guitar sound in “Saved Me” is great) and the simple melody of “Simple” makes for a beautiful campfire song.

“Time to Kill” is a delightful gentle rock song with a great chorus and instrumentation.  It sounds like an outtake from a fantastic 1960s compilation.  It’s followed by “All that’s Good” which sounds like an awesome long-lost Neil Young song.  The guitar is spot on and the vocals work wonderfully.

“Fools Gold Rope” is a nice ballad with vocals by Ida Nilsen.  And the last four tracks are all shorter pieces.  “Life and Then” features keyboards prominently, while the oddly titled “Track Display” has some nice guitar work.

This is overlooked pop gem. Nothing is overly commercial, and yet it’s all fun and an enjoyable listen.  I’m glad Vesely is still writing great tunes.

[READ: September 28, 2010] “Sifting the Ashes”

This Dept. of Disputation piece is about cigarettes.  I’ve never smoked and I’ve never been much of a fan of cancer sticks.  However, I find myself siding with Franzen on a few points ion this article.

Franzen has evidently quit smoking several times (it’s even unclear from the way this is written if he’s actually smoking now (1996) or not).  But he never blames Philip Morris or RJ Reynolds for his addiction.  He argues correctly that marketing to kids reserves you a place in hell, but that really, parents and pop culture probably got more kids to smoke than Joe Camel ever did.

He makes some funny observations about smoking (getting freaked out about getting lung cancer?  Why not light up to calm down).  But mostly he notes how all of the attempts in the past to curb smoking have resulted in more hegemony for the big players: The ban on TV advertising saved the industry millions of dollars and froze out new competitors.  Even tax increases on smokes in 1982 were a way for the industry to also raise prices (and make more money) all the while blaming the tax.  And what we wind up with is that no plaintiff can realistically claim ignorance of tobacco’s hazards, therefore the companies will never be deemed negligent for selling cigarettes.

(more…)

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The new Fall TV season is pretty much underway.  It brings back a lot of old favorites, as well as a few new series that we’re going to check out. (more…)

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