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Sazerac Cocktail

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Sazerac Cocktail

Sazerac Cocktail

Here’s how I made this.

  1. Ran cold water over a martini glass and put it in the freezer.
  2. Took an ice cube out of the freezer. I use ginormous ice cubes, in general, so they make drinks cold quicker, without diluting the spirits. You might need to use three normal ice cubes instead.
  3. Spoonful of sugar1 placed in tall glass.
  4. Add Peychaud’s Bitters2, and mash with a muddler. Toss in a few ounces of Rye Whiskey, and continue muddling. Add ice cube, and stir vigorously.
  5. Take martini glass out of the freezer, and add a drop of Absinthe to it. Swirl the Absinthe around the glass, and discard the rest.
  6. Decant the whiskey mixture into the martini glass.
  7. Slice a bit of lemon skin, express the juice of it on the edge of the glass, and drop it in the mixture.
  8. Drink, enjoy.

If I made this again, I would serve it in an old fashioned glass with ice – this would help dilute the whiskey a bit more. As it was, the whiskey had a bit of a bite still. Quite delicious, especially if you have a taste for rye whiskey.

  1. I couldn’t find my sugar cubes, so estimated []
  2. about 5 dashes, adjust for taste []

Written by Seth Anderson

September 29th, 2012 at 1:44 am

Texas Thunder Soul

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Director Mark Landsman totes his cameras to a tight-knit North Houston community in this poignant documentary, which celebrates an inner-city high school bandleader’s lasting influence on his now-grown students.

via Netflix

And a repost from my old blog, thanks to a question from Beth

The calendar year isn’t over yet, but as of today, my favorite album of the year is a compilation of high school marching band music from Kashmere High School in Houston, TX, recorded by their band director, Conrad O Johnson in the years 1968 – 1974. I wish my high school band funked as hard. I’m looking at you, Beth.

In fact, I wish I knew of some contemporary bands that funked as hard. Wow. Hard not to dance in one’s chair when the songs pulse out of one’s speakers. We mentioned the release of this compilation a few months ago, and I bought the CD within the week, of course.

Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974
“Texas Thunder Soul 1968-1974” (Kashmere Stage Band)

NPR/KUT-Austin recently broadcast a small article, with some song samples:

At first, judges didn’t know what to make of the kids from Kashmere in their platform shoes and matching crushed-velvet suits. Their impeccably choreographed moves were more James Brown than high school big band, and the music was often an original funk composition by Johnson himself.

But KSB was soon winning national championships, and a larger-than-life reputation as undefeatable. For 10 years, even with constant changes in the lineup as kids graduated, KSB was considered by some to be not only the nation’s best stage band, but one of the best funk bands — period.

Between 1968 and 1978, KSB recorded eight studio albums. As Johnson neared retirement in 1978, the band broke up, and before long, the band was largely forgotten. But not by everyone. Kashmere’s recordings became prized by hip-hop producers and DJs, who sampled them and played them in clubs.

Highly recommended.

Kashmere stage band2 Kashmere stage band1

Written by Seth Anderson

September 20th, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

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Cat Power’s Bright Side : The New Yorker

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Cat Power is usually interesting, I like this album so far, on first listen.

Sasha Frere-Jones writes:

“Sun” finds Marshall returning to an approach she’s successfully used before—reduction and focus. In the past few years, especially in live performances, she has sung in a loose, dynamic way over the work of accomplished professionals. These shows have been compelling but sprawling. “Sun,” by contrast, is basic and compressed; it relies on repetition rather than risk the peaks and valleys that a clutch of virtuosic musicians make possible.

Though not professionally trained in any particular instrument, Marshall played and sang everything on the album, except for a few moments, in one song, of guitar and drumming, provided by Judah Bauer and Jim White, and a noticeable vocal cameo by Iggy Pop. These days, music that is recorded by just one person often takes on the aesthetic of the loop—computer technology makes it easy to set up a repetitive phrase and then play along to it. Creating an unpredictable feel can be tricky when the solid next step has already been constructed, and the album occasionally reflects this problem. Yet this style of working is conducive to making propulsive beats, and much of the album could be danced to.

Marshall’s chosen instrumentation for “Sun” is roughly that of a traditional live rock band, with drums and piano at the forefront, and guitars and synthesizers trading off in accompaniment. Unlike her last few albums, “Sun” has very few songs that use isolated vocal performances. Marshall’s voice, which is her strongest asset, is heard mostly in multitracked harmony with itself, small ensembles that make the songs more general than intimate. The resulting sound is less of a person conveying stories or feelings than of a volunteer choir chanting hymns. It turns out that, if you leave Chan Marshall alone with her gear, you get more songs and less Chan Marshall. After being the center of her own work in a fairly traditional way, Marshall has built an album that seeks to catalogue problems and ideas rather than frame her own voice.

(click here to continue reading Cat Power’s Bright Side : The New Yorker.)

Written by Seth Anderson

September 11th, 2012 at 7:49 am

Posted in Music,Suggestions

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Largo – Loosely Based On Symphony Number 9

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I’ll admit, I have owned the CD, Largo, for quite a long time, but had forgotten about how much I liked it until this evening when Largo came up via my Album Randomizer. Really, really good, you should give it a spin, presuming you can find a copy. As far as I can tell, Wikipedia doesn’t even have an entry for Largo. 

The impetus for the album is artists reacting to Dvorak’s New World Symphony

Dvořák was interested in the Native American music and African-American spirituals he heard in America. Upon his arrival in America, he stated:

“I am convinced that the future music of this country must be founded on what are called Negro melodies. These can be the foundation of a serious and original school of composition, to be developed in the United States. These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.”

The symphony was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, and premiered on December 16, 1893, at Carnegie Hall conducted by Anton Seidl. A day earlier, in an article published in the New York Herald on December 15, 1893, Dvořák further explained how Native American music had been an influence on this symphony: “I have not actually used any of the [Native American] melodies. I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music, and, using these themes as subjects, have developed them with all the resources of modern rhythms, counterpoint, and orchestral colour.” In the same article, Dvořák stated that he regarded the symphony’s second movement as a “sketch or study for a later work, either a cantata or opera … which will be based upon Longfellow’s [The Song of] Hiawatha” (Dvořák never actually wrote such a piece).

He also wrote that the third movement scherzo was “suggested by the scene at the feast in Hiawatha where the Indians dance”. Curiously enough, passages which modern ears perceive as the musical idiom of African-American spirituals may have been intended by Dvořák to evoke a Native American atmosphere. In 1893, a newspaper interview quoted Dvořák as saying “I found that the music of the negroes and of the Indians was practically identical”, and that “the music of the two races bore a remarkable similarity to the music of Scotland”.

Most historians agree that Dvořák is referring to the pentatonic scale, which is typical of each of these musical traditions.

(click here to continue reading Symphony No. 9 (Dvořák) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Allmusic’s Geoff Ginsberg writes:

Largo is everything Americana should be. It is also (easily) one of the most ambitious albums of the digital era. Just their luck: they hit a home run while the entire crowd was out in the beer line. Between major-label mergers and the fact that it just says “Largo” on the cover, this flat-out masterpiece was lost in the shuffle and almost no one heard it.

It is a swirling concept album touching on believable stories seen through the eyes of diverse Americans. Make no mistake, though, this is timeless rock with big hooks, not roots revivalism. Largo was produced by Rick Chertoff and his college roommate Rob Hyman of the Hooters; the two co-wrote nearly the whole album with Hooter Eric Bazilian and singer/songwriter David Foreman.

The A-list talent (several of whom have hit records produced by Chertoff) is almost an embarrassment of riches, but it never sounds like a compilation album; it is focused and unified. “Freedom Ride,” an out of the gates rocker, is sung by Taj Mahal. “Gimme a Stone” is a duet between Levon Helm of the Band and Foreman. It’s a song for all but those who root for Goliath. Cyndi Lauper wails out on “White Man’s Melody,” and Joan Osborne turns in a memorable vocal “An Uncommon Love,” a Carole King co-write that King also sings on. Osborne is also all over “Hand in Mine,” which features a bleary-eyed co-lead from Hyman, whose knack for universal melodies is on full display on the track (and the whole album). Foreman’s voice is deep and resonant, and his performances (as on the down, dirty, and devastating “Disorient Express” and the ballad “Largo’s Dream”) make you wonder where this guy has been all these years.

Willie Nile turns up for the punky “Medallion,” a song about a Pakistani cab driver working to make enough money to bring his family over. These songs are about people you might meet, not some spent myth. The album has several versions of Dvorak’s “Largo” (performed by the likes of the Chieftains and Garth Hudson of the Band) which separate the groups of songs; it was Dvorak’s trip to the New World that inspired Largo. The album has been completely out of print for years, but Roger Daltrey (who performs “Freedom Ride” and “Gimmie a Stone” live) pressured iTunes into providing a digital option.

(click here to continue reading Largo – Largo : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic.)

From a 1998 NYT review by Jon Pareless

The austere, comforting melody of the Largo movement of Antonin Dvorak’s ”New World” Symphony drew on the spirituals and parlor songs that the Czech composer heard during his residency in the United States. A century later, the theme set Rob Hyman, Rick Chertoff and various collaborators thinking about American roots, immigration and cross-cultural encounters; the result is the ambitious album ”Largo” (Blue Gorilla/Mercury). In variations and extrapolations of Dvorak’s tune, the collaborators came up with homey songs about an America where exploitation and promise are inseparable.

Mr. Hyman, Mr. Chertoff and Eric Bazilian have worked together for two decades; they specialize in a kind of rusticated folk-pop, with hymnlike tunes and arrangements that use instruments like mandolin, accordion and churchy organ. …The three have also produced or written songs for Taj Mahal, Cyndi Lauper and Joan Osborne, all of whom sang both on the ‘’Largo’’ album…

David Forman, who collaborated on many of the new songs, Willie Nile and Sissel (a Norwegian singer whose wordless vocals are on the ”Titanic” soundtrack) were also on hand, generally keeping Mr. Hyman’s vocals in the background. Garth Hudson of the Band sat in on keyboards.

”Largo” brought out the best in the longtime collaborators. Mr. Forman’s presence seems to have curbed the Hooters’ old penchant for platitudes. Most of the songs have a Celtic and Appalachian flavor: waltzes and marches that carry tender love songs like ”Hand in Mine” or the jaunty ”Gimme a Stone,” which retells the David and Goliath story with the melody of a reel and a reggae backbeat. In a few songs, Ms. Lauper played the penny whistle; Mr. Bazilian supplied keening, off-tune hooks from a hurdy-gurdy.

Ms. Osborne brought poise and kindliness to love songs, warming lines like ”All the walls we build between us make it so hard to be together.” In a barely rehearsed encore, she turned backup vocals into joyful affirmations. Mr. Mahal and Mr. Forman applied scratchy, weathered voices to songs hinting at tough immigrant experiences: slavery in ”Banjoman,” Chinese railroad labor in ”Disorient Express.” Mr. Nile sang a Pakistani cab driver’s soliloquy in ”Medallion.” Mr. Hudson turned the ”Largo” theme into a free-form hymn on keyboard, then switched to tenor saxophone for a bluesy, confiding version of the melody. And Sissel sang the words to ”Goin’ Home” with a sweet, almost operatic purity, honoring the unlikely source of some worthy new songs.

(click here to continue reading POP REVIEW – POP REVIEW – Long After Dvorak, Perils and Promise of the ‘New World’ – Review – NYTimes.com.)

An unusual and interesting piece of pop and roots music comes from an unlikely collection of musicians. The brain children of Largo are producer/writer Rick Chertoff, Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman, both members of the roots-rock band The Hooters and NYC songwriter David Foreman. Sharing an interest in Antonin Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” (of which “Largo” is probably the most familiar and hummable melody), the two decided to write an album of pop songs based on the lyrical themes of the work. In addition to their own voices and instruments, they have pulled together an impressive cast of artists to complete the vision; Garth Hudson and Levon Helm (The Band), all of The Chieftains, Taj Mahal, Joan Osborne, Cyndi Lauper, Willie Nile and Giovanii Hidalgo.

There is a unique quality to this recording, and while it occasionally gets to be like a wanna-be of The Band (not a bad thing to emulate, I guess), the crisp, direct style pulls it back most of the time. The themes are pretty standard “American Dream” fare, of highways and workers, lovers and sideshows, modern versions of Dvorak’s stories of “the road” to the American west, but they all touch on personal stories and characters.

(click here to continue reading Roots World – Largo.)

Like I said, you’d probably like this album if you gave it a chance…

Written by Seth Anderson

August 29th, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

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Taylor Parkes On Can Boxed Set – The Lost Tapes

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CAN - The Lost Tapes
CAN – The Lost Tapes

I am just unwrapping my copy of this; I haven’t heard it yet, but I’m already in a better mood…

Fifteen, twenty years ago, it would have been natural to respond to The Lost Tapes not just with astounded applause but with a rather lofty prescription: any group could learn a lot from close, repeated listening. It’s still true, of course, but in 2012 it seems a bit out of touch. In many ways Can – whose name so clearly dates them to a time before the internet search – were not like us, sat here with conflicting histories of everything, isolated by choice and by the new demands of our miserable lives. Living and working together was the point; the strengths of five individuals merged to create something greater, something uncontainable.

Can’s spontaneous, co-operative creativity hasn’t been weakened by time or by anything else; the music here sounds somehow even more potent, having outlasted all the cultural currents which carried it in. It sounds almost revolutionary again. Something unburdened by the self, or by self-consciousness; free of the past and the present.

Holger Czukay, somewhat professorial at the age of 30, joined Inner Space (the original name of the group formed by keyboard player Irmin Schmidt) on the understanding it would be a kind of art collective, a rather academic fusion of rock with the teachings of Karlheinz Stockhausen, he and Schmidt’s old teacher and mentor. In fact, from the sound of ‘Millionenspiel’, the opening track on this collection, Inner Space progressed very quickly to what would become the early Can sound (‘Millionenspiel’ is a psychedelicised Chantays on a surfin’ safari through medieval Europe and Jamaica in the 50s, far beyond the fumblings of the Prehistoric Future tape). Still, it was only when grainy-voiced Malcolm Mooney joined on vocals that Czukay grasped what could really be achieved. As he describes it in the sleeve notes to The Lost Tapes, “Stockhausen with a hell of a drive!”

That drive was Can’s trademark, powered not just by Mooney’s aggression but by Michael Karoli’s tattoo-needle guitar style and (especially) the drumming of Jaki Liebezeit, in which the delicacy and invention of jazz was applied to a series of rigidly mechanised beats, a kind of percussive hypnosis driving the others forward without fear. In time, as Mooney was replaced by the ethereal Damo Suzuki, the drive became more of a glide, the sound spun out until it was almost translucent, but the band retained its eerie power: heavy when featherlight, direct when delirious. In the glow of Schloss Norvenich, their hidey-hole near Cologne (then later at Inner Space Studios, a refurbished cinema in nearby Weilerswist), Can spent hours and days and nights and sunrises and sunsets playing. Everything was recorded, although not everything survived, because of the cost of tape, and – according to Schmidt in the sleeve notes – because of Liebezeit’s insistence on constant forward movement: “Erase!” These three discs have been assembled from a pile of rediscovered masters, pulled from a cupboard after nearly forty years, and if they’d been recorded this morning they’d sound like they came from the future.

Occasionally, the centre fails to hold and Can are pitched off in different directions: such is the price of freedom. Still, on those rare occasions where the music is slightly ragged, it remains relentlessly inventive. The single most jaw-dropping thing about Can was this unstoppable originality – what stands out most clearly here is that even at the point of exhaustion, where anyone else would fall back on shopworn blues riffs and keyboard-demo drum fills, Can were utterly incapable of cliché. And when all five members coalesce – which they do more often than not, more often than pretty much any other group who ever relied on improvisation and daring – the results are incomparable, sometimes indescribable.

(click here to continue reading The Quietus | Features | Constant Forward Movement: Taylor Parkes On Can’s Lost Tapes.)

so what are you waiting for? Money is for spending, not hoarding…

and this is a good definition of the band’s aesthetic as any:

The music of Can was never explicitly political, but it was always radical. A synthesis of Stockhausen, Sly & The Family Stone, ‘Sister Ray’ and Ornette Coleman would be musically incendiary at any time, but in these times it was more than that. Can’s aesthetic choices may have been instinctive, but they weren’t coincidental: they were drawn to African rhythms, to the music of Eastern European gypsies, to non-hierarchical systems, personally and musically (crucial to their sound was the abuse of those strict tonal relationships enforced by the Third Reich’s cultural guardians). They were, in Nazi parlance, Entartete Musik – degenerate music – taken almost to its limit. This was not necessarily a deliberate choice on their part. But with that mindset, in that country, at that point in history, there was no choice.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 16th, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Bob Dylan’s Tempest Album Has The Wheeze And Gargle Of An Old Man

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The Bob Dylan media onslaught has already begun…

Neil McCormick of The Telegraph writes:

The word is that Dylan is pleased with his latest effort, or, as someone at his record company told me, “he wants people to hear it.” I have had the privilege of being amongst a select few journalists around the world to be allowed a sneak preview. It would be absurd to attempt a definitive review based on such a cursory listen but I was blown away with the mad energy of the album.

At 71-years-old Dylan is still striking out into strange new places rather than revisiting his past. Although he no longer attempts to scale the heights of poetic imagery and dense metaphor that established him as popular music’s greatest lyricist, instead writing in bluesy couplets, the extreme collision of ideas and characters and the mysterious, ambivalent arcs of his narratives creates a pungent effect. Dylan still has the power to disturb and thrill. I emerged from this listening session feeling like I had been on a journey into the weird dream territory of Ballad Of A Thin Man, where nothing is quite what it seems.

His voice, often little more than a croak on stage these days, invests these ten tracks with the spirit of something ancient. Sure, he has the wheeze and gargle of an old man, but the words come through loud and clear, delivered with real relish. Los Lobos founder David Hidalgo’s fiddle weaves through the acoustic shuffle of Dylan’s touring band, guitarist Charlie Sexton, Stu Kimball and Donnie Heron, drummer George Receli and bassist Tony Garnier.

The sound is a continuation of the blues, country and folk styles that run through all his later work, but with less of the kind of Thirties pastiche he’s played with since 2001’s Love And Theft . There is a sense is that Dylan is still honing in on that wild, mercurial music he hears in his head.

(click here to continue reading Bob Dylan’s Tempest: first listen – Telegraph.)

I’m sort of sick of that 1930’s pastiche actually, will be glad to hear something different.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 9th, 2012 at 8:36 am

Posted in Music,Suggestions

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Tom Waits – Hell Broke Luce

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 A surreal yet intriguing music video of the Tom Waits song, Hell Broke Luce, from his 2011 album, Bad as Me.1

Directed and photographed by Matt Mahurin, and only recently released, as far as I can tell…  ((as of right now, only 307 views, despite being linked from TomWaits.com ))

  1. Wikipedia []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 7th, 2012 at 11:44 am

Posted in Film,Music,Suggestions

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Arrested Development’s 4th Season

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Fox canceled “Arrested Development,” about an absurdly dysfunctional family, in 2006 after three seasons. But it developed a vocal cult audience. Netflix has taken it over and is producing a fourth season as original programming. The twist: As with the company’s other original series, all 10 new “Arrested Development” episodes will go up for streaming at the same time. Mr. Hurwitz is sure some fans will devour the entire five hours in one sitting. “It’s throwing me,” he says.

His solution was to build each new episode around one character. The stories in all 10 episodes unfold simultaneously, overlapping here and there. Unlike writing a traditional sitcom, Mr. Hurwitz says, “we’re sort of driving into the next episode rather than wrapping things up.”

(click here to continue reading Binge Viewing: TV’s Lost Weekends – WSJ.com.)

Can’t wait. 


Steve Holt!

Written by Seth Anderson

July 14th, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Posted in Suggestions,Television

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Wordcount of A Song of Ice and Fire

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IMG 0149
A Dance with Dragons

I finished zipping through the first five books of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels in record time (started the first novel, April 4th, finished the last May 9th.) Heavy, dense histories and political dissertations are my more usual fare, but I never consume those kind of books quite so fast as I sprinted through the faux history of Westeros and Essos and the dynastic civil wars engulfing these continents. Almost 2 million words in a month. Yikes…

Was it great literature? No, but it was fun to read, and iBooks/ebooks are easy enough to read while running on my treadmill, or whenever I have a moment before a meeting somewhere.

Wordcount of A Song of Ice And Fire – George R. R. Martin

  • A Game of Thrones: 298k words
  • A Clash of kings: 326k words
  • A Storm of Swords: 424k words
  • A Feast for Crows: 300k words
  • A Dance with Dragons: 422k words

Total: 1M 770k words

(click here to continue reading Wordcount of popular (and hefty) epics | The Cesspit..)

I enjoyed puzzling over the various maps of the kingdoms as well. The maps changed, grew more detailed as the series continued. According to the author, this was intentional.

My main complaint is that the sixth volume of the series, to be called The Winds of Winter, is not published, and only the Seven know when it will be, besides the author. So there are plenty of cliff-hangers waiting to be resolved.

The previous installment, A Dance with Dragons, covered less story than Martin intended, omitting at least one planned large battle sequence and leaving several character threads ending in cliff-hangers. Martin intended to resolve these cliffhangers “very early” in The Winds of Winter, saying “I’m going to open with the two big battles that I was building up to, the battle in the ice and the battle at Meereen—the battle of Slaver’s Bay. And then take it from there.”

Martin confirmed in March 2012 that the final two novels will take readers farther north than any of the previous books: “What lies really north [The Land of Always Winter], we haven’t explored that yet, but we will in the last two books.” The sample chapter on Martin’s website is written from Theon Greyjoy’s viewpoint and shows his interactions with Stannis Baratheon as they are camped in the snow on his march to Winterfell. Martin has also said that “you’re definitely going to see more of the Others in The Winds of Winter”.

At 2011 WorldCon, Martin read an Arianne chapter, during which she heads for Griffin’s Roost to see the young boy who is calling himself Aegon. Victarion’s chapter will take off five minutes after A Dance with Dragons, taking place on the eve of the Iron Islanders’ surprise attack on the cities in Slaver’s Bay

The HBO series is fun, too, btw, if a bit like a Reader’s Digest version of the plot, and with more sexposition.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 10th, 2012 at 7:13 am

Posted in Books,Suggestions

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National Train Day In Chicago

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300 S Jackson - Ilford Delta 100
300 S Jackson – Ilford Delta 100

It might be fun to attend this, but on the other hand, I like to sleep in a bit on Sundays.

Union Station 225 South Canal Street, Chicago, IL 60606

When: 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Saturday, May 12 General Admission: Free

Now in its 5th year, National Train Day is back to celebrate train travel and the ways trains touch the lives of people with events across America. This year, festivities will highlight the unique perspective passengers enjoy as they take in the vastness and beauty of the American landscape, from cities big and small, to country vistas and everything in between, when traveling by rail. As part of National Train Day, each major market event features live entertainment, interactive and educational exhibits, kids’ activities, model train displays and tours of Amtrak equipment, freight and commuter trains, and notable private railroad cars.

(click here to continue reading National Train Day In Chicago.)

Got the Wine Country Blues
Got the Wine Country Blues

Written by Seth Anderson

May 4th, 2012 at 8:22 am

Captain Beefheart’s Bat Chain Puller to get first official release

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Beef Shank Bone from Irv & Shelly's Fresh Picks


Cool. Looking forward to hearing this.

Captain Beefheart’s legendary and widely bootlegged record Bat Chain Puller is going to be officially released for the first time. The original tape was never mixed and released, but alternative versions of some of the tracks appeared on Beefheart’s Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), and as bootlegs.

Wire contributor and Beefheart biographer Mike Barnes says “The tape is owned by the Zappa estate and although Don didn’t want it released they’ve been true to the work. Not only that, its availability was announced on the anniversary of Don’s death and will be released on his birthday.”

This release has been mixed by Magic Band members Denny Walley and John French, who also provide liner notes. It contains the 12 original album tracks plus three bonus tracks and is expected to arrive around the 15 January.

(click here to continue reading The Wire: Adventures In Sound And Music: Article.)


Written by Seth Anderson

December 21st, 2011 at 9:52 am

Posted in Music,Suggestions

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The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami

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Sam Anderson1 went to Japan and hung out with a literary hero of mine, Haruki Murakami, in anticipation of Murakami’s newest novel, 1Q84 being released in America. I look forward to reading it…

Who is Haruki Murakami? Well, read on…

Murakami has always considered himself an outsider in his own country. He was born into one of the strangest sociopolitical environments in history: Kyoto in 1949 — the former imperial capital of Japan in the middle of America’s postwar occupation. “It would be difficult to find another cross-cultural moment,” the historian John W. Dower has written of late-1940s Japan, “more intense, unpredictable, ambiguous, confusing, and electric than this one.” Substitute “fiction” for “moment” in that sentence and you have a perfect description of Murakami’s work. The basic structure of his stories — ordinary life lodged between incompatible worlds — is also the basic structure of his first life experience.

Murakami grew up, mostly, in the suburbs surrounding Kobe, an international port defined by the din of many languages. As a teenager, he immersed himself in American culture, especially hard-boiled detective novels and jazz. He internalized their attitude of cool rebellion, and in his early 20s, instead of joining the ranks of a large corporation, Murakami grew out his hair and his beard, married against his parents’ wishes, took out a loan and opened a jazz club in Tokyo called Peter Cat. He spent nearly 10 years absorbed in the day-to-day operations of the club: sweeping up, listening to music, making sandwiches and mixing drinks deep into the night.


His career as a writer began in classic Murakami style: out of nowhere, in the most ordinary possible setting, a mystical truth suddenly descended upon him and changed his life forever. Murakami, age 29, was sitting in the outfield at his local baseball stadium, drinking a beer, when a batter — an American transplant named Dave Hilton — hit a double. It was a normal-­enough play, but as the ball flew through the air, an epiphany struck Murakami. He realized, suddenly, that he could write a novel. He had never felt a serious desire to do so before, but now it was overwhelming. And so he did: after the game, he went to a bookstore, bought a pen and some paper and over the next couple of months produced “Hear the Wind Sing,” a slim, elliptical tale of a nameless 21-year-old narrator, his friend called the Rat and a four-fingered woman. Nothing much happens, but the Murakami voice is there from the start: a strange broth of ennui and exoticism. In just 130 pages, the book manages to reference a thorough cross-section of Western culture: “Lassie,” “The Mickey Mouse Club,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “California Girls,” Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, the French director Roger Vadim, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Elvis Presley, the cartoon bird Woodstock, Sam Peckinpah and Peter, Paul and Mary. That’s just a partial list, and the book contains (at least in its English translation) not a single reference to a work of Japanese art in any medium. This tendency in Murakami’s work rankles some Japanese critics to this day.

Murakami submitted “Hear the Wind Sing” for a prestigious new writers’ prize and won. After another year and another novel — this one featuring a possibly sentient pinball machine — Murakami sold his jazz club in order to devote himself, full time, to writing.

(click here to continue reading The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami – NYTimes.com.)


  1. no relation that I know of []

Written by Seth Anderson

October 23rd, 2011 at 9:16 am

Posted in Suggestions

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Desert Blues, Recorded On-Site

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I just got my copy of Tinariwen’s Tassili today, as a matter of fact. I’ve listened to the CD once, so far, but like it a lot1. If you have a chance, pick up a copy. There is no “Auto-Tune” in use on this desert blues…

In the language of the Tuareg nomads, who for centuries have roamed the most remote reaches of the southern Sahara, “tinariwen” means “deserts.” But ever since the musical group of that name released its first CD in 2001, its members have recorded not on their home turf but in much the same way that American and European bands do: in the artificial environment of a recording studio, in cities like Paris and Bamako, Mali.

With “Tassili,” released on Tuesday, Tinariwen, whose music is a hard-rocking hybrid of Berber, Arab, Western and black African styles, has sought to return to its beginnings. Named for a spectacular area of canyons and sandstone arches near Algeria’s border with Libya, the CD was rehearsed and recorded out of doors there, in tents and around campfires much like those where the group’s founding members, political exiles then living in refugee settlements, first came together to play.

“We wanted to go back to our origins, to the experience of ishumar,” a word in the Tamashek language referring to exile or being adrift, explained Eyadou ag Leche, the band’s bass player, speaking in French during an interview in New York in July. “Those were times when we would sit around a campfire, singing songs and passing around a guitar. Tinariwen was born in that movement, in that atmosphere, so what you hear on ‘Tassili’ is the feeling of ishumar.”

“Theirs is music that at the same time seems very familiar, starting with the guitars and the call and response element in the vocals, but also sounds exotic to the ear,” said the guitarist Nels Cline of Wilco, who supplies an eerily swirling guitar background on “Imidiwan Ma Tennam,” the new CD’s opening track. “You’re listening to stuff that really rocks, but is also very stripped down. There is an air of mystery and longing, and that creates a mood that is palpable, very compelling and attractive for all kinds of people. It’s wonderful music, and not just for guitarists.”
Tinariwen’s music has sometimes been called “desert blues,” and the group’s penchant for writing songs in minor key modes certainly creates a sound that has a blue feeling. But the band’s members prefer to talk about “asuf,” a sentiment from their own culture that describes both a sense of spiritual pain, yearning or nostalgia and the emptiness of the desert itself. That, they acknowledge, creates a certain kinship with the bluesmen of Mississippi and Chicago.

“We didn’t know about these people at first because we were in our own universe,” Mr. ag Leche explained. “But when we first started hearing Hendrix, just to name someone, we felt something immediately. It was almost as if I had known that music from the day I was born. I’m told that a lot of the Africans who went to North America came from West Africa, from our part of the world. So it’s all the same connection. I think that any people who have lived through something that is very hard, feel this asuf, this pain, this longing. That is what will make their music sound similar to each other.”

(click here to continue reading Tinariwen’s ‘Tassili’ – Desert Blues, Recorded On-Site – NYTimes.com.)


  1. as I suspected I would []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 31st, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Music,Suggestions

Tagged with ,

Bill Moyers Returns

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Lonely Zenith
Lonely Zenith

PBS should be ashamed, siding with the Fox News Tea Party Republicans instead their long-time employee, Bill Moyers. Bill Moyers has more credibility in his shoelace than any corporate putz working for PBS.

Bill Moyers says he is returning to public television in January, but he won’t be found on the PBS lineup. His new hourlong weekly show, called “Moyers & Company,” will focus on one-on-one interviews with people not often heard on television, “thinkers who can help us understand the chaos of this time,” Mr. Moyers said in a telephone interview. “We’re going to be concerned with the state of democracy and the state of affairs, but we will leave the daily and weekly story to others and try to do the back story.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Moyers, who retired from PBS in April 2010, said he had received $2 million in financing from the Carnegie Corporation of New York for the new show, but PBS had told him it couldn’t find an appropriate time slot.

(click here to continue reading Bill Moyers Returns to Public Television, but Not PBS – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 23rd, 2011 at 1:42 pm

The Crimean War – By Orlando Figes

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Crimean War Memorial
Crimean War Memorial

I’ll have to  look for this book, my knowledge of this era is fairly shallow.

The Crimean War was the first major war to be covered by professional foreign correspondents, who reported on the disastrous blundering of commanders and the horrors of medical treatment at the battlefront. Today, we remember fragmentary stories: the charge of the Light Brigade, symbolizing the blundering; Florence Nightingale, for the medical treatment. But the real war has faded away, eclipsed by the two vastly worse world wars that were to come.

Still, the Crimean War — in which three-quarters of a million soldiers and untold multitudes of civilians perished — shattered almost four decades of European peace. It inflamed Russia’s rivalry with the Ottoman Empire over the Balkans, providing the tinder for World War I. And by thwarting Russian’s ambitions in Europe, it made possible the fatal rise of Germany.

In “The Crimean War: A History,” Orlando Figes restores the conflict — which predated the American Civil War by eight years — as “a major turning point” in European and Middle Eastern history. He argues forcefully that it was “the earliest example of a truly modern war — fought with new industrial technologies, modern rifles, steamships and railways, novel forms of logistics and communication like the telegraph, important innovations in military medicine and war reporters and photographers directly on the scene.” The ferocious yearlong siege of Sevastopol “was a precursor of the industrialized trench warfare” of World War I.

The war itself was initiated when religious squabbles over holy places in the Ottoman towns of Jerusalem and Bethlehem prompted Russia to march troops into present-day Romania, threatening the partition of Ottoman lands. In response, the Ottoman Empire declared war, and Britain and France rallied to its defense. The devastating combat around the Black Sea proved unbearable for Russia: two-thirds of the soldiers killed in the war were Russian. After losing Sevastopol, Russia accepted a humiliating peace.

Figes, a renowned professor of history at the University of London, might be thought the loneliest of creatures, the Crimean War buff. But his history is a huge success

(click here to continue reading Book Review – The Crimean War – By Orlando Figes – NYTimes.com.)

There’s an excerpt here or at the iTunes iBook store if you are interested but still undecided…

Written by Seth Anderson

July 10th, 2011 at 10:52 am

Posted in Suggestions

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