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Sep. 22nd, 2016

reading tiger

Earworm Weekly is defunct (and also reading)

Thanks to an editorial reorganization, this turns out to be my last Earworm Weekly column.

http://www.sfweekly.com/music/allshookdown/earworm-weekly-nellys-hot-herre/

If I'd known, I would have written one on Earth, Wind and Fire's "September." The 21st of September being the last day the column appeared and all (and the day I learned the news). But so it goes.

This week I am reading "We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Representation" by Jeff Chang. It's a hard book to summarize, so go ahead and just read this Kirkus Review (starred!) and that will give you a good sense of it.

Sep. 14th, 2016

reading tiger

Reading. Listening, Going to School Again

I'm still dithering, reading-wise. I know, I could have read two or three books in this time! My magazine stack is much reduced, though.

We met Daisy in Anansi Boys this week. Daisy comes in, nurses Fat Charlie through his first hangover, and then conveniently vanishes. She is even described as "pixieish." Can't make this shit up, can't roll my eyes any harder. Kids still like it, though. Mostly because in this part of the book, Spider's charm and self-confidence make him fun to read out loud. I should look into volunteering to read at elementary schools again when I'm not taking a serious graded professional certification class for the first time in forever.

Did you see how I buried that lede? I'm starting a TESOL certification program through Berkeley Extension. First class is September 25, same day as my Aqueduct Press reading. Because I am ridiculous this way.


Earworm-wise, this week, like every week, I "Work From Home":


http://www.sfweekly.com/music/all-shook-down/earworm-weekly-work-home-fifth-harmony/

Sep. 8th, 2016

reading tiger

Reading and Listening

I stalled out of the book I was reading, which is a fine book, award-winning, even, but apparently just not to my taste at the moment so I will leave it anonymous.

I am saving room in my schedule for tackling Jeff Chang's "We Gon' Be Alright" as soon as it comes in. Meanwhile, I am reading cookbooks.

I did finally finish "The Real Meaning of Smekday" with the kids. It's delightful and makes the movie even more disappointing. I hear good things about the spin-off TV show, though. We'll have to check it out. We have started on "Anansi Boys" b/c, well, Anansi, which is to say that we have exhausted all children's picture books about Anansi, and all the collections of Anansi stories we could find at the library, too, and the kids still love Anansi stories and I happen to have one on my shelf so why not. So far so good. Gaiman's lazy writing tics irritate me here and there but I can keep that to myself.

But the next book I read to them, whatever it is, is going to be *really short*.

And then maybe I will have to chase down more Dickens...

This week's earworm is more or less about the secret history of K-Tel's "40 Funky Hits."

http://www.sfweekly.com/music/all-shook-down/earworm-weekly-jarmels-little-bit-soap/

Last week's was wedding-themed:

http://www.sfweekly.com/music/all-shook-down/earworm-weekly-stevie-wonders-loves-need-love-today/

Aug. 26th, 2016

reading tiger

reading and listening, no-caps style

Sorry for the delay, got married in the middle there.

I am currently reading Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! by Mark Binelli, because Mark Binelli is my favorite writer of the moment (although I am about to exhaust his body of work) and because S&VMD is aimed right at my sensibilities. When it begins, Sacco and Vanzetti are not the S&V of our world, but rather a pre-WW2 comedy duo, a la Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, etc. The text consists of narrative descriptions of scenes from their movies as if the scenes had actually happened in real life; critical material about said movies; and other "supplementary material" of various sorts, from interviews to diary pages to footnotes. Then things get weirder and the story of the other S&V, the ones we know, starts to bleed through. In the meantime, lots of stuff touching on knife-sharpening (Binelli's family were knife-sharpeners who emigrated from Italy to Detroit, fwiw), pre-war radical politics, pre-war Hollywood (S&V are pallbearers at Valentino's funeral, for example), pre-war Italy and America, theories of comedy and tragedy, and so on. I love this book so hard. It's Binelli's first novel, pre-dating both the Detroit book and the Screamin' Jay Hawkins book I read earlier this year, but so far it's not showing any signs of first-novel awkwardness. Here's hoping it stays the course.

This week's earworm, and the week before's:

The Girl from Ipanema
http://www.sfweekly.com/music/all-shook-down/earworm-weekly-girl-ipanema-stan-getz-astrud-gilberto/

The Ghost in You
http://www.sfweekly.com/music/all-shook-down/earworm-weekly/earworm-weekly-psychedelic-furs-ghost/

Aug. 10th, 2016

reading tiger

Reading and Listening (and Watching)

I read nihilistic_kid's "I am Providence" this week. Speedily, because I am not good at enduring the suspense of whodunits. It was sharply funny, chewier than your usual detective book, and pretty accurate about the seamier side of con culture, indeed.

What's next? No idea!

I watched "Home," the movie based off the book "The True Meaning of Smekday," and was disappointed. Too bad; I'd heard it was possibly an overlooked gem, but in fact it's pretty blah, and (as far as I can tell so far) not very true to the book. Also, please forgive me but I hated the voice work of Jim Parsons.

Earworm Weekly this time around is on Robyn Hitchcock.

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/08/09/earworm-weekly-i-feel-beautiful-by-robyn-hitchcock

Aug. 3rd, 2016

reading tiger

Reading, Listening

I finally ditched Planet for Rent. The reasons were plentiful: thin characters, too much undifferentiated first-person narration, three chapters with the exact same plot structure of "human interacts with much more powerful alien patron/adversary, realizes their utter puniness in the grand scheme of things, then -- a twist! Usually involving selling out to the aliens for capital gain and further loss of autonomy." Also, he sunk the continent of Africa, an unbearable cliche.

Smekday, on the other hand, remains highly entertaining.

This week's earworm is Seals and Crofts' "Get Closer." Ray Parker Jr. of Ghostbusters fame plays guitar on this track, though it may take multiple listens to notice it beneath the spackle of strings and piano.

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/08/02/earworm-weekly-seals-and-crofts-get-closer

Jul. 28th, 2016

reading tiger

reading and listening

I am back to reading Yoss' "Planet for Rent" and also, for the kids, "The True Meaning of Smekday." Thus it is that I am immersed in anxiety about aliens colonizing the Earth and the effects thereof, which of course is really just thinly-disguised anxiety about either a) what we did to the people we colonized right here historically without leaving the planet, and/or b) what said people we colonized might do to us if the tables were turned. Compare and contrast! I guess the main difference is that Yoss is, so far, filled with sexual obsessions, while "Smekday," being a kids' book, not so much. But actually the sexual fixations get a little old so I'm enjoying "Smekday" a little bit more. It might just be that reading the Boov dialog out loud is awesome, while Yoss' broken English is actually broken Spanish, translated, and may as a result have lost some of its subtle charms.

I wrote about the song "Bad Day" for my column this week.

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/07/26/earworm-weekly-daniel-powters-bad-day

Jul. 22nd, 2016

reading tiger

still reading, still listening

I started "Between the World and Me" this week, coincidentally aligning with the Republican National Convention spectacle. It was kind of disturbing, actually, to read Coates' discussion of The [American] Dream and its costs while all that was going on. Exhibit A on display.

I had some drama around my column this week. But it got posted. Tagged and Tweeted and everything too.

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/07/19/earworm-weekly-ghostbusters-by-ray-parker-jr

Jul. 14th, 2016

reading tiger

It Happens When It Happens: Reading and Writing

I just started "Planet for Rent" by Yoss, a Cuban science fiction writer who is also in a heavy metal band. (Awesome author photo. Gold star.) This his is older novel; his newer one, just released, is "Super Extra Grande" but I wanted to read this one first. So far, it's interesting in concept and a little clunky in execution, which is about what I expected. I mean, it's no clunkier than a lot of other contemporary SF.

The last two chapters of "Detroit City is the Place to Be" (before the double afterwords) are about "ruin porn" and the high art world's engagement with the Detroit landscape (sometimes versus its people, who are still there, as many people seem to conveniently forget). There is a lot to grapple with, and Binelli does it more justice than I have seen elsewhere. Man, it's some bleak shit in the end, though.

Earworm is here: http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/07/12/earworm-weekly-she-drives-me-crazy-by-fine-young-cannibals

Jul. 5th, 2016

reading tiger

Reading/Listening -- On Vacation But On Schedule!

(well, if you take into account the three-hour time shift, anyway.)

Reading and listening are the same this week: I just finished Mark Binelli's second novel, "Screamin' Jay Hawkins' Greatest Hits." As I note in my music column (see below), the title is a joke, since technically Hawkins had zero hits, and only one song he's really known for. But "I Put a Spell On You" is a pretty big signature tune, man.

Binelli, you may notice, is also the author of "Detroit City Is The Place To Be," the book I have been reading up to this point. I was impressed enough by his nonfiction to give his fiction a spin. And I liked this book enough that I am going to check out his first novel, "Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die." Binelli is "experimental" to mainstream reading audiences and only mildly odd to indie readers; sure, "Greatest Hits" is not entirely linear and features a ghost, a theatrical monologue and a re-imagining of "Jailhouse Rock" starring Hawkins instead of Elvis (not all in one scene, though), taking care to note that Hawkins actually went to jail. But the writing itself is pretty straightforward, which I appreciate. It's a surprisingly subtle and thoughtful novel. Don't put too much stock into the cover blurbs about how it's talking about race in surprising new ways, though. All it really means is that Binelli is a white guy who doesn't collapse the complexities of a black man who loved opera, fathered dozens of illegitimate children, performed wearing a bone in his nose, and titled one of his albums "Black Music For White People." Which does make it a cut above the rest, I suppose.

The ending chapter is perfect.

The earworm is here:

http://www.sfweekly.com/shookdown/2016/07/05/earworm-weekly-the-many-versions-of-screamin-jay-hawkins-i-put-a-spell-on-you

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