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Archive for the ‘Sex’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: March 16, 2022] In the Jaws of Life

The version pictured here is not the one I read–there’s no pictures of it online!  My copy was translated by Celia Hawkesworth and Michael Henry Heim.

This book is a collection of short stories from throughout Ugrešić’s career.

The book has three (or 8) stories in it.  I discovered Ugrešić through The 2021 Short Story Advent Calendar (story #2).  “Lend Me Your Character” was weird and cool and was probably my favorite story in the collection (it’s here as well).

When I read a little about Ugrešić, I found that she was born in Croatia, but left the region when the war in Yugolslavia broke out, saying she was post-national and refusing to acknowledge her Croatian heritage.  She currently resides in Amsterdam.

Her stories are wonderful mash ups of fairy tales, feminist theory, “traditional women’s writing” and a lot of sexuality.

“Steffie Speck in the Jaws of Life (a patchwork novel)” (1981) [trans C.H.]
This story has so much going on that it’s easy to overlook that it’s a fairly straightforward story, just with a lot of filigree tacked on.  The story opens with a “Key to the Various Symbols” and includes things like — dotted lines with scissors (cut the text along the line as desired); slashes (pleats: make large thematic stitches on either side of the author’s seam); four equals signs (make a metatextual knot and draw in as desired).  And so on.  And the contents is actually listed as “The Paper Pattern” which lays out each section according to a sewing pattern.  Each section heading is given a parenthetical comment (tacking, padding, hemming, interfacing).

When you start the story you see that the symbols are indeed throughout the story, although honestly after a few pages I gave up trying to figure out what they might mean.

The story starts with the narrator saying that her friends told her to write “a women’s story.”  The author looks at several lonely hearts letters in the paper and picks the fifth one as the basis.  Steffie, aged 25, is a typist by profession.  She’s lonely and sad and lives with her aunt. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE PRETTY BOYS-“Midnight to Six Man,” “Don’t Bring me Down,” “Rosalyn.” (1966, 1964, 1964).

The Pretty Boys are referenced a lot in this novel and I realized I never knew them.

According to Classic Rock History, these are t he band’s top three songs.

I guess as a reference point, I can see what Kent was going for.  The lead singer sounds like a bit of a wild man, with lots of screams.  Each song is a kind of rowdy garage rock. They’ve got a lot of energy, but very mid 60’s energy which really doesn’t appeal to me.

And none of the songs have anything remotely resembling the kind of musical genius that the guitarist in the novel is supposed to have.

So I wasn’t missing anything.

[READ: February 28, 2022] The Unstable Boys

I’m usually a pretty good judge of books when I see them at work.  We get a lot of novels that I would never read, but we occasionally get a gem that I’d never see anywhere else.

I looked at The Unstable Boys and thought I had a gem.  And it started out as one.

The book is about a fictional band from the 60s called The Unstable Boys.

The opening of the book is clippings from various articles about the band.

They were a mix of personalities with two talented members, an array of drummers and a lead singer called The Boy who was a force of nature.  He was, simply, an asshole.  But he was charismatic and unpredictable and people were intrigued by him.  They had a hit, they were poised to do some big stuff and then their second guitarist died.  They were about to go on a major American tour and wanted to postpone.  But the label wouldn’t let them.  The label threw in some new members for the tour and the band imploded.

Guitarist Ral Coombs was a really talented and sensitive musician.  He and The Boy nearly came to blows.  They vowed to never reunite or even speak to each other again.

Then the story begins properly.  We meet Trevor Bourne. He is recently single and, as a freelance writer, not very successful.  He had written a story about The Unstable Boys a while back, but hasn’t had much success lately.

Enter Michael Martindale.  He is a very rich and successful fiction writer.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: January 26, 2022] Fixer

I saw this book at work and was attracted by the cover (obviously San Francisco) and that it was about a tech startup company (sort of).

The book is set up with each chapter being about one of the five main characters.

Meghan is a single woman whose life has been one of upheaval.  As we meet her, she has just gotten laid off (with about one third of the firm) of a tech company that has had to resize itself.  She’s not even sure why she works in marketing–she has no real sense of self and would love to be an artist.  But she doesn’t dare risk things for that.  She has also just had a very good date with Diego Garcia.

Diego (Digs) is techie guy with great ideas.  He has been working in the tech field for many years and has brought some of his good college friends to work with his at Del Oro, a startup tech firm with one of the hottest apps out right now.

Kari (he is Norwegian) is Diego’s college friend.  They have been close as anything for many years.  Kari (and his father especially) have very high expectations for Kari. Kari is the more business minded side of Diego–he knows about money and how to get it.  He is passionate about very few things.  One is success.  The other is Kari.

Kira (the similar names are cute, rather than cloying, I think) is his girlfriend of many years.  She is possibly more driven than he is.  She is very successful and expects the best from everyone.  She has known Kari and Diego since college.  She likes Diego but gets a little tired of him.  When Diego starts dating Meghan, she finds her unbearably boring.

The last of their college friends is Ravi.  Ravi is gay, but he has not (and could never) come out to his strict Indian parents (who are back in India).  They would love for him to come home, but he has made a life for himself here. He is actually just about to get married to a woman.  She is his best friend (they’ve known each other forever) and she is a lesbian.  She also needs help with her visa to stay in the country. It solves everything.  Even their serious significant others are on board.  Ravi is very close to Kari as well.  His boyfriend is serious and they imagine settling down someday is gay marriage is ever legalized. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: hiatus

[READ: January 15, 2021] The Prox Transmissions

I had recently seen Starset live and decided to check out lead singer Dustin Bates’ books (which I had gotten for my son for his birthday and I think he hasn’t read).

All of the CDs have a theme and the story of the Prox Transmissions is meant to tie into the album called Transmission.

My understanding was that the graphic novel was an adaptation of the novel.  I couldn’t find the novel in his room, but I did see the graphic novel, so I started with that (even though I’m sure it would have ben smarter to read the novel first).

The most impressive thing about this to me was that it was published by Marvel.  Not because I’m a Marvel fan boy but because I just assumed it was self published.  That being said, I think a thing or two was lost in the abridgement.

There are double crosses and possibly triple crosses and seemingly minor characters come to have major roles without a very satisfying explanation.  Basically it feels like a story that has has a lot removed (which it is).

The actual story line is pretty cool though. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The sounds of trump supporters violating our National Buildings in a failed Insurrection plot (2021).

[READ: December 2021] Small Blows Against Encroaching Totalitarianisms: Volume One

One year ago trump and his lackeys tried to overthrow the government.  Thankfully they failed.  But one year later not enough people have been punished.

Two years into the previous administration, McSweeney’s published two small books which railed against everything the Criminal in Chief stood for and had done.

Reading these books in 2021 after he had been soundly trounced in the election and with the possibility of jail time (for any of multitude of the illegal things that he did) is somewhat calming.   I think if I have read this in 2018 it would have been thoroughly dispiriting.  Because even though these essays provide hope, they are just full of recounting of the horrors that that [fill in the blank] and his crew of reprobates did.

Not even including the attempted insurrection and overthrow of our country.

It has been a year since the brainwashed masses tries to overthrow our government.  And still nothing has happened.  Our country is broken.  These essays don’t really fix it, but it’s nice to know you’re not alone in thinking this way. (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: IRIS-Verftet Online Music Festival 2020 (April 1, 2020).

In April 2020, Norway’s Verftet Music Festival streamed an online concert:

Get ready for Verftet Online Music Festival, Bergen’s largest virtual concert festival, where we can enjoy great music together. We want to turn despair and frustration into innovation and positivity, and invite everyone to a digital festival experience out of the ordinary – right home in your own living room.

I was completely unfamiliar with Iris, but she was the only other singer whose set was still streaming.  Because Aurora is a Norwegian singer in the same range, I feel like Iris’ voice sounds similar to hers.  But that’s a lazy comparison.

I suspect that she is a bit more poppy than this set lets on.  Like the Silja Sol set, it feels like a more “unplugged” kind of show.

It opens with “crawl for me” with she her singing to a guitar.  It’s quiet and powerful.  The rest of the band comes out for “mercy” which is “how i would like to to not show me any.”  There are washes of guitar s and keys, including a very cool, almost sinister keyboard sound in the end.

A cellist arrives for “kroppsspråk” which is a cover of a Lars Vaular song.  It’s kind of rapped–but in Iris’s more singing way.  It seems like the original is very dancey and she has dialed it back.

After a gentle piano solo version of “giving in” (her voice is lovely in the spare setting), she played “from inside a car,” my favorite song of the set which  has a breathy quality that I really like.

Then she throws in a Beatles cover.  “Here, There and Everywhere” is a beautiful gentle cover with just her voice and an acoustic guitar.

“hidden springs” stays with the acoustic sound, but she moved to a more techie processed vocal for “your mind, the universe.”  She has a few technical glitches for this song but when they are resolved her voice sounds very cool as it starts and then turns into a much bigger song.

As they prepare the next song she jokes that you shouldn’t eat crackers in bed, which proves to be the opening line of “hanging around you/crackers,” a sweet sounding breakup song.

Before the final song she mentions that all of her band is wearing band T-shirts: Iron Maiden, Metallica, Kiss and um, Reservoir Dogs(?).  It’s an amusing look for such a gentle show.

Before starting “romance is dead” she encourages everyone to visit my You Tube channel for recipes.  This set ending song is soft and lovely, just piano and strings and her beautiful voice.

[READ: July 15, 2021] “Road Trips”

When David was a kid, his father rallied the families on their street in Raleigh to plant maple trees.  For years they were tiny, pathetic things.  Now, decades later they are tall and majestic creating a canopy down the street where his father still lives.

He was home visiting his father who brought him to a block party.  At the party a teenager saw David’s father and groaned “Lou Sedaris, who invited her?”

“My son is gay,” the boy’s mother announced as if none of us had figured this out yet.  David was blown away that someone could casually announce this on the street where he grew up.  As a young homosexual David played all the games that the other closeted kids did.  Dated girls and claimed that sex before marriage was what dogs did–a true union of soles could take eight to ten years!

He kept his secret until he was twenty.  But he would have kept it longer had a couple not picked him up when he was hitchhiking.  It was 1 AM and he was picked up by a Cadillac with people his parents’ age in it. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE WEATHER STATION-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #237 (July 20, 2021).

For a band this soft, there are sure a lot of players.  I can’t even figure out what Philippe Melanson the second drummer (!) is doing for most of set.  It’s especially amusing since at least initially The Weather Station was just one person: (singer here) Tamara Lindeman.

However, it’s the setting of the Home Concert that is so magical.

There’s a desk and a band playing songs filled with nature’s imagery somewhere in the woods of Mulmur in Southern Ontario, Canada.  …. The songs for this Tiny Desk (home) concert are filled with imagery of nature and our relationship with our planet.

I like that they are really spread far apart–that the camera has to pan far left and right to catch everyone (although, really for most of the set it’s guitarist Christine Bougie and saxophone/ clarinet player Karen Ng who are off screen.

If Melanson is relatively quiet, full on drummer Kieran Adams is one of the loudest players here.  In songs like “Robber” there’s almost nothing but drums (the rest of the music lays a bed on which the drums seem to skitter around).  In fairness, Melanson does get to wail a lot of “Robber” as well, which is easily the most fun track here.

“Tried to Tell You” has a real 70s soft-rock vibe.  It’s amusing, for instance, to watch keyboardist Johnny Spence as his hands literally don’t move almost the whole time that the camera is on him.  I like the way the quiet guitar and clarinet bounce back and forth off of each other in this song.

The keyboard melody is much more prominent for “Parking Lot.”  As with most of the song, the pulsing bass from Ben Whiteley is what really grounds the song.

With images of a blood-red sunset in the song “Atlantic” and the lines “Thinking I should get all this dying off of my mind / I should really know better than to read the headlines / Does it matter if I see it? / No, really, can I not just cover my eyes?,” Tamara writes about her passion for the earth and its future, but the tunes are calming and thoughtful, not doctrines or lectures.

“Atlantic” has a nice pulsing feel with squiggly guitar lines.  The spareness of these songs is really in evidence when you see that Bougie is often barely playing before jumping into a big flourish of notes

“Robber” is a six minute jazzy piece that slowly builds to some wild fun.  The build up is spectacular and once again Bougie’s guitar work is terrific.

[READ: July 15, 2021] Oh, Boris!

My library gets all kinds of strange books–books that don’t really seem like they belong in a University library.  But I believe they like to make sure they cover all of the bases–just in case.

Which explains why we have a book like this.  A 6″x6″ square book that’s 64 pages and looks like it was conceived, written and published in a week.

I found this book while searching through old books to see if they could be cataloged (it actually fell out of the pile because it was so small).  Perhaps the only really interesting thing about this is that it was written in 2016, a full three years before Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.  He had just been named Secretary of State (really!) around the publication of this book.

For those of us in the States who wondered how the Brits created such a buffoon, it’s worth noting that he was born in the United States (guess they should also have a law that a PM must be born in the country). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAHANI TEAVE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #228 (June 24, 2021).

Who knew there was a thriving musical scene on Easter Island?  But what I found more interesting in this Tiny Desk (Home) Concert was the ecological work that was done there.  When Teave gives a tour of the building, it is inspired–such great use of six years of recycled resources wit ha technique called “Earthship Biotecture”

Tiny Desk (home) concerts have visited many faraway places – from Lang Lang in China to Mdou Moctar in Niger – but none as far-flung as Easter Island. The 63-square-mile isle, called Rapa Nui by its residents, is located some 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile.

And yes, classical music thrives there – thanks largely to Mahani Teave, the pianist who offers this engaging performance from the music school she co-founded. As a child, Teave saw the first piano brought to the island in 1992 and dreamed of becoming a world-class concert pianist. It was a dream she fulfilled, but just as she was poised to launch her international career, an even stronger dream tugged at her heart.

In 2014, she broke ground on the Toki School of Music, aiming to teach traditional and classical music to Easter Island’s children. Constructed from over 2,500 used tires and 60,000 cans and bottles, the building, with its cisterns and solar power, is a testament to Teave’s vision for sustainability.

Teave plays three pieces.

She begins with a sparkling Allemande by Handel,

George Frideric Handel: “Suite No. 5 in E, II. Allemande” is a beautiful piece that really shows off her musical chops.

followed by a beguiling performance of a Chopin Nocturne.

This sounds lovely and serene.  It’s amazing to watch her long fingers play these keys so elegantly.  This song is much longer than the first piece and goes through several modes of intensity.

Teave closes with an ancestral song, featuring sisters Eva and Tama Tucki Dreyer. The story follows Rapa Nui’s first king, whose reign coincided with a natural disaster. It’s a metaphor, Teave says, for our planet, to “leave this place a little bit better than how we found it.” With her fine playing and her music school, Teave has done exactly that.

The girls sing the oprning of “I hē a Hotumatu’a e hura nei” while Teave plays.  After a verse, they move off camera and Teave plays a lengthy instrumental that begins mildly but really shows off some impressive fingerwork by the end.   The girls come back in to end the song.

[READ: July 10, 2021] “Featherweight”

This was the first story I’ve read by HolyWhiteMountain.  I really enjoyed the intimate look at Native families.  And HolyWhiteMountain’s writing style was really engaging.  But eventually, the story got bogged down in reveling in sex and it got a little boring.

He says that he had been off the res for about a year when he first met his love.  They were both going to school at U. Clarkson and he felt that he had already been acculturated.  He was happy with this acculturation because he wanted to know what the rest of America was all about.  He lists all of the white women he dated including Barbara who called him her “favorite Indian toy.”  He called her Barbie, they had “two- or three- or four-times-in-a-night nights”  But they broke up when she said “I always wanted to be Native American.”

But it was tough dating Native American girls because his Granma and aunts always said she could be so-and-so’s daughter.  But they also didn’t want any half-breed babies.

A lot of indians belong to the Church of Latter-Day Eugenicists… Brown-skin supremacists. That’s just how they are.

Then he found a woman–Allie–from a “tribe his tribe used to kill,” so it was okay to get her number.   Allie was a pretty interesting character.  She was smart and academic–writing papers about racism in America and giving presentations about her work. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JACK INGRAM, MIRANDA LAMBERT, JON RANDALL: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #226 (June 21, 2021).

The sight of three people with guitars wearing cowboy hats meant that I wouldn’t enjoy this set.  (At least it was only ten minutes).

Having said that, while there’s something I instinctively dislike about Lambert (she always looks really smug and/or pissed off), her voice is quite nice and not terribly twangy.

I think I’ve heard of Jack Ingram, but possibly not Jon Randall.

After collaborating on “Tin Man” from Lambert’s 2016 record The Weight Of These Wings … the artists spent five days last November recording in Marfa, Texas. In this (home) concert, the trio turns its quarantine album, The Marfa Tapes, into a quarantine Tiny Desk set, complete with a well-appointed desk in the corner of the frame.

They play three mid-tempo songs with pretty guitars, pretty melodies and nice harmonies.

They start with “Waxahachie.”  But in the way that hearing an okay cover of a song makes you want to hear the original, this song made me want to listen to the band Waxahatchee instead.

“Tin Man” (“Our award-winning song,” Lambert jokes. The track won the 2018 Academy of Country Music Award for song of the year) is a fine song. I’m not sure what led it to winning an award, though.

At its conclusion, Lambert lets out a laugh and the trio exchange knowing glances before finishing the show with “In His Arms.”

“In His Arms” is one of Lambert’s favorites on the disc.  It has a pretty guitar melody from Jon Randall (I guess I’m supposed to know which guy was which since they were never introduced).  There’s some really nice harmonies on this song as well.

[READ: June 28, 2021] The Herd

Every once in a while I get to see some new books that come into work.  I saw this one and was intrigued by it.  I hadn’t heard of Bartz, but the book sounded exciting.

Then by the time I got around to reading it, I forgot that it was a thriller, and I found myself getting really invested in the characters.  The story was such a delightful book of female empowerment that I was really surprised when it turned into a mystery.

The story is about four women.  Eleanor Walsh is CEO of The Herd, an elite, women-only coworking space.  After making her fortune with a women-friendly cosmetic line, she established The HERd [capitalization intended] as a place where women could work side by side, bouncing ideas off of each other.  She became a feminist icon.  And was accordingly hated by insecure men–including an online group called the Anti-herd.

Mikki Danziger is a college friend of Eleanor’s.  She is an artist, and she creates most of the visuals for The Herd.  She’s a little annoyed that she (one of Eleanor’s oldest and best friends) isn’t on the payroll–Eleanor keeps her as an independent contractor.  But aside from that she is thrilled to share in Eleanor’s success.

As is Hana Bradley.  Hana is the third of the above trio of women who all went to Harvard together.  They have been best friends since college.  Hana is a PR specialist and she has managed to keep Eleanor out of trouble as she works to expand her business.  She is also a n independent contractor.

Hana’s younger sister Katie is also a friend of the others.  They initially took her in as a little sister.  But when Hana went to the West Coast for grad school. Katie filled in the gap and they embraced her as an equal. (more…)

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