Archive for the ‘Abba’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JÜRGEN MARCUS-“Ein Festival der Liebe” (1973).

Schlager (see the end of the book entry below) has become a catch-all term for (European) inoffensive pop music.  But apparently in the 1970s it had a slightly different and more specific connotation/sound.  The more I dove into this explanation, the more confusing it became.  Until someone posted a link to this song.

It’s easy to see how people reacted against the music back when it was super popular–it is so safe and inoffensive as to be totally offensive to any one with artistic sensibility.  But now that pop music has become something so radically different, often aggressive and vulgar and very electronic, this kind of bland, fun sing along is actually charming and kind of appealing.

The chorus is easy to sing along to, you can clap along without anything complicated going on and it’s all happy and sweet (even the ahhs in the backing vocals are super happy).  The music is soft, even the little piano “riff” in the middle is obvious.  I love that the song gets a little “risky” in the end third with a “drum solo” and Jürgen singing a kind of tarzan yell, but it’s all returned safely to th end.

The video is spectacular with Jürgen’s brown suit, big hair and even bigger collars.   It’s quintessential warming cheese.  It’s the school of music that ABBA came from as well.  It’s Eurovision!

And I find it quite a relief from the pop schlager of today.  This song was given example of contemporary German schlager:  Helene Fischer “Atemlos durch die Nacht”.  Her delivery is inoffensive by the music is so contemporary and dancefloor that it doesn’t feel anywhere near as delightful as the 1970s song,

[READ: February 9, 2019] How to Be German

I saw this book at work–the German side–and it looked like it might be funny.  I wished I could read more than the very little German that I know.  And then I flipped the book over and discovered it was bilingual!  Jawohl!

This manual is a very funny book about being German.  It was written by a British ex-pat who moved to Germany many hears ago and has settled down in the country he now calls home.  The book gently pokes fun at German habits but also makes fun of his own British habits and cultural components.

I studied German for one year which makes me in no way qualified to judge the quality of the humor or the accuracy of the cultural jokes.  The book does a very good job of cluing the unfamiliar in on what he’s talking about.  Although there are about a dozen exceptions where no context is given to the ideas that he’s talking about, which is quite frustrating, obviously.

I’m not going to go through all 50 of these ideas, but there are some that are particularly good and some that I found especially funny. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: September 24, 2018] Wesley Stace

Wesley Stace once recorded  under the pseudonym John Wesley Harding and released some 20 albums.

He has somewhat recently reverted to his real name for performance and wrote about the pseudonym in the New York Times

I’m the last person who should have bothered with a fake name in the first place. I didn’t need a Bowiesque persona, nor did I have a drab real name, but I did need a disguise, assuming that my “career” would tank in about two weeks, proving an embarrassing obstacle to a more attainable-seeming future in academia.

So “John Wesley Harding” it was, founded purely on the coincidence of my Christian name and a Bob Dylan album title. Both I and the cowboy John Wesley Hardin were named for the founder of the Methodist religion (though of the two of us, I’ve probably followed his teachings slightly more closely, having killed fewer people.) For some reason, Dylan misspelled Hardin “Harding”; no one knows why and to my knowledge no one’s ever bothered to ask. (My own favorite theory is that Dylan omitted so many “g”s from titles like “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’” that he decided on a little restitution.)

And after a coincidentally precise 25 years, I have decided, for my new record, to ditch the tried and tested “John Wesley Harding” brand in favor of my real name. Why? I am hardly a household name, but whether you’re a Cougar, a Prince or a Harding (and unless you’re a Will Oldham who changes his name from Bonnie-Prince-this to Palace-Songs-that at the drop of a hat), it’s the sort of decision that doesn’t come lightly.

The reason is simple: I wrote a couple of autobiographical songs, and then I kept writing them. It was the first time that I’d ever bothered to write that kind of confessional song. All songs are autobiographical, but these were also true: things that happened to me. It wasn’t an aesthetic decision; it was something that just presented itself, because I was feeling low and stuck in hotel rooms on a dull book tour. I wrote to comfort myself; you could go so far to say, as a form of therapy.

This move has been facilitated by the fact that I’ve been writing novels for the last 10 years under my real name: that decision was a no-brainer. The first novel, “Misfortune”, was a Dickensian kind of thing, and having the misspelled name of an outlaw on the spine would have been silly. That extracurricular use of my real name means that Wesley Stace has continued to exist on some level over there on the bookshelf. But it gets tiring having two names. Introductions to readings are too long anyway without that added complication: time to get it all under one roof.

That’s a long introduction for a short set (about 30 minutes). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: January 25, 2018] Tennis

I had only ever heard of Tennis once or twice in passing on NPR.  I noted them as a poppy, synthy band whose songs were catchy.

I wasn’t sure how much I would like their main set, and I was prepared to head home early if I didn’t enjoy it. But Tennis proved to be delightfully sweet and a perfect match for Overcoats (they clearly mutually respect each other).

Tennis are the creation of Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley.  They play sweet synthy pop songs. Because of the way they were dressed I think I heard a lot more disco overtone than was actually there.  There’s an 80s synth pop sound throughout their songs, but I think the heavy basslines brought a real disco swagger.  And the guitar was always interesting.

And their drumset lit up as well! (Check out how they put their logo on the drum head).  I really liked their merch, I thought it was very simple but very cool. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Ultrasound Showbar [2nd GSMW Night 2] (February 26, 1994).

Second annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar Feb 25-Mar 1 1994. Setlists for all shows were fairly similar in content focusing mainly on the 25-30 songs that they would use for consideration on Introducing Happiness which began recording the following week. Rare performances of Poor Mouth, Green Xmas, Floating, Symphony and a crazy mash up encore of Cephallus Worm/Uncle Henry/Greens Sprouts Theme/Soul Glue. The band also noted working titles for the album included Revenge, You Are A Treasure, Skookum, Twaddling and Art If You Squint.

The quality of this recording is better than night 1

The show starts with Dave Clark asking, “Does anyone know the sound that sled dogs make when they bark?  They go Hi! Hi!, because they bark so much they don’t have voices anymore.  Bidini says “Dave knows this because he was once a sled dog.”  Tim chimes in, “we also met a llama at Exotic (erotic?) cat world in Orono, Ontario.  He said hi, hi.  Then it spit on you–because he liked you.

Then Martin says “Dave Bidini fresh from reading erotic poetry.”  (In last night’s show he said he would be reading erotic poetry).  Dave says, “I’ll read some more to you if you’re good… or bad if you know what I mean.”

They begin the night with “Poor Mouth” a rare song that I don’t really know but it sounds familiar.  It’s a slow song with some noisy sections.

Before Introducing Happiness, Clark asks, “How many people here have cats?  Be proud, Walk tall.”  Then Tim jokes, “This is a new song about cats.  Actually this is a new song.  They’re all new songs tonight.”  An All New Revue!  Clark: All New Revue Screw You!

For Fishtailin’, Clark says This song is not about Cats, nor about Dogs.  This one is about Birds, but nobody got it–it just went over there heads. Bidini: “What Catskills dive did you hear that joke in, it’s an old bad joke?” Clark” “You just killed the flow of the gig.”  The song opens with some finger napping and after a verse Martin says he likes the snapping and Dave says he likes Tim’s falsetto singing.

The begin “Michael Jackson” and Dave asks, “Where’s the Michigan table tonight?  Welcome!  Sorry to hear about Michael Jackson and stuff.”  Then he segues, Dave Clark is the only person I know who when I told him Nancy Kerrigan won the silver he went alright!  Clark responds, “Dave, it’s so hip to hate Led Zeppelin these days, that’s what the kids said in high school but I still loved them.”

After the song, Clark shouts out “Tim Mech all the way from the Mechheads….  a smattering of applause… if they only knew.”  In This Town has kind of goofy opening, as does “Me and Stupid.”  It opens with some crazy lurching almost seasick-sounding sounds.  Martin says that’s track one on our next record.  During “Stupid” in the quiet middle Dave states, “

Middle if song “Something is about to happen.  Two shores away a man is hammering in the sky.  Perhaps he will fall…”  The end of the song the band chants “pike trout bass smelt.”

So Bidini asks about smelt: How many smelt can you eat at one sitting?  I once ate 115.  Clark: “I’ve never eaten smelt in my life.”  Bidini, “I’ve got the bones in a jar.  Clark: Did you shat them out?  Bidini: No!  It is a nona food–an Italian grandmother delicacy.  Then he tells the story: “I went fishing with my dad and we chucked the giant net into the Credit River listening to AM radio with excellently bad Canadian radio from the 70s.  Martin says, “I’ve known you all this time we’ve been together 8 years or whatever?.  Bidini, “I’m glad we’re talking about this now.” Clark: “you should join that Iron John program.”

It’s a pretty complex introduction to “Oneilly’s Strange Dream.”

After the song, Clark says, “I saw Mark Hamill on that Conan the Barbarian show and he was kind of a sexist pig.”  Bidini: “Same with the Howard Stern guy.”  Martin jokes, We’re taking it even further than Vegas were recording in Tahoe.

Then Dave asks, “Acoustic guitar or electric guitar for this song? (Electric wins in landslide).  “Electric it is!”  Every decision you inch us towards will have a profound impact on our musical lives.  Be responsible.”

Dave then gives a lengthy introduction to “The Woods Are Full of Cuckoos.”  He says it was originally a song that Tim and Martin sang when I got married two years ago at my wedding (at the bowling alley?).  Someone asks, “Did you marry the girl that you met when you went back to your old horse riding school?”  Clark asks: Bugsy Malone?  Dave says “Bugsy Bidini, you got it.”  I write the song and sang it and Tim said enh?  then Tim said “I’ll sing it” and now he sings it. It’s about an old band that was famous in Toronto (well, not really famous but were excellent) in the middle to the end of the 80s and this is about them.  Before starting he mumbles, the beginning is tricky and then asks, “Tricky beginning or not?”  Tricky!  we need to practice it once, we’ll do it really quietly so they can’t hear.  It’s funny how short the song is after all of that.

“Full Moon Over Russia” is pretty quiet, and then there’s a wild middle section during the “I don’t care, I don’t care” part.  Dave says do you care, and Martin shouts, “Don’t do that I hate that.” Then there’s a nonsense jazz breakdown.

During the banter Clark asks, are they calling the CIS Russia now?  Bidini says “It’s not the CIS”  Clark: “CIS, CSI,  C-sis?”  returning to the Olympics: Clark responds “My favorite Olympian is Ross Perot.  Martin asks “Dave what are you suffering from?”   “I’ve got Olympic fever.  I get the chills every day around 1 o’clock if I don’t watch channel 9.  The all white network, Jesus Christ.”

And then they have some fun with the Canadian sportscaster Rod Black:

But Dave how did you really feel about that performance in the last song it didn’t measure up to your expectations, did it?” …. “I guess you’ll just have to go home and face all the people who pinned their hopes and dreams on your performance.”

Martin starts “One More Colour” and then says, “This is another song that I have anxiety starting.”  Dave announces, “You can share in that anxiety?  How much did it cost you to get in?”

Opening “Jesus Was Once a Teenager Too,” Dave says “This is for Robert Lawson who came by and gave us a tape of the National Anthem.”  (Not sure what that means).  And then they take a five-minute break.

After the break, Bidini welcomes everyone and invites them down into the “promecium” (the pit).  Clark corrects: “proscenium” a fan shouts “paramecium,” “Prometheus?”

These five days are dedicated to the Green Sprouts Music Club.  You can write to us and we can be friends.  And then they a play a song that I’ve never heard before called “Margaret Atwood.”  This appears to be the only recording of it, which is a shame because it’s pretty interesting with a catchy chorus and some wild guitar wailing.

Dave tells a story about Tim Ecclestone getting another player into a fight with a bruiser from Philly.  And then they play “Green Xmas.”  Clark says, “It can be Christmas any day you want.”  Bidini says, “that’s kind of your motto: every day is Christmas.”  Martin sings a short improv “Every Day is Like Christmas.”

Introducing “Floating” which was never recorded, Dave says “This is a song about taking acid and being 30000 feet above sea level, something we’re all very familiar with, I’m sure.”  This recording is much better than last night’s and it really lets you get a better sense of how interesting this song is.

Someone shouts out “Ditch Pigs.”  The band discusses it and requests and how this is not in the program but they never do it, so Clark agrees.  But Martin forgets the words and no one else can remember them.  He asks someone Do you have the song cued up?  And someone plays a recording of “Dancing Queen” (!).  They get through the end of the song and then immediately start up “The Royal Albert.”

Martin says that “Symphony” is a new song composed of many parts.  Bidini says that he’s going to relax back there behind the drums–that’s what you do back here, right?  It’s a really pretty song, but the recording gets a little muddy here, sadly.

Bidini asks Clark about his microphone which leads to a discussion about Gil Moore, the drummer from Triumph.  Gil Moore would get blind drunk, play really poorly and sing his ass off but he could only hear himself in the monitors and no one could hear him in the big giant rock stadium.  Clark concludes: “You know what they say igna…” someone: “breeds bad rock” someone else: “breeds Triumph.”  Shhh.  Martin comments, Rik Emmet’s a nice guy, right?  Bidini: “Rik Emmet’s a great guy.”

Then someone compliments Dave on his suit.  He says Gordie Johnson (of the band Big Sugar) lent Dave his suit  (and lent him his hot bum too).  Then you hear someone playing Blondie’s “Call Me” (!).  The crowd gets quiet so they tell them to say something.  Someone shouts various things and then “Legal Age Life,” which they agree to play.  It’s an acoustic jam pretty far from the recording, but a lot of fun.  In the middle of it things stop.  Then someone scream “hurry up” and Clark creates a vulgar erotic story that involved having sex with the man.  And then they resume he song.  It’s followed by “Earth/Monstrous Hummingbirds.”

In introducing the band, Clark mentions “Timothy Warren Vesely)–there had been a contest in a previous show to see if anyone could guess his middle name).  Someone requests “Memorial Day” and Bidini says, “We don’t do that anymore.  We’re waiting for John Cougar to do that song.”  They play a delicate “Take Me in Your Hand” instead.

Bidini mentions the Big hockey game at 9:15 in the morning tomorrow  Canada hasn’t won a gold medal in Olympic Hockey since 1952.

Then they start talking album names, like the ones mentioned above.  One other one is : Rheostastics Talk Too Much.

And then Tim gets two songs “Row” with the slide guitar and “Claire” (announced as a song by Desmond Howl).  “Claire” is wonderful with a noisy drum section in the middle.

Despite the requests for “Torque Torque,” the encore is another romping fun sloppy Cheap Trick song “I Want You to Want Me” ( I think Clark is singing?).  And then the crazy medley mentioned above: “Cephallus Worm” a weird enough song to begin with which segues into “Uncle Henry.”  Before it ends they begin a wild “Green Sprouts Theme.”  Someone asks how would Bruce do it?  Who cares?  And then they jump start “Soul Glue” but after just one verse they launch back into the frenetic ending of Green Sprouts and before that can end, they play the final verse of Uncle Henry in a pretentious operatic style.

Be here tomorrow when the Wooden Stars are there.  It’s out matinee show.  It’s only six bucks tomorrow.  Tea and biscuits and no profanity, bring the kids.


[READ: July 18, 2017] “The Main Attraction”

I’m never exactly sure what criteria are used to get someone into Harper’s.  Especially the short (typically excerpted) fiction in the beginning of the magazine.

It is usually an established author, very often in translation.  But the statement about this entry is particularly noteworthy: “Bennett’s first novel Pond was published in July and this is from a manuscript in progress.”  Wow, that’s seems to set the bar a little low, and yet I really enjoyed this strange excerpt.

Anyhow, this excerpt is fascinating for a few reasons.

It opens with this odd bit:

The idea of going out to dinner came about very suddenly–I wanted schnitzel–after having had absolutely no feelings at all toward it going out to eat schnitzel suddenly seemed vital, inescapable, in fact, as if preordained.


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antgrassSOUNDTRACK: MARTIN TIELLI-Jane Bond, Waterloo, Ontario (September 29 2001).

jane bondThe second Martin Tielli solo show on Rheostaticslive comes two years after the first one.  It’s a new band and Martin’s debut solo album We Didn’t Even Suspect He Was the Poppy Salesman is due out soon (or just came out, it’s hard to be sure).   Although interestingly, he plays some songs that will wind up on his next solo album (which is years away). The show is at Jane Bond in Waterloo, and unlike the previous show, this one has massive audio problems. There are 4 songs that are nearly inaudible and the whole set is recorded very low.  Which is a bummer because the set is very good.

As seems to happen a lot to Martin, he is having all kinds of technical troubles and he gets shocked a number of times during the set (I don’ think I’ve ever heard of this happening to people before, but it seems to happen to him a lot.)  He also asks the crowd quite often if they can hear okay.

The show opens with the backing music of Talking Heads (which is quite loud).  And then Martin and company open the show with the slow Scott Walker song “Farmer in the City.”  Then they play a Nick Buzz song, “Love Steams” and Martin gets shocked so bad that he takes a break. He re-starts the song and it sounds really good.

Then inexplicably, Martin’s voice drops out and the bass gets really loud.  And the next four songs are really hard to enjoy. You can also hear the crowd really loud.  (Did Martin almost fall or something? there’s a big gasp from the audience at one point.  You can also hear someone loudly ask “You want a beer?”).

The audio slowly starts to improve from there.  By “She Said ‘We’re on Our Way Down'” it’s quiet but it’s very good otherwise.

Then Chris Gardiner comes out to help on “Waterstriders,” which is bit louder.  By the time “My Sweet Relief” comes in, the sound has gotten better (probably because it is a full rocking song) with a very country/twangy feel).  He tells a little story about the history of “That’s How They Do It in Warsaw” which is for Kasia (she recites the Polish on the album).  He tells a funny story about how she went to Warsaw and developed feelings for her cousin).

There’s a lot of funny banter in this set. Martin talks about a movie he was watching in a bar.  It was presumably on Show Case, and he described a woman being tied up and a man masturbating and then someone collects something in a syringe (presumably semen) and injects it into a vagina. What could it possibly have been?  It sounds like someone might have given him the answer, but we can’t hear it–so we’ll never know!  One of the band members shouts out that it was “Who’s the Boss.”

They play a great version of “Digital Beach” and “Shaved Head.”  “How Can you Sleep” has a great solo.

Also at the end of “Sgt Kraulis” (which is from the next album) they say it is last call (for everyone who is not on the stage).  There’s a funny comment where someone says, Watch how this law gets broken.   And they all order rye and cokes.  “Sgt Kraulis” has a funky opening (they play some of Abba’s “Mama Mia”).

The set ends with a nice version of “Take Me in Your Hand.”  And then a surprise (to me) of “Blue Hysteria.”  Then he plays the second part of “Wet Brain/Your War” (just the “Your War” part).

And he ends with a great version of “Record Body Count” and “a stolen song from borrowed tune,” the opener of the next album: “Beauty On.”

There’s so much great music here, it’s a bummer the quality isn’t better.

[READ: June 13, 2015] The Ondt & The Gracehoper

This fascinating book is an excerpt from Finnegans Wake (Book III Chapter I).  Thomas McNally has taken one of the fables in Joyce’s Wake and has illustrated it.  The book includes a few essays about the Wake and about expressionism and why McNally illustrated the book the way he did.

I have never read Finnegans Wake.  And I am fairly certain I never will.  I feel like this is a minor failing on my part, and yet it’s not pushing me to read this largely incomprehensible book.  So I was excited to see this weird little excerpt of the fabled difficult book (with pictures!)

In the introduction, McNally explains that despite everything we’ve heard about the Wake, it was, in fact, meant to be read and it is indeed, quite funny.  Joyce is playing around with language in incredible ways–throwing in multiple meanings in different languages in all kinds of words.  He says that for a first read, one should just read it–preferably aloud–and not worry about the various meanings that you are undoubtedly missing. (more…)

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fivedials_no30SOUNDTRACK: Random songs at the roller rink (December 29, 2013)

skateWe went rollerskating on Sunday and they played all kinds of pop hits.  They played “Dancing Queen” and “YMCA,” sure, but they also played a lot of recent big hits.  And I said to myself either I have grown more tolerant of pop songs or pop songs are simply better than they were in the 80s and 90s.

Because I thoroughly enjoyed hearing “Gangnam Style” (perhaps a pop song where you don’t know the words is really the way to go) and “What Does the Fox Say?” (or perhaps when the words are so preposterous).  “Blurred Lines” is incredibly catchy (although it would be better without the offensive lyrics).  I also enjoyed “Call Me Maybe” which is treacly sure, but the melody is super catchy and “Rolling in the Deep” because Adele kicks ass.

Of course when I looked at the list of #1 hits for 2013, I literally didn’t know any of them (except “Blurred Lines” and “Royals,”) so maybe pop is not what I think it is.  Maybe I just like YouTube sensations.

Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!  Happy New Year.

[READ: December 27, 2013] Five Dials #30

I was surprised to get this issue of Five Dials just as I was reading the other recent ones.  It allowed me to finish up Five Dials and the year at around the same time.  This issue introduces a new graphics editor: Antonio de Luca and he really changes the look of the magazine.  (He also used to work for The Walrus).  Rather than pictures being centered in the page, they spread from one page to another (which works well online but less so if you print it out).  The illustrations are also much bolder.

This is a short issue (which I appreciated).  And it does what I especially like about Five Dials–focusing tightly on one thing, in this case Albert Camus, who I like but who I have not read much.  It’s his centenary and many things have been said about him, so what else is there to say?  They find two things worth saying.

CRAIG TAYLOR-A Letter from the Editor: On Tony, On Dean, On Camus, On Algiers
Taylor talks about the illustrations of the issue–they were spray painted on walls by an Algerian-French collective known as the Zoo Project.  The new editor took photos and then Photoshopped away the extraneous stuff to leave us with just the graphics–giving them a permanence that they would normally not have.  Taylor also says goodbye to Dean Allen, the outgoing art director.  Then he gets to the heart of this issue: Albert Camus and Algiers (where Camus is from).  Curtis Gillespie decided to go to Algiers to find out how much the people there know and love Camus (and he found it to be a much more difficult trip than he imagined). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SALLY SHAPIRO-“I’ll Be By Your Side” (Extended Mix) & “He Keeps me Alive (Skatebård Mix)” from Viva Piñata! (2008).

These two tracks also came from the Viva Piñata compilation.  “I’ll Be By Your Side” has a very Euro dance-sound to me (updated ABBA, perhaps?).  It sounds so incredibly 80s to me.  Unlike most of the other tracks, this is an extended mix, not a remix, so I assume this is what the real song sounds like, too.  It’s a fine little pop song (catchy chorus) although I don’t need an 8 minute version of it.

“He Keeps Me Alive” feels like  Julie Cruise song–straight out of Twin Peaks–until the bouncy synths come in (I can’t imagine what the remix did as it sounds so much like the other song).  The one possible remix element is the vocals, which get very synthesized near the end.

Both of these songs have that Europop feels that I like much more than American pop.   I had been puzzled by the name of the singer, because her name clearly wasn’t coming from where I though the music came from.  Well, Wikipedia tells me “Sally Shapiro is the pseudonym of a Swedish vocalist and the name of the synthpop duo composed of Shapiro and musician Johan Agebjörn.”  At least I got the Abba connection right!

[READ: March 22, 2012] “The Archduke’s Assassin”

This is an excerpt from Saul’s upcoming novel Dark Diversions (it was also published in Brick, although I read it in Harper’s).  What’s fun about this excerpt is that I have literally no idea what direction the rest of the novel could go.  This appears to be a self-contained incident and while it seems pretty clear who the protagonist is, it’s hard to speculate how much more of the book would be about him or his friends or even the excerpt’s titular assassin.

It begins with a discussion of Yugolslav politics circa 1987–how the official inflation rate of 50% is indeed official, which means mythological.  The setting is the Writers’ Union, a nineteenth century stone palace which housed the best restaurant in Yugoslavia.  The food was great, as was the gossip.

The narrator’s friends were all mixed race (in other words typical Yugoslavs).  But for the moment they were all Serbs.  The discussion moves to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and how the narrator should meet the man responsible.  When he replies that Gavrilo Princip died in prison in 1918,  his friend Dana corrects him and says she is talking about Vaso Čubrilović.  Čubrilović was one of several people who conspired to assassinate the archduke.  As of 1987 he was the only one still alive.  [He is a real person.  He got 13 years in prison, eventually became a history professor and died for real in 1990].

The narrator goes to meet the man at the University.  After a brief theoretical discussion of history, Čubrilović says that he believes that technology will save the future, that software will lead the way.  The narrator ponders this later over a meal and wonders if a new mythology is needed to distract people in a time of political emptiness.

There isn’t a lot to the excerpt–it’s not profound or anything, but it does what an excerpt should–it whets your appetite for more.  The writing is excellent and the topic is intriguing.

I enjoyed that the story mentions some Serbian dishes like kesten-pire sa šlagom (chestnut pureé with cream and chocolate) and  žito sa šlagom (crushed wheat, walnuts and dried raisins with cream).

For ease of searching, I include: Skatebard, Johan Agebjorn, kesten-pire sa slagom, zito sa slagom, Vaso Cubrilovic, pinata

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WallerNotWeller found me when I reviewed Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All.  I went to his site and I adore it!  He writes some great reviews of concerts, CDs and singles.  His current project is the best singles and discs of 1983.  But while he’s working on that, he’ also reviewing a bunch of concerts that he’s been to recently.

What I love best about this site is his amazing breadth of appreciation for music.  There’s been a flurry of activity as he is completing the Top 50 list.  And, since I subscribed by email, I love that my Inbox has been inundated with reviews of this diverse collection: AGNETHA FALTSKOG (She of Abba fame), ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN, MINUTEMEN, MISFITS, The B-52’S, DAVID BOWIE, DANIEL JOHNSTON, THE CARPENTERS, JOHNY CASH & AC/DC.  Now that’s breadth!

His reviews are a bit more comprehensive than mine (which I think means he points out a number of negatives that I don’t), but he and I see eye to eye on a lot of these discs.  It’s quite a treat.  And, he’s British, so his viewpoint is slightly different than mine…it’s a good eye-opener!

[READ: May 23, 2010] Wet Moon 4

With each new volume of this series, Campbell changes the appearance of his characters more and more.  Most of the characters now have softer features and big round eyes.  I find it more and more disconcerting, especially since the thing I loved about the book was the utter realism of his characters.

Fortunately the bodily features of the characters haven’t changed: they’re still believably shaped and realistically drawn, it’s just the faces are so weird (Trilby is so soft-looking now, oh and Cleo has a mohawk!).  But at least  the look is consistent throughout the volume.

So Wet Moon, the town, continues to thrive with this strangely intense goth subculture.  Yet this volume seems to introduce an “outsude” world too.  There’s a woman who recoils at two gay men sitting in her booth at a coffee shop. There’s even talk of homophobes attacking gays in the area.  And here I thought that Wet Moon was an idyllic place where all kinds of subculture thrives happily. (more…)

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harpers 1993I first heard about this magazine from my friend Ailish’s then-boyfriend, Dave (this was sometime in 1993, I would guess).  Dave fancied himself an artiste: he typed his novel on a portable Underwood, loved Henry Miller and read Harper‘s.   I liked him, but was always confused by his pretensions since he didn’t really fit the bill.  But regardless, when we visited, I always read his Harper’s. I very quickly got hooked on it and have been subscribing ever since.

Harper’s is another one of those magazines that I don’t immediately get excited about receiving because there’s always the possibility that there will be five really long articles that I want to read in it.  And who has the time for all of that? Perversely, I am secretly delighted when there is only one story that I want to read in that month’s issue. But I know that if I’m going to read something in it, it will be good.

Clearly the high point of the magazine is Harper’s Index.  The index is a list of various statistics.  The gimmick, if you will is that everything is written in such a way that the answer can be given in a numerical value.  for example: “Amount the ABBA tribute band Bjorn Again says it was paid to play a concert for Vladimir Putin in January (2009): $27,500; Estimated street value of drugs seized last March at three Phish reunion shows in Hampton, Virginia: $1,200,000.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PETER, BJORN & JOHN-Writer’s Block (2006).

My friend Eugenie told me about these guys: 3 Swedish songwriters whose names are, indeed Peter, Bjorn and John. This is their 3rd CD and I’m not even sure what I thought they would sound like except that Eugenie has great taste. I think I thought they would be a bit more synth poppy (I guess the Abba connection is pretty strong) but instead, they write wonderfully poppy songs, but they are more folky, or alt-rocky. I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this CD.

All three guys sing. Peter sings most of the songs and he sounds like a combination of John Lennon and Michael Penn…his voice varies quite a bit between songs. Bjorn sings two of the songs. His voice is quite different…deeper and more stark, and it’s quite a nice change from Peter’s (not that there’s anything bad about Peter’s). John sings one song, and his voice is fairly similar to Peter’s. But they all do harmonies, so you hear them all the time.

It took me about three listens to fall in love with this CD. There’s a couple of songs that are immediately gratifying; however, the rest really reward multiple listens. Interestingly, it’s the two Bjorn songs that are immediately catchy. “Amsterdam” and “Let’s Call It Off” (which gets a remix on the album too). “Amsterdam” (interestingly, Guster have a fantastically catchy song called “Amsterdam” which this song is not) has this immediately striking whistle (as in a person whistling) as its opening motif. It is stark and haunting, and will have you whistling it for days. “Young Folks” is a duet with Victoria Bergsman (not sure who she is) and has a deliriously catchy chorus. “The Chills” has this great shh-shh-shh sound that is at once chilly and interesting and reminiscent of The Cure’s “A Forest.” As you might guess, the CD covers some pretty different styles and genres, yet the album is not a mishmash. There’s a consistent PB&J sound that unifies the record and leaves you wanting to hit play again after it’s over.

The Swedish music scene has just been exploding lately…The Hives, Dungen, Jose Gonzales, Jens Lekman and PB&J are all adding to the (sadly seen as one-hit novelties) wonderful Cardigans.

[READ: January 2008] Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog

For Christmas, Sarah’s mom gave her this book, not knowing that she missed the intended target by mere inches. As soon as I saw the book I immediately had to read it. Diagramming sentences was always a guilty pleasure of mine, and I am saddened to hear that kids don’t do it anymore. (more…)

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