Words, pictures, music and random ephemera that guided me through the week
My current favorite weekly newsletter comes from Austin Kleon. Every Friday he shares ten things that he’s found remarkable, noteworthy and wonderful over the past week. I discover new books, music and ideas with each issue. His book, Show Your Work!, motivated me to share some things I’ve loved this past week. It’s a great opportunity to jumpstart my sad, ittle blog. I tip my hat to his great taste and good advice and thank him for his inspiration.
MILES DAVIS – LIVE-EVIL & DARK MAGUS
These two 70s albums by Miles Davis are stunning in their breadth and musical daring. Both find Miles in the fiery jazz-rock fusion period that divided fans then and now. 1971’s Live-Evil is half live/half studio and a continuation of the journey he began with In a Silent Way. While Live-Evil is adventurous, it is still accessible. Dark Magus is in a class by itself. Recorded in 1974 at Carnegie Hall, Magus is loud, confrontational, soaring and searing. The record features four largely improvised two-part tracks named for the Swahili numbers one through four (Moja, Wili, Tatu, Nne). Here his jazz-rock palette expands to include funk and plenty of random dissonance. It’s mindblowing.
MY NEIGHBOR, THELONIOUS MONK
On another jazz note, Kottke.com tipped me to a lost Thelonious Monk live album recorded at a Palo Alto high school in 1968 that will soon be released. That story on its own is remarkable, but when I dug around for a little more information I discovered that Monk spent the last several years of his life just up the road in Weehawken. He was taken in by an heiress of the Rothschild family, Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, who was a huge benefactor to the jazz community. She and Monk had quite a history together. I’ve run past the house many times without realizing the story behind the walls.
WAKEFIELD, THE SHORT STORY AND THE LONG MOVIE
One of my recent work projects included the 2016 movie with Bryan Cranston. In my research I discovered it was based on a 2008 short story by Ragtime and Billy Bathgate author, E.L. Doctorow. I found the story in The New Yorker and loved the tale of a high-powered lawyer descending into madness. The film is faithful to the story and Bryan Cranston brings a knockout performance to a movie that happens almost wholly in the deteriorating mind of the protagonist. My advice is to start with the story, then watch Cranston bring it to life.
THE NUMBER ONES
Tom Breihan of Stereogum writes one of the best music columns right now. He is reviewing “every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958.” Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday he goes deep on one song’s background, merits and historical context in an effort to understand why a particular track became the biggest song in the country. Plus, he rates all of them on a scale from 1-10. While I may not always agree with every assessment, I look forward to each installment. Right now he’s trapped in 1983 working his way back to the future. Let’s hope he can keep this Herculean effort going. Like so many online outlets Stereogum is fighting to keep the business afloat. If you’re interested you can lend a hand right here.
I am at a loss as to how to describe the supreme weirdness of EXP TV, a new streaming site that has me mesmerized. Perhaps a 1979 post-punk version of Robot Chicken might be the closest I can get and I am still miles away. Dangerous Minds called it a “freaktastic new video channel (that) will rip your face off and eat your brain.” Combining old commercials, chunks of forgotten low budget movies, bits and pieces of public access tv, insane music videos and so much more amazing cultural detritus, it’s a mind boggling random acid barrage of words, images and music.
I ADVANCE MASKED
A week ago the two masks I ordered finally arrived and this week I scored one at my local Fleet Feet. I am thrilled to hide my aging mug behind masks honoring Sonic Youth’s Sonic Nurse and Dave Pell’s always incisive and insightful NextDraft. It may be summer and it’s easy to forget that there are 50,000 new cases of Covid-19 a day. Cover that beautiful face, please.
MAGIC SPOON CEREAL
I love sweet cereal, but I try to avoid it. It’s far too easy to destroy a box in one sitting, leaving me in a stupor of bloat, sugar buzz and self loathing. It took half a lifetime to find the answer. For the past few months I’ve been enjoying the loopy goodness from cereal disruptor Magic Spoon and their high protein, low sugar, low carb cereals, It’s mail order only and not inexpensive, yet when I unload those bright, cartoonish boxes I forget the cost and dig in. My three year old is a big fan as well. Excuse me while we share a box and live to tell the tale.
Enjoy the weekend and I will be back bext week with more stuff that made my week special.