Archive for the ‘Michigan’ Category


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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[LISTENED TO: August 2014] The Unluckiest Boy in the World

unlkcyMy kids enjoy just about any audio book, but I try to find ones that seem funny (and age appropriate for both of them).  For reasons I’m unclear about, it seems like most of the audio books that are age appropriate are British or Australian–either they release more audio books, or that’s just what my library orders.  So we wind up listening to a lot of British readers (I think my kids can tell a British accent now).

I didn’t know anything about this book (or its author) but the title sounded great and the age was appropriate.  We listened to it on our trip to Michigan, and it was a perfect length to fit near the end of our arrival.  Boy did we like this book.  There are so many funny unexpected moments.  And the story has a great sense of companionship and closeness among outcasts.  And of course, really bad things happen in inappropriate places, which is quite funny.

I’m really glad I got this book, and I’d be interested to see what else Norriss has written.

So just who is the unluckiest boy in the world?  Nicholas Frith is an average boy eleven year old English boy–not really lucky but not really unlucky either.  Indeed, nothing interesting ever happens to him.  Although he does have an interesting parental setup (which is complicated and best left for the story to reveal, but suffice it to say that his dad is in the United States, but not because he was trying to get away from Nicholas or his mum.

As the book opens, Nicholas and his mum are on a vacation in Spain.  They don’t speak Spanish and while the taxi driver/tour guide is nice, neither he nor his mom is really sure what’s going on.  At some point he leaves the taxi to go pee.  As it turns out though, he winds up peeing on the ancient grave of a very bad man, Toribio de Cobrales.  Of course, there is a curse on this grave (it really should have been better protected, no?)–anyone who defiles it in any way will have nothing but bad luck thrown at him for the rest of his life.  Nicholas is really sorry, he didn’t realize any of that, but it doesn’t matter.  As soon as he defiles the grave the curse comes at them, with thunderclaps and earthquakes and all manner of trouble falling on them in the next few minutes. (more…)

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 bluffSOUNDTRACK: SONDRE LERCHE-Tiny Desk Concert #33 (November 2, 2009).

lercheSondre Lerche is a Norwegian singer songwriter.  For some reason, without knowing anything about him, I pictured him as someone totally different–perhaps a French woman?  So I was quite surprised to hear him play these great folky songs.

“Hearbeat Radio” is a catchy love song, with a great melody and many chord changes.  I mention this because after the second song, “Good Luck” Bob Boilen also mentions the “handful” of chords in that song.  And there are a lot, which really makes for an interesting melody.  And indeed, Lerche is a very good guitarist, throwing interesting chords all over the place (although in his banter he complains that he puts too many chords in the songs).

Speaking of banter, Lerche is quite funny, introducing the first song by complaining about radio (but not you guys).  And also that a reviewer felt the second song was funny, even thought he thought it was depressing.

The final song, “Easy to Persuade” is a fast-moving, multi-chord song with a fun chorus.  It completes the set very nicely.

I have enjoyed this Tiny Desk Concert many times, and am interested to hear more by him.

[READ: February 13, 2014] Bluffton

I want to call this book Bluffington for some reason, but that’s my fault.  Because Bluffton is the name of the (actual) location where the book is set, so I just need to deal with it.

The subtitle of the book was not readily visible when I read it, so I didn’t know it was about Buster Keaton (sorry for the spoiler).  It quickly became apparent that that’s who it was about though.  But what I really liked about the story was that it wasn’t about Keaton per se, it was about a boy who knew Keaton during the summers and how this enigmatic performer impacted his life.

This story is a delightful graphic novel, drawn in very delicate colors (like the cover).  Set in the summer of 1908, in Muskegon, Michigan, young Henry is pretty excited to learn that a troupe of vaudevillians is coming to stay for the summer in the artists’ colony at Bluffton.  The whole town is aware of them–how could they not be when a zebra and an elephant got off the train with them?  But Henry is more interested in a boy named Buster.  He’s Henry’s age, and although he’s a star of the show, Buster is far more interested in paying baseball.  And Henry is more than happy to do that too. (more…)

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sep2000SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Rift (1993).

riftRift has a kind of story to it (albeit it’s not a real concept album) and you can tell by the full cover (see the bottom) that the story is complex–thank you gatefold sleeves).  The album starts with “Rift” a fast guitar spiral that opens with a harmony vocals on the opening lyric and then a call and response between I believe, Page and Trey as they each take a line of the verse—it’s a cool and surprising opening.

“Fast Enough for You” is a slow country-tinged song (with slide guitar).  This is the first song of their early records that I really don’t know that well.  So it must not get played very much.  It’s a pretty song.  “Lengthwise” is a cute little a capella song (with snoring and clock ticking) which I think about whenever I am alone in a bed: “When you’re there I sleep lengthwise and when you’re gone I sleep diagonal in my bed.”

“Maze” is one of my favorite Phish songs and it sounds great here.  I love the bomp bomp at the end of the verses and the fugue vocals at the end of the song.  This version is fantastic.  “Sparkle” also features fugue and barbershop type vocals (with Mike’s deep voice added in) in a funny silly roping song.  It’s another highlight.  “Horn” has a great opening guitar line (that reminds me of Pearl Jam for some reason).  I’ve always enjoyed this one.  It sounds great here (because you can actually hear what the harmony voices are saying (something you usually can’t in the live setting).  “The Wedge” is a mid tempo song that sounds different from their live versions.

“My Friend My Friend” is a pretty dark song (“My friend, my friend he;s got a knife”) but the opening is a beautiful instrumental with lovely guitar sequences until at 2:30 when the piano takes over and the song becomes slightly menacing.  “Weigh” is a weird song that I rather like.  It’s very piano heavy and very boppy despite the crazy lyrics:  “I’d like to cut your head off to weight it, whaddya say?  5 pounds, 6 pounds, 7 pounds.”  “All Things Reconsidered” a nice NPR joke.  This is a 2 and a half minute instrumental of guitar and keyboards that sort of plays with the NPR “All Things Considered” music.

“Mound” starts with some wonderful out of time signature riffing—4/4 drums and bass and then super fast guitars that don’t quite match until the drums and bass then catch up.  It’s hard to believe that that unusual opening leads to the big catchy bouncy chorus: “And it’s time, time, time for the last rewind.”  “It’s Ice” is a little slower here than live but I kind of like it in this slightly slower version (you can really hear the riffs).  This is another song with fugue-like vocals (they do all of their vocal tricks very well).  “The Horse’ begins as a beautiful Spanish style guitar piece and morphs into a simple acoustic song (it’s al of 90 seconds) which bleeds into “Silent in the Morning,” another highlight from their live shows and a standout here.

Rift might just be my favorite Phish album.

[READ: October 23, 2013] “Escanaba’s Magic Hour”

Once I found out that Tom Bissell had written a number of articles in Harper’s I decided to read them all, especially since some of them already appeared in his book Magic Hours.  This was his first piece for Harper’s and it is the one I remembered most from the book.  So I enjoyed reading it again.

I’m also glad I read the Harper’s version because although I don’t think it varies from the book version at all (and I’m not willing to check), it had pictures from the movie and from Escanaba, which brought a bit more reality to the article.

So, what’s this about a movie?

Well, this article is about Jeff Daniels making a movie in Escanaba, Michigan called Escanaba in da Moonlight (which I haven’t seen, but as I said after reading this the first time, I now feel invested enough in it to want to watch it–reviews are mixed).  And it sounds kind of interesting.  I also really enjoyed the comment that Daniels’ appeal “has something to do with the fact that many men, if asked to cast their lives without undue conceit, might settle on Jeff Daniels to play themselves.” (more…)

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