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Archive for the ‘The Office’ Category

[ATTENDED: November 25, 2018] Arkona

This was an early Sunday show.  Doors at 6, bands on at 7.  It was billed as three bands, headliners Korpiklaani, with support from Arkona and a Philly band called Frost Giant, all of whom played Folk Metal–a genre I had only recently even heard of.

Parking was a drag (I was foolish in my arrival time) and so I got into the theater a little after 7.  There was some buzz in the room, but I never would have guessed that was because Frost Giant had already come and gone–leaving no trace.  After the show someone told me that they went on at 6:35 and were good.  Sorry Frost Giant, that’s poor information from the venue, but I’ve just listened to some of your stuff on bandcamp, and you guys rock.  I hope to see you again around Philly.

I didn’t know Arkona (Аркона) at all.  I looked them up before the show and learned that they were Russian, which I found really exciting and intriguing.  Korpiklaani is Finnish, so it would be a night of no one singing English at all. (more…)

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basoonSOUNDTRACK: THE MUSIC TAPES-Tiny Desk Concert #182 (December 20, 2011).

musictaopesJulian Koster released an album in 2008 called The Singing Saw at Christmastime.  It was a complete CD of Christmas songs played on the saw.  That should tell you that Koster is an unusual fellow. But that doesn’t prepare you for what he unleashes during his Tiny Desk Concert with The Music Tapes.

Koster has a very high-pitched voice (I have a recording of him doing “I’ve Got My Love to Keep me Warm,” which is almost unbearable.  His singing is really close to the fine line of unique and bad (and I imagine for many it crosses the line). He’s also got a fascinating way of looking at things and of storytelling.  So this Tiny Desk show winds up being quite long (20 minutes) with quite a lot of different things going on.

First he tells a lengthy story about his great grandpa.  And how his great grandpa told him that baby trees can walk.  But they are tethered to the ground by an umbilical cord. And when we cut them down, we sever the cord.  And a Christmas tree is adorned and worshiped for two weeks and then set free to roam the earth.  It is a warm and strange and delightful.

Then he and a second member of the group play “The First Noel” on two saws.  It’s weird ad wonderful.  At the end of the song he has his saw bow, and Bob says he didn’t know a saw could bow.  Julian says they do and in fact that singing saws sing by themselves but we encourage them by petting them and placing them in our laps.

I don’t enjoy everything Koster does, so the second song “Freeing Song For Reindeer,” a banjo based piece about a tired old reindeer transporting Santa is slow and kind of sad and not my thing.

But then he tells a story of growing up with all kinds of culture and Holiday traditions which leads into a version of Gavin Bryars’ “Jesus Blood.”  I enjoy the original and didn’t know what to expect here.  They begin with a tape loop of an old man singing the song (possibly the one Bryars used, but I don’t know).  And then Koster starts playing the banjo with a bow.  And then a second guy does the same. Then the percussionist stars playing the toy piano and the noises build.  He switches from piano to trumpet and plays along.  Meanwhile the second banjo player switches back to the saw for the end. It’s really quite a lovely performance.

“Takeshi And Elijah” is another slow and keening banjo based song.  It’s pretty long, I don’t really like it, but by the end, as it builds with trumpet and toy piano, he ends the song sith a puppet Santa doing a tap dance as percussion.  It’s a great ending to an okay song.

The final song is “Zat You, Santa Claus?”  It’s played on bowed banjo and sousaphone.  It’s a fun and crazy rendition.   It’s one of the weirdest Tiny Desk shows and certainly the weirdest Christmas set.

[READ: December 5, 2015] The Bassoon King

I really liked Rain Wilson in The Office, but I haven’t seen him in much else (I forgot he was in Six Feet Under and Galaxy Quest) . I wanted to like Backstrom, but it got cancelled before we even watched an episode.

So why did I check out this memoir of an actor I like a little bit?  Well, primarily for the title.  The Bassoon King had an absurd ring that I really gravitated towards.  When I saw there was an introduction by Dwight Kurt Schrute, I knew this would be a good book.

The introduction (by Dwight) is very funny.  I love Dwight and I love thinking to myself “FALSE!” whenever I disagree with someone.  Dwight wondered why anyone would read a biography of a young semi-famous actor.  “Fact. NO. ONE. CARES.”  But then says he doesn’t care either because he is making a lot of dollars per word for this thing.

Rainn begins his memoir by making fun of his big head (especially when he was a baby).  It’s pretty funny.  And then he describes his hippie family and his weird name.  His mom changed her named from Patricia to Shay in 1965.  She wanted to name Rainn “Thucydides.”  But his dad always liked Rainer Maria Rilke.  Now, they lived pretty close to Mt Rainier, so they went for Rainn (“Tack an extra letter on there for no apparent reason”). (more…)

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10SOUNDTRACK: FATHER JOHN MISTY-Fear Fun (2012).

fjmI can’t get over how much I’ve been enjoying this album for the last two years.  Father John Misty is J Tillman from Fleet Foxes.

This disc is a gentle folk album with vaguely country leanings.  The arrangements are spare and yet the verses and choruses are so great to sing along to. “Funtimes in Babylon” has this infectious chorus: “I would like to abuse my lungs, smoke everything in sight with every girl I’ve ever loved.  Ride around the wreckage on a horse knee deep in mud.  Look out, Hollywood, here I come.”  “Nancy from Now On” has a great propulsive chorus with oohs and tinkling bells and pianos and Misty’s engaging falsetto.

I was introduced to this album by “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” which opens with the super catchy line, “Jeeeeesus Christ, girl.”  I love the big crashing drum sound he has here.  “I’m Writing a Novel” is a fun romp, with the great line “I’m writing a novel because it’s never been done before.”  “O I Long to Feel Your Arms Around Me” introduces a great organ sound.  It’s a full song at only 2 and a half minutes.

“Misty’s Nightmares 1 & 2” opens with a slide guitar and turns into a stomping song with more Ooohs and a great chorus.  “Only Son of the Ladiesman” has a great chorus with the fun couple: “I’m a steady hand, I’m a Dodgers fan.”  “This is Sally Hatchet” has cool guitar blasts and a great bridge.

“Well You Can Do It Without Me” is a countrified 2 minute stomper.  “Tee Pees 1-12” is a big stompin’ honkey tonk song with fiddles and slide guitar.  The disc ends with “Everyman Needs a Companion” a slow ballad with a great piano melody and a fun to sing along with verse and chorus.

I love the lyrics on this album, especially the song “Now I’m Learning to Love the War” a slow ballad with a great story:

Try not to think so much about
The truly staggering amount of oil that it takes to make a record
All the shipping, the vinyl, the cellophane lining, the high gloss
The tape and the gear

Try not to become too consumed
With what’s a criminal volume of oil that it takes to paint a portrait
The acrylic, the varnish, aluminum tubes filled with latex
The solvents and dye

Lets just call this what it is
The gentler side of mankind’s death wish
When it’s my time to go
Gonna leave behind things that won’t decompose

In addition to all of the great music on here, the CD packaging is fantastic with that great cover, done in a cardboard gatefold sleeve including two huge books full of words and drawings and lyrics and everything.  I’m really looking forward to his next release.

[READ: September 14, 2014] Grantland #10

Despite my being in the middle of reading several other things, I was looking for a short article to read the other night and grabbed my Grantland 10.  And, of course, once I started, I couldn’t stop. I put everything else on hold and blasted through this issue.

And so all of my loves and hates are the same with this issue.  I never know how anything they talk about nearly a year ago turned out, which stinks.  And yet I get so wrapped up in the writing that I don’t care.  I’m not sure what it is about the writing for Grantland that i enjoy so much.  It is casual but knowledgeable.  Often funny but not obnoxiously silly. And I suppose that now I feel like I’m in on all of the secret stuff they talk about so I’m part of the club.  I fear that if I were to ever go to the website I would get sucked into a black hole and never emerge.

I often wonder how they choose what goes into the book.  This issue has some new writers and the surprising absence of some regulars.  I wonder what went on there.  And as always, the book could use some editing and maybe actually listing the urls of the links that were once in the online version.  But I think I’m talking to deaf ears on that one.

This issue covers October-December 2013 (that’s ten-twelve months ago!  Some of this stuff feels ancient!)

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  9SOUNDTRACK: UNIVORE-“Vampire” (2013).

univoreI never watch the ads that come before Youtube videos.  But this came on as an ad and I was utterly mesmerized by it.

I didn’t even know what it was for.  Turns out that Univore is a band and “Vampire” is one of their songs.  The 1 minute ad video was actually the whole thing.

It’s got a simple buzzy synthesized riff, backing vocalists singing “Oh yea” when appropriate and an occasional deep voiced man saying “vampire.”  The video is of an older gentleman (who a little research suggests is Marco Casale) dressed like a vampire running around a small green space on a campus.  The whole video looks like it took 15 minutes to film.  It is weird and wonderful.

I still know nothing about Univore, which may be for the better, but I did enjoy this video.

[READ: April 6, 2014] Grantland #9

I’m surprised that there aren’t better cover images online for these books.  For #8 i had to use one with a big flash in the middle of it and this one is the illustration from the Grantland website.  The books are quite pretty so why uses these pale imitations?

So this issue proved to be a lot better about weird typos and “we just took this from the web and pasted it and never bothered to check to see if there was anything weird” problems.  So thanks for at least running it through Spellcheck.  The only other thing left is to either remove the lines that talk about attached links/images if they are not there or to include the url or make up a tiny url (but that would be actual work!).  Oh, and please make sure all of the footnotes are included.

I have given up on ever finding out how these things turned out several months after the fact–I’ll just happily live in ignorance of reality there.

This issue was taken from during basketball’s downtime which was a nice change (even though the still managed to talk about basketball).  There was more pop culture and some wonderful articles about team nicknames and mascots–something I absolutely love.  So this is one of my favorite issues overall.  (more…)

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cacnelAs yet another TV season sort of winds down, and a few more shows get cancelled, I decided to compile a list of shows that I miss. This isn’t going to be one of those lists of the best shows that shouldn’t have been cancelled or killed off too early or some other kind of list (I agree with just about everything on these lists).  So, I’m not including Arrested Development or Freaks and Geeks (which I don’t really miss because I didn’t watch it when it came out so I knew what I was getting when I watched the DVDs, plus every actor from the series is seen in something or other all the time) or even Veronica Mars (now that the movie has come out, all is well).

Of course, there are shows that I miss because they were great, but many had a sense of closure, which is nice. Or shows that were great and then weren’t great anymore so I stopped watching, which is less nice but which doesn’t leave me pining for them. Rather these are shows that were cut down unexpectedly (or expectedly) and didn’t give closure (or generate enough momentum for closure).  In fact, shows that weren’t brilliant and probably deserved to be cancelled soon, but were cancelled a little too early so I have no closure. Or, worse yet, shows that could have improved over the next season or two and become really solid shows.  And so from time to time I wonder what the characters are up to (which isn’t as sad as it sounds).

I’m starting with the most recent cancellation because it is freshest: (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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CV1_TNY_11_04_13Brunetti.inddSOUNDTRACK: RODRIGO Y GABRIELA-Tiny Desk Concert #30 (October 19, 2009).

Iryg have seen the names of Rodrigo y Gabriela for quite some time, but I never knew what they were about.  I assumed they played world music or something (shame on me).  They are a Mexican couple living in Dublin and they have several albums out.  When the Concert opens, Bob Boilen says that the first time he heard them, he was blown away.

And I was too.

Holy crap.  Rodrigo and Gabriela play nylon string acoustic guitars, and they play them like nobody I have ever heard before.  Gabriela plays a lot of percussive sounds with her strings and the body of her guitar.  And Rodrigo is all over the map–doing heavy metal chords (they play Metallica’s “Orion” on their debut album), and flying solos in addition to flamenco notes and even sound effects.  It is a  stunning display of virtuosity and melody.

My only complaint about this Tiny Desk Concert  is that it is too short!  I need to hear more.

They play two songs in about 12 minutes and each one is amazing.  They dazzle your ears as they play, and watching them do it is even better.

[READ: January 5, 2014] “The Man Who Invented the Calendar”

B.J. Novak wrote for and acted on The Office.  This comic piece is about the man, well, who invented the calendar.

The tone of the piece is contemporary with lots of current phrasing–fun with anachronism.

But it is also a funny idea of him deciding to make the calendar starting January 1st. He says he came up with the idea way back on Day After Day After Very Cloudy Day.  His initial plan: one thousand days a year, divided into twenty-five months, forty days a month.  Easy.

At first, the man is enjoying the compliments he’s getting–a guy who says he’s going to organize his life around it.  And Alice says she doesn’t know if she’s busy, she’ll have to check her calendar (wink).

But of course, complaints start to build.  By January 30, people are sick of January.  So all the months will just have 30 days instead.  Or maybe 31.

Soon enough, Alice is his biggest supporter.  Then things get weird on February 14th.  (more…)

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hawk SOUNDTRACK: BAD RELIGION-Christmas Songs (2013).

brThere’s been plenty of press about this Bad Religion Christmas album.  Greg and Brett have been interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition.

So what is a Bad Religion fan to make of this disc?  Bad Religion has, as its name states, no tolerance for any religion, especially Christianity.  So what the hell?

Well, as anyone who has grown up in America knows, these songs are ubiquitous.  But more importantly, these songs are quite good.  So why not give a try at punking them up.  What I appreciate about his album is that the band plays these songs absolutely straight.  Whatever their beliefs, they do not mess with the songs.  (I have absolutely enjoyed mocking versions of these songs, and I have many many goofy versions of them, but Bad Religion has never been goofy, so they sound like real Bad Religions songs–lyrics aside).

And so we get fifteen minutes (seriously) of great respectful punk renditions of traditional religious and secular Christmas songs.  In true Bad Religion form, the songs barely make it over 2 minutes long, but the lyrics are completely understandable and their harmonies are outstanding.  (Bad Religion has always had great harmonies but they are used to wonderful effect here).  Their version of “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” is amazing (even if I find it unsettling that some of his rhymes are weird (like that he pronounces it BethleHAIM to rhyme with proclaim).  The acapella opening is really impressive (Brett was in choir as a kid).  When the band hits the line where the drums play a counterpoint (for just one line), it’s really fantastic.  “O Come, All Ye Faithful” is just straight out punk.  “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” features some great backing vocals.  The Ramones-feel of “White Christmas” is a weird touch, but their delivery is spot on.

“The Little Drummer Boy” (a song I’m not terribly fond of in general) is quite good in this rendition–especially after hearing Brett say how complicated the measures are in this song.  It’s hard to do a bad version of “Angels We Have Heard on High” when you can harmonize as well as this band does.  And their version is great (I love the backing vocals on this as well).  Theirs is certainly the most aggressive version of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” I’ve ever heard (and I rather like it).  And “What Child is This?” has a solid riff to start with (it’s interesting to hear it on the guitar).  And again, the chorus is stellar.

They finish off the album with a remix of “American Jesus” a very anti-religion song (and perhaps a palette cleanser).  I didn’t notice how it is a remix, but it still sounds good.

Of course if you don’t like punk, you won’t like this, but I was really impressed with the care they put into these renditions.

[READ: December 24, 2013] Bad Santas

This book looks at the history of Christmas, but specifically at the creatures who caused mayhem and violence during the long winter holidays.  Indeed, our “traditional” Christmas celebration is a relatively new construct (you will be shocked to see how new it actually is).

kallikantzaroi_free_christmas_by_gpapanto-d5or453In Greece, during the twelves days of Christmas, goblins called Kallikantzaoi would steal things, destroy property and even abduct children.  In Finland, an evil goat called Joulupukki would demand gifts and punish evil children (he has since been turned into basically Santa Claus.

krampusAnd in parts of Italy and Germany, the witch Perchta would climb down the chimney.  But instead of giving presents to children, she would rip out their intestines and replace them with straw and stone.  (There’s a wonderful doll of Perchta here).  And anyone who has recently since the Grimm Christmas episode now knows of Krampus who is not only a real Christmas creature, (meaning Grimm didn’t make him up), he is still active and you can get Krampus cards.

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2013 has been cruel to TV that I like.  Between the shows that have been cancelled and the shows that are ending, there’s not much to look forward to for the Spring.  Ben and Kate is gone, the US version of The Inbetweeners is gone, Don’t Trust the B—- is done (but we had stopped watching anyhow), 30 Rock is done, The Office is finishing up, Parenthood & Bunheads have budget issues which means there is some amount of question about their future and The Mindy Show is awful.

And yet, after that introduction, it’s not like there’s nothing on.

So here’s what’s on our schedule as February draws to a close.  I never bothered to tally shows by network before but let’s see:
NBC: 4  FOX: 3   CBS: 3  Comedy Central: 2  FX: 2   PBS: 2  ABC: 1  Lifetime: 1 SyFy: 1  IFC: 1 (more…)

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This season signals the end of a lot of shows, shows that have been with us for a long time.  This season also promised a slew of new comedies that were going to be amazing (I know they promise that every year, but some of them got really strong praise from objective sources).  And yet, here we are, half way through the season (Grimm is taking a Mid-Winter break or some such thing) and I didn’t really like anything new.

Next season is shaping up to be rather a wasteland. (more…)

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