Archive for the ‘Warren Ellis’ Category

[ATTENDED: June 5, 2017] Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

My Nick Cave story is that back in September 2001 I had tickets to see Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds.  Then 9/11 happened.  Cave cancelled the American tour (he rescheduled it for the following year).  But I hadn’t heard that it was cancelled (who even thought to call a venue about that sort of thing).  So I drove all the way into Manhattan and then had to turn around and go home.  I was annoyed, obviously, and angry with Cave, although that’s not really fair.

But so this concert proved to be sixteen years in the making.

And it almost didn’t go as planned again.  I arrived at the Electric Factory early–I had heard the show was starting exactly at 8PM.  I was arriving by 7:30.  Perfect. But the lot was closed.  So they pushed us to the next one.  Where apparently idiots and bozos were running it.  It took 20 minutes, and cost a staggering $30 to park.  And to top it off they were trying so hard to squeeze in as many cars as they could they made us park so close I could barely get my head out of the door.  So I had to do some rearranging, and them hurt my arm while wrangling stuff out of the car.

The security line was fine and moved quickly until the guy in front of me had a bag.  That was a huge hold up as the two lines on either side of me flew by.  I walked into the place at 7:58 and it was packed.  There was literally nowhere to move, no way to get closer to the stage.  No breathing room.  I wound up standing in what was really a walkway surrounded by people pushing and a very tall German man who spoke very loudly into my ear while talking to someone else.

And it didn’t start on time anyhow.  I was pretty annoyed by the whole thing and even wondered if I should leave.  The view was terrible, the crowd was ugly and I was already cranky.  But I decided to stick it out–besides I couldn’t squeeze back in to my car anyhow. (more…)

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slowreadSOUNDTRACK: DIRTY THREE-Tiny Desk Concert #245 (October 15, 2012).

dirty-3For a Murakami collection I should really have picked a jazz Tiny Desk Concert.  But none jumped out at my on my list.  So I decided to do something that might be jazzy in spirit, even if it is nothing like jazz at all.

Dirty Three are a three-piece band which consists of violinist Warren Ellis (who works closely with Nick Cave), drummer Jim White (who I had the pleasure of seeing live with Xylouris White), and guitarist Mick Turner (who has released a string of gorgeous instrumental solo albums and worked a lot with Will Oldham).

I’ve liked Dirty Three for years, although I kind of lost touch with them back around 2000.  So it was fun to see that they are still working.  (They’ve released all of 3 albums since 2000).

Jim White plays an eccentric but very cool style of drum–it always feels improvised and random, and maybe it is, but it’s never “wrong.”  Turner is the only one who is keeping the song, shall we say, “stable.”  He’s got the rhythm and melody both with his strumming.  And Ellis is all over the place with melody lines and bowing.

For this Tiny Desk, they play three songs.  Their music is ostensibly instrumental although Warren Ellis is not above shouting and yelling and keening when appropriate.

The first two songs are from their 2012 album and the last one is from Ocean Songs.

“Rain Song” opens with Ellis strumming the violin while Turner plays slightly different chords.  Then Ellis takes off on a series of spiralling violin rolls.  As always, White is back there waving his arms around with the loosest grip on drumsticks I’ve ever seen.  He plays brushes on this song but the drums are far from quiet.  Meanwhile Ellis is soloing away, yelling where appropriate and doing high kicks when White hits the cymbals.   As the song comes to an end, White is going nuts on the drums and Ellis takes off his jacket (revealing a wonderful purple shirt) .  He starts screaming wildly as he physically gets into his violin playing.

“The Pier” is about realizing that it’s the rest of the world that is driving you crazy.  It’s about “trying to undermine Facebook and realize a new way of communicating with people beyond the internet.”  It’ about… are you ready Mick?  Okay.  “The Pier” is a slower song with some plucked violin.  Ellis climbs up on the desk and dances around as he plays.  This one feels a but more controlled but in no way staid.

For “Last Horse in the Sand,” white switches to mallets and adds a tambourine to his cymbal.  It’s really interesting to watch White play around with things–moving his gear around as he plays.  He switches sticks and seems to be not even paying attention, but without ever really losing momentum or timing.  For this song, Ellis and Turner are the mellow ones while White is just all over the place with his amazing drumming.

I haven’t said anything about Turner because he is really the grounding of the band, while the other two are taking flights of fancy.

This is a wild and untamed set and it’s a lot of fun.  It’s also amusing to watch the audience witnessing this seeming chaos.

[READ: December 16, 2016] Slow Reader Vol. 1

Madras Press had released 16 small books, which I enjoyed reading quite a lot.  I have posted about some and will post about more in the new year.  But word is that they have given up on the small books and have switched their attention to a new magazine/journal called Slow Reader.  The first issue came out this month and it collects stories, essays, poems, illustrations, and other things that center around novelist Haruki Murakami.

Support this small press!  You can order this issue directly (and name your price, although I think the asking price is $6).

From an article elsewhere I’ve learned that future issues will cluster around M.F.K. Fisher, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Patricia Highsmith.

This issue contains essays, fiction and illustrations, some dating back as far as 2000.

CHIP KIDD-cover illustration (wind-up bird)
Chip Kidd is awesome

GRANT SNIDER-Murakami Bingo Board
This bingo is hilariously apt–covering most of the bases of Murakami’s writing: cats, jazz, running, and even a Chip Kidd cover.

A line drawing of a sheep standing upright with the caption “The sheep man’s peculiar tail was never visible to me.”

HARRIET LEE-MERRION-Diner illustration
A nice line drawing of a corner diner

KAREN MURPHY-Sputnik and two moon illustrations
Two simple drawings of Sputnik and two moons.

BEIDI GUO-Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World map
A cool map of the locations of the novel.

DINA AVILA–Murakami Tasting Menu at Nodoguro in Portland, OR
I don’t really get if the menu items are related to the stories but it’s a neat idea that there are foods named after his works. But why are so many called IQ84?

A drawing of foods with what I think are character names (I haven’t read the novel yet).

FABIO VALESINI-train illustrations taken from the book trailer for Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
No idea what the original context is, but it’s a neat, clean drawing of a train station.

JEFFREY BROWN-“In Conversation” What Jeffrey Brown Thinks About
The first piece is an amusing cartoon in which Brown scores a job at an indie bookstore by mentioning Murakami.  The little blurb says that it is an only slightly exaggerated account. There’s also a later picture by Brown of Murakami’s face posted on a bulletin board (with a lost cat flier), that’s really great.

DANIEL HANDLER-“I Love Murakami”
Handler begins his piece by apologizing to dozens of authors before saying that Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction.  He mentions a few books but heaps a ton of praise on Wind Up Bird Chronicles and mentions his excitement at  finally getting Norwegian Wood in English (it had been untranslated for many years).  He wrote this essay in 2000.

YOKO OGAWA-“On Murakami’s “The Last Lawn of the Afternoon” [Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder]
Ogawa writes about a house in her neighborhood which has a lawn that she finds unsettling–it’s perfectly manicured and a pale, cool shade of green.  She is reminded of the Murakami story in which a boy mows a woman’s lawn and she asks him an unexpected question.  Ogawa imagines a woman in that home asking the same kinds of questions.

ETGAR KERET-“What Do We Have in Our Pockets?”
This was inspired by Murakami’s story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning.”  This story is about a man whose pockets are always bulging with unusual items.  People often say to him, “What the fuck do you have in your pockets?”  And his answer is that he carries things that he imagines the perfect woman needing–a stamp or a toothpick.  It is a wonderfully charming story.

RIVKA GALCHEN-“The Monkey Did It”
Of all of the items in this collection, this is  the only piece I’d read before.  I remembered parts of it (particularly the excerpts from “A Shinagawa Monkey,” and her talking about Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.  I also recalled her saying that she liked his short stories better than his novels, but that she was perhaps wrong in thinking that.  The one thing I didn’t pick up on last time was that in the beginning of the essay she writes about Toricelli’s Trumpet or Gabriel’s Horn–an item with finite volume but infinite surface area.  She says this perfect describes Murakami’s work.  And I love that she ties it to translator Philip Gabriel who is a gentle and modest translator–perfect for the watery novel.

TESS GALLAGHER-“Murakami and Carver Meet at Sky House”
Before he had written any substantial works, Murakami translated Raymond Carver’s works into Japanese.  Ray was excited and bemused that Haruki and his wife Yoko would travel from Japan to meet with him.  This essay tells us that the following poem came about as Ray tried to imagine how his poems could possibly be appreciated in Japan.  Murakami told him how both the Japanese and American people of the 1980s were experiencing humiliation at being unable to make a decent living.  Gallagher says that if they were to meet today Ray would be awkward about Haruki’s stature.  But he would have loved knowing that Murakami had translated everything he had written.

RAYMOND CARVER-“The Projectile”
This poem is wonderful. It begins with Carver speaking about his meeting with Murakami and then flashing back to when he was 16 and was hit with an ice ball.  It was thrown from someone in the street through a small crack in the window of the car he was riding in–a chance in a million.

RICHARD POWERS-“The Global Distributed Self-Mirroring Subterranean Neurological Soul-Sharing Picture Show”
This is the most abstract and “intellectual” of the essays here.  It speaks of a team of neuroscientists discovering a lucky accident–that neurons in the brain fire when someone else makes a motion that we recognize.  Similarly, in Murakami–representation is the beginning of reality.  He speaks of the parallel narratives in Hard Boiled Wonderland.  He wonders at the universality of dreams and ideas in Murakami.  “But if his own stories are steeped in the endless weirdness hiding just inside everyday life, how then to account for Murakami’s astonishing popularity throughout the world?”

MARY MORRIS-“The Interpreter”
I loved this story.  An American business woman is giving a series of lectures in Japan.  She is assigned a translator who goes with her nearly everywhere.  She is a little annoyed that he is always there, but he is very respectful of her and only speaks when spoken to.  She assumes he is translating her speeches correctly, but during one, the audience laughs where there was nothing funny.  She doesn’t want to disrespect him, but she can’t imagine what he said to them.  In the next one, they are practically doubled over with laughter at what he says.  Finally she has to confront him about it.  He reveals astonishing insights into her personal life.  And the next day he is called away–just as she has begun to feel close to him.

In the author’s note, she says that the she was at an writer’s meeting in Princeton (where she teaches) and Murakami was there eating with them. He was by himself, and she talked to him because she was a fan of his work.  She relates a story of holding up a sign for him when he ran the New York City Marathon.  She says that the part about the translator and his family (which I didn’t mention) is from an actual translator she met in Japan.

AIMEE BENDER-“Spelunking with Murakami”
Bender speaks of trusting Murakami.  She says when the cat started speaking in one of his books, she began to mistrust him.  Nevertheless, she says, she loves a lot of writers but only trusts a few of them.  She’s not trusting Murakami’s honesty or his ability to make her smarter.  Rather, she trusts him like a man with a torch in a cave–someone who is willing to explore–and to be in front leading the way.

Prabhaker would like to ask the world’s philosophers why some things seem to happen to us in a random fashion.

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SOUNDTRACK: NICK CAVE AND WARREN ELLIS-The Road: Original Film Score (2009).

I haven’t seen The Road, and I probably never will.  Nor have I read it.  The only reason I was listening to the soundtrack was because I like Nick Cave.  So this is a contextless review.  Of course, I know what the book is about and I rather assume that the film is equally harrowing.  I expected the soundtrack to be full of desolation and horror.

So I was quite surprised that most of the main themes are played on a piano with gentle strings or simply violins.  True there is a sense of emptiness and loss in these songs (they’re not jaunty piano pieces or anything) but they are still unexpectedly pretty.

Of course,a song like “The Cannibals” is bound to be more disconcerting, which it is.  It starts with creepy scratchy violins and then tribal drums take over–all set over a buzzing background.  This is more of what I expected the whole score to be like.   Similarly, “The House” must be a very frightening scene, as the music is threatening, loud, intense and quite scary with, again, more creepy percussion.  Unsurprisingly, a track called “The Cellar” is also spooky; it is only a minute long.

But then songs like “The Church” are so delicate and beautiful and not even all that sad–it actually makes me wonder what the scene in the film is showing.  The end of the score feels like the end of a movie, which I know it is, but it feels like a conventional movie, with closure, something I’m led to believe the book doesn’t have a lot of.

Taken away from the movie, this soundtrack is quite nice.  Aside from the three scarier tracks, this would make for some nice listening on a sad, rainy Sunday.

[READ: February 28, 2012] “The Longest Destroyed Poem”

I enjoyed Kuitenbrouwer’s “Corpse” so much that I decided to see what else she had written.  It comes to three books and four uncollected short stories.  There’s “Corpse” from The Walrus, this one here, another one called “Laikas” (which has a different title on the site where it lives) and a fourth with a broken link.  Boo.

But that’s okay because I’ll certainly investigate her books too.

Like “Corpse,” this story explores women’s sexuality, but it explores it in a very different way.  In fact, I loved the way it was introduced–especially because of the wonderfully convoluted way the sentence reveals it (and how it’s not even the main point of the sentence):

She looked fabulous. Better than back then, when she’d thought she wanted to be an artist, and Victor had made a point — she realized this as she realized many many things, that is she realized it in retrospect — of dropping into the conversation — the one she hadn’t actually been having with him, because she was instead focused almost solely on the fact his much younger roommate had a hand under the blanket her crotch also happened to be under — that he was off to bed early so he could work on a poem he’d been having trouble with.

I had to read it twice because I thought it was funny the first time, and when I fully parsed it, it was even funnier.

So yes, sex.  But as the story opens, years after the above event, Rosa sees Victor and decides to crash into him with her car.  It’s shocking and it’s shockingly well told.

I love the way Kuitenbrouwer uses language.  I could probably quote from this story six or seven times, but I love this sentence that forecasts the trouble ahead:  “Victor noticed her in that split second, too, and he knew what Rosa was up to, for his face changed, channel surfing from neutral smug — well, this was his everyday face — to impending doom.”

As she’s about to ram him (with a Prius, no less), we flash back to their spirited relationship. (more…)

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