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Archive for the ‘John Zorn’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE–“Briel” (Field Recordings, March 26, 2014).

There have been many fun Field Recordings, but this one [Welcome to Yo-Yo’s Playhouse] is surely the most fun. The countless members of Silk Road Ensemble were taken to ACME Studio, a theatrical props warehouse in Brooklyn.  They were given pretty much free reign to put on costumes, to bring out mannequins, to do whatever they wanted and that makes this session seem even bigger than it already is (and it’s already pretty big).

That’s all not to mention that the Silk Road Ensemble is a pretty amazing group of musicians:

cellist Yo-Yo Ma and some of the world’s premiere instrumentalists and composers, including members of Brooklyn Rider, Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, Iranian kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor, Spanish bagpiper Cristina Pato, American percussionist Shane Shanahan and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh from Syria.

As we’ve had the opportunity to forge those bonds over time [many of these performers have done Tiny Desk Concerts], we’ve gotten to know the warm, generous-spirited personalities that come along with these immense talents. We thought that setting them loose in a props house, where they could pick and choose among the curiosities for little elements to bring into the camera frame, would bring those aspects of their personalities into sharper focus. What we wound up with was a magical afternoon of play in all senses of the word — not just having the chance to record these virtuosos and their instruments in a spirited performance of John Zorn’s Briel, here arranged by Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, but also to capture them (and us) having an immense amount of fun.

I had no idea this was a John Zorn piece.  It sounded like a Hebrew composition and now I understand why.  But in the best world music tradition, this piece is arranged for musicians from all over the world–percussion, strings, brass and reed.  There’s a bagpipe solo, a kamancheh solo and a field of percussion.  The song is just way too short.

But to watch Yo-Yo Ma play the cello while holding a mannequin that looks like George Harrison is just one of the many highlights.

[READ: April 2018] Loner

Everything about the look of this book appealed to me.  The title, the crappy cover, the backwards type, the size, it all just seemed like a light, funny story.

Perhaps something about it should have read “creepy” too.

David Federman is a New Jersey native.  He went to Garret Hobart High School (named for New Jersey’s only vice president) He’s smart (he was accepted in to Harvard) but dull and, as we get to know him, pretty unlikable.  He imagines that Harvard will be a place where he (and other geeks like him) will flourish and kick ass.

He’s not wrong in thinking that–everyone he meets  seems to want to change.  But no one wants to change by hanging out with David.

David winds up in a freshman group that he hates–the Matthews Marauders (who are anything but).  In fact, nothing is going very well until he sees Veronica Wells.  She is everything he desires–a sophisticated New Yorker with money, intelligence and beauty. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 14, 2018] Liberty / Tashi Dorji Duo

I had never heard of Liberty / Tashi Dorji Duo when I saw they were opening for Godspeed You Black Emperor.   I also didn’t know if Liberty was a part of the duo or even if Liberty was a second opening act.

Well, it turns out that Tashi Dorji is a guitarist who often plays by himself.  But for this show he was with “the elusive Danish saxophonist LIBERTY (Mette Rasmussen).”

So what did this mean for the show?  Well, a brief search on Dorji revealed:

Tashi Dorji was born and raised in Bhutan, on the eastern side of the Himalayas. Residing in Asheville since 2000 and soaking up a vast array of music. Along the way, Dorji developed a playing style unbound by tradition, yet with a direct line to intuitive artistry. All references break loose during his playing, as Dorji keys into his own inner world.

and that

Liberty is a saxophone player whose music is defining a unique balance of uproar and beauty. Her ability to move between the often strict confines of genres and explore the elements makes her presence highly powerful. She has encapsulated her own personal vision of acoustic music, by amplification expanding her range in dynamics and rocketing a more prosaic stem.

So. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN ZORN’s A Dreamer’s Christmas (2011).

You can never say with certainty what kind of music you will get with a John Zorn record.  It could be beautiful; it could be scary.  It could be chaotic; it could be traditional.  There’s could be death metal or gentle jazz.  There could be vocals or not.

Some time in 2008, Zorn started yet another project.  This one was called The Dreamers and it proved to be on the mellow, jazzy side of his spectrum.

The members have been Cyro Baptista − percussion; Joey Baron − drums; Trevor Dunn − acoustic and electric Bass; Marc Ribot − guitars; Jamie Saft − keyboards and Kenny Wollesen − vibes, chimes, glockenspiel.  For A Dreamer’s Christmas, Mike Patton (notorious for making a racket) sings some delightful vocals on 2 songs.

The album contains eight tracks: six traditional and two original Zorn compositions.

“Winter Wonderland” is played on vibes.  There’s a cool repeating bass signature that bounces the song along and a groovy jazzy keyboard background before the electric guitar comes in to play the main riff.

“Snowfall” is just lovely with more vibes and a delicate guitar and twinkling piano.  There’s even some hand drums to add some cool percussive effects.  the songs is primarily a lovely piano instrumental.  I don’t understand why I don’t know this song.  Why isn’t it on other Christmas albums?  It’s lovely.

“Christmastime is Here” is, indeed, the song from The Peanuts movie.  The main melody is guitar and vibes and this version is possibly more entertaining than the original.

“Santa’s Workshop” is a John Zorn composition.  It’s faster and a bit more upbeat than the others, but with a really groovy riff and some fun vibes to match it.  There’s also a fun keyboard solo.  This song first in perfectly with the others.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”  begins with a quiet and somber piano playing the melody.  It’s a lovely piece with some fun piano noodling.

“Let It Snow” starts with a bell and a rather funky bass line.  After a minute or so the guitar takes over to play the main melody.  There’s some weird and wacky 70s keys playing around in the background that you don’t really notice right away.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is the first odd-sounding track on the disc.  The guitar is plucked and the percussion seems to be all kinds of small wooden things clattering around.  I assume someone is playing the rims of glasses as well.  That goes on for a minute before the piano comes in and it gets very jazzy (with an upright bass).  It sounds a lot like the kind of piano playing featured in Charlie Brown.  The end of the song features a kind of whispered, slightly sinister take on the lyric by Patton.

“Magical Sleigh Ride” is the second Zorn original.  It is a swift-moving treat–fluid bass, repeated guitar licks and solos, and a fast percussion beat before the melody kicks in.  After about 2 minutes there’s a pretty wild and rollicking guitar solo.  It’s the most intense thing on the record (which isn’t very intense really) but all along the jazzy pianos and percussion remains.  Its followed by a similarly exuberant vibes solo.  It’s another great Christmas song and fits in perfectly with the others.

“The Christmas Song” returns to the traditional with a lovely, quiet piano rendition of the song and a nice vocal delivery from Mike Patton.  Patton is in perfectly deep-voiced crooner mode and it suits everything perfectly.  There’s a lengthy piano solo in the middle and then Patton finishes the song.

The disc ends with everyone wishing us a Merry Christmas.

It is a surprising and wonderful Christmas album worthy of addition to everyone’s collection.

[READ: November 26, 2017] The Crown of Fire

This is the fourth and final book in the Copernicus series.  There is no third or fourth mini book (I wonder why there wasn’t at least at third one).

I found this book to be exhausting and depressing.   And that’s because for the most part that’s how the characters felt–exhausted and depressed.  I also felt more exhausted by the series than I apparently felt after book three.  I thought I had stopped because I was burnt out on the series, but that’s not the impression I get from reading my post.  But this book did get very dark for most of its 500+ pages.

Lily and Darrell are together by themselves and they are fleeing once again.  They eventually find someone who will help them leave the country in a cargo ship–two weeks in a tiny hold by themselves.  Even Darrell who is still crazy about Lily finds it a bit much.

Back in the other part of the world, Becca Wade and Sara have just gotten a message from Roald.  But it turns out to be a trap. (more…)

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jottingsSOUNDTRACK: マキシマム ザ ホルモン–“え・い・り・あ・ん” (2013) [MAXIMUM THE HORMONE-“A.L.I.E.N” (2013).

maxi2This Japanese band has gained some ground in the United States (having two of their songs used in the anime Death Note).  They are a heavy, heavy metal band which explores many different genres.

This song begins with a heavy metal guitar riff.  When the song proper starts, it is clearly a heavy song sing in Japanese.  The second vocalist (who screams like Yamantaka Eye with John Zorn) screams in an unmistakably Japanese way.  And at 1:15, the song slows down into a very heavy almost mosh.

So far so good.  The first big surprise comes at 1:44 when the song is hijacked by a funk metal bass line and the follow up section is a less scary sounding but still heavy metal.

And then it’s back to the speed and noise once more, complete with a pause and a “Go!” and then a series of “He!y Hey! Hey!” metal chants.

maxiBut the real surprise comes at 3 minutes when the whole song slows to a sweet section with whispered vocals by the (female) drummer?  And then the entire song switches to a sweet song–delicate guitar and super sweet vocals with the new lyrics “Stop Stop Winny Upload.”  The boys come back in, but now they are playing along to this poppy (but guitar heavy) “Stop Stop Winny” section.

This runs on until the end of the song which has the band members conversing in Japanese (about what, I have no idea).

It is one of the most jarring songs I’ve heard, combing at least five genres in its 5 and a half minutes (and several of their other songs do this too (check out “Yoshu Fukushu”).

maxi3This is to say nothing of the video, which opens with the band playing in a live setting.  The  guitarist has long hair and a beard and sings the first verses.  The short-haired singer sings the really fast growly stuff and the bassist has a nifty side shave.

As the funk metal stuff starts, the band switches to a studio scene in which, why not, they all grow extra heads and limbs.

The Stop Stop Winny section switches from a segment with the drummer in a wedding dress singing gently.  And then the final section shows the band in a psychedelic set with little kids and balloons.

It’s fantastic.

[READ: November 13, 2015] Jottings from a Far Away Place

Brendan Connell has this new book coming out (on December 1st) from the wonderfully named Snuggly Press.  (I love that it says This is a Snuggly Book) on the title page verso.

Connell has written all kinds of books in his career but this one is something of a new style in his vast oeuvre.  The title word “Jottings” is a giveaway because so many of the parts of the book are very short–notations, indeed, jottings, that may or may not relate directly to the rest of the pieces.  I found the book a little challenging to read at first because of this.  However, when I wrapped my head around what was going on, it really gelled.  And when I read it a second time, with this in mind, it worked beautifully.

Connell has created a kind of labyrinth of a book in which some fragments lead to dead ends, but other fragments lead to longer stories.  And when you hit on the right path you are rewarded with a longer story that is as well written (Connell’s eye for detail is, as always, exceptional) as it is interesting.  But unlike the mythological labyrinth, there is no Minotaur if you take a wrong path–rather there is just a fragment that forces you to think about where it might belong. (more…)

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balladSOUNDTRACK: MOON HOOCH-“Number 9” (2011).

moonI don’t love the saxophone in rock music.  In fact, I often find the saxophone to be the single source of cheese in a lot of good music.  And yet when a saxophone is done right–Colin Stetson, John Zorn, Morphine, it can be an awesome instrument.

What about two saxophones?  And only a drummer with them?  Well, that’s Moon Hooch.  They play a bass saxophone and a squawking tenor (I guess) saxophone.  And, more like Morphine of the above bands they play fairly heavy riff rock songs like “Number 9.”  But these songs also make you move–dance, tap your foot, whatever it is.  After just a few notes, you’ll be hooked.

There’s not too much more to say about this song.  With the opening sounds of a subway platform, this song really sounds like a couple of guys busking o the platform, but man, it’s much more than that.  There’s some excellent drum work keeping this song grounded, but the stars are the two saxophones played off of each other.  There’s no words, just horns.  Get moving!

[READ: March 15, 2014] Ballad

This is a beautiful and fascinating book.  It is a children’s book but it demands some close reading.  And yet there aren’t all that many words in the book.  It is the design of the book that is the “selling point.”

The story is a fairly simple one (although I admit I found it a little confusing).  There is a preface which explains that the story is about a child who goes home the same way every day.  And yet suddenly his whole world balloons around him.  [And yet there is no child in the book].  Chapter 1 begins with a paragraph explanation that the school clock has stopped and no one seems to care.

After that first page, each subsequent page has a (nearly) full page image and one or two words underneath it (the script is also charming).  And so we see the school, the street, the forest, home.  Each new chapter works in the same fashion—a small paragraph explaining the setup and then several pages of pictures—each picture (the school, the forest) is exactly the same (they look silk screened) with the same caption underneath (although in subsequent chapters they are modified somewhat).  Chapter 3 introduces us to a stranger and, even more unsettling, bandits and a witch. (more…)

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harper juneSOUNDTRACK: JOHN ZORN-“The Dream Machine” (2013).

dreamThis is the title track to the third installment of instrumental albums by composer Zorn (as opposed to wild sax-player Zorn).  The new album is called Dreammachines.  Evidently this trilogy is somehow related to William S. Burroughs (sure, why not).  The first was called Interzone (and was three 15 minute-plus suites), the second was Nova Express (which was shorter pieces) and now Dreammachines (which is also shorter pieces).

It’s impossible to know what Zorn will throw at us next, but this song proves to be a beautiful jazz piece with the quartet of pianist John Medeski, bassist Trevor Dunn, vibraphonist Kenny Wollesen, and drummer Joey Baron.  It opens with a quick but pretty vibraphone melody.  The melody shifts keys but stays in the same pattern until the main melody kicks in.

Variations on the theme continue until about 2 minutes in when Medeski gets a big piano solo and this sounds more like traditional jazz than most Zorn pieces.  Then there’s a very cool vibes solo.  It’s pretty standard jazz and it’s really quite beautiful.

[READ: September 20, 2013] 2 book reviews

Bissell reviews two books this month.

danteThe first is Dante’s Divine Comedy as translated by Clive James.  James has decided that since Italian is so easy to rhyme “For an Italian poet it’s not rhyming that’s hard,” rather than following Dante’s linked terza rima rhyme scheme, he chose the rhyming quatrain.  Bissell expects that academics and traditionalists will be very suspicious of the book because of that, but he says that for the average person (the average person who wants to read Dante, of course), it will be more fun and enjoyable.  Especially, James popularizes the book.  I have always resisted The Divine Comedy but this one sounds like it might be a bit more fun, and isn’t that what reading is all about?

magicalThe second book is The Magical Stranger by Stephen Rodrick.  When Rodrick was 13 his father died in a military plane crash.  His carrier was en route home when it was told to reroute to help with the hostage crisis in Tehran.  But his plane was destroyed.  The hardest part for Stephen was when he read that the accident was deemed “pilot error.”

This book is Stephen’s attempt to learn more about his father.  Through the course of the book, he discovers more and more unpleasant facts about his father—from the lies his father told his mother to a pilot who knew his father who calls his an asshole.  Bissell finds this part of the book very moving but not quite warranting a novel length treatment.

But there is a secondary story about the man who now commands his father’s squadron James Hunter “Tupper” Ware.  Bissell says that this part of the story is far more engaging (Stephen is a journalist and this section is more investigative).  Stephen more or less tries to live his father’s life through Ware, a man who finds the same level of difficulties in his job and his life as Rodrick’s father did.

This is definitely not the kind of book I would read, but for those with an interest in the military and pilots its sound like a good warts-and-all investigation.

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snSOUNDTRACK: FORGET ALL THAT AND JUST WAIL: New Music That Orbits Around Jazz (compilation The Believer July/August 2013).

bel This compilation came as a digital download with The Believer’s 2013 Music Issue (you need to get a physical copy of the issue to get the download code). Ross Simonini, the compiler, explains that he used to like jazz, but that he really doesn’t anymore.  And he finds himself attracted to these pieces that hover around jazz but which really aren’t jazz.  You can read Simonini’s thoughtful comments about all of these tracks here).  I enjoyed this compilation quite a lot and am considering getting a  few of these discs, or at least investigating them further.  And that’s want you want from a compilation.

COLIN STETSON-“The Righteous Wrath if an Honorable Man”
Any compilation that opens with Colin Stetson is okay with me.  This track was my introduction to the man last year and I still love it, in all of its insanity.

KARRIEM RIGGINS-“Double Trouble” is only 2 minutes long.  It’s got flutes and vibraphones and is super cool and retro sounding.  I really like it, although this track ends abruptly and I can’t decide if the actual song does or if it was cut short for the disc.

THUNDERCAT-“For Love  I Came” has some echoey keyboards and some great bass lines and cool/cheesy keyboard lines (it all sounds so gloriously 70s).  When the vocals come in, the whole track feels like Yes if Yes were inspired by jazz instead of classical (and had no drums—until about 2 minutes when the drums kick in and the song takes off and bass solo makes it very Yes-like).

THE BEN MONDER TRIO-“Red Shifts” is a classic style jazz guitar workout—the echoed effect is very jazzy.  And yet there is something very angular about the playing that keeps it from sounding smooth.   It’s a great track (which once again seems to get cut off very abruptly).

DAWN OF MIDI-“Ymir” is another trio—piano bass and drums.  The piano is muted (the pianist puts his hand on the strings) which makes it sound like another percussive instrument while it is also creating  the melody.  It’s very cool.  And I like the way over the 8 or so minutes the melody changes slightly, giving it a new sound almost accidentally.

GLOWS IN THE DARK-“Up and Down” starts as a fast but quiet guitar piece with some cool subtle horns over the top.  It features a rap by Count Bass D which i do not care for (The “I’m pissed/L.L. Cool J” verse is really awkward).  This is the first track on the disc that i really don’t like, which is a shame because the music is really cool.

STEVE RAEGELE-“Traingle (Daedalus)” is a weird, cool experimental sounding track.  Sounds are overlaid on each other with a lot of echoing that gives it a very dense structure.  Whether or not this is jazz is hard to say but it’s very intriguing.

MARY HALVORSON QUINTET-“Sea Cut Like Snow (No. 26)” Halvorson is a guitarist and this live track features some of the most traditional jazz on the compilation.  The song has cool melodies and some nice improvsiing (on various instruments).  It runs a little long though (I wish this had been truncated rather than the earlier ones) but it’s enjoyable.

FLYING LOTUS-“German Haircut” this is an electronically manipulated pastiche of songs with a sax solos placed over the top.  It’s an interesting concoction.

CHRIS CORSANO-“Famously Short Arms”  This is one of the most amazing drum videos I’ve ever seen–it is so creative and original.  As an audio track it is basically a  drum solo, but watching him and what he does on the drums is really mind expanding.

MATANA ROBERTS-“lulla/bye”  I have this track as well (two tracks from Constellation here).  It’s full of saxophones and longing in the singing.  It’s hard to define but it’s very evocative.

MICROKINGDOM-“Peppermint Crab” This is a weird and wild piece.  It opens with some manipulated and spacey vibes and electronics and then gets assaulted by a wild and screaming sax solo that would make John Zorn proud.

DIAMOND TERRIFIER-“Kill the Self That Wants to Kill Yourself” This song opens with some simple keyboard chords and some odd unsettling sounds thrown over them (waves of static and squeaking saxophone). Then comes some wild soloing.

This is a solid compilation of jazz-like music.  It veers into more extreme forms of jazz and will certainly alienate some listeners, but it’s an introduction to what else is out there on the fringes.

[READ: August 8, 2013] Shakespeare’s Nigga

The artistic director of the Obsidian Theatre Company (which put on this play) explains in the intro that with a title like that, you’re going to get attention.  In fact he initially said that they couldn’t use that title, because it was too much.  But they changed their mind because it really was…right.

This story looks at the two most prominent black men in Shakespeare: Othello (the Moorish general who is ruled by violent emotion) and Aaron (a Moorish slave who is basically pure evil—in Titus Andronicus).  As the artistic development coordinator of the Obsidian Theater says, Shakespeare is the authority on writing characters, thus these two men have become entwined in Black masculinity.  Which is a shame because “Moor” could basically be anyone who did not live in Europe and because Shakespeare likely didn’t know any black people (except as slaves).  It’s not really a good sample.

Playwright Joseph Jomo Pierre doesn’t seek to rectify this or upend this or decry Shakespeare.  What he does is much more subtle and much more powerful.

There are five characters in the play: Othello, Aaron, Tyrus (an older black male), Shakespeare and Judith (Shakespeare’s daughter).  Shakespeare and Othello are comrades (I won’t say friends, but it seems like Shakespeare relies on Othello for protection and advice).  Meanwhile, Aaron has tried to escape from his slavery and is currently chained up and beaten (usually by Othello). (more…)

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5.20SOUNDTRACK: RASHANIM-“Bahir” (2005).

Masada_RockSpeaking of John Zorn, there was a nother clip on NPR about the release of his album Masada Rock in 2005.  Clearly I stopped listening to Zorn’s new stuff around this time because I didn’t know this record.  It features the band Rashanim.

This is a wonderful little mashup of surf rock and noir played by a kind of stripped down rock trio.  The main riff is very noir, something Zorn specializes in.  It’s funny to me that this is a Masada album as it feels decidedly unJewish to me.  But it sounds very Zorn.  The band packs a ton of stuff into this 4 minute piece.  There’s a lengthy, fairly sloppy guitar solo that goes through much of the song.  And the end is a frantic workout.

I liked this song quite a bit and thought I’d see just what Zorn has been up to since I last watched his discography.  I’d say that in the last ten years he has released around 100 albums of various styles and genres.  I think my wallet is happy I stopped paying attention.

[READ: May 16, 2013] “Poker Face”

The five brief pieces in this week’s New Yorker are labeled as “Imagined Inventions.”  And in each one, the author is tasked with inventing something.

I didn’t know Nolan before reading this.  This was my least favorite of the five essays—kind of like a final skit from Saturday Night Live.  Essentially he raves about how useful emoticons are—very current, yes.  Well, he precedes this by saying how in texting it’s even harder to detect sarcasm than it was in emails.  He has a friend who uses exclamation points to show sincerity, so Thanks. Could be ironic but Thanks! is sincere.  I find I do the same thing, so I appreciated that. (more…)

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5.20SOUNDTRACK: PAT METHENY-“Mastema” (2013).

Itap-cd-cover don’t know all that much about pat Metehny.  I know he’s a jazz guitarist held in high regard by some and in less high regard by others.  This song is Metheny playing a John Zorn composition–indeed, it comes from an entire album of Zorn covers called Tap: John Zorn’s Book of Angels, Vol. 20.  I have been a huge fan of Zorn for decades, and yet some time ago I had to stop following him–his output is just too huge.  So this Book of Angels series by the Masada String Quartet is unfamiliar to me.

Knowing what I do about Zorn, this piece is quite an interesting statement–it’s got a lot of the wildness that Zorn throws into his music, but it’s also got the pretty melodies that Zorn writes as well as the Jewish melodies that saturate the Masada albums.

Strangely enough this song reminds me more of Frank Zappa than John Zorn.  That may have to do more wbecause it’s a guitar and not a sax, but it also has something to do with the bass guitar that is playing along–it’s got a very Zappa sound to it.

I feel like I’d rather just listen to Masada, but I’d have to really compare the two to see how this holds up.  It’s a pretty wild guitar workout though, if you like that sort of thing.

[READ: May 16, 2013] “Vision Quest”

The five brief pieces in this week’s New Yorker are labeled as “Imagined Inventions.”  And in each one, the author is tasked with inventing something.

Karen Russell is the first of the five authors whom I did not recognize (although I have read a few short pieces of hers in the New Yorker).  She describes her last invention, which was for the seventh grade science fair. It was called the Roller Solar Cream—she poured sunscreen on a roll-on deodorant stick.  It got a C+.  So she explains that she’s not much of an inventor, but she’s going to give it a try.  She also states that she doesn’t know how any of these inventions would work, nevertheless she proposes four.

Number 1 is a “Trapster” for social situations.  The original trapster is an app to alert you to speed traps and the like (I’ve never heard of that).   Her app would alert you when you are heading into a socially dangerous situation (be careful what you say around this person, her dad is famous).  Number 2 is called “Last Wishes Glasses” which upon wearing allow you to know what your dead relative would actually think of your plans/ideas (“she would have wanted it this way” is no longer needed).  I have to admit I find this invention to be pretty nonsensical.  Number 3 is the one I like most.  It’s called “Baby Roshambo” and it’s a program that allows you to see what a baby’s life will be like depending on what name you give him or her—see how Ashley, Bubbles, La’Dynasty and Gertrude would turn out differently just because of their names.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JOHN ZORN-“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (2011).

Wild skronking horns, screamed vocals, chaos chaos cha–.  No.

Piano and vibraphones with some gentle guitars thrown on top.  This is a beautiful, gentle jazz rendition of this song.  What makes this so strange is well, frist, because John Zorn loves death metal and all things noise.  But also because John Zorn revels in Jewish culture.  So what’s up with this holiday album?

Evidently he always wanted to make a holiday album.  And he’s using most of the same guys who have played with him for years. 

That’s a real Christmas miracle! Read more about it here.

[READ: December 16, 2011] Children, Gender, and Social Structure

Our director sent us a link to this article to get us in the holiday spirit (you have to subscribe to JSTOR to read it).  Although he spoiled it in his email (boys and girls are different), I still enjoyed reading the contents here.  At least somewhat.  The article was really quite dry and relied on some scientific terminology which I found confounding.  Nevertheless, the results were easy enough to follow, and that’s what really matters.

The most interesting thing was the setup.  They read all of the letters mailed to Santa that were received in the Seattle post office in 1978.  (I wondered why it was so long ago before I confirmed that this was written in 1982, so that makes sense).  They received 855 letters that year.  And I found this breakdown as interesting (if not moreso) than the rest of the article: 63% were from within the state; 29% were from out of state (how did they get there??); and 8% were from out of the country (what?? how, why?–no answer is given, sadly).  31 letters were illegible, so they were out.  The rest were assessed by gender of the names based on a baby naming book (from 1966!).  This yielded 359 from boys, 391 from girls, 46 gender ambiguous (what percentage would there be today??) and 28 with no name. 

I was also fascinated by  the age breakdown: 24%: 5 or under; 41% 6 or 7; 29% 8 or 9 and 7% were ten or older! (more…)

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