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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: CONWAY THE MACHINE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #84 (September 23, 2020).

Several musicians have tinkered with the “home” component of the Tiny Desk Home Concert.

Conway the Machine’s “home” is in the Queens, NY restaurant lil’ Sweet Chick, where he performs five songs, and has a fine looking plate of chicken and waffles.

Conway the Machine is part of Griselda, a Queens-based rap trio.  I watched Benny the Butcher’s Tiny Desk recently and rather enjoyed it. Conway’s songs seem grittier and darker (especially when you learn the origins of “Front Lines.”

He opens with “Lemon” (prod. by Daringer & Beat Butcha) as a waitress brings him a drink (a lemon squeeze?).  The music is dark and grimy and it works very well with his voice.

Up next is “Front Lines” (prod. by Beat Butcha) which was inspired by the George Floyd incident–he wanted to record a perspective from the upset angry protestors.  It speaks directly to the racial profiling committed by cops while policing Black communities with this outstanding verse:

I just seen a video on the news I couldn’t believe (nah)
Another racist cop kill a nigga and get to leave (again?)
He screamin’, “I can’t breathe”, cop ignorin’ all his pleas
Hands in his pocket, leanin’ on his neck with his knees (psh)
Cracker invent the laws, that’s why the system is flawed
Cops killin’ black people on camera and don’t get charged
We ain’t takin’ no more, we ain’t just pressin’ record
Can’t watch you kill my brother, you gon’ have to kill us all
Just ’cause he from the ghetto, that don’t mean he sellin’ crack
He drivin’ home from work, you pull him over ’cause he black
Think he gangbangin’ ’cause he got dreads and a few tats
He reach for his ID, you think he reachin’ for a strap
He get out, put his hands up, and he still gettin’ clapped
But if he try to run, you just gon’ shoot him in his back
What if it was my son? I wonder how I’m gon’ react
I bet I’m finna run up in this precinct with this MAC (brr)
I swear to God

“OverDose” (prod. by The Alchemist) has what sounds like a zither as the main discordant musical tone.  I like the way the bass is slow and his rapping is really fast.

Then comes “The Cow” (prod. by Daringer)  “The Cow” is, as he says in the intro, “one of [the] most personal and transparent records I ever wrote,” in which he speaks about losing one of his best friends and getting shot in the head and neck. The injuries led to permanent facial paralysis.  The song has brought Conway to tears in the past, and the memories clearly get to him again here.

Last is “Anza” (prod. by Murda Beatz) which is a pretty traditional bragging rap, with maybe a touch more aggression than other.

As the set ends, he thanks lil’ Sweet Chick for the ambiance: “I’m about to get into this chicken right here … tastes like it was made with a mother’s care.”

[READ: September 23, 2020] Three Hundred Years Hence (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.

This first story is by Mary Griffith.  Written in 1836, it looks, literally, three hundred years into the future.  Romney writes:

It is the story of a man who gets caught in an avalanche of ice in 1835 and wakes up in 2135.  It’s often cited as the earliest utopia written by an American woman.  The author imagined a future in which society’s advancements increase dramatically due to one major structural shift: supporting women in science.  Born in 1772, Griffith herself was one of the nascent United States’ earliest practicing women scientists, with special contribution in geology.

The ice man, Hastings, is given a tour of the country–New York, Boston and Philadelphia–by a man named Edgar.   Edgar updates him and tells him about al of the changes that have taken place.

The writing style of this tory isn’t all that interesting–it’s a little preachy and dry.  Since this is an excerpt I’m not sure if there’s a plot necessarily.  But in this excerpt it’s mostly just meandering around.    (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NUBYA GARCIA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #81 (September 16, 2020).

Nubya Garcis is a jazz saxophonist and this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert is unlike any other thus far.

Look to the left of Nubya Garcia’s Tiny Desk (home) concert and you’ll see a hanging plant swaying right above the keys. It never stops moving during the next 23 minutes, and it’s for a bizarre reason. Garcia’s (home) concert took place on a boat — a first in Tiny Desk history.

Garcia and her band are at Soup Studio, a recording facility built on a decommissioned floating lighthouse moored on the River Thames. It’s also where Garcia recorded her excellent new album, SOURCE. This set features three songs from the record; the title track starts it off with a reggae, dub vibe.

“Source” opens with some great low end from Daniel Casmir’s double bass.  The main melody comes from Joe Armon-Jones’s simple keyboard hits.  Sam Jones makes the drums almost a lead instrument as well, as he plays a lot of cymbals and interesting fills.

There are two backing singers for these songs.  Richie Seivwright and Cassie Kinoshi add some ahhs and oohs as needed.  They’re not intrusive and add a human element to Garcia’s otehriwse otherworldly saxophone soloing.

At around eight minutes, the singers do a lot of woohing and scatting which I find less interesting than the rest of the band does.

After nearly 12 minutes, everything slows down and Casmir does a bass solo as the introduction to “Pace.”  Armon-Jones plays piano with his right hand keyboards with his left to lay down a complex musical tapestry which Garcia weaves her saxophone all over.  Armon-Jones also gets a quiet piano solo, then the song takes off again, crashing to a wild conclusion with frenetic drumming and piano.

“Boundless Beings” opens with a slow saxophone introduction and the bass matching the notes. This song is only two minutes, and I assume that’s because time runs out on her video or her session.

[READ: September 15, 2020] “Whose Little Girl Are You?”

I had read Fox’s Desperate Characters after three authors that I like all championed it.  S. knows of Paula Fox as a children’s author.  I had no idea she had the kind of crazy childhood that this memoir lets on.  Indeed, this is an excerpt from her memoir Borrowed Finery.  And, while I’ve no doubt this is all true.  It is as exciting (and horrifying) as fiction.

When Paula was born her parents deposited her at an orphanage.  Paula’s mother Elise was a panicked nineteen-year-old and wanted to get rid of her as quickly as possible.  Her father Paul brought her to a Manhattan foundling house.  She was taken in by the Reverend Elwood Corning who raised her and whom she called Uncle Elwood.

Her maternal grandmother came to New York from Cuba and learned of her whereabouts.  She intended to take her back home to Cuba with her, but her grandmother worked as a companion to a rich old cousin and could not possibly look after a baby, so Paula stayed with Uncle Elwood.

When she was about five, her father came to see her. He had a large box which he dropped with a thud.  He looked at her and said “‘There you are,'”\ as if I’d been missing for such along time that he’d almost given up searching for me.”   The box contained a whole host of books. The next morning when Paula woke up he was not there anymore.

Later that year Uncle Elwood drove her to Provincetown where her parents were living.  The main memory she took from that visit (because all she ever did was visit her parents) was that she had found a large steamer trunk and was exploring it when her mother walked in and yelled, “What are you doing?”  And then, “Don’t cry!  Don’t you dare cry!”

A year later they were living in New York City and Paula visited them for a few hours.  When her mother came into the room she stared at Paula, her eyes like embers. Then she flung her glass and its contents at the girl.  Water and ice fell all lover her.

The next time, she went to see them they were staying in a hotel in New York.  They had room service for dinner and Paula ordered lamb chops.  It felt special.  When the meal came Paula said “There’s no milk.” Her father stood, grabbed the tray of food and dropped it down the airshaft saying “Okay, Pal, since it wasn’t to your pleasure.”  She had no dinner that night.

Her parents were often leaving Paula with strangers. One time she went to Grand Central Station on a train by herself and was met not by her father but by a couple–actors who knew her father–with Great Danes.  They expected her father to turn up any moment.  Two days later he showed up.

Another time she visited them in Los Angeles.  Her father’s sister Aunt Jessie took her.  Jessie stayed for a few days and on the day that she left, Paula’s parents went out for the evening leaving Paula by herself.  She wandered around and eventually wandered out the front door which locked behind her.

A neighbor found her and brought her to his house where his wife made dinner for her.  The next day she walked home and opened the door shouting “Daddy!”  Her father jumped out of bed–the woman next to him was not her mother–and whisked her out of the bedroom quickly.  He sat on a chair and began to spank her. The maid stopped him–Paula years later realized how brave it was for her to speak out.  A Few days later he dropped her off in the care of an older woman.  Years later he told her it was his motehr’s reaction to Paula that made him send her away–either she goes or I go.

A few years later in Malibu, she visited on weekends. The house had a deck that jutted into the ocean.  One day, her father gabbed her hands and dropped her into the Pacific . She freaked out fearing that she was drowning, but her father laughed because it was so shallow.

One night she told her father that she had a toothache.  He mother had entered the room and said I’ll fix it for you.  She put Paula in the rumble seat of the car and drove madly through the winding roads.  Paula was shaken like a rattle. They drove for twenty minutes (it felt like forever).  Finally they returned home and her mother looked at her and said “Do you still have a toothache?”

When Paula was eight (all of that happened before she was eight!), her Spanish grandmother came for her.  She had lighter duties in Cuba and brought Paula home with her.  Paula lived there, in Hormiguero for many years, going to school there–having a crash introduction to Spanish. She had nothing but freedom there but soon grew very bored and lonely.

When she was ten in 1933, her family fled to he country for New York because the President of Cuba, Gerargo Machado, had been overthrown.

Good lord, how did she ever get through it without going crazy.  And what on earth are her children’s stories like?

 

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SOUNDTRACK: PHIL PULEO-Phil Puleo’s poly”WOG” 1996​-​2003 (2003/2020).

Phil Puleo has been the drummer for Swans for a number of years.  He has also been in Cop Shoot Cop and a number of other bands.  He also lived in New Jersey and was a good friend of a good friend of mine.  So I’ve hung out with him a few times and was pretty excited for him to get the gig with Swans.  I was really looking forward to seeing them this past winter, but theirs was one of the first shows to get postponed until next year.

So Phil has reissued (and remastered) some of his solo projects.

This one is described as

Highly effected samples of me playing various instruments. Guitar, Piano, Bass, Percussion, Electronic percussion, hammered dulcimer, harmonica, found audio recordings, weird answering machine messages etc.  Many of these tracks were recorded around the Swans are Dead tour in 1997 in my home in NJ.

So you get fourteen tracks of warped instrumental songs.  They sound like a soundtrack to a world that is slightly out of phase with ours.

“Italianato” is basically the music for “La Vie en Rose” performed on a a pipe organ that’s underwater.  But its ten minutes are filled with all kinds of samples that break through the surface.  By about four minutes the main melody has been stripped away to pulses of keyboards and samples of a woman saying “Are you too young to remember that?  You are.”  Along with a slowed voice saying “I’m a depressing motherfucker.” And that same earlier voice repeating “You are.”

“Can Somebody” opens with a somber piano that’s accompanied by swirling waves of high notes.  An answering machine plays through as if from another world. I’m really enamored of the simple melody that starts after the message, like a mechanical bird singing a robotic song.

“I” is a minute and a half of a slow echoing piano melody while “Ahoy” soars with a violin-like instrument fluttering around.  Until a more sinister noise comes from under the depths, surfacing again and again.

“Mother’s Plot” is based around percussive sounds.  There’s also distant voices processed to sound almost like chanting.  “Vio” messes around with some loosely tuned guitars and a harmonica, a kind of under the sea Western.  Although half way through the song grows a bit brighter with clean guitars strumming a pretty melody.  “Message” has a deep pulsing sound and delicate sprinkling of chimes and piano as a man leaves a message about burning the whole place to the ground and needing an alibi.  Yikes!

“Slow By” has some plucked almost Spanish guitar enveloped by more of that pulsing sound.  Once the percussion comes in the melody establishes itself to create a really interesting soundtrack.  “Overgrown” has a melody based around what sounds like a dulcimer.  There’s some interesting guitar sounds that come and go and a noise that sounds like a cow (but isn’t).  The rubbery sound quality in this song is really terrific.

“Hill 503” is an exploration of what constitutes percussion.  A steady drumbeat is accompanied by other sounds (including a violin bow banging strings) that grow and recede. By the end, an echoing guitar line re-introduces a kind of Western feel to the piece.

“Tumble” has some wooden percussion underpinning the sounds of children playing in the distance  It sets for a potentially bucolic scene.  Especially when combined with “Wog Maia,” a pretty guitar song with gently echoed piano and processed children’s voices.

“Indian Guy” has some gentle dulcimer in what sounds like an urban landscape. The “solo” sounds like it was manipulated by some proto-Auto-tune.  “All New Baby” has some more lovely hammered dulcimer playing over the top of some sinister backing chords.  The second half cycles through rising seven note patterns that provide some excellent tension.

“Everything” is the reissue’s bonus track.  It does sound like he’s crammed everything that’s gone before into 90 seconds.  Waves and waves of noises that resolve in a tidy little guitar piece.

This is not easy listening, but it is very evocative and visual.  I’d watch whatever movie this was a soundtrack to.

[READ: August 20, 2020] “Digestions”

I was surprised to learn that I had not read anything by Jim Crace before–his name sounded so familiar.

This piece is several very short stories about food.

“Mussels on the House” is the best one.  In it, the chef of The Yellow Basket likes to take revenge on unsatisfied customers by giving them less than good mussels.  The locals enjoy hearing the stories of the politician or the couple planing a divorce or the state executive whose evening did not end how they planned.

“George’s Magic Cookies” may have been given to a man on death row.  It certainly would have made the moments after his last meal happy ones.  George thinks that he might still be flying. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BEST MOLDOVAN SONGS OF 2019 (2019).

I read this book about Moldova and realized that I didn’t know a thing about the country.  So while looking up Moldovan music, I found this collection on YouTube.

I’m sure it’s quite subjective, but it’s a start for hearing some Moldovan pop songs.  There’s a bit of diversity here.  Most of these songs are dancey.  Many of them are in English (apparently Moldovan singers sing in English, Russian or Ukranian, typically).

I’ve noted songs that are in English, with a very brief description of any songs that aren’t straight up dance songs.  I’ve also put in bold my favorite tracks.

  • 01. Vanotek – Back To You [eng]
  • 02. Irina Rimes – Cosmos
  • 03. Misha Miller – What Mama Said [eng]
  • 04. Valeria Stoica – Get Back [eng] (slower, almost folky singer songwriter)
  • 05. Dan Balan – Hold On Love [eng]
  • 06. The Motans – August
  • 07. Hans Green – Run Uma [eng]
  • 08. Iova – Hit The Gas [eng] (interesting sounds and melody)
  • 09. Dan Balan – Numa Numa 2 (dance with steel drums)
  • 10. Blacklist ft. Carla’s Dreams – Tequila (rap)
  • 11. Nicoleta Nuca – N-am Pierdut Nimic (pop singer)
  • 12. Mark Stam – Doar Noi (power ballad)
  • 13. Tosh – Simplu (slow ballad)
  • 14. Mihail – Who You Loved [folky, gravelly voice]
  • 15. The Motans – Versus
  • 16. Nicoleta Nuca – Nu Sunt (diva)
  • 17. Mark Stam – Vina Mea (power ballad)
  • 18. Ionel Istrati – Wake Me Up [eng] (poppy with a big drop)
  • 19. Carla’s Dreams – Sub Pielea Mea (this band is very popular, featuring a masked singer who raps and other things)
  • 20. Natalia Gordienko – Drunk (Pyanaia) (diva–I can;t tell from the video if she is happy or in anguish)
  • 21. Infected Rain – Black Gold {heavy metal) [A growling female singer with heavy chords and lots of synth]
  • 22. Lia Taburcean – La Nunta Asta (folk/polka) [This song is a lot of fun]
  • 23. Andrew Rayel ft. Emma Hewitt – My Reflection (dance banger)
  • 24. Carla’s Dreams ft. INNA – Te Rog [Not as heavy as the other Carla’s Dream songs]
  • 25. The Motans ft. Delia – Weekend (folk dance)
  • 26. Misha Miller ft. Alex Parker – Fix Your Heart (eng)
  • 27. Valeria Stoica – Empty Air (eng) [Folky dancey singer songwriter]
  • 28. Irina Rimes – My Favorite Man [interesting vocal manipulations in a dance song].

[READ: August 20, 2020] Be Our Guest.  Discover Moldova!

I saw this book at work and decided to check it out since I know nothing about Moldova.  I didn’t realize that it was primarily a cookbook.  There’s also some cultural information, but you would check it out for the traditional Moldovan dishes as prepared by Nata Albot and her mother.  It was originally published in 2018 as Hai la masă, puișor! and translated by Doina Cioca.

Nata Albot is a blogger, TV producer, journalist and a media manager from Moldova. She has had several popular shows on radio and televisions in Moldova since she was 16 years old. She graduated from the Law School of Moldova State University. She produced the TV series “Aventura Americană” about Moldovan students spending their summers working and traveling in the United States. In 2013 she moved from Chișinău to Montreal.

This is her second cookbook.

It features

  • Salads
  • Breakfast
  • Snacks
  • Vegetables
  • Mains Course
  • Meat
  • Pastries
  • Winter Preserves
  • Dessert

Albot is big into fresh vegetables (radishes, cucumbers, peppers) in her salads, but is not above throwing in some beef heart.  While most of the recipes were interesting and a few sounded fantastic, some of them were…questionable.  Like Soured Milk.  For this drink, you boil milk, add sour cream, cover and let sit for 2 to 3 days.  The picture is even more revolting than the description. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKTHE FLAMING LIPS-“My Religion is You” (2020).

download (75)This is another new single from The Flaming Lips’ new, more mellow album American Head.

This song starts as a piano ballad about various religions.

It’s not the most profound song but it’s chill

Yeah, Buddha’s cool
And you’re no fool
To believe anything
You need to believe in
If Hare Krishna
Maybe it’s the
Thing for you
Hey, that’s cool

The chorus kicks in with big fat synth notes that almost feel sinister, but really aren’t.  Wayne explains that he doesn’t need religions, because his religion “is you.”

I don’t need no religion
You’re all I need
You’re the thing I believe in
Nothing else is true
My religion is you

There’s a pretty guitar solo and the end of the song is an interesting mix of scattered drums and quite synth noises.  It’s not their best song for sure, but it grows on you.

[READ: June 2020] That’s Not How You Wash a Squirrel

David Thorne is an Australian smart ass.  This is his fifth collection of previously unreleased emails and essays.

The foreword of this book is written by Holly Thorne, David’s wife.  And it is hilarious.  The Foreforeword is him arguing with her about whether she will write the Foreword–but only if she doesn’t say something mean about him.

So she writes things like

Davis does have a stressful job but let’s be honest, he’s not clearing landmines.  Even on my worst days I’m not half the diva David is.

After writing some more hilarious paragraphs, you see in a different font:

David is very brave, I once saw him flick a snake off the patio furniture with a stick.

In the Postforeword, he complains about her foreword.  That he comes off like a fuckwit and that there is no mention of the snake.  (more…)

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download (59)SOUNDTRACK: TOM ADAMS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #53 (July 21, 2020).

download (60)I had heard of Tom Adams from Bob Boilen, but I guess I hadn’t actually heard him before.  This performance is otherworldly. It reminds me in some ways of Sigur Rós, although only in the ethereal moments.

Tom’s 2017 album Silence features Tom singing and playing minimal piano.  But here

what we have is Tom Adams at his home in Cornwall, England, playing four brand-new songs with minimal electric guitar and an enthralling mix of tech-altered sounds.

For the basis of this performance Adams is playing a subdued and lovely electric guitar (finger-picked).   He sings some fairly simple folk melodies, but it’s when he starts “oohing” and crooning high notes that things transcend the familiar.  Because even though his singing voice is fairly deep, he has an amazing falsetto.   And it’ s that falsetto that he manipulates in fascinating way.

That box with all the wires in the foreground is a Eurorack modular synthesizer which, in real time, processes his majestic voice in ways unpredictable even to Tom. He wrote to tell me that, “Once the system is set in motion, you never know exactly what will happen next… I like to think of it as being a bit like the waves on the beach; to some extent, they are all predictable, yet each wave is still unique.”

“The Turning Of The Year” is a delightful folk ballad with delightful lyrics

What a day / What a day / to share with these good friends
We sing the songs we always sing until / we’ve sung them all
and through the evening our voices ring / in the rafters of the hall.

But when the Eurorack takes over, that simple trip with friends feels very different.

“A Flower Disappearing” is a slower song with a deeper guitar sound.  It’s easy to forget about his falsetto and the electronics until he throws them briefly in after the verses.

I wondered though if all of the songs would be manipulated–would his regular voice hav a chance to shine?  It does on “If My Love Was A Guitar.”  He sings some delightful ooohing without any electronics.  His songs and vocal style reminds of Nick Drake, and this song in particular fits that bill (except for the falsetto, of course).

If my love was a guitar / it wouldn’t matter where you are
you could just take me in your arms / and hear the music in my heart
…playing gently

And if I was a melody / then you could take me when you leave
and anytime you felt a need / you could just sing along with me
…in perfect harmony

His amusing reaction at being out of tune is a nice moment of levity in this otherwise mellow performance.  “Postcards From The Road” features an entire section in beautiful unaltered falsetto.

all the friends you still miss / you kept in touch but cast adrift / you walked away but now you’re looking back

all the stories left behind / but when you read the final lines / turn a page and start to write something new

because all the choices that you make / these are not regrets to take / with you they’re just postcards from the road.

I love the cool effects that the Eurorack provides, but it’s great to hear him sing without it as well–his voice is really great.

[READ: July 24, 2020] “The Ethicist”

This is a Shouts and Murmurs piece that is a series of questions.  Typically I think this style works better than trying o stretch out a joke to a full page.

So in this one, people are writing in to The Ethicist with their problems.  The Ethicist is a real column in The New York Times Magazine and people write in with serious ethical issues.  Some people really like reading this column.  It was started in 1999 by a humorist, Randy Cohen, who did take the ethical questions seriously.  he stepped down in 2011 and others have run the column in his stead.

So this piece was written after the column had been around for two years or so.

Martin is his delightfully absurd self with his questions: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ROCK & ROLL DUBBLE BUBBLE TRADING CARD CO. OF PHILADELPHIA-19141 – “Bubble Gum Music” (1968).

19141I thought it was a very clever idea posting about bubblegum music for this book.  If only I had known how much music was actually mentioned in the book and, ultimately, how inappropriate these songs are to the book–in tone and content.

However, I have really enjoyed discovering some of these songs that i’d never heard of before.  Like this one.

This might be may favorite bubblegum song of all.  In addition to being catchy (obviously) with a simple swinging horn melody, the lyrics are hilariously self-referential.

A bubblegum song about bubblegum songs which mentions some of the most popular bubblegum songs.

Since most of the bubblegum songs were written by the same few people (under different band names), it’s very likely that they are singing about some of their own songs.

The stupidly catchy chorus:

Give me more, more, more Of that bubble gum music
Makes me feel so good Oh, I never want to lose it
Let me dance, dance, dance To that bubble gum music
If you really want to turn me on

which is of course repeated about ten times.

But then come the lyrics which mention a while bunch of bubblegum hits

Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wonder what she`s doin`
While the Monkees are singing for Valleri
Simon says take you down to LuLu`s
You`re gonna feel yummy, yummy, yummy

The second verse is even funnier because it turns into a kind of diss track

Well the Grateful Dead just leave me cold (ooo!)
And Herbie Alpert makes me feel too o-old (feel too old)
I can groove to rhythm and blues (rhythm and blues)
But if I had to choose, if I had to choose If I had to choose,

All of this wrapped up in one of the most ridiculously lengthy band names ever.

Spectacular.

[READ: June 29, 2020] Bubblegum Week 8

Over at the Infinite Zombies site, there was talk of doing a Quarantine book read.  After debating a few books, we decided to write about a new book, not a book that everyone (or some people) had read already.  This new book would be Bubblegum by Adam Levin.  Many of us had read Levin’s massive The Instructions which was not especially challenging, although it was a complex meta-fictional story of books within books.  It was kind of disturbing, but also rather funny and very entertaining.

So I’ll be posting weekly ideas on this schedule

Date Through Page
May 11 81
May 18 176
May 25 282
June 1 377
June 8 476
June 15 583
June 22 660
June 29 767

Hitting Back on the Brickhorse

With this week, the book comes to an end and I can’t help but feel disappointed by the ending.  At some point a few years ago I realized that endings are often the worst part of a book.  Endings can’t ever do what the reader really hopes will happen, especially if the reader has a different idea of what the book is doing.  I must have had a very different idea of what this book was a bout because I left that last page with so many questions–questions that Levin clearly had no intention of answering.

Like what if the entire book from after Belt gets his cure until the very end is all in his head.  He is just crazy and none of these things happened.  There are no cures.  Everything that seems off about his world is because his perception is skewed.  He has the wrong date and perpetrator of 9/11.  He misunderstands The Matrix, he believes he was given hundreds of thousands of dollars from the creator of The Matrix.  His father is dating the mother of the wife of an author that he likes.  But really he’s just in Costello house imagining he’ll meet up with Lisette someday.

I don’t really think that’s what happened, but there’s so much left out after the ending, that I have to fill it in somehow.

I was particularly interested in this first section being called AOL.  There has been no real explicit nudge from the author that there is no internet in the book, but this title was clearly a wink at us.  Particularly since Belt doesn’t know what it stands for either. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KASENETZ-KATZ SUPER CIRCUS-“Up in the Air” (1968).

katzReading about bubblegum music has led me to a fascinating trove of information.  Like that most of the songs were written by two guys who “created” many of the bands.  Most of these bands have a revolving cast live but had the same band on record.  The two creators were Jerry Kasenetz and Jeffry Katz.

In 1968, Kasenetz and Katz created a “supergroup” which consisted of members of their “Super K Production.”

Their first album was hilarious, because according to the inner gatefold cover’s liner notes, the “supergroup” consisted of 46 members. However, the album cover itself only shows 33 members (plus Kasenetz and Katz in tuxedos) while the individual inner cover photos total 37 (excluding the non-existent St. Louis Invisible Marching Band, whose photo is represented by a white block). To add to the confusion of the actual number of participants, the LP package came with a page of stamps with each member of the “supergroup”, including their names and the individual group he or she represents. The members of The Teri Nelson Group (except Teri Nelson herself) are shown as INVISIBLE BAND on the stamps. Side 2 opens up with Music Explosion leader Jamie Lyons announcing the individual members of the newer or lesser-known groups. Some of the names mentioned do not coincide with the members shown on the stamps.

Hilarious and crazy.  This song “Up in the Air” comes from the supergroup’s second album in a year.  They renamed it “Kasenetz-Katz Super Circus” and the roster was reduced to five groups: The 1910 Fruitgum Company, Ohio Express and Music Explosion, with the other groups replaced by Shadows Of Knight (who had just been acquired by Super K and signed to Buddah’s Team label) and White Whale label group Professor Morrison’s Lollipop (formerly the Coachmen of Nebraska). Despite these representations, the tracks were actually recorded by studio musicians with lead vocals by Ohio Express lead vocalist Joey Levine.

That’s a lot of setup for an amusing almost novelty song.

There are two different guitar lines. One playing high notes and the other playing a melody).  Thumping bass and drums enter and then the song shifts to a groovy bassline and vocals that seem sped up.  And the lyrics are sort of political.

I don’t read poems by Poe
Look at Palooka Joe
Watch the Ed Sullivan Show
I love Governor Reagan

There isn’t a real chorus, just a repeated final line about Governor Regan (pronounced “Reegan” for some reason–like “Regan,” the King Lear character).

Don’t dig Joe Pepitone (la la la la la)
Or talk on the telephone (la la la la la)
One thing stands all alone
That’s my governor Reagan

Hail, Hail, hail our leader!
[Clavichord solo while backup singers chant “Hail Reagan, Hail to the Chief”]

Reagan was governor of California at the time.  The creator of the site Bubblegum Reviews asks, What is Reagan actually being criticized for here? He hadn’t actually done much to damage American democracy at that time.

Some may say he’s the Gip
Some say he’s lost his grip
I say that he’s a pip
He’s my Governor Reagan

A man who has so much hair
A man that is not all there
A man who just loves the chair
That’s my governor Reagan

More from Bubblegum Reviews:

The song seems to be making fun of him for having an inane persona derived from his good looks and movie career (“he’s the Gip”/”so much hair”).  It also denigrates him for having a feeble intellect or a weak grasp on sanity (“lost his grip”/”not all there”).  His supporters are equally dimwitted: instead of reading poetry, they look at Palooka Joe.

According to Wikipedia, “in Reagan’s campaign, he emphasized two main themes: “‘to send the welfare bums back to work,’ and, in reference to burgeoning anti-war and anti-establishment student protests…’to clean up the mess at Berkeley.’”  In one incident, his actions led to the death of one protester and the blinding of another;

[WHAT?  HOW DID THIS GUY BECOME PRESIDENT?]

later, he sent out the National Guard to occupy Berkeley.  It may have been his anti-protest stance that rankled with Levine et al. — youthful revolt seems to have been something people in the music biz were generally in favor of, even if they weren’t particularly interested in what was being revolted against. This autocratic approach to free speech may also be what’s behind the song’s implication that Reagan demanded unquestioning fealty (“hail, hail, hail the leader”).

How timely.

Is this a bubblegum song?  It’s hard to say for sure.  Kasenetz & Katz wrote most of the biggest bubblegum songs so they knew what they were doing.  Maybe they were trying to branch out.  It’s really nifty. I’ll have to listen to more.

[READ: June 15, 2020] Bubblegum Week 6

Over at the Infinite Zombies site, there was talk of doing a Quarantine book read.  After debating a few books, we decided to write about a new book, not a book that everyone (or some people) had read already.  This new book would be Bubblegum by Adam Levin.  Many of us had read Levin’s massive The Instructions which was not especially challenging, although it was a complex meta-fictional story of books within books.  It was kind of disturbing, but also rather funny and very entertaining.

So I’ll be posting weekly ideas on this schedule

Date Through Page
May 11 81
May 18 176
May 25 282
June 1 377
June 8 476
June 15 583
June 22 660
June 29 767

You Can Be Right and Kind At The Same Time,
or: Why Would You Hate a Part of Speech, Dude?

I was really looking forward to seeing Jonboat again.  He has been this looking figure–billionaire, astronaut, husband of the most beautiful woman in the world, father of Triple J.  And we know very little about him besides that.  And WOW does he make an impression.  Sort of.  Actually, he doesn’t make any impression except on Belt’s psyche.

This section begins with a bit of a misdirection: Belt picking up a magazine at the White Hen because astronaut Jonboat was on the cover. Flipping through, he couldn’t find the article (typical of big glossy magazines) and wound up looking at an article about the famous chef Clem.

Clem (I’m guessing inspired by Emeril?) was eggplant shaped with arms like noodles–he looked like a combination of Ringo Starr and Yasser Arafat–he seemed all wrong and yet he looked fantastic.  This was because everything in the room was custom made just for him.  He was measured for an oven, molds were made of his hands for his knives etc.  Somehow the objectively handsome assistant looked unfit in the room because everything fit Clem.

I love the librarian joke that Pang shouts at him: You think my name is Marian? (and a wonderful discursive joke about this not being a library).  But Belt didn’t buy the magazine because he needed money for Quills.

This is all a set up to say that Jonboat looked in his office as if every inch of it was measured to fit him.

As Belt walks in, Jonboat says “Hey, you,” and holds out his arms for a hug.  It take a second before Belt realizes he’s talking to Fondajane who is next to him.

There’s some playful banter between Jonboat and Fon.  And yet I can’t decide how to read this.  Is Jonboat a pedantic jerk or is he fun and good at teasing?

She says “As the kids say…Now we’ve come to the part where I make my exit.”  I love that Fon either doesn’t know or doesn’t care what the kids actually say.  Jonboat suggests they say, “I guess that’s my cue [to leave].”  But Fon retorts that that was two eras back.  They gave that up for their name and out: “Fondajane: out.”  Jonboat says that he never heard of it: “Jonboat: incredulous.”

When Belt tries to interject into the banter, Burroughs pats his arm to tell him to keep out of it.  As Fondajane leaves she says she has to meet Robbie bin Laden for dinner. This story’s skirting of 9/11 with lines like this is fascinating and I wonder if there will be any kind of payoff, or if it’s just reminders of the slightly-off timeline.

Finally Jonboat turns his attention to Belt.  He gets out his business gear (he is there to sign the contract for Triple J) and Belt notices a cure running on top of a globe.  Jonboat is trying to train it to walk on four feet, but it is disposed to walk on two–a sort of glorious defect.

The cure is really cute.  Even for Belt.  Belt starts to get uneasy–so much so that Burroughs steps in his line of sight to avoid any trouble.  Belt is surprised and dismayed that he didn’t just want to hold it, he wanted to squeeze it–and he imagined in some detail what the experience would have been like. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: 1910 FRUITGUM COMPANY-“Goody Goody Gumdrops” (1968).

19101910 Fruitgum Company has a great, bizarre name.  Especially for a band that released such poppy songs.

I thought I knew most of the bubblegum hits just from casual awareness of them.  I was quite surprised how many of these chart-hitting songs I’ve never heard before.

I don’t think I knew this one before, and I quite like it.

The opening verses are quiet, almost dark, with just a chugging guitar and a stomping drumbeat.

It segues into a chorus that is really catchy (of course).  I really like the chord change from “goody goody gumdrops, my heart is doing flip flops” to “gee what love can do.”  It feels like perhaps a minor chord introduction.  There’s even some mildly interesting drum patterns in the middle.

The return of the opening verse brings back a slightly darker mood before the return of the joyful chorus.

It feels like it slightly defies the conventions of the pure bubblegum song.  Maybe that’s why it only got to #37.

[READ: June 15, 2020] Bubblegum Week 6

Over at the Infinite Zombies site, there was talk of doing a Quarantine book read.  After debating a few books, we decided to write about a new book, not a book that everyone (or some people) had read already.  This new book would be Bubblegum by Adam Levin.  Many of us had read Levin’s massive The Instructions which was not especially challenging, although it was a complex meta-fictional story of books within books.  It was kind of disturbing, but also rather funny and very entertaining.

So I’ll be posting weekly ideas on this schedule

Date Through Page
May 11 81
May 18 176
May 25 282
June 1 377
June 8 476
June 15 583
June 22 660
June 29 767

Coffee with Honey

Part IV of the book is called Compound. In it, Belt visits the Jonboat housing compound (they took over most of a cul-de-sac).

There’s a few interesting revelations here, and a remarkably lengthy discussion of a sexual practice that I don’t think I’ve ever seen discussed–certainly not at length–in a book before.  But overall this section does what I like best about this book–have lengthy passages that don’t move the plot along but make me laugh at the ideas and the extent to which Levin is willing to stretch out an idea.

Part IV Section 1 is called “New Modes of Fascination.”

As Belt wakes up his pillow is talking to him.  This is new.  Or, not new exactly, but unusual.  Indeed, the pillow is mad because Belt hasn’t talked to it at least six years (and it’s grumpy because of it).  There’s not much more with inans in this section (aside from a false interaction with a bracelet at the compound), but it’s probably important not to forget about them.

One interesting idea that the pillow suggests is that it can talk with books.  Belt wonders why he never talked with books.  Or had he?  Was the book reading the words to him as he held it or did books have other things to say besides the words on the page?  That idea must be tabled for now.

Belt runs into his dad who is standing in the kitchen acting like he’s had a stroke. He’s acting very strangely, frying up a huge pack of bacon and getting grease on a Jonboat shirt.  There’s a nice call back to Belt smashing the frame that held the Jonboat Says t-shirt.  For this is the shirt that Clyde has.  Clyde essentially believes that he blacked out and smashed the frame but doesn’t remember doing it.  he finds this disturbing because he distinctly remembers why he wanted to do it, but is concerned that he blacked out and doesn’t remember that part.  Belt does not put his mind at ease with the truth.

Belt also learns that his father never really liked Jonboat–he wasn’t rubbing it in by buying that T-short–rather it was … overcompensation because he felt bad that he didn’t like belt’s new friend.  This made Belt feel very good about his dad and they even shared a lengthy, sincere hug.

This week’s reading had several sections that I just loved.  The don’t advance the plot.  They are long-winded, almost set-pieces.  And each one delights me.

Like when Belt decides to sweeten his coffee with honey. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BANANA SPLITS-“The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)” (1968).

traOf all the bubblegum pop songs, this is probably the one I know the best.

I was surprised to discover that the song and TV show were from 1968, because I used to watch it all the time.

But I see that the series originally ran from September 7, 1968 to September 5, 1970, but then it was in syndication from 1971 to 1982, which is when I watched it.  Amazingly, it was in syndication for 11 years and there were only 31 episodes made.

Is there anything catchier than a bunch of people singing tra la la, la la la la?

And then the lyrics couldn’t be simpler:

One banana, two banana, three banana, four
Four bananas make a bunch and so do many more
Over hill and highway the banana buggies go
Coming on to bring you the Banana Splits show
Making up a mess of fun
Making up a mess of fun
Lots of fun for everyone
Four banana, three banana, two banana, one
All bananas playing in the bright warm sun
Flipping like a pancake, popping like a cork
Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snork

This was the theme song for the TV show.  It was a minute and a half and is insanely catchy.

The Dickies did a punk cover in the 1970s, which doesn’t sound very different from the original, expect that instead of bright keyboards, the music is all guitars and drums.  It is faster-paced and yet longer because of a guitar solo and some extra sing along parts.

For those unfamiliar with the show, the Banana Splits were:

  • Fleegle — A greenish-brown dog wearing a large red bow tie, black buttons, brownish-orange chucks, with his tongue is always sticking out. He plays a guitar and sings.
  • Bingo — A nasal-voiced orange gorilla wearing white glasses and a yellow vest, featuring a toothy grin. He plays drums and sings.
  • Drooper — A lion with a very long tail wearing yellowish-orange glasses, spats on his feet, and speaks with a Southern drawl. He plays a bass guitar and sings.
  • Snorky — A mute furry elephant wearing pink glasses. He becomes a regular elephant in season 2, wearing a green vest with yellow stripes. He communicates through honking sounds akin to a clown horn, and one of the other Splits would translate what he is saying. He plays a keyboard.

What a great time to be a kid.

[READ: June 8, 2020] Bubblegum Week 5

Over at the Infinite Zombies site, there was talk of doing a Quarantine book read.  After debating a few books, we decided to write about a new book, not a book that everyone (or some people) had read already.  This new book would be Bubblegum by Adam Levin.  Many of us had read Levin’s massive The Instructions which was not especially challenging, although it was a complex meta-fictional story of books within books.  It was kind of disturbing, but also rather funny and very entertaining.

So I’ll be posting weekly ideas on this schedule

Date Through Page
May 11 81
May 18 176
May 25 282
June 1 377
June 8 476
June 15 583
June 22 660
June 29 767

A Fistful of Fists is a Handful

After the academia and “high brow” thoughts of Triple J’s essays, this week’s transcription of Triple J’s film A Fistful of Fists: A Documentary Collage is rather tough reading.  It reminded me of reading something like David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews with Hideous Men or Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (The Part About the Crimes) in that there’s some really horrible things to witness but their inclusion serves to prove a point and even to further the plot and fill in some gaps.

A Fistful of Fists is a collage of twenty-seven short films all about the joy of killing cures.  The transcription is a print version of what is seen on the videos, sometimes in graphic detail.  Scenes of it reminded me of some of the “torture porn” stories that were trendy a while back. (more…)

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