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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 28, 2022] “Weird Al” Yankovic

This was my ninth time seeing Weird Al.  I’m shooting for ten.  We’ll see if he can muster up one more tour (why did I skip the Strings Attached tour)?

I was pretty thrilled by the first Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.  It was great seeing so many songs that rarely got played (amusingly, I had seen some of those songs on their original tours back in the early 2000s, which is pretty crazy.

I was hoping that this tour would be a whole new set of obscure old songs.  I thought he might pull out “Buckingham Blues” for the Queen’s death or something really odd like “Slime Creatures from Outer Space” or holy cow, “Genius in France” would have blown my mind.

I see that he actually played a largely different set in NYC (which I considered going to, but decided against).   Including “I’ll Sue Ya” (not a favorite, but I haven’t heard it before) and “Velvet Elvis (talk about an obscurity!).  But he also did the two songs that I would LOVE to hear live….and it might have been worth the hassle of Carnegie Hall just to hear “Nature Trail to Hell” and “Albuquerque.”

Having laid out that complaint, we did get four songs I hadn’t heard live before including a wonderful “Don’t Download This Song” and the sheer surprise of “Buy Me a Condo.”  And this new, improved, extended version of “Craigslist” was outstanding.

I will never complain about hearing “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota”–and the crowd was really into it.

Of course, any “Weird Al” show is a good time.  Al gave amusing introductions to all of the songs and even did an amusing “encore” bt where he stood at the side of the stage checking his phone and then arguing with the band about whether they were going to do an encore or not.

The encore was worth the price of admission.  He did a (straight and fantastic) cover of Elton John’s “Saturday’s Alright for Fighting.”  And the closing medley of songs in very different styles was outstanding.  I especially enjoyed that someone in the audience was able to do the Yoda chant dance. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 28, 2022] Emo Philips

I saw Emo Philips open for Al four years ago.  I rather enjoyed his set.  As I said:

Emo’s comedy is really dark but–delivered in his bizarre manner that goes somehow beyond deadpan–it makes his jokes really hilarious

I wasn’t sure if I needed to see his set again–I wasn’t sure how different it would be.  And so, coupled with a Phillies game, it being a Friday night and it taking place in the center of Philadelphia, I rather assumed I’d be late and miss some or all of his set.

I arrived at the show at a little after 8 and by the time I got to my seat I guess I missed about half of his set.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: January 13, 2022] The Genius Under the Table

Why would anyone read an autobiography of someone they’d never heard of?

Well, in part because it’s a children’s biography, and therefore a fairly easy read.  But mostly because Eugene Yelchin grew up in the Soviet Union under the watchful eyes of Lenin and his KGB informants.  And it’s a fascinating look at a world that is as bizarre as it is unsettling.

And it’s a well-written and interesting story, too!

Yelchin was the youngest of two sons.  His older brother was on track to become a national figure skater.  His mother worked in the ballet, assisting the ballerinas and having a close up view of the amazing Mikhail Baryshnikov.  His father was a working man as well–they needed all the money they could get (which wasn’t much).  And what of Eugene (Yevgeny)?  He had no talent.

He couldn’t play sports (not even chess).  He couldn’t dance.  He wasn’t super smart.  He wasn’t exactly a disappointment to his parents (although he was, kind of), but they knew that the only way to get out of the squalor they lived in was to be great at something.

And he wasn’t great at anything. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 24, 2021] “The Young King”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

I was pretty delighted that Oscar Wilde was selected for this short story (with the caveat that there are hundreds of more recent Irish short story writers to choose from of course).  And it started off with Wilde’s wit with the king’s courtiers needing Etiquette lessons because most of them still had natural manners–a very grave offense.

But then, good lord, this story dragged on so torturously.

A 16 year old lad is named to be the next king.  He was raised by goatherds so he is blown away by the sumptuousness of the castle.  But, as is the case with children’s stories, of which this is apparently one, he has three bad dreams.

Long dreams.  Elaborately detailed and yet rather tedious dreams. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 21, 2021] “The Three Hermits”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

By the time I saw Leo Tolstoy I was getting a little annoyed by the end of this collection.  Nothing against Tolstoy at all–we should all read him more, but again, I wanted a contemporary writer to get excited by.

And then this story turned out to be exactly the same as Ray Bradbury’s story (obviously Tolstoy was first), but it was less satisfying.

Basically, a bishop is aboard a ship and is told by the pilgrims on board that there’s an island nearby with three very holy hermits.  Naturally the busybody bishop needs to see them to make sure they are praying correctly. So he disrupts the entire voyage, making everyone else delay their travels for at least a full day, so he can be a pain in the ass to these poor hermits.

He tries to teach them about god, but they don’t understand him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 14, 2021] “God Has Passed Through Here”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

This is a dark story.  As Manguel notes:

The vast shadow of the Armenian Genocide, when a million ethnic Armenians were murdered in the Ottoman Empire during World War I, hangs over every Armenian writer today.

In this story a young girl is to be inspected by The Europeans.

The story starts kind of amusingly with The Europeans having a very hard time getting to the Armenian village:

In about twenty minutes, when the highway ends and we turns right.  Then we’ll take the first side road, it’s about fifteen minutes long, after which… No we won’t come to the village yet…but it will be closer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 6, 2021] “The Fire Balloons”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

I haven’t read very much by Ray Bradbury.  In the past it was because I kind of dismissed him as a genre writer.  But I have read a few things in the last few years that I liked and thought I should give him more of my time.

This story is from The Martian Chronicles, which I have not read.  I actually don’t really know much about the Chronicles at all.

This story is set in 2033.  Two priests are headed to Mars as missionaries.  Father Peregrine and Father Stone spoke about the Martians and the kind of sins they would find among them.  Mars was so different, no doubt sin was like a virtue.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK:  hiatus

[READ: December 4, 2021] “The State of Grace”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my seventh time reading the Calendar.  The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check this link where editor Alberto Manguel is providing daily commentary on each of the stories he selected for this year’s calendar.

This story was funny but also had a moral.

Set in 1939, we meet the best Christian in all of Rue Gabrielle and indeed all Montmartre.   Monsieur Duperrier was “a man of such piety, uprightness and charity that God, without awaiting his death… crowned his head with never left it by day or by night.”

He was grateful, of course, but his modesty did not allow him to show it off in public.  However, his wife did have to look at it and she was filled with resentment and exasperation.  She was afraid of what others would think of him if they saw him like that, so she encouraged him to sin a little but to lose the halo. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: Fall 2021] Small Gods

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Small Gods satirizes religion.  On the Disc, it is common understanding that gods exist because people believe in them.  They come into existence when someone begins to believe and they grow more powerful the more people believe.  But some gods have few followers and they are known as the small gods.

One such god is Om.  Om once had a huge following, there was even a town named after him, Omnia.  But over the years, people started fearing the religious leaders who enforced the “rules of Om” or out of habit.

Om has been depicted in statues as a massive scary creature.  But when Om decided to manifest himself this time, he came as a turtle.

There’s a fascinating side bit about how eagles are the only animals that can kill turtles.  They bring a turtle very high in the air and drop it on a rock.  The eagle plagues Om throughout the book. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ART D’ECCO-“That’s Entertainment” (2021).

I saw Art D’ecco open a show a few years ago and I’ve become mildly obsessed with hi.  I’m delighted to see that he’s getting some promotion and success.

His new album In Standard Definition is a great synth pop retro dance infusion.  But in addition to that he has released two standalone covers.

This one, a cover of The Jam’s “That’s Entertainment” was a little concerning for me.  This song is one of my all time favorite songs and I’m always nervous when a song like this gets covered.

But Art D’ecco does a great job.  There’s acoustic guitars, a grooving bass line, cool harmony vocals and, best of all, he keeps the way the chorus offers the short “That’s” and the stretched out “en ter tain ment.”  He even does the falsetto note (of course).

But what’s most enlightening about is cover is D’ecco’s voice. He seems to be stretching out of his comfort zone a little and it really shows off how good a singer her really is.

[READ: April 21, 2021] Last Human

I’m not sure what got me on my recent Red Dwarf reading kick (finding out that they had just released a new series was certainly a spark).  I was sure I had read all of these books before and yet none of them were familiar to me at all.

The Grant Naylor team wrote two books and the second one ended on a cliffhanger.

Then for reasons I’m not willing to dig into, both Rob Grant and Doug Naylor each wrote a sequel to that book.  But neither book is like the other and they both go in very different directions.  Naylor’s book was really dark and very violent.  Grant’s was also dark and very violent, but in very different ways.

The previous book ended with an old Lister being sent to a planet where everything goes backwards so that he can de-age to about the same age he was when he was on the series.  They plan to meet him 36 years later at Niagara Falls.

In this book Naylor has the crew place Kochanski’s ashes on the planet Kochanski so she came back to life and she and Lister were able to live their lives backwards together for some thirty years.

But this book opens much further back–to the birth of the first humanoid. (more…)

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