Archive for the ‘Insomnia’ Category

Frank Conniff–Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever (2016)

tvfrankSOUNDTRACK: TA-KU & WAFIA-Tiny Desk Concert #577 (November 6, 2016).

Ta-ku & Wafia are Australian, and I knew nothing else about them.  So:

The chemistry between Australian singer-producer Ta-ku and his fellow Aussie singer-songwriter Wafia becomes apparent the instant you hear their voices intertwined in song. On their first collaborative EP, (m)edian, they draw on their individual experiences to touch on subjects like compromise in relationships as they trade verses and harmonize over hollow melodies.  With production characterized by weary low-end rumbles and resonant keys, the two float above the music, playing off each other’s harmonies.

Although the blurb mentions a few bands that the duo sounds like I couldn’t help thinking they sound The xx (although a bit poppier).

“Treading Water” especially sounds like The xx.  Both of their voices sound really close to that band (although Wafia’s high notes and r&b inclinations do impact that somewhat).  It’s funny that they are just sitting there with their eyes closed, hands folded singing gently.

“Me in the Middle” is another pretty, simple keyboard song with depth in the lyrics and vocals.

Introducing, “Love Somebody,” she says its their favorite on their EP and he interjects Go but it now, which makes her giggle.  Her voice is really quite lovely.  I could see them hitting big both in pop circles and in some alternative circles if they market themselves well.

[READ: November 10, 2016] 25 MST3K Films that Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever

As you might guess from the title, Frank Conniff was involved with MST3K.  He was TV’s Frank and, as we learn from this book, he was the guy who was forced to watch every movie first and decide whether it could be used for the show.  This “job” was created because they had watched a bit of Sidehackers and decided it would be fun to use.  So Comedy Central bought the rights (“They paid in the high two figures”) and then discovered that there was a brutal rape scene (“don’t know why I need to cal it a ‘brutal’ rape scene any kind of rape ,loud or quiet, violent or Cosby-style, is brutal”) that would sure be hard to joke about (they edited it out for the show which “had a minimal effect on the overall mediocrity of the project.”

The book opens with an FBI warning like the videotapes except for this book it stands for Federal Bureau of Incoherence because the document contains “many pop culture references that are obscure, out of date, annoying and of no practical use to anyone.”   So each chapter goes through and explains these obscure references for us all. (more…)

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aug2013SOUNDTRACK: REGGIE WATTS-“Panama” (A.V, Undercover, January 22, 2013).

reggiepanama This is from the A.V. Club’s third series of covers called A.V. Undercover.  In this series, the bands select what they are going to cover from a list (which gets shorter after each go).  I’ve been really enjoying Reggie Watts lately.  And I really enjoy this “cover” of Van Halen’s “Panama.”

In the pre-song interview he explains how he knows the guys in the band and that this version is a cover of an earlier demo version of the song.  Who knew the original content was so different

Check it out (and groove on the sweater).  “Oh woah, shipping canals!”

[READ: September 6, 2013] “Insomnia”

Solnit posits a wonderful idea–if only sleep could be hoarded and then accumulated or traded.  She has suffered from sleep deprivation off and on for decades–her mind just can’t turn off–like hamster on a wheel.  And like a hamster on a wheel, she is annoyed that all of the churning is so unproductive.

She talks about the two kinds of insomniacs–those who can’t fall asleep and those who wake up in the middle of the night (that’s me).  She quotes F Scott Fitzgerald who said “in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.”  Because as anyone who has woken up at that time knows, everything is overwhelming, arduous and against you.  “At that hour you could probably contemplate pancake recipes with terror.” (more…)

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aug2013SOUNDTRACK: THE FRONT BOTTOMS-Tiny Desk Concert #297 (August 19, 2013).

frontbotI really enjoyed The Front Bottoms’ “Au Revoir” and was pretty excited to see they had a Tiny Desk Concert.  After watching this, I’m very curious to see what they do in a full band setting because their sound works very well in this stripped down fashion–with acoustic guitars, penny whistle and muted trumpet (!).

Lead singer, Brian Sella, reminds me a lot of Mike Doughty in his speaky/singing way (especially on “Swear To God The Devil Made Me Do It”–although less speaky than Doughty or Cake–there’s just something about his delivery that puts me in mind of them.

He’s also always got a smirk on his face, which makes me like them more.

I’m torn between wondering if they’re a novelty band that I wouldn’t listen to more than a few times or a cool alternative band whose idiosyncrasies only get better with each listen.  I love the way “Twin Size Mattress” has little elements (like the tambourine moment–and the “no fucking way moment) which elevate it above some of the seemingly sillier songs.  Not to mention the lyrics are really good in the song.  Indeed, even though the lyrics are funny, they are often very clever, too.

I really enjoyed all four songs in this set and I have listened to it many times now.  “Au Revoir (Adios)” sounds great.  All four songs comes from their new album Talon of the Hawk.  And the more I listen the more I’m convincing myself to jut get the damned album.

[READ: September 6, 2013] “Gaboxadol”

This essay was actually hard for me to read.  That’s because the first half was all scientific chemistry talk and I really got lost–I don’t really know what GABA receptors are or do and I didn’t even really understand what he was talking about what Stepan Krasheninnikov did in 1755.  And I worried that I wasn’t going to enjoy this at all.

But soon Morris brought it back to an area that dummies like me can enjoy   He talks about the history of Gaboxadol a drug created by Dutch chemist Povl Krogsgaard-Larsen in 1977.  The first time Povl took it (self-experiment was very common until recently) he said it made him feel like he had just had three beers–a very comfortable feeling.

But Gaboxadol never found its niche.  Povl knew it had relaxing qualities but he couldn’t specifically diagnose who would best benefit from it.  It was tried on the mentally ill.  The desired effects did not really arrive–but the side effects made people feel sleepy.  Then it was tried as an analgesic for cancer patients.  It relieved some pain but it made everyone sleepy (you see where this is gong, right?).  It was then tested on patients with anxiety disorder, but the side effects were more powerful that the anti-anxiety effects.

So then the drug was just shelved (were people just less experimental back then?)  It wasn’t until 1996 that Marike Lancel a somnologist in Munich read the research and decided to try it as a sleeping aid.  She realized that Gaboxadol assisted sleep and also had none of the side effects that Ambien had (apparently terrible insomnia once you stop taking it–so I’ll not be taking that, thank you very much).  Merck bought the rights to Gaboxadol for $270 million. (more…)

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aug2013SOUNDTRACK: MOTHER FALCON-Tiny Desk Concert #296 (August 17, 2013)

motherfBy my count there are fourteen people in Mother Falcon (the notes say 17 but I couldn’t see them all)–that’s a lot of people in a Tiny Desk concert.  And they all play an instrument.  I count trumpet, bassoon, three saxophones, three violins, two cellos, an upright bass, accordion, guitar and mandolin (the mandolin player is the lead singer (and a cello player too).

Despite the orchestral set up, the songs are short pop songs but with a lot of, well, orchestration.  The songs have gorgeous instrumental sections, especially in “Marigold” where the riff is powerful and made all the more dynamic by the woodwinds.

“Marfa” has vocals by the female lead (who plays guitar–I don’t see any band member names on the NPR site).  The strings really dominate here and remind me of the way The Dambuilders used strings–even though there is no heavy guitar.  The strings feel like they are playing rock songs rather than being used as background for a rock song.  “Dirty Summer” is a sing-along track with no real words–lots of oh ohs.

motherfalWatching one of the members climb on the desk to sing louder was pretty fun.  It was also cool hearing how excited they were to be on the Tiny Desk.  Check it out.

They sound really great and, although I have to suspect that they must be more dynamic live than on record–how could they not be?

[READ: September 6, 2013] “Herbal Remedies”

Curtis is a holistic nutritionist.  I was a little concerned that this whole essay was going to be about prescribing alternative medicines to people to help them sleep (that’s only part of the article–and sadly there’s no quick suggestions either).  Actually, I’m normally all for herbals, but I’ve been watching Doc Martin lately and, man, he really rails into the herbalist on that show.  I’m generally torn about herbal remedies–I absolutely believe in science, but I have no faith in corporations.  So I believe scientists find cures for things and then corporations mess with them and make us need more than we do.  And I also feel like old herbal remedies probably work to an extent and yet they have also not been scientifically proven.  What’s a skeptic to do?

Anyhow, the switch comes when Curtis admits that while her patients can’t sleep, she has no problems with it.   Except that she doesn’t want to sleep, she hates it.  She even slept with the light on (until her business associate warned that it ruins your “kidney jing.)”

She talks about what it’s like to sleep in different men’s beds.  I liked the descriptions–the way each bed and each man makes her feel a different way in the bed–like a princess, or someone who wakes up several times a night so she can cuddle again or, like a safe and secure person who can sleep uninterrupted all night long. (more…)

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aug2013SOUNDTRACK: GREEN DAY-¡Tre! (2012).

treThe third and final album of the trilogy is called ¡Tre! (and yes I enjoyed that they named this one ¡Tre! as opposed to ¡Tre! and put Tre Cool on the cover—not exactly the most clever thing around, but it made me smile and makes me think that they only did three albums so they could have this title/cover combo).  And, yes, this is my least favorite of the three discs.  It feels like a bonus disc—songs that don’t really belong anywhere else. It’s kind of an album full of ballads (but that would suck) so they made it mostly ballads with other things too.

Like “Brutal Love”  a slow ballad (complete with horns) that builds into a standard rocker (it’s got a very “rock and roll” vibe).  Many punk songs are really just rock and roll played fast and this is certainly one of those songs.  (I don’t care for that kind of punk so much).  “Missing You” is a another mid-tempo rocker–the kind they do very well.

“8th Avenue Serenade” has another cool sound (as in different from the rest of the album).  “Drama Queen” is an acoustic guitar ballad with creepy creepy lyrics. It’s probably my least favorite Green Day song ever.  “X-Kid”seems even more simple than other Green Day songs (does Billie Joe throw anything away?)  It sounds like a classic rock song form the mid 80s.  “Sex, Drugs & Violence” brings the disc back some with a fun poppy rocker.  “A Little Boy Named Train” sounds a lot like “Carpe Diem” from ¡UnoI (same chords, just played slower—although the verses do change it a bit.

“Amanda” a mid tempo rocker and “Walk Away” is another slow song that sounds like classic rock.  “Dirty Rotten Bastards” clocks in at over 6 minutes!  It’s got several short sections in it though (which makes it more fun). The first part is the melody of The Marines Song.  “99 Revolutions” is so catchy it even has a chorus with only drums (that lowest common denominator of songs that is guaranteed to get the crowd to sing along).

So yes, there are a few good songs in this collection, but they could have easily scraped out the good ones and dumped them on the first two discs and just put Tre’s picture on the back of both of them.

[READ: September 6, 2013] “Neighbors”

Unferth, like Julavits, writes a kind of narrative piece about sleeplessness.  It’s hard to imagine her living the way she does, but if you’ve read her memoir, she has certainly slept in worse places than a Chicago slum.  It turns out that her downstairs neighbor, Maximilian, would turn on his TV late at night and leave it on all night. The odd thing was that he had no electricity in his apartment—he ran an extension cord to the light in the foyer.  When Unferth would get fed up with the noise, she would go downstairs and unplug the cord.

But then Maximilian’s girlfriend Dorothy moved back in.  The two of them fought nightly—loud screaming fights that were worse than the TV noise (when Unferth unplugged the TV, Dorothy found an electricity source elsewhere, although Unferth couldn’t figure out where).

She makes a very interesting distinction about the type of noise that might wake you up as compared to visceral fighting of your neighbors.  From things like jets and trains (or a fire engine, like at my house): “You may lose sleep over them, but you won’t lose sleep over them.”  Whereas hearing your neighbors screaming at each other is far more disturbing. (more…)

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aug2013SOUNDTRACK: GREEN DAY-¡Dos! (2012).

Wdoshile I was writing about these songs the words “stupid” and “dopey” came up a lot and I realized that of this trilogy of albums, this may be the dopiest (I mean, look at the cover).  I assume that’s on purpose.  We know that Green day was taking a break from their serious albums and operas to make dopey punk rock.  But between the lyrics and the riffs, this one is really quite dopey.  Charmingly so.

¡Dos! opens with “See You Tonight” a tinny guitar sound that makes me think they’re goin to bust into The Allman Brother’s “Jessica,” but no, it remains a folky song that lasts for 90 seconds before it bleeds into “Fuck Time” a knuckleheaded, big drummed bluesy riff that  reminds me of Soundgarden’s “Big Dumb Sex” except that it might actually be serious.  And it may be the least sexy song about sex I’ve ever head.  “Stop When the Red Lights Flash” ups the speed even further (although they manage to have catchy verses that seem to recall The Who again).  “Lazy Bones” changes the tone somewhat, bringing in some nice ringing guitars (sounding more like The Strokes than punk) and a prettier feel (in the verses anyhow).  It’s probably my favorite on this disc.

“Wild One” is one of their rockier ballads.  It could probably do with being about a minute shorter, but the backing vocals are pretty cool.  “Makeout Party” is  stupid fun (with some wild solos, and even a bass solo section).   “Stray Heart” is a fun boppy song with, yes, a big arena-friendly chorus).  “Ashley” is a fast punky song (that plays high guitar notes rather than big chords).

“Baby Eyes” has  good harsh sound in the riff (a rare minor chord)–although again those verses are bright and happy.  “Nightlife” is the one glaringly odd song.  It has a silky bass line and a really interesting sound.  But it also feature an extensive rap by Lady Cobra (who I’ve never heard of).  The rap is just as silly as Armstrong;s lyrics, but somehow since she is speaking them so clearly (rather than hurriedly singing them) they seem even dumber.

“Wow! That’s Loud” is a wonderful title for a fast spirited song, with a dopey riff and some fun soloing sections (unusual for Green Day).  The disc ends like it began with an acoustic type ballad.  This one is called “Amy” and it is pretty much the quintessential sweet Green day ballad.

Although I liked this one, I preferred the first disc overall.

[READ: September 6, 2013] “Segmented Sleep”

I’m repeating this intro because of the content of this essay.  The timing of this Folio, entitled “Are You Sleeping? In search of a good night’s rest” is quite spooky.  I myself have been having middle of the night insomnia.  I seem to battle this occasionally.  This recent bout seems to be accompanied by a stomach upset.  So I have this really unfair cycle.  My stomach is bothered by caffeine, so it keeps me up at night and when I wake up groggy and with a headache, I need the caffeine to get me somewhat stabilized (and I’m not a big caffeine drinker—a cup of tea, maybe two a day).  But that seems to upset me during the night.  I am also really strangely accurate with my insomnia.  It is almost always between 2 and 2:30 AM. So, yea, here’s other people interested in sleep deprivation.

[begin new content] Although Julavits’ piece read like a story, Ekirch’s has a much more academic style.  Turns out that he wrote about a history of sleep for his dissertation and for part of his book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past.  This short essay focuses on “segmented sleep.”  It turns out that in pre-industrial nights, sleep was segmented: a first and second sleep bridged after midnight “by an hour or more of wakefulness in which people did practically everything imaginable.”  This second sleep is mentioned in Odyssey and Aeneid.

In the 1990s a sleep study was done.  Males were deprived of artificial light at night for a few weeks.  They began sleeping in segments as well.  This seems to be a natural circadian rhythm to our lives.  Indeed, It was in the 1800s that segmented sleep gave way to one longer sleep—when lighting and industry came to dominate our lives.  And we felt compelled to be awake when it was light out so we could be more productive. (more…)

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