October 30, 2017

Music review of new Night Shapes album

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 7:33 pm by chuckredman

Originally published by 5432fun.org at http://5432fun.tumblr.com/tagged/reviews 

Wake Up  by NIGHT SHAPES

I’ve never had the chance to review an album in the actual midst of the band’s national tour that features the album. So this is exciting for me. It means when I listen to the dark, brooding sounds of the opening song, entitled simply “No”, I can imagine the crowd in Philadelphia on November 1 being caught unawares by the hardness of the thing and only gradually letting their bodies begin to act out the feelings stirred up inside by the live music. It means I can envision the folks in Chicago on November 5 closing their eyes and rocking to something that sounds like an alien world, in back-to-back songs called  “The Future” and “Post-Future (I’m Changing)”. In many venues across the country, something will indeed be changing.

In this new album Wake Up, the band Night Shapes has produced something very different than what I expected. That’s not a bad thing: It’s an album with a definite theme. It paints a picture. It tells a troubling tale. The music and the lyrics are bound together like fingers in a fist. Wake Up is almost a rock opera, and it’s not an easy composition to interpret. It’s awash with images of garbage and urban decay. There are things that sound like sirens in the night. Fear is a common thread. So are truth and lies. It makes me think about the way our society may be heading toward dystopia. In that sense, the album is a strident Wake Up call. It could be the soundtrack for 1984. Orwell should hear it.

Orwell should hear the vocals. They are deeply baritone, authoritative and not of this world. They penetrate to someplace remote in the brain that doesn’t usually like to be disturbed. In a song with the weird title of “Floor Thompson”, the lead voice is joined by a medieval choir that has to harmonize under a hammering beat and chilling sirens. Those instrumental effects are not unique to that particular track: throughout the album, the guitars and synthesizer do whatever it takes and go wherever they are told to go. And they go to some pretty interesting places.

The emotional high point of the album, for me, is the song “Take it Back”. The words, the voice that pulsates them into our brains, and the music that underscores them reach almost to a fever pitch, almost a frantic plea. I wish I understood exactly what that plea is all about. I know it’s something important, and I know that Night Shapes knows that each of us has to get at those truths, and lies, in our own way and in our own time. That’s a journey. They’ve given us a vehicle. It runs on sound waves, dark and variously shaped. I like the waves they fill it with. It runs just fine.

Listen or purchase here: http://nightshapes.bandcamp.com/

Chuck Redman

https://chuckredman.wordpress.com/

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October 13, 2017

Don’t judge a book by its author?

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:50 pm by chuckredman

It looked interesting and I liked the style when I peeked at the opening paragraph. So, a few minutes later I left the library with it under my arm, a new literary adventure ahead. Always a pleasant prospect.

According to the book’s short biographical note, Paul Morand was one of the leading French writers of the 20th Century. What it didn’t say, and what I found out from several internet sources when I got back to my office, is that he was also a staunch white supremacist, a lifelong anti-semite, and a prominent and unrepentant Nazi collaborator during World War II. The book went back to the library unread.

Life is too short to waste it on books written by people who helped to make the Holocaust a reality, regardless of the quality of the books themselves. I know that not every author I read is a saint or a paragon of virtue. But I like to feel that the author is someone I might like to meet in person or at least someone who deserves to have their work read and given some moral weight. I need to be a little better at doing my homework before I get to the checkout desk. However, the library is up a hill so I can always use the exercise.

October 5, 2017

The M word

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:09 pm by chuckredman

An intelligent well-adjusted person would not mind that much if someone called him a moron. He would understand. He would put things into context, and might even acknowledge his own shortcomings and lapses in judgment.

In other words, someone who is not a moron would admit that sometimes that’s exactly what he is.

September 24, 2017

Music review of new SOAR album

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 8:30 pm by chuckredman

**Originally published by 5432fun at http://5432fun.tumblr.com/tagged/reviews 

dark/gold by SOAR

CLAIMER [“Disclaimer” just doesn’t seem like the right word]: As you may infer, this reviewer is parentally related to SOAR the Band. The review that follows does not purport to be totally disinterested, but is true nonetheless.

 

Ten songs. dark/gold. SOAR the Band. No wasting time here. Even the very first song on the album, the song called “Fort Funston”, gives me goosebumps and goosebumps, for me, are the ultimate measure of real music. This is an album of voices that are sweet, and of vocal harmonies that are even sweeter. Harmony-wise, I’m not sure I’ve heard anything quite like it since The Mamas and the Papas. Yes, I’m old. Very old.

But, the guitars and the drums are anything but sweet. They are hard-driving and unrelenting. But getting back to the voices, they are loud and clear (and sweet) and not drowned out by the instrumentals. It’s a perfect balance, to my fussy ears. I can understand many or most of the words—not such a common thing with DIY indie pop punk bands. And the lyrics are well-written, provocative, memorable.

“19th Ave”, what a beautiful song. Holy smokes, the harmonies!

“Speakwrite”.  More goosebumps.

“Old Dogs”, song number 7 on the album. A musical journey through highly melodic tunes and refrains.

“Keeping a Record” is the name of the final track. I’ve seem them play this one live. I suspect that name has a double meaning. There’s an edge to those sweet voices. Anyway, just like the opening number: you gotta dance to this last one. Mandatory. Unless you’re me and your feet just don’t listen. Fortunately, my ears listen and they’re pretty happy with this album. And, like I mentioned above, they’re rather fussy.

Listen or purchase here: http://soartheband.bandcamp.com/

Chuck Redman

https://chuckredman.wordpress.com/

May 31, 2017

Shakespeare, political commentator

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:14 pm by chuckredman

Again (see prior post https://chuckredman.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/shakespeare-for-president/ ), Shakespeare’s political savvy and wit are without equal. His description of the caprice and fickleness of public opinion is certainly just as true today:

CAESAR: I should have known no less. It hath been taught us from the primal state that he which is was wished until he were; And the ebbed man, ne’er loved till ne’er worth love, comes deared by being lacked. This common body, like to a vagabond flag upon the stream, goes to and back, lackeying the varying tide to rot itself with motion.

Antony and Cleopatra, Act 1 Scene 4.

May 24, 2017

Words matter

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:56 pm by chuckredman

When it takes an entire staff to constantly explain or explain away the public statements of the President, then you know we have a serious problem. And when the White House staff cannot even come close to repackaging what the President says into acceptable form, then we may have an entire Administration of executives that are unfit for their jobs.

May 13, 2017

Political Climate

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:03 pm by chuckredman

“This glacier is big, really big. Tremendous.”

“I couldn’t have said it any better myself, Mr. President. And thanks for visiting our beautiful state. And deregulating the oil industry so we can get that new pipeline finished.”

“Hey, Senator, what are friends for? Geez, I like the way the ice crunches under my feet.”

“Well, Mr. President, shall we get everybody back in the chopper? Sarah Palin’s expecting us for dinner around 6. She doesn’t want the salad to get cold. I don’t think she was kidding.”

“Wait, let me just tweet how great Alaska glaciers are compared to Canada’s or anybody else’s.”

“Dad, it’s Vladimir, he wants to know about the Syrian bombing schedule. He says we can have Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and he’ll take Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.”

“Who’s got Sunday, the Iranians? Get it? Bombs? Iran? Uh, tell him I’ll call him back, Ivanka. Better yet, have Jared call him. And make sure Jared writes that speech for me, the, the—”

“State of the Union?”

“That’s the one.”

“Sure, Dad, I’ll—. Hey, you have another call. Hello? You’re with the what? Hold on. Dad, he says he’s from the EPA.”

“What EPA? I shut them down six months ago. It better not be some crackpot complaining about global warming.”

“Not that EPA, Dad. This is the Exporters of Petroleum of America.”

“Oh—him I’ll talk to.”

“OK, Dad, I’ll—My goodness, did you hear that cracking sound? Where are the kids? Why are the Secret Service all running toward the edge of the—why is the edge so much closer than it was! Hurry, Dad, Senator. I’m afraid something might have happened to the—. I’ll run ahead, you catch up!”

“Ma’am, Sir, I’m sorry, I can’t let you beyond this point. Here, Sir, sit down on this dead polar bear and catch your breath. I’m afraid this section of the glacier has violently broken off. Your grandchildren have been cast into the Arctic Ocean.”

“No!”

“I’m afraid so, Sir. They were taking a selfie with Agent Gillespie’s classified phone. Next thing we know, an ear-splitting crash, and they’re gone! I’ll contact Agent Gillespie’s wife, Sir.”

“Oh my God, Agent Schwartz, get the search and rescue underway immediately!”

“I’m sorry, Mr. President. There are no park rangers or emergency services. You cut the budget for National Parks, remember?  What, Sir? Coast Guard,Sir? The Coast Guard no longer patrols this region, Sir, since you cut their funding in half to build a border wall.”

“I don’t care what it costs, I want this thing taken care of! Do you hear me? This is a conspiracy. Obama is behind all this. Why didn’t he do something about this melting glacier thing?”

May 6, 2017

New story

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:43 pm by chuckredman

Short story “Sarechal” finally published:

http://jewishliteraryjournal.com/fiction/sarechal/

Thanks!

April 16, 2017

More of Lawrence Durrell

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 3:11 pm by chuckredman

I introduced my daughter to Justine (see https://chuckredman.wordpress.com/2015/05/15/learning-about-love-in-alexandria/ ) but she introduced me to The Dark Labyrinth. Though it’s not the artistic triumph that Justine is, The Dark Labyrinth is a fine novel of mystery and the search for answers, both factual and moral. Durrell’s prose is flawless and his characters sharply developed. Their lives and fates converge in what is essentially an allegory.

At a time (1948) when Europe was lost and groping in the post-war twilight, these English travelers sail to the isle of Crete on the ship Europa. They set out upon an excursion into a labyrinth of fabled caverns, where natives believe a deadly Minotaur lurks. Each of the travelers is escaping something and searching for something better. Durrell weaves their pasts, brings them together at a critical point in each of their lives, and then leaves them divided and lost in the labyrinth. The careful and powerful manner in which he does all this is the work of a great novelist. It is the work of a deep thinker, as well, who saw a stormy, uncertain future for Europe, with nations divided and searching for light, beneath an angry cloud of nuclear proliferation. Overshadowed perhaps by Justine and the rest of her Quartet, The Dark Labyrinth is nevertheless a book well worth reading for those who enjoy the vast sub-genre of twentieth century post-war fiction.

 

March 11, 2017

“Going once, going twice, sold!”

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 10:31 pm by chuckredman

It hasn’t sunk in yet. Even after four months. That the Presidency of our nation is now just a piece of property. That can be acquired. That can be acquired through dealings and leveraging. Through bids and transactions, proffers and presents.  In other words, the Office of President has finally been privatized.

It’s no longer regulated. It can make its own rules. It can do, say, decree, undecree, prioritize, deprioritize, reveal, conceal, validate or invalidate whatever it wants, whenever it wants, and however it wants. It now owns us, we don’t own it.

I hear it’s planning on selling off the Constitution, one Article at a time. The Bill of Rights will be sold at auction. Cash or letters of credit only.

February 11, 2017

The H-word

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:13 am by chuckredman

Never has one man been called so many names by so many people. Never before has any man deserved to be called so many names by so many people. Demagogue, bully, fascist, misogynist, lummox. Lummox?

I have called him quite a few myself. I think I’ve finally decided which one is the most fitting. But nevermind that.

Here’s what’s bothering me: Doesn’t it feel good to attach colorful epithets to someone we consider so malicious? Why is that? Why do we enjoy making it personal? The question I’m really asking is: Is it OK to attack hateful ideas or hurtful rhetoric with hurt and hate? Is it OK to hate hate?

That’s a moral question, or maybe psychological. I’m not sure I want to know the answer, even if there is one. I sort of hope it is OK, because I can’t help it. I do hate hate. But only hateful hate, not the unhateful hate that only hates hateful hate.

Maybe the best we can ask of ourselves is that we keep careful track of our emotions and our reasons. Why we do or say the things we do. And judge ourselves as we do the people we call names. It’s a work in progress. Kind of like democracy.

 

December 24, 2016

It Can’t Happen Here — Sinclair Lewis

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:46 pm by chuckredman

“Aw, shoot, Dad—and you too, Julian, you young paranoiac—you’re monomaniacs! Dictatorship? Better come into the office and let me examine your heads! Why, America’s the only free nation on earth. Besides! Country’s too big for a revolution. No, no! Couldn’t happen here!”

I just read the most amazing book I’ve read since 1984 (the book, not the year). Possibly the most amazing since 1973 (the year, not the book). Actually, Sinclair Lewis’s novel It Can’t Happen Here, which was published in 1935, predated 1984 (the book, not the year) by fourteen years. Which means that Lewis did not have the benefit of hindsight when he recognized what too few people seemed to recognize around the middle of the Great Depression. Sinclair Lewis saw what was happening in Europe. He also heard frighteningly similar rumblings in this country. His book, written half a decade before the true magnitude of European fascism could be witnessed and understood, was a chillingly accurate forecast.

So did Lewis also predict what we in the U.S. have just witnessed and are struggling to understand: the election as President of a populist demagogue, in the mold of Senator Buzz Windrip in the novel? Well, Lewis’s protagonist, liberal journalist Doremus Jessup, listens only half-concerned to the national radio broadcast of the nominating convention, but the similarity is striking:

. . . every delegate knew that Mr. Roosevelt and Miss Perkins were far too lacking in circus tinsel and general clownishness to succeed at this critical hour of the nation’s hysteria, when the electorate wanted a ringmaster-revolutionist like Senator Windrip.

Though Lewis begins his book in satirical tone, we’re not too many chapters in before we realize, along with Doremus, that this story—the rise of a political movement based on anger, hate and false rhetoric—is no joke. It is nearly, in fact, as powerful and sobering as Orwell’s 1984. Here is how Doremus saw Senator/President Windrip’s quasi-official partisans, the “Minute Men”, or “M.M.”, which protected Windrip’s surging popularity by terrorizing the general population and appealing to its basest impulses:

They had the Jews and the Negroes to look down on, more and more. The M.M.’s saw to that. Every man is a king so long as he has someone to look down on. . . . Their mutter became louder, less human, more like the snap of burning rafters. Their glances joined in one. He was, frankly, scared.

Could Lewis have had the Nazi SS in mind? Seems likely.

I just realized that, for better or for worse, many of my favorite books are about the oppression of large segments of society by vindictive, self-righteous governments or ruling classes. A Tale of Two Cities, The Grapes of Wrath, In Dubious Battle, Mother, Doctor Zhivago, Homage To Catalonia, Fahrenheit 451, and the two brave books discussed above. You should probably read these books, all of these books, while they’re still on our shelves. Before they start hurling them into big piles in our city squares and torching them. Which is what happened to Doremus Jessup’s personal collection of books. Which could happen here.

 

November 30, 2016

Oh say can you see . . . ?

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:22 pm by chuckredman

It’s one thing to burn the flag with a cigarette lighter. That’s a sad thing to see, but it illuminates the fact that someone feels very desperate about the choices our country seems to be making.

But to burn the flag with hateful rhetoric, personal attacks on anyone with opposing views, and Presidential threats which would shred the Bill of Rights: that’s a real act of destruction. That’s the kind of burning that actually hurts people, scars them, chars our society.

If there’s any kind of flag-burning that needs to be punished, it’s that kind.

 

Oh say can you see . . . ?

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:13 pm by chuckredman

It’s one thing to burn the flag with a cigarette lighter. That’s a sad thing to see, but it illuminates the fact that someone feels very desperate about the choices our country seems to be making.

But to burn the flag with hateful rhetoric, personal attacks on anyone with opposing views, and Presidential threats which would shred the Bill of Rights: that’s a real act of destruction. That’s the kind of burning that actually hurts people, scars them, chars our society.

If there’s any kind of flag-burning that needs to be punished, it’s that kind.

 

November 12, 2016

Bow-Wow

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 7:55 am by chuckredman

I have decided to be a dog. Dogs don’t have a President. And they do just fine without one. Well, they could use a few more parks and a few less kennels.

Or a bird. Even better. Birds can fly above all this nonsense. They can fly to lakes or forests, over mountains or almost as high as the sun. Donald Trump cannot control the sunshine, or the land, or the oceans. Except for global warming, that is, which he won’t lift a finger for.

Our mistake is confusing reality with our society. You won’t find reality in this so-called world that we’ve created. Reality is in nature. It’s in the deserts and canyons and jungles and rivers. It’s in all the beautiful species who cohabitate. Go out and take a hike today, explore the hills, trees, whatever you can find. Be a dog. Chase a rabbit. Howl at the moon.

Ruff, ruff.

November 9, 2016

Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore. . .

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:36 am by chuckredman

I’m still waiting to wake up from this awful dream. . .

November 3, 2016

The Thinking to Talking Ratio

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 6:31 pm by chuckredman

Recent years have seen world records smashed for both the highest and the lowest Thinking to Talking Ratio. For the highest Thinking to Talking Ratio, it is no contest: Stephen Hawking walks away with the title—not literally, of course, but morally. With a ratio of 936 to 1, there is no one even in his league.

Likewise, the new record-holder for the lowest Thinking to Talking Ratio is also a runaway. No one else comes close. But Mr. Trump is quite humble about having set this impressive record: an astounding 1 to 1,876. “Even though the media tried to rig the whole thing,” says Mr. Trump, “this world record is mine, and I’m keeping it. It’s not for sale.”

Hillary, by the way, has a ratio of 23.4 to 1, which, for a politician, is really pretty good.

October 28, 2016

How proud we must be . . .

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 2:01 pm by chuckredman

Americans are the most open-minded people in the world. Look at all those overworked and underpaid reactionaries across the country who are willing to give a clueless, overbearing New York billionaire a chance to be their President.

Some minds are so open that everything has fallen out.

October 23, 2016

Could they be confusing him with Dylan Thomas?

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:36 pm by chuckredman

What were they thinking? Did they know nothing about the man, as opposed to his lyrics? And what about writers like Philip Roth, Amy Tan, Stephen King? Don’t each of these writers—and there are many others you could name—deserve a Nobel Prize a little more than Bob Dylan?

Well, the Nobel Prize committee is understandably embarrassed by the honoree’s rude ingratitude, and the Prize itself is slightly tarnished.

October 15, 2016

The Donald J. Trump Presidential Library

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:31 am by chuckredman

“Welcome to the Trump Library. Are you here for the Survivors’ Conference?”

“No. Cancer Survivors?”

“Not really. Just anyone who’s still alive five years after the North Korean attack. You know—mostly rich people who bought one of the Trump Designer Fallout Shelters from his offshore holding company.”

“I see. It’s too bad Mr. Trump had to tweet those insults about Kim Jong Un’s haircut.”

“Yes. And calling him a putz in his inaugural address probably didn’t help either. How did you folks survive?”

“Oh, we were out of the country, visiting relatives in the Islamic Caliphate. Things are relatively peaceful there.”

“I was in Moscow. Any friend of Donald Trump’s is a friend of Putin, you know.”

“Why are there so many Secret Service people here? To maintain security at the conference?”

“Actually, they’re always here. We need them here to keep Mr. Trump out. He tends to wander down from the penthouse in his pajamas and annoy and molest young women here in the Library.”

“My stars! Are we the type he would, uh—?”

“No. I don’t think you ladies have anything to worry about. By the way, what were you interested in seeing on your visit today?”

“The books, mostly.”

“Books? Oh. Well, on the right you’ll find the Fifty Shades of Grey Room. We have over eight hundred first edition copies. And on your left is the Machiavelli Room, with ten thousand copies of The Prince. Enjoy your visit!”

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