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Archive for the ‘Marriage Trouble’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: March 2022] Man, Fuck This House

Okay, so this book has the best title.

I didn’t expect a lot from it, but I thought I’d give it a read. not really knowing exactly what to expect with a title like that.

So the novel is a horror story.  And it isn’t all that funny (it’s not supposed to be).  The simple summation is that a house becomes possessive of the person who is taking care of it.  The house wants to make that person happy and is content to get rid of everyone else.

So a family has moved to this house on a cul de sac in New Mexico.

There are two children.  And older daughter and a younger son.  I was a little bummed at the outset to learn that the son consumed his twin in the womb, because it seemed so ripe for cliche, but Asman did some interesting things with that idea.  The daughter is an aloof teenager.

The husband is kind of a goof and not really all that present.

Really, the story is about the wife and mom, Sabrina. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: January 26, 2022] Fixer

I saw this book at work and was attracted by the cover (obviously San Francisco) and that it was about a tech startup company (sort of).

The book is set up with each chapter being about one of the five main characters.

Meghan is a single woman whose life has been one of upheaval.  As we meet her, she has just gotten laid off (with about one third of the firm) of a tech company that has had to resize itself.  She’s not even sure why she works in marketing–she has no real sense of self and would love to be an artist.  But she doesn’t dare risk things for that.  She has also just had a very good date with Diego Garcia.

Diego (Digs) is techie guy with great ideas.  He has been working in the tech field for many years and has brought some of his good college friends to work with his at Del Oro, a startup tech firm with one of the hottest apps out right now.

Kari (he is Norwegian) is Diego’s college friend.  They have been close as anything for many years.  Kari (and his father especially) have very high expectations for Kari. Kari is the more business minded side of Diego–he knows about money and how to get it.  He is passionate about very few things.  One is success.  The other is Kari.

Kira (the similar names are cute, rather than cloying, I think) is his girlfriend of many years.  She is possibly more driven than he is.  She is very successful and expects the best from everyone.  She has known Kari and Diego since college.  She likes Diego but gets a little tired of him.  When Diego starts dating Meghan, she finds her unbearably boring.

The last of their college friends is Ravi.  Ravi is gay, but he has not (and could never) come out to his strict Indian parents (who are back in India).  They would love for him to come home, but he has made a life for himself here. He is actually just about to get married to a woman.  She is his best friend (they’ve known each other forever) and she is a lesbian.  She also needs help with her visa to stay in the country. It solves everything.  Even their serious significant others are on board.  Ravi is very close to Kari as well.  His boyfriend is serious and they imagine settling down someday is gay marriage is ever legalized. (more…)

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[LISTENED TO: November 2021] Girl in a Band

I didn’t really have that much interest in this book when it came out.  I love Sonic Youth, but I didn’t really think I cared all that much about their origin stories.  Then I saw that there was an audio book read by Kim and that sounded pretty cool.

I realized that I had no idea anything about Kim Gordon’s life and it was fascinating to learn just how much of a bohemian artist she was before she joined the band.

The memoir starts with the final Sonic Youth show.  Kim and Thurston’s divorce was already going to happen.  They simply wanted to finish out their final shows.  So Kim played while watching her disappointment of a husband absorb all the adulation.

But Kim’s book isn’t a salacious tell-all. It’s the story of her life and how she wound up where she did.  In fact, there’s very little about Sonic Youth (a lot more about the earliest records and then bits and pieces about the later records).  And, while she’s obviously pissed at Thurston for what he did, she’s restrained in her need to thrash the guy.

Perhaps the biggest take away from the book is that after thirty years of being in a rock band, she doesn’t consider herself a musician or a Rock Star (maybe a small letter rock star).  That eye opening statement is a kind of lead in to the fact that she has been an artist for most of her life–just not necessarily in music.

She moved to New York from California in 1980.  It’s crazy thinking that Kim was a California girl.

It’s even crazier thinking about her older brother Keller who was manipulative and mean and ultimate institutionalized. Kim idolized him and he abused her terribly (more than an older brother might normally do).  All of this made Kim into the shy and sensitive woman who you would never think was responsible for some of the most iconoclastic and then iconic music of the 20th century. (more…)

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[READ: Summer 2021] The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

I loved the name of this book.  The fact that it was put out by Quirk Books was a major plus.

This book was read by Bahni Turpin and she was magnificent.  I was hooked right from the start.  I loved her Southern accents and the way she made each character unique and easily recognizable.

In the preface to the book, Hendrix explains that this novel is a kind of apology for his earlier novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism.   In that novel teenagers were the protagonists and parents were cast as trouble for them.  He felt the need to address the concerns of the parents this time around.

I love the way the characters clearly love their children but are also realistic about them:  “Being a teenager isn’t a number,” says Maryellen. “It’s the age when you stop liking them.”

The story opens in a hilarious way.

It’s 1988 and Grace Cavanaugh had started a book club,  She wanted all of the women in her circle to read the classics.  This month’s book was Cry, The Beloved Country.  Grace was the quintessential Southern woman.  Her house was perfect.  Her thick pile carpets were white and immaculate (the way she inwardly cringes as cheese straws land on the carpet is hilarious).  She did not allow for anything improper.  She expected people to do what was proper.  Like finish the book club book.

The story zooms in on Patricia Campbell.  She needed the book club,  But she did not read the book.

She was given twenty minutes to talk about the book.  And the way she tries to stretch it out is hilarious.  Eventually Grace calls her out on it.  And is very disappointed in her.  Soon enough, though, the other women reveal that they didn’t read it either.

On her way to her car Patricia is stopped by Kitty Scruggs, another book club woman.  She invites Patricia to join the book club that she has just started.  It’s going to be her and Slick Paley, a conservative Christian (with an amazing accent, thank you Bahni) who seems dumb but is far from dumb, and Maryellen, a Yankee transplant (who has a very different accent which is nice to hear).  Eventually, even Grace joins because they are going to be reading the most salacious true crime books they can find.

Each of the women is married and their families are very different.  Patricia’s husband is straight-laced.  Her daughter is just old enough to be sarcastic to her and her son, Blue (that name is explained about 3/4 of the way through the book) has suddenly become obsessed with Nazis.  Basically, she needs these women.

Five years later, the book club is still going and the women feel closer to each other than ever (although Patricia doesn’t feel super close to Grace, because who could, really).  Then one night, a night that Blue didn’t take out the garbage, Patricia walks to where the cans are stored and is attacked.  The assailant is an old woman.  She acts crazy and even though Patricia knows her, she can’t talk sense into her. The old woman bites off part of her ear (which becomes quite a conversation piece, obviously). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: July 2021] Holding

Graham Norton is a fairly peripheral entertainer in our lives  I’ve always enjoyed him when I’ve watched him, but I don’t watch him very often.  He’s a good (and funny) talk show host, but who knew that he also wrote novels?  And not comic ones.

This story is a mystery set in the remote Irish village of Duneen.  They have one policeman (guard), Sergeant P.J. Collins who is overweight and alone.  Collins is central to the story, as are Brid Riordan and Evelyn Ross.

Brid Riordan is a wife and mother and she is unhappy.  She’s been drinking a lot and her husband has been getting on her case about it–even taking the kids away to his mother’s a few times.

Evelyn Ross is the youngest of the three Ross sisters–a wealthy trio of (orphaned and single) women living in a large estate called Ard Carraig. Abigail and Florence are her older sisters and they dote on Evelyn because a) she found their father when he hung himself and b) she was more of less left at the altar.

Nothing much happens in Duneen.  The biggest news is the development that’s going up.  And what they find when they start to dig the foundation–human bones. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BLEACHERS-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #235 (July 12, 2021).

People love Jack Antonoff and Bleachers.  I feel like I’m supposed to be blown away by him, but I’m not.  In fact I thought that I had seen him live, but it was actually Porches (not the same thing but sort of similar).

Both as producer extraordinaire and artist in his own right, Jack Antonoff has had an outsized impact on the past decade in pop. And yet, even with such maximalist aims, Antonoff clearly understands the effectiveness of scale: that the most enduring tracks are often intimate portraits.

Surrounded by greenery, the footage is interspersed with close-up angles filtered through an old-school finish (scan the wide shot and you’ll spy a video camera perched on the piano, plus one very tiny desk, too).

They play three songs.

The set opens with “91,” the album’s ambitious opening cut.

The songs opens with the two saxophone players standing really close to each other (where’s the social distancing guys?).  This song is a kind of story song with a lot of words.  The whole presentation reminds me a lot of Tom Waits (no bad thing) or Bruce Springsteen (which I guess makes more sense since Bruce sang on a song of his).

It’s followed by a bombastic revision of “Stop Making This Hurt,” which gets a slick saxophone rewrite courtesy of Zem Audu and Evan Smith.

“Stop Making This Hurt” opens in an interesting way with staccato sax from (l-r) Zem Audu and Evan Smith while Antonoff stabs some piano notes.  I suppose I would like this more if it didn’t sound exactly as it does.  Piano and sax are really just not my thing and that’s pretty much all these songs have.  Mikey Freedom Hart adds keys, but it’s mostly bass notes adding depth to the song.

Springsteen sings on the studio version of “Chinatown.”  Interestingly I felt like this version sounded more like Meatloaf than anything else.  Musically I enjoyed this song and Antonoff seems like a nice guy, but I’ll not be seeing Bleachers anytime soon.

[READ: July 15, 2021] “Old Faithful”

This essays opens with David finding a lump on his tailbone–never a happy discovery.  It was a cyst or a boil–“one of those words you associate with trolls.”

Just sitting hurt him–and forget about laying down.  He threatened that boil–“I’m going to go to a doctor if you don’t go away.”  It didn’t listen.

He says he didn’t go to the doctor because it would have been very expensive in London (really?  Don’t they have NHS?).  But mostly he was afraid of hearing that he had “lower-back cancer” and they’d have to “remove his entire bottom.”

He suffered with the pain believing he was setting a good example for Hugh who tends to moan and complain–a splinter gets into his hand and he claims to know how Jesus Christ felt. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JACK INGRAM, MIRANDA LAMBERT, JON RANDALL: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #226 (June 21, 2021).

The sight of three people with guitars wearing cowboy hats meant that I wouldn’t enjoy this set.  (At least it was only ten minutes).

Having said that, while there’s something I instinctively dislike about Lambert (she always looks really smug and/or pissed off), her voice is quite nice and not terribly twangy.

I think I’ve heard of Jack Ingram, but possibly not Jon Randall.

After collaborating on “Tin Man” from Lambert’s 2016 record The Weight Of These Wings … the artists spent five days last November recording in Marfa, Texas. In this (home) concert, the trio turns its quarantine album, The Marfa Tapes, into a quarantine Tiny Desk set, complete with a well-appointed desk in the corner of the frame.

They play three mid-tempo songs with pretty guitars, pretty melodies and nice harmonies.

They start with “Waxahachie.”  But in the way that hearing an okay cover of a song makes you want to hear the original, this song made me want to listen to the band Waxahatchee instead.

“Tin Man” (“Our award-winning song,” Lambert jokes. The track won the 2018 Academy of Country Music Award for song of the year) is a fine song. I’m not sure what led it to winning an award, though.

At its conclusion, Lambert lets out a laugh and the trio exchange knowing glances before finishing the show with “In His Arms.”

“In His Arms” is one of Lambert’s favorites on the disc.  It has a pretty guitar melody from Jon Randall (I guess I’m supposed to know which guy was which since they were never introduced).  There’s some really nice harmonies on this song as well.

[READ: June 28, 2021] The Herd

Every once in a while I get to see some new books that come into work.  I saw this one and was intrigued by it.  I hadn’t heard of Bartz, but the book sounded exciting.

Then by the time I got around to reading it, I forgot that it was a thriller, and I found myself getting really invested in the characters.  The story was such a delightful book of female empowerment that I was really surprised when it turned into a mystery.

The story is about four women.  Eleanor Walsh is CEO of The Herd, an elite, women-only coworking space.  After making her fortune with a women-friendly cosmetic line, she established The HERd [capitalization intended] as a place where women could work side by side, bouncing ideas off of each other.  She became a feminist icon.  And was accordingly hated by insecure men–including an online group called the Anti-herd.

Mikki Danziger is a college friend of Eleanor’s.  She is an artist, and she creates most of the visuals for The Herd.  She’s a little annoyed that she (one of Eleanor’s oldest and best friends) isn’t on the payroll–Eleanor keeps her as an independent contractor.  But aside from that she is thrilled to share in Eleanor’s success.

As is Hana Bradley.  Hana is the third of the above trio of women who all went to Harvard together.  They have been best friends since college.  Hana is a PR specialist and she has managed to keep Eleanor out of trouble as she works to expand her business.  She is also a n independent contractor.

Hana’s younger sister Katie is also a friend of the others.  They initially took her in as a little sister.  But when Hana went to the West Coast for grad school. Katie filled in the gap and they embraced her as an equal. (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: MDOU MOCTAR-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #213 (May 24, 2021).

Mdou Moctar has been getting some well deserved recognition lately.  It’s pretty great to see a Nigerian performer, who plays distinctly Nigerian style music making an impression on American audiences.

Of course, since I’m contrary, I’m more attracted to Moctar’s drummer who is playing a calabash–in this case red object that looks like a turtle shell and makes a remarkable range of sounds.  But really the focus should be on Moctar’s guitar playing.

Get ready for some fiery desert guitar-shredding, Saharan style, with the music of Mdou Moctar. Producer and American bassist Mikey Coltun told me that “the concert was filmed outside of the house we were all staying at in Niamey, Niger, in November/December 2020.” He continued, “As with any sort of musical happenings in the region, once some music is blasted, that’s an invitation for anyone to come join, sing, clap, dance, and just come together as a community. We wanted to present the Tiny Desk exactly like this, from when we started playing to finally the energy growing with fans crowded around filming on their cell phones and passing around Tuareg tea.”

And so, the four musicians, seated on a blanket (designed with oversized roses) with amps on either side, start playing with no fanfare.

The (home) concert starts off with Mahamadou Souleymane, a.k.a. Mdou Moctar, playing a melodic line on acoustic guitar, with Ahmoudou Madassane on rhythm guitar, Souleymane Ibrahim playing percussion on a calabash, and Mikey Coulton on his Fender Mustang bass on the song “Ya Habibti” from the album Afrique Victime. It’s an album of songs dealing with intense subjects close to Mdou Moctar’s heart: colonialism, exploitation, inequality, but also love.

The song almost feels like a drone because the bass and rhythm pretty much never change throughout.  The drumming is muted–effective but never sharp.  And Moctar’s voice and lead guitar work is subtle.  I’m sure since I don’t understand what he’s singing (which sounds pretty intense), I find his voice very soothing.

“Tala Tannam” follows in the same pattern–except the bass is even less mobile and the way Moctar sings it feels like a lullaby.  The best part is watching Ibrahim and Coltun clearly enjoying themselves–smiling to each other and even hugging at one point.  It’s hard to know how long these songs are as they seems to just go until they stop, but this one does have a deliberate ending.  It’s when he puts down his acoustic and grabs the electric guitar.

You can hear the real musical fire on the last song, the roughly 7-minute psych-rock title track to Afrique Victime. “Africa is a victim of so many crimes,” Mdou Moctar sings in French. “If we stay silent, it will be the end of us.” Silence is not something in Mdou Moctar’s vocabulary.

Moctar’s soloing was subtle on the other songs, but you can really here it standing out with this sharp electric guitar sound.  It’s nice to watch his fingers fly around the neck. There’s some guitar god moments in the soloing–including some finger tapping–but having him seated and equal with everyone else, the solos never seem showoffy.  I also like the way the song speeds up incrementally as it goes–mostly notable by how fast Ibrahim is suddenly hitting the calabash.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Losing the Girl

This final book of the trilogy was a little disappointing for me.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but I feel like there wasn’t enough resolution for anyone.

The book opens on Nigel.  Claudia has shown up to tutor him in math.  He is so smitten he writes a poem that he submits for class.  He calls it “Teacher” and his teacher assumes it is about her.  I can’t even believe that he would submit a poem with the line “teach me how to make puppy love turn into doggy style”  (Nigel is so clueless).

Next we see Brett at his mother’s funeral.  Johanna tries to comfort him but he blows her off demanding to know why she didn’t tell him about her and Paula.  They smooth things over and she asks if his father knows that his mother died.  He says no, he hasn’t talked to his father in a long time.  Jo says her mother might know how to get in touch with him.

The next section is about Darren.  He is by himself remembering how his father hurt his mother and how he doesn’t want to repeat the cycle. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAURIE ANDERSON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #212 (May 20, 2021).

Anyone who likes original or avant garde music knows Laurie Anderson.  Even forty years later, her music is unlike most other music out there.  Her music still sounds futuristic.

Which doesn’t mean it’s always enjoyable.  But some of it is quite good and it’s all pretty fascinating.  It’s also fascinating that you know instantly that it’s Laurie Anderson.  Her voice hasn’t changed in years–true she doesn’t sing, but it’s still the same.

She begins this set, which feels incredibly minimal with her keyboardist (and so much more–she played on and produced Big Science with Laurie Anderson in 1982) Roma Baron playing a simple clicking beat track.  She speaks (with her voice processed):

I met this guy and he looked like he might have been a hat check clerk at an ice ring.  Which in fact he turned out to be.  And I said oh boy, right again.

And Rubin Kodheli on the cello is playing gentle strings, including high notes sliding down the fretboard.

Is the song a story?  Does it have a narrative?  Or is it just stream of consciousness?  I’m not sure.

Laurie Anderson is a revolutionary artist who has mixed storytelling, music and technology for the past four decades plus. This Tiny Desk (home) concert celebrates the truly breathtaking breakthrough album she put out in 1982, Big Science. On that record, she used a few different voice processors; one of them was a Vocoder. By singing into a microphone attached to a keyboard, you can hear how it effectively adds harmony to her voice on “Let x=x.”

Laurie Anderson’s music seems so serious, so it’s delightful to hear her be so loose and chatty (and funny) between songs.

She introduces Rubin Kodheli, her favorite musician, with whom she plays all the time.  They create what’s listed here as “Violin Cello Improv.”  It’s about a minute of vaguely dissonant string music.

Then comes the big song, the one that people know Laurie Anderson for.  If it wasn’t a hit, it was certainly popular.

Laurie Anderson also used that [Vocoder] effect, creating what I think of as ‘the voice of authority’ in her storytelling, on “O Superman,” a song unlike anything music I’d heard when it came out in 1981. She made use of a vocal loop, something ever-present these days in sampling, but here she uses an Eventide Harmonizer, looping the single syllable “ha” as the rhythm of the song. It’s a song about dealing with the technological revolution, about compassion; if it’s your first time hearing it, take it in and see what strikes you.

The song has always felt very mechanical to me (it must be the looping and the synthesized voice), but it’s really interesting to hear how it changes live. Not drastically, but it feels like a living breathing song, which is pretty neat.  As is Bob Boilen’s story:

On a personal note, I was a lover of Laurie’s music back in those days; they were also the days I played synthesizer in my band Tiny Desk Unit. We opened for Laurie Anderson in 1981, and Laurie joined us onstage for a song. I bring this up because the Tiny Desk name (created by our guitarist Michael Barron) was familiar to Laurie long before this NPR series existed. At the end of her home concert, Laurie, I assume, mistakenly, thanks Tiny Desk Unit for having her. It made me smile and sparked so many memories. Thank you, Laurie.

Laurie Anderson is 74 and she seems as vibrant as ever.

[READ: June 10, 2021] Gravity’s Pull

I really enjoyed everything about Book 1 of this series and I was delighted to see that Volumes 2 and 3 were already out.

Volume 2 follows the same characters and is laid out in the same way (with each section following one of the characters but having the timeline stay linear.  MariNaomi also seems to be having even more fun with her drawings,

The first part is about Nigel Q. Jones (just like in the last book).  He’s in class when his teacher announces that the girl who was missing in book one (Claudia Jones–no relation) has suddenly returned and is coming back to school.  The teacher asks that everyone just give her space.

We realize it has been four months since the last book so Claudia has been gone along time.

Meanwhile Nigel still thinks about Emily (who has a cool new haircut–when a friend said she finally has good hair, the insult is not unnoticed) but realizes it’s time for him to move on.  As he’s thinking this Claudia Jones walks into the building and Nigel falls instantly in love with her.  How does she suddenly look so beautiful?  Almost otherworldly.  Here’s where MariNaomi has fun with the illustrations, making Nigel’s dreadlocks look like a kind of glove the way she draws his head. (more…)

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