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Archive for the ‘Threats’ Category

SOUNDTRACKSAMPA THE GREAT-Tiny desk (Home) Concert #173 (February 23, 2021).

I thought that Sampa was actually Sammus, the indie rapper named after the character in Metroid.  So I was a little bummed to find out I had the wrong Sam… rapper.  But I quickly came over to Sampa’s style.

Sampa Tembo is better known as Sampa The Great, an understated title. In her Tiny Desk (home) concert, the poet, rapper and singer-songwriter delivers evidence that it’s more like Sampa the Greatest.  Initially raised in Botswana, Sampa moved to Australia as a young adult and established herself in Sydney’s hip-hop scene. There, she released two mixtapes, 2015’s The Great Mixtape and 2017’s award-winning Birds and the BEE9, all the while generating buzz. She had been based in Melbourne for the last four years, but the next chapter of her musical journey will find her at home in Zambia.

She plays four tracks and her live band is really solid.  She opens with “Rhymes To The East” which features a nice guitar riff by Samuel Masta.  I like the way the backing singers (l-r: Joy Tusankine Namwila, Mwanje Tembo, Tio Nason) sing the end of the rapped lines.

When Sampa really starts flowing her voice is great–a rough gravelly cadence with a Southern African/Australian accent.  It’s especially cool when she introduces the third verse with a snarl

Rhymes beast mother fucker
Tembo from the east put the beast in a trucker
Timbuktu, as I question all the loyalty
Build a big wall when you stole all of the royalties

The end of the song is really catchy, too.

The next three are from her 2019 album The Return.

“Mwana” opens with a drum solo Kasonde “Tek1” Sunkutu.  The song is mostly sung by the backing singers.  Then Sampa starts her flow.  Musically this song is much more spare with gentle keyboards Lazarus “Lalo” Zulu playing around the drums.

As she introduces the band, they jam, with some funky bass from Mapalo “Mapskeys” Mapalo which leads into an improv  that sounds like an island fun.

“Freedom” is up next.

Sampa Tembo is in Lusaka, Zambia, her landlocked African home country.  [She says] “Freedom is what we feel when we perform. And freedom is what the world is in need of right now. In this pandemic it feels like we all need a sense of freedom.”

“Freedom” features some terrific backing vocals. The end has a rocking jam as the singers all give up whooos and Masta plays a ripping solo.

When the camera is in full frame you can see that Sampa’s dress has a really long train which covers almost the entire floor (no wonder she sits through the whole set).

The set ends with “Final Form,” my favorite song of the set.  It’s got a big, heavy noisy riff with thumping bass and wailing guitars.  Her delivery is raw and raspy and really affecting.

The end is particularly cool as the band rocks out punctuating along and singing “Black power!” “Louder!” “Black power!”

Sampa is pretty great, indeed.

[READ: April 12, 2021] Parable of the Talents [2032]

Parable of the Sower ended on a vaguely optimistic note:  Lauren felt that they were ready to set up Acorn, the home of her Earthseed community.  Bankole thought there was no chance it would work.  But this is Lauren’s story, so we’ll assume that the story is tipped in her favor somewhat.

Plus, there’s a sequel, so things must work out reasonably well, right?

Well, surprise!

Parable of the Talents opens up with the news that Lauren is dead.

She is mostly called Olamina during this book because Bankole “doesn’t like my first name, so he ignores it.  That’s fair.  I didn’t like his first name either. It’s Taylor, by the way and I ignore it” (122).

This book is narrated by Olamina and Bankole’s child–unspecified gender and age in the Prologue, although by the end of this week’s reading we can assume the writer is their daughter [Bankole wants her named Beryl and Olamina wants her named almost anything that isn’t Beryl–“such an old fashioned name” (122).  The narrator later says something about high school, so it must be around 2050.

The child shares Olamina’s diary entries, but her basic attitude is that she hates her mother and thinks well of her father and wishes she knew him.

The book opens with this narrator saying “they’ll make a god of her” and the continues with something surprising about that

I think that would please her, if she could know about it.  In spite of all her protests and denials she’s always needed devoted, obedient follower–disciples–who would listen to her and believe everything she told them.  and she needed large events to manipulate.  All gods seem to need these things.  (7)

I never got the sense that Lauren wanted to be a god.  But maybe Olamina does.

She also tells us that Lauren’s middle name “Oya” is the name of a Nigerian Orisha–goddess f the Yoruba people (goddes of the wind, fire, and death, more bringers of great change (50).

Butler wrote this book five years after the Sower.  As I read Talent, I wondered what the intent of this story was. Had she planned all along to have a follower (child or otherwise) criticize Earthseed?  Had five years of thinking about Earthseed made her question the validity of Lauren’s ideas?  I don’t know anything about Butler, about whether she “agreed” with Lauren’s ideas or not.  I don’t have anything besides textual evidence to know how she felt about religion in general.  So was this book a commentary on her own ideas/ideals from five years earlier?  Or is this just interesting storytelling by having a new protagonist dispute the doctrine of the previous protagonist.  Especially if the bulk of this book is made up of Olamina’s diary entries (just like the first book was).

That’s right, even though the book is set after Olamina has died, the book so far is primarily her own diary entries from 2032, By the end of 2032, she is pregnant with, presumably, the person who is narrating this book and criticizing Olamina’s ideas. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKKeiyaA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #168 (February 11, 2021).

I had not heard of KeiyaA (and have no idea how to say her name), but i was quite stuck by this performance.

KeiyaA is a new performer, and her debut album

Forever, Ya Girl, appeared last year with kismet timing, unveiling her as a fully formed star. The 2020 release is a meditation on the thin line between solitude and loneliness, one that KeiyaA traces and teeters on while defining her Black womanhood.

The set opens with “Do Yourself a Favor.”  For this track KeiyaA sits behind the keyboard a while 13th Law plays a slow funky bass line plays accompanied by finger snaps and backing vocals from the amazingly named Nelson Bandela.

KeiyaA comes out front for the rest of the tracks.

Cornrows braided back with the precision of an architect. Stiletto nails commanding a sampling machine. Gold-glinted lids to match her light-up Beads Byaree earrings. With every move, KeiyaA shines so bright, it’s impossible to look away. And while your eyes are fixated on her person, the music KeiyaA conjures inside Brooklyn’s Electric Garden is what leaves you completely spellbound.

On “Hvnli,” Nelson Bandela plays keys behind a new slow funky bass line.  Keenyn Omari played guitar on the first song but he plays saxophone on this one.  It starts with soft bursts and then he really starts wailing.  With the sax and the syncopated drums from Buz “Hvnli” sounds like a spare jazz song.  She sings:

Gone for so long I prefer to spend time in my pain, hey / Gone for so long I can barely recall the last my phone rang,” she sings on “Hvnli.”

Her album

is a meditation on the thin line between solitude and loneliness, one that KeiyaA traces and teeters on while defining her Black womanhood. Whether it’s through jazzy woodwinds, heavy synths or prickly staccato, the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shares waves of anguish, depletion, love and elation in a swirling stream of consciousness.

She says that “Most of the work that has carried me has been the writing of Black women Jayne Cortez and Ntozake Shange [she holds up their books] who both speak unabashedly of the plight and joys and general experiences of the Black femme woman.  And those writings are paramount in my work.”

She opens “Finesse Without a Trace” with a wobbly sample and The 13th Law plays some bass chords and splashy drums.  The sample turns into some quotes while Omari plays some wild distorted flute.

The song ends with an improvised flute solo which KeiyaA accompanies with samples and some oohing.  The song slowly morphs into “Rectifiya” a funky piece with response vocals on the chorus.

She ends the whole set with the sampled quote from Nina Simone.

“Everybody is half-dead. Everybody avoids everybody. All over the place…in most situations, most of the time. I know I’m one of those everybodys. And to me it is terrible. And so all I’m trying to do, all the time, is just to open people up so they can feel themselves and let themselves be open to somebody else. That is all. That’s it.”

Apparently the album sounds very different than this Tiny Desk: (The “album version of these tracks boast much of KeiyaA’s own production, affirmations and layered vocals in chorus”).  Perhaps I’m better off just enjoying this and not looking further.

[READ: April 5, 2021] Parable of the Sower [end]

The end of the book provides something of a skeptical feeling of hope for our travelers.   I read in the Foreword that Earthseed was meant to be a trilogy; however, Butler only finished a sequel (and an unrelated novel) before she died.  The Foreword (by N.K. Jemisin also gives a spoiler to Parable of the Talents–uncool!  Even if the books are over twenty years old.

By the way, Jemisin sounds pretty interesting.  Anyone read her?

To me, it is astonishing how many big questions go unanswered in the book.

I had mentioned wondering about the Mars mission and there’s no mention of that again.  We never find out anything about any state east of Central California and we never find out What Happened.  Obviously that information is irrelevant for the characters–they just have to move on–but it’s frustrating not to have even a hint.  [I accept that it wasn’t relevant to Butler, but I’m still curious].  We never hear anything about the community that the corporation bought, either–although there is a kind of follow up with someone from a similar community telling about how badly it turned out for the people living there.

This section starts off with an earthquake.  Earthquakes are bad news in general but in this situation they are much worse because earthquakes tend to cause fires.  And we know who fires attract.  Zahra thinks that they might be able to scavenge for something they can use, but Lauren suspects, rightly, that it would be a dangerous thing to do–druggies and people more violent than they are would be there.  And this proves to be true.

In fact, it proves to be very smart to move on because they wind up putting some distance between themselves and the violent crowds that scavenged the burnt out houses. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO–Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #167 (February 10, 2021).

I bought Meshell Ndegeocello’s Plantation Lullabies back in 1993 on the strength of “If That’s Your Boyfriend,” a funky track that is still pretty great.  I didn’t realize she had been steadily putting out music ever since.

This Tiny Desk (home) concert … includes songs from throughout her career framed by her thoughts on the importance and influence of James Baldwin: “He deserves flowers every day. Most of all because he was willing to discuss things that were painful, hard to look at, hard to see, hard to accept.”

Ndegeocello is a bad-ass bass player with a serious funk edge.  And yet in this Tiny Desk Concert, she strips almost all of that away.

The first song comes from Lullabies, but in this version of “Step Into the Projects” she strips away all the music and turns the song into a spoken word piece (although she does keep the rhythm of the original).

For the next three songs she is accompanied by her longtime guitarist Chris Bruce.

“Price of the Ticket,” is from Ndegeocello’s recent project, Chapter & Verse: The Gospel of James Baldwin, “a 21st century ritual toolkit for justice” inspired by Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time.  In the track, it’s just Bruce’s gentle guitar and Meshell’s quiet voice.

“Forget My Name” from Comet Come To Me (2014) is stripped down from its original reggae arrangement and lays bare the haunting imagery in the lyrics.

She plays some spare bass, but musically it’s all about Bruce–the cool low riff and the pretty high melody.

“Fool of Me,” from her acclaimed album Bitter (1999), ends the set with just vocals and guitar.

Like the other songs, it is spare and beautiful, allowing you to really hear the words.  I love Meshell’s funk, but this is a beautiful set.

[READ: March 29, 2021] Parable of the Sower [2026-2027 (chapter 19)]

I have not read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and I don’t intend to.  But I feel like this book acts as a precursor to that one.  And that is something I did not in any way expect.

2026 opens in June, almost seven months after the previous entry.  I’m curious about the distance between entries.  It’s possible that Lauren has dozens and dozens of pages that just said, “today sucked” and we don’t need to see that.  But I am curious about the time jumps.

Is it a way for Butler to move us ahead quickly so that something that needed to take a few years to happen is given the time to do so?  I’m thinking about Mars a bit.  In two years a lot can happen with the space program.  Of course, the President was supposed to cancel the program.  So who knows what’s going on there.  Aside from basic passage of time, did we need to wait six months to see what came next?  I’m not sure.

In June Keith is back–bigger and more confident.  He’s not yet 14, but he’s very successful, bringing home money and gifts (but none for his father).  He has ingratiated himself into a gang by being the only literate one in the group:

They’re all older than me, but not one of them can read or write anything.  They stole all this great stuff and they couldn’t even use it.  Before I got there they even broke some of it because they couldn’t read the instructions. (105)

Lauren and Keith have a heart-to-heart–really their first ever.  He learns a bit about her and while he gains a little more respect he also tells her that she’d never survive out there–she doesn’t know enough.  He also tells her about these new crazies called Paints who paint their skin green or blue or yellow and eat fire and kill rich people.

Keith comes back on her birthday and gives her a present.  A month later he is dead–killed in a horrific and gruesome way.  He was clearly tortured and left to be found.  His death was a message for someone–a rival gang, probably.

But they don’t call the police:

cops liked to solve cases by “discovering” evidence against whomever they decided must be guilty.  Best to give them nothing.  They never helped when people called for help.  They came later and more often than not, made a bad situation worse. (114)

In October, a new component to the story crops up.

Kagimoto, Stamm, Frampton and Company (KSF) has taken over a nearby town called Olivar.  It is small and well to do.  The citizens voted to let their town be taken over–privatized.  They intend to set up energy resources in the community–solar, wind, desalinization.  They mean to own great industries in an area that people have given up on.

Kagimoto, Stamm Frampton: Japanese, German, Canadian.  When I was young, people said it would come to this. Well why shouldn’t other countries buy what’s left of us if we put it up for sale. (121)

This is another aspect of the story that confuses me.  Is it basically that Los Angeles has exploded and the rest of the country is okay?  There’s talk about work up north, but why?  What happened to the country that they/we would let L.A. collapse but nothing else.  Or maybe it’s the entire South West?  Nobody knows anything about the East Coast, apparently.   I’m hoping that they will get explained a bit later on.

Olivar was accepting applications to live there.  They were looking for educated people.  And here we learn that both of Lauren’s parents have PhDs [a commentary on the invisibility of Black scholars?].  Her stepmother thinks it’s a great idea to go to Olivar.  They would be guaranteed safety and security.  But her father is against it, calling it “half antebellum revival and half science fiction” (122).

Anyone KSF hired would have a hard time living on the salary offered. In not very much time, I think the new hires would be in debt to the company.  That’s an old company-town trick–get people into debt, hang on to them and work them harder.  Debt slavery. That might work in Christopher Bonner’s America. Labor laws, state and federal are not what they once were. (121)

Come November, the Garfields have been accepted at Olivar.  The Garfieds include Joanne, Lauren’s one time best friend (who misplaced Lauren’s trust by tattling to her father).  Joanne has been serious with Harry Balter.  But Harry is staying in Rebledo.  Lauren suggests they get married and then Harry can move in with them, but she says that Harry wants to get married and travel north.  He thinks they way Lauren’s father does about Olivar.

But the Garfields are still going: “conservative and sensible and mature and wrong” (128).

In November, Lauren’s father did not come home one night.  They spend days looking for him with no luck.  The search parties uncover all kinds of remains, some of which they think might be her father’s but which turn out not to be.

The search also reveals an aspect of Lauren’s hyperempathy that we didn’t know–sound doesn’t trigger it (she hears a man screaming), only sight does.

Five days alter they have a Sunday survive that turns more or less into a memorial.  Lauren speaks at he service and proves to be powerful preacher.  She speaks of God but presumably she means her own god–the earthseed god.  By mid-December they have a formal funeral–they accept that he would have found his way home by now.

Later, when KSF came for the Garfields, it was in an armored truck

The two movers were a black and a white, and I could see that Cory considered that hopeful.  Maybe Olivar wouldn’t be the white enclave that Dad had expected. (139)

All along Lauren has been romantically involved with Curtis.  People anticipated that she would get married an have a baby with him–something she strongly resisted.  Indeed, her plan all along was to leave Rebledo without him.  But now with Lauren’s father gone (he was the reason she hadn’t left yet–she didn’t want to hurt him), Curtis suggests that they both go.  He’s upset that she wanted to go without him, but she explains that she didn’t want to force him to make that choice.

Two days later, someone burned down the Payne/Parrish house; while that was going on. they robbed three of the other houses including Lauren’s.

I’ve been frightened at the phrases that Butler says that prove eerily prophetic to the last few years:

People are setting fires because they’re frustrated, angry, hopeless. They have no power to improve their lives, but they have the power to make others even more miserable.  And the only way to prove to yourself that you have power is to use it.  (143)

Interestingly, the drug that gave Lauren her hyperempathy–Paracetco–was initially a legitimate drug intended to help victims of Alzheimer’s disease.  Pyro was an accident–a homebrew on the East coast it made it was away across the country.

People on the fire drug get off on watching things burn.  Blaze, fuego, flash, sunfire.  The most popular name is pyro short for pyromania [I’m fascinated that she needed to spell that out as I feel that in 2021 (and much earlier) it was a common abbreviation].

As the year ends, the families try to make due with what they have left.

Then we enter 2027.  Once again it’s six months into the year.  And this is when things change dramatically.   Thieves drove a truck through their wall and set everything on fire.  Nearly everyone in the community was killed.  [I did wonder if it was worthwhile learning anyone’s names, and it was two people I didn’t think twice about who survived].  The description is a violent orgy of death, rape, fire and who knows what else.  It is brutally described.  Lauren escaped.  She had the forethought to run back in and put on clothe and shoes and grab her bug out bag.  No one else in her family had done so. She saw them n bare feet and pajamas and then she didn’t see them any more.  She managed to get outside and to hide until the next day,

She crept back into her community and went to her house which was being looted and stripped. She knew where there were some hiding places and she managed to get clothes for her family as well as money that was hidden in the ground.  She grabbed a gun and got out, looking like all the other miserable looters.

Lauren was sure she was alone.  Then out of the rubble came Harry Balter and Zahra Moss–the youngest wife of Richard Moss the polygamist.  Zahra’s baby was killed (brutally) and an attacker was about to (or had begun to) rape her when Harry saved her (and got beaten for his help).  Neither one had planned for anything like this and they are pretty hopeless.  Lauren decides that three is safer than one and invites them to go North with her.

Zahra’s backstory is interesting.  Richard bought her from her mother who was a drug addict and a prostitute.  Zahra has lived on the streets and she knows what’s what.  She takes them to Hanning Joss, the biggest secure store complex.  I’m fascinated to learn that there are are still megastores and that they have security allowing people to shop safely there–commerce always wins.

Then they do what everybody else does–they head North.  Lauren has decided to pass as a man.  She’s tall and muscular and can do so, so she cuts her hair short.  They encounter much danger and violence but manage to get relatively far north.  Harry is a trusting guy, trying to avoid violence in any way possible.  But Lauren (and Zahra) knows the reality of the situation–kill or be killed; steal or be stolen from.  And with Lauren’s hyperempathy, she can’t afford to let people around her suffer.  She winds up cutting a man’s throat to stop the hurting that he (and she) are feeling.  Harry is appalled at her.  So she finally admits to her hyperempathy assuming they’ll abandon her.  But they do not–three is better than two.

Zahra and Harry become a couple and have unprotected sex (what harm could come from that?)

Then the trio meet another family who seems to be tagging along after them.  Everyone is out for themselves, but Lauren takes pity on this mixed race couple with a baby.  She helps them out at the second Hanning Joss and a few days later, when Lauren saves their baby from a feral dog, they agree that five (or six) is better than three and two (or three).

The new people are Travis Charles Douglas, Gloria Natividad Douglas and six month old Dominic. They are going to Seattle where Travis’ aunt lives.  Travis is quite taken aback when he learns that Lauren is a woman–especially since she saved them, but he’s going to have to get over it.

All of this time, Earthseed has been running around in Lauren’s head, but it hasn’t really shown up.

Then in chapter 18, Lauren starts talking to them about Earthseed.  Travis is a (surprisingly) intelligent man–he knows about entropy.

Travis’s mother was a live in cook for a rich man.  But before that she had written for newspapers and magazines.  She taught Travis to read. The man she worked for had a library and she would sneak out one book at a  time–he didn’t want Travis touching his stuff.

Of course. Slaves did that two hundred years ago.  They sneaked around and educated themselves as best they could sometimes suffering whipping, sale or mutilation for their efforts. (218)

Natividad was a maid and the rich man let them marry:  The son of the cook marrying one of the maids. That was like something out of another era too.

They discuss her poems–Earthseed.  Travis pushes back against her ideas, although never in an aggressive way.

She argues that here is no pore pervasive power than change.  Travis says that nobody is going to worship change.  Lauren says she hopes not

This excerpt from God is Change summarizes this discussion nicely:

“I was looking for God. I didn’t know whether there was a god to find, but I wanted to know. God would have to be a power that could not be defied by anyone or anything.”
“Change.”
“Change, yes.”
“But it’s not a god. It’s not a person or an intelligence or even a thing. It’s just … I don’t know. An idea.”
“It’s a truth. Change is ongoing. Everything changes in some way— size, position, composition, frequency, velocity, thinking, whatever. Every living thing, every bit of matter, all the energy in the universe changes in some way.”
“Sort of like saying God is the second law of thermodynamics?”
“That’s an aspect of God. There are all kinds of changes in the universe.”
“But why personify change by calling it God? Since change is just an idea, why not call it that? Just say change is important.”
“Because after a while, it won’t be important. People forget ideas. They’re more likely to remember God— especially when they’re scared or desperate.”
“Your stuff isn’t very comforting.”
“It is after a while. I’m still growing into it myself. God isn’t good or evil, doesn’t favor you or hate you, and yet God is better partnered than fought.”
“Your God doesn’t care about you at all.”
“All the more reason to care about myself and others. All the more reason to create Earthseed communities and shape God together. ‘God is Trickster, Teacher, Chaos, Clay.’ We decide which aspect we embrace— and how to deal with the others.”
“But nobody’s going to worship change.”
“I hope not.  Earthseed deals with ongoing reality, not with supernatural authority figures. Worship is no good without action. With action, it’s only useful if it steadies you, focuses your efforts, eases your mind.”
“Praying makes people feel better even when there’s no action they can take. I used to think that was all God was good for.”
“That isn’t what God is for, but there are times when that’s what prayer is for. And there are times when that’s what these verses are for. God is Change, and in the end, God prevails. But there’s hope in understanding the nature of God— not punishing or jealous, but infinitely malleable. There’s comfort in realizing that everyone and everything yields to God. There’s power in knowing that God can be focused, diverted, shaped by anyone at all. But there’s no power in having strength and brains, and yet waiting for God to fix things for you. Best to understand that and return the effort: Shape God.”

Lauren thinks he might join her movement.  Zahra is already on board.

She imagines finding and isolated place on the coast and making a deal with the owners–if there were more of them and they were better armed, they could provide security as well as education.

This fantasy, this plan gives the first sign of hope in this bleak world of Lauren’s.  It seems impossible.

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SOUNDTRACK: THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION-“Trouble Every Day” (1966).

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention would play all kinds of music over the course of their existence (even more genres added when Frank went solo).  It’s not even entirely clear how you’d describe their first album Freak Out!

This song opens up side three of the double album and is a bluesy song based around a four note (and one bent note) melody and includes harmonica solo.  The song runs almost 6 minutes long and doesn’t change much until after about five and a half the tempo increases dramatically until the song fades.

It was written after the Watts Riots.  It was an accurate description and also sadly prescient.

Right in the middle of the song Frank states:

Hey you know something people I’m not black But there’s a whole lots a times I wish I could say I’m not white

That seems like it was a pretty powerful thing to say (and something you’d be unlikely to hear on the radio) back in 1965.

The chorus sticks with us

So I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’
Hopin’ for the best
Even think I’ll go to prayin’
Every time I hear ’em sayin’
That there’s no way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day

He certainly predicted the state of 24 hour news

Well you can cool it, You can heat it…
Cause, baby, I don’t need it…

Take your TV tube and eat it
‘N all that phony stuff on sports
‘N all THOSE unconfirmed reports
You know I watched that rotten box
Until my head began to hurt
From checkin’ out the way
The newsmen say they get the dirt
Before the guys on channel so-and-so
And further they assert
That any show they’ll interrupt
To bring you news if it comes up
They say that if the place blows up
They’ll be the first to tell
Because the boys they got downtown
Are workin’ hard and doin’ swell,
And if anybody gets the news
Before it hits the street,
They say that no one blabs it faster
Their coverage can’t be beat

Things haven’t changed since this song was written

And it’s the same across the nation
Black & white discrimination
They’re yellin’ “You can’t understand me!”
And all the other crap they hand me
In the papers and TV
‘N all that mass stupidity
That seems to grow more every day
Each time you hear some nitwit say
He wants to go and do you in
Because the color of your skin
Just don’t appeal to him
(No matter if it’s black or white)
Because he’s out for blood tonight

Perhaps the theme verse for recent events

Don’t you know that this could start
On any street in any town
In any state if any clown
Decides that now’s the time to fight
For some ideal he thinks is right
And if a million more agree
There ain’t no great society
As it applies to you and me
Our country isn’t free
And the law refuses to see
If all that you can ever be
Is just a lousy janitor
Unless your uncle owns a store

It’s a shame this song still resonates.

[READ: March 22, 2021] Parable of the Sower [2024-2025]

I found Kindred to be an enjoyable (not exactly the right word, I know) novel.  I thought the premise was really cool and I thought the content was impactful and was conveyed really well.  It was a powerful story that did not shy away from brutality.

But it in no way prepared me for Parable of the Sower.

I didn’t know anything about this book at all before starting.  At first I thought it was neat that it was set in 2024 (hey that’s so close!)  And that, coincidentally, myself and my daughters are almost the same ages as the main character and her father (will this be our future?).

But then, holy crap, Butler doesn’t hold back.

The brutality of Kindred was based on reality.  It was horrible and, in retrospect, hard to believe that people could do such things.  The brutality of Sower, however, is all based on the future projection.  The book was written in 1993. Basically, she posits that in 30 years, America has become a rotting hellscape.  And while we haven’t reached quite the levels that she imagines, there are some pretty eerie accuracies.  I have to assume, given the natural of the elected politicians, that some things are going to get very very spookily prescient.

The book opens in 2024 with a quote from Earthseed.  We don’t know what that is yet, but by the end of this week’s read we’ll learn that Earthseed is a sort of manifesto written by the main character, Lauren Oya Olamina–I didn’t realize her name was given after the first quote from Earthseed until looking back on it.  Each chapter has another quote from Earthseed and then the story unfolds as a series of diary entries. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKRHEOSTATICS-3rd Annual Green Sprouts Music Week Show 6–all ages (Ultrasound Showbar, Toronto Ontario September 23 1995).

It has been a while since I’ve listened to a live Rheostatics show.  Darrin at Rheostatics Live has added a number of new shows in the last eight months.  On the last night of Green Sprouts Music Week, the band played two shows in one day. This first one is all ages, which I kind of think of as a children’s show, but really it means that people under 21 (or whatever the drinking age is) can get in too.

Sixth show of the annual Green Sprouts Music Week held at Ultrasound Showbar September 18-23 1995. This is the all ages afternoon show. Very solid fun show. Of note is Aliens sung by Julia Pietrus and her stuffed chicken followed by Joe Jackson’s I’m The Man sung by Don – actually this to me could be considered the genesis of his band Communism. A couple of nice acoustic in the crowd numbers as well. Near the end the band mentions they were commissioned to perform the GO7 but hadn’t as of yet written a single note for it which is pretty crazy seeing as it would be performed just a month later.

Dave says that at this show they have people aged 6-60.  A nice sober crowd–a daunting thing.  Martin says “after we play tonight they’re going to tear this place down.”  Tim: No.

Martin’s wearing sailor blue for the nautical song “Saskatchewan.”  It’s great to hear this.  There’s a line in the song about knowing the truth and when the song is over, Dave asks, “what is the truth?”  A prescient and profound young person says “I’m the truth.”

Tim tells everyone that this is his first week with picks taped to his stand.  Do you put them back or drop them? Dave says you fling them.  Tim does and is mocked–you throw like girl.  Tim: which isn’t a bad thing.

Then comes three solid versions of “All the Same Eyes.” “Four Little Songs and “Introducing Happiness.”

Dave then calls Julia Pietrus and her stuffed chicken Dale to the stage.  Dale has been to all of the shows.  Julia is going to sing “Aliens” in Polish.  Her mom made her translate it and she’s here tonight to sing it.  She’s also in a band called Ow, That’s My Head.

It’s amazing to hear her translate this song and hear how it works and doesn’t work at the same time.  But it’s really cool.  They they give her a Rheostatics single from 1980.

Then comes some “Old New Wave” as Don Kerr sings “I’m the Man” (it seems like he used to sing this with his old band).  It’s really fun.

That song was written by someone we’ll tell you who it was in the next song.  They play “Fan Letter to Michael Jackson” but shout JOE!  JACKSON! (no relation).  Dave starts shouting “One Step Beyond” and then sings the Tuesday night in the discotheque. I can’t dance what the heck, I’m an Uzbeck.

Dave: You kids okay out there?  I didn’t know it was gonna get so dark and loud and weird but I think you’re loving it.

People start whistling “You are Very Star” which is pretty cool.

Up next is the “Digital Beach / Earth segue and then they announce they’ll do a few acoustic songs in the audience.

They are in the crowd for a spirited run through of “Take Me in Your Hand” and “Peas & Rice.”

Dave says that they have been commissioned to write 40 minutes of music for the Group of 7 at the National Gallery next month.  But we haven’t written a minute of it, yet.

Martin asks him to tell the Neil Young story.  Dave says he went to see Neil Young at the Garden during the Ragged Glory days.  It really wasn’t very good.  They all had Marshall stacks and were trying to be the loudest band in rock.  These two folks behind me shouted “acoooooooustic” through the entire show–he never brought the acoustic out.
Martin: the loudest sound I have ever seen was at the first stadium concert I went to about three years ago for Rush.  It wasn’t Rush though, it was this guy behind me who was whistling so loud I couldn’t believe it.
Tim: Whistle like this?  [puts fingers in his mouth and can’t do it].
Dave: have you done that and tried to say “puck?”  Don: The title of the next BNL album is going to be Born on a Pirate Ship.  They all crack up.

Martin: We unplugged and we plugged it back in.  Replugged?

After a great “Sweet Rich Beautiful Mine,” Dave plugs the Green Sprouts Music Club–people who have written to us and we’ve written back.  We’ve met many bands.  Like The Inbreds, Farm Fresh and Local Rabbits (in the audience now, playing tonight at the Horseshoe).

They play a lovely version of Tim’s “All in a Row.”

Don: Are there any more Dave Bidini dolls?  Sold out!
Dave: When you pull the string, what does it say?
Can I let you off the corner?
I can’t break this 50.
I found a great thrift store.
Can you pick up my dry cleaning for me?

Martin brought art to sell but left them in the back–I declare them for sale.  A page from the lyrics from Saskatchewan and the other is a story book.  We were going to do Melville part 2 with corresponding songs.

We’ll do one more song and they’ll be available.  They end with a great “Fat.”  How fun to be done with a concert by 7:30.  But it was totally worth it to go at night as well because it’s a very different set.

[READ: February 5, 2021] Cleopatra in Space Book Six

Book five was dramatic and pretty intense.  Where do you go from there?

You start on Cada’Duun, the home of the Golden Lion, where a battle with the Xerx has left yet another one of their forces dead.  But our heroes are okay and Brian has made Cleo a new crown.

Her old one was an heirloom but it was destroyed.  Cleo us touched. They even got the ibis just right (they thought it was a snake). She asks if it does anything–Brian made it after all. Brian is annoyed to be figured out but he is pretty pleased to show of that the lower left side makes her invisible.

They are en route to Thonis, a remote, previously unpopulated planet where they have terraformed a small section to make it habitable.  They been bringing refugees from around the Nile galaxy.  Luckily, the right side of the crown is a universal translator (thanks Brian). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMINYU CRUSADERS-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #134/142 (January 12, 2021).

Minyo CrusadersGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The first band on the second night is Minyo Crusaders from Japan.

Min’yō folk music was originally sung by Japanese fishermen, coal miners and sumo wrestlers hundreds of years ago, and the Minyo Crusaders are on a mission to make these songs relevant to an international audience. For their performance, the Crusaders found a unique take for their desk: a “kotatsu,” which is a heated Japanese table traditionally used for gathering in the winter months.

The diversity of music melding together here is quite impressive.

They open with “Hohai Bushi” (The album credits the style of this song as “afro”).

It starts with high notes like a theremin then quietly jangly guitars.  Cumbia-sounding horns (sax and trumpet) and complicated percussion (shakers and cowbells) flesh out the song.  Once everybody is established, a groovy bassline underpins the whole thing.  The male singing starts singing and the female adds some nice high backing oohs with it. Sadly, band member names are not given so I can’t credit anyone.

When the song is in full swing the guitars play loud and the keys play a retro sound including a retro fuzzed out keyboard solo.  Toward the end, a bass line slowly builds and the drums add intensity as they sing “ho hai ho hai.”

The guitarist speaks between songs.  He says his English is very poor but he does a fine job.

The second song “Yasugi Bushi” (bolero) is much more chill.  The male singer sits aside and the female singer takes lead.  There’s some nice basslines that repeat although for this song it’s really the saxophone that takes the lead with a lot of soloing.

The guitarist says these songs are old work songs and festival songs: “Minyo is dead in Japan but they are trying to bring it back.”

They end with “Aizu Bandaisan” (latin).  This song is much more dancey.  Lots of Latin horns, groovy bass and congas.  The lyrics are in Japanese (of course) but there’s a fun part where it sounds like they are singing “soy soy.”  As the song jams toward the end, there is lots of whooping and yelping and a wild trumpet solo.

This is a super fun set.

[READ: January 14, 2021] The Inugami Curse

Seishi Yokomizo was a hugely prolific writer.  He created Japan’s most famous detective (comparable to Sherlock Holmes in scope), Kosuke Kindaichi, who featured in seventy-seven books!  The Inugami Curse is apparently one of the best known of the stories and has been adapted into film and TV.

There are only two of his novels translated into English, this one (translated by Yumiko Yamazaki) and The Honjin Murders (1946) (translated by Louise Heal Kawai).

This book was an absolutely fantastic, complicated mystery.  There were many twists and turns.  And the way the story was plotted was perfect.

Sahei Imugami was a wealthy man.  He was called the Silk King of Japan and his business provided work for many many people.  He was a local celebrity to be sure and even had a biography written about him.

Sahei never married, but he did have three daughters with three different women.  The book opens with a character list which is quite helpful.

DAUGHTERS: Matsuko; Takeko; Umeko
GRANDONS:     Kiyo;       Také;    Tomo

There are some husbands involved as well.

There is also Tamayo Nonomiya, the granddaughter of a married couple who took Sahei in when he was just starting out.  He thinks of them as family, so when Tamayo was orphaned, he took her in. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SPILLAGE VILLAGE-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #101 (October 23, 2020).

I never imagined that a video filmed in a church would have an explicit language warning at the beginning of it.  But such is Spillage Village.

The Atlanta collective consists of Dreamville records standouts J.I.D and EARTHGANG along with Jurdan Bryant, Hollywood JB, Benji and Tiny Desk alumnus Mereba. R&B star 6lack, also a member of the group, was unable to make it to the shoot due to travel restrictions.

There’s 12 people in the church (let’s hope they are all tested since they are not social distancing). And seven of them are rapper/singers.  The rest is a live band, and they are tight.  They sound great.  It’s amazing how much a live band can add to a rap concert.

Musically, “End of Daze” is very cool with funky bass from Benji and lots of grooving wah wah solos from the guitarist on the back.  The verses are rapped and everyone gets a turn.  What I especially liked was the diversity of voices and styles.

WowGr8 goes first.  He has a cool accent and delivery.  JID has a fantastic style–his voice is higher than the others and very distinctive.  Mereba has one of the best verses–referencing Nipsey Hustle’s murder.  Jurdan has the most conventional-sounding delivery.  Hollywood JB seems a but more lighthearted in his delivery.  Then OLU (dressed in a fantastic suit) sings his verse.  He has a great singing voice.  While he sings his verse and the song fades sprinkling keys twinkle.  They all sing the super catchy chorus. The backing band is apparently all related but someone is playing the keys and the credits don’t say who: Justin Barnett: guitar; Jerramy Barnett: bass; Nick Barnett: guitar; Dj Barnett: drums.

Christo the DJ starts out “Baptize” with a sample.  OLU raps.  I love his delivery–.his verse is choppy and funky.  JID takes the next verse, and I like him even more.  The song has a fun sing along chorus which seems strangely raunchy for a song about baptism.  WOWGr8 takes another verse and shows off some really fast rapping.

Before the next song, someone’s phone rings and one of them says “turn off your phone in church.”  Mereba sings this next song, which she says is called “Hapi.”  After she says this, someone sings “because I’m happy…) very quietly.  The song proves to be a full on gospel type song.  Mereba has a kind of spoken word section and then OLU croons beautifully.

“Jupiter” ends the set.  Mereba grabs an acoustic guitar and the whole group sings an almost campfire singalong.  The church does feel like an appropriate setting for these last two songs.

I’m really impressed by this group.

[READ: November 15, 2020] Where Are We Now?

Glenn Patterson is from Belfast, Northern Ireland.  This novel is a small (in scope) story about life in Belfast.  I don’t know that I’ve ever read a story that focused in such detail on the daily life in Belfast, post-Troubles.  The Troubles don’t really enter into the story–except that there are ever present reminders of them.

This is the story of Herbie.  Herbie is a middle-aged man.  I initially assumed he was older middle aged, then I thought he might be younger middle-aged.  I don’t believe it is ever stated.

I had a remarkably difficult time reading this book because there was so much I simply didn’t know.  Stuff that the average Belfastian person probably knows very well and with no problem.

It started pretty early on when someone says that a person had dumped a Portakabin on one of the roads running up to the hills on the far west of the city.

Okay so first, you have to find out what a Portakabin is (a mobile home of some sort). Then there’s a lengthy talk about who might do such a thing.  And I really didn’t understand much of what they were talking about.  Although I did like that they conclude that whoever did it could be summed up as The Ungivers of Fuck. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Mowat Collegiate Late (1982).

This Rheostatics show dates all the way back to 1982, when the band was very very different.

This is the second oldest show I have been provided with to date… (based on the fact that Chemical World is introduced as a new song and it isn’t played on the other Mowat show on the site). From Mowat Collegiate in Scarborough it is slightly later in the year and has much clearer sound.

These old shows confuse me because I can’t tell who is singing.  To me it sounds like Tim singing lead on all the songs, but I didn’t think he was the main singer back then.  Or is it that Dave Bidini’s voice is so much different because they were all just babies?  I assume it’s Bidini doing the talking, and his voice is sure different (not Tom Waits different, but still).  I’m also not sure who is playing what.  I assume Tim is on bass, but he doesn’t usually play bass when he sings.  Dave Clark is also very quiet (he is usually full of jokes and poetry and whatnot).  I’m assuming that’s David Crosby (not that David Crosby) on lead guitar.

And somebody is playing with a high pitched oscillator type sound for the first few songs.  I wonder who is doing that while apparently playing their actual instruments. 

This set starts out with “National Pride.”  A funky, bass-slapping, bass-sliding song that shows that the early Rheos were far more into funk than anything else. 

The set (actually I guess it is two sets) is full of covers.  But each one is done in their new wave-ish ska-ish, not sounding anything like the original, style

The Kinks’ “Well Respected Man About Town” is almost unrecognizable with the bouncy bass in the verses and the entirely un-Kinks-like quality to the rest of the song.

“Chemical World” is described as new song (it’s one of the few from this era that has survived a little).  It starts out with Dave Clark on drums. It’s all new wave guitar and a lolloping bass.

“Girl in My Magazine” is a full-on ska song with bouncy guitars and a big fat bass.

Then they run through “Louie Louie” which sounds like the original in some ways–melodically–but it’s still got that big funky bass sound going on. 

Dave (or Tim) keeps encouraging everyone to come up and dance.

Up next is the “single which we’ll be handing out after our next set (we’re playing twice) called “Satellite dancing.”  It’s got the same basic sound but with a kind of blues riff underpinning the ska guitars.

As the song ends, someone says, stay tuned for Mark Malibu & the funky Wasagas.  Interestingly Mark Malibu & the Wasagas broke up in 1982, but reformed with all the original members in 2014 and have released three albums.

Presumably after a break and they are back with a new set of different songs.

This set opens with a lengthy bass intro and echoing reggae guitars which turns into a lengthy drum solo.  It’s called “Reggae Trenchtown Jam” and it’s basically just a nine minute jam.  In the middle of the song while encouraging people to dance, someone says, In Missouri and Kentucky they’ve outlawed… [can’t hear the rest].

Up next is “My Generation,” which is “on that record.”  This is , like The Kinks’ cover, a very unusual new wave version of the song–again almost unrecognizable.  Despite the prominent bass in this set, there’s no wailing bass solos like ion the original.  There is a wailing guitar solo though and the song jams out about five minutes.   

Up next is the shortest song of the night.  “Man of Action” is under three minutes with more of those reggae guitars.

Then comes a song by Sly and the Family Stone.  “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” sounds like one of their own songs, they have so taken it over.  Surprisingly, given their funk, this sounds nothing at all like the original.  Even the super catchy chorus is done in a very different way.  They are indeed being Mice Elf.  There’s a jamming section at the end with some serious slap bass.

Up next is “an old ska song” called “The Suburb Shuffle.”  I can’t find anything about this song.  Although the introduction says “I’m sure everyone in Scarborough can relate to it.  It’s about green houses and black driveways and well-cut lawns and flowers in the sidewalks.   It has nothing to do with Martha and the Muffins.”  It is indeed a suburban ska song.

They end the set with “Shake Your Body Thang” and “we want everyone up on stage, especially Mark Malibu.”  I think this one musty be Tim singing.  The jam this one out for nearly nine minutes.  Mid way through, they invite people on stage.  There’s a break down when it’s just drums and vocals.  It’s got everything a 1982 collegiate rock band should have.

It’s impossible to believe that these are the same guys.

[READ: October 22, 2020] Lightfall Book 1

This is an enchanting first book in a new series. Tim Probert’s illustrations are wonderful–a fantastic soft palette and delightfully unusual characters.

Set in the land if Irpa, we first meet Bea and her cat Nimm. Bea is somewhat nervous by nature. Especially when it comes to a small jar with a flame in it which she is meant to be guarding.

Bea lives with her adoptive grandfather named Alfrid the Pig Wizard. Alfrid is, as the name suggests, a pig and a wizard and he makes potions for people. But he is also very forgetful. He leaves reminders for himself, but they don’t always help.

Bea ventures out to get some ingredients for a potion. She is in a tree, when the branch breaks. As she hangs on for dear life, a tall froglike creature walks past (on two legs), and as she falls out of the tree he catches her. The creature is Cadwaller, known as Cad. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: YOLA-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #70 (August 25, 2020).

Yola is a Britiish singer with an amazing voice.  She is quarantining in Nashville and for this Home Concert, she is playig in a lovely backyard in Nashville with guitarist Jordan Tice.

Yola has one album out (and an EP) and her songs are full of soul and energy.  And that voice!

These four songs are stripped to just acoustic guitar (Tice plays lead on some of the tracks).  They are

 beautiful interpretations of songs from her 2019 album Walk Through Fire and her 2016 EP Orphan Offering that pull back the intensity I associate with Yola’s music, but are still passionate and fervent.

I’ve enjoyed hearing the recorded versions of these songs but hearing them stripped down to just melody and her voice, the sound even better.

“Faraway Look” is a gorgeous song with a terrific melody.  It sounds really quite different with the acoustic guitar but her voice is perfectly suited to it regardless of what kind of music backs it up.  And the way she can hold those notes is really stunning.

“Dead And Gone” feels more relevant now than when she wrote it for her 2016 EP.  This song is a little darker with some nice soloing notes from Tice.

“Love Is Light” is a beautiful ballad with a fantastic vocal melody.

I love the final song, “It Ain’t Easier.”  It’s got two great vocal lines back to back in the chorus.  I could listen to her sing it all night long.  And those little grace notes at the end are pretty awesome.

[READ: August 23, 2020] Malamander

I don’t often pick out children’s books to read.  Although I’m rarely disappointed when I find one that looks good.  My daughter and I were in Barnes & Noble and I saw this book.  The title, cover and description sounded really fun.  So I decided to buy it.  And I’m glad I did.  It was a fast, engaging read and the start of a promising series.

The book is set in Eerie-on-Sea.  Eerie-on-Sea is a wonderful place to vacation in the summer (when it is known as Cheerie-on-Sea).  But nobody wants to be there in the winter.  Sometimes not even the people who live there want to be there.  It’s bleak. It’s cold.  It’s windy.  And there is the legend of the fearsome Malamander.

When people visit they stay in The Grand Nautilus Hotel.  The Hotel’s Lost-and-Founder is 12 year old Herbie Lemon.  Perhaps you’ve never heard of a Lost-and-Founder, but you should have–who else is in charge of making sure everyone gets their lost items back?

Herbie is very good at his job.  But a big surprise happens when a girl climbs through the window of his office and asks him to hide her.  He does as she asks–who wouldn’t–just as two men come to Herbie’s door.  One is Mr. Mollusc, the manger of the Hotel who dislikes Herbie and dislikes the whole idea of the Lost-and Founder.  Fortunately for Herbie, Mr Mollusc is not the owner.  The owner, Lady Kraken, LOVES having a Lost -and Founder, she finds it essentially to running a good hotel.  The other man is large and scary with a hook for a hand.  Herbie and the girl, Violet, call him Boat Hook Man.

The girl is Violet Parma.  Her parents went missing from the hotel 12 years ago, when Violet was a baby  Violet was orphaned and raised by her Aunt.  She has now come all the way back to Eerie-on-Sea by herself to find out what she she can about her missing parents (she is sure they are not dead).  Coincidentally, Herb is also an orphan.  He was found by Lady Kraken and that’s how he got the job. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKTHE FLAMING LIPS-“My Religion is You” (2020).

download (75)This is another new single from The Flaming Lips’ new, more mellow album American Head.

This song starts as a piano ballad about various religions.

It’s not the most profound song but it’s chill

Yeah, Buddha’s cool
And you’re no fool
To believe anything
You need to believe in
If Hare Krishna
Maybe it’s the
Thing for you
Hey, that’s cool

The chorus kicks in with big fat synth notes that almost feel sinister, but really aren’t.  Wayne explains that he doesn’t need religions, because his religion “is you.”

I don’t need no religion
You’re all I need
You’re the thing I believe in
Nothing else is true
My religion is you

There’s a pretty guitar solo and the end of the song is an interesting mix of scattered drums and quite synth noises.  It’s not their best song for sure, but it grows on you.

[READ: June 2020] That’s Not How You Wash a Squirrel

David Thorne is an Australian smart ass.  This is his fifth collection of previously unreleased emails and essays.

The foreword of this book is written by Holly Thorne, David’s wife.  And it is hilarious.  The Foreforeword is him arguing with her about whether she will write the Foreword–but only if she doesn’t say something mean about him.

So she writes things like

Davis does have a stressful job but let’s be honest, he’s not clearing landmines.  Even on my worst days I’m not half the diva David is.

After writing some more hilarious paragraphs, you see in a different font:

David is very brave, I once saw him flick a snake off the patio furniture with a stick.

In the Postforeword, he complains about her foreword.  That he comes off like a fuckwit and that there is no mention of the snake.  (more…)

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