Archive for the ‘The Daily Show’ Category

stuffedSOUNDTRACK: BIO RITMO-Tiny Desk Concert #392 (September 29, 2014).

bioritBio Ritmo is a nine-piece band that has played salsa music for 23 years (as of 2014).  The back beat and rhythm is pure salsa–there’s a drummer (who has that classic salsa drum sound) and two bongo players.  There’s shakers and scrapers and timbales and congas and a cowbell.

The four horns players (two trumpets, sax and trombone) punctuate all o the right notes to get you moving along.

The first song is “La Via.”  The main driving force seems to be the keyboard, which was unexpected–it adds a kind of Latin jazz feel to the proceedings.  I love the way the keyboards shift from a Latin feel to a more groovy 70s feel before the vocals start.  There’s a cool break in the middle of the song when it stops and we get a few pounding notes before the song resumes.  Classic salsa.

“Picaresca”has fun dancey rhythm and a lengthy trumpet solo, giving it another interesting salsa/jazz feel.  The keyboard solo sounds a little cheesey here–like they need better sounds on that program, but it’s the drums “solo” in the middle that makes this song so much fun.  It’s a great instrumental.

“Perdido” goes through many different genres.  He explains that it begins like a Puerto Rican dance from the 1800s and then goes “into other stuff.”  The opening does indeed sound like an old song and after a few verses it morphs into modern salsa once again.

I really enjoyed this set a lot.  Most salsa music sounds the same to me, but I really like it when I hear it. On the downside, this is the first Tiny Desk Concert where I felt like the band wasn’t mic’d effectively.  The vocals are really quiet (almost inaudible at times), and when the trombonist does a solo it’s also a little too quiet.  But the main focus is the percussion and that’s plenty loud!

[READ: May 10, 2016] Stuffed

I have had to interlibrary loan a lot of the rest of the First Second books because my library system doesn’t have them.  Usually if a library doesn’t have an older book it’s because not many people read it any more so they got rid of it.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the book is bad, but it doesn’t  give you a ton of confidence about it.  But this book defied every expectation and wound up being outstanding!

I assumed this title would be a cautionary tale about someone eating too much.  I had no idea what I was actually in for!

As the book opens, we meet Tim. He works for a benefits department of an insurance company (it sounds awful).  He gets a call that his father is dying.  He rushes to the hospital just in time  to see his father insult him once more before breathing his last.  His father’s estate is to be split between himself and his half-brother, Ollie.  No one has seen Ollie in ages.  When they do track him down, he is now known as “Free Spirit.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: December 14, 2014] John Oliver

oliverI have loved John Oliver for a long time.  I have been delighted to see him go from the British guy on the Daily Show (when he replaced Jon Stewart, he was really fantastic) to the British guy on Community and now the British guy with his own HBO show (which I have never seen since I don’t get HBO).  When I saw that he was doing standup in New Brunswick I had to go.  Our friends Eleanor and Liz went with us and we had a lovely night in good ol’ New Brunswick (strangely enough there was literally no one in the parking garage where we parked yet every restaurant was packed).

Sarah and I were worried that the stand up would reference his show, but it didn’t.  It was topical and funny and weird and funny and political and funny and very very funny.

The show opened with an Indian woman stand up.  Nothing is more thankless than being an opening act for a comedian.  For starters, we didn’t know there would be an opening act.  Then we didn’t find out until we saw in tiny letters on the tiny marquee in the foyer that there would be an opening act.  And we pushed through the doors so quickly that I never saw her name.  And of course they announced it, but I don’t remember what they said her name was.  And even worse I can’t seem to find it online anywhere (searching for “Indian female comedian” did not help believe it or not).  And we never got a program (if it was indeed listed in there).

[UPDATE: April 9, 2015] So I wrote to The State Theater and learned that our mystery comedian’s name is Aparna Nancherla.  You can see a clip of her on Conan where she tells the dog poop joke (and yes it is still funny).  But stay for the end to see the insane size difference between the two.

But she was very funny.  Her jokes were observational with some delightful nearly whispered punchlines that undermined her set ups.  She did an amusing but about drug store receipts.  There was a funny bit about going to customs in Australia and having to explain her occupation of “comedian.”  But a lot of her jokes were about making it in New York City.  There was a rather amusing dog poop joke and a very funny human poop joke.  The human poop joke was more about apartment hunting with a hilarious and disgusting premise that she claimed was a requirement for living in a new apartment (it was hilarious whether true or not). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMETRIC-Fantasies (2009).

I was hooked by the song “Gold Guns Girls.”  I liked it so much, I bought the disc, and I was absolutely not disappointed.  This disc reminds me of all of the best things about late 90s alt rock (one of my favorite musical periods).  There are echoes of later period Lush, or of Garbage or some other slickly produced commercial alt-rock.

I’m led to understand that this disc would merit cries of sell-out from older fans (their earlier stuff it a bit rougher, I gather), and yes, this is a pretty commercial release, but I don’t mind.  The songs are all top-notch: great songwriting, catchy choruses, wonderful production.  And there’s something slightly uncommercial about the lyrics which I think is what keeps this album from being too slick for its own good.

I have listened to this disc dozens of times at this point and I never get tired of it.  And, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go back and get some of their earlier releases too.

[READ: May 15, 2011] Fraud

I’ve seen Rakoff on the Daily Show, and his name has been cropping up in various places lately.  So I decided to read his actual published work to see what he was all about.

Fraud is his first book.  It is mostly funny, although it also dwells on serious matters by the end of the book.  In many ways Rakoff is like a slightly wilder, slightly edgier version of David Sedaris (the two have a long history of friendship and working together, so this may not be totally surprising).

I’m not going to compare him to Sedaris in any meaningful way, just to say that there are similarities of temperament and style; I don’t think either one of them is hilarious, but that I enjoy both of them and often laugh pretty hard at their material.

I’m also not going to review each essay in this book.  It seems to be constructed in a vague sort of narrative arc.  Well, actually, the second half of the book has the narrative arc (I suspect that the essays that were published previously were modified slightly and that the new essays allude to some of the incidents mentioned there.

The first few essays of the book are the funnier ones (insert joke about Woody Allen’s early funny movies here), and they stick more to the idea of Rakoff as a “Fraud.”  In them, Rakoff, a Canadian ex-pat (he’s from Toronto), somewhat neurotic, gay, New York Jew goes to different locations where he is an atypical person and then reports on them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ARCADE FIRE on THE DAILY SHOW: “Ready to Start” & “Month of May” (2010).

My friend Lar recent wrote a scathing review of Arcade Fire’s new album.  I haven’t heard it at all, so I can’t talk about it.  However, these two songs are from the new disc.

I have to say on first listen neither one wowed me the way their earlier tracks did.  However, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, their live show is really incredibly energetic and fun (even confined to the small set of The Daily Show).

This was especially evident with the second song, which opens with a megaphone and features lots of screaming.  The live set up includes two drummers and two violins. They are truly a band to behold onstage.

We’ll just have to see about The Suburbs though.

[READ: August 15, 2010] “The Orphan Lamb”

I was pretty turned off by the opening paragraph of this story (a rather over-the-top gruesome account of bloodletting).  But since the whole story is only three paragraphs, I decided to proceed.

And I’m glad I did.  The second paragraph gives a nice twist to the bloodletting of the first, adding a huge dose of humanity. (more…)

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In addition to reading, Sarah and I watch TV, too.  In the past, I posted occasional updates to a Tab devoted to TV.  But I’m going to put new information in individual posts instead.  So I’m starting with this season’s TV.

Of course, in the last couple of years, TV has changed from working on an easy to summarize Spring/Fall schedule to having shows appear almost at random.   This really undermines the very idea of a “season,” so I’m including a show or two from the end of 2009 as well.

One surprising thing about recent TV is how I watch almost nothing on the CW or Fox.  These were my mainstays as recent as two years ago, but they’ve totally dropped the ball lately.  And I can’t believe how much I’m enjoying shows on CBS (isn’t that the old people’s network?).

And so, for 2010: (more…)

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[READ: Yeah, I’m not reading her book, but this parody book looks mighty funny.  Click the cover to order it.]

So, obviously I’m not going to read her book.  But I did want to point out the Webster’s definitions of Rogue.  It was pretty clear on the campaign trail that words didn’t really mean anything.  But when your very own book uses a word as its title and that word is (presumably) used to describe you, wouldn’t it behoove you to find out just what the word means?

1 : vagrant, tramp
2 : a dishonest or worthless person : scoundrel
3 : a mischievous person : scamp
4 : a horse inclined to shirk or misbehave
5 : an individual exhibiting a chance and usually inferior biological variation

So, which is it?  Vagrant?  Dishonest Person?  Scamp?  Horse?  Inferior individual?  That may not have been the best word choice.

And speaking of failed vice presidential candidates.  Recent events have led me to ponder the life of the failed vice presidential candidate.  It seems that in the 21st century, the failed presidential candidate gets off okay.  He fails and he moves on, but jeez, let’s look at the last few failed VPs: (more…)

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propsectI recently received an e-mail from a nice person at Prospect (a British magazine).  The email asked if I’d like to review their magazine.  After being completely flattered, I said, “Of course!”  And then I waited nervously hoping that the magazine was good and that I wouldn’t have to say anything mean about it, because I would.  Oh yes, I would.

ctBut I don’t have to. They grabbed me right off the bat because the c & the t in the title are connected by a little filigree doodad.   I love typography, so that little flourish was a selling point (okay a superficial one, but I liked it immediately).

The “subtitle” of the magazine is “Good Writing About Things That Matter” and it is a totally apt description.  Prospect is a monthly magazine that covers all aspects of society: British, European, American and the world.  And, indeed, the writing is quite good.

In many ways it reminded me of The Walrus, a favorite magazine of mine.  (It’s a weird comparison since The Walrus has only been around for a few years, while Prospect has been around for about 13 (the November issue is number 164, so I’m guessing here), but it’s an apt comparison for its coverage: politics, culture, arts and more.

Because this was a new (to me)  magazine (and because I knew I’d be reviewing it), I decided to read every article.  There were a few that I thought I wouldn’t care much about.  But the writing totally grabbed me.  For instance, the article about Princess Diana (about whom I am indifferent) was fantastic.  It was cynical and funny and totally engaging.  And the same was true for just about every article in the magazine.

Normally I like to have at least two issues to refer to when reviewing.  So there may very well be things about this issue that are different from the others.  So, forgive, please, if I generalize incorrectly. (more…)

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more-infoSOUNDTRACK: Dungen-4 (2008).

4Vill du tala svensk?

Even if you don’t speak or understand Swedish, Dungen plays music that is pretty universally understood.  The album feels more or less like an all instrumental affair.  There are some songs with words, but they are all sung in Swedish. So, no, I have no idea what he’s singing about, and in that respect it feels all instrumental.

Like the previous discs, 4 feels like a blast from the psychedelic days.  It is trippy, at times loud and raucous, (with some amazing guitar workouts) and even has flutes on a few tracks.

The big difference between this disc and the previous releases is that there’s a lot more piano.  This has an overall calming effect on the music.  And in some ways, I think I don’t like this disc as much as previous ones.

The piano really comes to the fore on track 2 “Målerås Finest” which to me sounds like a a tribute to one Zappa’s instrumentals (it reminds me of “Peaches en Regalia,” although I don’t mean to suggest it’s a rip off at all). “Samtidigt 1 an 2” are the major instrumentals of the disc.  They also remind me of Zappa in that they feels like a snippet from some crazy guitar jam session.  (Zappa releases a lot of  “songs” like this on his …Guitar… albums. On this disc, we’re privy to about 3 minutes of wild guitar solo but since they fade in and then fade out at the end we have no idea how long the jam went on.  The final track “Bandhagen” also feels Zappaeque, but maybe it’s just the staccato notes that Zappa also uses to such good effect.

“Fredag” has a feeling like some of the more otherworldly Flaming Lips songs.  And “Mina Damer Och Fasaner” has a choppy heavy metal sound that really stands out from the disc.

Really there isn’t a bad song on the disc, but for some reason it doesn’t move me quite as much as the others.  I don’t want to bring a negative vibe to the review.  I’m sure if this was the first Dungen CD I had, I’d think it was amazing, I just got spoiled by them.

[READ: February 14, 2009] More Information Than You Require

John Hodgman is a man you will no doubt recognize from the Mac Vs PC ads (he’s the PC). He’s also a contributor and guest on The Daily Show. When this book was released he promoted it on The Daily Show, and on the Sound of Young America. It sounded really funny. And I was delighted that Sarah got it for me for Christmas. (more…)

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TNY 12.22&29.08 cvr.inddSOUNDTRACK: SUFJAN STEVENS–Peace! Songs for Christmas Vol. V (2006).

peaceThis EP comes very close to being my favorite; it may even beat vol 3.  In part because the disc is 35 minutes long (still short for Sufjan Stevens but longer than some bands’ full lengths).

Four songs are sort of repeated from other discs.  “Once in Royal David’s City,” “Lo! How a Rose E’er Blooming,” (a pretty piano version) “Jingle Bells” (a bouncy piano version) and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (a slow piano version) are short instrumental reprises and act as nice segues between the more meaty songs.

“Get Behind Me, Santa!” is something of a Santa bashing song, but it’s still pretty fun (with some great prog rock synth sounds).  But it is nowhere near as delightful as “Christmas in July,” another original that is totally Sufjan, from start to finish.  It’s a great song regardless of the season.  The pair of “Jupiter Winter” and “Sister Winter” are two originals: one mellow, the other less so.  While I don’t love “Jupiter,” “Sister” is fantastic.

“Star of Wonder” is not the part from “We three Kings” but an original song full of Sufjan’s orchestration.  It is mesmerizing. “Holy, Holy, Holy” is another beautiful rendition of a classic Christmas song (the delicate harmonies are really affecting).  And finally, “The Winter Solstice” sounds just like its title: chilly and spare.

And that completes the box set, one of my favorite Christmas collections.

[READ: January 4, 2009] “Dead Man Laughing”

I have only read On Beauty (and a piece in The Believer to be reviewed later) by Zadie Smith and yet I feel that she has rapidly eclipsed many of my favorite writers.  There is something about her style that is just beautiful to me.  She writes deliberately and powerfully without overembellishing or resorting to anything beneath her.  People often say that they could listen to so and so sing or recite the phone book, their voice is so good (I feel that way about Patrick Stewart).  Well whatever the equivalent for a writer is, that hows I feel about Zadie Smith. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Sparks-Sparks (1972).

I first got into Sparks when I was working at Tower Records in Paramus, NJ. My coworker Tommy used to play Sparks’ then current album Plagiarism (an album of covers of their own songs!) and it was so weird and intriguing, that I bought it for myself. Since then I have been collecting their back catalog, which isn’t easy as many haven’t been released here.

So what do they sound like? Well, the singer Russel Mael has an astonishing falsetto. Making Rush’s Geddy Lee seem quite butch. Mael leads the band to crazy vocal extremes, making even a normal sounding song seem quite bizarre (This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us, for instance). Russel’s brother Ron (known for his Chaplin/Hitler mustache is quite an accomplished pianist, and his sense of songwriting is, while unusual, certainly great. They were quite popular in the UK and Europe, so most people assume they are a Euro band but they hail from UCLA and thereabouts.

So, this album is their debut (when they were called Halfnelson). It was produced by Todd Rundgren (!) and is a bit more rock than their later new wave/disco hits. (And judging from the album cover photos, you can see that at the very least they’re trying to look like rock and rollers (all long hair and open shirts–even if Ron looks like Zappa). And so, this album pretty well lays the ground work for the Sparks of the future: weird, operatic and unexpected.

There are two songs that still make it onto “Greatest Hits” compilations: “(No More) Mr. Mice Guys” (in no way related to the Alice Cooper song, and “Wonder Girl.” Each one displays the signature style of future Sparks classics, but it still has a weird 1970s rock feel to it. It’s a pretty wacky beginning, but really it only hints at the fun to come.

[READ: Winter 2006] Nothing’s Sacred.

Like with Kate Clinton’s book, I found Lewis Black’s book while I was weeding the essay section of our library. I had no idea that Black had written a book, and since I love his rants on The Daily Show, I figured I’d give it a read.

My first surprise was that this was a memoir, not a collection of jokes. (more…)

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