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Archive for the ‘Short Books’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: C. TANGANA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #194 (April 20, 2021).

It’s surreal seeing this many people standing so close to each other singing and having a good time. It’s also an incredible reminder of how good it sounds when a lot of people sing together.

The blurb is surprisingly lax about explaining who C. Tangana is–but I gather he must be pretty huge.

From Mexican Regional to Spanish flamenco, C. Tangana is simultaneously coming home and reaching out to bridge Latin music boundaries. He’s building a community of cross-cultural collaboration, rooted in a unifying love of language and tradition, making it clear he’s intent on giving everyone a seat at the table.

The blurb does say that this gathering is Tangana’s extended family (the clinks of salud certainly suggest familia).

After more than 13 months amid a global pandemic, C. Tangana’s extended family basking in the warmth of sobremesa with easy smiles and effortless baile looks otherworldly. (Check his mama and tía vibing in the corner.)

They open the set with

This first live performance of his latest album, El Madrileño (including a global premiere of a fresh single, “Me Maten”) buzzes with communal energy, spotlighting talent from across Latin landscapes.

C. Tangana sings with Antonio Carmona, on “Me Maten” and the whole show gets off to a warm, relaxed feeling.  The backing singers (Lucia Fernada Carmona, Pilar Cerezo, Marina Carmona, África Heredia, María Rubio, Mariola Orellana, Patri Alfaro and Mari Estrada) do an amazing job of fleshing out this and the other songs.

The concert’s star-studded cast of Spanish collaborators, including long-time friends (producers Alizzz and Victor Martínez) and new contributors (rumba legend Kiko Veneno and flamenco-pop icon La Húngara), are each spotlighted for their contributions to the record.

Up next is C. Tangana and Kiko Veneno singing “Los Tontos.”  Kiko plays guitar and opens the song.  When everyone sings along (especially the la na na na) it sounds wonderul.  Then Alizzz, who has been playing the keys, sings the New Order line “Every time I see you falling…” into the vocoder and it fits perfectly.  Kiko ends the song with lovely guitar melodies.

Tangana switches positions for “Demasiadas Mujeres.”  He walks away from the table to a nearby string octet (Pablo Quintanilla, Paula Sanz, Franciso Palazón, Marina Arrufat, Paloma Cueto-Felgueroso, Adrián Vázquez, Irma Bau, Daniel Acebes).  Huberto Morales (I think) plays a martial drumbeat.  Tangana raps this track and it sounds pretty great with the strings–the octet is really into it–rocking and bopping around.  They play a pretty solo as Tanagana heads back to the table.

There’s lots of friendly chatter before “Tú Me Dejaste De Querer.”  Alizzz once again plays keys and sings into the vocoder to introduce this wonderfully catchy simple guitar riff.  I’m not sure who is playing guitar as there are so many guitarists: Victor Martínez, Juan Carmona and Niño De Elch who sings a verse.  He’s also joined by La Húngara whose female voice brings a wonderful change to this great set.

[READ: February 1, 2021] Hasta el Mismísimo

I saw Hasta el Mismísimo which Google translated as “Even the Very” at work.  It was in Spanish but the cover was cute and I was curious what it was about.  The translated title certainly didn’t help.  I flipped through the book and found that it was mostly cartoons.  So it seemed easy enough to translate.

The first text is a big thank you page, the final line of which is Thank you to @glorianietophoto who gave me the brilliant idea of drawing a talking pussy [Google translates that last word a bit more harshly when it is by itself].

So THAT’s what this book is about and what’s on the cover.

The second pages says A los Mismísimos del mundo, !Bienvenido!  which gets translated as “To the themselves of the world, welcome.”  Clearly “Mismísimo” is a hard word to translate inthis context.

The first cartoon shows the talking pussy with a cup full of blood painting on a cave wall: “It seems that a long time ago we painted in the caves, but really today there are still a lot of cavemen.  That’s why it’s easy to finish UP TO THE SAME [Hasta el Mismísimo]. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: STEADY HOLIDAY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert Meets SXSW: #187 (April 5, 2021).

Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it’s curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. Last year, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned this March as an online festival. We programmed a ‘stage’ of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and presented them on the final day of the festival. Now, we present to you Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.

Steady Holiday is the music of Dre Babinski. This video, filmed for our virtual SXSW showcase, finds her by the fireplace, a dog at her feet, an acoustic guitar in her arms. Steady Holiday is singing “Living Life,” a tune about a favorite topic of mine: the everyday, the mundane, and living in the moment. All the songs in this Tiny Desk (home) concert are from Steady Holiday’s 2021 album Take The Corners Gently, a top record of mine this year.

As “Living Life” opens, Dre Babinski sings the first verse solo, then you can hear other musicians join in and she reveals their secret location (with some very loud shutters).  Derek Howa plays a pretty solo on the keys and by the end of the song drummer Brijesh Pandya is “da da daing” along to really flesh out the song.

Surprise guests aren’t the only surprise.  After the first song, her printer (with googly eyes and an arm) prints out the next song on the setlist.

“Tangerine” is a bouncy song with some heavier ends and an interesting chord progression.  Howa’s keys sound almost like a toy piano (but louder) and add a chiming quality.  It’s wonderfully catchy.  I’m curious how much bigger the proper version of this song sounds. Howa adds some creepy spacey effects in the middle, so I imagine the recorded songs have more going on.

The printer spits out a piece of paper: Your band is overdressed.  Then she tells us why the guys are outside (it’s pretty funny).

Laughing while her dog grabs a chew toy, she performs the album’s opening track, “White Walls,” a song about self-reflection and how doing the same thing over and over (“painting white walls white”) won’t make life better.

This is a slow bouncy song with a really catchy chorus: “painting white walls white just to kill the time.”

Then she shutters out her band and

As her printer cues the last song, (oops, small spoiler), Steady Holiday takes us out on a lovely tune, Love Me When I Go To Sleep”:

It’s just Bea and her guitar as she delicately sings

“Fragile aren’t we, who would guess / Here today, tomorrow’s taking bets.” Her refrain amplifies that fragility with a reminder to appreciate the gift of life. “Love me when I go to sleep / Love me with no certainty / Love me when I go to sleep.”

Her voice is clear and lovely and the final song feels like a lullaby.

[READ: April 20, 2021] Joan & The Man

This book came in at work and something about it made me want to read it (the shortness helped).

So this is a self-published book (I think–it could use some editing) that we received as a gift (from the author?).  It is Rykaczewski’s fourth novel and it is a wonderfully weird mix of reality and nonsense.

Chapter One focuses on Joan as she tried on some clothes in a mall–she is buying bralettes–imposed propaganda to younger hip girls.  Then it pushes back as she and The Man head to their place–the World Revolt Art Gallery.  But more on that place after a brief excursion to the Riverbend Arts Market.

Joan & The Man are artists living in Florida.  She works in paint and he works in words.  They spend time at the RAM hoping to sell some works, but really it’s a sucker’s market.  They often head down with their dog Duke,  Duke is a nasty dog to everyone but The Man. Then there’s a weird moment where Duke winds up trading places with a movie star dog (to the terminal end of the movie star dog).  But losing Duke frees them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BUCK MEEK-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #185 (March 25, 2021).

Buck Meek is the guitarist for Big Thief.  I loved the first Big Thief album, but have found the newer ones to be a little too soft for my liking.

Initially I would have thought that Buck Meek would be a harder guitarist.  But I don’t really know that much about his contributions to the band, so it should probably come as no surprise that he writes folky songs.  Although even Bob Boilen seems a bit surprised.

The back of a van on a sunny day holding an acoustic guitar is a far cry from the usual setting where I’d see Buck Meek. More likely, I’d be in a dark club; Buck’s intense electric guitar and backing vocals are a part of what makes up my favorite rock band these days, Big Thief. But here, home is Buck’s Toyota Land Cruiser in Topanga Canyon, Calif.

Buck plays a pretty acoustic guitar and his voice is soft and gentle.  He reminds me a lot of Nick Drake.  He plays three songs from his 2021 album, Two Saviors.

“Pareidolia” is, as Buck Meek explains, “this human instinct to put symbol to stimulus.” He says, “I’ve been spending this time of solitude in the canyon here spending a lot of time observing the clouds and things” — in other words, finding shapes and objects in clouds and objects where none intended to exist and perhaps turning them into stories or songs or just letting your mind wander.

He follows that with the title track “Two Saviors” and “Halo Light,” two more songs that continue the soft and gentle style.

The Texas native has a tender voice with a bit of a yodel and a resplendent way with words. After three songs from Two Saviors, Buck treats us to a new song written in quarantine titled “The Undae Dunes,” once again drawing pictures in the sky, this time of rockets and perhaps an astronaut and a love, all from the back of a Cruiser.

He says that “The Undae Dunes,” is dedicated to the woman he loves who may be an astronaut.  She’s applying to the space program.  That’s pretty fascinating in and of itself.

I enjoyed this chill Tiny Desk/Van set.

[READ: April 10, 2021] Pobby and Dingan

I had never heard of Ben Rice or this story until one of his other stories was in a New Yorker issue from 2001.  I enjoyed that story and when I looked him up, I saw that he had written this story. And nothing else!

Which is weird because this story

was joint winner of the 2001 Somerset Maugham Award and shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. It has been made into the 2006 film Opal Dream, a 2010 play for children by Catherine Wheels Theatre Company and a 2012 play The Mysterious Vanishment Of Pobby & Dingan for Bristol theatre company Travelling Light.

Perhaps he decided to leave on a high note.

The book is a novella (about 90 easy-to-read pages) set in the opal mining community of Lightning Ridge in New South Wales.  That’s over 400 miles from the nearest big city (Brisbane).  So while I don’t know if it’s in “the bush,” it’s certainly not suburban.

Lightning Ridge is apparently the opal capital of Australia.  Much like during the American gold rush, prospectors flocked to Lighting Ridge to try to get rich.  This story is about one such family.  The dad, Rex, is the prospector, the mom has followed him here from England.  She clearly misses her old life (they refer to her as Pom and her mother as Granny Pom).

The narrator is Ashmol Williamson, a ten or so year old boy.  But the story is about his sister Kellyanne.

He thinks that his sister is a fruit loop.  Because she is old enough to be going to school but she refuses to admit that her imaginary friends Pobby and Dingan are imaginary.  She talks to them constantly.  It drives Ashmol mental. (more…)

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  SOUNDTRACK: PRIMUS-“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” (1996).

I’m not sure who the first band to cover this fantastic  Charlie Daniels Band song was, but Primus probably had the largest profile when they released it–even if they credited themselves as Festus Clamrod and The El Sobrante Twangers.

The song came with an excellent animated video.  Unfortunately, it was only ever available with the video.  It was eventually released on the vinyl reissue of Rhinoplasty, but you still can’t stream it on Spotify.

Which is a shame because it’s a real hoot.

Les Claypool excels at the story-song, so him narrating the story works perfectly (it’s just him and the drums for the verses).  Mark “Merv” haggard does a perfect young Johnny voice and Brian Kehoe is the great growly devil.

There’s some excellent fiddle work throughout the song (nothing deviating too much from the original,but played perfectly).  The violin is credited to Violina Mysteriosa (um thanks?).

It’s got some slide guitar (from Merv), but when the middle bridge come in it’s got lots of Primus-oddball guitar but the melody is spot on and Les’ voice has a delightful country twang to it.

When the band of demons joins in, the song goes bonkers with some weirdo guitar twanging from Ler and some noisy distorted bass from Les.  It sounds great, although I do miss the actual band of demons song which I’ve always thought totally kicked butt.

When Johnny starts playing, it’s all violin and Les stompin’ until the band joins in compete with a one-two bass and some slightly improv violin (in addition to the actual melody).

It’s a fun version of the song–not deviating too much from the original, but clearly Primus’ own.

[READ: November 3, 2020] The Big Break

I have really enjoyed everything that Mark Tatulli has written.  He’s a bit off my radar though, so I wasn’t aware of this full length graphic novel (or his previous one Short & Skinny).

This book is about two seventh grade boys, Andrew and Russ.  They have been friends for years and have done everything together.  Right now their project is to make a short film for The New Jersey Middle Grade Movie Viral Video Contest.

They have the perfect concept: The Jersey Devil!

Now, being from New Jersey, I found this concept to be wonderful.  I grew up hearing rumors about the Jersey Devil (even though I am hours from its haunting grounds).  Tatulli grew up in NJ as well, and he was obsessed with the devil (he lived closer to the PIne Barrens, I believe).

Their movie is a half-true / half-fictionalized account of their attempts to find the Jersey Devil.  It’s a kind of Blair Witch Project for middle schoolers.  Of course, they don’t have a Jersey Devil to film and their Play Doh monster is pretty lame.  But the rest of the film is really good.  They just need a good ending and they are on their way to becoming filmmakers–this will be their big break! (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK
: BILLIE EILISH-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #71 (August 26, 2020).

There’s so much to say about this Billie Eilish concert.

The biggest artist in the world has just done a Tiny Desk Concert!

Somehow it looks like she’s in the Tiny Desk studio!

Why does she only play two songs?

My daughter and I were supposed to see her back in March and she cancelled her tour about three nights before our show was supposed to happen.  What a bummer!  Especially because who knew if people would even want to see her again in a year (I’m pretty sure they will).  And would her stage show and song style change over that year?

The answer to that seems to be a dramatic yes.  Especially if these two songs are anything to go by.

For these two songs Billie embraces her torch song inner child.  She has a really lovely voice–delicate and emotional.

These songs are personal and lovely–there’s no “Duhs,” there’s no snark.  Compared to what I expected, they were kind of dull, actually.  Very pretty, but kind of dull.

These are the two new singles.  For “my future” Billie plays keyboards and her “real brother” Finneas plays guitar and sings some backing vocals.

On “everything i wanted” they switch places, with Finneas playing the pretty piano melody and providing a lot of nice backing vocals.

These two songs seem like they would go very nicely in the middle of a set of bangers for a few moments of cool down.  I hope when her show is rescheduled that she still brings all the excitement I;d heard her shows typically have.

As for the background…at first I thought it was just a cute idea.  But after six months, it was really comforting to have musicians look like they were playing the actual Tiny Desk.

[READ: August 28, 2020] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Wrecking Ball

This is the book that started my resurgence into reading Wimpy Kid books. I bought this one for my daughter.  This story had me laughing out loud once again.

This book has a lot to do with the Heffley’s house.  I don’t know if middle school kids can appreciate jokes about household maintenance, but as an adult I sure can.

The book opens with Greg’s mom wanting to do some cleaning up.  That means going through the closet in Greg’s room.  He tells us that he basically just throws things into it, so it’s like an archaeological dig.

He starts sifting through things and finds old toys and things to feel sentimental about which is pretty funny.  But with all this junk, he decided that rather than throw it out, he should make some money off of it and have a garage sale.  Cue: Family Frolic magazine and their “great” ideas for a garage sale.  [I love when he makes fun of this magazine].

Greg has labelled his tables in creative ways: “Great gifts for your grandkids”(stuff from his grandparents that he doesn’t want).  “Pre-written birthday cards” (with his name white-outed). Mystery socks (which is just a pile of junk for 50 cents) and Rare Items (like an invisibility lotion and a freckle remover (an eraser or soap I guess)). (more…)

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download (98)SOUNDTRACK
: TAME IMPALA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #69 (August 24, 2020).

download (97)With so many artists that I’ve never heard of doing really long Home Tiny Desk Concerts, why on earth did Tame Impala, one of the biggest bands around, only play for 16 minutes?

The studio version of Tame Impala is pretty simple on paper: All songs are written, produced and performed by Kevin Parker. For the live version, Parker is still front and center but surrounded by a host of musicians who interpret his recorded work almost to a tee.

For his Tiny Desk (Home) Concert or his “Tame Impala Soundsystem” Parker brought Jay Watson and Dom Simper together to

do this kind of electronic jam with heaps of equipment around us and we’ll recreate the songs with samplers and sequencers. I’ve wanted to do something like this for a while and thought Tiny Desk would be the opportunity to do it.

So the three of them are in a room with banks of keyboards and all kinds of buttons to push and knobs to twist.  There’s even a guitar (most notably on “Is It True”).

They play two songs from this year’s The Slow Rush.  They open with “Breathe Deeper.”  The most interesting part of the song comes at the end when Parker starts messing around with the mixer in front of him and he starts generating drum beats and manipulating the sound of the entire song.

“Is It True” is similarly dancey and Parker’s soaring falsetto rides over the top of the song nicely.

They end the set with “Patience” a fantastic 2019 single that for some reason, didn’t make it to The Slow Rush.  This is my favorite song of the three.  The melody is great and with the pace slowed a bit it makes the song a bit more memorable.

When I saw then live, their show felt massive.  This show sounds massive too, yet it’s all confined to a tiny room.

[READ: August 20, 2020] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway

I was looking forward to reading this book after really enjoying Book 12.  But I felt like this one wasn’t quote as laugh out loud funny as some of the others.  I find Greg’s family dynamic to be the funniest part of these books and his family doesn’t feature all that much in this one.

This book is all about snow.  And snow means snow days from school, sledding and snowball fights.

The book begins with some environmental concern about global warming (it is unseasonably hot that winter).  Despite the genuine concern for global warming, Greg’s take is always a little warped–he’s concerned that if the ice caps melt there could be a giant monster hiding in there.  (more…)

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download (92)SOUNDTRACK: VÍKINGUR ÓLAFSSON-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #63 (August 12, 2020).

download (91)Víkingur Ólafsson has a fantastic name.  But even better is his way of talking about the music he plays.  He adds so much detail and information about these songs that they really come to life.  I don’t often buy classical music anymore, but I absolutely want to get his new record of Rameau and Debussy pieces).

Ólafsson  has moved from strength to strength, releasing three terrific albums in a row (Philip Glass, J.S. Bach, Debussy-Rameau). And now that he has a young son, he wants to spend as much time with the family as possible these days.

So he tells us that he is leaving Berlin after living there for eight years, to return to Iceland with his wife and son.

He opens with a beautiful slow and stately piece from J.S. Bach (arr. Stradal): “Andante” (from Organ Sonata No. 4).  The piece runs about five minutes and after four slow lines, he throws in some amazing speed near the end.  he says that Bach is a good idea whether you are happy or sad–whatever it is, Bach makes things better.

Then Ólafsson offers a crash course in the fascinating music of Jean-Philippe Rameau and Claude Debussy, two French composers who lived nearly 200 years apart. Ólafsson connects the dots between the two seemingly strange bedfellows, illustrating his points with demonstrations on his Steinway.

Introducing Jean-Philippe Rameau, he says the music will go in a very different direction (than Bach).  Rameau was two years older than Bach and was dubbed the Newton of harmony.  He defined harmony and opened musical doors.

For Rameau: “Le rappel des oiseaux” (“The Recall of the Birds”) he says that he is playing two birds: one in his right hand and one in his left.  They are calling to each other–one imitating the other with perfect recall.  Then they take flight and we see the landscape under their wings.  When he plays it, it absolutely comes to life.

He says that was first piece of Rameau that he had ever heard.  The version he heard was by a Russian pianist who played it “more sad, more Russian.”  He plays it like that original version and you can hear the remarkable difference and how both versions work so well–although I like Ólafsson’s better.

Introducing Claude Debussy, he says it’a unusual pairing since they lived 200 years apart.  But Debussy’s idol was Rameau.  They were both musical outsiders, reinventing music, bringing life to a tired scene.

He plays a simple Debussy melody–harmony in space, a timeless beauty.  But Debussy did not like being considered an Impressionistic.  He was interested in the baroque, and there is a baroque structure to his music.

For Debussy’s: “The Snow is Dancing” (from Children’s Corner), he describes the driving rhythm that never stops as he explores harmonic inventions.  This song wa written for his four-year-old daughter as he was exploring the snow with her. You can absolutely hear the textures of the snow in the song.

Ólafsson has a penchant for making transcriptions, taking pieces written for other instruments and making them his own. He closes with “The Arts and the Hours,” his mesmerizing arrangement of a scene from Rameau’s final opera, which he plays as a farewell to his Berlin apartment.

Ólafsson says that he wrote his last masterpiece (an opera) a year before he died and he never heard it performed.  Indeed, it didn’t get a world premiere until 200 years after he died in 1960.  This is a transcription he made because he was jealous of all the conductors and orchestra players who got to play this music.   Rameau (arr. Ólafsson): “The Arts and the Hours” (from Les Boréades) is more loveliness from a composer who I feel may be quite under appreciated.

[READ: 2017 and August 15, 2020] Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway

I read this book when it came out in 2017 but never posted about it.  Then I recently realized that Kinney had written two more Wimpy Kid books that I hadn’t read (and two books written by Rowley, that I don’t know at all).  So it was time to get Wimpy again.

This book is a Christmas book and yet it’s not a typical Christmas story–no annoying relatives, no bad gifts, not even snow.  For The Heffleys have decided to go on holiday for Christmas.    Their Christmas planning was going very badly (a funny picture of the tree on its side with Manny playing with tinsel), so when they saw an ad for Isla de Corales, where Greg’s parents went on their honeymoon, they decided to get out of town for Christmas and celebrate in the warmth of the holidays.

Now, unlike shows where the place is far worse than the advertisement shows, Isla de Corales proves to be a wonderful paradise.  However, the place has now been divided into the mild side for families and the wild side for couples.  Obviously, the wild side is better but the Heffleys have no way to get there.

But before they arrive, they have to get there.  Their entire trip to the airport is one terrible moment after another–bad traffic, lost luggage, late shuttle.  Not to mention terrible lines and a hilarious pile of confusion at the security line–I love that it’s not Greg’s fault that things went so badly but the Heffleys had to pay for it anyway.  And of course Manny is a nightmare. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BEN GIBBARD-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #5 (April 4, 2020)

I feel like Ben Gibbard released the first new quarantine song.

On March 26 he released “Life in Quarantine,” and it’s the first song he plays in this Home Concert: “Hello, this is Ben Gibbard, welcome to Tiny Desk, Seattle style.”

Some of the other Home Tiny Desk Concerts were uplifting and lighthearted, but Ben’s mood is pretty down.  He lives in Seattle where things were very bad first.

And with that, the heavy-hearted Death Cab for Cutie frontman performs his newly written song from America’s first coronavirus hotspot, Seattle. The song is called “Life in Quarantine,” and it’s not only portrait of his city’s current state; it’s a gift to that city. Ben is donating money from streaming and purchases to Aurora Commons, a self-described “welcoming space for our unhoused neighbors.”

It’s a pretty song, but very sad (as you might imagine).  And Ben is not planning to cheer us up for the rest of the show.

And as if there weren’t enough sadness, Ben performs an homage to songwriter and musician Adam Schlesinger of the band Fountains of Wayne, who passed away on April 1 from complications due to COVID-19. Ben was a long admirer of Adam’s music and sings us one of his favorite Fountains of Wayne songs, as well as a song Ben wrote for The Monkees’ Good Times album, a record that Adam produced.

“Me & Magdalena” (The Monkees song) is slow.  It’s similar to The Monkees’ version, although Ben’s delivery makes the song sound even sadder.

He talks about Fountains of Wayne and how he and Chris Walla took a road trip San Francisco and listened to the debut FoW record the whole way down and back.  His favorite song was “She’s Got a Problem.”  Even though I think of FoW as being poppy and cheerful, this song, in keeping with the mood, is not.

I really like Death Cab for Cutie and Ben Gibbard, but this is one show I won’t be listening to again, it’s just too much of a downer.

[READ: April 10, 2020] Black Canary: Ignite

I believe S. brought this home because Meg Cabot wrote it.  I haven’t read any of Cabot’s books, but S. is a fan. This is Cabot’s first graphic novel (it somehow seems odd that it’s a DC book).  I don;t know if Black Canary is a familiar character (I’ve not heard of her, but then I’m not much of  DC fan).

This book is part of DC’s Zoom imprint which means its written for younger kids (which also means I’ll like it more than standard DC fare).

Dinah is the daughter of Detective Lance.  She is thirteen and is in a band.  She wants to try out for the Gotham City Junior Police Academy (during Career Week).  Both of these things make her father angry.  She believes its because she’s a girl, but he says that Gotham is just not a safe place to live. [So why not move?].

The Joker has escaped [again].  One thing I dislike about DC is that it seems that everything is about The joker and Arkham Asylum, must have no security at all. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG-“I Think We’re Alone Now” (2020).

This quarantine has already brought out a ton of creative work from musicians.  If not new items, exactly, then certainly a lot of home concerts.  And also a lot of cover songs.

Billie Joe Armstrong released the first cover that I heard about that was specifically quarantine themed (even if jokingly).

It includes a homemade video (of what one might do at home with a lot of time on your hands).

So, yes it’s a cover of the song by Tommy James and the Shondells.  It’s about 2 minutes long and it’s terrific.

A simple. formulaic Green Day pop punk take on a simple, formulaic pop song.  It’s instantly recognizable as Billie Joe.  He recorded the song in his bedroom.  I feel like it sounds like it’s not the full band (the drums are really simple and the bass isn’t as prominent as usual).  But it’s a really short poppy song, so the spareness is understandable.

Whatever the case, it’s a fun cover and one of the, by now, dozens of fun things musicians have done to keep busy.

[READ: March 20, 2020] Comics Squad: Detention!

I really enjoyed the first two Comics Squad books and I was delighted when T. got this third one.  I wanted to read it when she brought it home, but I forgot all about it until I saw it the other day.

And what a better time to read a book about detention than during a quarantine.

Like the first collection, this one is edited by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) and Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady).

This book has comics from Krosoczka, George O’Connor (the Olympians series), Victoria Jamieson (Rollergirl), Ben Hatke (many many great books), Rafael Rosado & Jorge Aguirre, Lark Pien, Matt Phelan and the Holm siblings.

Like the previous book, the Holms and Krosoczka sprinkle the book with comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady. Like that Babymouse is in detention and Lunch Lady is going to slide her some cookies (no cupcakes?). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: IGOR LEVIT-Tiny Desk Concert #914 (November 22, 2019).

Igor Levit is a 32 year-old Russian-born pianist.  I really don’t know anything about him, although the blurb implies that he plays Beethoven and little else.  It says that he

has been playing the German composer’s music for half his life. He recently released a box set of all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas and once again he’ll be performing complete cycles of the sonatas in various cities to mark the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020.

Most of us know many Beethoven pieces whether we realize it or not.  And, of course most of us know them by their “nickname” rather than their full name.  So when you see “Piano Sonata No. 14 ‘Moonlight,’ I. Adagio sostenuto” it’s easy to forget that that means “Moonlight Sonata,” the beautiful piece that is familiar with the very first notes.

Levit’s “Moonlight” emphasized the mesmerizing qualities in the music, with its oscillating pulse, smoldering low end and tolling bells.

After saying that “Moonlight” seemed like a good beginning to a Tiny Desk, he says he’s about to disrupt the situation as much and as hard as he can with anther sonata–this one a little bit earlier.  This one has no nickname, no title, no marketing gag, nothing.  Just G major sonata (officially “Piano Sonata No. 10, II. Andante”).

Levit says that this it is one of the funniest, wittiest pieces that Beethoven ever wrote. And…wait til the end.

The second piece proved Beethoven wasn’t always the grumpy guy he’s made out to be. His sly sense of humor percolates through the set of variations in a jaunty march rhythm, punctuated with a final, ironic, thundering chord.

After this, he returns to the familiar with “Bagatelle in A minor, ‘Fur Elise'”  Everyone knows ‘Fur Elise’ from the moment it starts.  Levit even jokes about playing it:

Sure, it’s a “total eye-roller,” Levit admits, but he also describes it as “one of the most beautiful treasures in the piano literature.”

He says people argue whether it was Beethoven’s piece–he thinks it is.

His playing is beautiful–I love that you can hear everything so distinctly.  He makes the familiar songs sound vibrant and alive.  And the unfamiliar piece (while not rolling-in-the-aisles funny or anything like that) does have little moments that will induce a smile.  He is also quite subtle in “Für Elise”–not emphasizing the most familiar parts.

Although many people have performed Beethoven over the years, I would absolutely look for his name if I wanted to hear a great performance.

 [READ: August 2019] American Housewife

This book had been sitting around our house for a few years.  I feel like I saw the cover of the woman on the toilet doing her nails every time I went into the spare room.  Then a TV show came out called American Housewife.  I knew that Sarah Dunn, the creator of the show, had written novels, but I had forgotten her name.  So I assumed that this book was the basis for the show.  Whatever the case, this book has nothing to do with the TV show.

This book is a collection of very short pieces and somewhat longer pieces.

Generally speaking, I found the shorter pieces a lot less funny as they seemed more like bullet point lists than actual jokes. (more…)

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