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Archive for the ‘LGBTQ’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: MELANIE CHARLES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #165 (January 4, 2021).

I had never heard of Melanie Charles and boy was I in for a treat with this being my first exposure to her.

A Brooklynite proud of her rich Haitian heritage, Charles is conscious of the giant shoulders upon which she stands and takes steps to both honor and advance this music. Behind her, smiling pictures of her guardian angels, Mary Lou Williams and Billie Holiday, encourage Charles while she and her musicians blend the mystique of Haitian folk music with the sorrowful optimism of negro spirituals and the free space for elevation that jazz improvisation allows.

The video opens on a dark screen with samples being manipulated and twisted.  It’s amazing to have the camera fade from black into this really old-fashioned looking scene–upright bass, snare drum and a nearly sepia filter on the video.  And then there’s Melanie Charlie dressed in a beautiful but old-fashioned looking ensemble manipulating all of the sounds.

She is playing from the

Williamsburg Music Center, one of Brooklyn’s last surviving black-owned jazz venues… This performance was a full circle moment for Melanie Charles. The Williamsburg Music Center is owned by Gerry Eastman, a celebrated musician and composer who taught the jazz class Charles and her brother and saxophonist, Rogerst Charles, attended when they were in high school. According to Charles, Eastman “represents a special era of Brooklyn jazz musicians” and created a space that gave these artists a place to perform when all other doors were closed to them.

Then she starts singing French while Jonathan Michel plays a bass solo /melody.  This song is

“Damballa Wedo,” [in which] Charles channels her Haitian roots and delivers a modern twist of a traditional vodou song by Toto Bissainthe. She sings that when we seek transformation, we may become someone who those around us no longer recognize, but that the change is necessary and part of the ancestors’ divine plan. “C’est bon, c’est bon,” she sings.

Up next she offers a little Sun Ra vibration.  She plays a sample and dramatically shuts it off as it loops.  The starkness of the silence is very dramatic.   Then she starts singing

Charles’ arrangement of “Deep River” is inspired by her admiration for Sun Ra. The biography of the eccentric composer, arranger, musician, and early pioneer of Afrofuturism, Space Is The Place rests on a stand behind her. By really digging into his approach and arrangements and using his “spaceship setup as a performance guide,” she breathes new life into this spiritual, injecting it with a potency that is simultaneously somber and otherworldly.

While the sample continues the band picks things up.  The bass and sax play the main melody while Melanie plays some sharp and cool flute accents.

And what a voice!

Before the final song, she introduces the band:

Jonathan Michel: who looks like an upright bassist–he’s got that Ron Johnson turtleneck.  Shout out to Ron Johnson.  On drums, Diego Ramirez: coming in at the last minute and learning the songs over night.  On saxophone, Rogerst Charles, my blood brother, my heart.

The final song is “Dilemma.”

She finishes the set with “Dilemma,” a new song written to find the balance between self-care and showing up for those you love amid the cries for justice during the first summer of the pandemic. On our phone call, Charles explained that the song is an anthem that reminds us to not to “dim your light for anybody” and “remember how vibrant we are, despite what we as black people had to deal with in 2020.”

She plays keys and sings a soft song until the whole band joins in.  After a couple of minutes she she sings a high note and the sax plays the same note a wailing harmony of greatness.

With about two minutes left she starts singing the coda “we’ve been doing alright be we still shine bright.”  The band sings along and she interjects:

We’ve been doing alright
even though we didn’t get our stimulus.
But we still shine bright.

[READ: March 31, 2021] Only Righteous Fights

On December 31 of 2020 I donated some money to Elizabeth Warren (I’m not actually sure to what end it was used–presumably her Senatorial campaign?) to pre-order this collection of speeches (and get a laminated bookmark!).

There are few things more disappointing than reading amazing, inspiring and truly moving speeches by a person who lost a candidacy.

Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren were my number 1 and number 2 choices for President.  I didn’t have to worry too much about which one I would ultimately choose, I was just happy they both were so successful (until they weren’t).  Having Harris as V.P. is pretty awesome, and I will acknowledge that Biden (who was my last choice) has been doing a good job thus far (apparently having taken ideas from all the other candidates…which is rather a good idea).

But reading this book and seeing how genuine Warren was (or came across) and how much she cared (or appeared to) for the people she spoke to and about, it is crushing that her campaign didn’t last.

There are five speeches in the book as well as lots of photos.  There’s a few smaller sections as well, like photos from the Selfie Line, Letters to Elizabeth and Pinky Promises.

What’s impressive is how she manages to hit all of her main bullet points and yet how each speech is quite different. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORIS with MERZBOW-Gensho (Disc One: Boris) (2016).

In 2016, Boris teamed with Merzbow to create Gensho, a 2 CD package that was designed to have both CDs played at the same time.  Not the easiest thing for many people, but with the advent of digital recordings it’s now pretty easy to play both discs at the same time (this release is on Spotify).

Disc 1 was all Boris.  Disc 2 was all Merzbow.

When you play them together, you get the drumless Boris with all of the glitching electronica of Merzbow sprinkled around it.  The songs are set up in a very clever way with one of Merzbow’s songs being exactly equal to two or three of the Boris songs.

I played the CD of Boris and the stream of Merzbow on Spotify.  It was cool to be able to raise and lower the volunme of one to change the intensity of Merzbow’s glitches.

Merzbow’s “Planet of the Cows” plays over the first two Boris songs “Farewell” and “Huge.”  Farewell’s quiet drone tacks on Merzbow’s squeals and glitches which fill in the gaps quite nicely.  When “Farewell” ends, the Merzbow continues until the loud gongs heavy chords of “Huge” ring out.  The Merzbow chaos sounds almost like a solo over the slow low heavy drone chords.  Atsuo’s low growling even complements the spare noises.  Both parts ends with squealing feedbacking sounds–analog from Boris and digital from Merzbow.

Merzbow’s “Goloka Pt. 1” plays over three Boris songs “Resonance” “Rainbow” and “Sometimes” (the My Bloody Valentine cover).  “Resonance” is mostly percussion–kind of randomly hit in a slow rhythm.  Merzbow’s noises sound like static in a distance echoing signal from outer space.  “Rainbow” is a piece I don’t know.  This version features Boris playing some quiet guitar and a grooving bass with Wata singing vocals. Merzbow’s electronics sounds restrained here, adding louder noises when the vocals back out  This song has some tasty soloing from Wata with the electronics almost keeping pace.  It segues into “Sometimes,” with its loud thumping echoes and eventual wall of noise.  The vocals are pretty well buried but you can hear the melody of the MBV song.

“Goloka Pt.. 2” plays over “Heavy Rain” and “Akuma No Uta.” “Heavy Rain” starts out with noisy stabs of sound–it’s actually hard to tell who is making what, but then things mellow out as Wata sings.  The guitars drone loudly and the vocals mix in with the electronics.  It ends with the noisy guitar buzzing from Boris while the noises from Merzbow continue between songs–sounds of noise and electronic bleeps.  “Akuma No Uta” starts slowly with washes of guitar build up. The glitching Merzbow adds keeps it from being purely a drone.  The drone gets louder and louder and I like the way Merzbow’s glitches seem to back off as the man riff enters the song.  As it nears the end, glitching sounds to me like a menacing voice coming through the static and heavy riffage.

The final song is Merzbow’ “Prelude to a Broken Arm” which plays over “Akirame Flower” and “Vomitself.”  It starts out with watery sounds before the big chords and vocals kick in.  Merzbow’s noise is like a screaming train underneath the slow crooning.   The main riff from Wata has some electronic percussive sounds tacked onto it.  As the final chord rings out the song segues into the musch noisier “Vomitself.”   It introduces a huge wave of low chords as Merzbow’s noise amps up to correspond with a lot of low growling percussive sounds. As the song rumbles to an end the squealing intensifies like feedback added on top of the roar with the last notes sounding like a person raging.

It’s interesting how I don’t really like the Merzbow tracks, but how they add interesting textures to the Boris songs.

[READ: February 19, 2021] Caliente

Matu Santamaria is an Argentinian illustrator and his work is really stunning.

This book has a big warning: 18+ but it’s not fully explicit.  There are drawing of naked women and sex acts, but there’s only a few things that are NSFW.

Santamaria’s work is full of clean lines and and dramatic colors.  I really enjoy looking at it, regardless of the content.

This book contains a lot of his most recent work.  It seems to be split between positive messages about sexuality, body positivity and appreciation for frontline workers during the Coronavirus.  There’s also some celebrity pictures as well.

After some definitions of the word caliente, the book opens with series of pictures of women exploring the sexuality with each other.  Interracial women kissing and a woman taking her top off with the comment–“and without realizing it, it’s poetry.” (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACKSTEREOLAB-“High Expectation” (1991).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

Stereolab have been around forever (I saw them live two years ago) and their music has gone through several transformations over the years.

This song comes from their second release, an EP called Super-Electric, and was then released on the Switched On collection.  It’s a pretty quiet song, with a kind of soporific feel–muted guitars, no drums, and a kind of gauzy sheen over all the music.

One of the best things about Stereolab is that their lyrics are usually absolutely different from what you think they might be about given the music and Lætitia Sadier’s delivery.  She sings softly and, because French is her native language, her emphases are not always where one might expect, so she can sing a line like: “There is no sense in being interested/In a child, a group, or in a society” (in the song Spark Plug”) and it sounds like a pretty pop song with lovely backing vocals.

In “High Expectation,” she sings gently over this chill-out song:

Do you really want to love someone who does not love you
Do you really want to stab your enemy in the back.  Stab him in front.

and then the understated but still catchy chorus:

I don’t, I don’t, I don’t, I’m sorry.

Stereolab were unique right from the get go.

[READ: June 1, 2020] Check Please Book 2

Check Please is a two-part graphic novel.  Book 1 followed college freshman Eric “Bitty” Bittle through his freshman and sophomore years.  In book two Bitty is now a junior (and senior) Samwell College and is taking on more responsibilities.

The book is written as a vlog from Bitty.  As the opening blurb tells us

I’m a junior on the Samwell men’s hockey team and not only do I have new teammates and responsibilities I’ve got a new beau–remember Jack?  Dating a professional hockey player wasn’t anything I expected to do in college.  My parents don’t know, my teammates have no clue, and Jack and I aren’t sure that we want to keep it a secret.

Jack Zimmerman is now playing pro hockey for the Falcons.  He has a hockey nickname–Zimmboni–and the respect of his team.  Despite the high profile games dn Bitty’s schooling, they do manage to see each other (Zoom meetings before they were what everyone was doing). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RACHELE ANDRIOLI-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #135/153 (January 13, 2021).

Rachele AndrioliGlobalFEST 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 third artist of the third night is Rachele Andrioli from Italy.  She is (almost) a one-woman band and makes amazing music with her voice and a loop pedal.

Recording from southern Italy, Rachele Andrioli’s performance highlights her mix of old and new, of traditional music and modern technology. Her trance vocals and loop pedals create a sound all her own, mixing music from Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Albanian and Romani cultures and traditions.

She plays three songs.  For the first, “Te Spettu” (“I Respect You”) she loops a jaw harp (who would have thought that that could be the basis for a song).  Then she loops her voice crooning.  She picks up a hand drum that looks like a tambourine (and gets an amazingly robust sound from it).  Her vocal style feels Middle Eastern.  It’s a really impressive piece of music.

“Pranvera Filloi Me Ardh” (“Spring Started with the Coming”) is in Albanian.  As the song starts, her accompanists come out.  Redi Hasa picks up a cello and plays a harmonic note (looped) followed by a gentle plucked melody.  Then Rocco Negro plays the accordion.  The mournful accordion solo sounds very Italian.  Hasa plays a mournful melody and she sings gently with them both.

The men leave and it’s just her for  “Ederlezi.”   She loops her voice singing a single note and then accompaniments herself including a distortion on her voice making it a very deep harmony.  She plays another small hand drum which gets an amazing sound.

This is a wonderfully unique set that I really enjoyed.

[READ: January 22, 2021] Snapdragon

For a while, I was reading every single First Second book that was published.  Once the pandemic hit, I fell behind and have not really been able to catch up just yet.  But S. brought this book home and I thought it looked interesting even before I saw that it was from First Second.

The cover is a little disconcerting.  Snapdragon, the girl in the picture, has hair up in pig tails.  But with a ghostly deer behind her, the way her har is drawn, it almost looks like some kind of antler (probably not intended).  But there’s a lot of things that are confusing in this story at first (and even second and third) glance.  I assume that these other decisions are deliberate.

Many of the characters in this story are African-American, including Snapdragon.  But her skin coloring is very different from all of the other characters.  I don’t think it matters for the story, whether she is or not (until the very end anyhow).  But it was very nice to see so many characters of color in the book.  In a strangely similar way, a main character, Jacks, I was sure was a man, but indeed, she is not.  Snap recognizes her as a woman right away, but I wasn’t sure if that made a difference either.  In fact, Jacks’ masculine appearance is important in the story, but I’m not sure if the reader is supposed to think that Jacks is a man as well?

None of that matters, of course, because once you learn the reality, you can just move on.

So just what the heck is this story about?

Snapdragon is a girl (all the women in her family are named after flowers).  She’s a little odd and the other kids are happy to let her know that.  The only kid who is nice to her is her neighbor Louis.  Louis thinks Snap is weird, but Louis is also pretty unconventional. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ROOTS feat. JILL SCOTT-“You Got Me” (1999).

I’ve wanted to listen to more from The Roots ever since I was exposed to them on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  But as typically happens, I’m listening to other things instead.  So this seemed like a good opportunity to check them out (based on Samantha Irby’s rave below).

One of the best things about this recording (and The Roots in general) is Questlove’s drumming.  In addition to his being a terrific drummer, his drums sound amazing in this live setting.

Erykah Badu sings on the album but Jill Scott (Jilly from Philly) who wrote the part, sings here.

It starts out quietly with just a twinkling keyboard and Scott’s rough but pretty voice.  Then comes the main rapping verses from Black Thought.  I love the way Scott sings backing vocals on the verses and Black Thought adds backing vocals to the chorus.

Midway through the song, it shifts gears and gets a little more funky.  Around five minutes, the band does some serious jamming.  Jill Scott does some vocal bits, the turntablist goes a little wild with the scratching and Questlove is on fire.

Then things slow down for Scott to show off her amazing voice in a quiet solo-ish section.  This song shows off how great both The Roots and Jill Scott are.  Time to dig deeper.

[READ: November 1, 2020] Wow, no thank you.

This book kept popping up on various recommended lists.  The bunny on the cover was pretty adorable, so I thought I’d check it out. I’d never heard of Samantha Irby before this, but the title and the blurbs made this sound really funny.

And some of it is really funny. Irby is self-deprecating and seems to be full of self-loathing, but she puts a humorous spin on it all.  She also has Crohn’s disease and terribly irritable bowels–there’s lots of talk about poo in this book.

Irby had a pretty miserable upbringing.  Many of the essays detail this upbringing.  She also has low self-esteem and many of the essays detail that.  She also doesn’t take care of herself at all and she writes about that.  She also doesn’t really want much to do with children or dogs.  And yet somehow she is married to a woman with children.

From what some of these essays say, it sounds like she is married to this woman yet somehow lives an entirely separate life from the rest of the house.  It’s all rather puzzling, although I suppose if you are already a fan, you may know many of the details already. (more…)

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[CANCELLED: October 7, 2020] City and Colour / Katie Pruitt [rescheduled from May 16]

indexIt really seemed like October would be ample time for things to settle down and for concerts to start again.  It’s really disappointing to see that it’s not yet.  At least as of June, Green had cancelled his entire fall tour.

I’m also fascinated by the posters below.  This rescheduled date was not part of his original fall tour.  Katie Pruitt is not with him for any other shows–although he did initially reschedule the shows with her.

City and Colour is Dallas Green, the clean singer from Canadian band Alexisonfire.  I liked them a lot (especially his parts).  I’ve also enjoyed some of his solo stuff, which tends to be more folkie.

I’ve often thought it would be interesting to see him live.  He seems like a decent guy and I imagine is shows would be enjoyable.  But I have to say that i am shocked that he could headline Franklin Music Hall.  It just seems way too big for him.  Do more people in the States know who he is than I realize?

Anyhow, I had tickets for Tenacious D on this night, so I wasn’t going anyhow.

I’d guess he’d be more of a Boot & Saddle-sized performer.  So, good for him.  I wouldn’t want to see him in such a large place, but maybe someday he’ll come somewhere smaller.

Katie Pruitt is a folk/country singer from Nashville.  She has a wonderful song called “Loving Her’ that she released for National Pride Day (with a great video).  She veers a little too much into the country twang for my tastes, but if she can get country music to embrace the LGBTQ community, then, I’m all for her.

city color

city-and-colour

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SOUNDTRACK: AILBHE REDDY-“Distrust” (2016).

I found this song from, of all things, a redbull website listing up and coming Irish bands.  It says that this song has been streamed over 3 million times.

This song opens with otherworldy “oohs” before a jagged, slapped guitar melody enters the song.  The guitar feels like it ends too abruptly.  It ‘s a very cool hook.  Especially for a song that is a total kiss-off song like this one.

Over the course of three and a half minutes more and more is added to the song–an insistent bass, drums, more backing vocals and even a violin.  But that persistent guitar runs through the whole song.  As does Ailbhe Reddy’s voice which is clean and piercing.  She speak-sings in the beginning, but when the chorus comes in, her voice is in full power. 

The song soars by the end, as does her voice.  

In the video, she stands absolutely still and strong as the room she is in falls apart around her.  

Reddy has a full album coming out next month. This song isn’t on it, but her new song “Looking Happy” is a real rocker (with a cool video). 

[READ: September 19, 2020] No Country for Old Gnomes

I really enjoyed the first book in the series–Kill the Farm Boy.  I was really looking forward to reading the continuing efforts of the heroes of Pell.

So I was a little surprised to learn that this book has almost nothing to do with the first one.  It’s set in the same place (with the same map up front) and the world remains the same, but this book follows the exploits of a completely different band of accidental warriors. 

That was a little disappointing at first (I miss Fia and Agrabella) but Dawson & Hearne have created a brand new band of travelers who are just as interesting and compelling as the first bunch. All of the characters from the first book make cameos, but they are brief.  The only characters from the first book that have any regular work are King Gustave and Grinda the Sand Witch.

But this book is exciting and funny and in the same vein as the first while being very different as well.  It is full of puns and jokes and twists on fantasy novels all while fleshing out the world that was created in book one (and making great use of the map that’s on the first page).

The book opens with three witches (not Grinda) and a cauldron.  I love a spoof of this scene and this one is especially good.  Two of the witches are casting a spell to help the Bruding Boars win their jousting competition.  But they needed a third so they put an ad on Ye Olde Meet-Up Bulletin Boarde. This third with (who looked quite different from her picture) had a very different spell in mind.

The third witch disappeared after casting a spell full of blood and seeming to be against gnomes.  But, really, who cared about gnomes.

Neither noticed the surfeit of portent in the air, wafting from the coppery-smelling cave, probably because the second witch smelled so strongly of cat urine.
But the portent was there nonetheless.

The book shifts to the Numminen family of gnomes.  Gnomes are generally smöl (ha!) and cheerful. The two sons Onni and Offi are fighting about Offi’s lack of gnomeric behavior.  Offi likes wearing cardigans that are black and covered in bats (gnome cardigans should be bright and cheerful).  So, yes, Offi is a goth gnome.  Whereas Onni is a perfect gnome who wins award for his gnomeric behavior. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SUNFLOWER BEAN-“Moment in the Sun” (2020).

When Sunflower Bean first came out they were a wonderful poppy guitar band.  They sounded like a classic indie pop band from the 90s with Julia Cummings great vocals and Nick Kivlen’s delicate guitar sound that also worked in some roaring solos.

Their last EP was a lot more synth and even more poppy.  This new track, “Moments in the Sun” continues in that poppy synthy style.

The song opens with a slinky disco bass line and guitar chords.  Cumming’s voice sounds husky until the end of the each verse which has a catchy echoing falsetto vocal.  Bouncy synths accompany the vocals.

The propulsive chorus strips out the synth for a really catchy vocal harmony between Cummings and Kivlen.

The song sounds vaguely familiar–very catchy and simple

This aggressively poppy direction is a bit surprising given their earlier sound.  It’s not all that far afield from their initial sound, but I do miss Kivlen’s excellent guitar work.

[READ: September 14, 2020] “The Englishman”

This is the second story of Stuart’s to appear in the New Yorker this year.

In this story, a college-aged Scottish man has answered a want ad to help an older Englishman named William.  The young man (who is nicknamed Caspar by William) was expected home from college for the summer.  His family farmed on a Scottish isle and were often buffeted by the harsh Atlantic winds.  His older brothers had been saving up the worst chores for his return.  So when he said he wouldn’t be coming home, they were furious at him.  His father was also disappointing–he said nothing when Caspar told him he was spending the summer in London.

The position paid four hundred quid a week.  William was a wealth man, with much cash at his disposal–he offered to fly William in from Scotland.  William was fastidious in his dress but his house was a shambles.  (The narrators mother would have died to have her house look like this). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-The End of Domancy EP (2020).

Voivod has released a new EP for 2020.  The metal band were invited to play the 2019 Montreal Jazz Fest.

To do something special, guitarist Chewy created some orchestration for a song hey had not played live before.  This EP has the live version of the song as well as a newly recorded studio version.  There’s an extra live song from the Festival as well.

The newly recorded studio version of the song is now called The End Of Dormancy (Metal Section). It has  brass quintet comprising saxophone, trombone and trumpet.  It works quite well because of how cinematic their music (and especially their newest album The Wake) is.  I mean the military drum march in the middle of the song could come from any terrific sci-fi movie. The horns add a very interesting cinematic quality and do not detract from the heaviness of the original.  Even though the horns do a lot of the dramatic rising and falling parts there is still plenty of room for Chewy’s guitar soloing.  But that high note trumpet at the end is pretty spectacular.

The live version runs about a minute longer because even though Voivod is tight AF and very meticulous, they allow for an improvised saxophone solo.  The audience is pretty thrilled by it.  I love the way the band is quiet at the beginning of the solo and then builds in intensity to the end of the solo.  And that ending trumpet high note is even more impressive live.

The third song is a live version of The Unknown Knows, a fantastic song from Nothingface.  Voivod plays incredibly complicated an intricate music and the fact that they can pull it off live–and have it sound even better–is a testament to how great they are.  And also how great Chewy is as a replacement for Piggy.

[READ: September 10, 2020] Do You Mind If I Cancel?

I had no idea who Gary Janetti was before reading this book.  S. brought it home and thought I’d enjoy reading it.  With a title like that I thought it would be kind of funny.

Turns out that Gary Janetti is a TV writer for a few different comedies (although none that I watch).  And his writing is a lot like that of David Sedaris.  By that I mean he is lauded as being a hilarious writer.  But in fact, while some of his piece are funny, there is a lot of sadness and despair in some of these essays.  I mean, the last essay is about the many men who died of AIDS in the 80s.  To call this book “laugh-out-loud funny” is slightly off base.

I hate to lump Janetti in with Sedaris, because it’s not really fair.  They are both gay men, no longer young, with a great eye for details and a snarky attitude.  But the difference is in perspective.  Janetti is ten years younger (which isn’t that big of a deal, but given the time frame they are talking about, it was quite a change in gay culture).  More importantly, whereas Sedaris is from North Carolina, Janetti is from Long Island. So he has has much greater proximity to a big (gay) city.  His family also seems to be much less antagonistic with each other–so Janetti’s comedy doesn’t stem from familial wars.

Janetti lived much of his twenties in New York City as a single guy working in a fancy hotel where rich, fabulous people showed up regularly. He has many stories of Broadway, and disappointing encounters famous people and the like.   Amusingly he also has a lot of stories about how he watched a lot of TV–typically not the most exciting thing to write about–but his essays about this are quite funny.

There are eighteen essays in total. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: clipping.-“Chapter 319″/”Knees on the Ground” (2020).

On June 19, clipping. released this excellent track, “Chapter 319.”

clipping. has often released music that is harsh and unpleasant (great, but not “pleasant”).  This song, removes a bit of the musical harshness to focus on the vocals.  It’s still abrasive and cacophonous, but it’s meant to be heard by a lot of people.

After a sample, Daveed Diggs raps over a rumbling bass line.

Left, right, left

How long can we holler when it ain’t no breath?
You keep killing fathers without no regrets
Then keep on countin’ dollars ’til it ain’t none left
So the streets gon’ keep on marching like
Left, right, left

The middle of the song adds some complicated drums and effects but the focus is the lyrics:

This march a foot in yo fucking throat to choke out
The whole assumption that you are here to protect … us
This government doesn’t respect … us
And somehow they seem to expect … us to accept
The power a piece of shit millionaire president wants to project

Diggs raps in a normal flow and then adds some remarkably fast verses.  But the spotlight comes with this section, repeated twice.  It is not the chorus, it is more of a hook, with the music pausing at the full stop.

donald trump is a white supremacist / full stop
if you vote for him again, you’re a white supremacist / full stop

Full stop.

The other song on this release is called “Knees on the Ground” which was originally released in 2014.

The fact that lyrically it could have been written in 2020 is a succinct testament to systemic racism in four minutes.

Six thumps that sound like someone pounding on a door are the only sound bedsides Diggs’ lyrics (and some sound effects).   The pounding is unnerving as you can imagine who is on the other side.

An intense middle section has this quickly rapped verse:

Brown boy sitting on his knees with his eyes shut
Hands behind his head fingers woven pinkies up
Saying he ain’t even doin’ nothing what you want T
hey threw him on the ground when he called them all punks
Retro blue and white Jordans tongues out
Over the black jeans cuffed just the right amount
To make them bunch by the calves how he like
Just ran out of boxer briefs so he wearing tighty-whities
With a white t-shirt and the breeze catch it just so
Pressing it tight against his chest so the red hole
Is getting wider and the blood is soaking in the fabric
And pooling on the ground he looks down automatic
And the dark pavement gets darker when it’s wet
He’s losing balance slow with his hands on his head
So his face hits first and his eyes go dead
And the air is sucked out of the world with his last breath

Then the pounding comes back for another verse.  The chorus has some eerily quiet echoing chords as he recites:

Keep your knees on the ground where they belong.

It ends with noise and static.

Proceeds from the sale of the song go to organizations for racial justice.

[READ: July 20, 2020] Stamped

This book has been on the top of everyone’s recommended lists for being proactive about understanding systemic racism.

I didn’t quite understand what the subtitle meant by a remix, but the acknowledgements explain that Kendi wrote his book Stamped from the Beginning as

a history book that could be devoured by as many people as possible–without shortchanging the serious complexities–because racist ideas and their history have affected us all. But Jason Reynolds took his remix of Stamped from the Beginning to another level of accessibility and luster…that will impact generations of young and not so young people.

Reynolds is a multi-award-winning author of books for children.  He is also a teacher.  He knows how to write a compelling story.

I haven’t read Stamped form the Beginning, but this remix is outstanding. (more…)

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