Archive for the ‘Unfinished’ Category

[ATTENDED: November 19, 2015] Zoyka’s Apartment

zoykaI was offered free tickets to this show.  I read a brief review, saw the word “farce” and decided it would be fun to go to it.

This play was written by Mikhail Bulgakov, an author I’ve heard of but know little about.  Turns out that all of his plays were banned by the Soviet government.  Including this one, even though it was not an anti-Soviet play.  After the banishment, he wrote to Stalin requesting permission to emigrate, but was denied.

As this play opens, there is a lectern at which an announcer reads a 1990 review of the play by Frank Rich in the New York Times (which you can read here).  Perhaps the most fascinating thing that I heard from the review was this:

Boris A. Morozov’s production of Mikhail Bulgakov’s ”Zoya’s Apartment” at the Circle in the Square. Mr. Morozov is resident director of the Maly Theater in Moscow. His New York cast is headed by such actors as Bronson Pinchot.

Since Pinchot is my new favorite audio book reader, I immediately paid attention. (more…)

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lauraSOUNDTRACK: FUN.-Some Nights (2012).

funI didn’t realize that this wasn’t Fun.’s debut album. I hadn’t heard of them until, well, until they got pretty big.  Sarah got this for me for Christmas in 2012 on the recommendation of an NPR list.  Of course, my biggest surprise was playing it Christmas morning and hearing the word fuck twice in the first song.  Merry Christmas, kids!

I read recently that the band really liked Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy so much that they hired the same producer to get that sound.  And that makes a ton of sense on the style and final product here–big grandiose sounds that are layered and layered and dense. The difference of course is that Fun. writes more catchy/poppy songs with a pop rock sheen.  And the Queen comparisons are unavoidable.  But with auto-tune.

“Some Nights (intro)” opens the disc with a quiet piano intro that builds to what you’re really going to get here–dramatic, theatrical, anthemic over the top pop rock.  Because after a minute when the backing vocals come in, it sounds pretty much like an updated modern day Queen.  While lead singer does bellow like Freddy Mercury the Queenisms come more from the backing vocals and the orchestrations.

The first song proper, “Some Nights” has a more polished, more poppy sheen to it.  And like the rest of the album, it has a huge sing along chorus with whoa hos and everything.  It’s nearly inevitable that they would become huge because of this album.

And yet, despite all the pop, I like this record a lot.  The artsy, theatricality is so over the top.  And really each song is like a mini showstopper.  “We Are Young” has the title of an anthem and thus the song is an anthem.  It starts with just drums but after some clever lyrics, it shifts to a slow building chorus that the world can sing along to.  The same is true for “Carry On,” a slow piano ballad that builds in a big anthemic chorus.  “It Gets Better” is a bit more electronic and fast paced from the start.  “Why Am I the One” slows things down again, this time with guitars.  But again each one has a big sing-along chorus.

“All Alone” is a bit more electronic (with harpsichords!) and a little more drum heavy, while “All Alright” stays anthemic throughout.

What’s surprising really is the lyrical content–he sings a lot about loving his parents (there’s a few shout outs to his mom).  I admit I don’t entirely know what’s happening on the album–I haven’t looked at the lyrics too carefully, but it seems far more introspective and personal than big anthemic pop hooks would suggest.

“One Foot” is the first song that diverges a bit from the formula–it’s still a big stomping song, but the way the main riff is played on orchestral hits rather than more conventional instruments points to the more Top 40 elements of the band.  And the final song, “Stars” really tips the balance. This is the one song that I don’t really care for.  It’s 7 minutes long and the melody is more pop than artsy.  The song builds in a less dramatic and more poppy way.  This song has the most mom intensive lyrics: “Most nights I stay straight and think about my mom–oh god I miss her so much.”  By 2 minutes it devolves into an auto-tuned ballad where the Kanye influence really rears its head.  For the last 3 minutes or so it is a string filled ballad with crazy auto-tuned vocals (especially when they harmonize!).  It’s a bit much even for me, although I think it works pretty great as an album ender.

The strange thing about that is that there is one song after it. It turns out that it’s a bonus track, which i didn’t realize until recently.  I couldn’t imagine why you’d put a song after that autotuned nonsense.  So it makes sense as a bonus track, although after “Stars,” I’m done with the album.  The song, “Out on the Town” brings back the guitars but the “oh oh oh oh” in the beginning is really boy band like.  And I fear the whole set up is more commercial than theater. So, no real bonus for me.

Basically, the album sounds quite the same throughout (in that it is big and theatrical, although there are some differences that distinguish the songs enough).  And if you don’t like one of the songs there’s not going to be much here for you.  But if you like your theatricality over the top, you could do worse than Fun.  Just get ready to sing along.

[READ: October 1, 2014] The Original of Laura

naboI have had Nabokov on my list of authors to read for a long time.  I have read and enjoyed a few of his books and planned to read his oeuvre at some point, just not quite yet.  And then, as serendipity would have it, I stumbled on a book of his novellas (the Penguin classic edition) and decided to read them.  Because they aren’t really meant to be taken as one item, I’m going to mention them individually.

The Original of Laura is a controversial release because of its history.  And it seems that more words have been written about the history of the book than the actual content of it.  So I will summarize the history by saying that Vladimir said that if he didn’t finish the book that it should be destroyed.  Vladimir’s wife did not destroy the book and some thirty years later his son Dmitri decided to publish it [cue cat fights and gnashing of teeth].

The interesting way the book was published was as a series of index cards.  Nabokov wrote all of his stories on index cards.  The book version is on heavy card stock in which all of the index cards were reproduced and the words were typed below (errors and cross outs and all).  And all the pages are perforated for, in theory, the reader’s ability to mix and match the pages as apparently Nabokov did.

This seems like a cool idea except that most of the index cards are numbered, so it’s not like there is any doubt as to what order they should go in.  The final cards are not numbered, but again, they are pretty much sequential–there’s not a lot of play at play here. (more…)

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laraSOUNDTRACK: VOIVOD-War and Pain (1984).

warandIt was easy to know that Voivod were going to be an unusual band.  Their name is crazy.  All the members had nicknames like Piggy, Blacky, Snake, and, confusingly, Away.  And they were French Canadian, which meant that their singer’s first language wasn’t English–I love the way he stresses things in his vocals especially on later albums, and he had the guttural French that sounds like a cookie monster vocalist even when he is just speaking.

Later on, their prog and psychedelic leanings would come out more, but on their debut, they were just a noisy, screamy pounding metal band.  And this debut has typically bad mid 80s metal production to top it off.

In 2004 the album was remastered with bonus tracks, a full live concert and a CD ROM with all kinds of goodies.  I originally thought the remaster didn’t sound that good, but there is definitely some clarity that the remaster brings.  It allows you to hear a lot of the subtleties (and there are some) that were lost in the original.

There are hints at the kind of weird sounding noises the band would make on future albums, but this is mostly just fast, pounding music.  I’d have liked them to re-record this stuff before Piggy died, just to see what a proper recording studio could do with these earlier songs.

Of course, now that I have listenedto it again with better equipment, I’m changing my assessment somewhat.  Despite the very heavy nature of the songs there are some very cool sequences in here.  They are nothing compared to the complexities that the band would undertake in just a few short years, but there are some really interesting things underway and the remaster definitely highlights them a little better. It still sounds pretty bad 9especially compared to their later records), but hey, they only spent $2,000 and recorded it in a studio where the engineer had never heard a metal band before.

[READ: August 23, 2013] Lara’s Book

I have known of this book since it came out in 1998.  I was a huge fan of Douglas Coupland and yet I had zero interest in Lara Croft or Tomb Raider. So I simply ignored this book.  But because I’m being all completist with this blog, it was time to bite the bullet and see what this piece of nonsense was all about.

And it is just as weird and creepy as I feared.

There are several sections to the book, most of which are written by Coupland.  I will admit right up front that I did not read the strategies and secrets from Kip Ward–sorry Kip, it seemed like fun but between the crazy fonts and layout and the fact that I will never play the game it just seemed like too much. (more…)

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[Given up: August 24, 2013]

dcWikipedia is a wondrous tool, especially for fans.  For instance, many times the inside cover a book will tell you what other books an author has written.  But sometimes if different publishers are involved, that list can be lacking in a thing or two.  Heck, sometimes even an author’s website is incomplete.  Take a look at Coupland’s website. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: locusts and an owl!

As we sat on the porch with silence all around us, we heard an owl off in the distance (I believe a barred owl).  It was pretty darn cool. (I posted a video after the break).

[WRITTEN: September 6, 2011]

I have been publishing a post a day here for something like two years.  I often have several posts scheduled for days in advance.  But the combination of a new job (with less goofing off time), a week-long vacation (with no free Wi-Fi? Come on!) and a natural disaster have left me silent for a few days.

Unlike the poor people in this photo (this is literally a half a mile from our house–the bridge is where the river normally rests).  Our house which is on top of a hill, was luckily unscathed–a little water in the basement and the loss of a twenty-five year old game of Monopoly was about the extent of our losses. 


Once we were clear, we headed down to Williamsburg, VA. 

We arrived at 10PM to find that our resort was completely powerless.  There were some areas nearby with power, but our hotel, set in the woods, was dark!  We were “luxury camping” for two nights. 

Fortunately Busch Gardens had power, so that ioccupied us for a full two days, and then soon enough everything was back to normal. 

And enjoying the vacation seemed more important than writing a few posts.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE FLAMING LIPS-Live at Summer Stage, Central Park, NY, July 26, 2010 (2010).

This was a cool show that the Flaming Lips played in Central Park.  It came during the Embryonic tour and the setlist focuses on that album, but they play tracks from many of their more recent discs.  We get “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” and “Do You Realize??” as well as “She Don’t Use Jelly” (has the band ever not played this song?).

Wayne Coyne is in good form, enjoying the weather and ranting or raving when appropriate.  The dis of George Bush that introduces “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” is rather cathartic.  And the lengthy but enjoyable intro/explanation of “I Can Be a Frog” is really great–drummer Cliph gets to give examples of the proper sound effects for a motorcycle, the breeze, a bumblebee and a sneeze.  And multi-instrumentalist/godlike figure Steven Drozd just plays the hell out of everything–I can’t imagine what the show would be like without him.

I have two problems with this show–I’m spoiled by the NPR downloads, so this bootleg recording from about fifteen rows out isn’t crystal clear.  NYCtaper did a great job setting up in a close location, but while the music sounds good, as he points out:

I recorded this set with my best mobile unit from literally within the first fifteen feet of the crowd — great for atmosphere, but not so good for avoiding much crowd participation. I was so close as to literally be underneath Wayne’s bubble during “Fear”. The listener should understand that this recording was captured from a prime experience location at this show. With that caveat, enjoy!

As I said, the music sounds great, and you can really hear all of the instruments and effects quite well, but Wayne’s voice is not so clear.  There are some bits where you can hardly hear him at all (but hey it’s a free bootleg so shut up), and two–the Lips are one of the most visually stunning bands around, so hearing a live show with no visual, where you know something awesome is happening onstage is a major bummer. I know this is true for every concert that you listen to, it just feels moreso here–I mean, I didn’t even know that he walked around in the bubble during the intro to the set. 

I read some complaints about the setlist–that there were only 13 songs played.  I can see the complaint, but what you’re getting during the show is extended versions of lots of the songs.  Many of the songs have codas at the end or interactive introductions, so “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” comes in around 7 minutes and “The Sparrow Looks Up At The Machine” clocks in about 9 minutes total (that’s a combined time of 4 or 5 songs usually).  And yes, Wayne does tend to chat a lot.  But he’s so sincere and his emotions are so genuine, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in them.  When I saw them live about eight years ago, it was one of the most joyous concerts I had ever seen.  And I’m sure they are only more so now (man I’m bummed I missed them with Weezer this summer).

[UNFINISHED: August 23, 2011] “El Morro”

It’s very rare that I don’t finish a story.  I was educated as a reader to carry on and to finish things.  You cant’ criticize something, I was told, if you don’t watch/read/see the whole thing.  But you know what, sometimes you just don’t likes a story. So why should I have to devote time to something if  I’m not enjoying it?

All this is leading to me saying that I didn’t like this story and I didn’t finish it.

I read about two pages of it and I will say this for it: I really liked the dramatic structure and the dramatic risk that Means took.  He has two characters in a car.  One of them won’t stop talking (about the same 4 topics) the other one is sick of him talking.  By the second page, she is actually putting her fingers in her ears to block out the man’s voice.  That’s brave writing because we hear a lot of what this man is saying.  And, while I’m not entirely sure why she didn’t want to hear it, I didn’t want to read it because it was really dull. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THERAPY?: Music Through a Cheap Transistor: The BBC Sessions (2007).

I enjoy the title of this disc quite a bit.  Fortunately, I also enjoy the music quite a bit.  This is a collection of BBC recordings from Therapy?

It’s a strange collection in that they recorded songs on five separate occasions and yet there is a lot of duplication of tracks (the liner notes deal with this issue).

John Peel Sessions (and there’s much made in the liner notes about the fact that they thought they’d be meeting Peel himself when they went in, when in fact it was just a random engineer) are essentially live recordings done in the studio.  They tend to be slightly more experimental (done after a band has toured and messed around with the songs some) and for some bands (like Therapy?) they tend to be more raucous.

This collection was recorded from 1991-1995 with a final show in 1998.  Obviously the band isn’t thinking about the future CD release of the sessions when they recorded these sessions, so it probably didn’t seem strange to record “Totally Random Man” 3 times.  But it does seem strange to listen to it like that.

The songs are definitely rawer than the studio versions.  Even their more poppy tracks from 1998 are a bit harsher.  However, their first EPs were really raw, so these songs sound much better (much cleaner).  They also include a lot of fun/weird unreleased tracks and covers.

My only complaint is that neither version of  “Teethgrinder” features that awesome drum sound that is my favorite part of the track.  Otherwise, it’s a great collection.

[READ: June 1, 2010] Lost in the Funhouse

I checked out this book so I could read the title story.  I enjoyed that one quite a bit so I decided to read the whole collection.  The Author’s Note says, “while some of these pieces were composed expressly for print, others were not. For instance: “‘Glossolalia” will make no sense unless heard in live or recorded voices, male and female, or read as if so heard.”  Um, yeah.

The first story: “Frame-Tale” consists entirely of this: “Cut on dotted line, twist end once and fasten AB to ab, CD to cd.” The cut part is a strip of paper that reads: “Once Upon a Time There/Was a Story That Began.”  It’s cute.

The next story, “Night-Sea Journey” is a proper story of a night sea journey. The secret to the story is gradually revealed, and is rather amusing. (more…)

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There’s a new (reasonably) new show called “Minute to Win It.”  The premise was so delightful, so “I want to do that” that I of course set up a TiVo Season Pass for it.

Basically, contestants have 60 seconds to complete really stupid, yet slightly challenging tasks.  And, unlike a lot of shows in this vein, there’s no threat of violence, there’s no crazy embarrassment, there’s no nonsense.   Simply: can you empty two tissue boxes, one hand per box in 60 seconds.  Or, can you flick a box of raisins from underneath a bottle and keep the bottle standing.  Or, can you kick a shoe across the rink onto a table and have it stay there.

Genius.  Stupid human tricks.  Best show ever.  Until you watch it. (more…)

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[READ: Yeah, I’m not reading her book, but this parody book looks mighty funny.  Click the cover to order it.]

So, obviously I’m not going to read her book.  But I did want to point out the Webster’s definitions of Rogue.  It was pretty clear on the campaign trail that words didn’t really mean anything.  But when your very own book uses a word as its title and that word is (presumably) used to describe you, wouldn’t it behoove you to find out just what the word means?

1 : vagrant, tramp
2 : a dishonest or worthless person : scoundrel
3 : a mischievous person : scamp
4 : a horse inclined to shirk or misbehave
5 : an individual exhibiting a chance and usually inferior biological variation

So, which is it?  Vagrant?  Dishonest Person?  Scamp?  Horse?  Inferior individual?  That may not have been the best word choice.

And speaking of failed vice presidential candidates.  Recent events have led me to ponder the life of the failed vice presidential candidate.  It seems that in the 21st century, the failed presidential candidate gets off okay.  He fails and he moves on, but jeez, let’s look at the last few failed VPs: (more…)

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mother[READ: February 14, 2009] Mother on Fire

I heard about this book on The Sound of Young America.  Sandra Tsing Loh was pretty funny.  She’s a writer/performer and a contributor to NPR. This book is all about being a mother at 40.

I read about 15 pages and decided that a) the book is more for moms than dads; b) it was funny in parts, but was more of a potential one woman show of quips than a book and c) I just really didn’t care about her or her husband very much.

I tried again to read the book last night, I even skipped to another chapter, but it just kept eluding me.

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