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Archive for the ‘Futility’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ART D’ECCO “Angst in My Pants” (2021).

I saw Art D’ecco open a show a few years ago and I’ve become mildly obsessed with hi.  I’m delighted to see that he’s getting some promotion and success.

His new album In Standard Definition is a great synth pop retro dance infusion.  But in addition to that he has released two standalone covers.

Art D’ecco covering Sparks is a pretty natural decision.  as his label puts it.

The glam rocker premiered his cover of Sparks’ ‘Angst In My Pants’ via FLOOD Magazine earlier today. Art recalls, “Before making my last record I jokingly said to my band, if one more person or media outlet says I sound like Sparks I’m gonna cover them”.

This is a really faithful to the original, including the strained an jocular vocals in the verses.   And the great emphases in the chorus.  It’s modernized with new sounds and production but overall this is faithful and fun cover.  If it introduces fans of one band to the other, then it has done its job.

[READ: June 1, 2021] Colony

After reading Rob Grant’s Red Dwarf books, I discovered that he has written a number of novels in addition.

  • Colony (2000), a science fiction story about a colony that has long since lost its way.
  • Incompetence (2003), a wry detective story set in the near future where it is illegal to discriminate for any reason, even incompetence.
  • Fat (2006), a darkly comic novel about how the media portrays obesity and its effects on today’s society.
  • The Quanderhorn Xperimentations (2018) [based on a radio show that Grant wrote].

So Colony was his first.  It’s interesting how much it connects to Red Dwarf without having anything to do with Red Dwarf.  It’s a sci-fi novel, set millions of years in outer space, with the fate of the human race in the balance.

But barring that, it’s really quite different.  In this book the human race is aware that it is on the verge of extinction, and it is planning for it.  They are loading the best people on to a space ship (the Willflower) that will fly them millions of miles away to a habitable planet.  Those people will have offspring on the ship and several generations later the human race will survive on the new planet. 

But the book starts off by following Eddie O’Hare, a man NOT meant to be on this ship.  He is not one of earth’s best and brightest.  In fact, he is one of the unluckiest men around.  A computer glitch has caused him to lose millions of pounds for the company he works for.  The company believes he stole it.  And they have sent a couple of thugs to retrieve it.

In fact, the thugs just came to his room with the intent of throwing him out the window to his death.  But when they mention something that seems incorrect, they realize that they have the wrong man.  Eddie assumes he’s on that list, he’s just not next on the list–that would be the man in the room next door.  The hit men are darkly comic until they become just dark.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ART D’ECCO-“That’s Entertainment” (2021).

I saw Art D’ecco open a show a few years ago and I’ve become mildly obsessed with hi.  I’m delighted to see that he’s getting some promotion and success.

His new album In Standard Definition is a great synth pop retro dance infusion.  But in addition to that he has released two standalone covers.

This one, a cover of The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” was a little concerning for me.  This song is one of my all time favorite songs and I’m always nervous when a song like this gets covered.

But Art D’ecco does a great job.  There’s acoustic guitars, a grooving bass line, cool harmony vocals and, best of all, he keeps the way the chorus offers the short “That’s” and the stretched out “en ter tain ment.”  He even does the falsetto note (of course).

But what’s most enlightening about is cover is D’ecco’s voice. He seems to be stretching out of his comfort zone a little and it really shows off how good a singer her really is.

[READ: April 21, 2021] Last Human

I’m not sure what got me on my recent Red Dwarf reading kick (finding out that they had just released a new series was certainly a spark).  I was sure I had read all of these books before and yet none of them were familiar to me at all.

The Grant Naylor team wrote two books and the second one ended on a cliffhanger.

Then for reasons I’m not willing to dig into, both Rob Grant and Doug Naylor each wrote a sequel to that book.  But neither book is like the other and they both go in very different directions.  Naylor’s book was really dark and very violent.  Grant’s was also dark and very violent, but in very different ways.

The previous book ended with an old Lister being sent to a planet where everything goes backwards so that he can de-age to about the same age he was when he was on the series.  They plan to meet him 36 years later at Niagara Falls.

In this book Naylor has the crew place Kochanski’s ashes on the planet Kochanski so she came back to life and she and Lister were able to live their lives backwards together for some thirty years.

But this book opens much further back–to the birth of the first humanoid. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Jackson Triggs, St.Catharines, ON (August 12, 2017).

I have been catching up on the last few remaining recent (relatively) shows that the Rheostatics played.  These are all shows since the release of Here Comes the Wolves.

Great soundboard show from the beautiful Jackson Triggs Winery stage with Kevin Hearn on Keys/vocals and Hugh Marsh on violin. Very chatty show with one of the longest stretches of banter I can recall at over 8 minutes of straight comedy.

The show begins with the spoken introduction from Group of 7 “A tall white pine stands between me and the tree I’m trying to see … also a tall white pine.”  Then Martin starts a gentle “Northern Wish.”  It’s followed by “Legal Age Life” which has a wild keyboard solo.  Kevin continues to shine on a lengthy intro for Dave Clark’s fun new song “Supecontroller.”  It’s kind of a dopey song but it’s one of my favorites.

Kevin says to the audience, Say hello to Dave Clark.”  Dave says Jackson Triggs has treated us fine and gave us all kinds of good food.  (and plenty of wine).

A delicate “Music is the Message with lots of violin including a solo.  Kevin introduces Tim and Dave tells a joke about the difference between a piece of cheese and a piece of string that I don’t get (something about crickets).  And then someone talks about playing and there were crickets after every song–it was pretty rough.
After a boppy “Easy to Be with You,” Kevin plays keys like at an ice skating rink as a segue into a soaring “Stolen Car” with a lengthy solo form Martin and Hugh.
They thank the opening band  Common Deer and say that High and Kevin will be with them all summer long: Hugh Marsh Kevin Hearn Summer Experience.  Tickets: $5.99 at your local fairground.
They mention CDs and Martin in great, funny form says, we’ve lived through many formats.  The wax cylinder the vinyl disc, the compact disc (Tim: “they said they’d never skip but all mine skip now”). Martin: they skip in the most painful, digital…  the universe conspired to make it more annoying than previously existed.  When a vinyl skipped you’d go hmm, weird did they write that like that?  When a CD skips deh deh deh deh deh–a drill to the center of the mind.  Unless you’re a Squarepusher.  Hugh had many intentional skips on his recording–the king of the skip.
Don’t bug Hugh.  Hugh has no way to defend himself except for his instrument.  Sure he does, he’s the best looking dude in the band.  And he’s like 73.
DB says, from 2067 it’s “PIN.”  I really got my FM radio voce on tonight huh?
Dave you’ve always had a voice that is delightful on the radio as when you hosted Brave New Waves in the early sixties?
DB says Dave Clark influenced my life so much when he said “Do you want to be someone playing the bands on the radio or do you want to be the band?”
Martin: That’s very good advice Dave Clark and also demeaning to people who promote  our music and celebrate it.  My opinion of you has changed.  You told that story and now I hate you.  Dave Clark does not have that fulsome overtone.  DC: But Ii have a better personality.  My teeth would have been straight by now.  How does the teeth work into that? CBC benefits! CBC teeth.
That could have been you on Corner Gas.
Dave Clark says he has a show to pitch to the CBC.
Kevin: I have an idea for this show–play the next song.
Kevin plays in Barenaked Ladies and they talk a lot. Kevin was so excited to play with us here as a band who doesn’t go on talking about nonsensical things.
Kevin: You’re even worse.  Dave B: “way worse.”
Martin: Kevin before BNL you were in a band called The Look People   “5 is the number that makes me want to boogie.”
After “PIN,” there’s some scratching sounds and a Mr. Rogers intro into Michael Jackson.   Nice harmonies at the end.
Soaring keys swell for the intro to “California Dreamline.”  Martin gets a little wild singing in the dolphins part.  Keyboard washes segue into “Claire.”
Big shout to those who came down form St. Catharine’s a city that supports the arts.  When I think of Niagara Falls. i think of Dale Morningstar and his shenanigans.  Ron Sexmith
Can I tell you one of Ron Sexsmith’s original jokes?  Hey, did I just sit in maple syrup?  You bet your sweet ass you did.
Kevin: By the way I was told we’re good for time as long as we don’t do any more fifteen minute intros.  Man they run a tight ship around her.
DB to an audience member: Want to come up and model our new shirt?  No I’m not going to sign it now, I’m working.  It says nothing on the back.  You can write your own inspirational phrase on the back.
Kevin: Are you finished?
DB: Yes but I was selling merch it’s important.
MT: This is from Saskatchewan the Musical (that’s bound to be next).  Martin sings:
I don’t know what I’m doing here
I feel so different from everyone else in this town
Saskatchewan.”
Coming in the fall of 2025.
Then martin gets serious, and sings the song properly but sings the end in a slurry drunken way.
Then introduces: “This is Queer: The Musical.”
A jam in the meddle where Kevin plays nearly two minutes of keyboard fills before they jump to the bouncing ending.  It’s followed by a lively “Dope Fiends featuring a lengthy drum solo.
At the end as they sing “dark side of the moooooon,” Tim starts playing Pink Floyd’s “Money.”
After an encore break, Kevin comes out and starts playing pretty chords.  “Shaved Head” sounds very different with gentle keys.
It’s a great summer set and a very fun show.

[READ: April 21, 2021] Backwards

I’m not sure what got me on my recent Red Dwarf reading kick (finding out that they had just released a new series on DVD was certainly a spark).  I was sure I had read all of these books before and yet none of them were familiar to me at all.

The Grant Naylor team wrote two books and the second one ended on a cliffhanger.

Then for reasons I’m not willing to look into, both Rob Grant and Doug Naylor each wrote a sequel to that book.  But neither book is like the other and they both go in very different directions.  Naylor’s book was really dark and very violent.

Grant’s book is also dark but in very different ways.

The previous book ended with an old Lister being sent to a planet where everything goes backwards so that he can de-age to about the same age he was when he was on the series.  They plan to meet him 36 years later at Niagara Falls.

But this book opens with a prologue about Arnold Rimmer aged 7 and how he continues to fail in school.  His teachers suggest he be held back, but his mother interferes and that lets him move on.

Then the book starts properly with the crew of Red Dwarf: Rimmer, Cat and Kryten landing on Reverse World and trying to locate Lister.  Because everything goes in reverse (which takes some time to wrap your head around) all of your actions are predetermined.  And, essentially, if you do something dangerous, you know that if you’re not already hurt, you won’t get hurt because you would be hurt to start with.  What?  You’ve already jumped off the cliff, now, you’re doing it backwards.  But you already landed, so you’d already be hurt and going backwards would un-hurt you.

It also means that you un-eat food, good to sleep when you are refreshed, wake up when you’re tired.  And you don’t even want to think about going to the bathroom. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CARM-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #192 (April 15, 2021).

CJ Camerieri is a co-founder of yMusic, which is how I know him (I saw him perform with Ben Folds).

This is his new project, CARM.  Camerieri is also a member of Paul Simon’s band, a collaborator with Bon Iver and a Tiny Desk alum. (You can hear his French horn with The Tallest Man On Earth from their 2019 Tiny Desk Concert.)

“Soft Night” is the first track and introduces us to what CARM is about.  He plays trumpet while Trever Hagen plays electronics and sets up the melody and drums.  Then Camerieri switches to French horn while Hagen plays some trumpet.  Then in a fun moment, Camerieri picks up the trumpet with his right whole still holding the French horn in his left.  He plays the trumpet melody and then puts down the trumpet and starts on the French horn.  For the rest of this five-minute instrumental, the two jump back and forth playing trumpet riffs and leads as the electronics build satisfyingly.

For CJ Camerieri … home is where the art is. He performed his concert at the Pablo Center in Eau Claire, Wisc., where [he] conceived and recorded all the songs for his 2021 debut solo album, CARM. “This particular community has been a really big part of my musical life for 10 years,” CJ says after playing the calming tune “Soft Night,” “so it seems like the perfect place to be doing this.”

He made “Song of Trouble” with Sufjan Stevens.  They wrote it before the pandemic but the lyrics have taken on new meaning.  S. Carey plays piano and sings.  This is another mellow song with some lovely muted trumpet and simple electronics backing the song.

“Nowhere” is a little stranger.  It opens with jittery trumpet and skittery and loud electronics.  The juxtaposition of the organic horns and the electronic instruments is very cool.

“Slantwise” opens with some rapid and wild drum loops.  Then Camerieri loops the French horn and trumpet giving the song a rather majestic feel.

[READ: May 11, 2021] A Complicated Love Story Set in Space

The librarian in West Windsor recommended this book to my son.  He didn’t read it, but I loved the title and was really interested in reading it.

And wow, did I enjoy it.

I have not read anything by Hutchinson before, so I’m not sure how this compares to his other books, but this was, indeed, a very complicated love story.  In the acknowledgments Hutchinson says that originally the story was called Gays in Space.  And while that is a fun title, I think the final title is wonderfully compelling.

The story opens on Noa.  Noa is a normal teenager from Seattle.  But he has just woken up and he finds himself in a spacesuit, floating outside of a spaceship.  He has no recollection of how he got there.  There’s a note that says “You are in space floating outside a ship called Qriosity.  There is no reason to panic.”

Well, thank goodness for that.

After getting his bearings, a voice speaks to him.  The voice is from a teenaged boy named DJ.  DJ is from Florida and he is aboard the Qriosity.  He also has no idea how he got there.

They are each tasked with a pressing problem and if they don’t fix them immediately, the ship will explode.  Noa panics (as he tends to do) but DJ calms him and talks to him as they work together to fix the ship.  Which they do.  But as Noa is heading to the airlock, his tether is not attached and he is flung from the ship.  He has nowhere near enough oxygen and soon enough, he is dead.

That’s a rough start for the protagonist of the story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CLIPPING-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert Meets SXSW: #190 (April 5, 2021).

Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it’s curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. Last year, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned this March as an online festival. We programmed a ‘stage’ of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and presented them on the final day of the festival. Now, we present to you Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.

clipping. is an intense band.  I had the pleasure of seeing them live opening for the Flaming Lips.  I was hoping to see them again before the pandemic hit.  This Tiny Desk doesn’t in any way replicate a live show because they play a little visual trick on the viewer–and they keep it up for the whole set.

Leave it to clipping. to innovate around the central notion of the Tiny Desk; to take the series’ emphasis on close-up intimacy and transport it to new heights of, well, tininess.

clipping is a dark, violent band

Producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes craft a bed of hip-hop, industrial music and noisy experimentalism, then set loose rapper Daveed Diggs, whose violent imagery summons ’90s horrorcore and a thousand bloody movies. The band’s last two album titles — There Existed an Addiction to Blood and Visions of Bodies Being Burned — offer up a sense of the vibe, but Diggs’ gift for rapid-fire wordplay also acts as a leavening agent.

That’s right, Daveed Diggs.

The guy won a Tony Award for playing Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette in Hamilton, and he still knows how to sell every word that leaves his lips.

So it’s especially amusing to see them have a lot of fun with the Tiny Desk (Home) Concert.  The video opens with a few scenes of tables and gear.  But when the show starts, Daveed Diggs picks up a microphone that’s about the size of a toothpick and starts rapping into it.

  And when William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes come in they are playing laptops and other gear that’s barely an inch in length. I have to assume that this stuff doesn’t actually work and yet they are taking their job very seriously–touching and sliding and tapping and looping on these preposterous toys.

“Something Underneath” starts quietly and then Diggs shows off some of is incredibly fast rapping skills.  Then the guy on the right (I’m not sure who is who) comes into the cameras and starts messing with his tiny gear.  After about 2 minutes the guy on the left comes in and starts making all kinds of distorted beats.  It starts getting louder and louder and louder until the noise fades out and its just Diggs’ voice looping “morning” as he moves the camera and he starts the slower track

The only movement in the video is Diggs moving his camera around to different angles for each song.

“Bout That” is fairly quite until a few minutes in when the song launches off.

Diggs shifts his camera and is finally fully on screen before they start the creepy “Check the Lock.”  It’s got clanking and scratching and pulsing noises for the line

something in this room didn’t used to be / he ain’t ever scared tough / but he check the lock every time we walks by the door.

Midway through the guy on the left starts cranking a tiny music box and he plays it through the next two songs.

It segues into “Shooter” [is there a name for this style of rapping–each line has a pause and a punchline–I really like it].

The music box continues into “The Show” which starts to build louder and louder, getting more an more chaotic.  It fades and builds noisier and chaotic once more until it reduces to a simple beat.  And the guy on the right drinks from his can of BEER.

Noisy squealing introduces “Nothing Is Safe.”  Daveed is pretty intense as he raps “death comes for everyone” pause and then full on sound as he resumes.

clipping is not for everyone–certainly not for people who want to see the guy from Hamilton (he was doing clipping before Hamilton, by the way).  But it creates an intense mood.

The blurb says that Chukwudi Hodge plays drums, but I didn’t see or hear any so i assume that’s a mistake.

[READ: April 21, 2021] Better Than Life

I don’t recall when I started watching Red Dwarf–some time in the 90s, I suspect.  I don’t even know of the show was ever very poplar here in the States, so it’s kind of a surprise that these two Red Dwarf novels even had a U.S. release.  But they did. And I bought them sometime when they came out.

So Grant Naylor is the cleverly combined names of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor–back when they were working together (I’m not sure why one of them left).   They penned two Red Dwarf books together, then they each wrote a Red Dwarf book separately.

This second book picks up from where the events of the previous book cliffhangered us.  There is a TV episode called “Better Than Life” and this book is kind of an super- mega-hyper-expanded version of that episode.  Except that the things that happened in the episode don’t even really happen in the book, either.

The basics of the episode are that Better Than Life is a video game that allows your deepest subconscious fantasies to come true.  And since everything is your fantasy, this game is indeed Better Than Life.  It’s easy to leave the game.  All you have to do is want to.  But who would want to leave a game when everything in it is better than what you’d be leaving it for?

As such, your body stars to wither and decay because you don’t eat, you don’t move, you just exist.  It’s a deadly game.

Rimmer’s fantasy at the end of the first book was that he had married a supermodel–a gorgeous babe whom every man wanted.  Except that she wouldn’t let him touch her for insurance reasons.  Rimmer has a problem or thirty with his self image.  But he was still super wealthy and women everywhere adored him. However as this book opens, he has divorced his babe and married a boring woman who also doesn’t want to have sex with him.  As thing move along, he loses his fortune and, ultimately his hologrammatic body.  He becomes just a voice.  Through a serious of hilarious mistakes, he winds up in the body of a woman.

One of the nice aspects of this book is that Grant Naylor have Rimmer see what a douchey sexist man he’s been all this time–believing all women were either his mother or a sex bomb.

The Cat’s scenario is pretty much all libido–Valkyrie warriors serving him and he gets to do pretty much whatever he wants–his clock doesn’t have times, it has activities: nap, sex, eat, nap, sleep, etc.

The one difference is that Kryten is there with him.  Kryten’s deepest fantasy is leaning, and so he keeps finding new things to clean in Cat’s world.

There’s another wonderful bit of anti-religion in this book (there’s always some anti-religion aspect in these stories).  In this one they talk about Silicon Heaven.

The best way to keep the robots subdued was to give them religion. … almost everything with a hint of artificial intelligence was programmed to believe that Silicon Heaven was he electronic afterlife….

If machines served their human masters with diligence and dedication, they would attain everlasting life in mechanical paradise when their components finally ran down.

At last they had solace. They were every bit as exploited as they’d always been, but now they believed there was some kind of justice at the end of it.

Lister’s fantasy is the same as it was before.  He’s living in the city from It’s a Wonderful Life and he’s married to Kristine Kochanski and he has two boys.  As the book opens there’s  a wonderfully touching moment with his family and his kids.

But it is abruptly demolished when a woman driving a tractor trailer crashes the truck in to Bedford Falls.  Literally all of Bedford Falls–every building is demolished or caught on fire.  There’s virtually nothing left.  And when the woman gets out of the truck dressed as  a prostitute and claims to know Lister, well, Kristine takes their boys and leaves him.  He has nothing.

It should come as no surprise that the woman is actually Rimmer.

What about Holly, the ship’s computer with an IQ of 6,000?  Can’t he save them?  Well, no.  He can’t get into the game, plus, he’s going a little crazy from being alone for so long.  So crazy in fact that he decides to start talking to Talkie Toaster, a gag gift that Lister bought for $19.99.

The sequence with the toaster is hilarious on the show (it only wants to talk about bready products!) and it translates perfectly to the book as well.  Essentially, Talkie Toaster encourages Holy to increase his IQ (which has been slowly leaking away) at the risk of shortening his life span.  Unfortunately, things go a little awry and Holly’s IQ eclipses 12,000. But his run time is cut to a number if minutes.

So he need to turn everything off if he wants to stay alive. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-Lost Society (2020).

Voivod have been around for over 30 years.  In that time, they’ve releases only four lives albums.  The first one was from the period when their original and current singer had departed, so that doesn’t really count.  In 2011 they released Warriors of Ice, a live album that featured the reunited original lineup minus deceased guitarist Piggy.  The third was a limited release from the 2011 Roadburn Festival.

Thus, we have this new release to acknowledge the excellence of their 2018 album The Wake.  This show was recorded at Quebec City Summer Fest on July 13, 2019.  I saw them on this tour on April 5, 2019.  The setlist was largely the same, although they played more in their hometown (and I would have loved to see “Astronomy Domine”).

Being in front of a hometown crowd has the band fully energized.  It also allows Snake to speak French to the audience, which is fun.

Most of Voivod’s music is really complicated and difficult (the chords that Piggy and now Chewy came up with are pretty hard to imagine).  And yet they play everything perfectly.  There’s not a lot of room for jamming when the songs are this tight and complex, but it’s clear the band are enjoying themselves anyway.

Since this is touring their new album, the majority of songs (4) are from it with two more songs from their 2016 EP Post Society.  The rest of the set is pretty much a song from each of the albums prior to 1993 (excluding the album with the best name: Rrröööaaarrr).

They interfile the new songs with the older ones, and it feels really seamless.  This shows how much of a student of Piggy new guitarist Chewy turned out to be.

The few times that Snake speaks in English, he says that Angel Rat’s “The Prow” is “time to dance time to party have fun” something one wouldn’t expect to do at a Voivod show, but compared to their other songs, it is pretty dancey.

My favorite Voivod album (aside from The Wake, which is really outstanding) is Nothingface, so I was really excited to hear “Into My Hypercube” and to hear that Rocky’s bass sounded just right.

Their older stuff is a little less complex and proggy so a song like 1987’s “Overreaction” is a bit heavier and straight ahead.

One of the more entertaining moments is during the opening of “The Lost Machine” where Snake stands between Chewy and Rocky and waves his arms to strum the chords first guitar, then bass, then guitar then bass, etc.

It is strange to think that this is only one-half of the classic line up.  In fact, drummer Away is the only person to have never left the band.  I assumed that when Piggy died, there was no point in continuing, but these replacements were really great.

And, Snake makes sure we never forget Piggy.  They end every show with the song that has the same name as the band.  And before they play it, he starts a chant “Piggy! Piggy!”  In this live recording, you can hear the audience screaming along to “voivod,” a nonsensical word that remains strong thirty-five years on.

The setlist for the album is at the bottom of the post.  I sure hope they tour around here again someday.

[READ: April 20, 2021] Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers

I don’t recall when I started watching Red Dwarf–some time in the 90s, I suspect.  I don’t even know if the show was ever very poplar here in the States, so it’s kind of a surprise that these two Red Dwarf novels even had a U.S. release.  But they did. And I bought them (and read them, I think, although it’s all new to me 30 years later) sometime when they came out.

So Grant Naylor is the cleverly combined names of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor–back when they were working together (I’m not sure why one of them left).   They penned two Red Dwarf books together, then they each wrote a Red Dwarf book separately.

This first one is basically an expanded version of some of the episodes from the first and second season.

Most of the jokes from the episodes are present here–so it’s easy to picture the characters saying the lines.  But there’s also a ton of new stuff.  Much of it fleshes out things that happened in the show, but still other things are brand new.

The book starts with the death of a Red Dwarf crew member.  He is now a hologram and rather than being excited about being alive, he is horrified to think of all the things his wife will get up to now that he is dead but aware of what is happening.  We also meet another man who is about to die–this time by suicide.  He is in debt for a lot of money and decided it was better than being beaten to death by the men he owed money to.

Turns out, this man outranked the first man and since the Red Dwarf mining ship could only support one hologram, this man was brought back at the expense of the first one.  A lot of ground is covered in these first two chapters and we haven’t even met any of the main characters of the show yet.

Dave Lister comes along in Chapter 3.  For those unfamiliar with the show, Dave Lister is the main character and also the last human being alive.  In the show he is three million years into deep space.  But he had been in stasis so he is only 27 when he is brought out and told the news that everyone is dead.

But as the book starts, Lister is miserable on a planet Mimas.  He got really drunk at his birthday party in Liverpool and, by the end of the night, he was on a planet very far from home with no money to get back. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKDakhaBrakha-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #133/141 (January 11, 2021).

DakhaBrakhaGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The final band on the first night is DakhaBrakha.  I have wanted to see DakhaBrakha live for years–ever since I saw them ona Tiny Desk Concert.  It’s wonderful to see them again, this time with new songs.

Tonight marks DakhaBrakha’s return to globalFEST and Tiny Desk. The Ukranian band’s first globalFEST performance was in 2014, and their 2015 Tiny Desk concert remains a favorite. We’ve had them in our spaces, so it’s a real treat to see them in theirs, the Dakh Theater in Kiev. Coming together, their performance maintains the energy and joy that define their music, bouncing off each other musically and emotionally. DakhaBrakha aims to keep Ukraine’s musical and storytelling tradition alive by making it more accessible to a younger, international audience, a kind of self-proclaimed “ethno-chaos.” They craft stunning sonic worlds for traditional songs, reinventing their heritage with a keen ear for contemporary resonances.

I was initially disappointed that they only played two songs, but these are long complex and varied song.  And they are both great.

“Komora” is a new song.  It opens with Nina Garenetska singing while slowly bowing the cello. Keyboardist Iryna Kovalenko and drummer Olena Tsybulskajoin join in on backing vocals with great harmony and sweeping high notes.  Then Nina starts playing a bass line on the cello and accordion player Marko Halanevych and the other ladies seem to be having a conversation of sounds.  Iryna takes over on lead vocals.  Marko adds some accordion while Olena plays soft drums.  Nina is back to bowing then it returns to cello/bass line and lots of oohing from all the singers.

Then Marko sings a lead line and the women seem to be answering him.  The song starts getting faster and faster as they call to each other leading to a spectacular ending.

“Vynnaya ya” is from their latest album.  It opens with Iryna and Olena clappin a rhythm and Nina plucking the cello.  Marko sings lead and they sing back in a call and response.  Nina takes over on vocals to mostly drum and cello accompaniment.  Then Marko plays a “horn” solo using just his hands.  It sounds like a duck call or muted trumpet and is weird and wonderful.

Olena sings the next verse and then Iryna sings the final verse.  When her verse is done, Marko puts down the accordion, stands up and plays another “trumpet” solo with his hands.  Then the whole band kicks up the tempo to nearly double speed as they race to a wild conclusion.

I can’t wait to see them in person!

[READ: November 15, 2020] Starlite Memories

I had never heard of Dov Fedler.  The title of this book made me look at it twice and then I skimmed the back cover blurb.

Beloved political cartoonist Dov Fedler had the opportunity in the 1990s to make a lifelong dream come true: Directing a movie. …  A laugh-out loud story of pitfalls follows.

Turns out he was a political cartoonist for The Star for over 50 years.

Then I saw that Fedler is from South Africa.  I’d never read anything by anyone from South Africa before this, I don’t think.  So I was curious to see what a comedy from South Africa was like.

Somewhere along the line I completely missed that this was a memoir.

So I spent the first 2/3 of the book believing that this was based on something that really happened but that he was making up names and other details to protect the innocent.  Especially since in the beginning the note to the reader says writing is always about the story.

There are times when a writer may have to embellish, obfuscate, conflate and conjure to keep the thing alive.

Again, somehow I glossed right over that word memoir (actually I thought it was a the main character talking about writing a memoir or something).

None of that really changed the way I would have read this.  I had no idea who he was or any of thing the things he did, so it might as well have been fictional.  But I think it’s funnier that it really happened.

This memoir proved to be mostly funny with a lot of thoughtfulness thrown in for good measure.  It is written by a political cartoonist who has always loved movies.  He is a Jewish man in South Africa.  There are not very many Jewish families in South Africa, but there are enough to have a small cultural center there.

Each chapter of the memoir is titled after a film.  He then summarizes the film in a few words.  The chapter is tangentially tied to either what happens in that film or to the title of the film.

Dov explains that he was hired to directed the film Timer Joe Part 3.  This crazy film title is a real film–the third after two popular movies.  But this one is clearly made simply to ash in on the popularity of the other two.  The film is basically the brainchild of his producer Moe Mankowitz.  Moe says, “I make films for black audiences.  Black people like the same moveis we do, but they like them with black people.”  Timer Joe 1 and 2 were a success, so he wants Dov to write the script for 3.  What’s it about?  All he knows is that it’s a comedy. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MICKEY GUYTON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #108 (November 9, 2020).

Mickey Guyton is a country singer, which is probably why I have never heard of her.  And yet, when Guyton sang her first song, I never would have guessed she was a country singer.

Her first song “Black Like Me” is beautiful.

In June, after the killing of George Floyd, Guyton released “Black Like Me,” which tells her own story in a way that gently but resolutely calls for change.

Her desk holds the book that inspired it.  Her voice is powerful and there’s not a twang in sight.  The lyrics are sensational, with the excellent chorus:

if you think we live in the land of the free
you should try to be black like me.

The only problem I have with the song is that although the piano accompaniment from Lynette Williams is lovely, I feel that the song deserves a much bigger arrangement.

I love the arrangement of the next song “Salt.”  Soulful keyboards, the Afro-Caribbean instruments of percussionist Paul Allen, Jon Sosin’s acoustic guitar.  She sounds a lot more country music in her delivery (there’s an actual delivery style that you can hear as she sings, even without the twang).  I liked this song, and I think it’s clever, but after the resonance of the other two songs, this one–a warning to men about women–seems beneath her.  Although the lyrics are pretty clever.

In February, as protests against sexism intensified in the country world, she debuted “What Are You Gonna Tell Her” and it caused an instant sensation.

She sang the he song at the ACM awards and was the first African-American woman to sing an original song at the awards–in 2020!

It’s back to just piano again–maybe the more important songs are more spare?  For some reason, the music of this song makes me think it could fit into Hamilton.  And the lyrics, once again, are terrific.

She thinks life is fair and
God hears every prayer
And everyone gets their ever after
She thinks love is love and if
You work hard, that’s enough
Skin’s just skin and it doesn’t matter
And that her friend’s older brother’s gonna keep his hands to himself
And that somebody’s gon’ believe her when she tells
But what are you gonna tell her
When she’s wrong?

Wow.

[READ: December 7, 2020] “Cut”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

It’s December 7. Catherine Lacey, author of Pew, presses every button in the elevator on her way out.  [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

I read this story back in April, when it was printed in the New Yorker.  It’s the only story in this collection that I’ve read before so far.  It was bizarre and I loved it.  I’m going to post a briefer version of my original post which you can read here.

This story started out is such an amusing way:

There’s no good way to say it–Peggy woke up most mornings oddly sore, sore in the general region of her asshole.

But it’s not an amusing scene at all.  It burns when she uses the toilet and she finds blood in her pajamas.

She could see a cut but only when using a hand mirror while she was crouched at the right angle.  But even so, her groin “was that of a middle-aged woman and not as strictly delineated as it once had been.”  Nevertheless, whenever she looked for it she always “paused to appreciate the inert drapery of her labia.”

The cut was there, but it seemed to migrate.   She tried to look it up online, but only found porn.  Adding Web MD brought back porn in doctor’s offices.  And adding Mayo Clinic introduced her to people with a fetish for mayonnaise. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PORTUGAL THE MAN-“Live in the Moment” (Weird Al Remix) (2018).

Portugal. The Man asked Weird Al to remix two songs. This is the second one.  This remix starts with the Weird Al polka medley treatment–lots of fast accordions.  The vocals sound a little different, although maybe that’s just because all of the proper music has been removed and replaced with the oompah bass, accordion and horns blasts.

The transition between verses is tackled with that Weird Al polka flourish, fitting perfectly.

The song definitely feels more frenetic with that intense bass thumping but the chorus is still just as catchy.

After the (serious) second chorus there’s a wild and silly polka instrumental break.  Then Al takes over lead vocals for the final verse.  Since Al’s voice is synonymous with funny, it’s a little strange to hear him sing straight lines–but his voice works operfectly.

[READ: October 10, 2020] The Wolf [excerpt]

K.J. Parker’s Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City contained two excerpts from other books tacked on at the end.  The second is an excerpt from Leo Carew’s complicatedly named The Wolf: Under a Northern Sky: Book One.

The blurb says

In Leo Carew’s thrilling and savagely visceral debut epic fantasy, The Wolf, violence and death come to the land under the Northern Sky when two fierce races break their age-old fragile peace and begin an all-out war.

Roper surveys the scene.  At nineteen, this would be his first battle.  They are in a deluge of rain, which he imagines will shorten the battle–men fight less fiercely in the rain. Ropers father Lord Kynortas says they have no battle plan, they are unsure what they will face. But they have ninety thousand soldiers of the Black Legion marching behind them.

The Sutherners had amassed a similarly large army and threatened the balance of power in Albion.

Kynortas introduces Roper to Uvoren, the warrior that every young boy of the Black Legion aspired to be like.  Uvoren is kindly to the boy and tells him that his father is a lot of fun to watch in a parley situation.

Roper had never seen a Sutehrner before and he was shocked to see that the looked just like him, only smaller. They were childlike.

As the leaders approached, Kynortas announced that the Sutehrners had invaders their land. They had burned and plundered.  Kynortas towered over the Sutherner leader.  Kynortas told him to take his men and leave or he will unleash the Black Legion soldiers and show no mercy.

The leader of the Sutherners was named Earl William.  He was not intimated despite the size difference.  He told Kynortas that his men were very comfortable there and that they have a strong position.  He demanded thirty chests of gold for them to leave.

Roper knew that thirty chests was an absurd number. His kingdom did not have much use for gold and could never procure thirty chests.  Roper concluded that Earl William did not want his offer accepted.

Kynortas said that they neither had that much gold nor would they “satisfy your greed for things that are soft and impotent.”  Then he jumped forward and seized Earl William’s breastplate.  He pulled it off and flung it aside leaving Earl William exposed.

Earl William’s men stormed off.  Except for one named Bellamus.  He snorted at Kynortas and said “being blessed with bone-armor, I cannot imagine you know how it felt for Earl William to have his defences taken so contemptuously from him.  Before this battle is over, I will show you how that feels.”

When Roper asked if this was typical negotiation, Kynortas nodded.  Negotiation is just n exercise in intimidation

When Roper said that they weren’t serious about their gold request–Earl william was goading them into attacking.

Kynorta smiled assuming the Sutherners were overconfident.

I’m vaguely interested in this story, but with so many other books I want to read, I don’ imagine I’ll continue with this story.

 

 

 

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SOUNDTRACK: PORTUGAL THE MAN-“Who’s Gonna Stop Me” (feat. “Weird Al” Yankovic) (2020).

Portugal. The Man and “Weird Al” (punctuation buddies, clearly) have worked together in various ways in the past.  But here is something totally weird for Weird Al.  He is providing serious verses to a serious song.

Portugal. The Man songs tend to be dancey and fun, but this song is quite serious (and the video is fantastic).

A quiet opening of drums and echoing keyboard notes.  The hook comes when the vocals speed up in the middle of the first verse.

There are some gorgeous “ooohs” and then Al’s verse comes.  Al obviously has a great voice–he can mimic anyone–he is perfectly matched to the original vocal line and his voice sounds great singing “sneaking out, jumping over backyard fences, we’re always looking for freedom.”

After some more of those haunting oohs, a loud drum fill introduces the second half of the song which elevates the song into a slightly more danceable section full of drums and voices.

And then comes the incredible hook of “toooooooo high!”  The vocal range from the deep “too” the soaring “high” is outstanding.

It sounds like Portugal. The Man are taking their music in yet another direction and this one is quite a good one.

[READ: October 10, 2020] Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City

I read a positive review of K.J. Parker’s “follow up” to this book called How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It.  When I picked up that book, I saw that the back cover said it was the follow up to Sixteen.  I assumed that meant it was a sequel and that I should read Sixteen first.  Well, Sixteen ends pretty definitively.  It turns out that Empire takes place seven years later and while I haven’t read it yet, I think it’s good I read this one first.

Also, K.J. Parker is the pseudonym of Tom Holt, a fantasy author I have not read but whom I gather I would like a lot.  So it was a good thing to read the review of Empire.

Parker has written several trilogies as well as a few stand-alone books.  I bring this up because I’ve read that some of the characteristics of this story reference other parts of his stories (this is a stand alone story, but I guess there might be parts that refer to his other books).

Like, for instance, the blues and the greens. These are two of the dominant races in the book.  I had a hard time telling them apart because there was no real introduction of either group. It was clear they hated each other, but I couldn’t figure out why (which I assumed was the point). At any rate, another reviewer says that the blues and greens are part of his other books, so maybe they are explained elsewhere.

The City appears to also be a thing that Parker likes to play around with.  In this book, the City is run by the Robur, a dominating group who have successfully conquered much of the surrounding lands. (more…)

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